State monitor orders Houston school trustees to halt superintendent search

Houston school trustees were ordered Monday by a state monitor to halt their search for a superintendent just days before they were expected to announce a finalist for the position, according to area news outlets.

Houston Public Media reported that the directive came from a state-appointed conservator whose oversight responsibilities of Texas’ largest school district were also expanded Monday.

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath sent Houston school officials a letter detailing an expanded role for the conservator, Doris Delaney, according to the news outlet. Her duties now include “attending board meetings and overseeing the district’s governance,” according to the letter Houston Public Media posted Monday.

Also on Monday, Delaney told trustees to suspend their search for a superintendent “until the agency has completed its special accreditation investigation” of the district, which began in January and involves allegations that officials violated the state’s open meetings laws, the Houston Chronicle reported.

Gov. Greg Abbott earlier this year advocated for a state takeover of the district. The Chronicle said that state officials could replace Houston trustees later this year and that Morath could then choose the district superintendent. The paper portrayed Delaney’s directive Monday as a “potentially ominous sign” for district officials.

“It just undermines everything we’ve been working so hard to accomplish for the sake of our students and our district,” Houston trustee Sergio Lira told the Chronicle. “I think that it’s getting to the point of ‘Let’s not play games.’ [If you are going to] take us over, take us over now. Don’t give us these last-minute surprises.”