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Q: Which schools are at risk and why?
A: There are ten schools under threat of sanctions this year from the TEA, as well as the district as a whole: Kashmere High School, Blackshear Elementary, Wheatley High School, Worthing High School, Dogan Elementary School, Highland Heights Elementary School, Woodson K-8, Henry Middle School, Mading Elementary, Wesley Elementary School.
These schools (and the district as a whole) are at risk for sanctions for being labeled “failing” for too many years in a row. In 2015, a bill was passed in the Texas Legislature that forces the Texas Education Agency Commission (currently Mike Morath) to take one of two actions once a school is labeled as “failing” for several consecutive years: close the school or replace the entire school board with an appointed board of managers.
Q. What action is the HISD board considering for each school?
A. HISD has not yet made public detailed plans for each school. However, the information they have released includes plans to “partner”/charter the following schools: Dogan, Mading, Henry, Kashmere, Wheatley, Worthing, And plans to “close and restart” the following schools: Blackshear, Highland Heights, Wesley, and Woodson.
TEA rules of implementation of this law state that the district must surrender all hiring and firing of administrators and teachers to partners. This means many, if not all, teachers at these schools will not have their same jobs next year, no matter how much their students improve this year. The rules also state that HISD must exempt the partner from following all HISD policy when they enter into a partnership. This means important policies the board has put in place over the years, such as how teacher contracts are structured, nondiscrimination policies and the suspension ban could all be waived in these contracts. Additionally, each school that is placed under the control of a partnership would be governed independently by a separate, appointed board. Parents at these schools will lose their representation by the HISD board of trustees as their schools will be governed by an appointed board that is not elected and cannot be voted out. Which HISD policies will or will not apply at these schools, who will govern them and who will teach the students is all very unclear. TEA proposed rules make it clear that HISD will be giving up almost total control of these campuses.
Closure/restarts are different. For those four schools, the board is considering a plan whereby the campus would be “closed” at the end of this school year, all teachers and administrators would no longer work at that campus (it is unclear if they would have jobs elsewhere in HISD), and the campus would reopen with a different set of students, starting from the lowest grade level and adding one grade at a time. Current students would be rezoned or bussed to other schools, presumably further away from their neighborhoods.
Q. I heard that these schools would not be chartered. What is the difference between chartering a campus and these “partnerships” that HISD is considering?
A. Very little, practically speaking. HISD is not currently considering partnering with one of the big state charters, such as KIPP or YES Prep, but they are considering partnering with universities and nonprofits. The law under which HISD is considering this action specifically states that these universities and nonprofits will have to seek state approval to become a charter. One of the entities they are considering recently spun off from the university they were affiliated with (Johns Hopkins), and is now a school/charter operator running 42 schools in 14 states. They appear to look very much like a charter operator.
Q. Why is the HISD board considering this action now?
A. SB 1882 (85R) passed last session incentivizes districts to take this route when their schools are failing by giving school districts two years off the accountability system and extra money per student. The board is considering this action now because the results of STAAR scores, which are the basis for labeling schools as “failing”, will not be in until August 2018. The TEA has told districts they must submit their plans by mid-April, and they must have contracts signed so staff is in place by August when school starts. The TEA is pressuring HISD to take action.
Q. What should the HISD board of trustees do?
A. They should refuse to disenfranchise these communities through closure OR charter. Neither is a long term solution and further hurts communities that have been underserved. They should retain independent counsel who can fully advise them on their options, and then should counsel advise, sue the state to halt these actions as they will devastate the HISD community. There is much evidence that the accountability system on which all these school ratings are based is flawed. The board should also work immediately to put as many resources as possible in these schools, at the direction of the communities they serve.
Q. What can I do?
• Write your school board member, and tell them you are opposed to closures AND partnerships/charters and to take legal action against the Texas Education Agency.
• Show up at a board meeting and make a speech if you are comfortable. Just showing up is also valuable if you don’t feel comfortable speaking. Board meetings are Thursday, March 8th, and the final vote is expected to be taken on Thursday, April 12th.
• Show up at a community meeting as the trustees go out to each of these campuses to explain the plan. All meetings are at 6 p.m.
- Tuesday Mar 20 Henry Middle School
- Wednesday Mar 21 Worthing/Woodson @Worthing
- Follow Houston Justice Coalition and HISD Parent Advocates on Facebook to stay informed about other actions that may take place between now and the April board meeting.
Trustee Rhonda Skillern-Jones: firstname.lastname@example.org
Trustee Jolanda Jones: email@example.com
Trustee Anne Sung: firstname.lastname@example.org
Trustee Sergio Lira: email@example.com
Trustee Holly Flynn-Vilaseca: firstname.lastname@example.org
Trustee Elizabeth Santos: email@example.com
Trustee Sue Deigaard: firstname.lastname@example.org
Trustee Diana Davila: email@example.com
Trustee Wanda Adams: firstname.lastname@example.org