Pittsburgh Public Schools visits DeBakey HSHP

Visitors from Pittsburgh Public Schools toured DeBakey High School for Health Professions recently to learn more about the state-of-the-art campus and Nutrition Services. 

Pittsburgh Public Schools Superintendent’s Chief of Staff Errika Fearbry Jones said their district’s strategic plan includes adding another science-based school and incorporating scratch cooking into its food services.  

“Houston is cutting-edge, so we’re coming here to kill two birds with one stone,” Jones said. “You’ve got to bring people along if you want them to buy in.” 

The group of eight visitors toured the DeBakey campus, which was founded in 1972 in partnership with Baylor College of Medicine as the first health-focused high school in the nation. Located in the Texas Medical Center, DeBakey’s new $67 million, 198,000-square-foot facility opened in 2017 as part of the 2012 Bond Program. 

General Manager of Facilities Design Dan Bankhead and DeBakey Principal Agnes Perry discussed the 2012 Bond Program, designing and building DeBakey, and the school’s curriculum and enrollment with the group. 

“What’s amazing about this building is that so many of us were able to give input,” Perry said. “Our program is very structured and has produced a lot of successful students. After they graduate, students come back and tell us how well DeBakey prepared them.” 

The visitors also explored DeBakey’s kitchen, sampling pinto bean salad and meat lover’s pizza. DeBakey students led them on a tour of the rest of the school, including patient care and dentistry labs, the black box theater, and the integrated physics and chemistry classroom. 

Later in the day, Business Operations Chief Operating Officer Brian Busby, Nutrition Services Senior Area Manager Keith Lewis, Chef Trainer Jane Mazzei, Dietitian Team Leader Claire Litz, and Operations Manager Curtis Johnson talked to the group about transitioning from a single large production facility to speed-scratch cooking, cafeteria staff uniforms, and increasing meal participation.  

“Changing the culture is not just behind-the-scenes in the kitchen or the serving line. It’s also marketing to parents, students, and teachers,” Busby said. “Student surveys are valuable because kids will tell you what they like and what they don’t like.”  

Jones said they’re grateful for the wealth of knowledge they acquired during their visit.  

“We were able to hear directly from people who are in our same roles,” Jones said. “If Houston can figure it out, I know we can figure it out.”