School’s Out for Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams

The Texas Education Commissioner talks school closings, education changes and leaving his post.

By Joy DiazDecember 17, 2015 10:55 am,

While kids are counting down the days until school lets out for the winter break, their leader, the head of all Texas schools, is having a countdown of sorts too.

Michael Williams is stepping down from his post as the Texas Education Agency‘s commissioner on Dec. 31. Williams sat down with Texas Standard host Lauren Silverman to talk about his tenure with the agency and what the new commissioner Mike Morath has to look forward to.

On his biggest challenge as Texas’ education commissioner:

“We’ve had more opportunities, quite frankly, than challenges. One of the things that we were able to do while I was here was… improve the culture and the climate of the agency itself and how we do business…. I like the fact that we’ve developed accountability 2.0 and now we’re in a position to give schools and districts more credit for what they do well, but recognize where they have opportunities to improve.”

On the controversies surrounding school and district closures:

“The most gut-wrenching decision that a commissioner can make is the closure of a campus, or the closure of the district, and an annexation with something else – as well as the removal of the duly elected members of the board and trustees. There comes a time when you have to take hard decisions when you’ve had failure that’s been persistent. Each of those circumstances is when that campus and/or that district had failed for a long period of time. So I did it because I believed it was in the best interest of the students.”

On the hard decisions the incoming commissioner Mike Morath will face:

“There’s no doubt there will continue to be conversations and decisions to be made around how we provide support, and even sanctions, to campuses in the districts that will be in front of the next commissioner. There will be a series of rule-making decisions that will be in front of the next commissioner as well.”

Listen to the full interview in the audio player above.