The newly installed board of managers of HISD held its first meeting Thursday evening at HISD's headquarters. Just over an hour before the start of the meeting, around 150 community members collected outside the building in protest before heading inside for the night's gathering.
The meeting itself was lively, with community members voicing opposition to the takeover. Superintendent Mike Miles arrived in the last few minutes of the meeting, as board members voted to approve his interim contract. The meeting ended with a confusing selection process for the board's various officer positions, due to the crowd drowning out the proceedings.
At the protest ahead of the meeting, attendees held signs reading, "We will not go quietly," and "No taxation without representation." Meanwhile, protesters beat drums and chanted, "No justice, no peace," followed by its Spanish translation, "Sin justicia, no hay paz." Cesar Espinoza, an education advocate from equity taskforce Houston 2036, started a chant of "TEA's not welcome here!"
Several speakers addressed the crowd, including recent HISD high school graduates, former teachers and school board members as well as State Representative Ron Reynolds.
"I think this board of managers that only has accountability to the TEA commissioner Mike Morath, who only has accountability to basically Gov. Abbott, is out of touch with many of the Black and Brown communities in HISD," said Reynolds.
Opponents to the takeover voiced complaints against both the lack of elected representation in the district as well as Superintendent Mike Miles's New Education System – or NES plan – which they say primarily targets communities of color.
The plan is geared toward 29 under-performing schools in the district, where faculty, staff and principals will need to reapply for their positions for next school year. It will also involve hiring learning coaches and other support staff at the schools as well as the introduction of pre-made lesson plans from the district's curriculum department. Miles has said teachers will be able to make adjustments to the provided lesson plans. He said the changes are meant to take some of the burden off of teachers.
Corina Ortiz, chief of staff for the Houston Federation of Teachers and former HISD educator, said she fears the plan is a one-size-fits-all approach.
"It's never a good idea to lump every child together and say, ‘We're all going to be doing this particular curriculum for this amount of time,' because kids are going to get left behind," said Ortiz. "To date, he still has not addressed what he plans to do with the special education population."
Inside the meeting, the night's agenda included the approval of new superintendent Mike Miles's interim contract, which includes a $25,000 relocation stipend and a daily salary of $1,473. The former HISD superintendent, Millard House II, earned an annual salary of $360,000, and Miles's contract is prorated based on that amount. The interim contract will be replaced with a long-term agreement in a few weeks that will bring Miles's annual salary to equal that of the former superintendent.
The meeting began with time for public comment, with 37 people initially registered to speak for two minutes each. Every speaker appeared aligned with the opposition to Miles and the takeover, with three calling on the resignation of the board of managers and six requesting the board vote against approving Miles's contract.
Miles himself did not attend the majority of the meeting, eventually arriving as his contract was approved by the board. However, he said that he joined virtually up to that point. Miles said he is proud of the board's ability to remain cool under pressure during its first meeting and commended the members' professionalism. Miles said he did not attend the beginning of the meeting in order to allow those in attendance to focus on the board of managers, as it was the first time they'd met publicly.
Throughout the meeting, attendees verbally assented with community members who took the podium and shouted statements to the board such as "Where is Mike Miles?" and "We don't want you here." Tensions eventually reached a zenith in the last 10 minutes of the meeting when the noise of the crowd completely overtook the room as the board was voting on its agenda items.
Ultimately, the board voted to approve Miles's interim contract. It voted to appoint Audrey Momanaee as its president, Ric Campo as vice president and Angela Lemond Flowers, as secretary.
Managers also voted to approve an in-kind donation of $3 million from Good Reason Houston, an education non-profit.
The board has until the end of the month to finalize a budget for next school year, and Thursday's was the first of three meetings before that deadline.