The speech was virtual, but the stunts were very real.
The “stunt” in question was the image of Interim Superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan flying hundreds of feet in the air above southwest Houston in a small plane piloted by a teenager.
The segment—with Sterling High School student Trinity Ernest—highlighted the Career and Technology Education programs across the district. It was filmed as part of the 2021 State of the Schools program, held virtually this year for the first time.
Ernest, a junior at Sterling, is a part of that school’s aviation program. She’s set to earn her pilot’s license next year.
“I always loved flying, but I never thought I’d fly myself. But when this opportunity came, I grabbed it,” Ernest said. “And here I am now, flying with Dr. Lathan.”
That segment was just one part of the address, which Lathan delivered virtually to public education supporters from the business, academic, advocacy and faith communities.
Lathan’s address was centered around the idea of “Resilience Through It All,” and the address focused on the hard work of HISD employees and students throughout the pandemic and all its challenges.
“We have weathered many storms—even winter storms—and we are currently navigating through unchartered waters,” Lathan said. “But if there’s one lesson I’ve learned from our students—our younger generation and future leaders—it is that together we are resilient through it all. And that fills me with hope. Hope that as we continue to face unprecedented times, we will continue to thrive—together.”
The virtual benefit supports the HISD Foundation, which provides financial support to the district by mobilizing local community and organizational support, all in a goal to improve outcomes for all students in the district.
“We’ve all experienced hardship as a result of this crisis,” HISD Foundation Executive Director Katherine Smith said. “And perhaps no one segment of the population has seen their lives more radically upended than America’s public schoolchildren, nearly 200,000 of whom are enrolled in HISD. Despite all of these challenges, we must still find ways to reach them and propel them toward a better future.”
After the main program, attendees took part in a Q&A discussion with Smith and Dr. Lathan. Attendees could ask questions in the site’s chat feature, with Dr. Lathan responding.
On the next fives years in the district: “There are great things ahead for this school district, because we’ve got great people in place to help move it forward.”
On enrollment for next year: “We anticipate bringing back 5,000 students that we lost in the next school year.”
On the next school year: “Students that want face-to-face will continue to have that option. But teachers will not and cannot continue to teach online and virtual. It’s exhausting. They will teach in one mode or the other, not both.”
A new bond was the topic of multiple questions.
The last bond—$1.89 billion—was approved in 2012 and will wrap up next year as Bellaire High School is completed. Lathan said a new bond plan could be finalized in late summer, with the hiring of a new superintendent. Her hope is that the new bond would then be put on the November 2021 ballot for voter approval.
“I want to thank the voters for the 2012 bond,” Lathan said. “We’ve proven that we could do it. When we say Team HISD, we mean it. Go out and visit our schools and you’ll see the results of that team.”
If you would like to donate to the Houston ISD Foundation, you can donate online or text to give by sending “SOTS21” to 713-357-6267.