Standing in the school garden just inside the signature red wall at the front of Sugar Grove Academy Middle School, new HISD Superintendent Millard House II listened as Science Department Chair Charles Huckaby listed off the vegetables and fruits growing in the verdant space.
“Potatoes, garlic, corn, jalapenos, tomatoes, squash, bell peppers, even ghost peppers, if you’re brave enough to try them,” Huckaby said.
“Not me! No way,” House joked in reply.
The stop at the garden was a part of House’s visit to Sugar Grove’s summer school, where he took a tour of the building and then held his first press conference as superintendent, outlining his goals for HISD.
“My mission as your superintendent is to maintain and grow a rigorous teaching and learning environment that provides every student with a sense of belonging while students grow intellectually, emotionally, and socially,” House said.
That type of “rigorous environment” was illustrated on another stop on the school tour, as House watched 35-year teaching veteran Corazon Flores holding court in front of her Social Studies class, recounting the various types of representatives in elected governments.
At another stop, a class was gathered in one of the school’s reading nooks, reading the historical novel “No Promises in the Wind.” Students took turns reading aloud, offering their own takes on the Great Depression-set plot, with voices for different characters and dramatic pauses.
Those classes were just two of the many taking place during summer school at Sugar Grove, with almost 300 students enrolled this year. Many students are taking part in summer classes to help alleviate some of the learning losses incurred during the pandemic.
As a result of those gaps, House outlined three goals he wants to immediately address with HISD.
- Goal 1: Re-engage all students in the public education experience.
- Goal 2: Ensure safe and orderly school openings.
- Goal 3: Develop and deliver a bold strategic plan that cements the path of innovation and excellence.
The first step to achieving those goals, according to House, is a return to 100 percent in-person instruction this coming school year. The superintendent also acknowledged worries from parents about health and safety in schools, mentioning CDC studies that showed schools are safe and have not been associated with substantial community spread. In addition, he cited COVID-19 case numbers across district campuses which have dropped 90 percent since the beginning of the year.
“My own children were virtual learners and will be HISD students [this school year],” said Superintendent House. “Their safety and your children’s safety are my top priority. As vaccinations continue to increase throughout Harris County and the country, we are confident that a full return to in-person learning in the coming school year will be completely safe for students and teachers.”
This meet-and-greet at the middle school is just the beginning, according to House. He plans to hold community forums over the next few months where he will meet with parents, guardians, and stakeholders, to include “those who have not always had a seat at the table.”
Those forums are all a part of making HISD a more equitable, transparent district, with voices from around the community involved in decision-making, according to House.
“Only through listening to you and following up with actions that address your needs and shared aspirations will we achieve substantial, transformative change in our communities,” said House. “I am confident the HISD community will come together to make this district equitable, inclusive, and truly one educational institution for all.”
To watch the full press conference, click here.