HISD board president: No one is safe from job cuts

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HISD's school board president talks with ABC13's Ted Oberg. (KTRK)

To suggest that Houston's school district is a ship without a captain may be to understate the dire situation the largest district in the state is facing.

The problems in front of HISD don't begin with the untimely departure of superintendent Richard Carranza, it only compounds them.

Already facing a tight budget, the state will take its "Robin Hood" payment from HISD to redistribute to other "less wealthy" districts. Harvey blew up the local tax base, lowering values and by proxy, the amount the district will receive in tax revenue. Fewer students in the district will mean further cuts.

That was all before this week's announcement that the person responsible for leading the district through these very serious problems was heading out the door.
"It's devastating," said HISD board president Rhonda Skillern-Jones.

"There isn't probably anyone that's not going to lose a job. We're going to have to cut the administrative positions. We're going to have to cut those jobs that are in those spaces that are not filled, that are vacant. We're going to have to cut custodians. We're going to have cut bus drivers, food service preparation, teachers. There's not any level of organizational structure within this that won't have to take a cut."

Skillern-Jones voted for cutting more last night. She says she did so not because she wanted to, but because she had to.

Parents and even students stood in front of the board asking for little or no cuts at some campuses.

"Parents who don't want to lose anything from their school then tell us where to double the double the losses. Which school would you like us to double the losses it so that you can maintain your same level of everything that you have," Skillern-Jones said.

And there's room to make cuts, she said.

"I do see extra people," she said.

At some campuses, there are up to 15 people with non-teaching jobs that could either be cut or reallocated, Skillern-Jones said.

"Those people can use be used differently and that money can be allocated differently without changing the level of education at that school."

As school officials put together who will ultimately be removed from the payroll, the earliest estimates of notifications would be about 10 days away, according to Skillern-Jones.

The strange side effect of the cuts means that some campuses may actually gain staffers as board members try to keep all school campuses at the same staffing levels.

"Places who've never had full-time librarians, people who've never had full-time nurses, people who've never had the ability to have a counselor or an [assistant principal]," Skillern-Jones said.

But the outlook for HISD doesn't get better. Next year's recapture payment is even bigger than this year's at a whopping $320 million dollars.

What does that mean?

"It means closing school doors."

TEA takeover worries

On top of the budget woes, HISD is facing a potential takeover of campuses or the district by the Texas Education Association because of underperforming schools. At least 10 schools have submitted "turnaround" plans to the state for approval.

Despite the threat, Skillern-Jones isn't worried.

"We're complying with what the state is asking us to do. We're coming up with plans for our schools where our board is moving in the same direction. We're on the same page and under the law we're meeting all the requirements that are asking."

"When you look at the schools that are on this list and you see the progress they've made since we've instituted the changes and are allocating the resources that they typically didn't, then you see progress. When progress is disrupted by an event like Harvey, then you should take that into consideration."

The top elected leader of HISD says don't be angry at the changes. Don't be angry at the TEA. Understand the problems and demand fairness.

"Anger doesn't get us anywhere, but the legislature needs to change the funding formula. It's not going to get better if they don't. It's only going to get worse. There are going to be more cuts. There are going to be school closures. You can't expect us to operate with this continual drain on our resources."

The estimates stand now that 10 to 20 percent of the $115 million in cuts will come from on-campus cuts. Another 30 percent will come from administration cuts, who were cut 20 percent last year, Skillern-Jones said.

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educationTed Oberg InvestigatesHISDhouston isdschool boardschool cutsHouston
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