Dozens of employees are packed into a conference room at the headquarters for the Houston Independent School District.
They’re noshing on popcorn and hoping to use their silver and blue pompoms.
HISD won the Broad Prize.
It’s one of the largest awards for urban school districts. It’s often called the Nobel Prize of public education.
For district employees, the win means a lot.
“It’s hope, as education was hope for me. And here knowing the great job we’ve done in this district, it provides hope for students in our district as well.”
“I’m most proud of what we do every day for students, that we provide them a place to learn and grow and for them to become citizens of the world.”
“Even with all the odds that we face with high levels of need with a really diverse population, our district has done amazing work.”
That’s Ben Hernandez, Julie Hill and Alejandro Morua with HISD.
School districts can’t apply for the prize. They are picked.
Houston was the first district to ever win the prize back in 2002 and was a runner up last year.
Now with its win this year, HISD is the only district in the country to win the Broad Prize twice.
That’s why assistant superintendent Josephine Rice was a little surprised.
“I thought since we won a couple years ago that our number wouldn’t come up again so soon. But on the other hand, I wasn’t surprised because I know how much work we’ve done.”
Rice was part of the team that gave more data and information to researchers who evaluated the four finalists.
Superintendent Terry Grier accepting the award in Washington, D.C.
HISD beat out two districts in California and one in North Carolina to win.
“Broadly, I would say it was a matter of changing expectations, that that was the greatest lever that led to the prize that we won today. It’s just expectations are higher in every area for everyone.”
Superintendent Terry Grier says from the ceremony in Washington, D.C. that the credit goes to teachers, staff and partners.
“Just because we won the award this year does not mean that we are going to stop improving. It means we want to be back here three years from now and we want to be the first school district in America to win the award for the third time.”
The prize means not just prestige but also money.
Students here in Houston will receive more than half a million dollars in college scholarships.