Texas State Sen. Mario Gallegos Jr. has a message to Houston ISD Superintendent Terry Grier: "I intend to administer a test of my own."
Gallegos said this in a letter dated April 8 where he discusses Grier's management style, the amount of time Grier has spent in previous positions at districts across the country and the process through which Grier was hired at HISD.
"He has fired or forced the resignation of numerous department heads at HISD, replacing them with persons who have little or no experience in big city affairs or school districts. ... He has all but ignored numerous calls from parents, community leaders, and members of the religious community to rethink changing so many things at once in lieu of unintended consequences certain decisions may yield."
Gallegos' letter continues:
"In my opinion, Dr. Grier has not demonstrated his ability to change the dropout rate. He has the rhetoric, he doesn't have the results. Dr. Grier's tenure here in Houston should not be about 'reform' forreform's sake, scapegoating teachers, centralizing all functions into his corner office or forgetting commitments made to our community in past bond elections. But rather should be about implementing changes that stand to serve the betterment of our children, our school district and our community in the long run."
In a phone conversation with Gallegos Friday, the Houston Democrat said he became concerned in August as the search team narrowed its focus to Grier.
"The search team at HISD didn't do their homework," Gallegos said. "Grier has created turmoil everywhere he goes, and then runs off."
HISD Spokesman Norm Uhl said Grier declined to comment on the letter, but has read it.
Houston ISD trustees shut the public out of the hiring process for the superintendent, naming one finalist after others had been interviewed behind closed doors. Texas law permits such secrecy.
Texas law gives school boards the option of naming one or multiple finalists when hiring a superintendent. HISD traditionally has released only one name, though the school board in 1991 allowed the public to meet a few finalists.
Business leaders had asked for a public and open process, during which candidates could be vetted by the whole community. But last year's trustees, most of whom are still on the board, declined. Trustees Anna Eastman and MikeLunceford were elected late last year, after Grier had already been hired.
Grier took over as HISD superintendent in September, after heading the San Diego Unified Schools for 18 months. Grier replaced Abelardo Saavedra, who retired Aug. 31.
Gallegos said he has not met or spoken with Grier personally, but has done research on him.
"I didn't go to sleep, take a pill and dream this stuff up," Gallegos said. "His background is an open book. It doesn't take a 4th grader to google him. But don't take my word for it, google him and find out for yourself."
Some of the information Gallegos found while searching Grier's background on the Internet include a Houston Chronicle article from last year, and older articles from the Greensboro News and Record and Akron Beacon Journal (which are no longer archived on those newspaper's Web sites). Gallegos cited the articles in his letter.
Gallegos sent the letter to the Greater Houston Partnership directors, Houston members of the leadership development group American Leadership Forum, members of the Houston legislative delegation and Houston ISD trustees.