The campus is among those which Lathan has focused on during her 3-and-a-half-year tenure, and she’s proud to have brought in technical programs, an opportunity for students to become pilots, increased baccalaureate curriculum, and thanks to bond revenue, improved infrastructure to HISD campuses.
“The charge when I came here in 2015 was to take low-performing schools and get them off of low-performing status,” said Lathan during an interview with Eyewitness News. “It was really great to see that mission accomplished as it relates to Wheatley High school.”
Because the COVID-19 pandemic shut down assessment testing, Wheatley didn’t officially get off the list, but 48 others did during Lathan’s tenure as interim superintendent.
Still, she and other district leaders have been widely criticized for students’ previous poor test scores.
Houston voters threw out veteran board members and the revamped board voted to open up the permanent job to all applicants rather than award the job to Lathan.
“I know I earned it, but I’m not bitter,” she said. “There’s no need to be. I know I’ve done what I was asked [and] tasked to do, and so that’s the confidence that I have in myself and my abilities.”
Kathy Blueford Daniels, a board member who advocated for Lathan, said she believed Lathan deserved that role.
“I don’t know what the mentality was of the others,” she said. “I didn’t want to think it was a ‘Black woman issue.'”
Lathan’s time in the top chair managing HISD’s 284 schools and more than 200,000 students has included unparalleled challenges, not just those involving the board, which was often divided along racial lines, but also the pandemic and the threat of a state takeover that still looms.
“That’s been front and center for three to four years now, and it will continue until the litigation has been resolved between the board and [the Texas Education Agency],'” said Lathan, “So, that’s made it difficult to recruit personnel to the district, especially district-level administrators.”
Lathan has spoken to the newly-chosen superintendent, Millard House II, about some of the challenges ahead and urges him to listen to families and build relationships with people at all levels in education.
But her final words are for the team she worked with and the families and children she tried to serve well.
“Just thank you again, it’s been a pleasure to serve as a leader of this great school district and the various capacities,” she said.
Lathan was the unanimous pick of the Springfield Missouri school board to be the district’s superintendent. The HISD board takes the final vote on House taking the HISD post on Monday.
He is expected to start work in July.
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