A holiday weekend HISD roundup

This will be a basic linkdump. I’ll start here.

The Houston ISD Board of Managers appears to have moved forward late Thursday with the termination of Herod Elementary School Principal Jessica Berry, who declined to resign in the district’s recent removal of several campus leaders.

Berry said she was pulled into an approximately five-minute meeting on May 8 with district employees who cited student growth in special education as their reason that she should resign.

After reviewing the resignation paperwork, Berry found that, if she signed, she would not be able to take any legal action against the district, would not be able to file any internal complaints or grievances against any district employee, and would not be able to seek another job in HISD.

She declined to resign in writing on May 10, and followed up with a formal letter on May 14. She said the district did not respond as of Thursday afternoon.

Berry said her biggest concern is looking out for the 770 students at the Meyerland magnet school. The campus is already set to have about 32 new teachers or teacher assistants, out of a total 43 teachers, in the fall.

“They’re not decisions that are being made in the best interest of kids,” Berry said, noting that teachers were pulled into conferences for the record during Teacher Appreciation Week.

District representatives declined to answer the Houston Chronicle’s questions regarding closed session agenda items for Thursday’s meeting and were unable to clarify the action the board took after midnight.

What happened at that Board of Managers meeting? The usual rubber stamping.

In the end, all the walkouts, sickouts, emails to board members, and impassioned appeals to the Houston ISD Board of Managers came to nothing. The Board of Managers voted in another lengthy session that started Thursday afternoon and went into the wee hours to fire every teacher, principal and custodian that Superintendent Mike Miles wanted them to.

Be they longtime HISD employees, teachers or principals of the year, loved by parents and students, or guardians of high-performing schools — it didn’t matter. At the end of this school year they’re gone. As several speakers commented: they welcomed a new agenda for schools at the bottom of the academic rankings, but never anticipated that Miles and his New Education System program would go after A,B and C schools.

The vote was 8-0-1 with trustee Adam Rivon abstaining.

Miles lasted three years in Dallas ISD before leaving to work on his charter schools in Colorado. Despite cries of “This is Houston!” to general applause as if things would be different here , it doesn’t appear that he’ll be leaving this city and its school district any time soon.


“You’re presiding over a purge,” said Herrod Elementary parent Jeff Waltman, speaking to the board. “A drainage of human capital like this district has never seen. Because Mike Miles doesn’t believe in people. He believes only his system, a proven failure that you’ll share unless you find the courage to tell him no.”

The complaints from the audience were many Thursday. Why was the meeting started at 4 p.m. which made it impossible for a lot of the public to show up at the beginning? Why has there only been one workshop on the budget which by state law must be signed off on in June? Why won’t certain board members do public speakers the courtesy of paying attention to them when they are talking (trustee Ric Campo was singled out for this one).

Several speakers questioned the increased amount of money for the NES program at a time when Miles has said there’s a $528 million gap to fill mainly because of what Miles maintains is his predecessor’s misuse of federal emergency COVID funds by plugging them into recurring costs like salaries.

I honestly couldn’t tell you what the purpose of the Board of Managers is. They have literally done nothing to affect any action Mike Miles has taken. I’m sure many of them went into this with good intentions, but at this point I don’t know how they sleep at night.

But at least some people are still speaking up.

Among the roughly 200 community members who turned out Thursday to condemn the chaos and instability being caused by massive forced resignations and terminations of principals and teachers in HISD was a former Principal of the Year who is now leading a “call to action” to remove state-appointed Superintendent Mike Miles.

The Board of Managers appears to have ignored their pleas, passing personnel decisions after midnight pertaining to the principals of Herod Elementary School and Valley West Elementary School, after spending hours in closed session. HISD officials were unable to clarify what the decisions entailed.

Neff Elementary School Principal Amanda Wingard, among those asked to resign, told the board she had serious ethical concerns that she detailed in a “Call to Action.”

In that document, which was provided to the Houston Chronicle, she called for Miles’ resignation and the appointment of a takeover conservator. She pointed to a culture of fear, as well as inconsistent information shared with the Board of Managers and district stakeholders.

Wingard said she believes she was forced to resign, such as wanting to collaborate with other principals about data and being told she could not. She said her forced resignation did not pertain to instruction and that Neff was proficient, to a burst of applause in the room.

“I was asked to resign because the administration’s definition of leadership,” Wingard said. “I ask questions respectfully in the best interest of students. For that, I am proud. We work in fear: Fear of asking the wrong questions. Fear of not meeting unknown expectations. Fear of subjective failure.”

The document in question is embedded in the article.

On a side note, my daughter called home yesterday afternoon to inform my wife and me that her school all walked out that afternoon, one of several to do so yesterday, in protest of Mike Miles and in support of their principal. (Her school has a B accountability rating for last year, FYI.) She was quite excited about the whole thing. We told her we were proud of her.

HISD has one more piece of business to attend to.

With a few months left before HISD leaders must decide whether to hold a bond election, community members will have their first opportunity to weigh in on the potential multibillion-dollar package.

HISD announced Wednesday it is convening a Community Advisory Committee that will meet five times over the next two weeks to share information on the districts’ plan to upgrade campuses and hear public feedback. HISD Superintendent Mike Miles’ administration said it is looking into a bond totaling $4 billion to $5 billion that will not raise property tax rates.

A successful bond election allows school districts to finance the costs of building new campuses, updating aging facilities and buying new technology, among other items.”

As the story notes, this is a slightly late start for a bond advisory committee, but that’s consistent with the chaos of this school year. School bonds here generally poll well and pass easily, but it’s safe to say the politics for this one are more complicated than usual. We’ll return to that subject more than once going forward, I am sure. Have a nice Memorial Day weekend.

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2 Responses to A holiday weekend HISD roundup

  1. Jason Hochman says:

    Custodians, too? How can the custodian be responsible for the academic performance of the schools? Or is it just to get rid of long term employees and hire new, younger people who can work for less, thereby saving money, for something else.

  2. Kenneth J Fair says:

    I always vote in favor of bond elections. Not this one. Mike Miles can shove this bond election up his autocratic, incompetent ass.

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