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You’re never too old to find joy in the first day of school

2014 August 28
by HISD Communications

The first day of school never ceases to thrill me. There can be a bit of that “Groundhog Day” feel to it, with the same scenes playing over and over again (cue the crying child, clinging to his mother). But there’s always plenty that’s fresh and new.

Monday’s return to school throughout HISD combined both aspects. I was lucky enough to visit five schools on three campuses. No, I haven’t forgotten my math — you read that right.

As the morning bell rang, I was at Shearn ES in southwest Houston, one of 14 of our elementary schools adding a dual-language English-Spanish program this year (where yes, I encountered a crying child). I looked in on kindergarteners who will spend the morning immersed in one language, then switch over in the afternoon to the other language, and was happy to see how completely they embraced the concept of bilingualism.

We now have these dual-language programs in 28 of our elementary schools and plan to have them in half of all elementary schools by 2016. If we could, I’d have them in all HISD schools right now and make our district the first in the nation to graduate every student speaking two languages fluently.

Next, it was off to Rodriguez ES, which hosted an important announcement by a coalition called “Early Matters,” a new advocacy group to promote early childhood education. HISD has free and low-cost preschool and our outstanding HIPPY program, which gives parents the tools to become their children’s first teachers in the home — but there are still too many youngsters whose first day in school is in kindergarten.

“Early Matters” seeks to create quality educational opportunities from birth through kindergarten and to acquire stable funding for those programs. Many of the problems public education faces with literacy, language, and dropouts could be alleviated by making sure children’s first five years of life aren’t wasted.

Finally, that final campus where I visited three schools: Jones Futures Academy, South Early College HS, and Milby HS are all housed at Jones this year, while SECHS and Milby wait for new campuses to be built. It’s a lot like having three families in one home — and I’m proud of how the principals and students are teaming up to make this work.

Summer is a great time to recharge and prepare, but there’s nothing like seeing classrooms full of energetic, curious young people on that first day of school. It’s why we do what we do.

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