Houston Independent School District, Texas
This was last evaluated of Feb. 28, 2013.
- Elected Officials
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- Audits are archived to 2007.
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HISD has a $1.6 billion budget for the 2010-11 school year.   In 2010, the school reported a $19 million federal funding shortfall. The school is making up for it by having individual school district pay for summer school, normally a $28 million cost that is covered by federal funds. It would cut the budget from $21 million to $1.9 million, asking individual schools to cover most of the cost.
The school is expecting to have to cut anywhere from $70 million to $163 million from its budget in 2011. The school is preparing to brace for the cuts and has asked the communities opinion on how the savings should be made—from 4 day work weeks to cutting summer programs. Superintendent Terry Grier has said he is going to try and avoid cutting any jobs.
The Council of the Great City Schools found that the school was operating its $1 billion fund for major building projects with substantial financial errors, no annual budgets, standard contract forms or budget evaluations. The $1 billion bond will go towards building 23 new schools and renovating 134 others.
The district agreed to fund Lee High School $1 million in emergency repairs after it was revealed that the parts of the school had sunk 9 inches into the ground.
Paula Harris, president of the Houston school district trustees e-mailed, Stephen Pottinger, the district's then-procurement director about a business run by one of her best friends, records show -- five months before the school board voted to approve $8 million in contracts including the friend's company. 
Longtime Houston Independent School District trustee Larry Marshall met earlier this year with Dr. Kenneth D. Wells, HISD Superintendent Terry Grier and the school district's chief financial officer "about engaging Dr. Wells' company for health consulting and possible savings," according to e-mails and other documents released by the school district this morning. Marshall accepted an all-expenses-paid trip to Costa Rica last year to learn about "medical tourism," which set the stage for the doctor to land a no-bid consulting gig with the school district worth up to $640,000. 
HISD recently cut ties with e-Rate after learning the company was once partly owned by William “Bill” Edwards, HISD's HISD’s assistant superintendent for technology who was forced to resign in 2005.
HISD's performance in the late 1990s and 2000s was dubbed the "Houston Miracle" by the media. A 2003 state audit of HISD's performance caused more controversy. One of the district's most publicized accomplishments during the Paige era was a dramatic reduction in dropout rates. When 16 secondary schools, including Sharpstown High School, were audited, it was found that most of the students who left school from those schools in 2000-2001 should have been counted as dropouts, but were not. It was found that the administrators at Sharpstown deliberately changed the dropout rate at the school. The Sharpstown controversy resulted in a recommendation to label the entire HISD as "unacceptable." Former Sharpstown Assistant Principal Robert Kimball, found by an external investigator to have been involved in the false reporting, asserts that HISD coerced administrators at many schools to lie on dropout rates. HISD asserts that the fraud is only contained to Sharpstown, and that the false statistics at other schools were caused by confusion related to the state's system of tracking students who leave school. An article in The New York Times disputed the accuracy and usage of survey figures from Yates High School and Sharpstown High School indicating that close to 100% of the students intended to attend universities.
In 2010, the school agreed to spend $275,000 reviewing its magnet schools performance. The review found that the $17 million program for magnet school has some serious problems. Among them were:
- Lack of funding
- No standard magnet guidelines or requirements
- No definition of a “successful” magnet school
- Inconsistent quality of magnet programs
The school district has forwarded an investigation which indicated testing improprieties and missing assets from Key Middle School onto the Harris County District Attorney’s office. Kashmere High Assistant Principal Dolores Westmoreland and former Key Middle Principal Mable Caleb retired shortly after the allegations were made.
The school district has secured $23 million in funds for the Apollo 20 program, which would reach out to help 20 troubled schools, but recently raised the amount of funds needed to $29.5 to cover central office costs. Funds for the program thus far are from:
- $28 million three-year Title 1 Priority Schools Grant from the Texas Education Agency awarded Aug. 12 to six Apollo 20 schools. That is $9.3 million annually.
- $100,000 private donation from Bank of America on Aug. 27.
- $100,000 private donation from Wells Fargo Bank on Sept. 22.
- $950,000 from the Brown Foundation.
Superintendent Terry Grier joined the district in 2009, following stints with the San Diego Unified School District, California and the Guilford County Schools, North Carolina. He earns $300,000 annually, plus $19,200 in car/phone allowances. Including perks, he could earn $444,200 in his third year. 
According to records received through the Texas Public Information Act, Houston ISD had one of the top ten highest paid school superintendents in the state. Abelardo Saavedra received $314,554 in base pay for the 2007/08 year.
Trustee Larry Marshall has to answer questions about business conflicts of interest after it was revealed he accepted consulting work with a district contractor, Community Education Partners (CEP) who'll earn $13.7 million this year to run an alternative school for HISD. Marshall stated that he acted within school district policies during his time as a consultant and did not vote on any business concerning CEP. It was not until 2004 when the new conflict of interest policy was drafted, and Marshall quit his consultant job when it was enacted. During his consultant work Marshall earned $72,000.
Marshall and Mike Lunceford received $3,000 in donations from Randle Richardson, the founder and current owner of Community Educational Partners, and Phil Baggett, a chief executive at CEP, a vendor for the district whose contract was renewed during the same months the donations were given.
Trustee Paula Harris’ campaign finance report listed a $500 contribution from the Bracewell and Giuliani PAC Committee and a $500 donation from Thompson and Horton LLP, both law firms that represent the district.
Harvin Moore has expressed concern about the TEA current rating system during board meetings, and has also voiced his concerns in his blog saying:
|“||Each year, state standards boards have announced that they are lowering their ‘cut scores’ (number of questions a child must answer correctly to pass) for various noble reasons, usually because ‘the test questions are harder this year, so the same level of proficiency is reflected by a smaller number of correct answers.||”|
Gifts from district vendors
Texas Watchdog revealed that school officials have been accepting gifts from vendors. The gifts offered and/or accepted included: a birthday party at a seafood and steak restaurant, Houston Rockets playoff tickets, checks totaling $30,000, a personal loan, trips on a private yacht and expenses-paid travel to conferences in Las Vegas.
HISD’s policies dating back to 2004 forbid gifts worth more than $50, and the practices cost the school $850,000 in federal sanctions, but yielded no criminal charges. The US Department of Justice considered accepting the gifts violated competitive-bidding rules and cut off federal funding through the E-rate technology program.
Frank Trifilio, head of the now-defunct Analytical Computer Services, has said his company was wrongly accused in the scandal. Trifilio believes the school district confused his company with subcontractors Acclaim Professional Services, owned by Larry Lehmann, and Micro Systems Enterprises, where Frankie Wong was president. Wong recently prison for his role in a bribery scandal involving the Dallas Independent School District.
As a result of the scandal, the school district is considering a conflict-of-interest policy which would bar any gifts of more then token value, a signature confirming compliance with this policy and a "code of silence" for an employees associated with bidding companies.
In December of 2010, the school began receiving funds from the E-rate program again, in the sum of $1.3 million.
An HISD teacher specialist for Project GRAD moonlighted as executive director of Project GRAD, which has a $1.86 million contract with the Houston district. Project GRAD, is a program that attempts to prevent low-income children from dropping out of school. As an employee for the district Ann Stiles earned $67,318 in 2010 plus benefits. As director of Project GRAD, Stiles earned $120,201 in 2008, bringing her total earnings to $187,000 annually. Stiles has since submitted a letter of resignation.
Another HISD employee, a former accounting coordinator, Lydia M. Kinchen, was sentenced to 8 years in prison in 2010 after stealing $100,000 from the school district.
Also, a former Yates High School Principal, Ronald Mumphery, is under investigation for sexaul misconduct. The cases date back to the 1980's and range from allegations of staff members exchanging sexual favors for preferential treatment and overtime pay to Mumphery sexually assualting a 17-year-old cheerleader and student back in 1984. Mumphery earned $109,000 last year and was recently accused of "professional misconduct" before retiring a few days later. Mumphery denies all accusations against him and was later cleared due to insufficient evidence against him.
Assistant Principal Robert Kimball was never implicated by an outside investigator as being involved in the falsification of records. He was the whistleblower who exposed the false report of dropouts. Just do a search of Robert Kimball and Houston Schools. He sued the District for retaliation and the District settled with him and paid him $90,000. He was not terminated or has any record of a reprimand.
The district was recently awarded $30 million to fund ASPIRE, which gives bonuses to teachers and principals, over the next five years.
The district has been working with the The New Teacher Project (TNTP), a non-profit based in New York, to increase teacher effectiveness. Thus far the non-profit has given the district $250,000 and just granted another $25,684.95 to build a website (www.HISDeffectiveteachers.org) detailing a 5-year plan on increasing teacher effectiveness. The plan is expected to cost $8.4 million to implement and includes cash bonuses for teachers and superintendents. Previously, the US Department of Education had granted the school district $31.5 million 5-year grant to help pay for the bonuses. Principals at Houston's most academically challenged schools could earn as high as $30,000 in bonuses if the School Board approves the incentive-pay model. Harvard economist and Houston school system Apollo 20 advisor Roland Fryer has said there is no evidence supporting the bonuses will increase academic performance of students.
The district also recently admitted to accepting $18 million in stimulus dollars to pay the salaries for 200 employees the district doesn't need. This is because even though the special education department has 5,000 less students then it did in 2005, it still employs the same amount of employees. In 2010, the district ended contracts with 47 teachers, costing the district $3.7 million in payouts.
The district failed to plan for trips far in advance, incurring expenses for last-minute flights, according to records from 2007 to 2010. District employees sometimes flew to destinations within 200 miles, which is discouraged but not banned by the district's travel policy.
In 2007, the district hired two people to dedicated travel, and has a third who also works with travel. The district also makes travel arrangements using Advantage Travel, whose booking fees can vary between $20 and $30 but who do not leverage deep discounts for the school district. From June through December in 2009, the district spent $6,194 on travel. In 2010 travel costs have doubled with the district spending $11,198 by June. As a result the district has promised a new travel policy by the start of the 2010 school year.
Public records requests
- Paying for records before the are turned over.
- The ability to ignore records requests from those who have still not paid for previous records.
- Significantly increase the cost of records by charging not what the Attorney General mandates but for cost of materials plus personnel time.
Public employee salaries
- Main article: Houston Independent School District employee salaries
- Main article: Texas government sector lobbying
In 2005, HISD enrolled evacuees from the areas affected by Hurricane Katrina who were residing in Houston. The Houston Astrodome, the shelter used for hurricane evacuees, is located within the HISD boundaries.
Many Katrina evacuees stayed for the long term within the Houston ISD boundaries. Walnut Bend Elementary School's enrollment increased from around 600 to around 800 with the addition of 184 evacuees; Walnut Bend, out of all of the Houston-area elementary schools, took the most Katrina victims . Nearby Paul Revere Middle School, located in the Westchase district, gained 137 Katrina victims. Revere, out of all of the Houston-area middle schools, has taken in the most Katrina victims.
Houston ISD's "West Region," which includes Walnut Bend and Revere, had about 1/5th of Houston ISD's schools but contained more than half of the 5,500 evacuees in Houston schools.
At the start of the 2006-2007 school year, around 2,900 Hurricane Katrina evacuees were still enrolled in Houston ISD schools. Around 700 of them were held back due to poor academic performance. 41% of evacuee 10th graders and 52% of evacuee juniors were held back.
According to the October 2006 "For Your Information" newsletter, the eleven HISD schools which took the largest number of evacuees were:
- Elementary schools: Bonham, Foerster, McNamara, Walnut Bend Elementary School
- Middle schools: Fondren, Revere, Sharpstown Middle School
- High schools: Lee High School, Sharpstown High School, Westbury High School, Westside High School
A University of Houston study concluded that the presence of Katrina evacuees did not impact the test score grades of native Houstonian students.
On December 1, 1994, HISD board members voted to divide HISD into 12 numbered geographic districts; of eleven districts, each district had one to three high schools. The 12th district was an alternative district.
Prior to Summer 2005, HISD had 13 administrative districts. Originally, the number of districts were to be cut to three, but HISD decided on cutting the number to five in fall 2005.
Declining enrollment figures in the 2000s
The preliminary fall enrollment for the 2006-2007 school year (203,163) had 7,000 fewer students than the 2005-2006 student enrollment (210,202), resulting in a more than 3% loss; the 2006-2007 enrollment was a 2.5% decrease from the fall 2004-2005 enrollment (208,454). From the preliminary 2006-2007 student count, the West and Central regions lost the most students, with a combined 4,400 student loss. The enrollment reported for the year in February 2007 was 202,936.
In 2007 the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Federal Communications Commission, and the United States Department of Justice began an investigation probing relationships between certain technology vendors and HISD. The vendors worked under the auspices of E-Rate, a federal program that offers cut-rate technology to schools and libraries.
Vendors offered gifts such as checks totaling $30,000, boating trips, Houston Rockets playoff tickets and a birthday party to employees in HISD's technology department, and in some cases employees accepted the gifts, a 2008 memo from an outside lawyer for HISD to Justice Department officials said. Micro Systems Enterprises, Analytical Computer Services, and Hewlett-Packard offered gifts ranging from the cash to trinkets including fanny packs. 
Free breakfast programs
In the 2000s HISD established "Breakfast in the Classroom." The program was replaced with a free breakfast program based in cafeterias. The Houston Press published a story about accounting irregularities regarding a program; the State of Texas announced it would investigate the program. On February 4, 2005, Abelardo Saavedra announced that the program was suspended. By 2006 HISD resumed its free breakfast programs.
Public employee salaries
- Main article: Houston Independent School District employee salaries
- List of Texas school districts
- Texas School Alliance membership list
- Texas Association of School Administrators membership list
- ↑ Houston ISD automates lunch. eSchool News online
- ↑ 2009 Accountability Rating System. Texas Education Agency.
- ↑ School Board Contact
- ↑ Meetings
- ↑ Minutes
- ↑ Departments
- ↑ Budget
- ↑ Checkbook Register
- ↑ CAFR
- ↑ Bids
- ↑ [http://www.houstonisd.org/Page/33000 Academics}
- ↑ Taxes
- ↑ Employee background checks
- ↑ Volunteer Background Check
- ↑ Houston Independent School District's board meeting agenda for June 24, 2010
- ↑ "Texas Watchdog", HISD trustees approve $1.6 billion budget, June 25, 2010
- ↑ 17.0 17.1 Texas Watchdog, HISD summer school costs to be covered by individual schools: West University Examiner, July 21, 2010
- ↑ Texas Watchdog, Possible summer school cuts looming for Houston ISD as funding is slashed, Nov. 2, 2010
- ↑ Texas Watchdog, Houston ISD warned of major cuts looming due to state budget deficit, stimulus drying up, Nov. 5, 2010
- ↑ Texas Watchdog, Houston ISD employees offer suggestions on how district can cut budget, Dec. 15, 2010
- ↑ Texas Watchdog, Today's featured video: Superintendent Terry Grier on the state of Houston's public schools, Feb. 18, 2011
- ↑ Texas Watchdog, HISD’s $1 billion capital facilities program hampered by lack of planning, no annual budget, communication problems, Sept. 15, 2010
- ↑ Texas Watchdog, Curious about HISD's building projects? See complete construction, renovation budgets for HISD's school building program, Dec. 9 2010
- ↑ Texas Watchdog, Houston ISD makes good on promise to post school construction budgets online, Feb. 8, 2011
- ↑ Houston Independent School District, Building budgets
- ↑ Texas Watchdog, Lee High School to get up to $1 million in structural repairs, July 16, 2010
- ↑ Texas Watchdog, HISD procurement chief discussed trustees president Paula Harris' pal's firm in business: E-mail, Aug. 4, 2011
- ↑ Texas Watchdog, Houston schools trustee Larry Marshall set stage for doc's $600,000 no-bid contract with HISD, Aug. 2, 2011
- ↑ Texas Watchdog, Houston ISD cuts ties with local tech firm connected to figure from e-Rate vendor scandal, Feb. 8, 2011
- ↑ "CBS News, The 'Texas Miracle', Feb. 11, 2009,
- ↑ "Houston Chronicle, Sharpstown had breakdown
- ↑ The New York Times, For Houston Schools, College Claims Exceed Reality, Aug. 28, 2003.
- ↑ Texas Watchdog, HISD magnet programs to undergo performance reviews, Sept. 24, 2010
- ↑ Texas Watchdog, Review of HISD's magnet schools states the obvious: Problems with funding, standards in Houston's public schools, Nov. 1, 2010
- ↑ Texas Watchdog, HISD forwarded Key Middle School investigation to DA, Sept. 10, 2010
- ↑ no Texas Watchdog, Who's following up on the Key Middle School investigation report?, April 1, 2010
- ↑ Texas Watchdog, HISD's Apollo 20 program needs to raise just $6M more -- but cost is up $9M, Oct. 7, 2010
- ↑ "Houston Chronicle", Grier trailed by both acrimony and accolades, Aug. 30, 2009
- ↑ "Houston Chronicle", HISD finalizes hiring of Grier as its new leader, Sept. 11, 2009
- ↑ 2007-2008 Texas Superintendent Salaries
- ↑ Texas Watchdog, Video: HISD Trustee Larry Marshall defends prior consulting gig with Community Education Partners, an HISD vendor, July 23, 2010
- ↑ Texas Watchdog, HISD alternative school provider Community Education Partners releases 2001-03 contract documents with Trustee Larry Marshall, Aug. 25, 2010
- ↑ 43.0 43.1 Texas Watchdog, HISD trustees accept $3,000 in campaign donations from vendor CEP during debate on CEP’s contract renewal, Aug. 10, 2010
- ↑ 44.0 44.1 Texas Watchdog, Gift-giving culture flourished at HISD; vendors lavished cash, dinners and tickets on employees, July 20, 2010
- ↑ Houston Chronicle, Memo details costly perks and gifts for HISD employees, July 26, 2010
- ↑ Texas Watchdog, Owner of company implicated in HISD E-Rate ethics probe denies giving gifts to employees, Aug. 13, 2010
- ↑ Texas Watchdog, HISD weighs bans on gifts, communication with vendors prior to contract awards, Sept. 14, 2010
- ↑ Texas Watchdog, Five years after scandal prompted funding freeze, E-Rate money returns to Houston ISD, Dec. 7, 2010
- ↑ 49.0 49.1 49.2 Texas Watchdog, HISD employee double-dips with contractor to earn $187K a year; Grier: ‘Probably an ethical issue’, Aug. 11, 2010
- ↑ Texas Watchdog, Project GRAD program --- where HISD administrator moonlights as executive director --- gets funding boost from HISD, Aug. 13, 2010
- ↑ Texas Watchdog, HISD takes hard stance in case of employee theft, but no legal remedy pursued against E-Rate employees, Sept. 10, 2010
- ↑ 52.0 52.1 Texas Watchdog, Former Yates High Principal Ronald Mumphery accused of sexual harassment, HISD records show, Nov. 5, 2010
- ↑ Texas Watchdog, Former principal of Houston ISD's Yates High, Ronald Mumphery, will not face criminal charges: HISD, Jan 10, 2010
- ↑ Texas Watchdog, HISD gets $30M for teacher bonuses, despite study that says bonuses don't help, Sept. 23, 2010
- ↑ Texas Watchdog, HISD launches $25K website on having an effective teacher in every classroom; site does not disclose how many current teachers aren't effective, Oct. 19, 2010
- ↑ Texas Watchdog, Principals at struggling HISD schools may get bonuses of up to $30,000 in incentive-pay plan, Nov. 10, 2010
- ↑ Texas Watchdog, Key Houston ISD adviser: NYC teacher bonus programs didn't help kids learn more, March 15, 2011
- ↑ Texas Watchdog, HISD spends $18 million in stimulus cash to pay salaries of 200+ workers it doesn't need, Oct. 21, 2010
- ↑ Texas Watchdog, Houston school district pays teachers $3.7 million not to teach, Feb. 7, 2011
- ↑ "Texas Watchdog", HISD travel records show wasted taxpayer dollars, poor planning, toothless travel rules, June 11, 2010
- ↑ 61.0 61.1 61.2 Texas Watchdog, Payments to travel firm growing in 2010; HISD insists services being scaled back, Aug. 9, 2010
- ↑ Texas Watchdog, HISD says travel policy revisions still on track for start of school; timeframe won't allow for required board approval, Aug. 13, 2010
- ↑ Texas Watchdog, Houston ISD, others to push legislature for upfront payments for public records, Jan. 10, 2011
- ↑ Texas School Alliance, 2007-2008 Directory
- ↑ TASA Executive Committee
- ↑ TASA Legislative Committee
- ↑ Louisiana students distributed unevenly, Houston Chronicle Oct. 17, 2005
- ↑ UH study finds no Katrina effect on grades, Houston Chronicle, Sep. 12, 2009
- ↑ Houston Chronicle, HISD to divide district into 12 geographic areas, Dec. 2, 1994
- ↑ Houston Chronicle, HISD enrollment down by 7,000 for fall semester, Nov. 17, 2006
- ↑ [http://www.houstonisd.org/HISDConnectDS/v/index.jsp?vgnextoid=62c6757761efc010VgnVCM10000052147fa6RCRD&vgnextchannel=2e2b2f796138c010VgnVCM10000052147fa6RCRD HISD Connect, 2006–2007 Demographics, Feb. 2007]
- ↑ Texas Watchdog, Gift-giving culture flourished at HISD; vendors lavished cash, dinners and tickets on employees, Jul. 20, 2010
- ↑ KHOU-TV, HISD under federal investigation
- ↑ Houston Press, Eating It Up, Nov. 4, 2004.
- ↑ Houston Press, On Second Thought, Feb. 10, 2005
- ↑ Houston Independent School District, New Free Breakfast Program Is Big Attraction for HISD Students, Nov. 14, 2006
Portion of this article were taken from Wikipedia.