For years, Ken Huewitt has been known as the “numbers guy” at the Houston Independent School District. He was controller, then chief financial officer.
Now he’s the interim superintendent, taking over from longtime leader Terry Grier who stepped down earlier this week.
At HISD’s annual State of the Schools address Thursday, Huewitt gave a very personal introduction.
He took center stage in front of hundreds of educators, business people and politicians at a hotel downtown.
He said he wanted to talk about the label “low SES” or low socio-economic status.
“As a child, growing up in the military town of Killeen, Texas, I was considered low SES. Or to use a less fancy word — poor. The funny thing is, I didn’t even know it,” Huewitt said.
He told how he had clean clothes, shoes to wear and a roof over his head. A neighbor rewarded him for good grades with an apple or an orange.
“While my mom cleaned houses and worked odd jobs, I pulled the lawn mower behind me as a I rode my bike to Fort Hood to earn money. At just nine years old, I was the ‘man of the house,'” Huewitt recounted.
Now Huewitt, 54, leads the state’s largest school district at a key time of transition.
HISD faces $107 million budget deficit because it has to send more money back to the state. It’s considered a property wealthy district. So it has to share its revenue, even though the majority of students are poor.
“When I go out and visit schools in our district, I see myself in these kids. They don’t know they’re poor. They’re just trying to learn,” Huewitt said.
He called on the entire Houston community to do more for those children.
He said that the immediate challenge lies in the 58 HISD schools that have failed to meet state standards.
Also at the state of the schools address, HISD board president Manuel Rodriguez, Jr., revealed plans for more dual-language campuses.
“We continue to expand these programs, reflecting the multicultural diversity of our city. Next school year, a French immersion school will join our complement of Spanish, Chinese and Arabic schools,” Rodriguez said.
He added that they will also add more Spanish and English dual-language campuses, so that there will be dual language offerings at more than one third of all HISD elementary schools.