The barbed wire is going down. Along with major initiatives such as a new way to assess teachers and high school credit recovery programs, Houston ISD Superintendent Terry Grier remains a very busy man, interested in all sorts of district operations, even as he prepares for his first State of the Schools address this Friday.
At Tuesday's media roundtable, Grier mentioned that right after their arrival when he and his wife were tooling around Houston, he spotted something he didn't like a lot, namely: chain link fences topped with razor wire around some of the HISD schools.
To him, the image was a grating one. What would kids think going into a compound like that each day? So he talked with the people in the administration he needed to talk with and the razor wire started coming down -- at least around the outside of the front of the schools.
"It may take us some time," Grier said, but it's something he expects the district to handle bit by bit. He conceded some missteps already -- communications to principals weren't handled right, some found out about it when crews arrived on their campuses to start taking apart the fence. In some cases, security cameras were installed afterwards as a protective measure, he said.
What really set him off, though, he said, was one school he visited -- a three-year recipient of a Distinguished Texas School Award -- that was surrounded by a five- to six-foot rusting chain-link fence, while just across the street was a building fronted by a beautiful wrought iron fence.
Previously schools in more affluent neighborhoods were able to transform their fences with additional donations from parents. Grier wants the fencing at all HISD schools to look better than like something out of a reform school or a prison yard.