HOUSTON - An educational controversy has quickly become a political one.
"It has always been about the Black against the Brown," said Jolanda Jones, former HISD Trustee.
Today at the headquarters of Houston ISD, faith and governmental leaders protested the refusal of the district's board to offer interim Superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan a permanent position.
"We will not allow her to be discriminated against because she is Black. We believe that if Dr. Lathan was Hispanic she would be the Superintendent today," said Bishop James Dixon representing the NAACP Houston Chapter.
Having held the interim position for two and a half years, Lathan is credited with pulling dozens of academically challenged schools into compliance and earning a "B" rating from the state for the district as a whole.
Supporters say the 6-3 vote against her elevation to permanent status was racially motivated and an insult to Lathan's accomplishments.
"If I had been dehumanized and humiliated and disregarded and disrespected in the way that she has been over this entire tenure I would have walked away and taken some of the job offers I have personally seen her gotten over this time, but she cares enough about where she is and who she serves to stay even through that. That speaks to her character," said Rhonda Skillern-Jones, a former HISD Board President.
City Council Member Caroline Evans-Shabazz went further, warning Latino leaders across Houston that rejection of Lathan because of her race will trigger serious political repercussions.
"Is the Black-Brown coalition in jeopardy and is there a line being drawn in the sand?" said Evans Shabazz.
In reaction, Board President Sue Deigaard, who was one-two, non-Hispanic trustees voting against Lathan, told FOX 26 her decision was based on "data".
"It is the primary responsibility of any school board to set the goals of the district and monitor the progress of our students towards those goals. It’s a superintendent’s role to accomplish those goals.
In the report for the 2018/2019 school year, the superintendent met the goal for college/career readiness, but not for reading and writing or for increasing achievement for our struggling students.
The mid-year monitoring in February and March of 2020, before COVID-19, indicated we were not on track for any of our goals this past school year," said Deigaard in a statement.
The entire leadership issue may be rendered moot. A pending state takeover of HISD is currently under review by the Texas Supreme Court.