I hope Supt. Mike Miles and the new board of managers that Education Commissioner Mike Morath has chosen to lead the state’s largest school district can continue – and improve upon -- the progress that already was being made by HISD educators before Morath pushed aside the district’s locally elected school board and superintendent.
The futures of HISD’s students depend on it.
But the last time Miles took over a big Texas school district – Dallas ISD – his three-year tenure from 2012 to 2015 was mainly marked by controversy and turbulence that ended in him resigning in the middle of his contract. Some school board members were happy to see him go. That group, however, must not have included Morath, who was on the board at the time.
Miles had big ideas for Dallas, but he often seemed as interested in playing dictator and amassing his own power structure as he did in improving outcomes for students.
In the name of “reform,” he assembled a highly paid management team that helped him create a toxic working environment for many teachers and other employees and a hostile learning environment for students. One of his chiefs of staff resigned shortly before he was indicted on federal bribery charges – unrelated to DISD -- that resulted in a conviction and prison sentence.
Miles also employed a human resources manager for the district, who according to an internal investigation reported by The Dallas Morning News, lied, bullied staffers and falsified records.
Teachers were saddled with excessive paperwork and excessive meetings, and some were chastised by administrators in front of their students during surprise classroom visits. He also imposed an evaluation system that did not truly measure the work that educators were doing.
On some occasions, Miles ignored the will of school board members who had been elected by district parents and other local taxpayers. He won’t have to worry about elected board members in his Houston job, but how well will he work with the appointed board whose members Morath also has made responsible for student success in the district?
Miles once fired three principals in Dallas who had the support of a board majority. One of the fired principals had been praised by the then-board president for her work and strong engagement with parents.
At another time, he ordered Dallas ISD police to physically remove one school board member from a school campus in the district she was elected to represent.
NEA-Dallas, TSTA’s local affiliate, had long demanded Miles’ removal before he finally quit.
The state took over Houston ISD because of failing STAAR scores. According to The Dallas Morning News, STAAR scores stayed flat or dropped in Dallas ISD during Miles’ tenure.
The Morning News also reported that, as Miles was departing, he compared the Dallas school district to Camelot and himself to King Arthur.
Dallas ISD is not Camelot. Houston ISD isn’t Camelot either, and it doesn’t need King Arthur. It needs a superintendent who will respect and listen to HISD teachers, not bully them. HISD teachers already had done a lot to improve the district’s performance before Morath intervened and Miles arrived. They will do more, if the new superintendent doesn’t drive them away.