He keeps moving, I’m trying to keep up.
Newly appointed Houston ISD Superintendent Mike Miles‘ first cabinet selections include a mix of HISD staff members, former employees of his charter school network, administrators from across Texas and educational analysts.
Miles’ appointments, announced Monday, are among a bevy of changes to hit the 187,000-student district at the beginning stages of the state’s takeover. District officials have informed central office staff members that they need to work on Fridays during the summer, instead of the planned 10-hour days Monday through Thursday. And officials also released a timetable for staff reapplication process for 29 schools in the Wheatley, Kashmere and North Forest high school feeder patterns.
Houston Education Association President Michelle Williams said Monday that teachers are ready to work with Miles – but he must not “bully” educators as she said he did when he was superintendent of Dallas ISD.
“Requiring teachers to go through a reapplication and interview process to keep their jobs is the wrong focus,” Williams said. “The problems in HISD are systemic and rooted in the historic failure of the governor and the Legislature to provide enough funding, not only for classroom resources but also for the health care and other support services that most HISD students need to have a chance at success.”
The new superintendent selected as his chief of staff, Kerri Briggs, the former D.C. State Superintendent of Education who most recently worked as a partner at the consulting firm Cicero Group. As a school district leader in Washington, she played a role in passing reforms that Miles has planned for Houston including “rigorous teacher evaluation and linkage of pay to student performance,” according to the Washington Post.
Briggs was also the founding director of education reform at the George W. Bush Institute and served as the 43rd president’s assistant secretary for elementary and secondary education after working at the U.S. Department of Education for eight years.
Miles also named his three division superintendents, who will be responsible for overseeing subsets of the district, including Orlando Riddick, former superintendent of Cedar Hill ISD and Midland ISD, where the district partnered with the charter school network IDEA Public Schools under his leadership to open 14 schools in Midland and Odessa, according to the Midland Reporter-Telegram.
The other two division superintendents are Luz Martinez, former chief of equity, diversity and inclusion at Round Rock ISD, and Imelda De La Guardia, who most recently served as an assistant principal in Spring Branch and formerly worked as a school improvement officer and area superintendent at HISD.
Though several high-ranking HISD officials have left the district since plans for the takeover were formally announced in March, three have stayed and will resume their role under Miles’ administration.
Wanda Paul will continue in her role as chief operating officer, which she has held since 2021. As COO, Paul is responsible for a team of over 6,000 employees who provide transportation, nutrition and building services.
Scott Gilhousen, who has worked as HISD’s chief information officer since 2019, will continue to oversee the district’s technological needs. Catosha Woods will remain general counsel for the district, where she has worked since 2013, according to her LinkedIn.
I don’t know any of these names – the Houston Press provides some bios in their story – so my input here is limited. On the one hand, it’s nice to see a few HISD holdovers, given how much turnover there’s been among senior staffers. On the other hand, anyone with “founding director of education reform at the George W. Bush Institute” on their resume is going to get some major side-eye from me. I’ll just leave it at that.
Meanwhile, the Press also spoke to a couple of BoM members.
One crucial difference of Houston ISD’s Board of Managers from the school board members who preceded them is that each of the nine new members will be responsible for the district as a whole, rather than one particular part of it.
Newly named board member Cassandra Auzenne Bandy made that point in a joint interview with fellow board member Janette Garza Lindner Monday, in a discussion with the Houston Press. It was one of a series of tag team interviews with the media the pair gamely tackled Monday afternoon at the Hattie Mae White Administration building. They are two of the Board of Managers appointed by Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath as part of the TEA takeover of Houston ISD. Morath also appointed Mike Miles superintendent.
“We have a gift that we aren’t tied to districts. We as a board can focus on all areas of the HISD community. We can engage with our community across districts,” Bandy said.
Equity of service was also a crucial point that Garza Lindner made. Garza Lindner, a management consultant in the energy industry, who lives in the Heights area and declined to name the schools her children attend, ran against school board member Elizabeth Santos in the last board election, losing narrowly.
“The data shows the children are falling behind especially the Black and Latino children in Houston,” Garza Lindner said. ” Because of that, she said, she applauds the real sense of immediacy Superintendent Mike Miles has initiated to get to the source of the problems and make corrections.
“I do appreciate his urgency. It’s been far too long that we’ve been failing a a lot of our kids. While a lot of other kids have been in great schools we know that there are kids that are underserved across the district. This is urgent work for anybody who knows that kids deserve better,” Garza Lindner said.
While neither of these women appeared to be focused on just one issue, Garza Lindner has a special interest in the arts. “Integrated arts education is dear to my heart because I know that’s something that’s kind of fallen short with a lot of the energy on STEM. I’m kind of like ‘Where’s the A?’ We gotta make that STEAM.
“I see the experience and my work with Arts Connect Houston, I’ve seen the data that shows how student outcomes improve with education that has arts integrated into the curriculum.”
Board of Managers members will begin community meetings across the district to hear what residents have to say about HISD and Garza Lindner and Bandy are more than aware that some in the audience may respond in a heated manner, not happy about the TEA takeover.
“What the community is feeling is not wrong. It’s not wrong at all,” Bandy said. “Jeanette and I are stakeholders. We’re in the community. A lot of this uncertainty is what drove us to be here today. The community is not wrong. It’s going to be our job to engage with them, let them know this is a passion for us. We’re parents. We live here. We care about students. We care about our neighbors.”
As Garza Lindner put it: “I’m really excited to work through that anger to actually get to the nuggets of what is it we really want to see as we move this district forward. Whatever energy people bring to it, I’m really excited to hear that.”
I plan to do an interview or two with BoM members (I need a better term for them) in the near future. If there’s a question you want me to ask, leave it in the comments. As far as the, um, energy they’re likely to get from the community, they’ll experience it soon.
Houston organizations are planning to protest next week at the Houston Independent School Districts’ first meeting with the new Texas Education Agency-appointed superintendent, Mike Miles, and the nine-member board of managers that are replacing the elected HISD board of trustees.
The protest, which will take place on Thursday, June 8, at 4:15 p.m. at the Hattie Mae White Education Support Center, comes after the state agency announced the new leadership changes on June 1. Miles detailed some of his plans with local media and in a Friday morning press conference. TEA announced the initial takeover of the district in March.
In response, local education and legal groups said the state’s process interferes with the local electoral process. Opponents of the takeover have also said the state oversight doesn’t address district needs, including additional funding and resources for students in economically disadvantaged communities.
Organizations in attendance include the Community Voices for Public Education, ACLU of Texas, the Houston Federation of Teachers, Black Voters Matter, NAACP Houston branch, the Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation, FIEL Houston, and the League of United Latino American Citizens. Protest organizers said the rally would include a short press conference before the 5:30 p.m. board meeting, where HISD parents, staff, and students will speak.
Here’s a press release from the groups in question. That’s happening today, I’ll look for a report of how it went afterwards.