Good ‘turnout,’ lively discussion at HISD’s HB 5 Tele-Town Hall

More than 2,000 of HISD’s 12,000 eighth-grade families “met” Tuesday, April 29, in two Tele-Town Halls in English and Spanish to hear a panel of experts answer their questions about how recent state legislation is changing their students’ planning  for high school graduation, higher education, and careers.

The district placed automated calls to families, who could then participate in an informative discussion without attending a formal meeting. From the convenience of their homes, offices, cars – or wherever they received the calls — they learned about new pathways of study that will personalize students’ high school experience as mandated in the package of state legislation known as House Bill 5.

Cynthia Cisneros, recognizable throughout the Houston area as a reporter for ABC-13 television for more than two decades and now the station’s vice president of community affairs, took parents’ questions and emceed the hour-long discussion. Osvaldo Corral, a news anchor and reporter for Univision 45, emceed the Spanish Tele-Town Hall.

The English-Language panel of HISD experts consisted of Dr. James McSwain, principal of Lamar HS; Michael McDonough, Bellaire HS principal; Michael Dorsey, director of secondary curriculum; Kelly Cline, senior manager of Federal and State Compliance; and Brita Lindsey, manager of student records. The Spanish-language panelists were Monica Quintero, Lee HS principal; Alicia Puente, Lee HS assistant principal; Mark White, director of Federal and State Compliance; and Lupita Hinojosa, School Services Officer.

Questions ranged from basic information about when the new requirements will go into effect (starting this fall), to whether students taking advanced courses in middle school will have them count toward graduation (they will), to several asking details about endorsements (areas of focus including Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math, also known as STEM; Business and Industry; Public Services; Multidisciplinary Studies; and Arts and Humanities).

Parents were also informed about available counseling and how to access Naviance, an online tool that will help provide academic and career guidance through their campus websites.

Two poll questions were posed:

  • Asked about which endorsement would be of most interest to their students, 69 percent of those responding said STEM;
  • And about two-thirds of parents said they had visited high schools other than their neighborhood school, when that question was asked.

HISD’s communications team has posted a list of frequently asked questions to the Plan Your Path website, a starting-point for parents and students wanting to know general and updated information about HB 5.