HOUSTON - We're just a few weeks into the new school year, but HISD's main man is heading out the door. Superintendent Dr. Terry Grier announced Thursday that he is stepping down, effective March 1, 2016.
"Quite frankly, it's just time," said Grier, "that's it in a nutshell."
Grier got the job back in 2009, when he promised to improve student academic achievement, and slashed the dropout rate for the nation's seventh largest school district. He received national acclaim in 2013, when HISD was named the best urban school district in America.
"Two years ago, 64 of our young people were accepted into Ivy League universities with full academic scholarships, and these are kids of poverty."
Grier is the longest-tenured big-city superintendent in Texas, but it hasn't always been as easy as 1-2-3.
"Much of that time was spent in turmoil and disagreement about the direction of our public schools, however he did the job that the school board hired him to do," said Zeph Capo, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers.
"He has made a lot of omelets, which means breaking a lot of eggs," said trustee Harvin Moore, "and I think that's been good, I think that's healthy."
There's been plenty of controversy, from high turnover rates and grade fixing scandals, to financial shortfalls. Earlier this week, an audit questioned the handling of construction contracts.
"We've had some issues with funding, but that's going to be resolved," said Grier, "we are going to build the schools that we promised we were going to build."
But Grier is focused on the future, and says he still has a lot of things to get done.
"And when we're finished, Houston is going to have the finest portfolios of new high schools of any urban city in America, and you can count on that."
Here is a statement that Grier issued:
Dear HISD Community:
Six years ago, you welcomed me to this great city. Today, I am writing to thank you for the honor of trusting me with your children’s education, and to let you know that effective March 1, 2016, I will be stepping down from my position as Houston ISD superintendent. I hope our team exceeded your expectations.
Your support came in many forms, and all of it was needed. You volunteered to read with students. You built playgrounds and you stocked our libraries. You donated prizes to encourage our students to perform at higher levels than they ever thought possible. You contributed millions to help us hire tutors for our neediest students in our toughest schools. When we came to you with a plan to rebuild high schools in neighborhoods across Houston so that our students would no longer have to look at suburban school buildings with envy, almost 70 percent of you voted in favor.
Today, HISD is considered the best urban school district in America. There’s a reason for that. While cities across the nation have abandoned their urban schools, Houston has embraced and invested in them. In big-city school districts elsewhere, mass school closures and teacher layoffs are common and enrollment numbers are plummeting. Not in Houston. We’ve added 15,000 students to our district the past six years and we’ve opened innovative new schools such as the Energy Institute High School and the Baylor College of Medicine Academy at Ryan that showcase our city’s leading industries. 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.
Our great team accomplished much more over the past six years, and you can read more about our students’ achievements here. I also encourage you to watch and share this short video I recorded thanking Houston for welcoming me to the family. It has been an honor to serve with you, and I know you will rally behind whomever our Board of Education chooses as my replacement. That’s what Houston does. Thank you.