Dear HISD Community:
Early last fall, the Board of Education tasked my administration with taking a critical look at theHouston Independent School District's magnet program offerings with the ultimate goal of findinga way to build on our successes while rethinking the things that are not working. We hired a thirdparty to evaluate our magnet schools from an outsider's perspective. We conducted dozens oftown hall meetings across the district to hear what our students, parents, and communitymembers had to say. We gathered principals, magnet coordinators, and teachers to give us theirboots-on-the-ground perspective. We reviewed lessons learned from past failed attempts ataddressing HISD's magnet program shortcomings, most recently in 2006.
What we learned and confirmed was that Houston parents value real choices when it comes todeciding where to send their children for school. Parents here expect that their children shouldhave the same access to high-quality programs regardless of where they live. Parents wantassurance that, when it comes to getting their child into one of our selective schools, thedecision will come down to merit. And when it comes to getting their child into a strong programthat was created to address the needs of any child, regardless of how prepared they are,parents want all children to have an equal chance. We all agree that for true school choice toexist in HISD, it should not matter who you know or where you live in our city.
We also reaffirmed through this process that this is a school district that wants to improve. Weare not satisfied with having just a handful of phenomenal schools, while the rest of our schoolsstruggle to produce graduates capable of thriving in college or in the workforce.
Last Thursday, our administration presented the Board of Education with a plan for retoolingmagnet programs in a way that encourages fair competition, allowing our top magnet programsto continue and replacing our ineffective programs with ones that hold real promise. We wouldoffer new options to meet students' interests while rejuvenating neighborhoods. The proposal isthe result of months of studying, listening
and working. I'm proud of it, and I believe it representsthe first tangible progress toward addressing problems in HISD's justifiably popular magnetprograms in many years.But an even larger challenge has emerged since we began our magnet program review. Lastfall, the implications of the current fiscal crisis were unclear. We did not know that we would befacing unprecedented budget cuts with potentially devastating consequences across the entiredistrict.Therefore, I am recommending that the HISD preliminary recommendations on the magnetprograms be held in abeyance this year and that few changes be made to the magnet programsfor 2011–2012. I am recommending that all current magnet programs continue to receivefunding and transportation next year. This will allow our staff and stakeholders the opportunity tofocus their time and energy on making tough spending decisions.We will resume planning for magnet program improvements before the end of this school yearand have an updated plan to present for the 2012–2013 school year by September 2011. Thiswill enable us to work closely with our principals and continue to engage the community inbuilding upon the proposal we provided as a starting point in this important work. In themeantime, I urge everyone to spend some time reviewing the many magnet program review