Key Agenda Items
Last Thursday, September 2, 2021, the Board met for their monthly agenda review meeting. The Board voted on several agenda items, including altering the Board monitoring calendar for their goals and constraints, changes to Board policy recommended by TASB, and changes to the Board constraints to add targets for constraint progress measures.
Notably, the Board chose to approve the changes to the constraint progress measures with the exception of two, which they postponed for three months. Trustees expressed concern about progress measures related to expanding high-quality prekindergarten services and ensuring ESL students have access to strong teachers. Further evaluation of these votes will be provided in our monthly trustee report cards.
The COVID-19 pandemic continues to be a challenge for the district in terms of student safety and learning. The Board must continue to address the effects of the pandemic, while still continuing regular district operations. Houston GPS would like to highlight the following areas of concern:
- The COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent interruptions to HISD’s normal learning schedule exacerbated inequities amongst students. Many students struggled with remote learning, with 51% of students failing at least one class in the fall 2020 semester. Data quality concerns persisted during the 2020-2021 school year, making it difficult for the district to accurately monitor student outcomes. With the new school year approaching and ESSER funding expanding the possibilities for addressing learning loss and inequity, the Board and the district must continue to monitor and focus on student outcomes and innovative ways to support students.
- In June 2020, 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 2020, Board members expressed interest in having a second workshop on the topic and planned to organize the workshop for January or February. The Board’s committee has been disbanded and some trustees have indicated that changes were made to police procedure. The police policy manual is not available online for the public to review and several trustees still have questions about the changes that were made. The Board should revisit this commitment publicly.
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. Over the last two years, the Board was able to pass a budget without delaying until the end of June, but the district has passed a deficit budget in at least the last five years, often subject to delays. To ensure the budget is passed within a reasonable timeframe, not subject to late amendments, and fiscally sound, the Board must start early with establishing priorities. Considering the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and the influx of ESSER funding, the Board and administration must now also be thinking about how to maintain the new programs and funding for student support when resources are no longer available. To see our budget recommendations, visit our blog.