Runoff Election in Districts I & III: December 9, 2017
2017 HISD School Board Candidates:
Background: Gretchen is a native of Wisconsin who came to Texas over twenty years ago to attend graduate school at the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs, after graduating from Beloit College. She began her career working in the Texas Legislature at the House Appropriations Committee, where she spent three sessions working on the state budget (1997, 1999, 2001). She moved to Houston in 2002 and once her children reached school age, she started volunteering at Travis Elementary, first as a reading tutor and then eventually serving two years as President of the Parent-Teacher Association. She currently works as a Policy Analyst for Children at Risk, a non-profit organization that drives change for children through research, education and influencing public policy. She also works for the Children’s Learning Institute at UTHealth, where she tutors English Language Learners and struggling readers. She is a mother of two daughters who have been in HISD schools since kindergarten.
“I would like to be a part of finding a way to ensure we are holding ourselves accountable for student learning, but want to also ensure that we are providing all necessary supports to make that possible for the majority of kids we serve who come in so far behind academically.
While I value the high standards and accountability that comes with standardized testing, I’ve seen up close and personal how those things can hinder the positive educational experience. There are many things to be valued in a school beyond test scores, and I would like to see that work incorporated in a way that supports continuous improvement and growth rather than having our teaching driven by standardized testing that results in a fear based culture. We need to find a way that is free of bias to evaluate the progress of our district, our schools and our students without stifling the vibrant school environment. “
Background: “I grew up and attended schools in the Northside area, graduating from Herrera ES, Burbank MS, and Sam Houston HS. I have a BA in English Literature from the University of Houston – Downtown. I worked for AT&T for eight years as a sales rep before earning my teaching certification and changing careers. I have been a teacher in HISD for nine years, seven at Sam Houston MSTC and two at Northside HS. I have never held elected office.”
“I would like to take this space to discuss the recent news that the Texas Education Agency is threatening to close schools in HISD or even take over the district and unseat its elected board. This action shows just how precarious our entire system of public schooling finds itself in today. How have we allowed our district to get to the point where a handful of schools are performing so poorly year after year? One factor comes from the very legislature that enacted this policy of punishment: the decreasing share of education funding coming from the state. It would be ironic if it didn’t seem so intentional.
The board is bound by whatever decision TEA makes, but that doesn’t mean the trustees cannot influence their decisions. What I will not do is bow to fear tactics by enacting policies I know are not right for our students, simply to keep my seat on the board. I am not running for school board to launch a political career.
Our first step is to give the so-called chronically underperforming schools the support they need to succeed going forward. The Achieve 180 program seems to be a good start, but we need more systemic changes. We need to take a hard look at attendance boundaries, magnet programs, special population weights, and how Average Daily Attendance disproportionately hurts the same schools that need the most support. Only then can we really say we’ve done everything we can for every student, regardless of political cost.”
Background: “I have an Executive Ed. Doctorate in Educational Leadership and Policy Studies. I attended Harvard Graduate School in 2009 with the Fellowship Institute titled, “Improving Schools – The Art of Leadership. Prior to this, I was a classroom teacher for eight years. I have been an administrator for eighteen years in three large Title I schools. My two children attended and graduated from Chavez High School in HISD. Now, my grandson attends Lantrip Elementary in HISD.
“Currently, in the media, urban education is portrayed as comical (think the sitcom Teachers), filled with buffoon administrators (see HBO Vice-Principals), and incompetent morons fighting afterschool (as in Fistfight). These movies and sitcoms are offensive to the dedicated people working daily in urban education. In reality, urban education is gritty, hard, and unglamorous. At times, it seems like a war zone. These hard to fill positions invite the question. Who wants to teach these difficult subjects, in testing grade levels, or low performing schools where the turnover is great? Why does HISD have a low retention rate for its new teachers? Why do we spend valuable resources and taxpayer dollars to recruit, hire, and train over 1,500 new teachers every year? Why is this profession not attracting the best teachers? Why are the causes for low retention rates? A yearly survey is not needed. We know the answer.
Content teachers and grade level teachers are not compensated competitively like mathematicians or engineers in the private sector. A new math or science teacher starting pay is slightly above 50K and with poor health care insurance. If this person decides to enter the private sector the pay is over 100K a year plus excellent health care insurance. Secondly, the amount of paperwork, testing, new initiatives consistently add layers of work for teachers to do outside of the classroom. Thirdly, the unfair teacher evaluation process only holds these teachers accountable for the school’s accountability. Coaches (even with a losing season, CATE teachers, PE teachers, foreign language teachers, elective teachers (these classes and programs siphon students and time, and compete with afterschool tutorials) are not held accountable for the learning of a school. They represent a large portion of the staff of a large comprehensive high school. In fact, the core teachers represent twenty five percent of the staff; yet, they are held solely accountable for the school’s accountability rating. The instrument used to evaluate teachers is the same for teachers who teach at Magnet Charter Lanier Middle School to teachers who teach at Cullen Middle School. The challenges are different and the evaluation process for teachers needs to be differentiated to reflect the needs of each school. Measuring progress, and not, passing a minimum standard is a better form to asses learning. This is the toughest and most important job in our country. Our future economic standing depends on great teachers. These teachers should be compensated well.”
– Studied at the University of Houston- Central Campus: majored in Health and Physical Education, minor in Spanish and Business, 1972-1979
– Recipient of Houston Community College (HCC) Honorary Degree for Outstanding Community Service and Education Involvement, 2017
– Graduate of NHPO Leadership Institute: Class V, 2013
– Attended all HISD schools: graduated Stephen F. Austin, 1972
– Four children attended HISD schools
– One grandchild now attending HISD school
– Employed at United Airlines as a Customer Care Manager
“HISD is dealing with a lot of challenges at this time from the damage and costs of repairs of our schools from Hurricane Harvey, the budget shortfall, and its underperforming schools. It’s going to take the new HISD board to work together with our Superintendent to find solutions very quickly. The future of our HISD District depends on it.
The job of the board will be to bring the community and the local school system together. The board will have to understand the difference of governing and managing. It is up to the board to set policies that will help increase student achievement and help the Superintendent to accomplish his plan.
Plus, the board will need to hold the Superintendent and itself accountable. If we fail to provide success in our schools, we will need to make some necessary changes.
It is important that all board members be honest and transparent. We must hold all board members to the highest ethical standards. Board members must be servant leaders who can lead by example and serve their community. All board members must be able to attend all board meetings, committee meetings and community meetings when requested. All board members must be accessible to their communities and be able to communicate with all PTOs, civic clubs, children’s organizations, non-profit organizations and community organizations.”