Longtime Houston Independent School District (ISD) Superintendent, Dr. Terry Grier, unexpectedly announced his resignation effective March 1. His departure marks the second superintendent at a high-profile Texas school district to suddenly announce his exit under internal conflict and controversy.
“You can’t be superintendent in Houston forever, even though you might want to. You just simply can’t,” Grier said at a packed press conference held at the district headquarters late Thursday afternoon. “Quite frankly, it’s just time.”
His resignation cuts short a contract that would have ended on June 30, 2016. He said he led the country’s seventh-largest school district with approximately 215,000 students to all-time graduation rate increases while dropout rates fell by more than 50 percent, KPRC 2 (NBC) reported.
Grier, 65, earns $300,000 a year. He cited his reason for stepping down as the district was in much better shape than when he took over the reins in 2009. Grier intends to continue working in education but first plans to focus on his own knee replacement surgery and an aging father who suffers with Alzheimer’s disease.
Not everyone believes his reasons. Houston Federation of Teachers union President Zeph Capo told KTRK-13 (ABC): “Dr. Grier has had a longer tenure as superintendent than most superintendents in urban areas. Too much of that time has been brought with turmoil.”
A former Houston teachers union official chimed in, telling the local ABC affiliate she did not think it was a coincidence that Grier resigned hours after news broke of an internal audit possibly linking illegal activity to school construction projects. The audit uncovered that Houston ISD did not get board approval for several construction projects and they overpaid contractors. District officials said they will ask for their money back from overpaid contractors, and auditors asked the district to keep better tabs on spending, the Houston Chronicle reported.
At the presser, Grier named his accomplishments which are also listed on the Houston ISD news blog. In an email sent to parents, he touted among his accolades, “We now have more than 50 dual-language schools where students are becoming proficient in Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and Arabic, capitalizing on our city’s great diversity and leading role in this global economy.”
Houston ISD board of education documents revealed that the newly opened Arabic Immersion Magnet School accepted a $75,000 grant from the educational Qatar Foundation International (QFI), a organization with reputed ties to terrorism .
Previously, Grier raised eyebrows bringing the Obama administration’s Race to the Top competition into Houston ISD. Grier actively lobbied the feds to allow Texas school districts to apply for the very grants that former Governor Rick Perry refused on behalf of the state. Breitbart Texas reported that Grier pursued the Race to the Top program through a US Education Department (USED) “district” provision called Race to the Top District (RTT-D) that bypassed state education agencies and laws. Funds went directly to school districts. Critics slammed Race to the Top as the “gateway to the Common Core.”
In December 2013, the USED awarded a five-year $30 million RTT-D grant to Houston ISD, which the district won for its Linked Learning program, a college and career driven project that brings “the career into the classroom.”
Last year, the Houston Federation of Teachers protested the district’s use of the USED’s teacher and principal job evaluation metric, the Education Value-Added Assessment System (EVAAS). Seven teachers filed a federal lawsuit against Houston ISD over the metrics that tie educator performance to standardized testing, Breitbart Texas reported.
Over the summer, the school board jumped on the political bandwagon, announcing possible plans to rename six campuses with Confederate-linked monikers in response to the tragic shootings of nine Charleston black church parishioners. This week, the school board began the renaming exploratory process, the Houston Chronicle reported. Houston ISD spent $250,000 to transform one high school — the Lamar Redskins became the Lamar Texans — in 2014.
A grading and testing cheating scandal recently surfaced in the district. Grier asserted this does not signal a systematic problem within Houston ISD. He noted he will continue to fire anyone who cheats in the grading or testing process, according to Click2Houston. Earier this week, the latest internet video hallway brawl happened at one of the district’s high schools.
Grier’s resignation marks the second superintendent at a high-profile Texas school district to suddenly announce his exit amid district conflict. In June, beleaguered Dallas ISD superintendent Mike Miles resigned abruptly from the state’s second largest school district following a scandal-ridden three year tenure.
Follow Merrill Hope on Twitter @OutOfTheBoxMom.