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Houston Teachers Stage “Sickout” Protest Against Superintendent’s Reforms

Amidst mounting discontent, dozens of Houston Independent School District (HISD) teachers staged a sickout on Thursday to protest against Superintendent Mike Miles and what they perceive as detrimental reforms under his administration, citing concerns about a toxic work environment and culture of fear.

Approximately 100 teachers from 35 campuses participated in the protest, organized independently of the district’s teacher unions. The demonstrators voiced grievances regarding what they described as a pervasive atmosphere of intimidation and reprisal across HISD campuses.

“Teachers and students alike have experienced a culture of fear regarding punishment and reprisal throughout the district’s campuses,” stated the protest organizers. “Today’s action by teachers highlights the ongoing concern about hostile learning and teaching environments created by Houston ISD’s takeover superintendent, Mike Miles.”

Despite potential repercussions, organizers asserted that teachers went ahead with the sickout, scheduling doctor’s appointments or calling in sick, in defiance of perceived threats of disciplinary action for using their allocated sick leave. Miles has previously stressed the importance of teacher attendance, linking it to fostering a “high-performance culture” in classrooms.

The protesting cohort, though relatively small in the context of HISD’s 11,000-strong teaching workforce, presented a list of demands, which included calls for the removal of Mike Miles, restoration of the elected Houston ISD Board of Trustees, provision of comprehensive student support services, and respect for teachers’ professional qualifications and input.

Thursday’s demonstration marks the latest in a series of protests among district teachers since Miles assumed the superintendent position in June, following his appointment by Texas education officials. His tenure has been marked by the implementation of reforms, including the “New Education System,” which has drawn both praise and criticism from the community.

One teacher participating in the protest, who requested anonymity for fear of reprisal, denounced Miles’s leadership tactics, characterizing them as fostering a climate of fear. They expressed hope that the sickout would draw attention to the challenges faced by teachers in HISD.

“Everybody thinks that public schools are terrible and our kids deserve this, and it’s not true,” the anonymous teacher emphasized. “If anyone went into just about any HISD school, they would see a functioning school with good kids, good teachers.”