Houston Federation of Teachers wins an injunction in lawsuit against HISD superintendent, board

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Friday, September 1, 2023
Teachers' union sues HISD over 'illegal' new teacher evaluation system
The Houston Federation of Teachers sued Superintendent Mike Miles and the new board of managers over what they call an 'illegal' evaluation system.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- Houston teachers got an early win in their latest battle with new Superintendent Mike Miles on Thursday when a Harris County judge granted a temporary restraining order to halt Miles' overhaul of how teachers in HISD are evaluated.

The Houston Federation of Teachers filed a lawsuit on Wednesday, alleging that Miles and the board violated Texas Education Code requirements when they developed teacher evaluations, saying their system was created illegally.

Specifically, the teachers' union says the violation came in by not getting input from teachers and other stakeholders during the process. Therefore, they sought a temporary restraining order to stop the evaluations from being implemented.

ABC13 talked with Jackie Anderson, head of the HFT, after the decision came down.

"We are excited because we feel that the district, Mike Miles, and the board of managers should be held to the same accountability that they would hold us to as educators. Mr. Miles has said that that system is not rigorous enough, but there are ways in which an evaluation system is to be implemented," Anderson said.

The evaluations are tied to teachers' employment and pay.

Over the summer, Miles said that teachers and principals' pay will be tied to performance.

According to the lawsuit, the district didn't include the schools' Shared Decision Making Committees, thus violating state code.

The union says that the district spent two years working with teachers on an appraisal system called the Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS), which is used in the rest of the state, our partners at the Houston Chronicle report. But the lawsuit claims that Miles and the board scrapped the T-TESS system in favor of their new local appraisal system known as Policy DNA.

"The hollowed-out version of DNA approved by the board of managers does not contain any performance criteria, and it is unknown what the criteria will be for evaluating a teacher's performance," the suit alleges.

The next hearing is scheduled for Sept. 11 as the intense controversy and scrutiny around the Texas Education Agency's takeover of HISD and Miles' aggressive changes continue to swirl.

"If (Miles) decides that he's going to make a real effort to work with us jointly, we can listen to him. But he needs to listen to us. And we need to meet in the middle. He has not shown any effort at all to do that," Anderson said.

ABC13 has repeatedly contacted HISD for interviews, but the district maintains it will not comment on pending legal matters, as expressed in a statement:

"The Houston Independent School District cannot comment on a pending legal matter. The Superintendent and the School Board remain focused on the critical work of ensuring HISD prepares all its students for the world and workplace of Destination 2035 and allow the legal process to run its course. We will not answer any additional questions until the matter has concluded."

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