Houston ISD board targeted in state investigation

HOUSTON (FOX 26) — Publicly derided by Governor Greg Abbott, the state's largest school district is now the target of an investigation by the Texas Education Agency.

Houston Independent School District Board of Trustees president Diana Davila confirmed the probe is focused on alleged violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act.

"The district has nothing to hide and so we welcome TEA to come in and look at our files and talk to our board members so we can speed this process and get on with the business of education of students," said Davila in an interview with FOX 26 News.

While neither TEA nor Houston ISD revealed who triggered the inquiry, we do know State Senator Paul Bettencourt appeared on FOX 26 five days before Christmas and demanded a full-blown investigation.

"I'm through with them," said Bettencourt in December 2018. "I think the public is through with them too. It's time for them to lead or get out of the way."

Bettencourt is among many people seeking accountibility for a boardroom power play which badly misfired back in October 2018 when five trustees allegedly conspired to replace interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan with former Superintendent Abe Saavedra.

When combined with a continuing inability to turn around a handful of failing campuses, some critics fear a case is being built to justify a state takeover.

"Has the board done some outlandish things? Yes. But the voters should decide what happens at the Hattie Mae White building, not the TEA," said education activist Travis Magee.

A "power play" that Dr. Bob Sanborn of Children at Risk sees as more threat than reality given the Texas Legislature's bipartisan focus this session on major public education reforms. 

"We are talking about really big changes that will really help the success of our children," said Sanborn. "So when the TEA or the Governor's office gets bogged down in this idea of taking over HISD, it does throw a little bit of a wrench in these grandiose plans."

Meantime, board president Davila said investigators can look as long as they want because she and fellow trustees committed no wrongdoing.