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Saavedra back in at HISD after raucous trustee meeting

October 12, 2018

In a raucous school board meeting filled with shouting and accusations lobbed by trustees against each other, the Houston Independent School District’s Board of Trustees late Thursday replaced interim Superintendent Grenita Lathan with former HISD Superintendent Abelardo Saavedra.

The vote, which followed a motion that most multiple board members said came as a surprise to them, returns Lathan to her previous role as chief academic officer.

The vote marks the third time the 214,000-student school district will have a new leader this calendar year .

The unexpected discussion came as trustees were about to decide whether to extend Lathan’s contract through Sept. 30, 2019.

Trustees in September already voted 6-3 to launch a national superintendent search with the firm with the Illinois-based Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, the same firm that helped identify former Superintendent Richard Carranza.

Before trustees voted on Lathan’s contract, Trustee Diana Davila proposed a motion to dismiss Lathan as the district’s temporary leader and insert Saavedra.

That motion drew passionate criticism from Trustee Wanda Adams, who said there was a racial divide on the board between African American and Latino trustees. She said the proposal should have been discussed in closed session rather than sprung on the dais.

“This is disrespectful,” Adams said. “I did not know about this at all. Some my other colleagues did not know about it. Some knew about it -(Sergio) Lira knew about it, Holly (Flynn Vilaseca) knew about it and (Elizabeth) Santos knew about it. It goes back to my original statement about racism on this board.”

People in the audience and other trustees yelled retorts at each other as Lathan sat stone-faced at the superintendent’s seat.

Lathan was tapped to lead HISD temporarily in March after former Superintendent Richard Carranza abruptly left to lead the New York City public school system.

Saavedra previously led Houston ISD between 2005 and 2009 before becoming the leader of South San Antonio ISD in March 2014. South San Antonio ISD’s board voted to accept his resignation last week after he announced he would leave that district in June.

shelby.webb@chron.com

robert.downen@chron.com

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