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Houston ISD to eliminate at least 500 administrative positions

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(The Center Square) – Houston Independent School District is set to eliminate at least 500 administrative positions in its central office, roughly 30% of the central office workforce.

Its new superintendent, Mike Miles, made the announcement at a Friday news conference.

“As you know the district has been reorganizing its central office,” he said. “I know this is a matter of interest to all of you. But first, before I go any further, let me say reorganizations are hard. There are real people behind the numbers. … we want to do this in a way that … gives people enough time to apply for jobs during this reorganization or to transfer jobs in this organization.”

The reorganization has taken place over the past several weeks, he said, with the chiefs of the various departments looking at vacant positions to determine if they needed to be filled or eliminated to ensure efficiency and effectiveness. Staff can apply for vacant positions that aren’t eliminated or be transferred within the district, he said.

The process should be complete by July 17, but rough estimates include Human Resources reducing its staff by 40, and the Chief Academic Office reducing its workforce by 500-600 positions, he said. Only roughly 10% of the CAO positions being eliminated are vacant.

Other departments within the district will also face cuts but those haven’t been finalized yet; they include communications, school leadership, and professional development. The finance and chief operations offices will also be reorganized but likely after the summer, he said.

The cuts weren’t solely performance related, but “about making sure we right-size the central office and also work most efficiently.” Operational costs were increasing and student population, which is directly tied to funding, has decreased, he said.

Miles made the announcement one month after he announced teachers at 29 schools in the district would have to reapply for their jobs. They are employed in the district’s newly assigned “New Education System,” created after the state recently took over HISD. The Texas Education Agency initially tried to take over the district in 2019, was sued, and after a lengthy court battle and a Texas Supreme Court ruling, the TEA prevailed this March. Miles was appointed the new superintendent after serving as the superintendent of Dallas ISD.

On June 2, Miles said in a news conference that “the number one priority of any school district is the quality of instruction. The main job of the district is to have high performing teachers, high quality instruction and principals who can supervise and coach teachers to get high quality instruction.

“We can’t do that overnight with 273 schools. We’re going to do training, professional development … over the year … but we can’t put in a new system effectively across the district at one time. We can do it with a subset of schools.”

Twenty-nine schools were chosen in three high-need feeder schools of North Forest, Kashmere and Wheatley as part of NES.

Miles also cited several studies showing how such restructurings have improved student outcomes when similar measures were taken in other districts.

Houston ISD, the largest school district in Texas, has been plagued by mismanagement and corruption for years. In the fall of 2019, after the TEA attempted to take it over. It published a 319-page report stating HISD’s Board of Trustees violated contract procurement rules, attempted to tamper with contracts, and committed other violations.

In February 2020, the FBI first raided Houston ISD’s headquarters, and subsequently the home of the district’s former COO, who was indicted for allegedly embezzling $6 million of taxpayer money.

Fed up with lockdown policies, prolonged mask mandates, failing grades and lack of accountability, voters ousted two school board members in a special election in December 2021. The election was seen as a seismic shift in a Democratic stronghold brought by voters hoping to bring accountability to a school board long seen as one opposing parental rights and hampering the success of students stuck in failing schools.

Houston ISD students suffered significantly from virtual learning policies, with the district reporting 42% of its students received one or more F grades in the first six weeks of school when only virtual learning was offered. That was nearly double the 26% of students who received one or more F grades during the first nine weeks of in-person instruction in the previous year.

The Center Square previously reported that in 2020, some schools in the Houston area reported a 100% increase in the number of students who received at least one F grade in the first grading period. A record number of parents also pulled their children out of public school, a 29% increase from those who did in 2019.

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