When Millard House II officially [started] as the new superintendent of Houston ISD on Thursday, he [had] a stack of challenges awaiting his attention.
Some students fell further behind during the coronavirus pandemic while others were “lost” amid its grip. The district expects to receive hundreds of millions of dollars in federal COVID-19 stimulus funding with no public plan for the funds in place yet. While teachers are set to receive a raise, their compensation has lagged neighboring districts, and trustees voted three weeks ago to mandate House propose a potentially larger teacher pay raise in August, when the district’s financial outlook may be clearer.
As House assumes his new role, members of the HISD community said they hope he can tackle a variety of priorities, from funding to inequities, and expressed excitement to work with him.
“The first job as a new superintendent is to learn the community, learn our schools, learn our neighborhoods,” said HISD Trustee Anne Sung, who bumped into House this week while visiting schools. “He’s already doing that so I think he’s off to a great start.”
House, 49, who was not made available for an interview this week, arrives from Tennessee, where he led the seventh-largest district in the state, the Clarksville-Montgomery County School System.
Among the biggest challenges for House and the district will be helping students who fell behind during the pandemic.
Standardized test score data released this week revealed one of the clearest looks yet at the pandemic’s impact. Roughly two-thirds of HISD eighth-graders did not meet math proficiency, compared with 28 percent in 2019.
Additionally, some students stopped attending class altogether, prompting recovery efforts, such as a recent four-day phone bank aimed at convincing some to return.
“We have a tremendous deficit,” said Houston Federation of Teachers President Jackie Anderson, who leads the district’s largest employees union. “We are very concerned about that. I want him to know that it is not an ‘us against them’ — it is ‘we.’ And we all need to be working together, and I think that if that happens … we can be successful.”
Add the STAAR scores to the pile. Superintendent House and the Board and all the stakeholders will have plenty to do to get things going, with federal COVID relief funds available to help out. Here’s his introductory message:
Hello! I am Millard House, and today is my first official day as the new superintendent of @HoustonISD!
@DrGrenitaLathan: Thank you for your years of service with #HISD.
Students, parents, and members of @TeamHISD: I cannot wait to build a bright future, together.
— Millard House (@HISDSupe) 7:39 AM – 01 July 2021
Welcome to Houston. Now please make yourself available for interviews. Thank you, and god luck.