Community members hold signs
Community members hold signs while Board of Manager vote on key items during the board meeting on June 22. Credit: Tannistha Sinah Credit: Tannistha Sinha

By: Laura Onyeneho and Tannistha Sinha

The HISD Board of Managers voted to approve Superintendent Mike Miles’ budget of $2.2 billion for the school year on June 22.

All votes were unanimous, comprising topics that community members have vocally expressed their concerns against.

In the last meeting, he said he intends to save $30 million with “a central office rightsizing” and to leave vacancies unfilled, $50 million by eliminating contractors for services and $25 million by ending some staff funding through ESSER early, due to run out by September 2024.

Miles did not provide a specific number of positions to be cut, but he expressed his intention to notify employees by the end of June if they will fall into that unfortunate category.

“There are schools and districts where we have not treated teachers like true professionals,”
said Miles during his presentation. “We have given them so many extra things to do that they can’t focus on the main job, which is the quality of instruction in the classroom.”

He stressed on calling it a “hospital model” as a metaphor to treat teachers like doctors. “We can’t pay them like they’re doctors but we can raise their salaries, right?” he added.

Miles will implement a new staffing model in C, D, and F schools, where new staff members will be added as needed as well as employ teachers from reconstituted schools, he presented.

Alongside this model is his intention to implement a new educator evaluation system, that will train instructors on the principal evaluation system.

Miles goals also include the following:

  • Expanding leadership density
  • Improving the quality of instruction in HISD schools, pre-K through fourth grade reading instruction, SPED and SEL services and safety of facilities
  • Creating an “autonomy system,” one that accompanies accountability
  • A Destination 2035 vision based on the DYAD concept

“Many kids in our high school are already so far behind. We’re gonna try to catch them up, but the truth is, it’s gonna be hard to do that,” he explained.

HISD Superintendent Mike Miles speaks to the press after school board meeting
HISD Superintendent Mike Miles speaks to the press after school board meeting Credit: Laura Onyeneho Credit: Laura Onyeneho

Miles says the problem with HISD is rooted in equity issues

His vision for Destination 2035 involves bridging achievement gaps and equipping students for a rapidly evolving workforce. Recognizing the need for comprehensive systemic reform, he emphasized the persistent challenge of low reading proficiency, revealing that less than 20 percent of HISD fourth graders have been reading at grade level for almost twenty years, with even lower rates among Black and Hispanic students.

Miles cited the National Assessment of Educational Progress, which analyzed the fourth grade reading level of the nation, Texas, urban areas and Houston. In comparison to the national average of 32%, Texas is a close 30%, urban areas are at 26%, while Houston is at 19%. Based on this, he concluded that proficiency is low and has continued this way for the last decade.

In 2022, white students read at 60% proficiency, he read off of a graph on the screen, while Black students read at 11% proficiency and Hispanic students at 14% proficiency.

“The gap is too large, it’s 49% for African Americans, it’s 46% for Hispanic students in HISD,” he said. “I think it is an equity issue.”

He also compared the 2022 STAAR scores, where bar graphs revealed NES eighth graders were reading and doing math at a lower level than HISD and Texas schools.

The advent of AI will also pose a problem for these students, he predicted, and stressed on their need to work in teams and with AI communications to be ready for the job market in 2035.

In a media press conference, Miles outlined his plans to expand the programming at NES schools, including standardized curricula, pre-prepared lesson plans, and support for teachers, to encompass 150 campuses by 2030.

Additionally, Miles emphasized that certain aspects of NSE schools will be made on campuses that voluntarily opt into the program, without the need for reconstitution. He mentioned that the decision to enroll will rest with the principals following discussions with their staff, and deadlines for enrollment is the end of next week.

What community members said:

Crowded room of community members during school board meeting
Pack room full of community members during June 22, 2023 HISD Board meeting. Credit: Tannistha Sinha

The HISD Board meeting started off yet again in the absence of superintendent Mike Miles.

This time, students spoke alongside teachers and community members.

A high schooler called it “unfair” to make all teachers in the 28 schools Miles has identified to need immediate reform. Meanwhile, a fourth-grader said while TEA’s focus is on test scores, she begs to differ.

“I am more than a test score. My friend and I are more than a test score,” she said. “Teachers and principals are more than a school’s test scores.”

One of the speakers addressed last week’s meeting when some speakers were placed in an “overflow room.”

“You put me in a room with a camera and a screen,” she said. “I sat and looked around and all I saw was Black and brown faces. I realized that you used the zoom room discipline strategy on me and my community. I’ve never felt so discriminated.”

More seats were available for the speakers this week. A few members from the audience stood with their backs turned against him and held thumbs down signs as a way of protesting against his measures.

Miles is expected to host eight family events to share more information about his vision for HISD, and to meet families from schools across the district. The community events will be held at various locations throughout the district. Families are encouraged to attend the event closest to them but may attend any event they choose.

Here are the locations below:

Tuesday, June 27
6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Forest Brook Middle, 7525 Tidwell Rd., 77016

Thursday, June 29
6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Williams Middle, 6100 Knox St., 77091

Tuesday, July 11
6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Pugh Elementary, 1147 Kress St., 77020

Thursday, July 13
6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Marshall Middle, 1115 Noble St., 77009

Tuesday, July 18
6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center, 4400 W. 18th St., 77092

Thursday, July 20
6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.

Thursday, July 27
6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Sugar Grove Middle, 8405 Bonhomme Rd., 77074

Saturday, July 29
9:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
West Briar Middle, 13733 Brimhurst Dr., 77077

Tuesday, Aug. 1
6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Stevenson Middle, 9595 Winkler Dr., 77017

Wednesday, Aug. 2
6:00 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Attucks Middle, 4330 Bellfort St., 77051
The next board meeting is scheduled for August 10th.