Speaking before a sold-out crowd, HISD Superintendent Richard Carranza and HISD Board of Education President Wanda Adams urged business professionals and state lawmakers to see public education as an investment to ensure the future success of every student that walks through a school’s doors.
“I am here to tell you that we must invest in every child,” Carranza said. “Regardless of where they live, where they were born, the color of their skin, their religion, or the language they speak. Every child at every school deserves a high-quality education that prepares them for a successful future … They are our future leaders, engineers, entrepreneurs, computer programmers. They are the fulfillment of Houston’s enormous potential.”
Carranza and Adams delivered their messages while speaking Wednesday to more than 2,000 guests at the district’s annual State of the Schools address held at the Hilton Americas-Houston and hosted by the HISD Foundation. Co-chaired by Doug and Sarah Foshee and Joe and Claire Greenberg, the program also featured the district’s inaugural Distinguished Alumni Award. The award was presented to journalist and author Roland Martin, a graduate of Yates High School, and BP Vice President of Operations, Gulf of Mexico, Aleida Rios, a graduate of Milby High School.
Both Carranza and Adams touted the district’s commitment to diversity, ensuring equity within all schools, focusing more on student learning versus testing, and creating a world-class school district.
“Every child should have the opportunity to learn the skills they need to succeed, to discover their career path, and to have fun doing it,” Adams said. “Our investment in our students is this board’s top priority. We set goals to improve student achievement in under-performing schools; to ensure that magnet programs are available for all students who wish to attend our specialty schools; and most importantly, to ensure that all children will be reading on grade level.”
The program highlighted students, teachers, and schools from across the district. Among those participating were the Whittier Elementary School Band, Wisdom High School JROTC, Kashmere High School Drumline, Chavez High School Choral Group, as well as student speakers from Law Elementary School, Milby High School, and Yates High School.
In his first address since assuming leadership of the district this school year, Carranza addressed some of HISD’s greatest challenges, including the state’s school finance system, which has led HISD to recapture. Carranza called recapture today’s most pressing issue for HISD. Although HISD serves 76 percent of economically disadvantaged students, HISD is considered “property-wealthy” and is required to send millions of its local property taxes to the state to distribute to poorer school districts. However, in November, voters declined to authorize HISD to send $162 million in local property taxes to the state of Texas.
“With that NO vote, the HISD community forced a conversation in Austin that has long needed to happen regarding the funding of schools in Texas,” Carranza said. “And now, there is the slightest glimmer of potential movement on this important issue at the capitol.”
Despite challenges with school funding, Carranza says HISD remains more committed than ever to ensuring all students are equipped with the skills they need to be globally competitive. The district has met with the city’s major employers, colleges and universities, and industry leaders to develop the district’s Global Graduate Profile, which outlines the skills students should have by the time they graduate from high school. These skills include being a leader, skilled communicator, responsible decision maker, college-ready learner, as well as adaptable, productive, and a critical thinker.
“Everyone in this room should know both the qualities of the Global Graduate profile as well as the steps HISD is taking to make sure all of our students grow and develop these skills,” Carranza said. “Starting from the moment they walk through our doors to when they walk across the stage at graduation.”
The event featured the district’s inaugural Distinguished Alumni Award, which honors HISD graduates who have distinguished themselves with extraordinary achievement and meaningful contributions in their chosen profession and community. Honorees Martin and Rios were introduced by students who currently attend their alma maters and aspire to work in the same industry.
“There are countless HISD students just like me who started dreaming thanks to the hard work and support of their teachers,” Rios said upon accepting her award from Milby senior Tabitha Cerda, who will be a first-generation college student this fall at Northeastern University to study civil engineering. “HISD needs our support, and we need HISD to inspire and develop the next generation of innovators.”
Martin, the host and managing editor of TV One’s News One Now, also encouraged those in attendance to support and invest in HISD students. Earlier today, he broadcast his show live from Yates, a communications magnet school.
“One of the reasons why I wanted to do my show from Yates was because I wanted folks to know that a graduate of the school can come back and do something successful who didn’t play sports,” Martin said after accepting his award from Yates senior Reginald Pierre-Antoine, who plans to study sports journalism this fall at Arizona State University. “When it comes to where we are in this [journalism] industry, we need to have diverse voices. The reality is that [Yates] could very well produce more and more Roland Martins. This school should be a crown jewel when it comes to communications.”
Carranza said the alumni recognized truly represent the best of HISD. He challenged more people to give back to the district by becoming “Friends of HISD” and making a donation that will help provide students with items such as books, computers, and scholarships. The HISD State of the Schools program is the HISD Foundation’s largest fundraiser, helping to raise funds to support districtwide and school-based programs.
“In addition to knowing that you have made a direct impact on a child’s life, you will get to see firsthand the work being done in HISD by going inside classrooms and meeting top educators in the district,” Carranza said. “After all, public education is not an expense. It is an investment … Houston is a world-class city, and in order to stay that way, we need to make sure our students have a world-class education. I believe it is possible if we all work together.”
For complete speeches, pictures, and video from today’s event, go to: HoustonISD.org/StateoftheSchools. To download a copy of the 2016 Annual Report, go to HoustonISD.org/AnnualReport.