Updated: This article was updated May 13 with information about protests organized against principal layoffs at several local schools.

Houston ISD Superintendent Mike Miles confirmed May 9 that some district teachers and principals have started receiving notices that their employment will not be renewed for the upcoming school year, part of an ongoing evaluation process.

At the same time, district officials are planning to share budget information with the public at a May 16 workshop, including how they plan to bridge what Miles called a $450 million "gap" to balance the budget. That plan will come with job cuts, but Miles said officials "kept the cuts as far away from the classrooms as possible."

As more information about principals being terminated has emerged, parents and community members at several schools organized protests the morning of May 13, including at Meyerland Middle School and Crockett Elementary School.

The latest

Miles, speaking at a media briefing before a May 9 board meeting, declined to provide a number for how many teachers and principals would not have their jobs renewed, saying that the evaluation process was still underway.

Miles said the evaluation process is more data-driven than in previous years, taking into account spot observations, student outcome data and Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System performance data.

"We are using data maybe for the first time," Mile said. "Instructional data was not really collected in this district on teacher performance. And we are changing that and saying, at this time a year, when principals assess whether a teacher should return, they are looking not just at the anecdotal information, but they are also looking at data of all sorts to assess."

Zooming out

The teacher evaluations are taking place as HISD officials prepare to host the first public budget workshop for the 2024-25 school year, set to take place May 16. As of May 10, it was also the only scheduled budget workshop prior to the board's planned adoption of the budget June 13.

Little information has shared about HISD's projected budget for the 2024-25 school year, but Miles has said the district had to bridge a roughly $450 million "gap" to balance it. The district will keep its fund balance around $800 million-$850 million, Miles said.

The details

In terms of job cuts, Miles said the process of balancing the budget took aim largely at the district's central office. He said the teachers being let go following performance evaluations are not related to the $450 million gap, and no teaching positions are being cut.

The district previously confirmed a number of jobs related to providing wraparound services would be cut, but again declined to provide a number.

Miles said a large part of the $450 million gap could be attributed to decisions by the district's previous administration to use federal coronavirus relief money for recurring expenses—namely funding from the Elementary, and Secondary School Emergency Relief fund, or ESSER.

"One could argue those dollars should never have been put into recurring expenses, but they were," Miles said.

Action taken

HISD board managers also approved an agenda item at the May 10 meeting allowing the district to move forward with a "reduction in force." The item does not require the district to make any job cuts, but opens up the possibility for cuts across a wide range of positions.

"Annually, this item is brought forward to facilitate the ability of schools and departments to implement a reduction in force for teachers and other employees holding a term contract," according to the agenda language.

What they're saying

A number of public speakers at the May 10 meeting spoke out against the cutting of jobs in the wraparound services department. Some speakers, citing lack of transparency in the budgeting process, said their lack of trust in the district make it difficult to support a potential bond election.

Texas House District Rep. Shawn Thierry, D-Houston, was among the public speakers to oppose the district's cutting of wraparound service professionals.

"I have seen first hand the benefits of wraparound services for our students getting additional support," she said. "While we understand and recognize that we don’t want to cut in the classroom, wraparound specialists actually have a direct impact on what happens in the classroom."

In a news release, Liz Silva, incoming parent teacher organization president at Crockett Elementary School, said a May 13 protest was being organized over Principal Alexis Clark being dismissed, which "came without disclosed reasons, stirring unrest among the school community," according to the release.

In a May 13 news release, groups associated with the Meyerland Middle School protest said employees were given the choice to resign or face a "conference for the record," which is followed by a vote by the state-appointed board of managers on whether or not to renew the contract. The Meyerland principal, Auden Sarabia, was named 2023 Middle School Principal of the Year.

"The proper existing HISD protocols were not followed in the dismissal of the educators, and the process was also in direct contradiction of common employment law practices," officials said in the release.

Community Impact is working to confirm more information about the status of principals at these and other schools.

What's next

The upcoming public budget workshop is set for 5 p.m. on May 16 in the board conference room at the Hattie Mae White Support Center, 4400 W. 18th St., Houston.