Sharpstown High Is Losing Principal Dan De Leon. Here’s What We Know So Far

Sharpstown High Is Losing Principal Dan De Leon. Here’s What We Know So Far
Principal Daniel De Leon of Sharpstown High School. Image Credit: HISD

On Wednesday, July 12, HISD Superintendent Mike Miles informed Daniel De Leon, principal of Sharpstown High since 2016, that he would be removed from his position.

The school is not NES or NES-aligned, so the decision hit the community without warning—or much explanation.

At the press conference at Marshall Middle School on Thursday evening, Superintendent Miles declined to reveal his specific reasons for reassigning Principal De Leon: “I don’t want to talk about any one principal.”

Donna Fain, a Sharpstown resident, said that when she heard the news, “My heart just sank.”

She has represented the community on the school’s Shared Decision-Making Committee (SDMC) for around five years, and she praised De Leon for his response to Hurricane Harvey: organizing around 200 volunteers, including many students, to help remove damaged drywall and furniture from the flooded homes of local school families.

But Dale Davidson was less surprised by De Leon’s reassignment.

Like Fain, Davidson has represented the community on the SDMC for around five years (although she says it meets infrequently and she has not been called to go to a meeting this year).

On one hand, Davidson called Principal De Leon a “nice guy” who built “camaraderie” among his teachers. She also complimented him for bringing an agriculture teacher and UT’s OnRamps dual credit program to Sharpstown High.

On the other hand, Davidson felt that he “didn’t have the personality to run a tight ship” and said that several teachers left early in his tenure because they were "tired of the lack of discipline."

However, David Mathew, an animation teacher at Sharpstown High since 2019, said that discipline is primarily the responsibility of the climate deans. He said that this past year, the school got new climate deans who are “very good, very hands on,” and that discipline is improving.

Mathew called De Leon “the best boss I ever had,” skilled at “encouraging staff and faculty and allowing them to focus primarily on teaching” (which, paradoxically, sounds like Superintendent Miles’ NES philosophy).

HISD Superintendent Mike Miles explains his New Education System to parents and community members at Marshall Middle School on July 13, 2023

What do the students think? Kevin Huinac graduated from Sharpstown High this May and plans to become an electrician. As he relaxed at Bonham Park on Wednesday evening, wearing a backward Dallas Cowboys hat, he said he wouldn’t change anything about the school. But he also said that he had never met Principal De Leon and didn’t even know where his office was.

The Houston Chronicle reported that another Sharpstown High student, Vera Moore, said she had never met Principal De Leon either.

That might be a problem for Superintendent Miles, who wants principals and assistant principals to be “in your classrooms all the time coaching like a coach on the football field.”

To be fair to Principal De Leon, Sharpstown High has approximately 1,700 students. And according to Donna Fain, he still went “the extra mile” to help individual students.

She remembers riding with him to the home of a fifteen-year-old high school girl who ran the household (the student's mother was weak and couldn't speak English).

Harvey had flooded their home, the mother “sat in the backyard crying,” and the fifteen-year-old was struggling to coordinate the cleanup and the insurance. So De Leon spoke with the insurance agent on behalf of the mother, said Fain.

It’s noble to help families outside of regular school duties. But Superintendent Miles wants results—in the classroom and on STAAR tests.

At the Marshall press conference, Miles replied to questions about De Leon’s reassignment by simply saying that HISD needs to have “high-quality, effective principals” and “high-quality instruction.” The implication was that De Leon and his school didn’t meet Miles’ quality standards.

The exact reason is unclear, but it may be connected to the school’s ratings.

Sharpstown High received a “C” from the Texas Education Association in 2022, but that doesn’t tell the whole story.

School ratings are based on three categories: Student Achievement, School Progress, and Closing the Gaps. The third category is factored into the school rating no matter what. But out of the first two categories, only the highest score counts toward the rating.

Sharpstown High scored a 67 (lower than a C) on Student Achievement, based on STAAR test scores, graduation rate, and more. But that score wasn’t factored into the school’s rating. Instead, the rating was calculated using the higher School Progress score of 77.

In other words, the school’s test scores are still below average. On the ELA/Reading portion of the 2022 STAAR test, only 23% of students scored at grade level or higher. For math, the number was only 14%.

But Sharpstown High is working against a stacked deck. In 2022, 55.6% of its students, many of whom are recent immigrants, were classified as “Emergent Bilingual/English Learner” rather than “English Proficient.” Many come from low-income families living in nearby apartments and face a variety of non-academic barriers to education.

These challenges won’t go away for the new principal of Sharpstown High, who has not yet been named.

Principal De Leon has not replied to the Sharpener’s requests for comment.