Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Discussing the HISD Bond

Our community has been engaging in a serious discussion about the HISD bond proposal that will be on this November's ballot. Tonight the committee charged with investigating the proposal will meet and hear presentations from State Rep. Sylvester Turner and representatives from HISD.

I've tried to prompt some discussion here on our blog. How will our endorsement affect the bond's chance of passage? How did the district come to its decisions on proposed school closures and consolidations? What do GLBT parents and teachers think?

Here are links to all bond related posts:


HISD Bond: "It's really Two Questions"

HISD Bond: A Classroom Perspective

The blog has hosted some excellent discussion. Including this perspective from a veteran teacher:

My concern as a teacher for HISD is that we as a society are accepting less and less from our children and calling it good enough. With the creation of NCLB we ensured no child would be left behind. What does that mean for our gifted children? They are kept with the group as well. Hopefully great teachers can pull the slower children along to try to keep up with the brighter ones. In doing so, our teacher resources, money and time go to the farthest behind. HISD has eliminated the TIER system for finding our brightest kids and putting them together on a very fast paced course. Now they are only the top quarter and they are being mixed with all the others, so no one will feel bad of course. I think the bond that will support a system of dumbing down our society is not the best plan. However, this is a national plan, not just Houston . Where do we start to complain, though? All good work is grass roots at heart. Would I love to work in a state of the art school with all the wonderful perks? Of course. Do I ultimately approve of the way the district spends my money? No, not really. I do not think that will change if the bill is defeated. Administration will go right ahead the way it has been. So, I have mixed feelings and thoughts on the plan.

Here's the point of view of a younger teacher, working on a large campus simular to those consolidated schools being proposed in the bond issue:

I’ve only taught for one year, and I certainly don’t have all (or many) answers. I haven’t thoroughly researched the bond issue yet (I plan to and then post more), but I have some small insights from my past year of teaching. I teach at a large school, similar to the size of the new consolidated campuses in the bond proposal – Tinsley has around 700 students in the first through fifth grades. It’s also a Title 1 school – about 95% of the students are on free/reduced lunch and about 70 – 80% of the students are considered at-risk. The school was only opened about 6 years ago, so the facillities are almost brand-new.

The facillities are incredible, but, as I learned last year, what is really important at any school is the faculty and staff. First, teachers and administrators must believe in and be committed to student success – this is the most important thing, and everything else builds off of this. Second, teachers and administrators must have a plan for student success. This plan includes academic standards, student conduct expectations, teacher expectations… teachers and administrators should even know how they want the students to look in the hall or in the cafeteria. Third, teachers and administrators must be consistent in following their plan and get the students and parents to buy into it.

Now, how does this all relate to the HISD bond issue? In my minimal reading about it, I can already tell that it’s not going to solve all of the problems with HISD. All of my kids suddenly becoming really wealthy and being able to afford tutors and trips to Europe would probably solve the problems with HISD, but that’s not going to happen. Instead, my kids have to rely on the efforts of an underpaid, overworked HISD staff.

Here's how Caucus board member and U.H. professor Maria Gonzalez felt after hearing discussions among caucus members:

I do not invest in any conception of efficiency for education. Education is a labor intensive product, historically reserved for the elite few because nations understood it as a scarce commodity. We in this country are conducting a great experiment in attempting universal education. My answer has always been the same—more teachers, less students in classes. It is not efficient, easy, or cheap, but it is the best way to almost guarantee an educated populace.

finally, I think we should all consider the politics behind this position. Our Caucus may very well singularly decide the fate of this bond. The Caucus has a unique chance to demonstrate that the GLBT community is invested in healthy Houston schools. Even though judges in Harris county discriminate against our families; even though our own city is slow to recognize and protect our families; The GLBT community wants the best for Houston schools. If we help the district pass this bond proposal, our community will more gain a seat at the table. We'll gain leverage in the discussion on how best to refine the current plan, and we'll be better positioned to lobby the district on behalf of GLBT children in the future.

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