Houston teachers react to looming state takeover

Teachers in the Houston Independent School District are reacting to the news of an imminent plan for a state takeover.

HFT President Jackie Anderson says the decision, set to be made soon according to State Representative Ron Reynolds, could impact their teacher shortage even more.

"I can see a lot of teachers might leave HISD to go to district where there is no board of managers," said Anderson. "Where there is a democratically elected board, where they feel they have a voice in what happens to them. Teaching is already in critical condition." 

This type of discussion or threat further damages the morale of dedicated teachers.

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Sarah Rivlin teaches ESL and literature at Northside High School. She is hoping to stay to help more students excel in the classroom.

"I think a lot of these state initiatives try to turn teachers into robots," said Rivlin. "We're not robots, we're in this because we love this, and we want to be there for our kids."

With those concerns, come rumors of closing campuses like Phyllis Wheatley High - a school that's been on TEA's radar for years. According to a former teacher, students there are showing great improvements after years of low performance.

"I've been keeping up with some of my former students, and they feel this is demeaning," says Kendra Yarbrough Camarena. "They put in such hard work, and they were able to accomplish the goals. Wheatley is doing better, and they're still getting blamed for the takeover."


In a recent TEA report card, Wheatley earned a passing grade of a C. The historic Fifth Ward school spent nearly a decade with failing performance.

HISD was given a B overall.

The district's Board of Trustees voted Thursday night to end the district's lawsuit to stop the action. "This fight is over, but our fight for democracy in public education will never be over," said Trustee Elizabeth Santos as she teared up during the vote.

Anderson understood that continuing the pursuit of a lawsuit can be costly, but she had hoped the board would push a little further against the state offices.

"We elected them. They should be listening to us and not the attorneys so much," said Anderson. "The fight now becomes a fight for the community, the parents, citizens of HISD. We must continue to fight."

Education Commissioner Mike Morath released this statement after the board decided to drop the lawsuit: "The decision made by the Houston ISD Board of Trustees helps put the focus back on what matters: the students, staff, and families of HISD. TEA remains committed to ensuring students in Houston receive a high-quality education that prepares them for success and will pursue a path forward that accomplishes that objective. Until the Agency makes any formal decision, I’m confident Superintendent House and the Board will continue their work to help the students of Houston."