New Supe in Town: Cautiously Optimistic

The wait is over. Houston ISD has just named a single candidate for School Superintendent: the current superintendent of the San Francisco United School District, Richard Carranza

He does not appear to be a corporate reformer; does not believe teachers should be evaluated using test scores, appears committed to equity, nor does he seem ready to close neighborhood schools in order to open myriad specialty magnet and charter schools. 

It is a testament to the hard work of parents, students, teachers, and community members in CVPE, HFT and other organizations across the city that the HISD Board of Trustees did NOT hire a superintendent with a Terry Grier test and punish privatization agenda. The superintendents of Washington, DC, New Orleans, Chicago, etc were rumored to have been on a short list and none of these ideologues were selected. The HISD Board heard us. We are cautiously optimistic.

We see the following strengths and weaknesses:

Strengths-

  • Focused on equity and  restorative and social justice in our schools
  • Did not use test scores to evaluate teachers in San Francisco
  • Believes in improving the schools we have rather than easing the way for new charters
  • Some evidence that he is an advocate for community-based accountability instead of the failed test and punish model (invited speaker at community based Rethinking Schools June 2014 Conference, Rethinking Accountability: Putting Students and Learning First –on panel with Linda Darling Hammond)
  • Supports art and music education (previously taught music and bilingual social studies)
  • Working class background, fully bilingual-useful in HISD which is 62% Hispanic and 80% low socio-economic students
  • Library services budget is three times larger than that of HISD
  • Evidence of working with students, parents and teachers across all communities

Concerns-

  • Excessive pay raise in San Francisco (Carranza took a 27% pay raise when teachers received a 12% pay raise over three years)
  • The contract for the new superintendent should reflect the budget shortfall in HISD. Instead of taking a salary increase, the board and superintendent should negotiate a contract that reflects the budget shortfall in HISD and the burden placed on children and teachers who are teaching and learning with less resources.
  • Supports TFA: He supported expanding by 12% the TFA contract for 15 TFA teachers. The school board voted against the contract and the superintendent tabled it. HISD, in contrast, has a much larger $800,000 contract for TFA teachers. While there are strong TFA teachers in HISD schools who stay beyond two years in the classroom, by year four, more than 85% of TFA teachers will have left teaching compared to 37% for those teachers who complete traditional teacher preparation programs.  Additionally, the five week TFA training program is grossly inadequate.
  • Cut paraprofessionals and counselors despite a budget surplus. Parents, paraprofessionals and teachers protested: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0yfhX9DrJck
  • Is not from the local community

Con for the HISD School Board: The contract process has been neither public and transparent. We hope that the contract will differ significantly from Terry Grier’s contract which was based almost entirely on test scores and which provided Grier with bonuses far in excess of a teacher’s annual salary for essentially negligible improvement. The superintendent should be held to the same standard as teachers and all should be evaluated on what they do to improved learning, not simply on how students perform on a standardized test.

We must remain engaged in ensuring that our school district offers a high quality public education for all of our children including

  • ·         Schools in which student needs are met. Per capita funding should be greatest for high needs children and targeted to counteract the conditions of poverty that so negatively impact learning. Class size should be small enough that students can get the attention they need.
  • Strong open-enrollment comprehensive neighborhood schools, the cornerstones of thriving communities because they are open to all students in the neighborhood, regardless of academic, social, and emotional needs using a community schools approach
  • Schools in which students are guided by trusted, valued, experienced teachers and school leaders
  • Schools in which standardized testing is limited and only used for diagnostic purposes. Children are more than mere commodities to be sorted and ranked.

A link to your board members is here.

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