August 25, 2005

A massive army of 1,292 volunteers and Houston ISD officials - nearly triple the number last year - will go door-to-door Saturday around 16 high schools looking for students who did not return to school earlier this month. Last year, more than 100 high school students returned to school as a result of the volunteer efforts of 498 volunteers and Houston ISD officials during the 2004 "Reach out to Dropouts Day". Houston A+ Challenge is sponsoring the walk in support of Houston ISD. Other donors include Cingular Wireless, Houston PBS, Wal-Mart and Party 104.9.

James Vollbracht, author of Stopping at Every Lemonade Stand,will speak at the United Way at 50 Waugh Drive on Thursday September 15, 2005, from 6:30 to 8 p.m.. The event is free and open to the public, but seats must be reserved. Houston A+ Challenge will sponsor the event, in collaboration with the Search Institute’s Healthy Community/Healthy Youth Initiative, Region 4 Education Service Center, and the Texas Association of Partners in Education (TAPE). Mr. Vollbracht has over 20 years of experience empowering individuals, communities, and organizations to support the positive development of youth.

Houston A+ Challenge thanks Ameriquest Soaring Dreams, the national philanthropic mission of Ameriquest Mortgage, and Major League Baseball, in association with the Commissioner's Initiative for Kids, for donating 39 tickets to the Astros game on August 18th. Houston A+ distributed the tickets to schools receiving Focused Impact Grants. The goal of the Commissioner's Initiative is to provide MLB tickets to children who might not otherwise have the opportunity to attend games.

Materials from the Fondren Reforming School Summer Institute are now available online. Learning resource articles, interactive seminars, and other conference documents have been posted on the Houston A+ website.

The second year of the Houston A+ Challenge "Taking the Next Steps" series begins on Saturday, October 15th and Sunday, October 16th at noon. These events will focus on documenting work for the purpose of creating portfolios. Houston A+ created the "Taking the Next Steps" series to promote best practices in education. Further events will take place in November 2005 through April 2006. Watch the Houston A+ Challenge website for registration information.

August 27
"expectation:Graduation Reach Out to Dropouts Day" Walk

September 10
K-5 Mathematics Initiatve Summit

September 15
Author/Speaker James Vollbracht

September 19
National Speaker Series, Dr. Pedro Noguera

September 24, 26 October 15 & 17
CFG New Coaches Training
September 26
Leadership Academy Monthly Meeting
Sept. 30-October 1
Leadership Academy Teaching and Learning Retreat

October 15
Next Steps: "Portfolios - Documenting Work"

For details, click on Calendar at

Save the Date
2005-06 Regional Senior Fellows Meetings

September 1, November 10, February 2, April 6, June 8

Changes at Houston A+ Challenge
Texas Southern University Writing Instructor Robert Jones is volunteering his time to help with Public Affairs at Houston A+ Challenge. Robert teaches developmental writing at TSU and is currently completing his doctorate at the University of Houston.

Also, Rice University graduate student Michael Powell has joined A+ Challenge as a Public Relations intern. Michael is pursuing a Ph.D. in Anthropology.

Houston A+ Challenge
1415 Louisiana, Box 9
Houston, TX 77002
Staff List
Michele Pola, Ed. D.
Executive Director
Louise Deretchin, Ph.D.
Director, Higher Education
Jeff Gentry
Director, Finance
Nan Powers Varoga
Director, Public Affairs
Jon Forde
Suzanne Sutherland
HISD Executive on Loan
Program Coordinators
Macario Garcia
Jim Lancaster, Ph.D.
Patricia Lucey-Burks
Tim Martindell
Alejandro Morúa
Angela Prince
Event Coordinator
Kathi Robinson
Administrative Assistants
Imelda Cardoza
Benny Forson

Maryann Villarreal

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High School Model Grants
Houston A+ Challenge has awarded four HISD High Schools a total of $1.6 million over the next two years to serve as models for comprehensive high school reform. Reagan, Waltrip, Westside and Wheatley High Schools offered plans to transform themselves from traditional high schools to innovative model schools, offering students individual attention, relevant learning, and a strong curriculum. The grant was awarded as part of the Houston Schools for a New Society program, a partnership of Houston A+ Challenge, Houston ISD, the Carnegie Corporation of New York and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

CFG Survey Reminder
Critical Friends Group recognizes that teacher-centered reform and development is central to making education better. More than 600 coaches from 23 cities and 11 states have already benefited from CFG seminars. Help Houston A+ Challenge personalize CFG training to your needs. Complete the online survey by following the link at: Your feedback is crucial to helping us understand the effectiveness of CFG.

High School News

New High School with College Perks Opens
The Empowerment College Preparatory High School opened its doors on August 16th. Check out the photo gallery from opening day on their website. Empowerment High School is a collaboration between Houston ISD, Houston A+ Challenge and the Coalition of Essential Schools that will offer opportunities for students to earn college credits in a small class-size environment.

Educator Resources

Grant Opportunities
The National Geographic Education Foundation has a grant fund to support teachers in furthering the understanding of geography. Grants up to $5,000 are currently available for K-12 teachers and administrators seeking innovative geography education at their school. Applications are online or call (202) 857-7310. Deadline is September 2nd, 2005.

The New York Times Company Foundation matches donations from $20 up to $3,000, offering $1.50 from the Foundation for every one of your donated dollars. Applications are online or call (800) 449-8062.

Annenberg/CPB Channel
The Annenberg/CPB Channel, a free satellite station for educational institutions, offers a wide variety of programs on television, as well as online, from Reading and the Arts, to Math and Science. The August schedule is now online. The station also provides workshops and courses for the professional development of educators at all levels, consisting of video, print, and web components. Participation in these programs is free and the station offers certificates. Some programs also offer graduate credits for a reasonable cost.