The Chron writes about the possible effect of the HISD Trustee elections on Superintendent Terry Grier and his agenda items like Apollo and revamped teacher evaluations. Of the three contested elections, the one that has the greatest potential to swing the way the Board operates is in District VII.
The closely watched District 7 race pits incumbent Harvin Moore, a staunch supporter of Grier, against Anne Sung, a former teacher critical of Grier’s strategies.
The board’s 6-3 vote approving the district budget in June highlighted the divide among trustees. The wedge issue was an allocation of $30 million to continue the Apollo program and to expand its key elements – small-group tutoring and a longer school day – to more campuses.
Moore, who voted with the majority on the budget, argues that HISD is headed in the right direction under Grier. Voters last year approved a $1.9 billion construction bond issue, the largest in Texas history, and the district won the national Broad Prize for Urban Education in September for its academic improvement.
Moore said he has talked to Grier privately about improving his communication with the public and is pleased with the progress.
“He’s still a strong-minded individual, and I think that’s a strength,” Moore said.
Sung taught at Lee High School, one of the Apollo campuses, and said the program pushed short-term gains on state tests rather than deeper learning. She also said she would like to see less emphasis on test scores in teachers’ job evaluations.
Adams said she hasn’t studied the evaluation system enough to weigh in. She wants to expand the small-group tutoring that has proven successful in the Apollo program across the district.
The Houston Federation of Teachers union, which has bashed the teacher evaluation system and generally stayed neutral on Apollo, endorsed Sung and Adams.
“No one went out and recruited people that just hated the superintendent,” union president Gayle Fallon said. “We recruited people who supported teachers. Teacher evaluation is a very big issue with us.”
The board had been moving to include test scores in the job appraisals before Grier arrived, but he has supported holding teachers accountable based on the data.
Sung has run a strong race. She’s outraised Moore and has garnered an impressive array of endorsements, mostly from Democratic-leaning organizations. That to me is the X factor in this race – partisan affiliation. HISD races, like city of Houston races, are officially non-partisan, but anyone who is paying attention knows what team a given candidate is on. Sung is a Democrat, Moore is one of three Republicans on the Board (Mike Lunceford and Greg Meyers are the others). I unfortunately don’t have any electoral data on HISD districts so I can’t make any quantitative statements, but it should be clear at a glance that District VII would be considered a solid Republican district in any context where partisan identity mattered. I have no idea how much it might matter in this context. Both candidates have focused on the issues, but I’m sure they’ve been busy letting fellow team members in the district know that they wear the same colors. It would be foolish not to. Again, I have no idea how much of a factor this will be. I do believe it is a factor, just one that isn’t readily measurable. This is definitely one of the races I’ll be watching closely.