New Year Marks New Direction For HISD

The new school year began with new opportunities for students in the state's largest school district. Some campuses will offer students an early start to college when they get their high school diploma.

Superintendent Dr. Terry Grier began his day at Scarborough High, one of six schools that offers  the Houston Innovative Learning Zone Program.

"Fifty rising 11th graders can actually earn a 2-year associates degree when they graduate from high school. And they're off to a great start over there. It's gonna be a good year."

Created in partnership with Houston Community College, students will take courses taught by college professors, and any credits earned will transfer to any public Texas university.

Grier then toured one of four new campuses. The Billy Reagan K-8 Education Center is named after longtime educator and former Superintendent Billy Reagan.

"It's the ultimate compliment, thanks to the work of a lot of people, Dr. Grier. If I'm 82 and I started when I was 22, that makes about 60 years, doesn't it? And I think it's a great symbol of what the district is doing and Dr. Grier is doing, to recognize those people that are there, on what he calls 'team HISD'."

The district also welcomes a police-mentoring program, that allows police officers to share a meal with students and interact with them. Alan Helfman is president of River Oaks Chrysler Jeep Dodge, and helped come up with the mentoring idea:

"I just thought that if I could put a program like D.A.R.E. or P.A.L. that was less contentious, why couldn't that work with the kids? That's why I enlisted the help of HPD and HISD, and then when I talked to the other officers like Bobby Hebert over at Fondren Southwest, he said 'Alan, if you guys show up to the Fondren Southwest schools, the environment will change forever, and just try to be what you would as a parent to these kids."

Katherine Cabaniss with Crime Stoppers thinks it's a program that was a long time coming.

"We really support this program, as a way to connect the police and the students in a very very positive way. Sharing a meal together whether it's breakfast or lunch, just establishing those relationships over the lunch table. This is only going to have a great great benefit for students, not only with the safety of their campus, but with their own security."

With changes in its curriculum, the HISD also says its aligned with state and national standards to prepare students for the rigor of the new STARR exam, which replaced the TAKS test.

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