Houston Independent School District (HISD) teachers are raising their voices as contract appointments for the upcoming school year bring about confusion and frustration. The district’s superintendent, Mike Miles, introduced the New Education System (NES) initiative with promises of higher salaries, but many teachers are encountering challenges with contract processing and discrepancies in pay.
What’s happening right now?
Social media has become a platform for teachers to express their concerns about the lack of information and delays in receiving contracts. Some teachers are still awaiting their contracts just weeks before the start of the new school year, leading to heightened anxiety and frustration.
“How are we just 3-4 weeks away from having to report back and a vast majority of us have yet to receive a contract?” a teacher posted on Facebook. “My anxiety is through the roof and I’m becoming frustrated by the day!!!!”
“I’m sitting here twiddling my thumbs waiting, and waiting, and waiting. I’ve been waiting for my contract for almost 2 weeks,” wrote another.
Houston Teachers United raised concerns about NES teachers receiving probationary contracts, which limit their ability to appeal termination if “recommended”.
An educator, who has taught at HISD schools for three decades, took to Facebook to say they were sent an offer of $105,000 first and then later received a call that reduced the offer to $92,000.
“I had already accepted an offer of 105. She said she would make a note of that and hung up,” their post read. “Then I get an email stating I’m getting $92,000. I have literally lost $13,000 over a weekend.”
The interviews vs. reality
One NES-approved teacher, who wished to remain anonymous due to fear of retribution, expressed dissatisfaction with HISD’s current pay structure.
“During the interview, we were told that our contracts will be coming and the pay would be a minimum of $86,000, and that does include the stipends,” she told the Defender.
She received a contract on July 14. It said her base salary would be $70,000.
The new salary scale recently posted on the HISD website, aligns with her contract. According to the tables, a NES middle school “high performer” elective teacher with three years of experience, will receive a minimum of $70,000.
NES Salary Chart:
“When I interviewed, I was told something completely different,” she said. “All of it was told to us while we were there. Nothing was given to us in writing then.”
She says she is uncertain when the stipend will come in or how much that would be because she has been told the stipend amount would be up to $10,000, which means it could even be $1,000.
One thing she can be certain about is the $2,000 stipend HISD teachers were promised for “going in to work to train a week earlier.”
The contract is one of her concerns. She is still in the dark about her job description or her schedule. HISD told her that since she will be receiving more money, she will need to work longer hours, and be a “day care” for parents who are unable to pick up their children on time.
Moreover, she heard Miles tell teachers to report to the schools at 6:30 a.m. But having children of her own, she says it is inconvenient for her to report to the school at this time.
“They waved all of this money in people’s faces, so they can get a lot of people to come in and apply and interview,” she added. “Once the dust settled and everybody interviewed, another salary scale came out with what we were supposed to be given.”
A different aspect of the pay structure felt “unfair” to her altogether. Teacher apprentices, who are not certified and “with no experience,” are making more money than her.
A teacher apprentice position at an NES school, however, does require an apprentice to have a bachelor’s degree in education or a related field (or currently pursuing such a degree), or be a certified teacher or be enrolled in a certification program.
“It’s just not fair,” the teacher added. “I have friends who are not in NES schools who are not making nearly as much as apprentices.”
The HISD human resources department called her to confirm if she received her contract. Upon voicing her concerns, she believes they were just trying to tell her, “it is what it is.”
She has not signed the contract yet but is inclined toward signing it because in the current contract, she is making more money than she did last year. However, she doesn’t want to sign it if it is an “at will” contract.
Lanequa Jackson, a former teacher at Elmore Elementary, a school currently under the NES program, says her application was rejected when she reapplied for a job at an NES school after working at one for three years. Jackson said she did not receive an explanation for the rejection.
She says the interview questions revolved around a video of others teaching and Jackson was asked to identify what they did right or wrong.
“It was all subjective,” she said.
Jackson’s new contract says she will be receiving the same salary she did before the TEA takeover, ie. $63,500 per year. Had her application not been denied, she believes she would have made $85,000 to $90,000 per year.
HISD told the Defender that the district acknowledges the concerns and promises to address them promptly.
Currently, the school district has 2,123 job openings. The number keeps fluctuating, depending on the number of vacancies at a particular point in time.