More than 200,000 students head back to class Monday in the Houston Independent School District, even as the new school year is filled with uncertainty for the largest district in the state.
Parents, teachers and administrators are waiting to find out if the Texas Education Commissioner, Mike Morath, will take over the Houston school board for either academic or governance reasons. Chronic low performance at one high school, Wheatley, can trigger a board of managers this year, according to state law. Separately, special investigators with the Texas Education Agency have recommended an appointed board to intervene because of the board’s behavior and alleged violations of state law and business practices.
But Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan recently told reporters that uncertainty won’t affect teaching and learning in classrooms. She maintained that she and her team are focused on children.
“We’re going to have a great 2019-2020 school year,” Lathan said. “We’ve put the necessary resources and extracurricular and curricular things that we need to put in place. The district will continue to move forward. As I’ve stated, we’ve already experienced challenges over the past several years,” she said, referring to natural disasters like Harvey and changes in administration.
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Lathan indicated she’s confident HISD will overcome new challenges, including improving performance at low-rated schools like Wheatley, which recently received its latest failing grade for the seventh time in a row. Lathan said she supports the school’s principal, Joseph Williams, and vowed to make sure it has the support it needs this year to turn around performance.
“My focus as interim superintendent, my administrators, my principals and teachers — Our focus will continue to be on children. And that’s where we need everyone in the community. Everyone’s focus should be on how do we ensure that every child in HISD receives a quality education,” Lathan said.