Get the facts: What you need to know about Enterovirus D68

If you’ve been hearing or seeing disturbing news reports about a respiratory virus afflicting children across the U.S., try not to be too alarmed. Though HISD officials do not believe this virus has spread to the Houston area yet, below are some facts and tips to help keep your family healthy.

This virus — more commonly referred to as Enterovirus D68 — is not new. Rather, it’s part of a larger family of viruses that likely has changed slightly, causing more serious symptoms in children who are not yet immune.

There is no particular vaccine or treatment for this virus. It simply must run its course. Mild symptoms include fever, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, and body and muscle aches. Severe symptoms include difficulty breathing and wheezing and are often experienced by children who have asthma or a history of wheezing. Continue reading

Settlement allows construction of Mickey Leland College Prep Academy to continue

Facade to be constructed in similar architectural style as historical building

The Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday to approve a settlement that will allow the district to move forward with a plan to build the Mickey Leland College Preparatory Academy for Young Men on the site of the former Wheatley/E.O Smith building in the Fifth Ward.

To honor the accomplishments and history of the school and the students previously educated at the site, district architects are planning an outside area and a Grand Hallway that is, according to the agreement, “befitting and honoring the dignity of the history of the previous school.” The Gregg Street and Lyons Avenue facades of the new two-story facility will use a similar architectural style as the current H.P. Carter building, which once housed the original Phillis Wheatley High School. Additionally, the school will incorporate as much of the original building materials, including bricks and decorative ornaments, into the design as is practical.

HISD is agreeing to devote up to $1 million toward the construction to implement the agreement. Demolition will begin early next week, and construction of the new facility is scheduled to start before the end of the year. Continue reading

Your Voice feedback paves way for school improvement

HISD recently released the results of the 2013-2014 “Your Voice” survey, which gave thousands of students, parents and instructional staff the opportunity to share information on how HISD and individual schools have progressed toward district and campus goals.

The survey, which was conducted for the second year in a row this past May, measures perceptions of safety, rigor and environment within the district. The survey also allows HISD to better understand the needs of its schools and to foster a culture of community engagement that will help guide future initiatives. Continue reading

HISD ‘goes corporate’ to recruit volunteers for Read Houston Read

When HISD announced its need for 1,500 volunteers on Sept. 4, the greater-Houston community responded with an outpouring of support. By Sept. 16, more than 250 caring citizens had already signed up to be mentors to first-graders through the district’s Read Houston Read program, but many others are still needed.

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Changing district demographics lead to hiring of Arabic translator

For many years, the second most-commonly spoken language among HISD students who were learning English (after Spanish) was Vietnamese.

But a recent influx of families from the Middle East has resulted in a surge of youngsters whose first language is Arabic—and that shift has resulted in a number of changes in HISD.

In December of 2012, for instance, the district hired its first-ever Arabic translator, Assim Omran, to provide interpretative assistance during parent-teacher conferences, community events, and Admission, Review, and Dismissal (ARD) meetings. It also began translating documents such as the Code of Student Conduct, HISD ReCONNECT (formerly “Welcome to HISD” or “Back-to-School”), and STAAR communications into Arabic.

“Right now, he’s doing lots of interpretations for families and students at Bonham ES, Revere MS, Lee HS, and Westside HS,” said Manager of Translation Services Liliana McKean. “He also translated the International Baccalaureate @home materials for Twain Elementary.” Continue reading

Crossing Guard of the Year takes pride in keeping kids safe

Valdez_0030Keeping HISD students safe as they walk or bicycle to school daily cross busy streets is the top priority for crossing guards throughout the district, including for veteran crossing guard Raul Valdez. Named “Crossing Guard of the Year” for 2014 by the Houston Independent School District Police Department, Valdez’s professionalism and dedication to the safety of students, parents, staff and community members didn’t go unnoticed by his supervisors and peers who nominated him for the honor.

When did you first start working for the district?

Back in 2003, I started working at HISD. Right now, I have 22 schools that I supervise. Continue reading

Chess students learn from the (grand)master at Clutch City Checkmate Challenge

More than two dozen chess club members at the Baylor College of Medicine Academy at Ryan (BCOMA@R) got an opportunity recently that not many can boast of: the chance to play against a living legend in their game of choice.

Olympic and world chess champion Susan Polgar, who was ranked the top chess player in the world as a teenager and became the first woman to earn the title of grandmaster in 1991, came to the school on Sept. 15 to take part in a “blitz”-style chess tournament as part of the Houston Rockets’ Clutch City Checkmate Challenge. Continue reading

Community connections described as the key to successful middle college launch

Urban school districts are always exploring new ways to keep kids in school, and one of the most innovative is the middle college high school model. Designed to serve young people who find it hard to thrive at traditional high schools, these campuses provide students with smaller classes, more personalized attention, and the additional support needed to help them succeed.

HISD opened two such schools this fall, and Diana Del Pilar, the principal of the Gulfton-area campus, shared the benefit of her experience with a panel of visiting educators from the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) on Sept. 12.

“Build relationships before you start, so students can feel that there really is a difference,” she told the group, which included AFT President Randi Weingarten. “If you don’t, you won’t have the framework in place to hold the structure together.” Continue reading

Washington HS names first Hispanic drum major in school’s history

 (National Show Band Association)

Brandon Pallares shows off some of the moves that earned him the drum major’s mace this year.

When Brandon Pallares walked into the center of Delmar Stadium on Sept. 4, he wasn’t just stepping out onto a football field—he was also stepping into HISD history.

This year, Brandon was named the first Hispanic solo drum major of the Baby Ocean of Soul in Booker T. Washington High School’s 120-year history, a reflection both of his skill as a leader and the growing diversity on the campus that was once known as Colored High School. Continue reading