HISD board to pick local charter for turnaround of troubled schools

- Facing the real potential of a state takeover, HISD leaders have been desperately seeking an outside partner capable of engineering academic turnarounds at 10 chronically failing schools.

With just six days until a TEA deadline, it appears trustees have chosen Energized for STEM Academy, a Houston-based charter already operating four schools within the district.

"I think we can bring the right turnaround leadership to this effort that's going to make it work," said Dr. James Douglas, E-STEM co-founder, former president of Texas Southern University and current leader of Houston's NAACP.

Douglas concedes the task ahead is daunting, but says he'll leave his post at TSU to personally lead the turnaround attempt.

"I've been criticizing HISD as long as people around here know. I'm one of those people who say if you're not willing to step up and become part of the solution then your part of the problem. Then I can't criticize HISD when the opportunity to step in and do something to help comes along and I don't jump at the opportunity," said Douglas.

Douglas says he plans to keep the vast majority of faculty currently serving on troubled campuses as long as they're willing to embrace new educational tactics.

"You could have the best players in the world, but if you have the wrong game plan you still don't win," said Douglas.

Opponents of the E-STEM partnership are plentiful. They're skeptical of participation by former HISD Board President Paula Harris and fear the charter operation lacks the willingness and expertise to educate students challenged with special needs.

"I don't want to take another chance at playing Russian roulette with these babies. This is just another way that they figured out to make money off of these kids," said community activist Gerry Monroe.

If the board approves the partnership contract Tuesday, Douglas says he and E-STEM leaders will go to work Wednesday with a maximum of two years to pull off the rescue mission.

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