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HISD Takes a Breather From the Bad, Sad News; Gets $2.5 Million

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It was a moment so auspicious that it was deemed worthy of a hurry-up press conference at noon Monday. And why not -- a $2.5 million donation from Chase Bank to the Houston ISD's Apollo program is the best news Superintendent Terry Grier and his troops have had in a while.

Thanks to the largest donation since Grier started fund-raising efforts for the pilot project, the total contributions almost doubled in size to nearly $5 million.

It was an exceedingly bright spot in what's been an otherwise relentlessly dreary round of one education cutback after another given the state's shaky finances. Although HISD has already pronounced itself ready to say goodbye to 1,912 employees and four elementary schools, that still probably won't be enough as it still seeks to make additional millions of dollars in cuts.

Even as Apollo expands into 11 more schools next year, signs of belt-tightening are there -- the elementaries won't have the longer school day and school year that have been thought so crucial to the middle and high schools in the program.

The announcement was made at one of the Apollo schools, Key Middle School, which historically has been known more for testing irregularities than a bastion of educational progress. But there was nothing but blue sky talk Monday.

"Improving the quality of our local schools has huge implications for Houston's future," said Gina Luna, Chairman of J.P. Morgan Chase in Houston. "J.P. Morgan and Chase believe the cities and states that do the best job of educating all of our children will lead this nation in economic growth and quality of life."

And board president Paula Harris, called Chase's donation "a smart investment in Houston's future."

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