in Houston, Texas
Houston ISD parents split on whether Superintendent Terry Grier's contract should have been extended
Monday, Feb 13, 2012, 05:12PM CST
By Mike Cronin
HISD

Just like the members of their school board, Houston school district parents are split on whether Thursday’s decision to extend Superintendent Terry Grier’s contract another 18 months was the right one.

Yet just as significant for some parents is that three board members who opposed Grier’s extension abstained from the vote rather than vote against continuing the superintendent’s contract through June 1, 2014.

“I appreciate that (Trustee) Anna (Eastman) voted against Grier’s extension,” said Amy Maldonado, 41, a Houston immigration lawyer who has two daughters attending HISD schools.

“At the same time, I’m disappointed that Anna was the only one to show the courage to vote against it,” said Maldonado, whose HISD representative is Greg Meyers. “Extending Grier’s contract is very premature. We haven’t seen the performance metrics for this year.”

Maldonado said the vote on the superintendent’s contract seemed to come out of nowhere.

“I don’t feel (district officials) were transparent in this process,” Maldonado said. Many parents weren’t aware Grier’s contract extension would be discussed until a couple of days before the vote. “They did not give parents the opportunity to provide input.”

The three abstentions were school board President Mike Lunceford and trustees Juliet Stipeche and Rhonda Skillern-Jones.
 
Swati Narayan, 43, a mother of three sons who attend HISD schools and who lives in Lunceford’s district,said of HISD officials, “They’re trying to eradicate the transparency they’re always saying they’re clinging to. They’re just disregarding everything they preach … It’s a disservice to HISD.”

Narayan said she knew board Lunceford was going to abstain from the vote because she’d spoken with him. She praised Lunceford for being a person who’s trying his best to work for HISD students.

“He knew that the board’s majority already was going to vote for (Dr. Grier’s) extension,” Narayan said. “He was trying to put his own feelings aside so he could work for the children of this community. This was not something the board should have been voting on right now. Why should Grier have security without accountability when teachers and principals don’t?”

But other parents supported the board’s extension of Grier’s contract.

Caronetta Jones, 60, the 2010 president of the HISD Council of PTAs, said that Grier was good for the district.

“He communicates with the community and relates to the parents – that’s very key,” said Jones, who has a grandchildren currently enrolled in an HISD school. “He has community meetings with parents, and says he will continue to have those with teachers and students. I think that’s a real plus.”

A parent who serves on five separate HISD committees, Arthur Smith, 42, agreed with Jones.

“We’re moving in the right direction,” said Smith, who has one son currently enrolled in an HISD school and another who’s graduated from an HISD school.

Explaining their abstentions as opposed to voting against a Grier extension board, Lunceford said, “When the majority of the board votes, you need to move on. It doesn’t matter. Dr. Grier’s contract has been extended. Now, we have to worry about the kids in HISD.”

Stipeche said she had criticisms of Grier, but still wants the district to succeed under him.

“With five solid votes in (Dr. Grier’s) favor, there was no room for compromise,” said the Houston attorney, who was re-elected to a full term on the school board last fall. “If I were to base my decisions solely on the past, my vote would have been no. As the future is uncertain, I refused to vote yes. Therefore, I abstained, offering an olive branch. Instead of closing the door, I kept it open. I'm at the threshold, cautious and ready to work.

“The board and Dr. Grier must work together to make HISD relevant and effective. As my constituents hold my feet to the fire, I will hold his. I will continue to ask tough questions and remain critical; I will speak for the children, the employees, and my community. But, Dr. Grier must become a more effective listener and collaborator for this to work.”

And the board’s newest member, Skillern-Jones, said that she understands the frustrations of parents, faculty and staff over the extension of Grier’s contract.

“Personnel decisions have to be made around data, not feelings, morale, personality, social skills, likes and or dislikes,” Skillern-Jones said in an e-mail to Texas Watchdog. “I have said I would not make an uninformed decision without looking at the entire picture since I became a candidate and I did not. I kept my word. While it may not be popular, the abstain choice is there for a reason and in this situation I had a reason. I did what I believe was the RIGHT thing to do.”

***

Contact Mike Cronin at mike@texaswatchdog.org or 713-228-2850. Follow him on Twitter at@michaelccronin or @texaswatchdog.

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Comments
jane doe
Tuesday, 02/14/2012 - 09:13AM

half of these parent have no idea what they are talking about - they do not know the process, they don't understand transparancy and they don't get how bad HISD was before Grier arrived. I am constantly amazed at the comments I read from parents and teachers.... (and not in a good way). LIke him or not, Grier's been good for HISD.

wtf
Thursday, 02/16/2012 - 07:43PM

First Mike Cronin did everything he could to get Paula Harris. Didn't work. She won reelection in a landslide. Now he's trying to get Terry Grier, writing ridiculous stories claiming the school board is committing a crime by voting to give him a new contract. Remember that embarassment for Texas Watchdog, who had to retract the story and issue an apology? This story says parents are divided over Terry Grier. Then why do we have to read over 300 words before we hear from anyone with anything nice to say about the guy? I personally think Grier's personality is tough to take, but no reasonable person can argue he's not doing what needs to be done in HISD. He's a total pain in the ass. And that's exactly what HISD needs. Mike Cronin needs to get a new hobby. Smart people see his BS journalism for what it really is.

Charles
Thursday, 02/23/2012 - 08:26PM

The two comments submitted so far are comical. Sounds as though they were written by Grier's staff at Hattie Mae White. Look, my wife's a HISD teacher and what I can tell you for a fact is that she is worn out, so demoralized by the pressure for scores that she is throwing in the towel, quitting at year's end. She is not alone, she is your average Houston teacher who feels that Grier and company have taken the joy out of the teaching profession. So continue to delude yourself, wtf, and bank that six-figure salary Grier is paying you. The rest of us appreciate Mike Cronin's efforts to tell the true story of the disaster HISD has become!

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