On Thursday, June 8, the Texas Education Agency’s hand-picked board of managers, which replaces Houston ISD’s democratically elected school board, met for the first time.
Before the meeting, members of the board of managers pledged to “earn the trust” of the HISD community.
The meeting itself proved how large of a deficit of trust they are working from.
Chants of “No justice, no peace!” and “TEA, go away!” punctuated passionate testimony from Houston ISD students, parents, educators, and community members. At least 150 showed up to a planned community protest before heading into the meeting.
The Houston Federation of Teachers has repeatedly decried the disturbing lack of transparency TEA has displayed throughout the takeover process. Several of the members of the new board of managers, many of whom hail from affluent areas, seemed preordained; in one case, TEA appointed a manager, Janette Garza Lindner, who was rejected by voters in the 2021 school board election.
In their first board meeting, amid the clamor of an outraged community, the nine managers were able to rubber-stamp the appointment of Mike Miles as superintendent.
Miles had a turbulent tenure in Dallas ISD, where he implemented the Teacher Excellence Initiative, a pay-for-performance scheme that served as the inspiration for the inequitable Teacher Incentive Allotment. He left few friends there among educators.
That too was evident at Thursday’s board meeting, to which Miles was late in arriving. Several Dallas educators and parents traveled to attend the meeting and speak about the disastrous consequences of Miles’ tenure in their district.
Miles has already ruffled feathers in Houston ISD, releasing more details about his plans for the district in various interviews.
Few of Miles’ comments have been surprising, but many have been shocking. In a conversation with the Houston Chronicle’s editorial board, he showed a blatant disrespect for the vital work of school librarians, indicating that in his 29 focus schools that will be “reconstituted” with staff forced to re-apply for jobs, there likely will be no librarians.
“I’d rather have a high-quality teacher getting paid a lot, than have a librarian doing what, checking out books?” he said.
Over the course of the past week, Miles has also indicated teachers will be required to keep their doors open to better monitor their instruction and assistant principals will be encouraged to put standing desks in the hallway to perform such monitoring. Cameras will be placed in classrooms, as well.
Notably, this week, we also learned that TEA’s incoming superintendent does not have up-to-date certification with TEA, something he will not be required to get.
“It’s just kind of hypocritical that you come in and talk about how you want to improve things,” said Jackie Anderson, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers. “And you want the best, and you want this, and you don’t even take the time to make sure your certification is up to date.”
A poll released Thursday by nonprofit New Economy for Working Houston showed that a majority of Houston ISD voters, about 56%, do not approve of the state’s takeover of their school district.
In that poll, 66% of respondents said “the solution to struggling schools is for the state to increase public education funding so we can attract and retain better teachers and reduce classroom sizes, not to give control to the state leaders underfunding public education.”