Houston, TX – A recently released report from an investigation by the Texas Education Agency has called for a State takeover of the Houston Independent School District. This report highlights a wide range of ongoing issues, including flagrant violations of the Open Meetings Act, HISD Trustees intentionally misleading TEA investigators, and ongoing procurement problems as major reasons for the State to step in. The TEA Special Investigative Unit reported to the Commissioner for the accreditation status of HISD to be lowered, a conservator to be appointed, and a Board of Managers to replace the existing HISD Board of Trustees.
“This is a real recognition of the obvious, and what I have been saying for well over a year,” said Senator Bettencourt (R-Houston). “When a school district Board of Trustees continues to have chronically failing schools and board members that are unable to function together under the laws of Texas, the State has an obligation to step in on behalf of the 200,000 students, families, and the Houston community.”
The TEA Report highlighted several particularly troublesome issues that took place at HISD:
- Board Member Davila threatened a Senior Administrator with their job unless they removed a contract from consideration after the procurement process, because they wanted a Dallas firm to get the work.
- Board Member Davila met with a Senior HISD Administrator to strategize a way to have bond contracts cancelled and rebid, to steer it to her preferred choice. “Again trustee Davila demonstrates clearly out of bounds behavior, as documented in this report,” Senator Bettencourt added.
- HISD manipulated contract procurement rules through the abuse of Job Order Contracts and multiple change orders. The district not only intentionally split Job Order Contracts to avoid the $500,000 limit, in violation of the law, they approved multiple change orders to projects subsequently increasing the cost of projects showing fraudulent behavior that contributes to a lack of transparency. (see attached)
- The Board of Trustees violated the Open Meetings Act by meeting in secret to replace the acting Superintendent. (See October 2018 Bettencourt press release: https://bit.ly/34iAhbJ)
- Some Board Members made deceptive statements to the TEA investigators as part of this investigation through omission or by making inconsistent statements.
- A Trustee gave non-public information to an HISD vendor in violation of district policy.
Senator Bettencourt continued, “This reported list of gross violations of law and board policy by the HISD Board of Trustees is quite shocking! It is the actions of the Board of Trustees whose secret meetings have made a mockery of the Open Meetings Act, routinely violated ethics rules and procurement procedures, and then doubled down by making misleading statements to the TEA investigators. There are multiple reasons for the TEA Commissioner to replace the Board of Trustees with a Board of Managers.”