Last month, the HISD Board of Education approved a budget aligned with improving human capital in an effort to address persistently low-performing, hard-to-staff schools. As a part of that process, the district made some adjustments to the structure of its organization.
Under the previous structure, five chief schools officers (three at the elementary level, and one each at the middle- and high-school levels) reported directly to a chief school support officer and indirectly to the superintendent. Moving forward, there will be six chief school officers (two each at the elementary and secondary levels, and two new “transformation” officers tasked exclusively with supporting struggling schools), and all will report directly to the superintendent. Each will have a director assigned to them to help manage daily operations. HISD will also be expanding its corps of school support officers, with 15 SSOs dedicated to serving the two transformation officers, to ensure a small school-to-SSO ratio.
Here are the current chief schools officers and their assignments:
- ELEMENTARY: Karla Loria, Sam Sarabia
- SECONDARY: Michael Cardona, Esther Omogbehin
- TRANSFORMATION: Jason Bernal (Secondary), Grenita Lathan (Elementary)
In addition, Ken Huewitt has been promoted from chief financial officer to deputy superintendent/chief financial officer. He will have a small number of cabinet members reporting to him and will be in charge of day-to-day operations in the superintendent’s absence.
“This reporting structure is similar to the one we used during my first two years in the district and will allow me to better support the CSOs in our work to transform schools,” explained Superintendent Terry Grier. “These changes mark a fundamental shift in our focus as a district — from intervention to prevention — and will allow us to ensure that struggling schools have experienced, proven principals at their helms and the ability to hire and retain talented teachers.”
You can learn more about our newest team members below.
CHIEF SCHOOL OFFICERS
Jason Bernal, Secondary Transformation
Jason Bernal comes to HISD from the highly successful YES Prep Public Schools, where he served as its president since 2011. Bernal oversaw 9,000-plus students at 13 campuses, and in 2012, YES Prep won the first Broad Prize for Public Charter Schools. Bernal began his education career in 1997 as a Teach for America corps member in YES Prep schools. Since then, he has also served as a school director, head of schools, and vice president of operations.
Bernal holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from Montana State University-Billings, and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Sam Houston State University. He and his wife are HISD residents, and their children attend HISD schools. Bernal begins his duties with HISD effective July 6.
Grenita Lathan, Elementary Transformation
Dr. Grenita Lathan comes to HISD after serving as superintendent of schools for Peoria Public Schools, where she oversaw approximately 14,000 students and 2,700 staff. She began her career in education as a teacher in 1991 at Morehead High School in Eden, N. Carolina, but subsequently served as both an assistant principal and principal at other campuses in that state. Dr. Lathan was named the chief elementary school improvement officer of the San Diego Unified School District in 2008 and its interim deputy superintendent in 2009. She became the superintendent of Peoria Public Schools in 2010.
Dr. Lathan holds a bachelor’s degree in business education from North Carolina A&T State University, a master’s degree in business education from the University of North Carolina, and a doctoral degree from Southern Illinois University.
Esther Omogbehin, Secondary
Dr. Esther Omogbehin is a veteran administrator with a remarkable record of success in improving schools at all levels. She joined HISD in 2014 as a school support officer overseeing a group of high schools, but she has also served as a classroom teacher, staff developer, literacy administrator, beginning teacher support provider, vice principal, principal, and lead principal in the San Diego Unified School District.
Dr. Omogbehin has traveled extensively, assisting schools in both Ghana and Nigeria, and she has held several leadership roles as a presenter and implementer. She holds a bachelor’s and a master’s degree in English language arts, a master’s degree in multicultural education, and a doctorate in educational leadership from San Diego State University.
SCHOOL SUPPORT OFFICERS
Felicia McKinnon, Elementary Transformation SSO
Felicia McKinnon comes to HISD from Peoria Public Schools, where she was an instructional improvement officer. A veteran educator with more than 15 years of experience in leadership, she previously served as a principal and curriculum facilitator in Guilford County Schools (N. Carolina); an assistant principal, summer school director, and teacher in Milwaukee, Wisc.; and a teacher at New Haven Public Schools in Connecticut. McKinnon received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from North Carolina A&T State University and a master’s degree in reading from Southern Connecticut State University. She is pursuing a doctoral degree from Western Illinois University, where she also completed a program for aspiring superintendents.
Revonda Johnson, Elementary Transformation SSO
Revonda Johnson is a veteran educator with more than 20 years of experience. She comes to HISD from Peoria Public Schools, where she was an instructional improvement officer. Before that, Johnson served as a principal and assistant principal at Guilford County Schools (N. Carolina), where she was named the district’s Secondary Principal of the Year in 2008. She also worked as a social studies teacher, a volleyball coach, and the athletics director at Alamance-Burlington Schools. Johnson received a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and middle-school social studies from Elon University and a master’s degree in school administration from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.
Patricia Palacios, Elementary SSO
A 17-year HISD veteran, Patricia Palacios most recently served as the principal of Durkee Elementary School, which saw significant growth in student achievement under her leadership. She began her career as a teacher at HISD’s Tijerina Elementary School and has served as a literacy coach and a district curriculum specialist. Palacios earned her bachelor’s degree in elementary education and language arts from the University of St. Thomas and a master’s degree in school administration from Concordia University.
Katherine Roede, Elementary SSO
Katherine Roede joins Team HISD with 21 years of experience in the field of education. She began her career as an English as a Second Language (ESL) teacher at Stovall Middle School in Aldine ISD, and subsequently served as the program director for Secondary ESL, supporting the district’s middle and high schools. Roede also served as an assistant principal at Eckert Intermediate School for five years and as principal of Conley Elementary School for eight years. In 2014, she returned to Eckert Intermediate as its principal. Roede holds a bachelor’s degree in secondary Spanish education from the University of Wisconsin at Madison and a master’s degree in administration and supervision from the University of Houston.
Kristin Craft, Secondary SSO
Dr. Kristin Craft has 20 years of experience in the field of education, beginning as a fourth-grade ESL teacher in Aldine ISD. She also taught eighth-grade ESL language arts students and served as a skills specialist. Dr. Craft has led high-performing Title I schools at each grade level, serving as principal of Worsham (Aldine ISD) and Smith (Magnolia ISD) elementary schools, Stehlik Intermediate School (Aldine ISD), and MacArthur Senior High School (Aldine ISD). Dr. Craft holds a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from the University of Northern Iowa, and both a master’s degree in educational administration and a doctorate of education from Sam Houston State University.
Laura Hunter, Secondary SSO
Laura Hunter has 24 years of experience in education. She taught secondary English at Eisenhower Senior High School in Aldine ISD for 10 years before moving into administration at the same school. While at Eisenhower, Hunter served in a number of leadership roles, including educational service manager, assistant principal, and assistant principal over curriculum and instruction. In 2010, she was named principal of the Eisenhower Ninth Grade School, where she led the campus for five years. In 2015, Hunter was named principal of Carver Magnet High School. She holds a bachelor’s degree in English from Cleveland State University and a master’s degree in education administration from the University of Houston.
Daniel De León, The Rusk School
Daniel De León is a veteran educator with experience at all campus levels. He has served as the principal at Chávez High, Edison Middle, and Carrillo Elementary schools, as well as an executive principal and an assistant superintendent. He also taught at Briscoe and Whittier elementary schools. De León earned a bachelor’s degree in biology and Christianity from Houston Baptist University. He received a master’s degree in divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. De León has also completed graduate work in bilingual education and educational leadership.
Paige Fernandez, Robinson Elementary School
Paige Fernandez last served as the 10th grade dean of the Sam Houston Math, Science and Technology Center. She began her career as a teacher at Fonville Middle School and later taught at Neff Elementary School, where she was named HISD’s Elementary Teacher of the Year for 2013. Fernandez also served as a teacher specialist at Neff, and a Teach for America teacher trainer at 12 different schools in HISD, ranging from early childhood to high school. She graduated from Florida State University with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and received mid-management administrative certification from St. Thomas University.
Staci Taylor Fullmighter, McGowen Elementary
Staci Taylor Fullmighter has served as a principal at both Whidby Elementary School and Woodson K–8 Leadership Academy. She previously served as a history teacher, instructional coordinator, and dean of instruction at multiple HISD campuses. Fullmighter holds a bachelor’s degree in political science and history from Sam Houston State University, and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Prairie View A&M University.
Tonya Roberson, Bastian Elementary School
Tonya Roberson began her career in Aldine ISD as an elementary teacher and subsequently served as an elementary curriculum writer. She later joined the National Center for Educational Achievement, where she developed and provided professional development for school communities throughout the state of Texas. For the last five years, Roberson has served the Holland Middle School community as an assistant principal.
Claudia Romano, Pugh Elementary School
Claudia Romano joined HISD in 2009 and served most recently as the assistant principal at Wainwright Elementary School. She has also been an instructional specialist at the Sugar Grove Academy and a mathematics teacher at Fondren Middle School. Before coming to HISD, Romano served as a district trainer for the Florida Inclusion Network and Florida Diagnostic & Learning Resources System and a special education teacher for Hillsborough County Public Schools. She received both a bachelor’s degree in varying exceptionalities (science) and a master’s degree in instructional technology from the University of South Florida. She also earned a master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Texas at Austin.
Rita Graves, Pin Oak Middle School
Rita Graves previously served as the principal of Roberts Elementary School. She also taught reading and first grade at Poe Elementary and served as a dean of magnet students at Pin Oak. Graves has 17 years of experience in education. She received a bachelor’s degree in science and a master’s degree in education, administration, and supervision from the University of Houston.
Angela Sugarek, Hogg Middle School
Angela Sugarek previously served as the principal of Durham Elementary School. She taught math and science at Hogg Middle School and served as an assistant principal at McBee Elementary School in Austin ISD and a dean of instruction at McReynolds Middle School in HISD. Sugarek has 14 years of experience in education. She received a bachelor’s degree in science from Eastern New Mexico University and a master’s degree in educational administration from the University of Texas at Austin.
Kenneth D. Davis, Yates High School
Kenneth Davis is currently serving as a school support officer for middle schools. Prior to that, he served as the principal of Dowling, HISD’s largest Apollo middle school. Davis came to the district five years ago from Lamar Consolidated ISD, where he received the National Distinguished Principal Award in 2009. He has also been recognized as a Principal of the Year by Region 4 and was named Teacher of the Year for the Houston Area Alliance of Black School Educators during his tenure in Alief ISD. Davis holds a bachelor’s degree in science from Rockford College (Illinois) and a master’s degree from the University of St. Thomas in educational leadership.
Justin Fuentes, Sterling High School
Justin Fuentes last served as a school support officer and director in the High Schools Office. He began his 17-year career in HISD as a mathematics teacher at Lamar High School. After serving as a principal intern at Waltrip High School, Fuentes became the dean of students and eventually the principal at Challenge Early College High School. He holds a bachelor’s degree in mathematics and a master’s degree in educational leadership from the University of Houston.
Susan Monaghan, Westbury High School
Susan Monaghan last served HISD as principal of Lovett Elementary School. She began her career here as a third-grade teacher at Lockhart Elementary School, but she has also served as a middle school counselor, an assistant principal, and a lead principal at various campuses. While at Lovett, Monaghan was named the West Region’s 2008–2009 Principal of the Year. She received a bachelor’s degree in education from Western Michigan University and a master’s degree in school counseling from the University of Houston – Clear Lake. In addition, Monaghan received a master’s degree in school administration from the University of St. Thomas.