Houston ISD’s Statement On Why It will Join School Finance Lawsuit
October 20, 2011

Texas’ Largest School District Joins Fight to Strike Down School Finance System

HISD will join coalition of school districts challenging the constitutionality of Texas’ school finance system

 October 20, 2011 – The Houston Independent School District on Thursday joined the growing statewide movement to have Texas’ school finance system declared unconstitutional.

            The HISD Board of Education voted to authorize a lawsuit against the state on the grounds that Texas lawmakers have not met their constitutionally mandated obligation to adequately fund public education. The recently adopted state budget cuts education funding by $5 billion over a two-year period. This funding cut comes at a time when Texas is adding 80,000 more students each year and lawmakers are holding school districts accountable for meeting the highest academic standards in state history.

            HISD lost $78 million in state funding this year and anticipates a $122 million cut in 2012-2013. Last week, the Board of Education voted to hold HISD’s property tax rate steady, maintaining HISD’s status as having the lowest tax rate among the 21 school districts in Harris County.

            “Raising local property taxes is not the solution,” said HISD Board President Paula Harris. “We kept our tax rate low and shame on anyone in Austin who says ‘We shouldn’t have to fix school finance for Houston ISD because you’re not raising taxes.’”

            The lawsuit marks the seventh time in the past 30 years that Texas school districts have joined together to challenge the state’s school finance system, said attorney David Thompson, whose Thompson & Horton law firm will represent HISD and many more districts.

“We are dramatically raising the standards more than at any time in the history of the state of Texas and we are simultaneously cutting funds,” Thompson said. “It is time to ask our judiciary to once again be involved in this issue.”

Thompson successfully argued the 2005 school finance lawsuit that resulted in the Texas Supreme Court striking down the previous funding system. At the time, the court warned that significant structural change to the state’s school finance system was needed, writing that it “remain(ed) to be seen whether the system’s predicted drift toward constitutional inadequacy (would) be avoided by legislative action to widespread calls for change.”

Lawmakers responded to that ruling with a revised funding system that reduced school property taxes and sought to replace the lost revenue with an expanded business tax. The plan did not work.

Harris thanked the parents, HISD employees, and others who lobbied on behalf of Texas school children during the past legislative session.

            “We have to take this step once again and protect our classrooms, protect our teachers, and most of all protect the children of the Houston Independent School District,” Harris said of the lawsuit.

            Trustee Juliet Stipeche agreed: “We’ve essentially been asked to make bricks without straw.”

            Stipeche added that some state lawmakers fought for adequate public education funding, but found themselves in the minority.

            “There were many legislators who tried their best to make sure we weren’t put in this situation,” she said. “Thank you to the legislators who fought on behalf of Texas children.”

            HISD’s share in the lawsuit’s cost is expected to total $65,000. The last time HISD participated in such a lawsuit, a judge ordered the state to reimburse the district’s legal fees.

            Many other Texas school boards, including those in Fort Bend and Pearland, have already agreed to participate in litigation against the state and many more are expected to do so in the coming weeks, Thompson said.

            “This will be a broad and diverse coalition of school districts that will stand together and raise common concerns to seek a ruling to compel the Legislature to adequately fund public education, provide local discretion, and tie funding to the standards and requirements by the state,” Thompson said.

The Houston Independent School District is the largest school district in Texas and the seventh-largest in the United States with 298 schools and more than 200,000 students. The 301-square-mile district is one of the largest employers in the Houston metropolitan area with nearly 30,000 employees.

For more information, visit the HISD Web site at www.houstonisd.org.

HISD Lassoes Huge Donation From Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo
August 16, 2011

(news release)

August 16, 2011 – The HISD Foundation has received a $500,000 gift from the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (HLSR) that will help build a district-wide literacy program designed to help all HISD students read on grade level by the third grade.

 “This is a great way to build future Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo scholarship winners — ensuring that younger students get on the right path to reading, which leads to future academic success,” said Skip Wagner, Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo president and CEO. “It’s really exciting to be involved in cutting edge research that has the potential to guide these young students to a college education some day.”

HISD is launching a long-term, district-wide literacy program across all grades that will include foundational skills, enrichment and acceleration through standardized strategies, resources and tools.  HLSR’s donation will further bolster the district’s current investment in this literacy program.

“The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has been a long-standing, important partner to the district.  I believe that this partnership will only strengthen and accelerate our ability to impact student success in preparing them for college and career,” said Dr. Terry Grier, HISD superintendent.

Roughly 70,000 HISD students currently read below their grade level. Addressing the problem has been particularly challenging because reading instructional approaches vary from one HISD campus to the next, and Houston students frequently transfer from one school to another.

While HISD students recently posted significant gains in other subjects tested on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, such as math and science, reading scores have remained somewhat flat. Since 2007, the percentage of HISD students passing the science and math exams are up 13 and 20 precentage points, respectively. In reading, however, the passing rate is up just 4 percentage points.

This literacy initiative will establish a district-wide assessment program across all grade levels to gauge each student’s strengths and weaknesses and provide a framework based on data-driven decision-making.

“We will implement these changes while at the same time encouraging schools that are getting great results to keep doing what they’re doing,” Dr. Grier said. “To borrow a phrase our rodeo friends are fond of saying: ‘If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ ”

Lori Vetters, HISD Foundation Grants Committee Chair, said: “The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo understands that strong reading skills are critical to the educational outcomes of our Houston children. The Rodeo is providing an important and strategic gift to support a much needed district-wide program.” 

HISD’s literacy initiative will be led by the new Director of Literacy Dr. Carol Bedard.  Previously an associate professor at the University of Houston – downtown, Bedard has more than 20 years of teaching experience and has previously worked with many of HISD’s schools.

“We believe reading and writing to be the spine for all content areas.  So as we work to strengthen this foundation, we will in essence be strengthening their skills in all content areas,” Dr. Bedard said. 

 About the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo:

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo™ is a Section 501(c)(3) charity dedicated to benefiting youth, supporting education, and facilitating better agricultural practices through exhibitions and presentation. Since its beginning in 1932, the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo has committed more than $265 million to scholarships, research, endowments, calf scramble participants, junior show exhibitors, School Art participants, and other educational and youth programs.


About the HISD Foundation:

The HISD Foundation partners with the district to raise private support, manage funds and provide donor accountability. Funds raised by the HISD Foundation and district leaders provide resources to advance the core initiatives of the district’s Strategic Direction. The Foundation’s fundraising efforts focus on institutional priorities set by the superintendent of schools and board of education. A separate 501 (C) (3) nonprofit, the Foundation is governed by a volunteer board of business, community and philanthropic leaders. The Foundation’s programming is aligned with the district’s five core initiatives: Effective Teacher in Every Classroom; Effective Principal in Every Classroom; Rigorous Instructional Standards & Supports; Data-Driven Accountability; Culture of Trust through Action. For more information about the HISD Foundation please visit www.houstonisdfoundation.org.

What Parents Need To Know About Free & Reduced School Meals
August 11, 2011



The Houston Independent School District announces the policy for free and reduced-price meals served under the National School Lunch Program and School Breakfast Program for the 2011-2012 school year.  Each school has a copy of the policy, which may be reviewed by any interested party.


The Houston Independent School District Schools offer a choice of healthy meals each school day.  Breakfast is free; lunch costs $2.25 in elementary and $2.25 in secondary.  Your children may qualify for free meals or for reduced-price meals.  The reduced price is $.40 for lunch.  All meals served must meet nutrition standards as established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.  If a child has a disability, as determined by a doctor, and the disability prevents the child from eating the regular school meal, the school will make substitutions prescribed by the doctor.  If a substitution is needed, there will be no extra charge for the meal.  Please note, however, that the school is not required to make a substitution for a food allergy, unless it meets the definition of disability.  Please call the school for further information.


Parents can prepay for their child’s lunch by going to www.parentonline.net.


Children from families whose income is at or below the level shown on the following scale are eligible for either free or reduced-price meals:












Reduced Price


Reduced Price


Reduced Price





















































































For each additional family member add:





+ $4,966

+ $7,067

+ $414

+ $589

+ $96



Your children can get free school meals if you get Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).


DIRECT CERTIFICATION FOR FREE MEALS:          Many students have been approved for free meals, for the school year 2011-2012, based on information provided by the Texas Department of Human Services.  The parents of these students were sent HISD Direct Certification Notices by U.S. Mail.  These parents are not to fill out or return a school lunch application for the child listed on the notification letter.  Direct Certified students are eligible for free meals.

 How do I get free or reduced-price school meals for my children?         You must complete the Application for Free and Reduced-price Meals Form and return it to the school.

 Parents can complete an online application by going to www.mealapps.houstonisd.org.

 ¨      Households getting SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) or TANF.  You only have to include your children’s names and eligibility group numbers, and an adult household member must sign the form.

¨      Households that do not get SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) or TANF.  If you do not have an Eligibility Group Number, you must include the names of all household members, the amount of income each person received last month and where the income came from.  An adult household member must sign the form and include his or her social security number, or indicate that he or she has no social security number.

¨      Households with a foster child. Foster children who are the legal responsibility of the state agency or court are eligible for free meal benefits regardless of the income of the household with whom they reside.

 Will the form be verified?  Your eligibility may be checked at any time during the school year.  School officials may ask you to send written evidence that shows that your children should get free or reduced-price school meals. 

Can I appeal the school’s decision?  You can talk to school officials if you do not agree with the school’s decision on your form.  You also may ask for a fair hearing by calling or writing to: Manager Nutrition Services, HISD/ARAMARK Food Services, 6801 Bennington St. Houston, Texas 77028, (Phone: 713-491-5730).

 Will my information be kept confidential?  We will use the information on your form to decide if your children should get free or reduced-price meals.  We may inform officials with other child nutrition, health and education programs of the information on your form to determine benefits for those programs or for funding and/or evaluation purposes.


Can I apply for free and reduced-price meals later?  You may apply for free and reduced-price meals at any time during the school year.  If you are not eligible now but have a change, like a decrease in household income, an increase in household size, become unemployed or get SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) or TANF, complete another form then. 

We will let you know if you are approved or denied.

 Non-discrimination Statement:  This explains what to do if you believe you have been treated unfairly.  In accordance with Federal law and U.S. Department of Agriculture policy, this institution is prohibited from discriminating on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability.  To file a complaint of discrimination, write to USDA, Director, Office of Adjudication, 1400 Independence Avenue, SW, Washington, D.C. 20250-9410 or call toll free (866) 632-9992 (Voice). Individuals who are hearing impaired or have speech disabilities may contact USDA through the Federal Relay Service at (800) 877-8339; or (800) 845-6136 (Spanish). USDA is an equal opportunity provider and employer.

New HISD Board President Toasted By Friends and Community Leaders
February 11, 2011

Paula Harris was recently elected to serve as President of the Houston Independent School Board of Trustees.

 Friends and community leaders gathered this week to toast Harris and hear some of her plans for the state’s largest school district. The event was held at La Griglia.

She and her fellow trustees will have their hands full during this era of state education funding cuts and concern about test scores, teacher bonuses and class size.

For  now, it was great that she had the time to celebrate her new leadership position.

According to the HISD website, Harris is a graduate of Texas A&M University with a degree in petroleum engineering. In her 20-year career in the oil industry, Harris has held a variety of positions, including field engineer managing operations on offshore rigs throughout the Gulf of Mexico.

Paula Harris chosen to lead HISD Board of Education in 2011
January 13, 2011

 (From HISD)


Outgoing President Greg Meyers reflects on successful year for Houston schools


January 13, 2011 – The Houston Independent School District Board of Education unanimously elected Paula Harris to a one-year term as president on Thursday.

            Elected to the Board in 2007, Harris represents District IV, which includes much of south Houston. As president, Harris said she is committed to representing all HISD children.

            A Houston native, Harris has a petroleum engineering degree from Texas A&M University and has worked in the oil industry for more than two decades, currently as director of community affairs for a major company. Harris is a published author who has been named to Black Engineer’s “50 Who Make a Difference” and “Key Women in Energy” as well as receiving the “Women of Color in Technology” award. She has been nominated for a Greater Houston Women’s Chamber of Commerce Role Model Award, which will be handed out later this month.

            Harris and her husband Dwayne are the owners of DPM Investments. Their daughter is an HISD student.

            “I’m very honored that my colleagues have entrusted me with this huge responsibility,” Harris said. “Our goal is to meet the needs of every child, family and community in the Houston area. We’ll continue working tirelessly to put together strategic plans to bring our schools to an even higher level.”

Harris succeeds Trustee Greg Meyers, who led the board during a year that saw the launch of several high-impact initiatives aimed at making HISD the best school district in America. Those initiatives include the creation of HISD’s Strategic Direction and the ambitious Apollo 20 program aimed at transforming struggling schools. Meyers thanked his Board of Education colleagues, HISD teachers and administrators for their hard work on behalf of children.

“It is because of you that HISD has a record number of schools ranked on Newsweek’s list of America’s best high schools, that our students are taking more AP exams than ever before and that five schools are National Blue Ribbon Award winners,” Meyers said. “These accomplishments are possible because of your tireless efforts and the contributions you make as a member of TEAM HISD.”

Other 2011 board officers named Thursday are:

  • ·        First Vice President Manuel Rodriguez Jr.
  • ·        Second Vice President Anna Eastman
  • ·        Secretary Carol Mims Galloway
  • ·        Assistant Secretary Michael Lunceford




HISD Students Pick Hot Toys For the Holidays
November 23, 2010

(HISD news release)

Longfellow Elementary’s Annual Toy Survey Uncovers What Kids Really Want

Silly Bandz, mini-skateboards, and gift cards top the list instead of expensive electronics

 November 23, 2010 – Concerned that the holidays can be a confusing, frustrating time for parents when it comes to buying gifts for kids, students at HISD’s Longfellow Elementary held a news conference on Tuesday, November 23 to announce this year’s most-wanted holiday gifts.

Every year, the fifth-graders at Longfellow divide into teams and hit the playground, hallways, and lunchroom to survey their classmates on the “hot toys” for the holiday season.  The students conduct the surveys themselves, record the data, and use data analysis and math skills to tally the results and release their top ten list to the media. 

This year, the students took into account the recent economy and made a point to not to include any expensive electronics, high-tech items, or video gaming systems that have made their list in past years. Instead their focus was on finding toys that are both interesting to kids and priced under $50. And the winners for 2010 are:


10        Hot Wheels items

9          (TIE) Lego sets and Loopz music memory game

8          Arts and crafts sets (like jewelry making kits and models)

7          Paper Jamz Guitar

6          Nerf-n-Strike dart launcher

5          Watches and jewelry

4          Spy Gear items

3          Gift cards

2          Tech Decks mini-skateboard sets

1          Silly Bandz


No adults were allowed to speak at today’s press conference. Instead, fifth graders Sh’mar Evans, Lily Gastineau, Elise Gutierrez, Cassandra Lutz, Helena Marlowe, and Bryon Moreno released their findings and addressed members of the local print and television media. Representatives from Target brought examples of all the top toys to display at the press conference and afterwards they generously donated them to the school.

Several of the top items made the hot toy list last year as well. Those include gift cards, watches and jewelry, and Lego sets. New to the list this year are the extremely popular Silly Bandz which are rubber band bracelets that come in different shapes and characters.

“If you are a parent and in doubt about what to get your child for the holidays, Silly Bandz are the way to go,” said Helena Marlowe. “Boys and girls like them and they are really inexpensive. If I was a parent, I’d fill my child’s stocking with Silly Bandz.”

“Get things on sale and take advantage of Black Friday,” advised Sh’mar Evans. “Get out there and get the hot items, because before you know it, they might be gone.”


The Houston Independent School District is the largest school district in Texas and the seventh-largest in the United States with 298 schools and more than 200,000 students. The 301-square-mile district is one of the largest employers in the Houston metropolitan area with nearly 30,000 employees.

For more information, visit the HISD Web site at www.houstonisd.org.

Hispanic Leaders Call For HISD Special Election
August 19, 2010

UPDATE:  The HISD Board voted unanimously this morning to hold a special election on Nov. 2, 2010, to fill the unexpired term created by Diana Davilla’s resignation.  Filing for candidates starts tomorrow in the Board Services Office at the Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center at 4400 W. 18th. Filing deadline is Monday, August 30.

 As  HISD trustees prepare  to appoint someone to fill a vacant position on the board,  several Houston Hispanic leaders are calling for a special election.

Unless the current trustees have a change of heart the decision will be made at Thursday night’s board meeting.

Below is a copy of the letter sent to board members.

Hispanic Elected Officials Call for a Special Election for HISD District VIII 

Houston// In a letter sent to Greg Meyers, President of the HISD Board of Trustees, State Representatives Alvarado, Hernandez, Farrar and Walle, Senator Gallegos, Council Members Rodriguez and Gonzalez, HCC Trustees Perez and Loredo, Constable Trevino, and Justices of the Peace Rodriguez and Delgado are requesting that the HISD board set a date for a special election to elect a new Trustee for District VIII.

“Diversity is the lifeblood of democracy – our present situation calls on us to once again tap into and embrace that core principle of democratic governance–“government of the people, by the people, for the people,” stated State Representative Carol Alvarado. “The District VIII voters deserve the right to decide who the next District VIII representative will be.” 

This vacancy was created when Trustee Diana Davila resigned last month; she has since moved out of the district. The person elected in a special election would serve the remainder of her term, and would have to seek reelection in November of 2011.

The State of HISD
February 17, 2009

On Tuesday HISD Superintendent Dr. Abelardo Saavedra delivered his fifth annual state of the schools speech. 


It was an opportunity for him to outline his accomplishments while superintendent, and focus on his goals for the future.


It was likely his last opportunity to give a state of the schools speech as  superintendent of the state’s largest school district.

Dr. Saavedra announced that he plans to step down by March of 2010. He’ll leave earlier if the board hires his replacement before then.

Meanwhile, the speech drew an interesting mix of parents, teacher, and community leaders:

Attorney Bill King, Dr. Laura Murillo, Pastor D.Z. Cofield, HISD Trustees Paula Arnold, Harvin Moore and board President Larry Marshall, former HISD Spokesman Terry Abbott, and Mayoral Candidate Gene Locke.