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New building for Sterling will ‘speak aviation’

An airplane hangar and flight simulators will be a few of the first things students see upon arriving inside the new Sterling High School.

“When you approach the school, we want the building to speak aviation,” said Principal Dale Mitchell at a community meeting Tuesday. “The airplane hangar and our flight simulator areas will be a place where students will be able to learn more about flight and how to put together and take apart planes.”

The project’s second community meeting drew about 20 parents, students, stakeholders and community members interested in learning more about the three-story transparent building that will emphasize the school’s aviation program and provide students views of airplanes in flight from William P. Hobby Airport, less than five miles from the school.

Sterling, originally built in 1965, is one of 40 schools that will be rebuilt or renovated into a 21st century learning environment under HISD’s 2012 $1.89 billion bond program. Plans are underway to begin construction on Sterling in the fourth quarter of 2014. The school will be built on a site area adjacent to the existing building, allowing students to continue to attend classes in the current facility during construction. The building will serve between 1,600 and 1,800 students and is scheduled to open in 2016.

During the community meeting, the school’s architects presented design renderings and images of the building’s front entrance and interior spaces while providing an update on the organization of academic and student spaces in the building.

The architects are currently in the design development phase for the new facility, exploring various options for exterior and interior building materials, including blue metal panels for the front entrance and double high glass windows to provide a more industrial and 21st century appearance for the building exterior.

“We want to create an environment of success for the students, so what they do in their academic environment mimics what they will do in their future career,” said architect Jennifer Henrikson of the SHW Group, the firm designing the new facility.

Inside, the building will feature learning commons throughout hallways that will be called “learning runways” at the school. The learning commons will offer students areas to work in small groups that will be visible to teachers in main instructional spaces.

“The building is laid out so that you can literally stand on one end of the building and see the other side of the building,” Mitchell said. “That’s a key piece because this will allow teachers and our staff to continue to monitor students.”

The first floor will include the school’s aviation power plant, theater, black box, cafeteria, gym, community room, and departments for visual arts, life skills, music, career and technology. The first floor will also have a security vestibule where visitors will be required to check in before entering the main office. Some learning spaces on this level will have direct access to outdoor learning areas where teachers will be able to easily take students outside for assignments or special projects. As part of the district’s PowerUp initiative, the entire campus will be wireless, allowing students to work on assignments digitally from anywhere in and around the building.

The second floor and third floors will feature science labs, teacher work centers, additional administrative offices, student meeting spaces, and learning neighborhoods for various academics. Each learning neighborhood is comprised of flexible classroom spaces with moveable, glass walls that allow teachers to merge their class with another or change their space as needed. Outside of the learning neighborhoods will be additional learning commons with laptop charging stations. The area will also serve as a place where students can make presentations, study and lounge.

“In the learning commons, we can break off into groups,” said Sterling student Ebony Kelly. “It gives us more of a college feel since we won’t just have classrooms with rows of desks.”

“This is 21st century learning,” added the Rev. A.L. Hickman Sr., who serves on the school’s Project Advisory Team. “The little classrooms we’ve had before with one door … this building will not look like that.”

Since the school has a longstanding partnership with Hobby Airport, the architects and school principal are also exploring the idea of the third floor having an observation deck to provide visibility to Hobby’s flight pattern and possibly a control room where students can hear inside a control room at the airport. An alumni of the school has also suggested adding specialized doors or the school logo or name on a side of the building to help student pilots identify the school when flying.

“There are not a lot of places you’ll go in this building and not see aviation as the focus,” Mitchell said.

Celebrate Week of the Young Child with HISD preschool skill-building programs

This week, HISD celebrates the Week of the Young Child, which focuses awareness on the needs of young children (birth through age 8) and their families — and which recognizes the early childhood programs and services that meet those needs. In honor of the Young Child, here are a few things that you should know:

  • During the first 3 years of life, the brain undergoes its most dramatic growth, and children acquire the ability to speak, learn, and reason.
  • A young child’s ability to use language, as well as to pick up and understand the meaning of spoken and written words, is related to later achievement in reading, writing, and spelling.
  • At 16-18 months, when children begin building vocabulary, word learning is significantly affected by economic background.
  • By age 3, the way your child talks, including vocabulary, growth, and style of interaction, are well established.
  • Gaps between children who have developed strong literacy skills and those who did not grow wider, rather than shrink, over the early elementary years.
  • Children’s academic success at ages 9 and 10 is based on the amount of talk they hear from birth through age 3.
  • Parents play a critical role in the development of a child’s early literacy skills.

Here are two important ways parents can work with HISD to help their child develop the skills they will need to achieve in reading and writing when they start school:

  • Enroll your child in a Pre-K program. HISD offers pre-K programs across the district and has early childhood centers that can help your young child develop the skills they need for primary school. Visit www.houstonisd.org/Page/32100 to learn more.
  • Enroll in the HIPPY program. You spend more time with your child than anyone else, and, whether you realize it or not, you ARE your child’s first teacher. The HIPPY program is offered in 49 HISD school communities and builds adults’ parenting skills to help 3-, 4-, and 5-year-olds get an early start on reading, writing, and math. To see a list of schools served and find out more about the HIPPY program, visit www.houstonisd.org/Page/99154

HISD STEM students compete for summer internships in Washington, D.C.

Students from the Young Men’s College Preparatory Academy and Energized for STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) Academy competed April 8 for a chance to win all expenses-paid summer internships with the U.S. Department of Energy in Washington, D.C.

The science competition was part of the American Association for Blacks in Energy (AABE) 2014 conference held at the Hilton Americas Hotel in downtown Houston. The purpose of the event was to encourage minority students from underserved Houston communities to pursue STEM-related careers.

“The event is not really about competing against each other,” said Argentina James, Energized for STEM Academy Principal. “It’s an opportunity for students from both schools to do a summer internship in Washington, D.C., with the Department of Energy.”

Participants were high school students who previously demonstrated excellence in the STEM academic disciplines at their schools. Teams consisted of five students representing both schools, all of whom are 16 years old and able to intern in the nation’s capital this summer.

“I became interested in STEM when I heard that my friends were interested,” said Young Men’s Preparatory Academy sophomore Sharrieff Muhammad.

“I just wanted to try it out,” said his classmate, Kelwyn Tippins.

YMCPA science teacher Adrian Acosta said the competition, although stressful, was not as stressful as a day in the classroom. “We have rigorous academics on a daily basis. An opportunity like this contest is fun for the students compared to taking tests.”

The AABE organization is committed to prepare the next generation of STEM-educated students for careers in the energy industry. In addition to the competition, students participated in site tours and mentoring relationships with energy professionals at the event ‘s sponsoring companies including CenterPoint Energy, Spectra Energy, and Schlumberger.

YMCPA and Energized for STEM Academy are only two of many HISD schools that specialize in promoting STEM education. To learn more about other STEM schools, visit www.houstonisd.org/schoolchoice.

Cheer on HISD’s Culinary Arts Students as they ‘cook up change’

Do you love cooking competitions on television? Well here’s your chance to witness culinary arts high school students from HISD go head-to-head as they compete to have their menu items featured on next school year’s lunch menu and to win a trip to Washington, D.C.

Join ARAMARK/HISD Food Services from 11:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Saturday, April 12, this Saturday as they host the inaugural Cooking Up Change Culinary Competition–Houston, at Rice University’s West Servery. The event is free and open to the public.

For the last three months, students have worked tirelessly with HISD Food Services’ dietitians and chefs to create nutritious meals that meet federal guidelines and budget constraints. Seven teams representing Barbara Jordan, Davis, Westside and Harper Alternative high schools will compete for their chance to enter the national competition in June in Washington, D.C. This is the first year the competition is in Texas, and Team HISD will represent the entire state.

Judges for the competition include HISD Superintendent Terry Grier; Texas Department of Agriculture’s Director for Nutrition, Education and Outreach Beth Thorson; HISD Food Services Executive General Manager Ray Danilowicz; and ARAMARK/Reliant Park Executive Chef Mark Cornish.

Schedule:

  • Students’ food preparation – 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.
  • Menu sampling – 12 noon-1 p.m.
  • Judges’ deliberation– 1 p.m. – 2:15 p.m.
  • Announcement of winners – 2:15-2:30 p.m.

To learn more about the Cooking Up Change program, visit http://www.healthyschoolscampaign.org/programs/cooking-up-change/.

Rusk debuts new building wing for middle schoolers

Cheerful student ambassadors at The Rusk School met alumni, parents and community partners at the front entrance of their school to welcome them to a celebration for the opening of a new building wing.

Students accompanied guests down the hallways of the school to an outdoor walkway that leads to a new two-story building addition. The 21st century learning areas feature smart boards, document cameras, flexible student seating, and large windows – some of which overlook downtown Houston.

“It feels really good to have our own space,” said seventh-grader Michelle Hernandez, who welcomed visitors to the new building during a two-day celebration that began Friday with an open house that drew more than 300 parents.

The celebration also included a ribbon cutting Monday with musical performances by the school choir and student testimonies about their education at Rusk and how the school has changed their lives.

Many students gave guests tours of the 21,000-square-foot building that will serve 250 middle school students at the K-8 school. The building, funded under HISD’s 2007 bond program, includes seven classrooms, two science labs and a computer lab that will also serve as an engineering lab. The facility will also offer a 1:1 laptop initiative, providing each student with their own laptop or iPad.

“No more temporary buildings for our middle school students,” said Rusk Principal Eduardo Sindaco. “The fact that they have their own space and a brand new space at that will allow them to flourish even more.”

The $11 million building addition, designed by STOA International Architects and built by contractor Satterfield & Pontikes Construction, features state-of-the-art technology infrastructure and multiple environmental enhancements designed to save energy through the use of recycled building materials and increased daylight views.

“I love all the natural lighting and the large rooms that will allow for more collaborative learning opportunities for our students,” said HISD Board President Juliet Stipeche.

The new facility will open to students this week.

“We have been looking forward to being in the new building for a while,” said seventh-grader Nikolas Lechuga while sitting in the facility’s gym that will also serve as a multipurpose room for special events. “We have more room to grow, and we have a gym now. That’s the fun part because when it’s cold and wet outside, we can play in here.”

“It is my hope that with this new building, the school will allow more children to discover themselves,” said eighth-grader Erik Lopez who spoke during the opening ceremony at the ribbon cutting.

Students helped Principal Sindaco, School Support Officer Rudy Trevino, Stipeche and former HISD trustee and Houston City Councilman Felix Fraga, an alumni of Rusk, cut the ribbon before opening the building up for tours.

“I’ve always been proud of Rusk,” said Fraga, who attended the original Rusk in the 1930s. “We keep thinking neighborhoods like this are going to disappear, but they’re not. This community needs school developments like this one that will continue to support and improve our neighborhoods.”

‘Eagles’ symposium encourages students to soar with STEM courses

Hundreds of middle and high school students learned about science, technology, engineering, and math careers at a symposium organized by the Gathering of Eagles and the Houston Military Affairs Committee.

A variety of speakers working in STEM-related careers, including a geologist at NASA, encouraged about 375 students in attendance at the Saturday event at Houston Community College Southeast. They came from schools including Austin, Bellaire, Davis, and Milby high schools and Deady, Hartman, Ortiz, and Stevenson middle schools and heard about exploring science and math courses and considering the engineering profession.

Students learned about the financial aid process, technology programs at schools where certificates may be earned, and programs available at area junior colleges.

The groups also held an essay contest, which 50 students entered. The winner was Deady Middle School student Jesus Guerra, who described how taking STEM courses could better prepare himself for the future skilled job market. He was awarded $100. You can read Jesus’ essay here.

The symposium was such a success that another one will be held again next year around the time of spring break.

Video shows progress on additions that will modernize Worthing HS

HISD released a new video that shows progress on the planning and design of a new two-story building addition at Worthing High School.

Worthing will receive a building addition under HISD’s 2007 bond program and a new building that will be funded by the district’s 2012 $1.89 billion bond program. The facility will house academics, performance arts, athletics, and other departments.

“We have an opportunity to repurpose Worthing High School  to make it more relevant for the students who attend it and reclaim some of the students we lost by putting some 21st century programming in and making the school a 21st century design,” said Worthing Principal John Modest.

Staff, alumni and students have shared ideas for their building project with the school’s architect. Many would like to see the school have flexible and open learning areas with more daylight views, enhanced technology, and modern finishes.

“I think the student input is most valid because the school is for the students,” said Worthing student Heaven Murphy, who calls Worthing the “pride of Sunnyside,” a community the school has called home since 1958.

“This new building needs to be a very flexible space, one that we can adapt to the needs of our students and our program,” Modest said. “We want Worthing to regain the prominence it once held in the community.”

SAT free-for-all: HISD juniors prep for college admissions test April 16

HISD juniors will be sharpening their No. 2 pencils to take the SAT college admission test during SAT School Day on their own campuses April 16, with the district picking up the registration cost. Students registered for the test with their high school counselors, who provided a voucher to waive the $51 fee.

If you are registered to take the test at your high school, here are some tips to prepare for test day:

  • Learn the directions and question formats in advance: If you understand the instructions, you’ll feel more confident and be less likely to make careless errors. The test is timed, so if you don’t have to spend time on the directions, you will have more time for earning points.
  • Take an educated guess by ruling out one or more answer choices for a multiple-choice question as definitely wrong; your chances of guessing correctly among the remaining choices improve. Omit questions only when you really have no idea how best to answer them. You don’t gain or lose points for omitting an answer. Keep in mind that most questions are arranged from easy to hard.
  • Use the test book for scratch work to cross off answers you know are wrong, and to mark questions you did not answer:  Be sure to mark your answers on the separate answer sheet. You won’t receive credit for any answers you marked in the test book. Avoid extra marks on the answer sheet. The answer sheet is machine-scored, and the machine can’t tell an answer from a doodle.
  • Check your answer sheet regularly to make sure you are in the right place: Losing your place on the answer sheet will affect your test results. Check the number of the question and the number on the answer sheet every few questions. This is especially important when you skip a question.
  • Pace yourself: Don’t spend so much time working through hard questions that you lose time to find and answer the easier ones. Work on less time-consuming questions before moving on to those that demand more time. Save time by marking questions as you work on them and crossing out choices you can eliminate as you move through the test. The SAT includes 10 sections for which you have a total of 3 hours and 45 minutes to complete. First check to see how much time you have to complete each section. Then, while practicing for and taking the test, develop a habit of occasionally checking your progress through the test. That way you know when you are one-fourth of the way through the time allotted for a section, when you are halfway through, and when you have five minutes left. If you finish a section before time is called, use the remaining time to check your answers.
  • Think Positively: Getting down on yourself during the test does more than make you feel bad. It can take away the confidence you need to solve problems. It can distract you. Keep up your confidence and focus on each question.

If you are scheduled to take the SAT on SAT School Day, but need resources for the last days of preparation, you can take advantage of these free resources:

For more information about College Readiness or the SAT, visit www.houstonisd.org/collegereadiness.

Don’t lose your slot: Acceptances to magnet, Vanguard programs due Friday

Deadline is Friday, April 11, for students who applied to a magnet or Vanguard program for the 2014-2015 school year to accept a place at a school for which they were offered admission.

Parents must notify the school directly or accept via the school choice online dashboard. Their acceptance will be final once they complete the steps outlined when they make their selection.

“A student’s acceptance does not remove him or her from the waitlists to other schools,” said School Services Officer Dr. Lupita Hinojosa. “However, they will decline all other offers when they accept the school of his or her choice.”

If a student is on the waitlist to three schools, he or she will continue to be on the waitlist regardless of accepting admission to another school. If the same student was offered admission to five other schools, he/she will decline them once he accepts a school of his/her choice.

Because of fluctuating waitlists, parents are encouraged to frequently check their school choice online dashboard for an updated number. Those unsure about your place on a waitlist, should first check the online School Choice online dashboard at http://houstonisdschoolchoiceapplication.com/

Anyone believing a waitlist number is incorrect should contact the School Choice hotline at 713-556-6947 or via email at magnetonlineapplicationhelp@houstonisd.org.

Following the Dec. 20 deadline for the first round, HISD’s school choice office continued to accept applications for all magnet and Vanguard programs. The applications submitted after the first deadline will be processed on a first-come, first-served basis. Students who apply to programs with openings will be accepted if qualifications are met, after waitlists are met, and in order of application.

Once students who applied by Dec. 20 and participated in the lottery accept or decline their offers, a new document listing schools with openings will be posted on the HISD School Choice website.

For frequently asked questions, visit the site at www.houstonisd.org/schoolchoice.

Lockhart ES principal finalist for H-E-B Excellence in Education Award

Lockhart Elementary School Principal Felicia Adams got a big surprise at a school assembly on Friday – she’s been named a finalist for H-E-B’s Excellence in Education Awards.

H-E-B officials suddenly appeared during the assembly, carrying balloons, flowers, cake and giant check. Adams was awarded $1,000, and the school will receive $2,500.

Adams will compete against other finalists in the state for the chance to win $5,000 to $25,000. The winners will be announced in May.