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Personality matters

Lisa Falkenberg, writing earlier this week about longtime teacher Jamie Simmon leaving HISD after 27 years to take a job with YES Prep:

The decision, she says, has nothing to do with the daunting challenges of educating Lee’s largely at-risk, immigrant population, and everything to do with not feeling valued by a new superintendent so focused on reforming what’s wrong that he can’t be bothered to appreciate what’s going right.

“The total disregard for people’s time, people’s commitment and people’s dedication is unconscionable,” Simmon said. “There just seems to be a total lack of regard for the working stiff, the someone who’s willing to come in and give 125 percent every day.”

She said an exchange she had with Superintendent Terry Grier when he visited Lee a few months ago solidified her decision to leave. She proudly introduced herself to him, thinking perhaps he was familiar with her role in helping Lee boost the number of students taking AP exams over the past four years from 156 to 710.

Grier offered neither kudos, nor recognition, she said: “He looked at me and said ‘Have you ever heard of AP Human Geography?’”

Hair Balls wrote on Friday night about a conflict between Grier and Council Member Melissa Noriega.

“My issues with Terry Grier, I think he came here with a charge from the board and I think the board is getting what they bought,” she says. “If you want to talk about education, and what I think is a lot of the slash-and-burn stuff going on with the district, I might weigh in on that, but gossiping about Grier’s bad behavior is not something I’m going to do.”

Okay, then, what about his stewardship of HISD?

“I’m just dismayed by how many good people I know are leaving [HISD],” Noriega says, adding “I’m not comfortable with Grier’s approach, I’m certainly not…Everything I’ve heard has just been disturbing.”

I’m going to say this again: I want Terry Grier to succeed, in the sense that I want him to deliver on his promises to reduce the dropout rate and improve performance across the board. I’ll be absolutely delighted if he transforms HISD into the premier large urban school district in America. Doing that will be hard work, and will require doing some things that not everyone will like. Grier has some good ideas, some ideas that can be improved with engagement and feedback from various stakeholders, and some ideas that need to be pushed back on. Under the best of circumstances, he will be opposed by people who have sincere disagreements with his ideas, and by people whose positions or stature are threatened by what he wants to do. That’s normal, and healthy. What isn’t healthy or helpful is alienating people who ought to be allies. We all have all the enemies we need, there’s no need to make more. My concern is that Grier is taking an already difficult task and making it harder, for no good reason. All I can say is that I hope he reads these stories and considers what, if anything, he might have done differently.

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