The first day of school never ceases to thrill me. There can be a bit of that “Groundhog Day” feel to it, with the same scenes playing over and over again (cue the crying child, clinging to his mother). But there’s always plenty that’s fresh and new.
Monday’s return to school throughout HISD combined both aspects. I was lucky enough to visit five schools on three campuses. No, I haven’t forgotten my math — you read that right.
For the past couple weeks, our web team has been running a “countdown” of the top 10 new programs and initiatives in HISD. The truth is they had to whittle down their list to just 10. There’s a lot happening in the district in 2014-2015 in our classrooms and in cyberspace to personalize learning, emphasize both college and career preparation, and engage families.
Everyone – families, older students, and staff — will be able to take advantage of one of our new communications initiatives. On Sept. 9, if you sign up, you’ll be able to get emergency notifications from HISD on your cell phone. This enables us to tell you immediately about everything from weather warnings and school cancellations to burst pipes and stranger dangers. read more…
“Digital transformation” is one of the keys to HISD’s vision of changing the way we teach and how our children learn in a more personalized way. Last year, as part of our PowerUp one-to-one initiative, we put 18,000 laptop computers in the hands of high school students on 11 campuses, and we’re adding another 21 campuses this year, with the remainder following next year.
But we’re not just teaching youngsters about machines and coding: they’re learning just as much about the responsibility that comes with the freedom that the digital age allows. And we’ve taken a major step in our efforts this week with the launch of a vast cybersafety website, aimed equally at students, parents, and educators. read more…
This is a big week for HISD’s five Futures Academies. After only two years in existence, they are graduating 84 students who wisely used their high school years to earn associate’s degrees or workforce certifications from Houston Community College in addition to their diplomas.
This is impressive: Futures graduates from Booker T. Washington High School are skilled in manufacturing engineering. Those from Furr have been schooled in engineering technology, and those from Kashmere, in process technology. Scarborough grads can pursue network and computer administration, and Sterling’s grads have a great foundation in logistics and global supply.
By committing to attending school during summers these past two years, Futures grads have gotten a remarkable jump on higher education or careers, with up to 30 college credits or important job skills and certificates, beyond their diplomas. read more…
HISD’s pledge to put an “Effective Teacher in Every Classroom” becomes vivid at this time of year as we sponsor our New Teacher Academy. We put faces on our vigorous efforts to recruit the most committed and energetic educators to shape the futures of our youngsters, and get our first up-close exposure to the spirit they bring to our campuses.
Probably no single function in this district is as important as hiring, training, and nurturing our teachers. Teaching ceased being simply about mastery of subject matter a long time ago. But will our new teachers embrace our 21st century technology and use it wisely and creatively with their students? Are they prepared to personalize each youngster’s learning experience to make sure they reach their potential? Are they willing to share their own experiences and life stories to connect to students? read more…
We’ve been stepping up our programs in HISD to connect what students learn in the classroom to the real world, and this summer is providing rich opportunities for both teachers and students to stretch their imaginations and build new skill sets off-campus.
Our Linked Learning approach, which is about to go into effect at eight high schools and their feeder campuses, placed a number of teachers in “externships” in recent weeks. Teachers from Reagan High School, which will offer a Health Science pathway, explored departments at Memorial Hermann Hospital, while other instructors visited relevant workplaces in construction and environmental sustainability. read more…
In our complex world, it’s not enough for educators merely to lead students through a set of graduation requirements. Our students’ lives don’t end with a diploma, and neither does our obligation to prepare them for life beyond high school.
And so, as part of the launch of our new Linked Learning approach blending academics with preparation for life, we’re going through a fascinating exercise to create a profile of an ideal graduate — one who is ready to move on to higher education, career, family, and community life with knowledge, depth, and integrity. read more…
The sudden influx of Central American children into the U.S. has sparked a national debate, a lot of political rhetoric, accusations, and alarm. As public educators in a city which will likely accept many of these youngsters, we must rise above the furor to remember this is a humanitarian issue involving children. And HISD stands ready to help.
We have deep experience dealing with children who have been suddenly relocated under traumatic circumstances. At the beginning of the 2005 school year, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, we registered more than 11,000 displaced youngsters. And with more than 900 students from Central American countries enrolled last school year, we’re knowledgeable about the educational and cultural issues involved in helping them integrate successfully.
That’s why we’ve been contacted by federal officials and are working with them, state agencies, and local officials and community organizations to respond to this unfolding situation. read more…
A big, comprehensive high school isn’t a good fit for everyone. We have students on each of our campuses – smart, well-behaved, capable and interested in going on to college or workforce training – who struggle with the traditional high school culture.
HISD is about to offer 300 of those students another option — two Middle College High Schools, located on small campuses of Houston Community College, who is partnering with us in this effort. One will be in Gulfton in southwest Houston, the other on the Felix Fraga campus, just east of downtown. read more…
Thursday evening will see the culmination of perhaps our most important annual ritual, as the Board of Education votes on approving next year’s HISD budget. This follows months of careful analysis and planning from our financial office and weeks of review and discussions with the Board of Education.
Since we began our budget process, we’ve been very fortunate that the projections of our property tax base have improved, as the boom in home and commercial property values continues.
We’re proud of what we’ve been able to do through that good fortune and the skills of our very capable Chief Financial Officer Ken Huewitt and his team.
Under our final proposal, every teacher will receive a raise of at least $1,100. And depending on length of service, some teachers will receive as much as $3,300.
Starting teachers will ease closer to that magic $50,000 a year salary level – with $49,100 for first-year teachers. That makes us competitive with neighboring districts, which have recently upped their starting pay. More importantly, this is just the beginning of a longer-term plan to make our overall teacher pay scale more sensible.
We will also be presenting this evening an additional $29 per pupil pushed out to all of our schools this upcoming school year. This is in addition to $26 per-pupil allocation already approved by the Board in May. Combined, all HISD schools will receive an additional $55 per pupil next year – another solid step toward returning our schools to the PUA levels before the state cuts in 2011.
There has never been and will never be a budget in any public institution where everyone is happy with the results. Through the grace of a robust economy, the talents of our staff, and the insights of our Board and stakeholders, we think we’ve come as close to a fair and responsible budget as humanly possible.