HOUSTON – “I Don’t Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing (Open Up the Door, I’ll Get it Myself)” sung the late “Godfather of Soul”, James Brown. Nearly half a century later, an ordinary man, Mr. Brian Busby; with an extraordinary story, has used these lyrics, as a creed to live by. Recently, African-American News&Issues allowed me to conduct an exclusive with Mr. Busby. In it, he enlightened me with a brief overview of his journey within the Houston Independent School District (HISD), of which he has ascended to the role of Chief Operating Officer.
Despite not being raised by his biological parents, Busby received no lack of nurture or discipline, then one would experience from genuinely loving and concerned parents. As it was, Busby was the product of teenage parents who were inadequate to care for him at the time. However, God Almighty had already provisioned the late George Henry and his wife, Majorlee for the divine assignment. At the age of ten-days old, young Brian was relocated from Beaumont to Houston and legal guardianship was awarded to his grandmother’s first cousins. His parents were native Houstonians and graduates of Texas Southern University. Accordingly, they were avid supporters of education and instilled those values in their son. During his youth, he attended Wonderland Private School and was involved in the National Youth Achievers Top Teen; in addition to participating in other scholastic and honorary programs in school.
Growing up, Busby’s father made it law within their home that his son occupied his leisure time with productive activities. Therefore, he chose to labor by cutting his neighbor’s yards in South Park. Once he became of legal age, he began his first official job at Astro World. After arriving at high school he expanded his work experience by working at places like: FedEx, performing security at Smith Towers (Medical Center) and various malls throughout the city. He went on to graduate from Jones High School with Honors.
Determined to uphold the educational values imbedded in him by his parents, he enrolled at Texas Southern University. In past, he’d learned of the exceptional football talents of his biological father and had a desire to pursue football on the collegiate level. However, this intent was short-lived, after realizing he was amongst a wide range of outstanding competitors. He admitted that he did not believe that he was a stand-out star on the field, as others. Thus, he returned home and told his father that he wasn’t sure of what he really wanted to do. His father retorted, “Well stop wasting those people time and my money and quit.” Needless to state, he heeded his father’s words.
Shortly thereafter, his father passed away in May, 1998. The loss of his father devastated him. He expressed, “My life changed because mentally, I assumed my only goal in life was to take care of my mother; not realizing, her goal was for me to take care of myself.” Consequently, his mother drove him to the Human Resource division of HISD and encouraged him to apply. Upon his arrival, he met Mr. James Lang who scorned him for his appearance and the attitude he displayed with his mother. He admonished him to leave and, “come correct”. At the time, Busby was going through a stage of depression induced by the passing of his father. He admitted that he was engaging in several activities that were out of character for him.
Busby returned back to HISD with a new attitude and was hired in October, 1998. Initially, he was employed as an hourly, where he performed a variety of duties. He explained, “Back then, you were sent out on assignments and you would have to call in to find out your assignment, every week. One week I would be a custodian the next week, a payroll assistant or something else…” As time progressed, he was exposed to several people that he characterizes as, “seeds sown in his life by God”. He said, “Later in my life, when I really needed rearing, there were people who stepped in and told me, ‘I was going nowhere fast, with a lot of potential.’” Busby mentioned, Pastor Johnnie Tates, as one of those “seeds” who became an impactful mentor in his life. He also made reference to other “seeds” such as: Roland Shaw and the late Melinda Garrett, who pushed him to figure out his destiny and encouraged him to return to school. As a result, he attended Houston Community College, Lone Star Community College and re-enrolled at TSU. However, after receiving several promotions and feeling that school was moving too slow for him; he discontinued his studies.
In 2000, Busby was offered a permanent role in the Customer Care Center. While serving in this capacity, he learned everything about facilities. A year later, he was promoted to a Planner-Supervisor within the district. A couple years thereafter, he obtained the level of School Maintenance Manager in the south region of campuses. While operating in this role he met his area superintendent, Warner Ervin. He regarded Ervin as being one that was tedious about work ethics. Yet, he found that the training he received from him would help to groom him professionally.
Over time, Busby developed a working relationship with the Chief Operating Officer at the time, Mr. Reginald Moore. On one occasion, his superior questioned him in regards to the look of disengagement that he sensed from him. Busby truthfully shared that, he felt like he was doing a lot, but didn’t see a purpose for himself within the organization. Immediately, Moore inquired about his degree and Busby explained that he didn’t have one. Moore told him that if he was to acquire a degree that his opportunities would be endless. Meanwhile, he took Busby under his wings, trained him and allowed him to be responsible for tasks that were far greater than his pay grade. A couple years passed, and his mentor resigned, swiftly diminishing all of the authority and status that Busby had attained.
At this point in his career, he had yet to receive a degree, but had become accustomed to operating as an executive. Busby said, “It was like a fall from grace, I had to go back to the maintenance area and begin reporting to people again.” He continued, “At that point, I had to reinvent myself, educationally and mentally. Because some of the same people I promoted, I ended up having to go to them, to regain my footing.” “It was a humbling experience, watching people that I hand-picked along the way, become the ones being called upon to do things that I used to be responsible for,” he added. Nevertheless, Busby adjusted and continued on in his daily functioning.
Eventually, he was called into the office by the new General Manager of his department, Mr. Issa Dadoush. As it was, Busby had developed a reputation for being, one with a great supply of institutional knowledge about the district; even though it was outside of the area he was assigned to. The new GM took notice at the recommendation of board member, Mrs. Paula Harris and began to heavily rely on Busby’s expertise. From this experience, he was later elevated to Senior Manager of Operations. Busby shared that his GM religiously expressed to him that he needed to secure a bachelor’s degree. It soon became apparent to him that there was no way around his education. Thus, he was moved to re-enroll in school. As a result, he earned a Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration from the University of Phoenix. After doing so, his current mentor was even more demanding of him to earn an executive MBA. Busby relented to his request and accomplished an Executive MBA in Business Management from Bauer at the University of Houston. Unbeknownst to him, it would not be long before his GM would resign. Afterwards, several other general managers were hired on. Ultimately, Busby ended up becoming General Manager. In this role, he was in charge of all facilities. It was at this time that Pastor Johnnie Tates was once again instrumental in his career. He mentored him on executive presence and understanding on how to deal with an ever-changing Board of Trustees.
Considering the many years of service and the wealth of experience that he had attained within the district; Busby decided to apply as Chief Operating Officer (COO) in September, 2015. Originally he was never interviewed, after submitting his application. As the district underwent changes, he was assigned to the Chief Information Officer, until Superintendent Richard Carranza was appointed. After which, he was interviewed for COO, only to find that another candidate was selected to fill the position. He made up in his mind, that he would offer his support to his new colleague and continue on in the manner that he always had. Weeks later, his superintendent phoned him and asked if he would come to his office. Once he arrived, his superintendent explained that he had done research on him. Accordingly, Superintendent Carranza offered him the privilege to fulfill the seat of Chief Operating Officer. Moved with exhilarating joy and overwhelming emotions, Busby sat teary-eyed with unbelief at the invitation. “At that moment, my life flashed before my eyes; after having so many doors shut in my face and constantly being overlooked, I couldn’t help but realize how blessed I was”, said Busby.
According to his company profile Busby, “provides leadership to over 7,000 employees and administers an annual operating budget of over $260 million. The Business Operations Team oversees bond construction programs totaling more than $3 billion and a real estate portfolio with over 30 million square feet of facilities space in more than 600 buildings at more than 300 locations spread out over 300 square miles. The team is also responsible for a bus fleet of nearly 1,000 buses that travel over 15 million miles annually and a food services operation that serves more than 280,000 meals each day. Business Operations includes: Facilities Maintenance, Construction (bond), Transportation, Nutrition Services, Business Assistance, Risk Management, Insurance Warehousing and other related business areas.”
While working in various capacities of the district, Busby maintained several business ventures of his own. From cleaning buildings after work; to remodeling and construction; to purchasing rental properties; he did what he had to accommodate the lifestyle he envisioned for his wife, Dr. Courtney Busby, who has labored beside him. He acknowledged his admiration for the intelligence and professional aspirations of his wife of 12 years. Additionally, he accredits her for his spiritual relationship and closeness to God. Dr. Busby is equipped with an extensive resume of her own, having served as: teacher, assistant principal, principal and most recently, Director of Special Education all within HISD.
Reflectively, Busby recalls the emotions that he experienced growing up. After suffering from low self-esteem issues from the absence of his biological parents, he is determined to remain active and involved in the lives of his three daughters. Victoria, Reagan and Morgan are the heartbeats of his life and are amongst those of whom, he declares are his legacy. He also maintains an amicable relationship with his biological parents.
While Busby has attained a commendable level of success, he encourages education to the fullest. He says, “I don’t see anyone else having the type of stint within HISD that I had. Even though I was allowed to operate in high-level positions without a degree, I was never compensated for those functions, until I got my degree.” He continued, “So I know that it was all something that God was orchestrating.” “I can’t help but be thankful considering where I come from and where most of my peers are today,” he added.
Today, Busby strives to implant seeds in the lives of others; synonymous with the actions bestowed to him by his predecessors. He believes that it is important to ensure the success of those coming behind him. He volunteers his time by speaking at various schools and networking with colleagues across the nation in other school districts. It is his sincere desire that God will use his journey as a testimony to uplift and inspire others, along their path.
Brian Busby has served as an active member of the Association of Business Professionals, Texas Association of School Business Officials and the Cleaning Industry Association. He is also a member of the Executive MBA National Honor Society. African-American News&Issues recognizes and honors this ordinary man, who holds an extraordinary office.
By: Rebecca S. Jones