HISD Leaders Say It's A No Excuses Year

Tens of thousands of school kids are back in class this week, the start of what Houston school district officials are calling a "no excuses" year. Superintendent Terry Grier is spending some time at campuses across the city, including Milby High School in southeast Houston. Jack Williams reports.

"Good morning."

"Good morning, how you been?"

"I'm doing great."

"How's it looking?"

"Fantastic. We have a building full of new kids that are so excited about being here."

Greer was hired after classes had already started last year, so this is his first, first week of school here in Houston. Greeting students and teachers at Milby HIgh school, he says it never gets old, no matter where he is. 

"The best thing always is seeing the faces of the students who are coming back. Every year they come back. They're smiling. It's the first day, they're filled with hope. They're filled with excitement about being back."  

Greer hasn't been afraid to ruffle some feathers in his first 10 months running HISD. He's fired principals and teachers who have underperformed and made it clear that he expects a new level of achievement from teachers, students, parents and administrators.

"There's a new excitement, a new level of expectation. As an organization, we're getting really focused this year, focused on student academic performance. We want to have a culture that's a no-excuses culture. We want people to work hard, but we also want students and parents to do their part as well. So we're going to reach out to our parents, we want to have an engaging school district. We want to have a place that's safe, a place that's fun and a place where everyone understands that we have high expectations and if you work hard and achieve, we have an unlimited future." 

School board trustee Manuel Rodriguez says he's glad to see Greer's no-nonsense approach and says that's what HISD needs.

"This is a serious epidemic that's not just here in Houston, but nationwide and we need to do something, make a strong statement to say that acceptable is no longer acceptable. You need to be moving off the acceptable mark to recognized and exemplary and not just teaching to the minimum standards but teaching to the highest standards that the children can attain."

At Milby, the school has grown by about 200 students this school year. Principal Richard Barajas says today more than ever, students have the tools to excel, both in the classroom and outside it.

"Outside of facilitating the instruction in the classroom, students can pick any topic, any information, Google up the subject and they'll have a plethora, I mean just more than whatever a teacher can supply, but it's the focus and the concentration of a specific area that's needed for the students to be successful post-high school as we transition from here to there the curriculums are aligned so that they'll be successful when they leave here as well. There's a plethora of information that's at their fingertips."
 
HISD is the largest district in the state, with 298 campuses, more than 200-thousand students and almost 13-thousand teachers. 

Bio photo of Jack Williams

Jack Williams

Director of News Programming

News Director Jack Williams has been with Houston Public Radio since August of 2000. He's also a reporter and anchor for Houston Public Radio's local All Things Considered segments...