June 30, 2006

Volunteers are needed for Houston ISD's third annual Reach Out to Dropouts Day, on August 26, 2006which is sponsored by Houston A+ Challenge. Last year, more than 1,500 volunteers fanned out into neighborhoods around 16 high schools, helping bring 49 dropouts immediately back to school. In 2005, a total of 1,311 dropouts were recovered; 207 graduated. This year, 20 high schools will participate and 2,000 volunteers are needed. To volunteer, contact Jesse Marche at Houston ISD's Student Engagement Department, 713-556-7017 or email jmarche@houstonisd.org. The walk is chaired by Houston First Lady Andrea White, a member of The Houston A+ Challenge Board of Trustees, and
Houston ISD Superintendent of Schools Abelardo Saavedra. As a result of Houston's success, the Illinois College Access Network has expressed interest in adopting the Houston community ’s approach to bringing dropouts back to school.

Empowerment College Preparatory High School and Houston Academy for International Studies are recruiting students for next school year. Empowerment High School, now in its second year of operation, is looking for 9th and 10th graders. Interested students should contact Traci Stewart, Empowerment's Recruitment Coordinator, at 713-732-9231 or by email at tstewart@houstonisd.org. The Houston Academy for International Studies, which will open in the fall, is looking for 9th graders. You can read more about the Academy on our website and contact Melissa Jacobs at mjacobs1@houstonisd.org or 713-293-9700. Empowerment is a joint project of Houston ISD, Houston A+ Challenge and the Coalition of Essential Schools. The International High School is a joint project of Houston ISD, Houston A+ Challenge, The Asia Society and the Houston Community College System.


On June 1, 2006, Houston A+ Challenge assembled a roundtable of 37 leaders in K-16 education, community and business to discuss high school reform and redesign. The group looked at ways to continue to close the gaps in the P-16 system and the transitions between education levels along the lines of the Convocation on Public Education in March. In particular, the roundtable examined the key components of the Texas High School Project, local high school redesign efforts, the successes and challenges learned as a result of earlier efforts, and the possible next steps for educational alignment to influence policy. A summary can be found on the Houston A+ website.


June 12-July 21
Houston A+ Challenge/Baylor College of Medicine Summer Science Internship
July 10-14, 2006
Critical Friends Group New Coach Summer Training

July 17-21
Schools Attuned Workshop
July 25-26
Fondren Reforming Schools Summer Institute X
August 26

Reach Out to Dropouts Walk
August 28
New Visions in Leadership Academy Cohort Meeting
September 25
New Visions in Leadership Academy Cohort Meeting

An Interview With....Guy Sconzo
Q: What is the strength of the Professional Learning Community (PLC) approach in Humble ISD?
A: The strength of PLCs in Humble ISD is the collaboration and focus on Learning results. We have defined Learning as involving not only students, but staff as well, and for us critical Learning is both academic and affective. Our commitment to PLCs helps us live that.
Q: How have PLCs been instrumental in other reforms you have made?
A: With the opening of our first new high school in 26 years and plans to open two other new high schools over the next 4 years, we initiated a community-wide High Schools of the Future Task Force. The Task Force, through much research, developed our blueprint for high school education in our district and this comprehensive reform has taken hold for us, again thanks to our PLC approach to all that we do.
Q: How did you get the PLCs started?
: We started our PLC journey through a series of book studies on PLC with our entire staff and Board.
Q: How have PLCs impacted student achievement?
A: PLC has and continues to be our operational vehicle to realizing continuous improvement in student achievement as non-negotiable.
(Sconzo is superintendent of Humble Independent School District and a member of the Houston A+ Challenge Regional Fellows, a professional learning community formed in 2000.)

Charity Navigator Ranks Houston-area Charities
"Houston charities are the most efficient in the nation," according to a recent study by Charity Navigator. The survey compared the practices of charities throughout the nation and ranked them in terms of financial efficiency, expenses, growth, and size. The efficiency of Houston A+ Challenge was counted as 39.71 out of 40, a 4-star mark. However, Charity Navigator also found that Houston charities are not among the biggest in the nation. With median net assets of $4.9 million, Houston charities rank in the bottom third of the 30 cities included in the study.

School News
Balkin Named Director of Leadership Academy at HISD
Linda Balkin, former Johnston Middle School Principal, has been named Director of the Houston ISD Leadership Academy, part of its Professional Development Services Department . Ms. Balkin was recently named the district's Secondary School Principal of the Year for the West Region and has participated in The Houston A+ Challenge Network of Schools for many years. She is a member of The Houston A+ Challenge New Visions in Leadership Academy (NVLA) Class of 2001 and is a NVLA coach. She will certainly bring those experiences to her new role as head of Houston ISD's Leadership Academy.

CES Releases "Classroom Practice" DVD
The Coalition of Essential Schools is releasing the first of three instructional DVDs that demonstrate best practices in education. Called "Classroom Practice," this first DVD looks at ways to implement more efficient teaching methods. Read more about the entire set of DVDs on the CES website. eNotes readers can receive a 20% discount on their purchase, just call 510 433 1843.

Writers' Conference
The Mayborn Literary Nonfiction Writers Conference, which Esquire Magazine says "is rapidly becoming one of the most vital gatherings of writers in America" will be held July 14-16 at the Hilton DFW Lakes Executive Conference Center. The conference is open to anyone interested in exploring the art of nonfiction writing. Author Gay Talese will be the keynote speaker. Registration deadline is July 7.

Grants for Student-Led Projects
Youth Service America and Youth Venture have start-up funds of up to $1,000 available for youth-led clubs, organizations and projects that are sustainable. Young people ages 12-20 may participate. Deadline to apply is July 24.

Grants for Literacy
Dollar General will award two $5,000 Back-to-School grants in each state of operation to assist schools in meeting some of the financial challenges they face in implementing new programs or purchasing new equipment, materials or software for their school library or literacy program. Applicants must be within 20 miles of a Dollar General store. There are 25 stores in the Houston area. Deadline to apply is August 11.

Schools Attuned Training Available Free
Space is still available for schools in the six districts that partner with Houston A+ Challenge (Aldine, Alief, Houston, Humble, North Forest, Spring Branch) to participate in the final session of the Schools Attuned summer professional development being offered in Houston by All Kinds of Minds. The session is July 17-21. The session is available at no cost thanks to a grant from the Brown Foundation.

Changes at Houston A+ Challenge
Catherine Reed has joined the staff of Houston A+ as the Director of Finance. Catherine came to Houston A+ Challenge after 19 years at the Greater Houston Partnership, where she was vice-president for finance and administration. Before joining the Partnership, she was an audit manager for Deloitte Haskins & Sells. Catherine has a Bachelor of Arts and Master of Accounting degrees from Rice University, and is a Certified Public Accountant.

Statistic of the Month
Did you know?
The more education a person has, the less likely the person will be unemployed. Nine percent of people ages 25-34 with less than a high school diploma were unemployed in 2004, compared with six percent of high school completers, five percent of those with some college education, and three percent with a bachelorís degree or higher.

Source: National Center for Education Statistics

Houston A+ Challenge
1415 Louisiana, Box 9
Houston, TX 77002
Staff List
Michele Pola, Ed. D.
Executive Director
Suzanne Sutherland
Director, Programs
Catherine Reed
Director, Finance
Nan Powers Varoga
Director, Public Affairs
Louise Deretchin, Ph.D.
Director, Higher Education
Jon Forde
Program Coordinators
Tim Martindell
Alejandro Morúa
Angela Prince
Event Coordinator
Terrie Roberts
Administrative Assistants
Imelda Cardoza
Benny Forson
Joan Zuniga
Michael Powell, Ph.D.
Public Affairs Intern
Jasmine Williams
High School Intern

Make a donation
Copyright 2006 Houston A+ Challenge. All rights reserved. All logos, trademarks, service marks and services remain property of their respective owners.

Comments, Questions? Contact us at nvaroga@houstonaplus.org To subscribe or unsubscribe email nvaroga@houstonaplus.org.

Member of:
Friends of Texas Public Schools
Public Education Network
Texas Coalition for Quality Arts Education