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Humble ISD trustees placed Superintendent Elizabeth Fagen on paid administrative leave Tuesday, the latest development in an increasingly rocky relationship between the district’s top leaders.

Four of the district’s seven board members voted to place Fagen on leave during a tense meeting, with none of the trustees offering a reason for the leave or how long it will last. Board President Robert Scarfo declined to comment following the meeting, calling the vote a “personnel matter.”

Fagen’s support among trustees and community members in the 47,000-student district has dwindled in recent months after board-hired investigators found her husband, former district administrator Troy Kite, created a hostile workplace and sexually harassed his co-workers. However, it is unclear whether the issues surrounding Fagen’s husband contributed to Tuesday’s vote. Fagen has not been publicly accused of any wrongdoing.

Efforts to reach Fagen, who quickly left the board room after the vote and didn’t return, were unsuccessful Tuesday night. Fagen’s annual salary totals about $349,000, according to state records.

Deputy Superintendent Roger Brown, an administrator in Humble since 2014, will serve as acting superintendent.

Deputy Superintendent Roger Brown, an administrator for Humble ISD since 2014, will serve as acting superintendent while Superintendent Elizabeth Fagan is on paid administrative leave. He took Ms. Fagan’s seat at the May 14, 2024, school board meeting shortly after trustees voted to place her on leave, and she left the meeting. (Meridith Kohut for the Abdelraoufsinno)

The board’s decision came hours after Fagen was denied what could have been a peaceful exit ramp from the district. Fagen was one of five finalists for a superintendent position in Nevada’s second-largest school district, but board members in the Reno area selected another candidate for the job Tuesday.

The action against Fagen didn’t fully satisfy several community members who called for her removal at the meeting.

In public comments, the speakers argued the district’s recent turbulence has been an embarrassment and distracts leaders from focusing on students and academics. Some in attendance ate from personalized popcorn buckets, commentary on what some described as recent “antics” from district leaders.

“(Fagen) has proven over and over she makes bad business decisions and bad personal choices that have bled over into the Humble ISD taxpaying community,” said Susan Cintron, a district resident and Kingwood High School graduate. “Our community deserves better.”

A frayed relationship

The recent turbulence in Humble marks a sharp contrast to the majority of Fagen’s eight-year tenure, during which she led the district with generally strong community support.

That changed in recent months amid the Title IX investigation into Fagen’s husband, with some trustees signaling a lack of faith in the superintendent and other board members coming to her defense. At an April board meeting, some trustees described the leadership team’s relationship as “broken.”

Investigators hired by the district concluded Kite created a hostile work environment in his department by frequently making “unprofessional and sexually explicit comments” about his co-workers and having “emotional outbursts” in which he threw, slammed and broke items. Witnesses interviewed during the investigation also said Fagen’s relationship with Kite made them reluctant to raise concerns about his behavior.

Kite retired in mid-April, one day before Humble board members were scheduled to vote on firing him. In a statement at the time, Kite said he was “embarrassed” by some of his actions, though he also called the year-long probe into his conduct “anything but fair or efficient.”

At a late April meeting, Humble board members heeded community calls for transparency by narrowly voting to release the investigative report regarding Kite. Trustee Robert Sitton, one of three trustees who opposed its release, said the district is involved in several “intertwined” investigations, and “information without context creates confusion.”

Trustees also revealed Tuesday that an assistant athletic director filed a Title IX complaint against the board, which is being investigated.

Community members have voiced concerns about the price of investigating Title IX complaints involving district leaders. A spreadsheet of expenses approved by the trustees Tuesday showed the district has paid $900,000 in legal fees to an outside firm during the 2023-24 school year, $500,000 over what was budgeted.

“I’m under the feeling that some of y’all think money just grows on trees and taxpayers are gonna foot the bill,” said Larissa Powell, a parent whose children went through Humble ISD schools. “Some of y'all need to fire yourselves.”

No luck in Reno

As the investigation into her husband drew to a close, Fagen applied in February for the superintendent position in Washoe County, Nevada. In her cover letter for the job, Fagen wrote that she believed she was “meant to be” the Nevada district’s next superintendent.

But Fagen’s turbulent last few months in Humble crept into her interview process. In a document summarizing her interviews with Washoe County parents, the unnamed authors wrote that there were “reservations about Dr. Fagen's past controversies, particularly regarding a recent investigation and other issues from her previous district.”

“Some parents question whether this history could impact her ability to effectively lead and earn the trust of the community,” the authors wrote.

One of Washoe County’s seven board members named Fagen as their standout candidate. The board ultimately voted unanimously to select an internal candidate Tuesday.

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Miranda Dunlap is a reporter covering K-12 schools across the eight-county Greater Houston region. A native Michigander, Miranda studied political science pre-law and journalism at Michigan State University....