TEA offers to lend HISD a hand

Could be a decent deal.

A top Texas Education Agency official offered Tuesday to intensively work with Houston ISD’s much-maligned school board to dramatically overhaul its approach to governance, shifting focus toward student outcomes and away from distracting personal agendas.

The pitch from TEA Deputy Commissioner of Governance AJ Crabill marks a unique olive branch to the state’s largest school district, which has struggled in recent months to reach consensus on vital issues.

“We can scrap all of what you’re doing now and redesign from scratch a governance system that honors your values and focuses on student values,” TEA Deputy Commissioner of Governance AJ Crabill told trustees during a school board meeting.

Trustees in attendance offered mostly positive responses to Crabill’s offer, which would be free of charge, agreeing that HISD’s school board needs dramatic changes to restore confidence in its governance. Board members agreed in October to seek an executive coach in the aftermath of the covert attempt to replace Interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan, but employing a TEA official as their coach was not widely expected.


Trustees could vote as early as mid-December on Crabill’s proposal, though HISD Board President Rhonda Skillern-Jones said she would not put the move up for vote if any trustee opposes the move.

HISD’s school board is responsible for setting district policy, hiring the superintendent and approving the district’s budget. The nine trustees are elected by voters in single-member districts.

Crabill’s offer came with some strings and relatively few concrete details. He said trustees must unanimously approve of his presence and “immediately resolve” any “gamesmanship” around his involvement. A few trustees, led by Jolanda Jones, have been fiercely critical of TEA leadership. Jones was not present for most of Crabill’s presentation and did not voice an opinion on it Tuesday.

Crabill said his primary goal would be moving toward trustees spending at least half of their time during board meetings focused on student outcomes. In recent months, trustees have spent significant amounts of time discussing relatively minor financial and policy matters, while occasionally engaging in deeply personal arguments.

Crabill did not outline a concrete vision for his work for trustees, but told them: “If you’re not comfortable with extreme discomfort, I’m not your guy.”

I mean, it’s worth hearing him out, if the other end of the bridge is an intact HISD with the four schools in question meeting standards. I can understand why some trustees might be leery of this, but it can’t hurt to hear the pitch. It would also be a good idea to let parents and teachers hear what Crabill has to say, since they’re going to be directly affected by whatever he might have in mind as well. See what he has in mind, and go from there. We’re no worse off if we decide to say “thanks, but no thanks”.

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4 Responses to TEA offers to lend HISD a hand

  1. Neil Aquino says:

    The Houston School Board is now essentially co-administered by the State of Texas and Mayor Turner. They have the same objectives of taking some schools out of public control and limiting what voices are heard on policy matters.

    What chance is there for any dissenting Board member or any citizen to have an impact on policy? Dissenting views will be called “ personal agendas” and will be dismissed as bickering.

    The co-administrators will steer the process to the outcomes they want and only then offer the Board what at that point will be a meaningless autonomy.

  2. Ross says:

    Neil, the current board is utterly disfunctional, with trustees screaming personal insults at each other. It’s not dissent, it is personal agendas with no consideration for what’s best for the students. I’ve spent the better part of 18 months dealing with the bullshit that the trustees, especially Jolanda Jones and Diana Davila have been spewing, and am tired of it. Turner hasn’t been noticeably involved. Since I have a child in HISD, I want to see some changes. TEA can’t possibly make things worse.

  3. Manny Barrera says:

    Ross, many of the government entities if not all of them are primarily run by the Greater Houston Partnership. When an elected official is not carrying their water they try hard to get them un-elected.

    Out of curiosity what is the problem that you are having?

  4. Neil Aquino says:

    Mayor Turner made his involvement clear with hjs large part in the effort to overturn the merited demotion of the temporary superintendent. And now the city is listed as a likely very active partner in schools to be removed from public control.

    Board members have engaged in personal disputes. But there are real policy differences involved in those disputes. I’m really not aware of a public board, council or legislature that well serves the public at this point. Yet the one that faces dissolution is the one with a majority of members who are Black and Hispanic & elected by a city electorate.

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