The Houston ISD Board of Education on Thursday gave preliminary unanimous approval to a stricter set of ethics policies designed to help prevent the appearance of conflicts of interest.
At the board’s request, the firm of Whitley Penn, L.L.P. conducted an independent review of existing HISD policies and best practices related to the purchasing and bid-evaluation process. The ethics policy revisions were drafted according to the firm’s recommendations.
The revised policies are intended to strengthen existing guidelines by requiring elected board members to further disclose potential conflicts of interest, and avoid the appearance of conflicts. The new policies also describe potential repercussions for when violations occur. The revised policy better defines the board responsibilities and allowable contacts with vendors or organizations with which HISD is considering entering into a business or contractual relationship. Vendors will also have to provide conflict of interest disclosure statements and may be disbarred from doing business with the district for two years if trustees fail to disclose conflicts of interest.
The Board of Education also took action on other items on Thursday.
- Modifications to the ASPIRE award for teachers and campus-based staff members, including school leaders, were approved for the 2012-2013 school year. The changes include increasing the maximum award amounts for teachers, principals, and assistant principals and increasing rigor in the requirements. The changes also simplify and streamline the technical language regarding the awards. The changes refine the eligibility requirements for receiving an award and align criteria for the award with the teacher appraisal and development system that is now in its second year.
- Trustees approved a revised plan for reconciling with about 3,500 employees on 12-month work schedules who were paid in advance for work they have not done since the year 2000. These employees, very few of whom are teachers, historically have been asked to repay the district for advance pay upon leaving the district. The repayments have come in the form of unused leave time and/or cash. Trustees decided that during the reconciliation period, the amount of time that employees owe the district will be cut in half. Employees will now be able to reimburse the district for those days using future earned leave time through the 2013-2014 school year, or through payroll deductions through 2014-2015.