HSPVA joins newly formed CLASS Coalition

The High School for the Visual and Performing Arts (HSPVA) is part of a new nationwide coalition aimed at promoting school success.

The Coalition for Leaders for Advanced Student Success (CLASS) was established this year and is focused on helping students overcome challenges to gain the skills needed to succeed after graduation.

“I am pleased to have the opportunity to join with like-minded educators nationwide to help advance curriculum, policies, and activities that will help more high school students gain the valuable experiences and knowledge that will serve them well in both college and career,” said HSPVA Principal R. Scott Allen. Continue reading

Honduras: Mountains, a biosphere reserve, and culture

Between El Salvador and Nicaragua is Honduras, the second-largest country in Central America.  It is said that the country received its name — which means “great depths” in Spanish — once Columbus reached Honduran soil, after he survived a tropical storm off the coast and said, “Thank God we have departed these depths.” Honduras is generally mountainous, and is marked by fertile plateaus, river valleys, and narrow coastal plains. It also enjoys coastlines both in the Caribbean Sea as well as in the Pacific Ocean.

In Honduras, we find the Río Plátano Biosphere Reserve, an area surrounded by mountainous and lowland tropical rainforest with vast wildlife and plant life that has been a World Heritage site since 1982.  The area also includes more than 200 archeological sites and it is home to more than 2,000 indigenous people. The reserve contains part of the largest surviving area of undisturbed tropical rainforest in Honduras and one of the few remaining in Central America, with numerous endangered species — including the giant anteater, jaguar, ocelot, margay, and many others. There are more than 2,000 species of plants, 40 species of mammals, 370 species of birds and 120 species of reptiles and amphibians throughout the reserve.

Food and music are an intrinsic part of Hispanic culture, and Honduras is no exception. Honduran cuisine is a fusion of indigenous Lenca, Spanish, Caribbean, and African influences. Many of the sweet and savory dishes feature coconut or coconut milk, with some of the more regional specialties including fried fish, tamales, carne asada, and baleadas (flour tortillas with refried beans, quesillo, or cheese and sour cream, plus other fillings, such as roasted meat, vegetables, or eggs). Punta is a dance and music style originated in Honduras by the Garifuna people — a cultural group of mixed Amerindian, Caribbean, and African origin — that is performed in various festivities. It involves rapidly moving the hips in a circular motion. Other sounds, such as Caribbean salsa, merengue, reggae, and reggaeton, are widely heard in Honduras as well.

Did you know…? Don’t be confused if you hear both the terms “British Honduras” and “Honduras” being used, as they do not mean the same thing. The former refers to what is known today as Belize, while the latter refers to the country of Honduras. The term “Banana Republic” was first applied to Honduras by the American writer O. Henry, for the influence the U.S. banana companies had at one time.

This is the fourteenth in a series of articles spotlighting different countries in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. To see a complete list of previous entries, click here.

Atherton ES wins music scholarship from gospel association

Students at HISD’s Atherton Elementary School students will soon have more reasons to toot their own horns, after the Gospel Music Heritage Month Foundation (GMHMF) awarded that campus a $750 scholarship to support its fine arts programs.

Dr. Albert Lemons, who serves as Atherton’s principal, accepted the award on behalf of his school on Sept. 14, during the GMHMF’s annual show at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C.

“I’m very seldom speechless,” said Dr. Lemons. “But this came as a complete surprise. Every year, I work backstage at this event, helping the artists, making sure they have refreshments, and getting other people who don’t belong back there out. This year, nobody was saying anything, but they treated me like a guest and seated me in the front row. I thought, ‘Well, I guess they just want me to rest. And for the first time, I’ll get to see the show.’ But near the end of the last number, they sent someone out to say they needed me, and that’s when Sheila Jackson Lee told me my school was being honored.” Continue reading

New Confucius garden helping Kolter ES ‘cultivate’ global graduates

“Growing” Global Graduates just got easier at HISD’s Kolter Elementary School, thanks to a new garden built in honor of a legendary Chinese philosopher.

The Confucius Garden — which has eight beds for cultivating traditional Chinese herbs such as mustard, cilantro, and parsley, as well as two different varieties of bok choi — was unveiled during a special ribbon-cutting ceremony on Sept. 29. The garden was built with funds from Hanban and the Asia Society, which provides a grant to Kolter each year as a member of its Confucius Classrooms Network.

“We are so appreciative of the Asia Society and everything it has done for us,” said Principal Steve Shetzer. “We look forward to watching this garden grow along with our students.” Continue reading

Longtime HISD educator named Bilingual Education Secondary Teacher of the Year

A recently retired teacher from The Rice School has been selected as the 2015 Texas Association for Bilingual Education Secondary Teacher of the Year.

Tanya Thompson, who retired in May after more than three decades with HISD, was selected because of her teaching philosophy, which uses personalized learning to cater to the learning style of each student. Continue reading

Upperclassmen invited to attend Top-Tier College Night Oct. 6

High-achieving HISD juniors and seniors who want information about opportunities at the nation’s most-prestigious institutions of higher learning should mark their calendars, as HISD’s Top-Tier College Night has been scheduled for Tuesday, Oct. 6, 2015. The event will take place from 5 to 8 p.m. at Washington High School (119 E. 39th, 77018).

Formally known as “Ivy-Plus College Night,” this event allows students to interact directly with admissions representatives from top-tier schools across the nation, as well as participate in hands-on workshops on the following topics:

  • Personal statements
  • Financial aid
  • Branding yourself as top-tier student
  • Liberal arts colleges
  • National research universities

Continue reading

HISD Board of Education outlines timeline for superintendent search

Search firm to be selected by December, community input to be gathered beginning in January

The Houston Independent School District Board of Education on Thursday outlined a timeline for the search for a new district leader to replace outgoing Superintendent Terry Grier, who announced last month that he is resigning in March.

Trustees plan to issue a request for proposals this month, pending approval at the regular board meeting on Oct. 15. They then would interview potential search firms in the latter half of November, with the ultimate goal of making a final firm selection in December.

Once a search firm is in place, they can start gathering community feedback to develop a superintendent candidate profile, a process that would begin in January. The selected firm would help trustees host community meetings and gather input from various district stakeholders, including parents and students, school-based staff, district employees, and business and community members.

Trustees also have scheduled a training session focused on the search process for early November. The training will be conducted by Cathy Mincberg, a former HISD school board member who now serves as president and CEO of The Center for the Reform of School Systems.

Dr. Grier has said he plans to step down on March 2, 2016. This is his seventh year as superintendent of the Houston Independent School District.

HISD offering school tours, open houses to help families select schools for next year

The Houston Independent School District Office of School Choice will host four open houses and offer weekly campus tours throughout the fall semester to help families make more informed school selections for the next year.

Families will be able to explore their neighborhood schools, as well as the district’s 100-plus magnet programs, specializing in areas such as fine arts, language studies, college and career readiness and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, & Math).

The weekly tours will be held at all HISD campuses every Thursday from Oct. 8 through Dec. 3. Elementary and K-8 school tours are scheduled for 9 a.m. Middle and high school tours begin at 1 p.m. Continue reading

Guatemala: Mayan heritage, archeology, and crafts

Once home to the Mayan civilization, Guatemala — which means “places of many trees” in Nahuatl — is today the third-largest country in Central America. Close to 50 percent of the Guatemalan population is considered descendants of the Mayas, and that is reflected in their vibrant and thriving culture, as well as the traditional dress many woman and children wear. The first concrete traces of the Mayan civilization date back to the Preclassic period around 1,800 BC in the Mirador Basin in Petén, in northern Guatemala. Mayans built awe-inspiring temples, pyramids, and cities and developed the only fully known writing system of the pre-Columbian Americas, the Maya hieroglyphic script.

Because of its Mayan heritage, Guatemala houses a large number of archeological sites, including the Tikal Temple, an ancient city in Guatemala’s rainforest that was once one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient Maya, and was declared a World Heritage Site in 1979.  Monte Alto is another site notable for the more than 40 major structures and other interesting sculptures it houses. El Mirador and Cancuén are also noteworthy sites, for having the largest pyramid (La Danta) and palaces in the Mayan world, respectively.

Weaving, baskets, pottery, wood carvings, and many other handmade crafts are very popular in Guatemalan culture. They are also known for their colorful textiles, many of which are woven using the ancient art of backstrap-loom weaving. The art of weaving is a tradition that has been passed down from generation to generation for centuries. It can be observed in the traditional dress most indigenous people still wear today.

Did you know…? Guatemala is the main coffee provider for Starbucks. Spanish is the official language in Guatemala, but there are about 21 Mayan dialects still spoken. The Mayans came up with the mathematical concept of zero.

This is the thirteenth in a series of articles spotlighting different countries in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. To see a complete list of previous entries, click here.