Houston Landing profiles the man who seems poised to be the imposed Superintendent of the taken-over HISD.
A hard-charging education leader devoted to shaking up the status quo in struggling school districts appears poised to become the superintendent of Houston ISD.
Mike Miles, the former superintendent of the Dallas Independent School District and current CEO of a charter school network, has emerged in recent days as the likely incoming leader of HISD following comments by Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner; U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, D-Houston; and the president of HISD’s largest teachers union.
The decision ultimately will be made in the coming weeks by Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath, who is installing a new board and superintendent in HISD. The state intervention largely stems from chronically low performance at one HISD campus, Wheatley High School, which triggered a Texas law requiring action by Morath.
State education officials say no decision has been made about HISD’s superintendent, and no appointments will be announced before June 1. Texas Education Agency officials did not respond to a request for comment Wednesday on speculation about Miles. Efforts to reach Miles were unsuccessful.
The potential appointment of Miles, however, makes too much sense to ignore: Morath served as a Dallas board member during Miles’ tenure; the two share a strikingly similar outlook on education policy; and Miles has spoken at length about the need for significant reforms in large, urban school district operations.
If Miles is Morath’s choice, the selection portends dramatic, swift changes in HISD.
The former Army Ranger, State Department diplomat and school district leader is known for aggressively upending bureaucracies and reshaping classrooms. His no-excuses approach to management and preferred policies — sidelining low-performing administrators, instituting accountability-related measures and reorienting teachers’ responsibilities, among others — have endeared him to those frustrated with underwhelming student achievement in urban school districts.
“Unfortunately, most district leaders are way too worried about their careers and future job prospects to really break the status quo; board members are way too worried about any noise from their constituents,” Miles wrote in a blog last month for Third Future Schools, a Colorado-based charter school operator where he serves as CEO.
“There is little vision and little appetite for true systemic reform, the effects of which might not be noticed for a couple of years.”
Yet Miles has left behind a trail of disgruntled community leaders, former employees and union champions at previous stops in Dallas and Harrison School District 2 in Colorado Springs, Colo., where he served as superintendent for six years. Miles’ opponents often bristle at his top-down leadership tactics, along with his distaste for more union-aligned approaches to education.
“The attitude, the atmosphere, in most of the worksites and campuses was one of fear and intimidation,” said Rena Honea, the longtime president of the Alliance-AFT teachers association in Dallas. “That’s how his rule was. Not a lot of collaborative input, which is what education should be: people working together.”
Miles undoubtedly would encounter similar resistance in Houston, where voters and political leaders have generally opposed Morath’s move to replace HISD’s school board and superintendent.
The potential selection of Miles also would stand in sharp contrast to the elected board’s preference in recent years for superintendents who aimed to build consensus and moved slower on major overhauls to the district. Miles’ appointment would harken back to the era of former HISD superintendent Terry Grier, whose management style and education policy outlook mirror Miles’ approach. Grier resigned from HISD in 2015 after 6 ½ years at the helm.
Miles, however, ultimately would answer to a board handpicked by Morath — who can remove any appointed member for any reason.
“He’ll have everything he needs to do what he wants to get done,” said former Dallas trustee Lew Blackburn, whose 18-year tenure on the board overlapped with Miles’ reign. “The board members here, we asked a lot of questions, pushed back on a few things. In Houston, there might not be as much pushback from the board of managers.”
See here for the background. There’s a lot more, so read the rest. The story notes that Miles succeeded in raising standardized test score while at DISD, and that is what we want and need here. How painful it will be to get there remains to be seen. Miles may not be the guy, of course – the TEA typically hasn’t said a word and presumably won’t until after June 1 – but it’s highly probable that the selection has been made, and I’m sure that Mayor Turner and Rep. Jackson Lee have good sources. We’ll find out soon enough.