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September 2008
News from Houston A+ Challenge

A+ Leadership Academy Welcomes New Coaches, Staff
Six dynamic, experienced former school leaders have joined the faculty of Houston A+ Challenge's Regional Principal Leadership Academy, and two seasoned A+ staff members will transition into new roles supporting the Academy.

Marshal Dupas, Debbie Emery, Lawrence Kohn, Shundra McKinnie-Cannon, Rena Ramirez and Bonnie Roberts will serve as coaches in the Regional Principal Leadership Academy, providing guidance and support for Principal Interns during their yearlong residency in local public schools.

In addition, two Houston A+ Challenge program coordinators will transition into new roles supporting the Academy.  Angela Prince has been named Curriculum Specialist, and Tim Martindell has been named Houston A+ Challenge’s Assistant Director of Leadership in Teaching.

Read the full story, including biographies

Volunteers Needed for 'Reach Out To Dropouts' Walk on Sept. 6
Time is running out to register to join thousands of volunteers on Sat., Sept. 6 for the fifth annual Reach Out to Dropouts Walk. Born out of a collaborative effort between Houston ISD, Mayor Bill White's office and Houston A+ Challenge, the annual walk pairs community volunteers with educators who visit students' homes and encourage them to return to school.

This year, 12 school districts in five Texas cities will participate, making it the largest walk ever. To volunteer with a district, click below:

Sept. 8: New Documentary on Global Competition in Education
2 Million MinutesHow do six top students from China, India and the U.S. spend the precious 2 Million Minutes between the start of freshmen year and high school graduation? Join Houston A+ Challenge, HoustonPBS-Channel 8 and the Southwest Alternate Media Project at 6:30 p.m. on Monday, Sept. 8 for a free, sneak-preview screening of a new, thought-provoking documentary that shows the world through the eyes of two top students from each country: China, India and the U.S.

An audience discussion will follow the screening, which will be held at the Rice University Media Center. Seating is limited, so please RSVP by Sept. 5. For more on the film, click here.

Participants will receive a takeaway discussion guide to use with their professional learning communities. HoustonPBS-Channel 8 will broadcast the documentary on Sept. 30 at 8 p.m. and Oct. 5 at 6 p.m.

Applications Available for Fall 2008 Critical Friends Group Seminar
Would you like to learn how to create a learning community at your campus that promotes teacher collaboration, reflection and improved professional practices? Join the over 1,000 local educators who have been trained as Critical Friends Group (CFG) coaches by Houston A+.

Applications are now online for our Fall 2008 Critical Friends Group New Coach Training, a 40-hour seminar that takes place over three Saturdays and three Mondays in October. The deadline to apply is September 30, and scholarships are available.

RSSI 2008Houston, We Have Solutions
Best practices and emerging models in college access and success from across the country will be spotlighted when the National College Access Network's annual conference comes to Houston, September 22-24.

Register today for the three-day event, which features workshops on Houston's Preparing to Dream initiative, parent engagement practices and student engagement strategies. Featured speakers include Henry Cisneros and Larry Kellner.

School News

The Best of Educational Leadership - Free
Read, share and post your comments on the most popular articles from last year's Educational Leadership magazine, published by the Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development (ASCD):

These articles are great conversation-starters for Critical Friends Groups, school leadership teams or full staff meetings. The magazine allows free reproduction of up to 50 copies for educational use.

Beyond The First Day ...
Milken Award-winning teacher Jane Fung remembers her day of teaching class. After 22 years, she shares some "first day of school" pointers on how to establish communication with students' families and how to teach to a new grade level. In her two-part article (Part 1, Part 2) in Teacher Magazine, she explains these tips and more:

  • Find a Friend
  • Take a Tour
  • Know Your Students
  • Take Time to Celebrate

For more, read both Part 1 and Part 2 of this informative article.

In Focus With … Lindsey Pollock

First-year principal Lindsey Pollock understands the importance of effective leadership.

As an assistant principal, she completed Houston A+ Challenge's two-year New Visions in Leadership Academy in June 2008, and she was one of 20 aspiring principals accepted into the first cohort of the Regional Principal Leadership Academy. (She withdrew in July, in order to accept the principalship at Garden Oaks Elementary School in Houston ISD.) Lindsey brings nine years of teaching experience and 11 years as an administrator to her new position.

As a first-year principal, what has been your biggest 'a-ha' moment so far?

As a first-month principal, my biggest "a-ha" moment so far has been the importance of creating an environment that empowers others.  When we all work together to set goals and develop strategies to achieve a desired result, the people around you are energized and invigorated to do their best.

Editor's Note: More tips for first-year principals can be found in a new article from Educational Leadership: "What New Principals Need to Know"

What is your leadership style, and how does that fit into your vision for Garden Oaks?

In keeping with my big "a-ha", my leadership style is that of participatory management.  This relies on building consensus, recognizing each others' strengths and empowering others.  I greatly respect the work of Peter Senge and others who have written about this leadership style.  I also find value in other management models and at times find it necessary to integrate strategies that enhance the overall functioning of the organization.  This emphasis on participatory management fits into the vision we have at Garden Oaks to become a TEA Exemplary campus.  This will require the cooperation and commitment of everyone on campus and the shared strengths of each person.

How has your involvement with Houston A+ Challenge impacted you as a leader?

My involvement with Houston A+ Challenge has definitely strengthened me as a leader in many ways.  First, I have become a much more reflective practitioner.  By practicing the habit of reflecting on each A+ activity or meeting, I transferred this to my professional and personal life by keeping a journal and jotting down ideas each day.  This has helped me become more purposeful and strategic as I move through each day. 

Secondly, I have gained a deeper grasp of leadership theory and practical application.  By participating in the New Visions Leadership Academy this past year, I had the opportunity to meet with other campus leaders from Houston ISD and other districts to discuss cutting-edge practices and strategies. 

Finally, I know I have a support system of experts and resources in addition to the district’s support.  This includes everyone who works at A+ and all the folks who I have met along the way who are dedicated to making public schools the very best.

On The Bookshelf

The Future of EducationThe Future of Education: Reimagining Our Schools from the Ground Up, by Kieran Egan, proposes "Imaginative Education" to tackle the flaws of the current education objectives (academic, social and developmental growth). Publisher Yale University Press elaborates:

"This engaging book presents a frontal attack on current forms of schooling and a radical rethinking of the whole education process. Kieran Egan, a prize-winning scholar and innovative thinker, does not rail against teachers, administrators, or politicians for the failures of the school. Instead he argues that education today is built on a set of mutually exclusive goals that are destined to defeat our best efforts.

"Egan explores the three big ideas and aims of education—academic, social and developmental growth—and exposes their flaws and fundamental incompatibility. He then proposes and describes a process called Imaginative Education that would dramatically change teaching and curriculum while delivering the skills and understanding that we all want our children to acquire. His speculative narrative of education from 2010 to 2060—executed with wit and verve—shows how we might very well get there from here. Unlike most books dealing with fundamental educational ideas, this one also details how its new proposal can be implemented in everyday classrooms."


Free Math/Science Training at Mickelson ExxonMobil Academy
The Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy offers teachers in grades 3-5 a week of free, top-quality professional development in science and math. The five-day summer camps -- located in the Woodlands, Louisiana and New Jersey -- bring in experts from the National Science Teachers Association and Math Solutions. Teachers may self-nominate, or a new feature at sendmyteacher.com allows students to nominate their teachers. Maximum Award: One free week summer camp experience. Eligibility: 100 scholarships are open to any teacher self-nominated or nominated by a student through sendmyteacher.com. The other 500 slots are apportioned through districts selected by ExxonMobil. Deadline: October 31.

Youth Literacy Grants for Struggling Readers
Dollar General Youth Literacy Grants provide funding to schools, public libraries and non-profit organizations to help with the implementation or expansion of literacy programs for students who are below grade level or experiencing difficulty reading. Maximum Award: Up to $3,000. Eligibility: Schools, public libraries and non-profit organizations that are located in Dollar General's 35-state operating territory and must be within 20 miles of the nearest Dollar General Store.) A store locator is available at www.dollargeneral.com. Deadline: September 24.

Fulbright Teacher Exchange Program
For U.S. teachers, this opportunity involves a year, semester or six-week direct exchange of teaching positions with a counterpart in another country teaching the same subject(s) at the same level. Fulbright program staff in the U.S. and abroad match U.S. and overseas candidates in the spring of each year. For more information about the grant process, see the Selection and Grant Details section of the Fulbright website. Maximum Award: Expenses. Eligibility: Current full-time teacher in the U.S for at least three years, and passport holder. See website for more details. Deadline: October 15.

Awards for Innovative Technology that Helps Students Learn
The Best Buy Teach Award program recognizes creative uses of interactive technology in K-12 classrooms. Winning programs focus on kids using technology to learn standards-based curriculum, rather than on teaching students to use technology or educators using technology that children aren't able to use hands-on. The purpose of the Best Buy Teach Award program is to reward schools for the successful interactive programs they have launched using available technology. Maximum Award: $1,000-$10,000. Eligibility: Accredited non-profit K-12 public, private, parochial, magnet and charter schools. Applications must be completed by educators who have been at the school for a minimum of one full academic year. Eligible 'educators' are certified teachers, specialists and/or principals. The program or project must have been in existence in the applying school for at least one full school year. Deadline: October 12.

High School Competition in Math, Science & Technology
The Siemens Competition in Math, Science & Technology recognizes remarkable talent early on, fostering individual growth for high school students who are willing to challenge themselves through science research. Through this competition, students have an opportunity to achieve national recognition for science research projects that they complete in high school. Maximum Award: $100,000. Eligibility: U.S. high school students. Deadline: October 1, 2008.

Grants for Literature and Libraries
The Lois Lenski Covey Foundation, Inc. is a charitable institute whose purpose is to assist organizations in their efforts to provide books to children who might otherwise lack access to children's literature. Maximum Award: $500-$3,000. Eligibility: The Lois Lenski Covey Foundation, Inc. annually awards grants to rural and urban, public and school libraries serving at-risk children. The Foundation gives priority to applications from libraries and agencies with real need and limited book budgets. Deadline: September 15.

Awards for Innovative Teaching on Private Enterprise
The application for the Valley Forge Leavey Awards must conceive and implement and innovative course, program or project which develops among students a deeper understanding and appreciation of the American private enterprise system. The nominee’s program, course or project must be operating or initiated during the previous academic year. Questions may be directed to the Awards Department: 1-800-896-5488 or 610-933-8825. Maximum Award: $7,500. Eligibility: U.S. citizens or permanent residents employed full-time as educators at an accredited American school (grades K-12), college or university. Deadline: October 8.

Minigrant Program for Public School Libraries
The Ezra Jack Keats Foundation is dedicated to funding creative programs for public schools and public libraries. Projects funded in the past include pen pal projects, multi-cultural portraits, bookmaking, intergenerational journals and more. Click here for more details. Maximum Award: $500. Eligibility: Public schools and public libraries in the United States and its protectorates. Deadline: September 15.

Awards for School Board Best Practices/Programs
The Magna Awards is a national recognition program co-sponsored by American School Board Journal, the National School Boards Association, and Sodexo School Services that honors school board best practices and innovative programs that advance student learning. For the past 15 years, the Magna Awards panel of independent judges has reviewed programs that showcase school district leadership, creativity and commitment to student achievement. For details, click here. Maximum Award: $3,500. Eligibility: Online applications accepted only. Judges will look for programs that are:

  • The result of appropriate school board leadership.
  • Developed or actively supported by the school board.
  • Successful in view of the program's primary objectives.
  • Important in promoting the district's mission and advancing student learning.
  • Capable of being replicated by other school boards with similar conditions and resources.
  • The result of collaboration between the school board and others.

Deadline: October 15.

2009 National Superintendent of the Year Program
Now in its 22nd year, the National Superintendent of the Year Program pays tribute to the talent and vision of the men and women who lead our nation's public schools. This program is sponsored by ARAMARK Education, ING and AASA. Download the 2009 Superintendent of the Year Program brochure (PDF), which includes the nomination form (PDF). Maximum Award: $10,000 scholarship. Eligibility: This program is open to all U.S. public school superintendents and superintendents of American schools abroad who plan to continue in the profession. Anyone may nominate a superintendent for this program. Most often, nominations come from a school board president, parent, community leader or another superintendent. Deadline: September 30.


Critical Friends Group
New Coach Training

(October 2008)

Job Opening: Director of Public Engagement


September 6
Reach Out to Dropouts Fifth Annual Walk
8 a.m., Various Locations

September 8
2 Million Minutes: Sneak Preview of a New Documentary on Global Competition in Education
6:30 p.m., Rice University Media Center

September 22-24
National College Access Network Annual Conference
Hilton Americas Hotel

September 24
Preparing to Dream Kickoff Reception
Hilton Americas Hotel
Invitation Only

October 4, 6, 11,
13, 20, 25 and 27

Critical Friends Group New Coach Training
Houston A+ Challenge

Statistic of the Month

13 million American children live in poverty, about half a million more than in 2006. That's enough to fill about 200 football stadiums seating more than 65,000 youngsters each.

Source: U.S. Census Bureau

Houston A+ Challenge

2700 Southwest Freeway, Suite B
Houston, TX 77098-4607

Board of Trustees

Joe B. Foster

Ann Friedman

Michael Dee

Susan A. Bischoff
Bill Crouch
Jonathan Day
Thomas L. Elsenbrook
Roberto Gonzalez
H. Devon Graham, Jr.
Jenard M. Gross
Steve L. Miller
Karol Musher
Maconda Brown O’Connor
Harry Reasoner
J. Victor Samuels
Yava D. Scott
VJ Turner, Jr.
Andrea White
Rosie Zamora

Houston A+ Staff

Scott Van Beck
Executive Director

Sheri Miller-Williams
Director, Leadership

Catherine Reed

Director, Finance

Melissa Milios
Director, Public Affairs

P. Tim Martindell
Asst. Director of Leadership in Teaching

Program Coordinators
Betsy Broyles Breier

Alejandro Morúa
Angela Prince/Curriculum Specialist
Mike Webster

RPLA Coaches
Marshal Dupas
Debbie Emery
Lawrence Kohn
Shundra Cannon
Rena Ramirez
Bonnie Roberts

Terrie Roberts
Events Coordinator

Administrative Assistants
Imelda Cardoza
Donna O'Neil
Lisa Stein

Tuan Amith