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March 4th, 2023:

Superintendant House speaks about the looming TEA takeover

Not much one can say in this position.

Superintendent Millard House II said it’s business as usual in the state’s largest school system until the Texas Education Agency pulls the trigger on its rumored takeover plan.

He used the start of a school board meeting to address the rumors regarding a potential intervention by the Texas Education Agency.

“As of today, the district has not received any official notice from the TEA,” House said Thursday. “I remain laser-focused on fulfilling my duties as Superintendent alongside our Board of Trustees to provide the best possible educational outcomes for all HISD students. My team and I will continue to implement our community informed strategic plan, which is delivering results for HISD students and families.”

He vowed to keep students, families and community updated.


The mayor publicly announced on Wednesday that he is hearing rumors regarding an imminent takeover, calling on the Texas Education Agency to clarify its plans. The Supreme Court also issued a mandate on Wednesday — the final legal step necessary — to allow the state takeover, if the commissioner believes it to be appropriate.

“He’s in a very uncomfortable position,” Turner said of the superintendent. “His future, like the district, is in the hands of the TEA, and it’s unclear. If you didn’t know you were going to hold on to your job, and the power was not in your hands to decide, I think you would be reluctant to say anything publicly.”

Turner reiterated that the TEA should make a statement publicly, due to the uncertainty around the situation.

“This is what I would say to the state: if there is no intention of (taking over) state your position clearly,” Turner said. “If you intend to do it there should be a certain amount of community engagement and transparency and not hiding behind office walls.”

See here for the background, and here for coverage of a protest about the takeover. In a different story, Superintendent House says he doesn’t know what the future will bring, which is not a great place for any of us to be.

The TEA is gonna do what they’re gonna do, and it looks like we’ll first hear about it from them when they do it. This sucks and is very likely to be harmful, but we have no control over the situation. All we can do is say it loudly. So let me be as clear as I can: There’s no good reason for the TEA to step in at this point. Nearly all of the HISD Board is different than it was when the issues that led to the takeover conditions occurred. The schools whose performance triggered the takeover conditions are now meeting the needed academic standards. HISD overall got a B grade from the TEA in the last accountability ratings. There’s nothing for the TEA to fix. But there’s plenty for them to break. The TEA won the legal battle to say that they could take over HISD. Please take that victory and be satisfied with it. The Press, the Trib, and Campos have more.

The Rodeo is more accessible now

Good to hear, though I’m honestly surprised this is a thing that has just now happened.

People with disabilities trying to get into and enjoy the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo will have an easier time this year because of an access compliance crackdown by the U.S Justice Department.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Texas on Thursday announced that the the livestock show and NRG Park had worked to make parking lots, bathrooms, ramps and countertops compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act. The changes were made after the Justice Department conducted a three-day investigation of the rodeo and its venue over ADA compliance complaints made during the 2022 event.

The findings from that investigation were used to make changes during this year’s event, according to a press release

“[The rodeo] did the right thing and made its facilities accessible to the entire community, including those with disabilities” said U.S. Attorney Alamdar S. Hamdani. “With the cooperation of the [rodeo] and NRG Park, and after my office’s investigation, all individuals in the district will have a chance to enjoy the Rodeo.”

The investigation found “significant barriers to accessibility,” according to the press release.

To fix the issues, the rodeo increased the number of porta-potties and add more accessible dining areas, seating and paths. Some obstruction were modified or removed and a stair lift was installed in NRG Arena. NRG Park also increased the number of accessible parking spaces and drop-off points, and added a shuttle to the Orange Lot on Circle Drive, according to the press release.

The story comes from the aforementioned press release, which among other things notes that the investigation was opened last year at the start of the 2022 Rodeo. I had noted the Rodeo’s return last year but don’t recall seeing a story about this review. I’m glad it happened, I’m glad the Rodeo cooperated, and I’m very glad that the situation has improved, but I’m surprised that it took until the year or our Lord 2022 for it to happen. I don’t have a good explanation for that. Better late than never, but still.

Are there more parks like Fairfield Lake out there?

Yes, there are others, but most are not likely to go away any time soon. We hope.

Recent news that Texas’ Fairfield Lake State Park is closing to make way for a new upscale gated community raised a question: How many other state parks could be subject to closure because they aren’t really owned by the state?

The answer, according to Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, is one — Lake Colorado City State Park. That West Texas Park north of San Angelo sits on land owned by The Texas Electric Service Company, and wildlife officials say they are not aware that it is at any risk of closure, said Stephanie Garcia, a spokeswoman for the agency.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department leases 15 parks, including Fairfield Lake and Lake Colorado City, from other entities. “The rest are leased from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, river authorities or city or county governmental entities,” Garcia said.

State wildlife officials have been leasing land for decades and using the properties for state parks, on land ranging in size from less than an acre to several thousand acres, Garcia said.

The lease for Fairfield Lake State Park, which is located between Dallas and Houston, was terminated recently by its lessor, Vistra. The park will be closed to the public Feb. 28 due to its impending sale to make way for a new real estate and golf course development by Todd Interests.

Here is the TPWD list of all 15 parks on leased land, including the two not owned by a governmental entity.

See here and here for the background. As nearly all of these other parks are on land owned by other government entities, it seems unlikely that they could end up getting sold to a developer, at least in the near future. But selling off properties is a thing that local governments do all the time when they need cash for their operating budgets – the city of Houston has done this many times over the past 20 years or so. The feds do it, too – just look at all the new development where post offices used to be. Maybe none of these sites have a Fairfield Lakes destiny in their future. The point is that the only way for the state to have control over that is to own those properties. Perhaps this is the nudge – and the budget, with its large surplus – that the Legislature needs to do something about that.