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Houston ISD principals question resignation demands as district moves forward with layoffs

Several Houston ISD principals have spoken out against the district following board superintendents’ decision to move forward with a series of principal and teacher layoffs at their school meeting. May 23.

The overview

More than 200 community members registered to speak during the public comment portion of the meeting, with the majority expressing support for teachers and principals who were asked to resign or be fired.

At the May 23 meeting, school board trustees voted to terminate or not renew the contracts of an undisclosed number of teachers and principals districtwide.

HISD Superintendent Mike Miles, who was appointed to the board by the Texas Education Agency last June, addressed the layoffs at the meeting.

“We are well aware that these reductions are not just numbers: they are real people,” Miles said. “The central office and leaders of all departments have been very empathetic and sympathetic to the people we have laid off. We understand this is real and I’m sorry we had to make these cuts, but they were necessary.”

As of press time, HISD officials have not responded to multiple efforts by Impact on the community to confirm the identity or number of employees who will not be returning to the district next year.

How we got here

Since May 16, several protests in response to the layoffs have taken place outside the district’s campuses, including Crockett and Herod elementary schools as well as Meyerland Performing and Visual Arts Middle School.

On May 25, more than 600 community members gathered outside Houston City Hall to voice their concerns about the layoffs, calling on Miles and the board to resign.

Although the district provided no specific reason for the principal layoffs, officials said individual campus assessments created by the district were used to make personnel decisions.

“In most cases, if a school has an A or B grade, it is a clear indication that the principal is creating the type of learning environment students need,” officials said in a statement. “When a school is rated C or lower, it often means it is not serving students well on a consistent basis.”

To look closer

Jessica Berry, principal of Herod Elementary School, said she received a letter asking her to resign from her position on May 8.

In a written response sent to the district on May 14, Berry told HISD officials that she would not resign, stating that she was considering taking legal action against the district because she received the request while She was on intermittent family leave.

Additionally, Berry said his resignation request was made after he told his direct supervisor that the district had not posted its special education operating procedures on the state legal framework website, which is legally required by the TEA.

“I reported where we were violating state and federal laws, and then they came back and wrote me, and a week and a half later asked me to resign,” Berry said. “It says: ‘You have expressed your concerns’ in my article. »

While Berry said she still has not received a response from the district regarding her employment status or its decision to decline the resignation request, she said she was removed from all of her HISD accounts on the 25th. may. On May 28, she said she was told she would work from home for the remainder of the school year.

Berry said she will wait for a response from the district before deciding whether to take legal action against HISD.

Impact on the community contacted HISD to confirm when it last published special education operating procedures and whether Berry’s concerns were included in documented articles. HISD did not respond as of this article’s publication.

Neff Elementary School Principal Amanda Wingard, who was named HISD’s 2023 Elementary Teacher of the Year, was among more than 200 people who registered to speak at the May 23 meeting.

“I was asked to resign because of the administration’s definition of leadership,” Wingard said. “I ask questions respectfully, in the best interest of the students. For this, I am proud. We work in fear: fear of asking the wrong questions, fear of not meeting unknown expectations, fear of subjective failure.

And after

HISD’s teacher and principal layoffs come as district officials explore options for a bond election that could total up to $5 billion to fund improvements to the district’s aging infrastructure.

Over the past few months, many community members speaking at district board meetings have ended their comments with the phrase, “No trust, no connection.”

If approved, voters within HISD boundaries would consider approving the bond in the Nov. 5 election.