Superintendent Miles welcomes students and staff to new school year at district’s first convocation

Roughly 2,000 educators filled NRG Center Wednesday, Aug. 16, for Houston Independent School District’s inaugural convocation. Thousands more participated via satellite from campuses around the district, elevating the energy as teachers, principals, and some students showed their school pride with matching shirts, chants, and infectious excitement for the new school year.

Superintendent Mike Miles facilitated the event and collaborated with the HISD Fine Arts Department to put together a musical, set inside a present-day diner with Miles starring as Mr. Duke, a server who served more as a guidance counselor to his high school customers. Miles poked fun at himself through comedic skits intertwined with incredible song and dance numbers performed by fine arts students and even a few teachers.

Miles’ convocation speech outlined his short-term and long-term plans for the district with a central focus on teachers’ invaluable role in successful student outcomes.

“Everything we do is focused on our kids. Every decision, every policy, every action has to be grounded in our kids,” said Miles. “It is urgent for them.”

To paint the picture, students representing each graduation year from now until 2035 walked across the stage in a cap and gown. The message was clear: The world and workforce are changing fast, and we’re running out of time to prepare our students for life after graduation.

The promise of education being the great equalizer, Miles said, has largely been broken. He presented NAEP data that shows student outcomes have not improved over the last 25 years.

“Not only have we, public education, failed to close the achievement gaps, now the goal post is changing significantly,” he said. “Kids not only need to read, write, and do math—they also need year 2035 competencies.”

These competencies include information literacy, problem-solving, critical thinking, learning how to learn, working in teams, creative arts, philosophy, and working with Artificial Intelligence.

Part of that catalyzation, Miles revealed, will be the creation of an AI Integration Committee that will upgrade the district’s CTE courses to include an “AI in the Workforce” course for students and teachers.

The vision for HISD doesn’t stop with curriculum. Miles emphasized the importance of incorporating experiences, in addition to electives, such as martial arts, photography, graphic design, and dance.

Miles also touted his reimagined campus staffing model in which teachers focus solely on high-quality instruction, earn a higher salary, and place a premium on work-life balance.

“We could put together the best system, the best processes, the best organizational structure, the best curriculumthis doesn’t matter if we don’t have your heart and love of kids.”

While bold changes will take time, Miles has an immediate call to action for this school year: “Ask yourself, what would you do differently? What will you accept as a different way of doing business? As a different way of teaching? Because our kids need it.”

As a starting point, HISD will begin the new school year with 28 New Education System schools and 57 that chose to be NES-Aligned and receive most of the same support for systemic education reform.

The convocation was held during a week of teacher training and professional development sessions for elementary and secondary educators. Students report to school on Monday, Aug. 28, 2023.

Special thank you to the participating Fine Arts programs:

  • Bellaire High School – Belles Dance Team, Cheer, Choir, Band, Stage Crew
  • HSPVA – Theater, Dance, Choir
  • Meyerland PVA – Dance
  • Milby High School – JROTC
  • Sam Houston MSTC – JROTC
  • Westside High School – Pride Dance Team