NORTHEAST HOUSTON Houston ISD board of trustees approved a plan at their regular meeting last Thursday, to repurpose the Sam Houston High School, which was closed in a dramatic move by the Texas Education Agency for failing 5 years in a row to meet state accountability standards.
Since the closing, the district has formulated a proposal that will be submitted to TEA. If they approve, then Sam Houston will change to two new schools: a 9th grade freshman school, separatge from the high school, which will become a school with emphasis on Math, Scince, and Technology.
Following TEA guidelines, the new schools will have to have 75% new teachers, 50% new students, new names, and a new principal.
At least temporarily, the schools have been named the North Region Ninth Grade Preparatory Academy, and Sam Houston Center for Math, Science, and Technology.
HISD is prepared to offer bonuses up to $5000 to new teachers that have a proven record of improving students test scores, superintendent Saavedra indicated. However, on the subject of 50% new students, he said that all passing current students would be eligible to return, although they could also opt for another school, since HISD is an open enrollment district. Saavedra indicated that TEA head Robert Scott had liberally interpreted the law to allow HISD to keep current student in the new school. This is also due to 9th grade and graduating seniors not counting in the new student body.
Saavedra and others also noted that this years Sam Houston had made considerable progress in improving student test scores, and he questioned why state accountability standards did not recognize so much improvement, instead of only using benchmarks that did not recognize this effort. He suggested that the state should reconsider their accountability program when the next legislature meets.
In a related discussion, Armando Walle, who is scheduled to be the next state legislator for the area, told the Northeast News that he would work for legislation to revise the accountability standards.
Part of the problem, as indicated by educators close to the situation, is that only a few students in one of the minority categories have not been able to meet the math standards in TAKS testing, in spite of extensive tutoring and special effort by the school. These few students have lowered the accountability results below the state standards.
PTA president Marina Mendoza indicated to the Northeast News that she has seen the proposals for the repurposed schools, and thinks they have a good chance to succeed in bringing up the quality of education and test results.
HISD has appointed Jane Crump as the new principal, replacing the current principal Aida Tello. Crump was previously at Stevenson 9th grade school, where she brought about a successful improvement.
Crump led the presentation last Tuesday night, to parents at Sam Houston auditorium. She emphasized that the new school would continue the successful programs, would offer more career paths, and would keep in daily contact with TEAs Scott to insure that the school was on the path to acceptabile performance.
She specifically assured parents that programs such as Pre-AP/AP/dual credit, special ed, off-campus programs, arts, band, and others will continue.
She indicated that the school will emphasize keeping in touch with each individual student, knowing their needs and helping them to succeed. She encouraged parents to contact the school regularly, and use email and the school website often.
Some changes that will take affect when the schools open in August will include uniforms for all grades, and the 9th grade students will be required to take an extra hour of class instruction beyond what they now do.
Crump explained that the uniforms will aid the administrators in keeping the two schools and their students separate from each other, even though they will be on the same campus.
She said that for now the 9th grade will be housed in a combination of existing buildings and portable classrooms assembled in their own area, away from the 10-12 grades.
The plan for the new 10-12 school, will allow it to have a new name, state number, and to forgive the accountability failures of the previous Sam Houston – in other words, a fresh start.
The repurposed plan will cost HISD a reported $3.6 million additional dollars, to be spent in hiring bonuses, reconfiguring the buildings, and rewiring the high school to be a wireless WiFi campus.
The new school will offer combined high school and college credits, and to emphasize this, the president of Houston Community College – Northeast, Dr. Margaret Ford, was present for the presentation.
The high school will require that students declare a career path, in engineering, information technology, or the transportation industry.