There has never been a board agenda more horrifying than this one.
This agenda is not about children.
Libraries closing in poor neighborhoods after book checkouts soared in 2022 under expanded staffing does not improve early literacy.
Push back at the Read-In Protest on Thursday. Bring your book…and read. RSVP here.
This agenda opens the door for graft and corruption, giving TEA appointed F Mike Miles unilateral authority to write blank checks for $1M at a pop without any board approval or public oversight, still ten times the previous threshold. Read more in agenda items 6- 8 and 33 summaries below.
Teachers and principals will be evaluated on a forced curve regardless of their ability to inspire children to become lifelong learners and future pay will be based on standardized test scores.
This hostile takeover will worsen inequities. Magnet policy change (item 16) will authorize the superintendent to modify magnet programs in NES or NES-aligned schools as he sees fit without board approval or public input. Once again, students in under-served neighborhoods get less than everyone else.
Item 7 will exempt PTOs and PTA donations from requiring board approval or public notice. When affluent school PTOs can raise a quarter million at a fundraiser and those in other neighborhoods can raise barely $1000 at a spaghetti supper, this policy change is bad for equity and transparency.
Transparency and public oversight take other huge hits all over this board agenda. “Democracy be damned” must be Miles’ new rallying cry. Miles has severely curtailed his obligation to meet with the teachers’ unions or the district advisory committee (parent, teacher and community representatives) to just once a season. Read more below in agenda items 10, 14, and 15.)
Miles and the “board” are not following the Open Meetings Act regarding public meetings. There have been three different agenda packets shared with the public since Monday, 7/31. The first had 34 agenda items and was 212 pages long. The second came out the day of agenda review and had three agenda items added & was 309 pages long in violation of the Open Meetings Act requirement to post agenda items in their entirety 72 hours BEFORE the meeting. The most recent version, posted on Monday, has the budget amendment added and is 321 pages long.
The agenda items have been renumbered for this week’s meeting. The substance of some of the items are different than last week, and it is almost impossible to determine what has been changed since last week. The Open Meetings Act is the only way in which the public can know what is happening to try to hold Miles and the TEA-appointed board of managers accountable for their excesses.
If this is what Miles and the TEA do to the public about board meetings in the public eye, what will happen to our children and teachers inside the schoolhouse behind closed doors? This should raise huge red flags for everyone regardless of where you stand on this takeover.
Below is the summary of many of the agenda items from the 321 page agenda packet.
Item 5 (p 30) Board’s legal counsel will no longer be in the boardroom during meetings providing legal advice to the board. It also authorizes the superintendent to hire anyone for anything without required board approval. The board won’t know and the public won’t know who the lawyers are. This opens up room for abuse of power.
Item 6 (p 33- revised) Any gift over $5000 shall require superintendent approval. Previously, the board had to approve gifts over $5000 from any source. Now the public will never know about gifts from any source except conditional gifts. The public has to now rely on Miles’ good graces to hope he never accepts a donation from the KKK. [NEW this week]
Any gift that the potential donor has expressly made conditional upon the District’s use for a specified purpose, or any gift of real property, shall require Board approval, except that gifts from recognized parent organizations, including parent-teacher organizations (PTOs),parent-teacher associations (PTAs), and Booster Clubs will be exempted from this requirement. That means that PTOs and PTAs can donate as much as they want to a school with no public notice whatsoever. Wealthy schools will be able to hide the income they receive from donations, as if they are private schools. This is bad for equity and transparency.
Item 7 (p 38- revised) HISD Superintendent wanted to raise the $100k threshold for required board approval on contracts to $2 Million. He has now lowered the threshold to $1M. That is still higher than any other school district in the country. If approved, the superintendent will have sole authority to make contracts up to to $1M without board approval and without the public ever hearing about the contract. This means Miles could write up a contract for $1 M to a friend to buy spin bikes and no one would be the wiser.
In addition, HISD Superintendent Miles wants the sole source contract threshold to increase from $50,000 to $500,000. This means that Miles does not have to solicit multiple bids for contracts under $500,000. Sole source contracts are a step backwards from the RFP bidding process implemented about ten years ago to ensure that contracts go to the company best qualified to complete a job well.
This agenda item also includes a revision to the minority and women business enterprises (MWBE) board policy in existence since 1988. Miles is changing the threshold for requiring MWBE participation from $10,000 for purchases and $25,000 for construction and professional services to $1M. This will effectively exclude many small MWBE companies from doing business with HISD.
Item 8 (p 42) HISD Superintendent wants to assign any Internal Audit investigation to the ethics and compliance department. Since a lot of investigations start with an internal audit, this policy makes no sense and should be voted down with the rest.
Item 9 (p 47) eliminates the requirement that “information on applications shall be confirmed before hiring an individual.” You could create a fake resume and, if you pass the background check and are breathing, HISD could hire you without anyone checking to see if your credentials are, in fact, real. This is a dangerous policy change.
Miles forces teachers to reapply for their jobs; fires half of human resources and had so many unfilled positions that now the sign says, “We’ll hire anybody with a pulse, a clean background check, and a degree.” Miles is trying to clean up the mess with more chaos. Teachers need to be vetted; teachers need certifications.
Item 10 (p 50) Miles is eliminating all of the language associated with the consultation process with the teachers’ unions including the requirement to meet monthly with a representative of the largest teachers’ union. He has weakened the policy with vague wording about getting advice and counsel from any and all organizations four times per year. He is trying to make it seem like he is giving more teachers a voice. Even the smaller teachers’ unions are opposed to this policy change.
Item 11 & 38 (p 49 & 230) Teacher Appraisals: Miles is eliminating the current teacher evaluation system completely and replacing it with his own special sauce. Read more at Houston Public Media’s Exclusive: All Houston ISD teachers to be paid based on test scores by 2025-26 school year, schools will continue to lose autonomy In a nutshell, NES teachers will be evaluated based on standardized test scores using a forced curve this year and all other teachers will be evaluated this way, starting next year. There are also student evaluations; school-wide performance and evaluations by appraisers.
Remember how bad things were for kids and teachers under Grier with EVAAS. Pay for “performance based on STAAR scores is back. This newest incarnation of test -based accountability is cruel, inequitable and yet again, a poverty penalty. It incentivizes teachers to steer clear of schools in our most under-served neighborhoods.
Item 12 (p 62) Administrator Appraisals: Miles is eliminating the current administrator evaluation system and replaces it completely for all principals in all schools this year. Principal ratings are based on student standardized test scores and how a principal’s teacher appraisal aligns with the teacher’s eventual standardized test scores.
If a teacher classroom evaluation is higher than the teacher’s actual scores, the principal will be rated lower. If a teacher’s classroom evaluation is lower than a teacher’s scores, a principal will be rated lower. Heads, I win. Tails, you lose.
This perverse new system will force principals to evaluate teachers entirely on predicted student performance and not on the quality of instruction or the capacity to motivate and inspire. In the first year, assistant principals get the rating of their principal. Principals will be rated on a forced curve-
unsatisfactory, progressing, proficient and exemplary. The lower you are rated, the less autonomy you will have. Once again, it incentivizes principals and teachers to steer clear of schools in our most neglected neighborhoods.
Item 13 (p 66) HISD Superintendent Miles wants staff to provide a doctor’s note when absent more than three days, down from seven. This shows a disregard for the realities of the post-COVID world. Also given the much higher medical deductibles now, it can be cost prohibitive for some staff.
Item 14 (p 74): HISD Supe Miles is proposing that HISD eliminate the requirement to consult with the unions before changing wages, hours or working conditions. At a time when teachers have worked tirelessly through COVID, when there is a national teacher staffing shortage, the last thing our children need is F. Miles going “feudal lord” on us.
Item 15 (p 76): District Advisory Committee (DAC) meetings are reduced from six to three per year. This reduces teacher and community representatives' ability to weigh in on issues affecting them. It also eliminates the requirement that the community representatives represent all geographic areas in the HISD boundaries. The “advise the superintendent” language has been removed as well.
Item 16 (81): Magnet policy change will authorize the superintendent to modify magnet programs in NES or NES-aligned schools as he sees fit without board approval or public input. Once again, students in under-served neighborhoods get less than everyone else.
Should Miles subsequently make the entire district NES, Miles would be able to modify any magnet program without board approval or public input. BOM member Bandy also rightly pointed out that the NES designation is not necessarily permanent and, now, it’s being enshrined in a board policy.
Item 17 (p 86): This allows the HISD Supe to “waive any specific principal requirements should he/she deem it necessary and require other skills may be outlined in the principal evaluation system.” In plain English, the superintendent can hire almost anyone to be principal.
Item 22 (p 96) This item relates to the election in Nov for trustees in District II, III, IV and VIII.
The elected board has only ceremonial duties due to the hostile TEA takeover. While the legitimate elected board currently has no authority over HISD, they will someday. These elections matter. If no one is paying attention, any wacko could win.
Item 24 (p 126) Vendor Contracts over $100,000. The Rosetta Stone contract stands out. $1.5M to purchase Rosetta Stone. Rosetta Stone is a poor substitute for dual language instruction or for ESL instruction.
Item 33 (p 191): HISD Supe Miles is proposing policy changes that would make CFO Jim Terry the sole decision maker regarding how HISD funds are invested & removes the Internal Controls section. This opens the door to riskier investments and undermines HISD’s financial stability.
With no one overseeing Miles and his CFO, Miles is free to buy as many spin bikes and Ubers for students to get to school as he wants. If HISD cannot pay its bills in a year, then Miles will say we have no choice but to close schools. and you can bet they will be in NES communities.
Item 35 (p 221) : Assistant principals and deans will no longer need to be certified.
Item 40 (p 320): This budget amendment goes from a deficit from $168 M up to $245 M. This is a pretty big increase in deficit spending. Best practice for ISDs is to keep three months of operating expenses in reserves (fund balance) to pay for services before property taxes owed are paid to the district. That is about $550 M. Thus, just two months into his role as HISD Supe, Miles is burning through the reserves. Given the recapture obligations, the loss of ESSER funds and the reduction in property tax revenue due to the new state laws, this is foolhardy.
Push back at the Read-In Protest on Thursday. Bring your book…and read. RSVP here.
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