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More than 500 positions will be cut from Houston Independent School District’s central office staff, the first round of staff downsizing that will further clear the way for new Superintendent Mike Miles’ plan to overhaul campuses across the district.
Miles has been vocal about trimming a central office he described as “bloated” and “amorphous” upon his appointment last month to run Houston ISD by Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath. But Friday’s announcement offered the first glimpse into which departments will be impacted by his plans.
Miles said about 500 to 600 positions will be cut from academics-related departments, along with 40 from human resources. More departments will be affected in the coming weeks, he said.
Miles estimated the cuts from academic departments total 30% of current positions, about 3% of which were already vacant.
“Reorganizations are hard. There are real people behind the numbers,” Miles said Friday. “We want to make sure that we do this in a way that’s respectful but also in enough time for people to apply for other jobs.”
Houston ISD had about 3,600 staff members classified as part of “professional support” or “central administration” in 2021-22, the most recent year with available state data. The district reported about 23,700 employees across Houston ISD.
District officials have begun notifying those affected by the first round of dismissals, which is expected to be complete by July 17, Miles said. More job cuts will impact communications, school leadership, operations, finance and professional development departments throughout the year.
“Those we didn’t want to disturb right now, because we’re actually in the middle of transporting kids [to] summer school and nutrition services,” Miles said. “They’re larger organizations and it takes more time to make sure we do it in a way that is sound.”
For the initial round of cuts, department chiefs first assessed the feasibility of cutting vacant positions before moving to those filled. Employees affected by cuts can apply for vacant positions that have been retained, Miles said.
Members of Houston ISD’s newly appointed board voted unanimously last month to cut $30 million from the central office budget, which will help fund Miles’ plans for reshaping schools in the district. He plans to overhaul 150 schools by 2025, including 28 campuses — coined the “New Education System,” or NES, schools — primarily located in the city’s low-income neighborhoods that will see immediate changes ahead of the next school year.
Miles’ plan for NES schools involves using large pay increases and stipends to attract highly rated teachers to low-performing schools. In addition, several principals have been replaced and job responsibilities will be restructured ahead of the school year.
Morath tapped Miles and nine new board members to lead Houston ISD on June 1 and ousted the elected board. The punishment was largely tied to chronically poor academic ratings at Wheatley High School. Many community members and teachers have blasted Miles’ plans and the ouster of Houston ISD’s elected board.
But dozens of principals have signaled their interest in joining Miles’ plans ahead of schedule. Those who choose to take part in a pared-down version of the NES program in the upcoming school year will see a more standardized curriculum, potential cuts to non-teaching staff and new employee evaluation systems at their campuses. Principals must decide by Monday whether to voluntarily join.
The decision to cut employees is a “people process,” Miles said Friday, and one that he recognizes will be nerve-wracking for affected staff and their families.
“This, by no means, means that people haven’t been working hard or that people aren’t doing the job that they were assigned to do,” Miles said. “This is about making sure we right-size central office, and also work most efficiently.”
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