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Gallegos versus Grier

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.

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7 Comments

  1. JJMB says:

    The State Senator should run for school board if he wants a voice in this. Grier was picked by a very diverse set of trustees, elected by the people. And it was unanimous. Just think about that for a minute.

    I think this is outrageous interference in an area clearly under the authority of other people. If you know anything about the State Senator, you know what his reaction would be to a couple HISD trustees complaining to the GHP about how the State Senator has drafted some public safety legislation.

    My guess is that the State Senator is carrying the teacher union’s water on this. How much money does he get from unions?

  2. Gayle Fallon says:

    JJMB obviously has no clue about how the HFT works or about the interaction between the legislators and the union.

    First, the union deals with legislators on school issues related to state law. We spend considerable time working to make the Texas Education Code read in a manner that is suportive to teachers. Changing and adjusting state law is important to us. Dealing with an individual superintendent does not rise to that level of importance. Superintendents are interchangeable parts that are here briefly and leave and are hardly worth the effort of a personal battle. The HFT has lived through 7 superintendents and a couple of interims. We regard them as temporary units of “human capital” that will move on whenever they get a better offer or a decent buyout. Legislation outlasts them. We don”t deal in personalities – we deal in legislative and ppolicy issues.

    Second, anyone who knows Senator Gallegos knows that he makes up his own mind and does not carry anyone’s water. He is a member of the Senate Education Committee and focuses on issues of importance to his constituents.

    Gayle Fallon

  3. Gayle Fallon says:

    JJMB obviously has no clue about how the HFT works or about the interaction between the legislators and the union.

    First, the union deals with legislators on school issues related to state law. We spend considerable time working to make the Texas Education Code read in a manner that is suportive to teachers. Changing and adjusting state law is important to us. Dealing with an individual superintendent does not rise to that level of importance. Superintendents are interchangeable parts that are here briefly and leave and are hardly worth the effort of a personal battle. The HFT has lived through 7 superintendents and a couple of interims. We regard them as temporary units of “human capital” that will move on whenever they get a better offer or a decent buyout. Legislation outlasts them. We don”t deal in personalities – we deal in legislative and policy issues.

    Second, anyone who knows Senator Gallegos knows that he makes up his own mind and does not carry anyone’s water. He is a member of the Senate Education Committee and focuses on issues of importance to his constituents.

    Gayle Fallon

  4. Anna Eastman says:

    Charles,

    Thanks for continuing the conversation on public education in Houston, HISD specifically. I hope that the Senator’s letters will at least get folks to become engaged in what’s going on in HISD. The stakes are high. High enough for kids that we can’t afford to take babysteps any longer. Not only is our drop out rate unacceptable, it and the acheivement gap have remained static for decades. And many, many more of the 280+ schools in HISD could stand to be much higher in the Children at Risk rankings.

    I have begun holding community meetings the second Tuesday of the month. I have held three so far with a decent turnout. My next meeting is this Tuesday, May 11, 6:30 pm at Reagan High School in the Academic Teaching Theatre. Rebecca Flores, HISD’s Government Relations Director, will be there to discuss our legislative agenda. I usually go over the month’s Board Meeting Agenda Items, offer a brief Q & A period and then move on to the guest speaker’s presentation.

    Next month on June 8 at 6:30, I will be hosting a community engagement meeting focused on gaining stakeholder input for HISD’s longterm strategic plan that we are creating. I will send you a copy of the notice with a location as soon as it’s drafted.

    I hope you can make it and encourage others to attend. I agree that the holding trustees accountable piece is critical. Dr. Grier has been here for eight months, he’s been willing to take on some sacred cows, if you will, and will get more pushback as we move forward. There is a conversation about public education taking place on the national stage led by President Obama and Arne Duncan and we in HISD are poised to make some real movement for kids. Yes we must diligently oversee how the change is implemented, but I hope we don’t fall into a defensive crouch that hampers our ability to make those changes significant.

    Anna Eastman, HISD Board of Education, District 1 Trustee

  5. HISD Teacher says:

    Grier is an idiot, he is terminating teacher positions saying its all about budget yet has huge billboards in California stating that HISD is hiring. Grier can’t you find competent educators here in Houston? People that are Texans and not from California where you left San Diego in ruins! Let California deal with its own problems, you don’t have to give away Texan Jobs and we don’t need an influx of people from California coming over here, we already had enough with Louisiana people coming over after the hurricane. Senator Gallegos we support you and we appreciate you standing up for us in HISD.

  6. [...] 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 [...]

  7. [...] not a surprise. I’ve expressed similar feelings a time or two myself. To [HISD Superintendent Terry] Grier’s supporters, his thick skin, [...]

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