In a recent editorial, the Greater Houston Partnership lays out an argument about the challenges facing the Houston Independent School District (HISD) board of trustees, and concluded by insisting that the Texas Education Agency (TEA) needs to act by appointing a local board of managers to replace the current elected board. The reality is, replacing the elected board of trustees does not in itself solve any of the challenges that HISD faces. It would be akin to replacing the captain on the Titanic as the ship heads towards an iceberg, rather than figuring out ways to course correct and avoid the catastrophe altogether.
The editorial goes on to further argue about the critical role public schools play in ensuring the long-term growth and sustainability of Houston, but does not offer any substantive ideas or policy proposals towards improving the District. We all agree that HISD is a vital part of Houston’s long-term economic viability, however, having such a singular focus continues to disregard long-term implications for families whose hopes rely on how well HISD educates and prepares their children for careers and post-secondary education.
As the seventh largest school district in America, HISD faces challenges similar to what other large urban school districts are experiencing. These are namely schools located in high poverty communities that lack parental involvement, adequate resources, high-quality enrichment learning opportunities, and quality teachers in every classroom. HISD cannot on its own resolve all these issues, which is why it is critical the business community affirm a long-term commitment as partners at the table working collaboratively with the District.
The same business leadership that is at this time choosing to voice its opinion should have been at the forefront of tackling the issue of failing schools going back the last two decades.
In 2010, when former superintendent Terry Grier announced the Apollo 20 program was when the business community should have put forward comprehensive solutions such as adopting failing schools, providing incentives to employees to volunteer in schools year-long, and connecting parents and underserved communities to transformative resources.
The present state of HISD demands that we not only seek out new leadership, but that we also seek a new direction which focuses more attention on the needs of students, rather than adult priorities driven by business concerns. We can build on the academic success of so many of HISD’s campuses by bolstering curriculum with enrichment learning and providing parental engagement services throughout the district.
Lastly, better align strategic partnerships with local governmental agencies and community organizations to have structured programs to sustain long-term working partnerships. Without the business working side by side with the District in the community to make available greater human and financial resources, many failing schools in HISD will continue to struggle.
Dr. Reagan Flowers is founder and CEO of C-STEM Teacher and Student Support Services, Inc. and Chief Knowledge Officer of Education Consulting Services, LLC.