HISD to hire back some teachers

More good news.

More than 300 teachers and other educators in the Houston Independent School District have been rehired since the massive round of layoffs in the spring, according to newly released data.

Additional HISD teachers could get their jobs back in coming weeks thanks to a better-than-expected budget outlook — though Superintendent Terry Grier warns that a shortfall next year could force another set of layoffs.


HISD ended up with an extra $18.5 million after state lawmakers decided at the last minute not to cut schools as deeply as they initially had proposed. HISD and other districts also received new federal funds pushed by President Barack Obama’s administration to save teaching jobs.

HISD plans to apply the federal funds to health-insurance costs, Garrett said, noting that the money will disappear after a year.

Austin ISD recently announced that it was hiring some teachers back, too. Again, this is because the final state budget was less draconian than the original House budget, which would have cut $8 billion from education and which is what many school districts, whose own budgets needed to be approved in the spring, acted on. (And just as a reminder, every Republican State Rep voted for that budget.) As the story notes, the extra funding equates to about $85 per student, or one extra teacher at a campus of 600. This makes the net funding cut in HISD $190 per student.

HISD sent layoff notices to 724 employees on teaching contracts in the spring to meet the state’s pink slip deadline. But the district since has been able to rehire 312 of those employees as other staff members resigned or retired and the budget numbers became more definite.

Previous coverage had said “about 730” teachers would be getting pink-slipped. The total number of teachers that had to be let go came down when other teachers decided to retire or resign, but that’s still a net loss of 724 teaching spots, and that doesn’t count the 277 non-teaching jobs that were also eliminated. This announcement reduces by a bit more than half the total number of teaching positions lost, and brings the net job loss number down from a hair over 1000 to about 600. Which is better but still nothing to celebrate, especially since there may be more cuts coming next year. Hair Balls has more.

Having done that, perhaps now the HISD Board can get its own house in order.

Houston ISD Superintendent Terry Grier said Monday he would engage a nonprofit education group and outside financial auditors to review the district’s procurement processes following reports of close relationships between some trustees and vendors.

School board vice president Anna Eastman called for an outside audit last week after news reports about board president Paula Harris and Trustee Larry Marshall contacting Grier and other top administrators on behalf of vendors.

Eastman said she did not know details of Grier’s proposed audit. In an email last week to supporters, she said she hoped an audit would find no wrongdoing and bring about suggestions for “better standards and ethical practices to regain the public trust that I sense is waning.”

On Monday, Houston Independent School District Trustee Greg Meyers confirmed he had contact with Grier related to an impending deal with the University of St. Thomas, where Meyers works.

I’ve included Eastman’s email beneath the fold. This is a step in the right direction, but as the story notes the nonprofit group that Grier wants to engage for this is one that does business with HISD, which would seem to be less than optimal for these purposes. It would also help if there were more competitive elections for HISD Trustee – so far, as far as I know, none of the four Trustees up for election have opponents – and if people paid more attention in general to these elections. That’s not something an outside entity can fix, however.

Dear Friends,

First, I’d like to thank you for your continued support. I’m writing each of you because I value your input and perspective. Second, I’ve attached a couple of links below that I’d like to ask you to take a moment to read to bring you up to speed in some ‘goings on’ in the HISD.

Several allegations of improprieties involving contracts and potential influence trustees may have had in the district’s awards process have recently been revealed in the press. While my main work at the board table is focused on children’s learning, the business aspects of the HISD are also my responsibility as your trustee. I find even the appearance of wrongdoing in this arena unacceptable, particularly when we have recently been forced to cut $275 in per child funding on top of valuable centrally funded programs. These cuts are only the beginning of a new financial reality for public education that demands we hold ourselves to the highest standards.

When the administration brings the board recommendations, I need to know the bidding process was straightforward, fair and free from influence. I would like to ask for your support in my request for a third party audit of our bidding and procurement processes. My hope is that the result will show there was no actual wrongdoing; and more importantly, will bring about an opportunity for recommendations of better standards and ethical practices to regain the public trust that I sense is waning.

Your confidence and feedback is ever appreciated.

My very best, Anna




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