HISD's Grier delivers State of the Schools address

February 17, 2011 3:02:02 PM PST
On Thursday, the superintendent of the Houston Independent School District delivered his State of the Schools address. While he tried to remain positive about improvements made over the past year, the threat of massive cuts in the state's education budget is looming.

Traditionally, superintendents use the State of the Schools speeches to talk about their accomplishments and that's what HISD's Dr. Terry Grier did. He talked about increases in student performances and increases in advanced placement testing. What he didn't talk a lot about is the expected budget deficit.

However, when it comes to doing more with less money, Grier pointed out what's happening at Kennedy Elementary School as something he'd like to see more of district-wide.

While the fourth graders add up numbers, the principal at Kennedy Elementary is solving his own math equations by making sure everyone he hires can offer something in the classroom.

"Instead of aides, I bring in substitutes that have a teaching background and I only hire people that can provide educational support for students," Kennedy Elementary School Principal Daryl Sherman said.

The anticipated state cuts in funding means Sherman could lose as much as $800 per student -- or the equivalent of 10 teachers potentially gone.

George Crawford is part of the solution HISD wants to see in other schools. He's a retired teacher with 33 years experience that is back in the classroom.

"Experienced teachers can bring boys and girls something that other younger teachers can't bring at that time," Crawford said.

Speaking before an audience of about 2,000 city leaders and educators at the Hilton Americas Hotel downtown, HISD's top teacher outlined in his State of the Schools address how he will do more with less state funding. Grier did not talk specifically about layoffs, but said job cuts district-wide are likely.

"We're facing a new normal in education," Dr. Grier said.

The state is expected to cut funding to HISD by at least $200 million, meaning cuts and layoffs district-wide.

"Last year, we eliminated approximately 400 central office positions and you're going to see more central office positions eliminated again this year," Dr. Grier said.

Grier said those cuts could be massive -- anywhere between $20 million to $50 million in those central offices.