TEA plans reply to W-H and judge; Injunction that allowed chief to be fired may be appealed; trustee quits

By Joshua Benton
Staff Writer

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The Texas Education Agency believes it has every right to intervene in the troubled Wilmer-Hutchins schools, and it plans to fight a judge’s order throwing it out of the district.

“We’re trying to act quickly and put together a response,” said Ron Rowell, the TEA’s senior director of school governance.

State District Court Judge Merrill Hartman signed the order, which was revealed at Monday’s Wilmer-Hutchins board meeting. It prevents two state overseers appointed in November from interfering in district business.

Judge Hartman scheduled a hearing on the injunction for April 8. But TEA officials said the agency probably would move before then, possibly by appealing the matter to a state appellate court or to federal court.

On Monday – freed from state oversight for the first time since November – the board made a number of moves that the state managers probably would have overturned. Among them: the firing of interim Superintendent James Damm and the tentative rehiring of the district’s police department.

Monday’s moves were too much for one school board member to take. Joan Bonner – who often has been on the losing end of 6-1 votes and is widely viewed as the board’s strongest reformer – resigned Tuesday.

“I am fed up,” she said, noting she has missed only three board meetings since 1992. “That meeting was embarrassing. I can’t take it anymore.”

Under district policy, the board’s members can choose Ms. Bonner’s replacement.