The HISD Board of Education voted Thursday night to extend Superintendent Terry Grier’s contact through June 2014, signaling their commitment to continuing the bold initiatives that began with his arrival in 2009.
Trustees Paula Harris, Greg Meyers, Manuel Rodriguez Jr., Larry Marshall, and Harvin Moore voted for the extension. President Michael Lunceford and trustees Juliet Stipeche and Rhonda Skillern-Jones abstained. Trustee Anna Eastman voted against the measure.
Trustees who voted in favor of the extension said Dr. Grier has delivered on his promise of swift action to raise academic performance among all children and set HISD on a path to become the best school district in America.
“In 2009 we went out on a superintendent search. The board said we need someone bold and with a vision,” said Trustee Greg Meyers. “If you look at the data tonight, we’re on track. That’s something I feel confident about. … I’m proud to say this superintendent has followed the charge and put together a staff that is dedicated to doing what’s right not for the adults, but for the kids in this district.”
Trustee Paula Harris cited “huge jumps” in student achievement during Dr. Grier’s tenure.
“At the end of the day, what we’re here for is an increase in student achievement and that’s what we’ve been seeing,” Harris said. “We’re working for all 204,000 of our kids.”
The vote drew immediate praise from the leader of Houston’s largest business advocacy organization.
"The business community has been a strong supporter of Dr. Grier and HISD,” said Jeff Moseley, the Greater Houston Partnership’s president and CEO. “GHP is delighted that the Board extended his contract to the benefit of the students, faculty, and staff of HISD.”
Under Dr. Grier’s leadership, the district has launched several initiatives aimed at making HISD the best school district in America. The philosophy that guides these initiatives, HISD’s Strategic Direction, was developed at Dr. Grier’s direction in partnership with the community. For six months in 2010, HISD staff conducted a series of community meetings throughout the city in an effort to gather input from all people. From this process, the HISD Board of Education embraced five Core Initiatives that strategically guide HISD’s efforts. Those initiatives are:
- Effective Teacher in Every Classroom
- Effective Principal in Every School
- Rigorous Instructional Standards and Supports
- Data-Driven Accountability
- Culture of Trust through Action
Following these priorities, HISD took many innovative steps aimed at addressing the community’s goals for its public schools.
Partnering with Teachers
HISD partnered with the national New Teacher Project to work with teachers and the community to develop a more reliable and useful teacher evaluation and appraisal system that takes students’ academic progress into account. Last spring, the Board of Education adopted the new appraisal and development system and teachers are now working shoulder-to-shoulder with their appraisers to use student data to guide their instruction and professional development.
Boosting Academic Rigor
HISD also embarked on a major initiative to boost the level of academic rigor in all schools, particularly high schools. Two years ago, some HISD high schools offered few college-level Advanced Placement courses. Today, all HISD high schools offer at least 15 AP courses. By expanding access to these courses, the number of AP exams passed by HISD students is up an astounding 35 percent since 2009.
Turning Around Struggling Schools
Dr. Grier’s plan for addressing the needs of students in schools with a long history of failing to meet the state’s minimum academic standards came in the form of the Apollo 20 school turnaround program. Launched in partnership with Harvard University EdLabs during the 2010-2011 school year at nine secondary schools, Apollo 20 uses strategies proven to get results at the nation’s top charter schools to test whether they will do the same for traditional public schools. By extending the school year and the school day, providing students with highly educated math tutors, hiring teachers and principals with a demonstrated belief in the potential of every child, using data to drive instruction, and creating a no-excuses culture, Apollo 20 students showed great promise after the first year of the three-year program. Philanthropists from Houston and around the nation so far have donated $14.5 million to the effort.
Addressing the Dropout Crisis
The number of students dropping out of school is at its lowest level ever since the state adopted the current strict reporting standards. And the percentage of students graduating high school on time has never been hire.
Under Dr. Grier’s leadership, HISD opened Grad Labs at every high school campus, where students who have fallen behind academically work with graduation coaches as they make up lost time using web-based courses. HISD also opened Twilight High Schools, where students who are unable to attend school during traditional hours can take courses online at their own pace.
Building Community Trust
When Dr. Grier arrived at HISD, the district was missing out on millions of dollars in federal classroom technology funding because of past improprieties committed by some employees. Dr. Grier ordered staff to swiftly settle the matter and restore the flow of money that is critically needed to wire campuses to support modern technology needs.
After withholding this technology money for several years, the federal government last year agreed to HISD’s request for $88 million to benefit the district’s classrooms.
HISD is also making strong progress to finish $805 million in school construction and renovation work approved by voters in 2007. Those projects remain on time and on budget.