New HISD Magnet Schools Proposal to be Considered

School board to weigh applying for $12 million grant to open eight magnets focused on science, technology, engineering and math

The HISD Board of Education is set to decide this week whether to compete for $12 million in federal funding to open eight new magnet schools emphasizing science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) instruction.

All eight new STEM magnets would be whole-school programs, meaning every student in those schools would benefit from an instructional approach that emphasizes a rich STEM curriculum. Current magnet programs at existing schools included in the grant proposal have struggled to draw students and would be replaced with the STEM magnet.  The Board of Education is scheduled to vote Thursday on whether to authorize the grant application. The meeting begins at 5 p.m. on Feb. 14, 2013 in the board auditorium of the Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center (4400 West 18th Street).

Magnet schools are intended to provide families a wide variety of academically rigorous school choice options, while also promoting racial, economic, cultural, and geographic diversity.

“As we move forward with building modern school buildings across Houston, it is imperative that we also offer forward-looking courses that prepare more graduates to contribute to Houston’s prosperity,” Superintendent Terry Grier said.  “Students in every neighborhood deserve access to challenging courses taught by teachers with high expectations.”

If HISD does not win the magnet grant, the district will review and modify the proposal in accordance with available resources.

Two new magnets for petroleum engineering and health professions

The new schools would include a proposed Petroleum Engineering High School designed to capitalize on Houston’s status as a global energy industry leader and prepare students to compete for future jobs.  Also included in the federal grant application would be an HISD Middle School for Health Professions, which could be located at Ryan Middle School.  This school would help prepare a diverse cross section of students from throughout the district to qualify for admission into the highly competitive DeBakey High School for Health Professions, or other STEM-focused high school programs in HISD.

Locations for these two new magnets have not been determined.

Two new North Forest magnet schools included

HISD’s grant application would include seeking funds to establish STEM magnets at two schools in the North Forest community.  One program would be located inside a North Forest middle school, and the other would be Northeast Early College High School.  Last week, Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams announced his intention to annex the current North Forest ISD into HISD in July.  The North Forest school board has the right to appeal that decision, but HISD is including North Forest in the grant application because the application deadline is March 1.  The North Forest schools would be removed from the grant if the proposed annexation does not occur.

Three neighborhood schools and South Early College would get new STEM magnets

The district’s magnet grant application also seeks to bolster the academic offerings at three neighborhood schools.  Under the proposal, Kashmere High School, Furr High School, and McWilliams Middle School all would open new STEM magnets.   The McWilliams STEM magnet would be aligned with the successful engineering magnet program already established at Booker T. Washington High School.  The STEM magnets at Kashmere and Furr would be aligned with the new Houston Innovation Learning Zone career and technical education programs that opened this school year.

South Early College High School would also be included in the STEM magnet school grant application.

Thursday’s board meeting will be broadcast live on HISD’s website and HISD – TV, Comcast Channel 18 or AT&T Channel 99.