CEP About to Shrink to One Campus, If HISD Trustees Say A-OK

Updated: With comments from board agenda meeting at end of story.

Community Education Partners will shutter its Ferndale campus as a result of an amended contract calling for it to receive $1.8 million less a year from the Houston ISD pending approval by the district's board of trustees.

Superintendent Terry Grier is recommending the decreased amount at today's school board agenda review. It will then be voted on at Thursday's school board meeting. The privately-owned alternative education program is designed for students who run afoul of the district's regulations and who are sent there from their home schools.

CEP will continue to operate its Beechnut facility. HISD will pay CEP about $11.9 million for 1,000 students -- down from the 1,200 student spots (and about $14 million contract) guaranteed this year. Additional students would cost $63.50 per student per day.

Since its start in the 1997-98 school year, CEP has been a target of criticism in the district from people who consider it a dropout factory, saying it does a poor job of educating students.

In a 6-1 vote last June, HISD trustees voted to approve an extension of CEP, although Grier had talked about discontinuing the contract. Only Anna Eastman voted against continuing with CEP.

Hair Balls will update with any comments from today's agenda meeting.

Update: Grier said CEP had made a lot of positive changes in its program since the board last renewed its contract. But one area that remains problematic, he said, is attendance, although he quickly pointed out that it's no better than the record these students have at their home schools.

Chief Financial Officer Melinda Garrett said CEP has been running at about 800 kids at a time this year. Grier said that "no one on staff has told principals not to send students to CEP," but that there has been a decrease from some of the nine middle and high schools involved in the Apollo 20 project for low-performing schools.

Later in the discussion of extending Apollo 20 to 11 elementary schools next fall -- also to be voted on Thursday night -- Grier said that some of the cost savings at CEP could be used for the 11 Apollo 20 elementaries.

Trustee Anna Eastman objected to this, saying that she thought any CEP savings should go back to the districts sending CEP their kids and not be restricted to the Apollo elementaries.

"These are our lowest performing school sand they have been ignored," Grier responded. He said if the money didn't come from there, it would need to come from somewhere to provide for the extra needs at these turnaround schools.

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