New Houston ISD Superintendent Mike Miles received a mostly warm welcome Tuesday — a stark contrast from the greeting he’s received at contentious board meetings this month — as he hosted the first of 10 community meetings aimed at pitching his ambitious plans for the district.

The majority of the roughly 90 community members filling the Forest Brook Middle School cafeteria applauded Miles as he stepped into the room, greeting the HISD chief appointed to lead the district on June 1. Many clapped in agreement as Miles spoke, laughed as he cracked jokes and broke out in cheers when community members spoke in support of his plans.

Miles will meet with families, staff and community members across the district during his public events over the next month. Members of HISD’s newly appointed board, which Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath put in place alongside Miles, also will hold their own community sessions starting in August, board President Audrey Momanaee said Tuesday. 

Some community members have criticized Miles over the past month for not communicating enough with parents at the campuses he plans to overhaul. He’s also faced backlash for skipping public comment at board meetings and announcing expansive plans without hearing more parental feedback. 

Many Houston political leaders and union-aligned supporters have blasted the state’s ouster of HISD’s superintendent and elected board, a punishment that largely stems from Wheatley High School’s repeated failure to meet state academic standards.

Miles detailed plans last week for “wholesale systemic reform” at 150 schools — slightly more than half of the district — by the start of the 2025-26 school year. 

Twenty-eight campuses in some of the city’s lowest-income neighborhoods, including Forest Brook Middle School, will see the most drastic and immediate overhaul. Miles said he plans to bring in more highly rated educators, increase teacher pay and restructure job responsibilities, among other changes, by the time school resumes in August. 

HISD officials announced Tuesday that 11 of the 28 schools will receive a new principal to start the upcoming school year. Seven of the departing principles did not reapply for their position, Miles said. The same principals will remain in place at Kashmere, North Forest and Wheatley high schools, whose feeder patterns include 25 of the 28 campuses.

Many in the audience seemed to embrace his ideas Tuesday. 

Chya Woodard, a data entry clerk and substitute teacher at Sugar Grove Academy on the district’s southwest side, said she came away impressed in an early meeting with the school’s new principal, Noe Garcia. Sugar Grove Academy is one of the 28 targeted campuses.

“He came in with an open mind, looking to learn about what was already in place and what was working,” Woodard said. “He seemed very receptive to me.”

Woodard said she has wanted more transparency from Miles and the board. After attending the meeting and listening to their plans, she’s “excited to see what they do.”

An attendee wears a message for Houston ISD’s new school board and superintendent, Mike Miles, during a community meeting Tuesday at Forest Brook Middle School on the district’s northeast side. (Douglas Sweet Jr. for Houston Landing)

But the entire room wasn’t on board. Some community members heckled Miles as he explained changes that have been particularly controversial, such as his plans to restructure magnet programs and bring in contracted professionals to teach skills like music and art.

When attendees were given a microphone to ask Miles and three board members questions, Paula A. Johnson spoke first. She voiced her support for magnet programs and condemned the difference in the crowd’s demeanor compared to the past contentious board meetings.

“Don’t become soft-spoken in here,” Johnson, a North Forest High School graduate and mother of two HISD students, instructed the room. “We were on top of it on their ground.”

Miles said raising reading and math test scores is a high priority during his tenure. As he showed the audience racial disparities in standardized test scores, he told the crowd that teachers, principals and parents aren’t responsible for the achievement gap — a sentiment that resonated with the crowd.

“It’s the system that has caused us to continue to fail,” Miles said. “Can we blame Wheatley, North Forest or Kashmere for these scores?”

In unison under their breath, much of the crowd answered with Miles, “No.” 

Houston ISD parent Jessica Waligorski asks Superintendent Mike Miles about the future of hearing-impaired programs that would impact her son Tuesday during a community meeting at Forest Brook Middle School on the district’s northeast side. (Douglas Sweet Jr. for Houston Landing)

Sugar Grove Academy special education department chair Loretha Laws said “change is going to happen” regardless, so she’s willing to give Miles’ plans a chance. The audience seemed to be more open and receptive to Miles compared to recent school board meetings, she said. 

“I don’t even know if I’m going to be at the campus because of my role,” Laws said. “It’s undefined at the moment. So I’m open so whatever is gonna help me help the kiddos. … That’s what I’m hoping everyone is willing to do, give it a chance.”

Momanaee and board members Adam Rivon and Cassandra Auzenne Bandy lingered in the cafeteria after the meeting concluded, allowing community members to ask them questions. 

A list of locations and dates for future community meetings can be found on Houston ISD’s website. Attendees can submit questions for Miles and the board before the event.

Republish our articles for free, online or in print.

Miranda Dunlap is a reporter covering K-12 schools across the eight-county Greater Houston region. A painfully Midwestern native to Michigan’s capital region, Miranda studied political science pre-law...