'School feels like jail': State of the District draws protestors as HISD addresses school budgets

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Friday, March 22, 2024
'There's no creativity': HISD's State of the District draws protestors
Houston ISD Superintendent Mike Miles addresses his plans at the first State of the District amid protests in downtown Houston.

HOUSTON, Texas (KTRK) -- The state of Houston ISD's report was different depending on where you were standing at a hotel in downtown Houston.

The rain wasn't the only thing pounding the pavement. Armed with umbrellas, signs, and a bullhorn, a group of protestors had a message for someone inside the Marriot Marquis.

The group was outside the hotel because HISD Superintendent Mike Miles was inside, giving his State of the District address.

"My state of the district, to use his sports analogies that he talks about the percentage of this," a parent, Christina Wilkerson, said. "I would say 50% of his fan base is leaving the stadium. He's losing this game."

The concerns ranged from not having elected school trustees, dwindling libraries, and losing teachers.

"They are miserable," another parent, Lauren Simmons, said. "School feels like a prison. School feels like jail. There's no creativity or fun."

"Our students are in classrooms and unhappy," Wilkerson said. "They're filled with worksheets. People are leaving the district in droves."

These are concerns that weren't just heard outside. As Miles delivered his State of the District, several people interrupted and were removed from the room.

"Some of the concerns I understand out there because we are raising expectations and raising accountability," Miles said, acknowledging protesters' grievances. "That's why there is a level of anxiety."

Miles said the district faces financial issues. However, he saw some bright spots nearly a year after the state takeover and appointed him superintendent.

He said mid-year results show academics are on the rise.

Miles also said that 97% of teachers intend to return, and increased pay isn't only keeping them around; many others are applying to join the district.

"Despite the noise, 'this is ruining schools,'" Miles said. "'Teachers don't want to work there. Teachers are depressed,' and all that. That isn't the truth."

However, 13 Investigates discovered last month the district has the highest teacher turnover rate in the area. About 600 teachers left this year, which is double compared to the same time last year.

"The rain couldn't stop us," Simmons said. "Imagine if it wasn't raining, and (a) sunny day. There would be even more people out here."

"It says that we are in this for the long haul," one parent, Liz Silva, said. "We are going to be fighting rain or shine."

An element that couldn't get in the way of this group pounding the pavement.

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