Mayor Turner thinks so, and wants the TEA to be more up front about its intentions.
Pressure is mounting on the Texas Education Agency to name the superintendent who will soon oversee the Houston Independent School District as the nearing takeover prompts growing speculation and calls for transparency.
Mayor Sylvester Turner took to social media over the weekend to call on the TEA to confirm or deny a widespread rumor circulating since March that the agency plans to appoint former Dallas ISD superintendent Mike Miles to replace Millard House II at the helm of HISD.
“I am hearing from people in Houston and Dallas that Mike Miles is the person,” he said in a statement. “The TEA Commissioner should confirm or deny. People within the district are making decisions based on what they are hearing. This process has been plagued by rumors from the beginning.”
A TEA spokesperson reiterated that the agency has made no decisions and plans to appoint a superintendent and board of managers no earlier than June 1.
Miles, who served as superintendent in Dallas from 2012 to 2015, is now the founder and CEO of Third Future Schools, a network of public charter schools serving 4,500 students in Colorado, Texas and Louisiana. He previously worked as superintendent at Harrison School District in Colorado Springs.
In recent blog posts and media appearances, Miles has spoken about the need for systemic change to the education system and a desire to prepare kids for the future workforce. His company believes in high expectations for children and educators, according to the website, along with accountability.
During his tenure in Dallas, Miles introduced several reform measures, including a new performance-based payment system for teachers and principals, and stirred some disruption and controversy due in part to his management style, the Dallas Morning News reported.
Miles did not respond to the Chronicle’s requests for comment on Monday.
Meanwhile, Turner said he has had no conversations with the TEA since March when it first announced state intervention in the district, a move that followed years of litigation and came in response to schools beset by chronic low academic achievement.
The mayor said the process has been “flawed and anti-democratic,” criticizing the state for providing little transparency to parents, school personnel and the press.
“The sole decision-making is in Austin and the stakeholders in HISD are being disregarded,” he said. “The state’s move to take over the largest school district in Texas comes with very little local input, no additional resources and no benchmarks by which it, the state, can be assessed and held accountable.”
If the TEA really does intend to name a new Superintendent on or just after June 1, then of course they’ve been talking to people and almost certainly have a final candidate in mind. HISD is a big district, this is a massive job that will come with a lot of scrutiny and even more skepticism (at best) from the community, and whoever it is will have to make arrangements in their lives to take the job. You know, like leave their current job and relocate to Houston. If they don’t have a finalist, then it’s understandable that they’d keep quiet about their search – it’s what HISD itself would do if they were the ones searching for a new Super – but once there is a single name, there’s no reason not to make it public. There are plenty of reasons to be concerned about the choice of Mike Miles, if that’s who it is, given how tumultuous his tenure was at DISD, but the process and the lack of transparency is at least as big a concern.
It’s important to remember here that none of the original conditions for the takeover still exist now, with the possible exception of the state of special education at HISD, which is something that the state doesn’t exactly shine at either. As such, any argument that what HISD needs is a clear-the-decks, change-everything visionary is at best debatable. One could say that this was Millard House’s remit when he was hired, but he won’t be allowed to follow through on it. Miles may have been the right person for DISD. I’m not really in a position to know. At least he was hired by the duly elected DISD trustees, who had to face the voters after they made that choice. There are some yellow flags here even without his current gig as a charter school guy, and we the stakeholders of HISD have no control over it. That’s a scary situation. And the TEA won’t even bother to tell us whether this is what we should be worrying about.
Meanwhile, another senior leader departs HISD ahead of the takeover.
Deputy Superintendent Rick Cruz will be leaving Houston ISD this summer for a new role in North Carolina, marking the latest departure among district Cabinet members as the state takeover nears.
Asheville City Schools has named Cruz as its new superintendent to oversee the 4,300-student school district, according to the district.
In his 15-year career at HISD, Cruz said he has been through many changes and worked under different leaders while climbing his way up from a teacher to a senior administrator. His departure is “not about the takeover,” he said. Rather, he decided earlier this year to pursue a superintendent role and was selected in January for a leadership program called Chiefs for Change that works to develop superintendents and state education leaders.
“My decision to start down that path started before the takeover announcement,” Cruz said. “It’s bittersweet because I love Houston, I love the Houston community… I’m proud of the progress that has been made. I will always have a very special place in my heart for Houston, but it is time for me to grow as a leader.”
Congrats to Rick Cruz on the promotion, which sounds like a great opportunity. I take him at his word when he says that decision wasn’t about the takeover, but I’m sure it was there in the background – how could it not be? However you look at it, even if we get the most status quo-focused appointed Superintendent and the most community-focused appointed Board, we’re still going to come back to a very different HISD than the one we started with. There’s no getting around that.