Houston ISD classes start Monday - here’s what you can expect to see since TEA has taken over

HOUSTON – The largest school district in Texas, the Houston Independent School District, is slated to begin classes Monday.

But this year things will look a bit different for faculty, staff, and students.

In March, the Texas Education Agency announced the removal of Houston ISD’s school board and superintendent and effectively put the state in charge.

Houston ISD, with 276 schools and an enrollment of nearly 200,000 students, is now the largest district the agency has taken over since 2000.

Since TEA’s takeover, the state has appointed a new superintendent, Mike Miles, and a Board of Managers.

Miles has since implemented some major changes to the district in hopes of targeting and bettering struggling schools. One of the biggest changes will happen with the 85 New Education System and NES-aligned campuses, where there will be no librarians, cameras inside classrooms, and standardized lesson plans.

What is NES and what’s changing?

The New Education Schools initiative will focus heavily on the 29 schools that feed into three of the district’s lowest-performing high schools, which are Kashmere, North Forest, and Wheatley high schools, alongside the middle and elementary schools that feed into them.

During this initiative, teachers, principals, and all school-based roles had to reapply for their jobs at the underperforming schools for higher pay. Roles that were not required to reapply included custodial staff, nutrition services and transportation services.

In July, the district reported that 1,675 vacant positions were cut, as well as 672 filled jobs as part of the reorganization process. In total, 2,347 positions are expected to be cut from the central office. The number of central office jobs has decreased from 10,204 in June when Miles became superintendent to 7,857 in July. On Friday, Miles said there were no vacancies.

Teachers who have been re-hired will have to follow standardized lesson plans and curriculum and cameras will be placed inside of classrooms.

In July, Houston ISD announced it would be eliminating librarian positions at the 28 NES schools this upcoming school year and turning some of them into “Team Centers” where kids with behavioral issues will be sent. Miles explained his reasoning for eliminating the positions, saying he has a plan that will help transform the traditional library system. He said his primary focus will be teaching kids how to read and the science behind reading. He also added that NES schools will still have libraries and books available for students, but they will no longer have librarians. Instead, librarians will be able to work in other roles within the district.

What is Project Safe Start?

Project Safe Start is a partnership aimed at preventing crime and enhancing security for students and teachers as they start the new school year. With this, Miller announced his open-door policy where teachers will no longer be allowed to close and lock their classroom doors.

Miles said the reason behind the policy is to allow for cooperation among educators. He also said there will be exceptions such as if a classroom is near a gym or music room.

The Texas Education Agency requires all exterior doors at schools remain closed, latched and locked throughout the day unless they’re being actively monitored or located within a secured area.

“Safety is important but so is the quality of instruction and providing the best instruction for kids provided the system of instruction that’s best for kids so we’re going to have to do both, so that’s why the doors are staying open,” Miles said.

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