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Trustees approve Superintendent search firm, additional funding for bond

2015 December 10
by HISD Communications

The Houston Independent School District Board of Education on Thursday approved a funding proposal that would add up to $212.4 million to the bond program to cover significant increases in inflation and construction costs.

The proposal passed 8 to 1 with Trustee Juliet Stipeche casting the dissenting vote.

The additional money will help the district ensure all bond projects are completed as described to voters in the 2012 election. Voters overwhelmingly approved a $1.89 billion bond calling for the reconstruction or renovation of 40 schools across the district, including 29 high schools.

The need for additional funding was outlined in a comprehensive, project-by-project analysis completed by district staff in October.

“Our goal always has been to provide students with state-of-the-art schools that offer modern learning spaces specially designed to meet the needs of today’s global graduates,” said HISD Superintendent Terry Grier. “Once built, these schools will inspire community pride for generations to come.”

The project-by-project analysis found that some projects needed no supplemental funding, while others needed significant infusions. The cost increases are attributed in the analysis to the region’s recent construction boom, which created a huge demand for workers and materials that has affected many surrounding school districts.

Though the additional funding isn’t needed immediately, administrators sought authorization to spend the dollars for project planning and design purposes. The $212.4 million will only be spent if it still is needed after all other bond funds are exhausted.

The additional money will be funded through the issuance of Maintenance Tax Notes and reserves from the 2007 voter-approved bond. The new debt is not expected to impact other school district needs, nor will it impact the district’s credit rating or tax rate.

Superintendent search firm selected

Trustees also voted Thursday to hire a search firm to help find a replacement for outgoing Superintendent Terry Grier.

Trustees hired Ray and Associates, an Iowa-based firm that specializes in searches for educational executives and leaders. The firm was among four companies that responded to a request for proposals issued in October. All four were interviewed by the board last month.

The search firm will be tasked with developing a superintendent candidate profile. The firm will 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. The process is expected to begin in January.

Dr. Grier is currently in his seventh year as HISD superintendent. He plans to step down in March.

Also on Thursday, the Board of Education:

  • Gave final approval to a policy revision calling for suspensions and expulsions to be used as a measure of last resort, a move designed to ensure discipline is administered equitably throughout the district. In coordination, HISD would provide a teacher mentoring system and annual classroom management and equity training to all campus-based faculty and staff. Principals would be required to develop annual plans for improving their school climate, reducing instances of misbehavior and rectifying inequities.
  • Gave final approval to a policy revision providing students with more equitable access to the district’s gifted and talented program. The proposal helps ensure students identified as gifted and talented are able to retain the designation and can remain in the district’s gifted and talented program throughout their tenure in HISD. During the 2013-2014 school year, more than one-third of the district’s 3,527 gifted fifth graders were removed from the program after taking a requalifying test in fifth grade. The vast majority of exited students — more than three-quarters — were Hispanic.
  • Approved a proposal calling for minor attendance boundary adjustments at Crockett, Harvard, Ketelsen and Travis elementary schools. The changes align attendance zones with current freeway networks, eliminating hazardous crossings over Interstate 10 and allowing for better connectivity between neighborhoods and schools. The proposal affects just two Crockett students, both of whom will be allowed to remain at their current school if they so choose.
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