Key Agenda Items
On January 6, 2021, the Board held a special meeting to interview three search firms to conduct a national Superintendent search, which the Board voted to move forward with in November. The three search firms interviewed included McPherson & Jacobson LLC, HYA Executive Search, and JG Consulting. The majority of the trustees (6) supported selecting JG Consulting and the Board voted unanimously to approve the search firm.
At Agenda Review on January 7, 2021, the Board voted unanimously to extend leave benefits for staff for situations where they are required to quarantine due to a COVID-19 diagnosis or due to close contact with an individual confirmed to have the virus, and the employee cannot work remotely. The leave benefits allow employees up to 80 hours or 10 days of emergency paid sick leave for this purpose.
Although normal school board operations have been interrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, there are still items the school board must address and new areas of concern created by the current crisis. Houston GPS would like to highlight the following items:
1. The closure of the district, while necessary to ensure the safety of the HISD community, has exacerbated inequities amongst students. Many students have struggled with remote learning, with 42% of students failing at least one class in the first grading period. The addition of face-to-face learning comes with potential disruptions to maintain the safety of students and staff. The January agenda, like the one in December, includes concerns about data quality during the pandemic, which must be addressed moving forward if remote assessments are given, so that the Board can accurately monitor student outcomes.
2. In June, the Board made a commitment to examine the role of police in the district to confront systemic racism and police violence against people of color. Considering the disproportionate discipline and forced interaction with police that students of color, especially black boys, face in public education, this is a pressing equity concern. In December, Board members expressed interest in having a second workshop on the topic, which should be organized for either later in January or February.
3. In the past, the Board has faced last-minute changes to the district budget and budget approval votes that cut close to the deadline for the district. Last year, the Board was able to pass a budget without delaying until the end of June, but this was the first time in several years. In order to ensure the budget is passed within a reasonable timeframe and not subject to late amendments, the Board should set its budget priorities early to guide the administration in developing the 2021-2022 budget.
4. The HISD Board President should assign school board members to committees in January. Generally, this is not done publicly but should be done at the start of each new year so that committees can continue their work without delay. Each committee would ideally be made up of at least one returning committee member for consistency and at least one newly elected trustee to get new voices involved. The Board President should consider trustee preferences and individual skillsets when making committee assignments.
5. At the beginning of each year, the HISD Board elects new officers for the year in January.
Core Value Evaluation: Collaboration
The Board must demonstrate Collaboration when picking the new president, who must work with all members of the board and the superintendent, authentically engage with HISD community members with transparency, and be willing to make tough decisions if it is best for children.