HOUSTON, Texas - There will be cuts of employees within Houston ISD.
On Thursday, the school district's board of trustees approved a reduction of force for teachers and other campus-based employees, as well as certain central office workers who hold term and continuing contracts. Positions in critical shortage areas, which include, but are not limited to, secondary math, science, and English, bilingual education, and some special education, were exempt from the cuts.
According to HISD, reduction in force is approved every year, but this year is different from others.
"This year is much different because our budget reality is such that we know our workforce will actually be reduced unlike anything we've seen in recent memory," HISD Board of Education President Rhonda Skillern-Jones said. "We wanted to make this decision in the most responsible way possible and ensure we minimize the impact to classrooms."
HISD has a budget shortfall of more than $115 million to deal with. Add to that, the school district will be looking to replace outgoing superintendent Richard Carranza.
Even before Thursday's meeting, parents feared what that will mean in the classroom.
"I think its totally ridiculous. Teachers are over-worked and under-paid. We need more of them. We need better quality teachers," said Stephen Carey, whose grandchild attends an HISD elementary school.
The Houston Federation of Teachers said budget cuts could mean as many as 700 positions involved in this "reduction in force." HISD did not yet determine the exact number of cuts.
"There's a level of uncertainty that's occupying their minds right now," said Zeph Capo, of Houston Federation of Teachers, before the board meeting.
Capo, though, is encouraged that the deficit is believed to be half of what it once was.
"I don't want people leaving tonight thinking they've gotta go find a job at another district. We are not quite there yet," Capo said.
In a statement released today by Skillern-Jones, she said in part, "We wanted to be responsible and to make sure we were minimizing the impact to classrooms."
Parents wonder how you can do that if the targets are teachers.
"I know we have a fresh, $300,000-plus salary opened up and maybe it's time to take a look at that and trim those other areas," said parent Tony Orozco, who references the outgoing superintendent, Richard Carranza.
Carranza this week surprised even the school board by announcing his acceptance of a job as the chancellor of schools in New York City.
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On Thursday, he issued a statement touting his accomplishments and wishing everyone in the district well.
That statement read in part: "HISD and the Houston community are #HoustonStrong, and that strength is built not on one individual, but on the contributions of many. I urge you to continue being an advocate for your child and investing time every day in their success. I wish the HISD community well in the future, and I look forward to seeing the great things that come out of this remarkable city."
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In a bit of fortunate news, the HISD board said the search for the next superintendent won't cost the district anything. According to the board, the contract with the firm that brought Carranza states a clause that will make the search for the next position-holder free of charge in the event that their candidate leaves within 2 years of hire. Carranza departs after just 20 months on the job.