Trustee Paula Harris honored before last board meeting

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HISD Board of Education Trustee Paula Harris, before stepping down from her District IV seat and attending her final board meeting on Thursday, was honored for her leadership and dedication to children.

“There are so many things I have learned through this journey,” said Harris, who has served for eight years on the board. “I really want to say a special thank you to this board because we all want what’s best for children.”

Harris’ family, friends and colleagues joined her for a farewell reception at the Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center to pay tribute to her accomplishments. A director of community affairs with oilfield services company Schlumberger, Harris was elected to the board in November 2007 and re-elected in 2011. She served as board president in 2011.

“For eight years, Paula has given of herself selflessly,” said HISD Board President Rhonda Skillern-Jones. “She has sacrificed for 250,000 schoolchildren, and that means a lot. This job is not easy … To be able to balance work life, home life, and to still do this job, that’s amazing.”

Harris helped implement robotics and coding clubs at several HISD schools through a grant from Schlumberger. She was vital in helping the district open two same-gender schools in the district – Young Women’s College Preparatory Academy and Mickey Leland College Preparatory Academy for Young Men.

She also helped spearhead the district’s Real Men Read program, which brings male volunteers into elementary and middle school classrooms once a month to read and discuss books with students.

“Paula is a huge champion for urban schoolchildren,” said HISD Superintendent Terry Grier. “She is a visionary. If every school board member serving in America’s schools today were Paula Harris, education and urban education would be a whole lot better.”

During the reception, Harris was presented with a state proclamation from Texas Sen. Rodney Ellis and a certificate of congressional recognition from state Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee.

Harris’s successor, attorney and former Houston City Councilwoman Jolanda Jones, will be sworn into office at the board’s January meeting in 2016.