After years of searching and failed attempts, Houston Independent School District has finally found a leader willing to fight their mountainous problems—so why is the district suddenly giving her up?

HISD trustees have again contracted with the firm Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, the same firm that originally brought them former superintendent Richard Carranza. Trustees voted 6-3 to implement a warranty provision in their contract with the firm stating that since Carranza left less than two years after being hired, they will conduct the search for free except for expenses incurred.

After Carranza left HISD to run the New York Public Schools, trustees named Chief Academic Officer Grenita Lathan as the interim head of the district.

HISD has struggled under recent Superintendents Terry Grier, Carranza, and even Lathan. The constant struggle has led to the district’s possible takeover by the Texas Education Agency this year, because HISD failed to bring enough schools out of the “improvement required” rating.

However, because of Hurricane Harvey, the TEA granted the district a waiver and staved off takeover for another year. HISD trustees were quick to parade the announcement, though they were the ones who have failed for years to fix the problems.

But thanks to Lathan’s new leadership of the board, solutions are beginning to come.

“We provided additional professional development for our teachers, we held extended days every Wednesday throughout the school year for targeted campuses, about 42 campuses,” said Lathan, when asked what she implemented to help turn around chronically failing schools. “We also provided additional tutorial support, additional staff, essential positions like a school nurse, school counselor, and reading interventionist. We paid attention to the necessary details of what makes a school successful.”

Though her future is unsure with the ongoing, nationwide search for a superintendent, she has developed a plan to continue the district’s improvement, beginning with parental involvement.

“We’re launching parent university, where monthly we’re going to meet with parents to provide them educational information and also community resources,” she said. “We know the most important person in a child’s life is their parents or guardians and we want to provide continuous wraparound support for our campuses.”

Lathan has implemented a plan that has undoubtedly served the district well, and her plans going forward seem to be exactly what’s been neededto continue turning HISD around.

Greg Groogan from the local FOX affiliate recently had Lathan on his show and asked her candidly about her future. “Dr. Lathan, you can take the success of this year and get any number of jobs across the country,” he said. “The question now is, do you want to continue your efforts here?”

“I will continue to serve not only in this position but any other position that the board desires me to serve in in the Houston Independent School District,” Lathan replied.

Facing a district in a financial crisis with a looming state takeover, Lathan could have taken her successes so far and gone somewhere else. Instead, Lathan has proven she should be the one to permanently lead HISD, and it will be a missed opportunity for district students if the trustees pass her over for the role.

Charles Blain

Charles Blain is the president of Urban Reform and Urban Reform Institute. A native of New Jersey, he is based in Houston and writes on municipal finance and other urban issues.


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