HISD Interim Superintendent Lathan recently presented to the Board of Education Trustees during a board workshop and to the district’s principals at their monthly meeting the five Strategic Priorities for the 2019-2020 school year:
- Expanding Educational Opportunities
- Ensuring Student Health, Safety and Well-Being
- Transforming Academic Outcomes
- Increasing Organizational Efficiency
- Cultivating Team HISD Talent
Expanding educational opportunities is a high priority for Lathan, who plans to build upon an innovative and dynamic style of curriculum that not only challenges students’ knowledge but also cultivates their creativity.
This priority includes expanding fine arts education throughout the district. A recommendation has been made to the Board of Education for the addition of 37 fine arts teachers at the elementary level, as well as fine arts integration into English and language arts curriculum.
“There are about 20,000 elementary students who are not receiving fine arts instruction through general music or visual arts,” she said, noting that more need to be added to reach the district’s fine arts goals. “That’s our focus – so that every child has access to dynamic learning opportunities.”
Lathan also emphasized the district’s commitment to preparing students for the future through career and technical education (CTE) and rigorous college and career preparation. CTE will be expanding to nine high schools throughout the district, including the addition of a graphic design program at Waltrip High School, a cosmetology program at Madison High School, and a construction program at Milby High School.
Some of the biggest challenges educators face include meeting student needs through social and emotional learning. While academics are of the utmost importance in the district, Lathan stressed that ensuring student health, safety and well-being will also be one of her top priorities in the coming year.
“Ensuring students have access to safe spaces, transportation, mental health support and nutritious food must continue to be a priority for our district,” she said.
Implemented in 2017,the “Every Community Every School” initiative has become an essential tool. The district will focus onexpanding the program to serve more students, connecting them with resources and wraparound services.
Increasing mental health and wellness for HISD students also tops Lathan’s list of priorities for the 2019-2020 school year. The administration plans to increase district psychologists on the district crisis team, which provides intervention and response to all schools in the district. Plans are also in place to implement the “Youth Mental Health First Aid” Program (SEL), which is designed to teach adults how to help a student who is experiencing a mental health crisis.
Over the last few years, the district has worked diligently to transform the academic outcomes of HISD students, and Lathan made clear that the district will continue to do what is necessary to support their academic efforts.
“From special education to literacy,” she said, “we must provide the guidance and assistance needed for success.”
The district plans to refine the Achieve 180 tiered levels of support, meaning that schools that have been out of IR for three years would transition back to their original feeder pattern and be provided certain levels of support.
A push for lifelong literacy is also a main area focus, as well as stressing the importance of bilingualism and biliteracy for all students. The district will expand literacy resources for all English Learners, to strengthen the first language as students build the second language.
Increasing organizational efficiency, including creating an efficient structure, streamlining efforts and working in a transparent manner is also a key for overall success.
As the district continues to strive for academic excellence, Lathan emphasized the importance of cultivating HISD talent.
“Human capital is one of our district’s greatest assets,” she said. “We must attract dynamic teachers and cultivate the leaders among us.”
The Board of Education last week unanimously voted to continue the Teach Forward Houston Initiative. This partnerships supplies the district with leadership-oriented college graduates who commit to teach in HISD.
A plan is also in place to help improve teacher and school leader effectiveness through a partnership with Khan Academy that will provide teachers throughout the district with access to professional development.