HISD trustees caught yelling and cussing in new video

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- In the annual State of the State address in Austin Tuesday morning, Gov. Greg Abbott hit on a variety of topics.

The address was a 30,000 foot view of his priorities for this season, but his main focus was education reform.

Abbott made emergency measures of school safety, student mental health, funding and teacher pay top priorities.

"Working together, we will create a Texas where every student is reading at grade level by the time they finish the third grade," he said. "Where every child, regardless of their zip code, is going to receive a quality education."

While talking about districts that are successful in educating students, he listed several cities including Dallas, San Antonio, Longview and others as being exemplary.

Houston Independent School District was not among those listed.

Abbott has been critical of HISD's leadership and called for a state takeover of the district, even tweeting last month the board's "self-centered ineptitude is failing students."

Now, newly-obtained video of a governing retreat reveals what appears to be a deep dysfunction of the nine-member board.

Trustee Wanda Adams became emotional while discussing what she felt was a lack of support from other board members when she says she was threatened by the public.

"People came to my house and threw stuff at my home. People called me black," she said. "They called me (expletive). Did you all (other board members) come to my defense? Hell no. So you want to know how I felt last year? I was quiet the whole year. So, don't come up here crying when people came to my house."

In another clip from the meeting, trustee Sergio Lira said serving on the board is a step below hell.

"It is a step below hell," he said. "Why would anyone want to do this? Our intent is to serve the student and the community. That's our intent."

Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan expressed her frustration with the board, while also offering reconciliation.

"At the end of the day," she said. "I can't spend every day, and that's what it's turned into. Stopping everything to cater to trustees when we need to be focusing on what happens to the children."

This is not the kind of governance Abbott referenced in praising Texas schools. It does, however, raise the possibility of an emergency of a different kind.

There is the specter of a possible state takeover of HISD, and State Sen. Paul Bettencourt is proposing the make up of the nine member board change to include several at-large seats.

He told ABC13 Eyewitness News he's seen the video.

"HISD's board of trustees has to improve or they need to be replaced," said Sen. Bettencourt. "The videos I've seen are just appalling, and it just can't happen in the state's largest school district."

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