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State of Texas tells Houston school board to halt its superintendent search

Search for someone to lead Texas' largest school system is suspended until the state completes an investigation of the Houston district's accreditation.

A state-appointed conservator has ordered the Houston board to suspend its search for a permanent superintendent.

The Houston Chronicle reports that the conservator, Doris Delaney, said in a letter to board members that she is exercising her authority to intervene. The board was believed to be days away from naming a lone finalist for superintendent; a final round of candidate interviews had been scheduled for Monday and Tuesday.

Delaney ordered the search suspended until the state "has completed its special accreditation investigation" into the district. The investigation, which involves allegations of Texas Open Meetings Act violations by five board members, has been ongoing since January.

The move is a potentially ominous sign for the Houston school board, which could be replaced by the state later this year because of chronically low performance at a few campuses or potential findings of malfeasance by board members. If state officials replace board members, Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath would have the legal responsibility of choosing the district’s superintendent, with no obligation to keep the school board’s choice.

The district has been without a permanent superintendent since March 2018, when Richard Carranza left to become chancellor of New York City public schools.

Board members apppointed the district’s chief academic officer, Grenita Lathan, as interim superintendent following Carranza’s departure. The board subsequently tried to oust Lathan in October, but then rescinded its decision to replace her. Lathan remains in the position.

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