HISD versus Saavedra

There has been some tension in the relationship between HISD and its superintendent, Abe Saavedra. Yesterday, that nearly came to a head.

Supporters of Houston ISD Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra rallied Monday amid fears that the school board planned to sever ties with the chief.

The board, however, took no action on Saavedra’s job contract Monday after meeting behind closed doors for more than two hours.

A decision to oust Saavedra could come at today’s board meeting, but board President Harvin Moore and Vice President Paula Harris both said such a move is unlikely.

The board must notify Saavedra by Wednesday if it does not want to extend his contract another year. If the board takes no action, the pact automatically extends.

On Monday afternoon, members of the Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and several Hispanic politicians, including state Sen. Mario Gallegos, D-Houston, gathered to show support for Saavedra. They said they were worried about his job security.

“The timing of the board could not be worse,” Laura Murillo, president of the Hispanic Chamber, said at a news conference. “Dr. Saavedra is leading the school district’s recovery for Hurricane Ike.”


Saavedra is on a one-year job contract, although his attorney and the board’s have clashed over what exactly that means.

The board’s counsel, David Thompson, has said Saavedra would be out of a job in December if the board gave him notice in October. Saavedra’s attorney, Vidal Martinez, has countered that the board would be on the hook for more than a year of pay.

Messy. I was sent a long string of emails from Saavedra supporters in advance of yesterday’s rally. Their concerns are summarized as follows, in an email from Martinez:

Here are the top five questions anyone should have for HISD:

1) How can the board be focused on the continued employment of a superintendent with 20 months left on his contract during this time of crisis after a hurricane has devastated our region, the financial markets are in crisis (which affects the interest rate HISD pays on its bonds), and we are trying to reopen schools for 202,000 children?

2) Why did the HISD board hide their intent to deliberate on Dr. Saavedra’s contract with a veiled posting containing boiler-plate language that did not inform the public what was going on and give a chance to be heard under the Texas Open Meetings Act?

3) Why is the HISD board scared to have a public hearing on Dr. Saavedra’s performance under the accountability standards set by the board itself?

4) Why did the HISD board vote down Dr. Saavedra’s reorganization plan in June? Are they micro-managing the district?

5) If there is to be a termination or buy-out of Dr. Saavedra’s contract, how much will it cost the taxpayers after they just voted in a $672 Million dollar bond issue in a very contested bond election last year? How will this affect HISD’s legislative agenda when they go to Austin next spring where public school financing is already one of the biggest unresolved problems this state faces going forward?

I confess that I haven’t paid close enough attention to the machinations at HISD lately to have a good feel for the ins and outs of this power struggle. I will say that I think the questions raised are good ones, and that I think this would be a lousy time to go down the road of trying to oust a superintendent. Let’s stay focused on getting the schools running normally again after Ike. We can always convene a circular firing squad later. Stace has more.

UPDATE: And he stays. School Zone has more.

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