HISD Cuts Positions, Saving Millions, Looking to Trim More

At least 269 positions are being eliminated in the Houston Independent School District effective this June when contract renewals are due, saving the district more than $8 million within two years, it was announced at today's HISD budget agenda workshop.

Also today, more than 800 HISD employees are getting letters from the district telling them either that their position is being eliminated or that because of restructuring they will start reporting to a new boss or that their position funded by Title I monies may be eliminated in the next year but will definitely be gone by June 2011.

"It's confusing," said Chief Financial Officer Melinda Garrett, who stayed after with the media to work out the numbers which come from a variety of funding sources.

She pointed out that some of the 269 positions aren't filled right now and that the people in the remaining positions may be able to find work elsewhere in the district. HISD has instilled a hiring freeze until these present employees are considered for other positions. The district is hoping attrition will take care of some of it.

Superintendent Terry Grier has headed up a reorganization of the regional office system and 80 (of the 269 total) positions are being eliminated there. These positions are paid for with a mix of general fund and grant money, and the district will save $3.058 million in general fund money and $1.488 in grant money for a total of $4.469 million. The grant money will then be "repurposed" to pay for other district expenses.

The district is preparing for a budget shortfall from the state in the next fiscal year. To get ready for that, it is also looking at terminating 268 "Title I Part A stimulus" positions this year, that will lose their funding next year. It will be left to the individual principals whether to keep those positions this year, Grier said. All employees affected were told when they hired on that the positions were only funded for two years.

Four positions will be lost because Title II money can't be used for class-size reduction. The federal government will no longer fund the drug-education program so 12 positions are being eliminated there. The media services department is being revamped and seven positions are being eliminated there.

A total of 32.5 positions ($1.4 million) funded by the Targeted School Assistance program are being eliminated and returned to Deputy Chief Academic Officer Chuck Morris, who'll make the determination where the one-year-at-a-time funding goes next.

Again, what is confusing besides the money is the fact that while some positions are being terminated, new ones may be created to fill a different need. So the total number of positions lost may be 269, but it probably will be more.

A total of 122.4 positions under Title I Part A regular funds which total $2.2 million in grants are listed for termination under the plan.

Still to come: Grier and his administration think 79 employee positions to serve the needs of 186 homebound students is way out of whack and is not taking advantage of new technologies.

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Margaret Downing is the editor-in-chief who oversees the Houston Press newsroom and its online publication. She frequently writes on a wide range of subjects.
Contact: Margaret Downing