Texas Ed: Comments on Education from Texas

January 8, 2008

Yale decides it can afford to spend a little more from its endowment

Filed under: college costs, education — texased @ 7:58 pm
Texas Ed Spectator
Another attempt to head off government regulation of college endowments.

Complete post is at my new website www.texasedspectator.com.

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    The Houston Independent School District recently held its annual State of the Schools where individuals from all corners of the Houston community gathered to hear new superintendent Terri Grier describe his plans to improve student achievement. At the same meeting the newly elected board president delivered his maiden speech about the objectives of the board of trustees for the year. In his speech, Greg Meyers managed to talk about everything ranging from teamwork to having belief in his colleagues but never actually detailed a specific plan of action or agenda that the board intends to carry out this year. Let’s just say that this speech was the culmination of a lingering question: Who IS running HISD?
    Greg Meyers was elected to the board back in 2004 and has been a relatively good board member who has worked well with leadership to move the board’s agenda forward. In 2008, seeing an opportunity for advancement to “higher” office, Greg decided to run against democratic incumbent Hubert Vo for the District 149 State Representative seat. A year after his loss, Greg was reelected for his second full term on HISD’s board, and was subsequently elected as the board president. Since resuming his role as president, there have been repeated questions about who is really in charge at HISD. Is it the superintendent, the board president, or Natasha Kamrani?
    Many of you might know Natasha Kamrani as the recently resigned District VII Trustee who was replaced by Anna Eastman last fall. Some may know her as wife of YES PREP founder Chris Barbic, or as a board member of the Arnold Foundation who recently made a $10 million commitment to HISD. It is common knowledge that since her resignation from the board, Natasha has been a frequent visitor of Dr. Grier’s meeting with him two to three times a week, while the board president meets with him once a week on Fridays. It has also been said that the Friday meetings have become more or less a ceremonial exercise, where the superintendent tells the president of his plans. It appears that the superintendent receives his marching orders from Monday through Thursday and he has the board president sign off on Fridays.
    While $10 million is a lot of money, most would agree that it should not buy any one greater access to the school superintendent than even the president of the board. There is a problematic situation slowly brewing at the district primarily stemming from a new superintendent who wants to accomplish a few dozen things all at once. The problem is further exacerbated by a leadership void being created due to a gutless board president. While Greg Meyers may have been a good board member, one thing that cannot be said about him is that he has been a leader. Over the past six years, Greg has avoided every opportunity to show leadership as a board trustee. He has not introduced any strong initiatives, and he has not stepped up to lead any of the efforts the board has sought to accomplish.
    Greg is a beneficiary of a systemic culture that allots titles and positions based on tenure as opposed to accomplishments. Mr. Meyers has been a good board trustee in representing his district, but electing him president might turn out to be a gross mistake on the part of his colleagues. With a new superintendent who still has a learning curve with the district, now is not the time for a president who is willing to take a back seat to outside influencers, or those who have their personal agenda to push forward. The only way we are going to get HISD to become the best school district it can be is by having courageous leadership to guide us there. The question is: Mr. Greg Meyers are you ready to be the leader your colleagues elected you to be?

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