Dozens of Houston ISD principals met with new Superintendent Mike Miles on Thursday to discuss his plans for reshaping schools in the district — and evaluate if they’ll voluntarily take part in his vision ahead of schedule.

The meeting, held at HISD headquarters, marks the latest development in the recently appointed superintendent’s plan to bring “wholesale systemic reform” to 150 schools by the start of the 2025-26 school year. While most of the attention since Miles’ arrival in early June has focused on major overhauls coming to 28 schools, dubbed part of the New Education System, HISD’s superintendent is allowing other campus principals to take part in a pared-down version of the program.

Principals who opt in to the initiative, called NES-aligned, will see smaller but still notable alterations to their day-to-day operations. Those changes include an extended workday, more standardized curriculum, some potential cuts to non-teaching staff and the implementation of new employee evaluation systems.

Unlike the 28 schools targeted for the most drastic changes, schools participating in NES-aligned will not see big increases in teacher pay and staff members will not have to reapply for their jobs.     

Principals must decide by Monday whether they are taking part in the NES-aligned initiative. Miles urged them to discuss their choice with their respective committees of parents and community members that help guide decisions made on campus.

Miles’ plans have been a big point of contention among families and employees, some of whom oppose Miles’ presence in the district. Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath appointed Miles to lead HISD as part of state sanctions that largely stem from chronically poor academic ratings at Wheatley High School.

Miles initially targeted the 28 schools to participate in his overhaul plans this upcoming school year, with about 50 added to the NES list in 2024 and 70 more brought into the fold in 2025.

But Miles’ plans have appealed to some principals at schools not targeted for immediate overhaul. 

More than 60 principals signaled “preliminary interest” in adopting the NES-aligned model, Miles said. However, he was surprised by the turnout at the Thursday meeting, with a full boardroom indicating that more campus leaders showed up to learn about the system. 

The NES-aligned schools will mirror the 28 targeted campuses in several key areas. 

Both will operate on an extended 6:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule. Some HISD schools already open their doors early, but it will be required of NES and NES-aligned schools to provide flexibility for working parents, Miles has said. 

“This is about parents more than about the kids,” Miles said at a June community event. “Parents don’t want to leave their kid at home when they’re not there. … So we will open for you and they’ll be safe.”

NES-aligned schools also will follow a staffing model that’s based on the number of students in attendance, mirroring the “hospital model” put into place for NES schools. Miles said the approach likely won’t result in fewer teaching positions in those schools, but he said the model calls for fewer administrative positions, which might result in job cuts or reorganization.

In addition, the district will choose and purchase curriculum for NES-aligned schools, along with providing guidance for materials and lesson plans. 

Teachers at NES-aligned and NES schools also will be evaluated using a “new evaluation system.” Miles has yet to fully unveil the new rubric for evaluating teachers, which he previously said will be explained to educators after the summer break ends. 

Principals that opt into the system will have fewer budget responsibilities, Miles said, deviating from HISD’s long history of entrusting principals with millions of dollars to spend on their campuses as they see fit. Participating principals would only oversee discretionary funds totaling $100 for each student, which are expected to be spent on instruction-related costs. 

The district’s central office staff will determine and manage campus budgets, while the district would take care of any costs related to the NES-aligned model.

Miles did not extensively detail how the NES-aligned model would be paid for, but he said budget adjustments will be made once there is a set list of schools signed up. 

“I​​t’ll mean more money, there’s no question about that,” Miles said. “We may have to go into fund balance to fund it. … But keep in mind, we have a $1.2 billion fund balance at the moment, and I’m OK going into fund balance to fund this for the next couple years.”

Once principals officially choose to take part in the NES-aligned model, they cannot decide to opt out, Miles said.

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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...