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A brand-new year with brand-new possibilities

2012 August 27

There’s nothing like the first day of school, and this year was a particularly exciting kickoff to a wonderful year ahead—including innovative new programs and brand-new schools opening their doors.

Back to School

I toured Scarborough High School, which is one of six new Houston Innovative Learning Zone (HILZ) campuses launched this summer. The campuses offer students an opportunity to fulfill high school graduation requirements while simultaneously earning associate’s degrees. This gives seniors two options: go on to the college of their choice or obtain a job right away in a thriving industry.

Principal Jason Catchings was busy checking schedules and ushering students to their classrooms. He has high expectations for his students this year, saying only pre-AP and AP classes will be offered. I spoke with two juniors who are very excited about the HILZ program at Scarborough. Phillip Omro and Demi Mitchell showed off new classrooms that are designed for differentiated instruction. Chairs are grouped in circles so students can work more closely together. The students said they feel fortunate to be a part of the HILZ program.

I also got a chance to see the new Billy Reagan K-8 Educational Center, named after former HISD Superintendent Billy Reagan, who was at the school to take in his legacy. He said it was the greatest honor to have such a state-of-the art school bearing his name. The school offers a two-way dual language program that is both a bilingual program for Spanish-speaking students and a foreign-language immersion program for English-speaking students. Principal Joyce Williams took me through several classrooms where children and teachers were already hard at work on their lessons. The school is already at its 900-student capacity!

We also introduced a program through a partnership with River Oaks Chrysler Jeep Dodge Ram President Alan Helfman and the HISD Police Department that offers lunch to HISD officers at elementary and middle schools. The officers then have the opportunity to mentor students and offer extra security on campuses—just another example of how HISD is committed to providing a rigorous education and a safe and secure atmosphere for academic excellence.

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