HISD Superintendent Mike Miles presents the New Education Plan to community members at the Hattie Mae Building on July 18 during the family event session.

A tense board meeting unfolded at the Houston Independent School District (HISD) headquarters on Aug. 10, resulting in unanimous approvals of significant policy changes and granting the superintendent increased purchasing authority.

The board’s decisions encompassed a range of impactful measures, with key highlights including:

Word in Black is a re-imagining of the Black Press, a journey initially begun by 10 publishers of independently owned Black media companies. Articles, like this one, found under this banner for the next six months are companion pieces to those of fellow publishers and will soon be located on the new website, WordinBlack.com. This project is underwritten by the Fund for Black Journalism. The Black Press is alive and thriving. Spread the word!

Purchase Authority Adjustment: The board voted to grant the superintendent the power to make purchases of up to $1 million without prior board approval, marking a revision from the previous $2 million limit.

Policy Alterations: The board approved a series of policy changes, which included scaling back mandatory meetings with union leadership concerning working conditions. Additionally, the superintendent was given the discretion to modify magnet programs across 85 campuses and waive requirements for principal qualifications districtwide.

The proponents of these changes, including Superintendent Mike Miles, argued that they would streamline decision-making processes and enhance overall district efficiency.

 “They rush the meeting and rushed the votes. The speakers were limited to a one minute time frame, while Mike Miles spoke for over 45 minutes,” said Busi Peters-Maughan, founder of Women Healing and Empowering Women. “We have gangsters running the school system and they are doing it carte blanche. These are people that were put into positions of power to run amuck.”

The decisions proved disheartening for protesters who had earlier staged a “read-in” demonstration organized by Community Voices for Public Education. During the meeting, a substantial number of attendees turned their backs to Superintendent Miles and the board, voicing their disapproval through poster boards and books.

“The board of managers are doing just what they are instructed to do. They’re always going to vote 9-0. They will never go against the establishment which is TEA [Texas Education Agency] and the appointed F. Mike Miles,” said retired school nurse Christi Michelle Brewster. “This is a sad day in public education.”

Packed room full of parents and community members waiting for HISD Board of Managers votes for agenda items. Credit: Laura Onyeneho

One of the contentious points of discussion was the elimination of librarians at multiple schools under Miles’s campus turnaround model. This decision sparked significant criticism, with protesters contending that reallocating the funds could compromise educational quality.

A considerable portion of the meeting focused on the approval of multiple items under the consent agenda. Among these approvals was a waiver that permits HISD to hire assistant principals and deans without certification for the next three years. 

The meeting also saw the green light for certain teachers to instruct without proper certification, a move that generated questions from board members but passed with minimal opposition.

“These kids need someone that’s gonna care about them. I got my degree and I became certified to be a teacher,” former HISD educator Stephanie Myers. “And to think that they would just hire someone off the street to be a teacher and then entice them with money…it shows what they feel about these communities.”

Superintendent Miles expressed optimism for the upcoming fall semester, assuring attendees of a successful start with teachers leading classrooms.

He revealed that the district is currently facing 63 teacher vacancies. There were 644 vacancies as of last year, and Miles said he is actively working towards getting that number down to “zero” by the start of this school year.  As part of this effort, the district is set to hire 87 non-certified teachers.

The next meeting is scheduled for Sept.14.

I cover Houston's education system as it relates to the Black community for the Defender as a Report for America corps member. I'm a multimedia journalist and have reported on social, cultural, lifestyle,...