Houston ISD Superintendent Terry Grier is pitching extending the school year to his principals, waiting to see who is going to sign up for the cause. Because the one thing he wants to stress to everyone, he said (taking the pre-emptive action approach) is that it will not be mandatory for any school. You got to want it.
And as he also hastened to point out, just adding hours isn't enough. Quality teachers have to be there, which is why he plans to have all the teachers and principal at whatever school is selected for the program apply for their jobs.
Grier met yesterday with a third of the HISD principals; he's got the next two-thirds to go. He especially sees the need for extended school years -- an extra 15 days -- among the district's four to five lowest performing schools.
To his surprise, he said Tuesday in a media roundtable meeting, the first group of principals he talked with want him to consider a cluster approach, incorporating elementary and middle school feeder schools into the program as well as high schools.
Most likely, he said, the district would keep the number of participating schools low as part of a pilot project. There's a chance of getting Title I federal funds, a good thing since Grier estimated it would cost $150,000 to $200,000 more to fund an extended-year elementary, about $350,000 more for a middle school and $400,000 to $500,000 more for a high school.
The added costs involve salaries, transportation and building operating costs.
Grier said he thinks parents are for it -- for one thing it solves the day-care problem for a few more days each year. He readily admits interest on the part of principals doesn't necessarily translate to commitment and is waiting to see what the other principals say. Asked what would happen if parents who signed a contract at the start of an extended-school-year faltered along the way, Grier declared "We will not give up on kids."
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In other business:
-- Still no final announced decision on whether HISD will continue its contract with Community Education Partners, who operate two alternative schools here. Grier said while a study is being done by Dr. Roger Goddard of Texas A&M, the district is "looking at a variety of different options." Those options include: CEP continuing, contracting for CEP-style services with the Harris County Office of Education, going to another as yet unnamed provider, or having the district itself operate a CEP-like program. March 15 is the new deadline.
-- Grier said it doesn't bother him to be booed, as he was at the most recent board meeting. If it happens at his upcoming State of the Schools address this Friday, he'll take it in stride. At his age, he said, his skin isn't only as wrinkled as an elephant's, it's as tough. He considers it all part and parcel of being the superintendent of an urban district. In another district, he even had a "Get Grier Out of Here" sign posted in his own front yard, he said.
-- He's extended an offer to Gayle Fallon, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers, and to her group to help the district fashion a better teacher training program. So far, no word back from Fallon, not even a bad one.