To [HISD Superintendent Terry] Grier’s supporters, his thick skin, independence and kids-come-first mantra are proving a successful recipe for shaking up the status quo in Texas’ largest district.
But his rapid rollout of reforms in his first school year — including ousting staff, shutting down the regional offices, removing razor-wire fencing around campuses and ordering schools to serve students breakfast at their classroom desks – has cut short the happy honeymoon with teachers, principals and parents skeptical of hasty decisions.
“Terry’s first 10 months have shown him to be all about children and results,” said HISD board member Paula Harris. “Through this process, he’s definitely ruffled the feathers of adults.
“I have told Terry and other people have told him that we’re nice here in the south,” she said. “We say things nice. And I don’t think that’s a skill he has or he cares to have.”
Mary Nesbitt, the vice president of Parents for Public Schools, criticizes Grier’s strategy as “fire, aim, ready.” As examples, she says, the district is seeking a grant to fund new magnet programs without first evaluating its current ones. Grier also announced he wanted to sever ties with Community Education Partners but then backed down after the for-profit discipline program received a good external evaluation and had majority board support.
“For many parents the jury is still out, but we are increasingly cautious and concerned that changes are happening for change sake,” Nesbitt said.
Caronetta Jones, a member of the Superintendent’s Parent Advisory Committee, said she was frustrated after Grier missed two meetings but appreciated that he ordered his staff to prevent future scheduling conflicts.
“He is very personable, and I like that,” said Jones, the president of HISD’s Council of PTAs.
I can think of more than one person who might quibble with Ms. Jones’ characterization. I’ll say this again, what ultimately matters to me is the result. If Dr. Grier can accomplish the things he says he wants to accomplish, he’ll go down in my book as a very successful Superintendent. If not, let’s just say I don’t think he’ll leave behind many defenders. That’s really all there is to it.