No matter how high the quality of instruction is in any given classroom, if children don’t feel safe enough to focus on what’s being taught there, they are not going to learn the material as well as they should.
“Safety Above All Else” has long been HISD’s top core value. That’s why the theme of this year’s Summer Leadership Institute is how “Becoming Great All Over” is connected to rigorous and consistent instruction and school safety.
At this annual event, principals, assistant principals, deans, and other members of Team HISD who serve in leadership roles get to hear from respected national experts in the field of education. They also discover new strategies for creating friendly, positive learning environments at their campuses in which both students and staff members feel safe and fully supported.
HISD is committed to keeping its facilities secure. That’s why we have our own, fully certified police force, and about 175 police officers patrolling our campuses. In addition, we have more than 12,000 security cameras in place at facilities across the district, and more than $17 million from the 2012 bond program has been earmarked for security, including fencing and other access controls. We also have a group of field safety officers who make unannounced campus visits throughout the year to test schools’ adherence to established safety procedures.
In addition, the Board of Education strengthened HISD’s existing bullying policy in 2011 and many of our schools have campus-based anti-bullying programs in place. About three dozen of our schools have also completed the Anti-Defamation League’s requirements to become “No Place for Hate” campuses.
Clearly, our efforts are working, as crime statistics continue to drop. During the 2012–2013 school year, HISD campuses reported 3,131 crimes, compared with 4,242 the previous year and 5,135 the year before that.
We still have work to do so that every child in Houston feels safe and secure every day they spend in our classrooms. I am confident that we can make this happen as we continue pulling together as a community for our children’s sake.
One of the most common misconceptions about public school districts is that all work ceases during the summer months—but members of Team HISD know that this is actually one of our busiest times of the year.
Even before the final bell rang for students on June 6, newly hired teachers were receiving training on data analysis, learning classroom management techniques, and observing veteran teachers in preparation for the coming school year (see related story here).
And for the next 11 weeks, custodians and plant managers will be cleaning buildings and repairing equipment; groundskeepers will be mending damaged fences and prepping ball fields; teachers (if they are not in the classrooms for summer school) will be completing professional development courses; and principals and other campus leaders will be assembling their faculty and staff.
This year, we are also working out some fairly complicated logistics for a number of new initiatives, all of which involve the concerted efforts of multiple departments.
First, there’s “Power Up” (formerly known as the 1:1 initiative), which will provide students at 11 high schools with laptops in the coming school year for use in their studies.
We’re also working to welcome students from North Forest into the HISD family. That means everything from analyzing student data to coordinating bus schedules to hiring faculty for seven more schools, which are scheduled to officially come under the HISD umbrella on July 1 (see related info. here).
And if that’s not enough, we are putting the finishing touches on three new schools built with money from the 2007 bond initiative, and aggressively moving forward on new schools that will be built with funds from the 2012 bond initiative (see related story here).
Those are just a few of the projects currently underway at HISD, and I can’t wait to see what the next year will hold for our students as a result. Our mission as a district is to provide every child with the same high-quality education no matter which campus they attend, and all of these efforts will put us one step closer to meeting that goal.
This time of year is always a little bittersweet. Another academic year is coming to a close, and most of our high schools will be having graduation ceremonies this weekend.
Many students and teachers have already said goodbye for the summer, but thousands of parents will soon be watching their sons and daughters cross the stage to accept a diploma, thinking how it was “just yesterday” that they were learning how to walk, or memorizing their multiplication tables. Some will have tears in their eyes, because they know that their “babies” will soon be leaving the nest to take the next step toward creating lives for themselves.
But no matter how sentimental transitions like this may make us feel, graduation is a time for celebration, not sorrow. Our goal as a district is to get students ready for college and careers, and I am happy to report that ever-increasing numbers of our graduates are leaving high school poised for success, whether they immediately join the work force or choose to pursue higher education. Please join me in congratulating these young men and women as they take the next step on their journey. Hats off to the Class of 2013!
In HISD, we often talk about “value added,” which is a measure of growth, or how much something improves over time. And that is just what we had a chance to recognize when representatives the Eli and Edythe Broad Foundation visited HISD this week for the second time in as many years.
Because the district was a finalist for the Broad Prize for Urban Education last year, it received $150,000 in scholarships to distribute among deserving members of the Class of 2013. But they found this year’s potential recipients so compelling that they broke their own rules and increased that amount to $165,000, so that nine graduating seniors could receive college scholarships of up to $20,000. (Read related story here.)
These winning students were not selected because they started out at the top of their game and stayed there. Instead, they were chosen because they had struggled academically, and over time, made steady and considerable improvements in their performance.
One young man confessed that he usually didn’t apply for scholarships for just that reason. Since he is not at the top of his class, he didn’t expect to win any. But at the scholarship announcement press conference, he told us that he was “pretty proud” to have won this one — and I am, too.
Please join me in congratulating José Herrera and the other eight scholarship recipients. They deserve our respect for persevering in the face of adversity, which is an essential component of Becoming Great All Over.
This week, we rolled out the red carpet—literally and figuratively—for our top teachers, principals, and employees of the month at the Celebration of Excellence held on May 21 at the George R. Brown Convention Center.
We had a blast watching members of Team HISD pose for pictures like Hollywood celebrities as they came through the door (I understand some even went back after the event ended to take some shots of their own with smart phones). But the truth is, HISD has a galaxy full of amazing employees, and they all deserve to be recognized for the superstars that they are.
I hope you have had a chance to check out some of our pictures from the red carpet, but if you haven’t, it’s not too late. Just visit the district’s Facebook page, “Like” it, and you can see some of the more than 200 photos our Multimedia Services team took of people dressed to the nines at our celebration.
HISD is working hard to welcome nearly 7,000 new students from North Forest ISD. Last month, the Texas Education Agency upheld Education Commissioner Michael Williams’ order for the Houston Independent School District to annex North Forest ISD, effective July 1. And while North Forest’s school board is appealing that decision, we still must operate as if we fully expect those students to be here this fall.
More than 300 children zoned to North Forest ISD already attend HISD schools, and we encourage the remaining families to learn more about our offerings by comparing campuses using the new tools on the HISD website or by visiting the new web page we have created especially for them.
We have mailed letters to North Forest households welcoming them to the HISD family, and connecting them to resources. North Forest parents will have two opportunities to learn about school choice options at school choice fairs that will be held at the Northeast Multi-Service Center, 9720 Spaulding. The first, for incoming pre-kindergarten through fifth-grade students, will be held on May 28, from 5-7 p.m. The second, for incoming middle and high school students, is scheduled for May 30, from 5-7 p.m.
We’ve also conducted job information sessions for North Forest employees who are interested in joining Team HISD, including one scheduled for this Saturday for non-instructional workers from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the HISD Food Services Administration Building, 6801 Bennington. You can learn more about HISD job opportunities here. There are still many decisions to be made as this transition moves forward, and HISD is working hard to keeping everyone informed.
HISD is committed to providing all students with a high-quality education in a safe learning environment. The members of Team HISD stand ready to welcome our friends from North Forest, and we will do whatever it takes to make this transition as seamless as possible. In the meantime, please send your suggestions and questions about the North Forest transition to us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 713-556-9595.
Teams are not about what any one individual can do alone. They are about what groups of people can accomplish together.
Each day, thousands of HISD employees from various departments join forces to create the best possible working and learning environments for our students and staff—and this morning, I got the chance to recognize 14 of them during our quarterly central office meetings.
First up were Sharon Cole-Braxton and Lynn Mayer from Special Education. They put together the district’s First Annual Special Olympics Field Day last week in partnership with Special Olympics Texas—and it was a raving success. More than 1,200 students had a really great day thanks to them.
Next was Mike Truelove, our stadium and equipment manager at the Delmar-Tusa complex. Out of all our stadiums, that one probably sees the most use, and Mike is the person who makes sure everything is in order and that events go off without a hitch. We will miss him when he retires later this year.
I also recognized Multimedia Manager Sarah Greer-Osborne, who helps us publicize many of the great things going on in the district. Sarah is HISD’s own version of the “Energizer Bunny”—she’s always on the go and has her hands in everything: TV, web, even social media.
I also presented Team HISD hats to Glenn Reed, a senior manager in Budgeting; Jorge Valdivia, this building’s manager for years; Jennifer Todd, the lead grant writer for the Office of School Choice; and members of the Bond Leadership Team: Dan Bankhead, Dillon Brady, Alexis Licata, Mark Miranda, Robert Sands, Sue Robertson, and Sylvia Wood.
Glenn keeps tabs on the district’s money, Jorge maintains the district’s headquarters, Jennifer secures funding for innovative programs, and the bond team is wrapping up old construction and renovation projects while simultaneously coordinating new ones.
Together, these dedicated employees are making sure our students and staff have great facilities in which to work and learn, and I just could not appreciate them more. Please join me in giving them a hand.
This week, three of our employees were recognized by H-E-B as some of the top educators in Texas at the annual Excellence in Education awards ceremony. But what you may not know is the back story behind why they were chosen.
Since it’s still Teacher Appreciation Week, let’s start with Dr. Mary “Linda” Velasquez, a bilingual teacher at Burbank Middle School who earned a Lifetime Achievement Award. Dr. Velasquez has been a passionate advocate for bilingual education for more than 30 years, and her efforts to provide a rigorous bilingual program at Burbank have resulted in eighth-graders taking—and passing—Advanced Placement exams in Spanish for college credit. That is phenomenal!
Mike Walker, the principal at Fondren Elementary School, is creating a culture of success at his campus by empowering students to take more ownership of their performance. He’s also inspiring teachers to step up their efforts in the classroom with his “Move Up Board,” which visually tracks students’ progress from week to week.
Finally, Dr. R. Scott Allen from the High School for the Performing Arts was recognized for honoring the legacy of excellence left by his predecessor. Dr. Allen became the principal of that campus during the 2009–2010 school year, and he continues to trumpet the importance of combining arts instruction with academics. The predictable result has been a steady stream of accolades for his campus, including recognition from Children at Risk, the Washington Post, and now, Newsweek.
Please join me in congratulating these extraordinary educators for their outstanding efforts on behalf of Houston’s children.
Opal Harrison originally intended to be an engineer. She majored in physics in college and began studying micro-electronics in graduate school. But an internship at a middle school made her reconsider her career choice, and she subsequently became a teacher at HISD’s Jones High School through HISD’s Alternative Certification Program.
Last year, Opal went through the district’s leadership cohort, and last summer, she was named the assistant principal at Milby High School.
This week, I got to recognize Opal and seven more outstanding campus leaders as the Principals, Assistant Principals, or First Year Principals of the Year. Opal is a perfect example of how we’re cultivating greatness within the district by “growing our own” leaders. You can learn more about her journey into leadership in this video.
It’s one thing to know that you are making progress, but it’s another thing entirely when other people start to sit up and take notice.
HISD has had a lot of people noticing us in the past couple of months. Last month, we learned that the district was once again a finalist for the prestigious Broad Prize in Urban Education—for the second time in as many years. Last week, we set a new record for the most schools to earn a spot on the Washington Post Challenge Index, and on Monday, we learned that HISD has half of the top 30 schools in the greater Houston area, as rated by the Children at Risk organization.
This is an exciting set of developments by any measure, but it’s even more exciting when you stop to think about what it actually means—that we are succeeding in our quest to put a highly effective teacher in every classroom and a highly effective principal in every school, and HISD students are getting a top-quality education as a result.
You can learn more about some of these outstanding campuses and many other fine programs at our third annual School Choice Fair, which is scheduled to take place this weekend at the district’s headquarters.