Houston ISD got a double dose of good news today when it learned it's getting $31.5 million in Teacher Incentive Fund grant money (spread out over five years) to help enable it to continue paying bonuses to teachers and to pay for training and equipment needs.
Terry Grier took the opportunity of the windfall news to morph a planned media roundtable (up to now, a somewhat casual in nature venue for discussions between the media and the superintendent) into a full-scale press conference.
At the end of the meeting, Grier announced they'd just gotten word from Senator John Cornyn's office that HISD's federal magnet school grant application had been approved. They didn't have the amount yet -- we'll update when we get it.
The only glum moment was when it was confirmed that Chief Academic Officer Chuck Morris will be retiring and leaving the district. Grier said he didn't know if he could find a replacement for the man who works with him in North Carolina, and then followed him to San Diego and Houston.
Other good news Grier announced:
-- Apollo 20. "Attendance rates are higher or the same as last year at eight of the nine Apollo schools after the first 25 day." Also attendance is up and there are fewer discipline referrals as compared to the same time last year -- a "33 percent decrease."
-- A total of 84 students have enrolled in one of the six so-called "Twilight Schools" that operate in the last afternoon/early evening and use a lot of online coursework. The seventh school opens Monday at Milby High.
-- HISD enrollment is up by 1,861 students --- 203,257 this year compared with 201,396 last.
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-- The district found it had 3,262 "no shows" by September 21 and has tracked down where all but 928 of them are, Grier said. Accounting for them helps the district with its dropout record, keeping it from being "inflated." (This would, of course, be a new problem for HISD with years of documented underreporting of its dropout rate behind it.)
-- Several outside foundations and businesses are giving HISD funding, among them: Bank of America, Wells Fargo, the Houston Endowment, and J.P. Morgan Chase.
"The foundation world has started to pay attention to some of our efforts at transformation," Grier said.
Update: Houston ISD just announced the amount of its three-year federal grant for magnet schools at $11.4 million. The money will fund two whole-school elementary Montessori programs (Garden Oaks and Dodson) and a health science magnet at Whidby Elementary. Fondren Middle School will become an International Baccalaureate Middle Years Program and Jones High will become a Science, Technology, Engineering and Math magnet.