What’s New in HISD?

By: Rebecca S. Jones

HOUSTON – Last week, African-American News & Issues was privileged to sit down with the first African-American female to serve as Interim Superintendent for the Houston Independent School District, Dr. Grenita Lathan. Publisher Roy Douglas Malonson immediately begin in on the “Good Doctor”.
“Give it to us straight – what’s going on over there,” he asked in reference to the nation’s eighth largest district. He continued, “We want the good, bad and ugly; now tell us what you have been able to do within the last year over there…” Dr. Lathan did not hesitate to begin listing the many achievements the District has accomplished under her leadership.

Raising the Bar

At the top of the list of achievements for the nation’s eighth largest School District, is its recent rating by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). Overall, HISD earned “B” rating under the state accountability system for the 2018-2019 academic year, with 92 percent of its schools earning a passing grade. With a grade of 88, nine campuses exited from the state’s “Improvement Required” list to “Met Standard”.

Most impressively, Kashmere High School earned a “C” rating from the TEA for the 2018-2019 school year. This is no small victory for a school which has remained on the TEA’s “struggling list of schools for eight consecutive years.”

According to TEA ratings, “Fifty-seven HISD campuses earned A’s, 78 earned B’s, 86 earned C’s and 29 earned D’s” – “D” is the minimum grade of which a school may receive a passing rating.
But that is just the beginning. HISD has implemented several new and innovative approaches and initiatives under the leadership of Interim Superintendent Dr. Grenita Lathan; which are working to benefit the overall betterment of the district.

No Child Left Hungry

This year, HISD’s Nutrition Services has continued to offer free breakfast, lunch and dinner to students. According to HISD’s News Blog, parents are no longer required to complete the free and reduced-price meal application. Instead, parents are asked to complete a socioeconomic information form. The data retrieved from this form will help determine the amount of federal funding that will need to be disbursed to schools, as well as, a “performance indicator for student achievement”.

Training Young Minds Early

Understanding the dire need to begin training young minds early in order to produce positive leaders in the future; HISD has expanded to offer free, full-day pre-kindergarten programs at schools across the district. This effort will work to “provide more three- and four-year-old students with the opportunity to attend a high-quality program that will build a strong foundation of learning and support the needs of the families it serves.”

According to the District, “Students who attend pre-K in the 2019-2020 school year will benefit from engaging, age-appropriate, hands-on instruction, as well as: high-quality teachers in every classroom; optional bilingual classrooms; after-school care (available at some campuses); new furniture and instructional materials in every classroom; support to address mental and physical health, food and housing needs and parent education classes.”

To that regard, a total of 12 elementary campuses will be expanding pre-K classrooms for a total of 38 pre-K rooms. Those campuses include, Neff Early Learning Center, Isaacs, R. Martinez, Rucker, Love, Browning, Shadowbriar, Askew, Mitchell, Garden Villas, DeAnda and Wesley Elementary Schools. Additionally, Hillard and Oates Elementary Schools are implementing pre-K for the first time.

Preparing Students for the Real World

HISD is committed to taking the future by storm in preparing students for life after education. As such, its Career and Technical Education (CTE) certification platform has increased to over 2,000 student CTE certifications in the 2018-2019 school year – opposed to 700 students obtaining certification in the 2017-18 school year.

This year, the Interim Superintendent announced that, “CTE programs will be expanding to nine high schools throughout the district; including the addition of a graphic design program at Waltrip High School, a cosmetology program at Madison High School and a construction program at Milby High School.” CTE certification is a major step in the right direction for students to develop a trade early in life. Such credentials have the ability to allow students to market themselves in the ever-growing workforce of America. Having a trade, with experience in the industry will help to ensure many high school students are able to secure gainful employment and/or competitive salaries after graduating.

Ascending to Men & Resilient Outstanding Sisters Exemplifying Success (ROSES)

HISD launched its Ascending to Men Program in the 2018-19 school year. The program was designed to provide, “positive role models, resources and advocates for students who need guidance, opportunities for growth and success in a variety of areas”. In addition, it seeks to support student’s academically, emotionally and socially.

From the positive impact Ascending to Men has had on young males in the district, the Interim Superintendent recently announced a sister mentorship program designed to support young females – Resilient Outstanding Sisters Exemplifying Success (ROSES). Like Ascending to Men, ROSES seeks “to provide positive role models and advocates to underserved young women who need guidance and opportunities for educational, social, and professional growth”.

Currently, nine hundred students from 30 schools have been identified and personally invited by the Interim Superintendent and Assistant Superintendent of Equity and Outreach Kenneth Davis to participate in the program. According to HISD’s News Blog, “Students who join ROSES will participate in a tailored curriculum featuring workshops led by professional women from various industries, entrepreneurship tours, college visits and a ROSES summit at the end of the year.” Over 100 students have already signed up for the program.

Other recent achievements of the district include: creating a Special Education Intensive Intervention Team to increase behavioral support for the Office of Special Education; increasing the number of district psychologists and behavioral support teachers to better support mental health needs of campuses and students; extended the Imagine Learning and language contract to support more newcomers, beginner and intermediate English Learners and Tier III students; hired 37 additional fine arts teachers for elementary schools; reached 85 percent completion on the 2012 Bond program, resulting in the most modern, state-of-the-art portfolio of learning facilities in the nation and refined Achieve 180, – the district’s turnaround program.

Parent University

Lastly, the district’s Parent University is still in full throttle for the second year in a row. Parent University is a support mechanism for parents and families. It is comprised of workshops which are held at four geographically dispersed locations. During the sessions, the District provides an introduction to programs, community resources and parent-engagement strategies. For the convenience of students and parents, dinner is served to attendees and childcare is available. For more information regarding the workshops, keep picking up African-American News & Issues of visit the district’s website at https://www.houstonisd.org/parentuniversity.

About Interim Superintendent, Dr. Grenita Lathan

Dr. Grenita Lathan was named interim superintendent of the Houston Independent School District in March 2018, becoming the first African-American woman to serve as in the capacity.
Dr. Lathan’s academic career began in 1991 as a teacher at Morehead High School in Eden, N.C. She swiftly rose through ranks and served as both assistant principal and principal at other campuses in North Carolina. In 2008, she was named chief elementary school improvement officer of the San Diego Unified School District and then interim deputy superintendent in 2009.

Dr. Lathan was then named the superintendent of Peoria Public Schools in 2010, where she oversaw approximately 14,000 students and 2,700 staff members. Five years later in 2015, Dr. Lathan moved to Houston and served as HISD’s chief school officer over elementary transformation schools for a year. During this time, she led more than 20 schools out of an “improvement required” state rating to a “met standard” rating. During the 2016-2017 school year, she served as HISD’s chief academic officer.

Dr. Lathan possesses a bachelor’s degree in business education from North Carolina A&T State University, a master’s degree in business education from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a doctoral degree from Southern Illinois University.

Latest Articles


Search our archive of past issues Receive our Latest Updates
* indicates required

October 16, 2023, HOUSTON, TX – Congressional Candidate Amanda Edwards has raised over $1 million in less than 4 months, a substantial sum that helps bolster the frontrunner status of the former At-Large Houston City Council Member in her bid for U.S. Congress. Edwards raised over $433,000 in Q3 of 2023. This strong Q3 report expands on a successful Q2 where Edwards announced just 11 days after declaring her candidacy that she had raised over $600,000. With over $829,000 in cash-on-hand at the end of the September 30th financial reporting period, Edwards proves again that she is the clear frontrunner in the race. “I am beyond grateful for the strong outpouring of support that will help me to win this race and serve the incredible people of the 18th Congressional District,” said Edwards. “We are at a critical juncture in our nation’s trajectory, and we need to send servant leaders to Congress who can deliver the results the community deserves. The strong support from our supporters will help us to cultivate an 18th Congressional District where everyone in it can thrive.” Edwards said. “Amanda understands the challenges that the hard-working folks of the 18th Congressional District face because she has never lost sight of who she is or where she comes from; she was born and raised right here in the 18th Congressional District of Houston,” said Kathryn McNiel, spokesperson for Edwards’ campaign. Edwards has been endorsed by Higher Heights PAC, Collective PAC, Krimson PAC, and the Brady PAC. She has also been supported by Beto O’Rourke, among many others. About Amanda: Amanda is a native Houstonian, attorney and former At-Large Houston City Council Member. Amanda is a graduate of Eisenhower High School in Aldine ISD. Edwards earned a B.A. from Emory University and a J.D. from Harvard Law School. Edwards practiced law at Vinson & Elkins LLP and Bracewell LLP before entering public service. Edwards is a life-long member of St. Monica Catholic Church in Acres Homes. For more information, please visit www.edwardsforhouston.com

As September 13th rolls around, we extend our warmest birthday wishes to the creative powerhouse, Tyler Perry, a man whose indomitable spirit and groundbreaking work have left an indelible mark on the world of entertainment. With his multifaceted talents as an actor, playwright, screenwriter, producer, and director, Tyler Perry has not only entertained but also inspired audiences worldwide, particularly within the African-American community, where his influence and role have been nothing short of powerful. Born in New Orleans, Louisiana, in 1969, Tyler Perry’s journey to stardom was a path riddled with adversity. Raised in a turbulent household, he found refuge in writing, using it as a therapeutic outlet. This period of introspection gave rise to one of his most iconic creations, Madea, a vivacious, no-nonsense grandmother who would later become a beloved figure in Perry’s works, offering a unique blend of humor and profound life lessons. Despite facing numerous challenges, including rejection and financial struggles, Perry’s determination and unwavering belief in his abilities propelled him forward. In 1992, he staged his first play, “I Know I’ve Been Changed,” which, although met with limited success, was a pivotal moment in his career. Unfazed by initial setbacks, Perry continued to hone his craft, and by 1998, he had successfully produced a string of stage plays that showcased his storytelling prowess.

Calling all teenage student-athletes! If you have dreams of playing college soccer and wish to represent an HBCU, the HBCU ID Camp is your golden opportunity. From 8 am to 5 pm on November 11-12, Houston Sports Park will transform into a hub for aspiring male and female soccer players. Coaches from HBCUs across the nation will be present to evaluate, scout, and offer valuable feedback. Moreover, they might even spot the next soccer prodigy to join their collegiate soccer programs. This camp is not just about honing your soccer skills but also a chance to connect with the HBCU soccer community. You’ll learn the ins and outs of what it takes to excel on the field and in the classroom, which is crucial for a college athlete. The HBCU ID Camp is an excellent platform to network with coaches, learn from experienced athletes, and take the first steps toward your college soccer journey. To secure your spot at this incredible event, don’t forget to register [here](insert registration link). Space is limited to 120 participants, so make sure to reserve your place before it’s too late. It’s time to turn your dreams of playing college soccer into a reality.

Scroll to Top