Houston Schools in Turmoil: Parents protest principal ousting, more staff cuts feared

Tensions are rising after parents and students learned that several Houston Independent School District principals may no longer be with the district. Multiple protests took place outside Houston schools as students and staff showed support for their administration. 

"When anyone hears the words, Mike Miles, and it just sends everyone into a flying rage," said Eliana Gottlieb, a seventh grader at Meyerland Middle School in HISD. "It feels like we're being taken over by this one guy who is refusing to help any of the students, and it's just not working for anybody." 

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Staff, students, and parents rallied outside of Meyerland and West Briar Middle Schools to demand answers about recent staff cuts. Many parents and students shared their frustrations about their principals being given the option to resign or not have their contracts renewed for next year. 

"A lot of parents are upset right now because we don’t have a say in what’s happening in our district," said Kara Bemis, the President of the Parent-Teacher Organization at West Briar Middle School. 

Outside of Meyerland Middle School, the protest happened after their principal was given the option to resign or be fired. 

"Our children are succeeding, our school is succeeding, and yet still, we’re watching HISD dismantle our teaching population," said one parent. 

"I feel like it’s unfair that Mike Miles just fired our principal, and he was just principal of the year, last year," said Astrid Le Grand, a seventh grader at Meyerland Middle School. 

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Over at West Briar Middle School, parents came together to discuss the recent leadership change at their school. The principal, Dr. Lea Mishlan, given the same choice: to resign or face termination. 

"We’re very, very upset because Dr. Mishlan has been a wonderful leader for this school and this is the end of her third year here, and she’s done phenomenal things," said Bemis. 

Students are now hanging posters in the school that read, "Save Dr. Mishlan" in support of their principal.

A member of the Houston Teacher Federation, who chose not to be on camera out of fear of losing her job, said more job cuts are coming. 

"And today, we just got the news that 11 of our more personnel are going to be removed," said a HTF member. 

The Houston Independent School District released the following statement regarding the job cuts: 

"To become a district that serves all students well, HISD must use data and on-the-job observation to staff every school with a leader who will ensure consistent, high-quality instruction at their campus. 

When making decisions about school leaders, the first – and in some ways, most critical – piece of data HISD evaluates is the quality of a school. In most cases, if a school has an A or B rating, that is a strong indication that the principal is creating the kind of learning environment students need. When a school is rated C or lower, it often means the school is not serving students well on a consistent basis. And where campuses are not meeting the needs of all kids, HISD must examine what is happening at the school. That starts with the school’s leadership.

HISD, like all other districts, is making decisions about staffing for the 2024-2025 school year. All contract non-renewals for principals are unrelated to HISD’s overall budget challenges. Instead, these contract decisions are being made – again – with the goal of ensuring every student receives high-quality instruction, every day. In some cases, we hope principals who do not retain their current position for next school year will apply for assistant principal or other roles within HISD that will help the educator grow their instructional leadership. 

The district understands that leadership transitions are disruptive for the impacted school communities, and that the principal is often the most visible and accessible person on a campus. Division leaders will work with every impacted campus to identify each community’s priorities for their next school leader. That process will involve surveys, community meetings, and opportunities over the summer to meet with incoming principals. 

In all cases, we are asking our principals to finish the school year strong. HISD students need and deserve a full year of high-quality instruction in supportive, productive school environments.  

With regard to teachers, the District did not cut teaching positions as part of its work to right-size the HISD budget. In our non-NES schools, most decisions to retain or release a teacher are made by the principal and are based on data and classroom evaluation. Campuses that saw enrollment declines may have had to adjust their staffing for next school year, but – again – teaching positions were not cut in the HISD budget. 

At the District’s 85 NES and NES-aligned campuses, principals used data to determine which teachers are eligible to continue working in the NES and will be retained in their current positions based on the school’s projected enrollment. Employees who are not eligible to continue working in the NES but meet the requirements for non-NES positions in HISD are encouraged to apply for those available roles."