HISD Unanimously Hires Grier

September 10, 2009

The Houston Independent School Board of Trustees unanimously approved the hiring of Dr. Terry Grier as the new superintendent of schools Thursday, despite a threat by Houston Sen. Mario Gallegos to take legal action to overturn the board’s decision.

In a brief speech after the unanimous vote, Grier said he is excited about working in the HISD schools.

“I do think this is going to be an excellent match,” Grier said.

In an appearance before the board, Gallegos angrily threatened to file a lawsuit to have their vote declare “null and void” for what he alleged are violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act, the Texas Public Information Act, and state law requiring a 21-day waiting period before school boards can hire new superintendents.

Although the HISD board picked Grier as the finalist to succeed former superintendent Abelardo Saaevedra on August 20, Gallegos complained in a September 8 letter to the board that it appeared to him that there were “negotiations” about the job being conducted with Grier by e-mail.

“It is clear from emails circulated in the community that the board negotiated the terms of a contract before notifying any members of the public,” Gallegos charged.

“You exchanged e-mails between the board and negotiated terms the contract back and forth with the candidate, even urging him to sign a memorandum of agreement before posting (notice) of this for action.”

“I believe this prevented the public from knowing how and when you made your decision to hire this candidate,” Gallegos said.

Gallegos said that he had “already talked” with Harris County District Attorney Pat Lykos about the board’s failure to follow the Open Meetings Act, as well as HISD’s failure to comply with his request for information under the 10-day statutory deadline in the Texas Public Information Act. Gallegos said his request for public information was not met; because HISD told him there were “several hundred thousands e-mails” to process.

Gallegos also contended that HISD had not conducted “due diligence” in choosing Grier as the sole finalist. He contended the board should have had more information about Grier’s past record in “at least one, possibly two school districts” where he was fired and given a settlement and confidentiality agreement.

Despite Gallegos’ complaints, the board unanimously approved hiring Grier, who currently serves as Superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District.

HISD President Larry Marshall said he is confident the board followed the law, after consulting with attorneys.

Board members said they believe that Grier is the right candidate to put HISD on a track to excellence.

HISD Trustee Dianne Johnson told Grier: “It must be nerve-wracking, to be at the altar getting married again.”

On his first day on the job, Grier will visit several HISD schools in Johnson’s District 5, which includes West U and Bellaire.

InstantNewsWestu Staff

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