HFT Files SuitAgainst HISD Superintendent and the Board of Managers

Houston Federation of Teachers say they will file a lawsuit against Houston ISD Superintendent Mike Miles and the Board of Managers.
Houston Federation of Teachers say they will file a lawsuit against Houston ISD Superintendent Mike Miles and the Board of Managers. Screenshot
On Wednesday, the Houston Federation of Teachers filed a lawsuit against Houston ISD Superintendent Miles Miles and the district’s state-appointed Board of Managers, claiming that Miles’s new teacher evaluations violate the Texas Education Code.

The union is requesting a temporary restraining order to prevent district officials from carrying out teacher appraisals, which will later determine the amount a teacher is making, according to Miles’ new pay-per-performance model.

Chris Tritico, the attorney representing the union argues that the new evaluation system violates state laws as it was not developed with the input of the district’s Shared Decision Making Committees – advisory groups established on each campus.

“They took away from the committees and allowed Mike Miles to develop his own system in secret,” he said.

According to reports, Miles said teacher appraisals will not determine teachers’ pay until next school year. However, principals’ evaluations will be assessed and correspond to their pay during the current school year.

Miles refuted the unions’ claims that the Shared Decision Making Committees were not involved in the evaluation development process. He said the committees, district employees and community members were consulted.

Tritico said, “I’d like to find one (committee) that says they were,” when the Houston Press asked about Miles’ response to the unions’ allegation.

Before the Texas Education Agency took over the district, teachers were evaluated under the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System or T-TESS.

According to the suit, instructors received extensive training on the system to understand how their performance was assessed and how to use the information provided from evaluations to improve.

However, this appraisal system was thrown out, and a new policy adopted by the board of managers indicated that district teachers would be appraised annually by the evaluation system established by the superintendent and his team.

The union had planned a press conference on Thursday to discuss the lawsuit but announced that they were postponing the event due to a delay in court proceedings.

Houston Federation of Teachers President Jackie Anderson’s statement on the lawsuit:

"Superintendent Miles has grossly and illegally expanded both his power and that of the appointed school board. He is refusing to follow the law by shutting out the voices of teachers, parents, students and other community members and punishing educators in the name of streamlining the district. This is autocratic, not democratic or even legal. We will not stand by and allow him to run roughshod over this district and destroy all the progress this community has made without a fight."

"At every step of the way, Mike Miles has sought to silence dissent and silence the voices of educators. His attempt to dilute our consultation agreement with the district is another example. I have news for this administration: You may not want to meet us at the bargaining table, but you will see us in court."

Texas American Federation of Teachers President Zeph Capo's statement in response to Houston Federation of Teachers filing the lawsuit:

“Starve, shame and shutter. That’s the playbook. Texas state leaders took over HISD to consolidate power, installing their own hand-picked board of managers and overhauling district policy with no community input. This was not about poor-performing schools; in fact, it wasn’t about the students at all. This is about the state’s long-term plot to dismantle our democracy in Harris County. They have attacked our elections, attacked our elected leaders and seem intent on dismantling the parts of our school system that are the very reasons our students want to come to school."
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Faith Bugenhagen is on staff as a news reporter for The Houston Press, assigned to cover the Greater-Houston area.