Key Agenda Items
On November 5, 2020, the Board met for its monthly agenda review meeting, where they voted on the second and final reading of their board goals and constraints, which will guide the district for the next five years. The Board has been working on these goals for a few months through a series of facilitated workshop and approved the first reading of the proposed goals at a special meeting on October 22, 2020.
The proposed goals included three required by the state for early literacy, early math, and college, career, and military readiness. They also included a goal centered around reading for special education students and a goal concerning literacy for economically disadvantaged kindergarten students. The full language of the proposed goals and constraints that the board considered can be found on the agenda for this meeting.
During discussion about the proposed goals, the board was divided on including the goal around literacy for kindergarten students, with proponents citing research about the importance of supporting students early to close achievement gaps and opponents concerned about adding stakes to assessments already being administered by the district for kindergarten students. The trustees voted 5 to 4 to remove this goal. With that change, the Board approved the 5-year goals with a 7 to 2 vote.
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. The district has been offering both in-person and remote learning since October 19, as required by state regulations for funding. Many students have struggled with remote learning and will likely need additional supports to remain on pace with their learning before the pandemic. The addition of face-to-face learning comes with potential disruptions to maintain the safety of students and staff. With learning split between multiple models of instruction and students still facing uncertainty due to the pandemic, the Board must continue to receive updates from administration about what additional efforts are being made to ensure all students are able to safely continue their learning regardless of learning environment. To review HISD’s reopening plan, visit the district’s reopening page.
2. In June 2020, the Board approved changes to district policy regarding charter and other external performance contracts. As part of these changes, Board policy now requires the district to notify charter organizations if the district intends to revoke or fail to renew their agreements by October 31. The Board plans to consider the approval and nonrenewal of charter contracts at the November 12 board meeting as outlined above.
3. 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. Initially, the Board and administration were going to have a workshop on the topic in September, but experienced some delays. The committee is hosting this workshop tomorrow, November 10 at 5 pm. The agenda and ways to watch the workshop can be found on the Board website.
4. 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 if 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.