HISD superintendent discusses equity, district’s vision during forum with African-American community leaders

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HISD Superintendent Richard Carranza told African-American community, business, and civic leaders on Tuesday that HISD is prioritizing equity in the district and proposing a plan, called Achieve 180, to target 32 underserved schools with extra supports and funding.

Carranza outlined his priorities for the coming year during a one-on-one interview with Houston Defender Publisher Sonceria Messiah Jiles, part of the Defender’s “Conversations and Coffee” series.

“From an equity perspective, we do not have underperforming schools in Houston; we have historically underserved schools and communities in Houston,” Carranza said. “We as a school system have to own the fact that we have set some schools up to be successful and others not so much.”

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Carranza’s Achieve 180 plan would strengthen six main pillars in 32 schools on the state’s improvement required list: school leadership, teaching, instruction, school design, social and emotional supports for students, and relationships with families and communities.

Carranza also highlighted the district’s need for culturally relevant curriculum and said he that supports adding LGBTQ and ethnic studies to the district’s history curriculum, likening the LGBTQ movement to civil rights.

“I think it’s part of the American history,” Carranza said. “To include that as part of what kids study is just a bigger picture of who we are as America.”

School culture, climate focus of districtwide learning series

Carranza emphasized the need for wraparound services at campuses, revamping student nutrition, and empowering parents to take a greater role in their child’s education.

Restorative practices as they pertain to discipline and reducing suspensions was also a major topic. Carranza stressed that the district is investing in training for school staff and will ensure that Achieve 180 campuses have a school nurse, school counselor, and interventionists.

“We’re bringing our people – our principals, our teachers, our specialists – for training to develop new protocols and different ways of addressing anti-social behavior where the first answer isn’t suspension,” he said.

He also discussed school funding and the challenges of being in Recapture, which will amount to a $77.5 million payment to the state.

“The very fact that Houston ISD is in Recapture is absolutely absurd,” Carranza said. “When you have students who are 80% free and reduced lunch that have issues of poverty, have issues of living in an urban environment … those resources need to be used to bolster and build our historically underserved communities.”