Amid discrimination claim, a small uptick in Hispanic Houston ISD principals

A Houston Chronicle analysis of available data shows a 7 percent increase in Hispanic principals, a 6 percent decrease

Houston ISD has hired slightly more Hispanic principals in the past year, a Houston Chronicle analysis has found, a modest increase that doesn't appear to clearly support an embattled principal's claims that the district is carrying out a systematic replacement of white principals in favor of non-white school leaders.

After longtime Furr High School Principal Bertie Simmons was temporarily removed from the post she's held since 2000, she filed federal complaints alleging that age and racial discrimination played into the decision to sideline her amid an internal investigation of her conduct.

The Chronicle reviewed state employee data that contained the race of principals at 262 district schools. The data showed that since early in the 2016-17 academic year, just after Superintendent Richard Carranza's arrival:

  • The number of Hispanic principals increased from 95 to 102.
  • The number of white principals decreased from 63 to 59.
  • The number of black principals decreased from 95 to 91.

The data did not include the name and race of principals at about 20 alternative and charter schools operated by the district.

Simmons has been on temporary leave since late September as Houston ISD administrators investigate allegations that she disregarded the district's decision to relax the student dress code after Hurricane Harvey and threatened a student with a baseball bat. Simmons has said administrators were given discretion to keep or relax student dress codes, and that any references to a baseball bat were playful and in jest.

HoustonChronicle.com: Furr principal claims age, race discrimination after temporary removal

In alleging discrimination, Simmons, who is 83 and white, cited the replacement of six white Houston ISD principals with non-white school leaders.

The Chronicle's analysis of 262 district campuses shows that 10 white Houston ISD principals were replaced in the past year by non-white principals. It's not immediately clear how many of the 10 white principals were removed against their wishes. Simmons' lawyer, Scott Newar, said he didn't have that information either.

During the same time period, six non-white principals were replaced by white principals, according to data.

HoustonChronicle.com: Attorney pushes back on allegations against renown Furr principal

Newar said Tuesday that he believes the increase in Hispanic principals and decrease in white principals is "statistically significant."

"It doesn't change my view that there appears to be a practice of replacing white administrators with Hispanic administrators, even if it's not a practice on a large scale," Newar said.

In a statement Monday, Houston ISD said it "denies any allegations of a pattern and practice of discriminatory treatment against employees."

Newar has also alleged that Houston ISD Trustee Diana Davila said in September 2016 that the district has "too many white administrators," which he called further evidence of discrimination. Newar said he heard the quote secondhand, and he doesn't have direct evidence to show Houston ISD administrators have acted on the alleged statement.

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Article Amid discrimination claim, a small uptick in Hispanic Houston ISD principals compiled by www.chron.com

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