It was not unanimous.
The Houston school board on Thursday extended Superintendent Terry Grier’s contract through June 2014 in a split vote that signaled the controversial chief has bridges to build with the newer trustees.
The five trustees who were on the board that hired Grier in 2009 supported the extension, expressing their confidence in his leadership and the gains in student achievement. Three trustees elected after Grier’s appointment abstained from the vote, while another newer trustee opposed the deal.
Trustee Harvin Moore, who made the motion for the two-year extension, acknowledged that Grier and the board need to improve, particularly in listening and in rolling out changes.
“He did well on his performance review, but he didn’t get perfect marks,” Moore said.
Trustee Anna Eastman, the lone trustee to vote against the extension, said she knows Grier is passionate, but she is concerned about the mood in the Houston Independent School District.
“I fear the culture of this organization is struggling,” she said. “And I worry that these gains will (not) be sustainable.”
Eastman later added, “I will be available for a big fat ‘I told you so’ if it’s warranted.”
Trustees Mike Lunceford, Rhonda Skillern-Jones and Juliet Stipeche abstained from the vote.
As Campos and Stace have observed, this isn’t exactly an overwhelming vote of confidence in Grier. A handful of votes go the other way in the Rodriguez-Fonseca election, who knows what might have happened. For what it’s worth, I think Grier has done enough to warrant an extension, but he’s also done enough to have been denied that extension. I hope he puts some thought – and action – into the reasons for that.
On a side note, prior to the Board meeting Texas Watchdog ran a report saying that the vote on Grier’s contract was illegal, according to a lawyer specializing in open government. They subsequently took that down with the explanation that said attorney had revised his opinion. The Examiner explains:
The attorney quoted in a Texas Watchdog article as saying a probable vote by HISD trustees to extend Superintendent Terry Grier’s contract would be “illegal,” said he was not accurately informed about the agenda item and that such a vote “would withstand a legal challenge.”
“This is not a question of legality and criminal law,” Joel White, an expert in law pertaining to open meetings and records, told the Examiner. “This is a question about whether an item was adequately posted.”
The reporter for Texas Watchdog, a nonprofit investigative news agency whose HISD coverage is utilized by the Examiners, did not provide him with a written copy of the HISD board agenda and left out critical wording when explaining it to him verbally, White said.
The attorney called HISD’s attorney, David Thompson, “a good lawyer, and they’re going to have to trust what he tells them.”
Although White said he found the wording “slightly problematic,” he said he had conversed with Thompson Thursday and “saw and heard nothing that would rise to the level of a legal challenge.” State open meetings laws require that agendas be posted 72 hours in advance of a public meeting and outline circumstances for employee matters to be discussed in closed executive session.
Glad we got that cleared up. I can only imagine what kind of fuss there would be now if that allegation were being pressed. Hair Balls has more.