TEA takeover of Houston ISD: Reaction to appointment of superintendent, board of managers

The Texas Education Agency on Thursday announced the appointment of a new superintendent and Board of Managers for the Houston Independent School District as the TEA takeover of the district begins.

In March, the TEA announced the takeover of the state’s largest district and said a Board of Managers would be chosen to replace the elected school board, and a new superintendent would be chosen.

SUGGESTED: TEA takeover of Houston ISD: New Superintendent Mike Miles, board of managers announced

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath has named Mike Miles the new superintendent. Miles is a former superintendent of Dallas ISD and a district in Colorado, as well as the founder and CEO of Third Future Schools, a network of public charter schools.

The nine members of the Board of Managers were also announced on Thursday including some Houston ISD parents, educators and business owners.

SUGGESTED: Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath confirms takeover of Houston ISD

Here's a look at how local leaders and unions are reacting to the news.

Superintendent Mike Miles

Superintendent Mike Miles released the following statement:

While I have only been a resident of Houston a few days, I have been an educator for close to 30 years, and I can honestly say I have never been more honored or more humbled to take a job in my career.

To the families of Houston celebrating the end of another school year - especially those families of the Class of 2023 - congratulations, you must be so proud of all that your children have accomplished. My own children are grown, but I remember very clearly how pride and joy come together with hope and uncertainty as our children grow and take their next steps in the world. To the families of students who will return to HISD in the fall, your children are the reason I am here, and starting today it is my responsibility to make sure they have the skills and experiences they need to be successful not just next year or the year after, but in the Houston of 2035 and beyond.

As we get the chance to know each other over the summer, you'll learn many things about my work, how I approach big challenges, and most importantly how I hold myself and those around me to the highest standards when it comes to our responsibility to your children. But before you learn any of that, I think it helps if you understand where I came from and how that shaped my commitment to public service and to education specifically.

I was one of eight children in a military family. I am the son of a Black father and a Japanese mother. I know what it feels like to feel different or like you don't have a seat at the table. We struggled. But school was a refuge. My elementary school in Fort Leavenworth, KS - the teachers in that school - saved me. I don't know if they knew the responsibility they had for my life outcomes all those years ago, but I am very aware of it. It is the reason that I revere teachers, and it is the reason I hold the systems I lead to such high standards. Our duty to students is sacred and our responsibility to provide them with the skills and experiences they need to live successful lives is absolute.

I know many of you value your HISD experience and believe your school is meeting your child's needs. I'm anxious to get out into your schools and hear more about the work they're doing that's serving children well so we can support it and replicate it.

For the families of students who are not getting what they need from their schools, improving your child's education experience is job one. Schools don't fail on their own, and there is no such thing as a failing school inside a successful district.

Most importantly, schools do not struggle because of the students they serve or the communities they are in. Schools fail because the district fails to support them. We can't fix one school - we have to fix the system. It will take time, but we are starting now, and we will not stop until every HISD student is learning in a school that teaches them core skills at grade level and prepares them for successful lives in the Houston of 2035.

I also want to speak directly to parents and families of students with special education needs.

HISD's failure to serve your students, to provide basic services, and set meaningful goals for your students is a complete systemic failure from top to bottom. It ends today. We will be asking for your help and partnership, but we will overhaul HISD's provision of special education services by the end 2023.

"Better" is never going to be our goal. The truth is, and many of you know this first-hand, "better" is not enough to give your child what they need to be successful. This situation is urgent. We have not done nearly enough to close persistent achievement gaps that unfairly impact children of color, and we are not yet close to preparing any of our students for a 2035 workplace and world.

You will see and feel things change. We will be aligning our resources - especially our most effective teachers and principals - to better serve students in underserved communities. For students who need to catch up and in schools that have failed for years, we will be offering more instructional time. We will ask you to change and adapt along with us.

As a district we will change how we prioritize and respond to your feedback. Schools will be accountable for family experience in their campuses. In the next few days, we will roll out some near-term resources so you can get answers to questions about what's next for your child or their school. I will be hosting many meetings throughout the summer to meet you and give you a chance to learn more about our shared vision for HISD's future. As we enter the next school year, we will communicate with you every step of the way so you know exactly what to expect and who to talk to when you have concerns.

It is my great privilege to lead HISD in this work to make it one of the best school districts in this country. I hope you will join me as we work to provide every HISD student with the education and experiences they need to live, work, and thrive in Houston and the world.

‘And should we reach our destination still standing, knowing in our hearts what it really took, without fanfare or reward, we will look across the way to each other and say, simply, well done.’"

Texas Senator Paul Bettencourt

Texas Senator Paul Bettencourt released the following statement:

"I commend TEA Commissioner Mike Morath’s selection of Mike Miles as the new Superintendent for the Houston Independent School District," said Senator Paul Bettencourt. "Mr. Miles’ experience with large school districts and implementing ground-breaking initiatives, including, his experience with turning around charter schools, makes him a perfect fit for the task at hand in the States’ largest school system. I’m confident under Mr. Miles’ leadership, and the new Board of Managers, that reflect the diversity of the residents of HISD’s broad range of background and skills, will focus on improving the educational outcomes of our HISD school children."

The Houston Federation of Teachers

The Houston Federation of Teachers released the following statement

"In the wee hours of the morning, under the cloak of darkness, Mike Miles was appointed superintendent of the now occupied Houston "Independent" School District. Miles' name had been floating around the district as the Texas Education Agency’s chosen leader since March 15, but TEA vigorously denied that appointment had been made. 

Lo and behold, here we are, the inevitable having come to pass. With police surrounding the Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center, denying access to public property, non-employees were denied access to the building. If this is any indication of what we can expect going forward, it is sure to be a bumpy ride. 

Additionally, we now know the identities of the members of the board of managers who have replaced our democratically elected school board. Once again, these appointments seemed inevitable, these names having been floated as selections long before today and before TEA’s vetting process had begun. 

While we agree that some changes needed to be made in the district, the Houston Federation of Teachers stands dismayed this morning. With TEA’s clear disrespect for community input, we are doubtful the agency and its appointees will make any changes that improve student outcomes.  

HFT will work to hasten TEA's departure in this district and reduce the harm to teachers, families, and our schools. We want what is best for our community, and we will not let them be ignored in this process. 

As this board of managers and superintendent take power, they should know now that HFT will always oppose:

  • The gutting of wraparound services for our community
  • The closing or "charterizing" or schools and the sale of property
  • Any push for a pay-for-performance scheme
  • The continued over-reliance on STAAR and standardized testing in the measure of our schools
  • Any move to make Houston ISD a "District of Innovation," exempting it from key standards that make our schools a safe place to learn for students and a suitable place to work for employees

 To restore any trust in this community, the board of managers must commit their support of: 

  • Local, democratic control of HISD on a definite timeline. (If TEA can’t deliver improvements, why should it retain control?)
  • Smaller class sizes  
  • Higher pay across the board for all HISD employees to help recruit and retain teachers and school staff 
  • Increased investments in community schools and services 
  • Functional, safe school buildings and equipment 
  • More opportunities for career and technical education and experiential learning 

"Don’t get confused," said Jackie Anderson, HFT president. "This is a hostile takeover. We are no longer an independent school district. But we will also not be a silent school district.""

The Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation

The Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor Federation released the following statement:

"This morning, the Greg Abbott administration officially named Mike Miles the superintendent of the now-occupied Houston "Independent" School District, displacing the democratically elected board of trustees and replacing them with a hand-picked board of managers.

This is just the latest assault on Houston and our right to govern ourselves. In the past month alone, state authorities passed the "death star" bill attacking the ability of our elected local representatives to pass common-sense local policies and pushed through two bills designed to seize control of our elections in Harris County.

Worse, the same Governor who appointed the occupation administration failed to increase funding for our schools by a single cent during the legislative session this year while sitting on the largest budget surplus in Texas history.

Despite the lack of support from state authorities, Houston ISD has been making substantial progress over the last few years - the TEA itself gave HISD an over 88 score last year, higher than new superintendent Miles’ former employer Dallas ISD.

The Gulf Coast labor movement stands united with the Houston Federation of Teachers in opposition to the occupation of the largest school district in Texas. We are committed to working together to end the TEA occupation.Texas Gulf Coast Area Labor 

Federation President Lacy Wolf said: "This isn't a Republican or Democratic issue, it's a democracy issue. We vote for our local leaders and they should be able to make policies for us. This occupation is an assault on our democracy."

Jackie Anderson, President of the Houston Federation of Teachers and the Harris County Labor Assembly said: "Don’t get confused. This is a hostile takeover. We are no longer an independent school district. But we will also not be a silent school district.""