On June 1st, Texas Education Agency (TEA) Commissioner Mike Morath made the announcement that many elected officials and education advocates dreaded—the largest school district in Texas, Houston Independent School District (HISD), was officially being taken over.
Not only did Morath replace then-Superintendent Millard House II with a new interim superintendent, but he also stripped the ELECTED board of trustees with a self-appointed, nine-member Board of Managers “for the duration of the tenure of the Board of Managers.”
It was announced, after much speculation, that F. Mike Miles was the newly appointed HISD Interim Superintendent, and he immediately hit the ground running with eye-opening changes.
One of the most radical changes that has been implemented by Miles is his historically controversial reform plan referred to as the “New Education System” model. The new superintendent was heavily criticized for the same system when he served as the superintendent for Dallas Independent School District from 2012 to 2015.
On paper, the reform plan sounds like an innovative and progressive way to improve schools that have traditionally faced challenges with attracting quality staff and campus infrastructure.
But does it really?
According to the HISD website:
The average teacher salary at NES schools will be $85,000 with an additional $10,000 stipend. HISD is also looking to hire more teacher apprentices and learning coaches who are working on their teacher certification to handle non-instructional tasks. Additionally, under the new model, discipline will be handled by administrators, and lesson plans and materials will be provided by curriculum developers.
“We will be aligning our resources—especially our most effective teachers and principals—to better serve students in underserved communities,” HISD Interim Superintendent Miles said in a statement. “For students who need to catch up and in schools that have failed for years, we will be offering more instructional time.”
Under the “New Education System” model, 28 schools were initially selected to be a part of the effort, which is slated to “provide higher salaries, more support for teachers, and an innovative staffing model that puts the focus on classroom instruction and improved student outcomes,” according to the HISD website.
Out of the initial 28 schools, 24 of them fall under the Kashmere, Wheatley, and North Forest feeder patterns, while four of the schools are not directly tied to any high school feeder pattern.
Under the Kashmere High School feeder pattern falls: Berry, Cook Jr, Elmore, Kashmere Gardens, McGowen, and Roderick R. Paige elementary schools; Key Middle School; and Kashmere High School.
Under the Wheatley High School feeder pattern falls: Atherton, Bruce, Dogan, Eliot, Nat Q. Henderson, Isaacs, Raul C. Martinez, Pugh, and Scroggins elementary schools; Fleming and McReynolds middle schools; and Wheatley High School.
Under the North Forest High School feeder pattern falls: Hilliard and Shadydale elementary schools; Forest Brook Middle School; and North Forest High School.
The other four schools include: Highland Heights and Marshall elementary schools; and Henry and Sugar Grove Academy middle schools.
When asked about their thoughts on HISD’s “New Education System” model, the Forward Times spoke with a former HISD trustee, a longtime educator, and a community activist to get their thoughts on the proposed changes with the model and the TEA takeover.
Kathy Blueford-Daniels is a lifelong Houstonian who attended HISD’s Dogan Elementary, Fleming Middle, and Wheatley High schools. She most recently was replaced as the elected HISD Trustee for District II and HISD Assistant Secretary and believes there are a lot of concerns that should be addressed.
Blueford-Daniels, elected HISD District II Trustee who was recently replaced by TEA Commissioner Mike Morath: Initially the Superintendent stated they would concentrate on feeder patterns of 28 schools; the majority of which are in the northeast in District II. The “New Education System” plan is a nice PowerPoint presentation but does not have any real teeth as far as timelines. We’ve heard his (Miles) beginning objective, so, what must be accomplished by October, December, and the middle of the school year in January to achieve his revaluation (student outcomes), for improvements?
Saying students that are disruptive will be sent to a Zoom room, monitored by a teacher…Will those Zoom Rooms be according to individual 9th,10th,12th grades? Will campuses receive additional money to pay these extra teachers? With a teacher shortage across the country, where will these teachers come from? Will they require certifications?
These are questions, or discussions, that an ELECTED Board of Trustees would have, IF, he would meet with us, and so far, he hasn’t… at least not with me, the elected trustee of District II. Our student obstacles ARE unique in so many cases… certainly NOT just by Zip Code and INCOME CHALLENGED! This Board… well most… were making great strides for improvements from 2019, and we certainly know our communities and school policies better than anyone! And certainly, better than those APPOINTED officials, who had shown NO interest in board policies, nor attended board/community meetings before, with one exception.
I’m concerned that those campuses “opting in” are fearful of the wrath of NOT opting in, particularly since so many positions are being cut. As a retired Postal Manager, Army Veteran, wife, and Gold Star Auntie, I understand the government’s “gentle” persuasion.
Trustees who voted as a bloc, protected their resource-rich campuses, and put personal gains relative to job appointments and positions ahead of campuses and students, with the greatest opportunity for student outcome improvements, which was and is the northeast, District II student population. Had we COLLECTIVELY concentrated on those low student outcomes, we wouldn’t be talking about the consequences of HB 1842 or SB 1365.
Larry McKinzie, 27-year educator, longtime education advocate, and current HISD teacher: I believe that HISD’s “New Education System” is bad. Taxation without Representation is always bad. Floyd Mike Miles has tried these programs in Dallas ISD, and it did poorly. Houston ISD was already short on teachers, and now teachers are leaving the district. Zoom Rooms didn’t work during the pandemic. Also, the question is how Mike Miles can sell this new system to Houston ISD and require principals to use it?
The TEA takeover is a political ploy by Gov. Abbott to adversely affect the largest blue county in Texas, and the children will be the ones hurt the most. I keep wondering why the Democratic political officials aren’t out campaigning against the TEA takeover like they campaigned for their office. I guess they really don’t care about the children or their constituents. Most of the newly appointed Board of Managers live west of Main Street, and now they want to help our kids …NOW. Where have they been all this time?
Koretta Brown, Executive Director of Bridges to Empowerment—a social justice organization focused on Systemic Justice for All: First, I must admit that I am opposed to the takeover of HISD. I understand that there was once a time when the board’s ethics was questionable, and schools were failing, but that was not the case when the takeover occurred. The ability to opt into the district “New Education System” is an intelligent move. It puts the burden of seeking success on the school administrators and gives constituents an opportunity to see the difference in results of schools that opt in versus schools that don’t. It will be interesting to see how productive the new education system will be.
The only positive that I see in this takeover is the increase in teacher’s salaries. It’s sad because these same resources could have been allocated to HISD before the takeover. This takeover also gives HISD powers up to five years to see what will work versus what will not work with this “New Education System” model. HISD has five years to get its thoughts together and be ready when the Texas dictatorship of its system is over. Also, if the “New Education System” fails, then it will look terrible on the Republican Party. A failure in this campaign could lead to a shift in how Texas voters turn out at the polls in 2028 and 2029, which will prove interesting seeing that the students of COVID-19 will then be eligible to vote.
After Miles announced the plans for the 28 schools to be a part of the “New Education System” reform model, other school principals reached out and asked to be apart, which led to Miles and the HISD leadership team making the decision to allow other schools to voluntarily opt-in to be a part of a smaller-scale version of the “New Education System” model.
The deadline for voluntarily opting into the smaller-scale version of the “New Education System” model was this past Monday, July 10th. The response was overwhelming and eye-opening, in that 57 schools opted in to this smaller-scale version, and nearly each one of them is located in predominately low- to middle-income neighborhoods across the city of Houston.
The list of the 57 schools are:
ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS: Alcott, Ashford, Benavidez, Blackshear, Bonham, Bonner, Brookline, Burrus, Cage, Coop, DeZavala, Durkee, Franklin, Gallegos, Gregg, J.R. Harris, R.P. Harris, Hartsfield, Hobby, Kennedy, Lewis, Lockhart, Looscan, Northline, Oates, Osborne, Port Houston, Robinson, Rucker, Seguin, Smith, Thompson, Wainwright, Whidby, Whittier, and Young.
MIDDLE SCHOOLS: Cullen, Edison, Fondren, Hartman, Holland, Lawson, Project Chrysalis, Revere, and Williams.
HIGH SCHOOLS: Furr, Madison; Scarborough, Sterling, Washington, Worthing, Wisdom, Yates, and Houston Math, Science and Technology Center.
MULTI-GRADE SCHOOLS: Las Americas Newcomer, Long Academy, and Reagan K-8 Education Center.
Relative to the 57 schools, the smaller-scale version will go into effect in August but will not include the overhaul that is happening at the initial 28 schools. Teachers at those 57 campuses will not be receiving significant salary increases and they will not have to reapply for their jobs.
The 57 campuses will operate on an extended 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule, in order to accommodate working parents, and there will be new employee evaluation systems and a revamped staffing model that could result in cuts to non-teaching staff, according to Miles. Miles also stated that HISD will choose and purchase curriculum for the 57 schools, provide guidance for materials and lesson plans, and shift the responsibility of managing the budget of each campus from the principals to the district’s central office staff.
So, how will HISD pay for these massive changes at the 85 schools?
This past Friday, July 7th, Miles announced that HISD would be eliminating between 500 to 600 positions in its chief academic office to offset the cost of the “New Education System” model, which would be an overall staff reduction of about 30 percent. It is important to note that most of the severed positions are currently vacant positions, but Miles stated that more cuts would be made to other departments as well. There is no identified revenue source for the smaller-scale version of the “New Education System” model to be implemented for the 57 schools at this time.