State Sen. Mario Gallegos is not a fan of HISD Superintendent Terry Grier. He has made this clear through two letters he has released. This one, from April 8, raises questions about Grier’s past record in other school districts, while this one to the Greater Houston Partnership, which he sent to me on Wednesday, is a more direct challenge, and ends as follows:
If Dr. Grier’s past track record is any indication of what is to be expected from the changes he is putting in place at HISD, then I must say there is reason for great concern. It is time for all of us to start thinking about what is in the best interest of our children. It is time to start looking for new effective leadership for HISD before it is too late.
I remain conflicted about Dr. Grier, mostly because I hear such a wide range of opinions about him when I ask others what they think of him. I believe he’s correctly identified the highest priority problems within HISD, such as the dropout rate, and I believe he’s gotten us all focused on them in a way that perhaps we haven’t been before. I also believe he’s brought up subjects that need to be discussed but will always be difficult to talk about, such as poor-performing teachers. We can and should have a vigorous debate about the best ways to deal with these issues, and I’m glad that’s happening. But there are legitimate questions about how some of these things are being done, and about how HISD has engaged the stakeholders in these conversations, and there are legitimate questions about Dr. Grier’s track record that deserve more scrutiny, especially if we’re going to follow down a path that others have already taken. I’ve not had the chance to research the specific charges that Sen. Gallegos makes in his GHP letter, but I hope to be able to in the coming weeks. By all means, if anyone reading this has some insights on any of it, let me know, via email or comments.
What it comes down to is this: The stakes are way too high to screw this up. Houston has a number of very good schools in it, and an unacceptable number of students who don’t make it all the way through them. Our population in the greater metropolitan area is relatively young and growing rapidly, and that’s a great opportunity to ensure its economic health and vitality for decades to come if we can successfully educate our children. We all basically know what to do to achieve this, we just have to do it. Some aspects of that are beyond the control of the school district, but we haven’t done a good job with those that are. I want Dr. Grier to succeed, in the sense that I want him to deliver on his promises to lower the dropout rate and improve performance across the board. If it becomes clear that he cannot, then we need to act sooner rather than later to correct that. It’s on the Trustees to hold Dr. Grier responsible, and it’s on all of us to hold the Trustees responsible.
I’ve sent Sen. Gallegos’ letter to HISD to ask if there is an official response from Dr. Grier to it, but as yet I have not heard anything. If and when I do, I’ll let you know.