Melinda Garrett dies: longtime Bellaire resident, HISD financial leader

By Charlotte Aguilar

Melinda Hyer Garrett — a 1970 Bellaire HS graduate and longtime resident who served Houston public education for nearly 30 years, has died at the age of 65, according to sources close to her family.

Garrett worked her way from a Houston ISD classroom as a kindergarten teacher to being the district’s controller, and from 2001 until her retirement in 2012, she served with distinction as HISD’s chief financial officer. For a time in 2009, while a new superintendent was being sought, Garrett served as interim superintendent.

Melinda Garrett, 1952-2017

Even through times of controversy and concerns about district leadership, Garrett commanded respect and confidence from trustees, parent groups and the media for her professionalism and transparency. With Garrett at the financial helm, HISD won a national award for excellence in financial management from the Council of the Great City Schools, and she earned the organization’s Bill Wise Award for distinguished service to America’s urban public schools.

“She was the most knowledgeable person on school finance I have ever known and I was fortunate to learn most of what I know from her,” said Mike Lunceford, HISD District V trustee, on Saturday.

Under Garrett, the district maintained the highest possible bond rating, enabling regular bond elections to repair and rebuild aging campuses, and the lowest property tax rate among school districts in Harris County.

Garrett earned a bachelor of arts degree in elementary education from Texas Women’s University and was hired as a kindergarten teacher in HISD in 1976. After earning a master’s degree in accounting from the University of Houston-Clear Lake two years later, she became a certified public accountant with the audit division of KPMG Peat Marwick, working on audits of governmental and private sector firms. She returned to HISD as controller in 1985.

She retired in December 2012, right after HISD voters approved a record bond of nearly $2 billion. Many credited her financial integrity with inspiring the confidence among the electorate that led to the wide support for the proposal that is rebuilding or repairing all HISD high schools — among them, her alma mater.

Services for Garrett are pending.