Houston ISD superintendent says little about timeline of possible TEA takeover

Courtney Fischer Image
Thursday, March 2, 2023
HISD superintendent expected to speak more on TEA takeover Thursday
There was a media frenzy at an event where both the superintendent and the mayor were present on Thursday. While Mayor Turner had much to say, Superintendent House did not.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston ISD leaders will meet for the first time on Thursday since Mayor Sylvester Turner said a state takeover of the district was imminent. The takeover means the publicly-elected superintendent and board members would be wiped out, and the Texas Education Agency would choose their replacements.

ABC13's Courtney Fischer was at an event on Thursday where the public saw Superintendent Millard House II for the first time since the news that the takeover was imminent.

Turner and House were both at Bruce Elementary School to read to children as part of Literacy Now's Houston Reads Day.

Because of the takeover news, reporters had a frenzy of questions after the reading ended.

However, when reporters attempted to question House, he began to speak before quickly walking away.

"We have a wonderful strategic plan in place. We appreciate you guys...," House said, without finishing his statement.

An HISD spokesperson said the public can expect a statement from House around 5 p.m.

Turner spoke to reporters about why he believes the takeover is a bad idea.

"If the state should step in and take it over, they own it, and they own every aspect of it," Turner said. "And quite frankly, if I'm the bus driver, or the janitor, or the cafeteria workers or the teachers, 'You disrupted. You better pay me substantially more if you want me to stay here.'"

He emphasized his fears that a state-run school district could make the Houston area undesirable to parents with school-aged children.

"It is very, very difficult, if not impossible, to run the largest school district from Austin, Texas," Turner said.

Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee put out a statement overnight saying the TEA takeover is "unnecessary, unfair, and discriminatory."

SEE RELATED STORY: 'Total obliteration': Mayor Turner says HISD takeover by the Texas Education Agency is imminent

"Explain to me how this is in the best interest of 190,000 students, their parents, the community, or the city," Houston Mayor Turner said. Here's what the takeover would entail.

Jackson Lee is calling for a federal investigation.

In a statement on Wednesday, Turner called the possible takeover a "total obliteration of local control."

The TEA would essentially clean the house by first removing House, who's been in the job since 2021, and then wiping out the entire current board of trustees.

Then, the agency would appoint their own people to those positions.

The takeover could also allow the district to remain autonomous, but the state would retain oversight.

"The taxpayers of Houston ISD pay for that district, and they pay for it on a regular basis. Therefore, they should have a voice," Agustina Reyes, a former HISD trustee, said.

The TEA has never taken over a district this large before, though there have been talks about doing so since 2019. The TEA says it's due to past misconduct by the school board and poor performing schools.

But, the district's accountability rating has improved to a B+ since House was named superintendent.

"I was hoping HISD would be able to get it together and keep our district under control, keep the transparency, and work better with parents, but we kind of knew where it was going," Kortney Revels, an HISD parent, said.

There are state representatives like Rep. Harold Dutton, who thinks the takeover could be a good thing. He said he thinks the state should make changes if a school system isn't doing well.

Turner says he's told the city will get a 24-hour notice if the TEA decides to take over the district.

As for HISD, the board will meet Thursday to discuss the past year of performance.

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