Bellaire HS principal: HISD plan would slash $2.5M, 50 jobs from campus; trustee town hall set

By Charlotte Aguilar

Warning that Houston ISD is preparing a “worst case position” in response to an anticipated $208 million budget deficit next year, Bellaire High School Principal Michael McDonough said Friday that a proposed new funding system would slash his campus budget by $2.5 million and eliminate 50 positions — including about 30 teachers.


“Based on the most recent information shared with me by the HISD, we would have to cut approximately thirty (30) teachers,” McDonough wrote in an email message to the campus community. “Further required cuts would impact campus leadership, school safety, student supports, and support staff.”

Also Friday, District V Trustee Sue Deigaard announced she would hold a town hall meeting at 7 p.m. Thursday (Feb. 22) in the Bellaire High auditorium, 5100 Maple St., to discuss the district’s 2018-19 budget and its impact on schools in her district.

In addition to the shift away from a campus-based management system to central office control, the administration is proposing a major restructuring of  magnet programs.

While HISD officials are blaming the budget crisis on Hurricane Harvey damage causing a decline in property tax revenue and enrollment, coupled with a $200 million-plus recapture payment due to the state, critics are pointing to self-inflicted problems. They cite a vote by board members to raise teacher salaries in this budget despite warnings that it would deepen financial woes and are calling for a performance audit of the district.

Here is the full text of McDonough’s message:

Through my six years as the Principal of Bellaire, I have worked hard to earn the trust of the entire school community. One way I have done this is by consistently informing you about issues or concerns that could potentially impact our ability to offer the high school experience that so many of you seek.

Multiple news organizations as well as social media platforms have followed and chronicled the immense financial challenges that the HISD faces as we begin to construct the 2018-19 budget. While I can’t speak definitively about the various causes for the current reality we are facing, I can confirm that the next few months will indeed be challenging. One aspect that has dominated my thoughts is how our building will be staffed as a result of this budget crisis. For approximately twenty years, the HISD has used a Per Unit Allocation (PUA) model to fund schools whereby, in simplistic terms, the dollars follow the kids. This decentralized approach brought both the dollars and the decisions closer to the campus while providing “weight” (added dollars) to each student that came to campus with unique needs. The district is proposing a shift to a Full Time Equivalent (FTE) model as part of the 2018-19 district budget. This centralized approach would, essentially, allocate certain numbers of teachers, counselors, clerical staff, etc., based solely on the number of students at that campus. The staffing allotments would not account for the unique needs any of those students would have, rather everything would be built upon simple ratios.

Under the FTE model being currently used in the construction of the 2018-19 Budget, schools are being asked to take an average 9.15% cut to their individual budgets. For Bellaire, under this new model, the budget cut to our campus is more than 20%, and most of those cuts would be in personnel. While I share the HISD’s desire to keep cuts as far from classrooms as possible, we will lose teachers. Based on the most recent information shared with me by the HISD, we would have to cut approximately thirty (30) teachers. Further required cuts would impact campus leadership, school safety, student supports, and support staff. In all, the HISD is allocating approximately fifty (50) less positions for Bellaire High School. Simply put – that is a $2.5Million cut to our campus.

There is no way to avoid having these types of cuts impact every corner of our campus. And while we will absorb many of the cuts through attrition, many of our current team members will be impacted. Please know that every effort will be made to treat our team members with respect and dignity as we move forward.

Finally, I am thankful to have been included among a small committee of principals tasked to continue to work alongside the district administration as we refine this new staffing model. It is my hope that they will continue to fully consider principal feedback as we move forward and more drafts are generated. Please know that a major tenet of this philosophical shift is the desire to ensure that every student at every campus across the district has access to counseling, health, and library services. And to that end, I would agree 110% with the HISD. Bellaire has remained aligned to that very belief for many years, and I have always been #CardinalProud of our ability to fund these essential positions on campus despite any decrease in our budget from year to year. No doubt that is an aspect of what enables us to continue to be successful with our kids – and it’s likely a reason many of you chose to share your child with us.

It is accurate to say that the district is currently planning from a “worst case” position, and I am hopeful that between now and June 30 (the deadline for the HISD to pass their 2018-19 budget) there will be good news that comes our way to soften this blow to our school community. As we move further in to the spring semester, I am reminded of what makes Bellaire special, and remain committed to providing a strong academic program with clear channels of communication that allows individual student interests to flourish. Even if the decisions move further from the campus, the unique needs of our students will remain closer to our conscience. My confidence in every member of the Bellaire team to remain committed to our students throughout the spring semester has not wavered.

As questions or concerns arise, please feel free to reach out to me directly.