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Houston ISD superintendent regrets closing schools during winter storm

HOUSTON – This afternoon the HISD superintendent hosted a news conference to address issues at campuses during the freezing weather.

Some may think the superintendent downplayed what happened at HISD today and Monday.

But superintendent Mike Miles emphasized that out of the entire district only three schools needed to close today.

While he said it’s something he take seriously, he says it was only a small percentage of schools in the district.

But some of those schools didn’t have hot water or even heat for parts of the day.

There were even some leaking pipes reported.

ESSENTIAL WORKERS

Miles says school employees are essential workers and they need to be on campus and so do students, so they can continue to receive high quality education.

Miles said that he had a conversation with Houston’s mayor about closing schools yesterday.

He said he appreciated the advice.

But he thinks, in hindsight, before cancelling classes yesterday, he should have place more consideration on the essential learning that was necessary that day.

VOTE NOW

Miles also mentioned that many HISD students depend on school for the food that they eat for the day.

‘[The mayor] made a decision for the city. I think he gave me good advice, the advice that he offered, I appreciate at the same time. I have to over time, build a culture of essentialness. And there’s only one way to build a culture of essentialness. If you believe we are essential. If you don’t believe that, then that’s a different argument. But I believe we’re essential. I believe that teachers are essential. I believe we provide public service, the absence of which would do great harm to this community. That’s a definition for me of what essential service means. In any case, I have to build that culture. And the only way to build that culture is to act like it and make decisions based on it. And over time, I need to be consistent with that because every time I’m not it diminishes the culture of essentialness. So that is something I’m going to have to consider going forward.’ – Mike Miles, HISD Superintendent

Right now Miles says his administration is working to figure out whether students will have to make up the day of instruction they missed Monday, he says that will depend on the TEA’s standards for instructional hours.

WHAT DO TEACHERS AND FACULTY THINK?

The early dismissals due to the weather-related issues from the freeze are raising some questions.

On KPRC 2 News at 3 p.m. Andy Cerota and Candace Burns spoke with president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, Jackie Anderson.

‘Not only should they have not been open yesterday, apparently, they should not have been open today. We had some over 20 calls this morning about schools that had no heat, complaints of thermostats and classrooms where the temperature was 49-50 degrees. That is unconscionable to expect students or teachers to be in classrooms where the temperature is that low. I did reach out to Mr. Miles, he basically told me that he was being informed of what happened by his EDS and area superintendents. So, he had everything under control. And yet I find that noon he was releasing some of the schools early because they still did not have heat. Today should have been a day to look at our schools assess the situation, find out what was going on before you allow students or teachers to come back into the classroom… [Members] said it was extremely cold the students had on hats, caps, gloves, coats and things of that nature while they were sitting there trying to take a test. There wasn’t even necessary. Just like it wasn’t necessary for them to be at school today. Teachers, we were told, their principal, some principals went to campuses yesterday to assess their viability for school. I don’t know if they reported that to Mr. Miles, I’m probably sure they didn’t, because they probably weren’t great. But, I started getting calls early this morning that schools were absolutely freezing, people sending me pictures of their hands that were numb, because it was extremely cold in these buildings. This is reckless behavior. And it’s totally unnecessary. Totally unnecessary. We have days built in the calendar but make up days that they could use rather than having people sit up in buildings that feel near like refrigerators… In the past, we have been able to sit down with the district in consultation when after the superintendent has had conversations with the mayor with emergency management system, and they have advised us on the best course of action if they are telling people to stay off the roads. Why is it necessary? Why HISD is the bus drivers, teachers, our parent to be bringing their children to school.’ – Jackie Anderson, President Houston Federation of Teachers

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