Many of the initiatives outlined by HISD's Superintendent are meant to create a college bound culture in the district. Abe Saavedra says the number of students taking Advanced Placement courses jumped 28 percent last year. At the other end, HISD plans to offer a full day pre-kindergarten to every eligible child. Saavedra says new program called SUCCESS will help parents get on the college path.
"Before leaving middle school students will have a success plan that takes them from middle school to the first years of college. We will design that plan with the help of parents so that the needs of every child are considered and so that every parent understands what they must do to help their child get all the way through college."
2005 was Saavedra's first full year as superintendent and it was a year ago that controversy swirled over the future of three consistently low performing high schools: Sam Houston, Kashmere and Yates.
"And look where we are a year later. Each school is on much more stable, educational ground. It is being closely monitored. In fact Yates High School was rewarded for its efforts last year when it earned TEA accountability rating of academically acceptable. Congratulations to Yates High School."
And then Katrina. HISD currently has 5,800 evacuee students. Saavedra made no reference to the districts response to some outbreaks of violence. The lunch time audience did hear from Katrina evacuee Antonio Stoval who is now student body vice president at his new school.
"I was forced out of my home. I spent four days in a jeep and took refuge in a truck stop with hundreds of others. When I came to Houston I enrolled in HISD's Scarborough High School. With their generosity and open arms, the entire Scarborough family has helped me chart my new course."
Saavedra wrapped up his comments by predicting that in five years, HISD will be the state's highest paying school system for high performing teachers. It includes a distance-learning program that'll pay performance bonuses. Capella Tucker, Houston Public Radio News.