Video: Sheldon ISD students talk about the game of golf: Students are using the game of golf to learn math-and-science concepts and character development as Harris County Department of Education’s Center for Afterschool, Summer and Enrichment for Kids (CASE for Kids) joins with Kids’ Day with Little Birdies Mobile Golf Academy. The Kids’ Day event was held April 24 at F.M. Law Park, 8400 Mykawa Road. Students ages 4-12 who studied the Kids’ Day curriculum in their CASE for Kids afterschool programs showed off their golfing acumen and competed with other schools. Students attending were from Aldine ISD’s Raymond Academy, Alief ISD’s Liestman Elementary and Martin Elementary, Houston ISD’s Benbrook Elementary, Pasadena ISD Frazier Elementary, Sheldon ISD Garrett Elementary and Sheldon Elementary and the Academy of Accelerated Learning Charter School. Kids’ Days are supported by CASE for Kids and Houston-Galveston Area Council funding. CASE for Kids provides Kids’ Days as the culminating day where students showcase what they’ve learned and celebrate their accomplishments,” said CASE for Kids Director Lisa Thompson-Caruthers. “Afterschool activities can reinforce social-emotional learning (SEL) so that children get to explore and understand their emotions. We also provide academic reinforcement. In addition, kids get an opportunity to sample the fine arts and hobbies such as golf, dance or even fencing.” Little Birdies’ Archie Craft, owner and lead instructor, said the curriculum he uses for Kids’ Day reinforces academics, character education and SEL. “We talk about how far you hit the ball with this club versus the other club,” he said. “How much force do you need to put on the putter to make a three-foot putt? How can the wind affect your ball in flight?” Afterschool vendors such as Little Birdies Mobile Golf Academy work with CASE for Kids to supply the extracurricular expertise through afterschool contracts. Students are enrolled in afterschool programs through their schools, community centers and child care facilities benefit. CASE for Kids is an afterschool intermediary which provides resources, training and afterschool services for over 14,000 students and 2,800 teachers in greater Harris County. Partnering vendors like Little Birdies Mobile Golf Academy teach concepts, skills and fundamentals for particular subjects and interests. Source: HCDE
Bank of Texas delivered approximately 150 children’s books to Harris County Department of Education Head Start centers along with a $7,020 check as continued support for the HCDE Head Start “Read-Excel-Achieve-Lead” (REAL) SuperMENtors literacy program. REAL SuperMENtors is a volunteer program that encourages male mentors to read aloud to children in HCDE’s 15 Head Start centers and four Early Head Start Partnerships. Children receive books from each SuperMENtor visit to build home libraries. Bank of Texas has provided support and volunteers since 2014. To date, the company has pledged and delivered $42,000 to the literacy program. A recent Child Trends research brief found that young people who participate in mentoring programs have better attendance, are more likely to pursue higher education and have positive attitudes toward school than those without mentors. More information about volunteering is available at “We appreciate and revere Bank of Texas’ commitment and support for child literacy early-on,” said Venetia Peacock, senior director for HCDE Head Start. “We also recognize the community commitment several officers provide as they volunteer their personal time to read and mentor students in our centers.” Funds donated by Bank of Texas and gifted to HCDE Head Start were acquired through the Education Foundation of Harris County, a nonprofit which supports HCDE programs and services. Photo: Bank of Texas donates check and books to Harris County Department of Education Head Start. (left) Chris Frey, assistant vice president, commercial banking, Bank of Texas; Gary Whitt, senior vice president, commercial banking, Bank of Texas; Venetia Peacock, senior director, Harris County Department of Education Head Start; Steve Bradshaw, CEO, BOK Financial; Armando Rodriguez, community partnerships manager, HCDE Head Start; and Randy Miller, market CEO, Bank of Texas Source: HCDE
Elizabeth Willms struggled with an eating disorder while in junior high and wanted to address it through her writing. “I wrote a letter to anorexia about the process of how it took over my life and how I took it out of my life,” Willms, a Deer Park High School-North Campus ninth-grader, said. Her letter was awarded a Gold Key in the 2019 Scholastic Art and Writing Awards, sponsored by Harris County Department of Education, and an American Voices Nominee. She also received a $250 scholarship as an American Voices Nominee. She was fortunate to have a teacher this year who let her express herself even though the topic was one that not everyone wants to talk about. “I think a big part of Scholastic is adjusting things that people don’t like to think about because it could be painful, confusing or controversial,” Willms said. “I think a big part of writing is expecting those things.” This journey began when she was in elementary. She feels when she is dealing with pain, writing is the best way to express herself. She started writing to express either her depression or if she was going through something. “I know writing is what got me through the death of my grandfather, and I know he would be very proud of me today,” she said. “I think it comes full circle because the things that got me into writing is the journey that is never going to start or end.” When she started paying attention to Hollywood and the modeling industry in fifth grade, it transferred to her own body image. She still struggles with her eating disorder today, but not like before. “I am not sure how long it will affect me or if it will stop affecting me, but I know that I will stop letting it have such an impact on me,” Willms said. “I know that one day it won’t be something that we can see anymore, it will be something that empowers me. Until that day, I will just have to keep staying strong.” With this personal experience and having gone through it recently, it took her only eight minutes to write the Scholastic entry. She had her mother, a former English teacher, and English teacher friends of her mother look over her work. “They didn’t have much to say, as far as critiquing it, because when you have something so important to talk about there’s not much editing that can be done,” she said. “It should be broad and come right from the heart.” She believes she got recognized for her letter because the emotions are real, and they all occur in the heart, not the brain. Her first Scholastic entry was in seventh grade as a mandatory assignment, which led to national recognition and a goal to submit entries each year. She was awarded a national gold key medal for her topic on the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community. When she grows up, she would like to be a published author by either writing a novel or have a collection of poetry or short stories. “I want to be able to speak to people and let them know that it’s OK to not be OK, and they are not alone,” Willms said. “All I really want to do in life is to help people find writing because that’s what I am best at, and I think that’s the best job I have to make the world a better place.” Source: HCDE
(April is National Occupational Therapy Month. Harris County Department of Education served 7,426 students and 6,391 teachers in the 2018-2019 school year. Over 100 occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants are part of that success story.) Sometimes a smile from a child is all you’re looking for to know you’ve made a difference. Harris County Department of Education occupational therapist and Horizon Award winner Adele Brunson knows that to be true daily as she works with children with physical challenges in the school environment. Brunson, who joined HCDE’s School-Based Therapy Services in 2018-2019, earned the Horizon Award from the Texas Occupational Therapy Association. The state award recognizes a new occupational therapist who has five years or less of experience in the field.
“The Horizon Award is meaningful to me in allowing me to feel that my love and passion for occupational therapy, through deed and word, is reaching and inspiring others,” said Brunson. “Occupational therapy enables people to live their best life–to its fullest–by giving people of all ages back their independence.”
Over 100 school-based occupational therapists and occupational therapy assistants work for HCDE and provide occupational services in 28 school districts and charter schools in greater Harris County. They help children to fulfill their role as students by supporting their academic achievement and promoting positive behaviors necessary for learning. Occupational therapists and occupational therapist assistants support academic and non-academic outcomes, including social skills, math, reading and writing, behavior management, recess, participation in sports, self-help skills, prevocational/vocational participation, transportation and more. Brunson works for HCDE and services he Katy Independent School District at elementary, junior and high schools through a partnership that HCDE has with the district. As an example of the impact she makes with children, she remembers the student with cerebral palsy she was helping with handwriting. The little girl was who was right-handed was forced to learn to write left-handed because her cerebral palsy had affected the control of her right hand. “She told me that she did not like being left-handed because it made her stand out and be different from all her other classmates,” Brunson said. Brunson is left-handed herself and told the little girl during her evaluation that left-handed people were awesome, creative and fun.
“At the end of the school day, she came up to me, smiled, giggled and told me that she felt so cool to be left-handed,” Brunson said. “To me, seeing her smile so big was the greatest gift that day.”
After spending several years as a teacher, Brunson decided to return to school to become an occupational therapist. She wanted to make an impact through occupational therapy with children in the school setting. “Children are honest and have a genuine thirst to grow,” she said. “I wanted to be involved in supporting their growth in accessing their education to the fullest.” Brunson urges fellow occupational therapists to join professional organizations to keep up-to-date on research and topics that affect the profession, including legislation. She has worked the past four years on a project with the Texas Occupational Therapy Emerging Leaders Mentoring Program. The program allows occupational therapist newcomers to become involved and assume leadership in the profession. She also serves as secretary on the board of directors for the Texas Occupational Therapy Association. HCDE School-Based Therapy Services Director Carie Crabb says through the Horizon Award, the Texas Occupational Therapy Association recognizes several outstanding qualities in the awardee.  Among those are community involvement; leadership in a professional organization; and advocating for the profession. “It’s especially meaningful to honor Adele during National Occupational Therapist Month,” said Crabb. Source: HCDE

Alief Independent School District Kerr High School teen CASE Debates students Queen Eche and Hillary Nguyen made history as the first debate team from their school to place in the Urban Debate National Championship in Washington D.C.

Queen Eche and Hillary Nguyen

The pair competed in the national tournament and narrowly lost to a Chicago team but earned second place and a college assistance scholarship. Eche was also recognized as the second-best individual speaker in the tournament. Forty-two teams from across the nation with a total of 83 students competed in the policy debate competition for the national champion title. Also qualifying for the national championship but not placing was a team from Harmony School of Advancement, Riley Hardwick and Khalida Amla. This year the qualifying national teams gathered at Georgetown University to debate about immigration reform.
“We are extremely proud of our CASE Debates students who have only participated in CASE Debates for the two years the program has been in existence,” said Lisa Thompson-Caruthers, director for the Center for Afterschool, Summer and Enrichment for Kids, or CASE for Kids. “We are thankful for the support for high school debate from our HCDE Board and Superintendent James Colbert.”
CASE Debates pairs a successful, established debate model created by the Houston Urban Debate League with CASE for Kids, an afterschool intermediary. While HUDL provides debate opportunities for high school teens within HISD, CASE Debates expanded the program to provide opportunities to other districts in Harris County, including charter schools. In 2018-2019, CASE Debates served almost 300 students in six school districts and three charters. Students have earned numerous awards and scholarships through the CASE Debates program. Source: HCDE
Understanding your peers’ personalities provides a new frontier in education leadership and team communications. Classes offered through E-Colors in Education are available through a collaboration with Harris County Department of Education’s Teaching and Learning Center. E-Colors in Education CEO Rosalinda Mercado created the educational arm of the company after experiencing the power of human performance coaching through professional development in education six years ago. Three leadership-themed workshops are available this spring and summer: May 3 – E-Colors & Intentional Leadership: Diversity & Inclusion June 4 – E-Colors & Intentional Leadership: Accountability & Commitment June 18 – Leadership Institute for Social & Emotional Learning (E-Colors & Personal Intervention) (Discovering your E-Colors is as simple as going to the Equilibria website and completing the free inventory at .) View video through HCDEtx You Tube: . Source: HCDE
(April is National Autism Awareness Month. Autism now affects one in 59 children and greatly varies from person to person. Children with autism do progress; early intervention is key according to the National Autism Association.) When John Clark learned that his son with autism would be placed in a special school to deal with his behavior issues, he was dumbfounded, then upset.  The father of 9-year-old Hunter hired an advocate to represent his son. By the time he toured Academic and Behavior School East, a special school for children with behavior and intellectual challenges, he was already looking into private schools for his son. Upon meeting principal Keith Oliphant and his staff and walking the hallways, he began to issue apologies. “If every school could be run like this one, they would be in a lot better shape,” said Clark. Since Hunter was placed in Harris County Department of Education’s AB School East this year by his home school district, the Clarks have seen a transformation in the independence of their third-grader. He engages in conversation in restaurants and talks to neighbors. Instead of banging a water bottle on the table to show he’s disgruntled, he says: “Daddy, I’m not happy.”

Teacher Tabori Grayson with Hunter Clark

Autism is a bio-neurological developmental disability that generally appears before age 3, when Hunter was diagnosed. Children with autism usually have difficulties in verbal and non-verbal communication, social interactions and leisure or planned activities. It is diagnosed four times more often in boys than girls. Harris County Department of Education has two specialty schools called AB School West and East to serve children with autism, behavioral disorders and other significant physical and emotional needs. The schools use Boy’s Town curriculum to promote positive behavior and dismiss the negative. Each of the 104 students currently attending AB School East is assigned an individualized education plan and benefits from small classrooms with a low, student-to-teacher ratio. Children are sent to the special schools through a district contractual agreement with a goal of returning to the home school district. “We like having Hunter here, but our job is to get him to be independent and equipped with the skills he needs to be successful to return to his home school,” said AB East Principal Oliphant.

Principal Keith Oliphant poses for a photograph with Hunter Clark

When Hunter goes back to his school in La Porte Independent School District next September, he will be equipped with improved social and academic skills or habits. “I’ve seen his academics improve,” said Clark. “Hunter still struggles and will resist homework like any kids, but before he would throw a fit. He sighs but has learned that this is what we have to do. Homework is first.”

Parent Flobert Tiam visits son Kyle

Parent Flobert Tiam, father to Kyle, says his son was diagnosed with autism and ADHD and has severe mood swings. He came to AB School West in 2016. He is thankful for the basic things his son has learned to do now like eat at the table, help dress himself and listen to instructions. He has this advice for parents: “I would tell parents to get involved with a forum for parents of autism in order to have support,” Tiam said. “Consider a specialized school. These children need special attention. “When they feel that love, I think these children are able to do more.” Source: HCDE
The power of debate was the focus of the Houston Urban Debate League Annual Awards Luncheon in downtown Houston on April 4 at the J.W. Marriott. Harris County Department of Education joined HUDL as several CASE Debates students provided testimonials. Toni Candis, CASE for Kids project coordinator and CASE for Kids AmeriCorps VISTA member Aundrey Mosley represented CASE Debates at the event. “Two of our students talked about their life experiences, how debate has influenced their lives and how it will shape their futures,” said Candis. CASE Debates pairs a successful, established debate model created by HUDL with CASE for Kids, an afterschool intermediary. While HUDL provides debate opportunities for high school teens within HISD, CASE Debates expanded the program to provide opportunities to other districts in Harris County, including charter schools. “While many of our students spend a lot of time debating about policy and global issues, this event which addressed supporters of the program gave two of our students the chance to share their life stories in front of an audience,” said Mosley. Kennedy Scott, a junior from Spring Early College Academy in Spring ISD shared with the crowd of 115 how debate fueled her ambition to become a criminal defense attorney and community leader. Hamza Bouderdaben aspires to become a lawyer. He is a junior from Harmony School of Advancement. He was inquisitive about debate after thinking that a classroom of peers was engaged in a yelling match. The teacher explained the process of debate and welcomed him into her classroom. Since that day, he was hooked. Both students plan to be involved in CASE Debates during their senior year. In 2018-2019, CASE Debates served almost 300 students in six school districts and three charters. Students have earned numerous awards and scholarships through the CASE Debates program. Source: HCDE
Going above and beyond the call of duty is exactly what Galena Park Independent School District Autism Specialist Blair Overman did recently. One of her autistic students was involved in a tragic car accident that killed his brother and mother. Her story of service was shared with attendees at the Autism Summit at Harris County Department of Education on April 10. Blair spent countless hours at the hospital following the accident to help the student cope with his injuries and the loss of his family while relatives from out of state were traveling to Houston. Letters from hospital staff praised her commitment to her student. Overman received a standing ovation from Autism Summit attendees for helping this student in his recovery. #Autism View video: Source: HCDE
The employment outlook is positive for aspiring school superintendents as an increase in jobs and pay is forecasted. Harris County Department of Education launches its 11-month, accelerated Superintendent Certification Institute on Aug. 10, 2019 to meet demands for the growing profession and an expanding, ethnically diverse student population in Texas. The program features onsite, weekend seminars and weekday forums, each held once-a-month in small-group settings. Heading the leadership initiative is Educator Certification and Advancement, a HCDE division currently offering alternative teacher certification and principal certification programs with average test pass rates of 99.7 percent for the past seven years. Staffed with experienced school leaders, the superintendent prep institute is personalized with one-on-one feedback, coaching and mentorship before, during, and after the certification process. "There is never a better time if you are considering being a school district leader," said ECA Director Lidia Zatopek. "With a projected 25 percent growth in education administrators and an average pay increase maintained at three percent for the past six years, it's a burgeoning profession." Currently, Texas, which lists superintendent employment opportunities, has 40 superintendent vacancies posted. Of the 99 districts with new superintendents this year, 62 districts hired a novice superintendent with no previous experience. The average superintendent salary in 2018-2019 is $148,854. In large Texas districts with more than 50,000 students, average based pay is $321,253. Aspiring candidates for the superintendent program must have a master's degree, hold a principal certification, or equivalent, or have three years of managerial experience in a public-school district. A hallmark feature of the new superintendent program is its focus on bridging the cultural equity gap through culturally responsive leadership and emphasis on social justice issues. "The role of the 21st century superintendent is immensely complex and challenging," said HCDE Superintendent James Colbert Jr. "Our curriculum mirrors the complexities of this one-of-a-kind job. We want to equip candidates with tools to be effective district leaders who can set strategic priorities to improve the performance of disadvantaged students." The program features TExES exam intensive preparation support. Participants engage in common practicum experiences with extensive support and feedback from program personnel. Candidates for the program will become part of an alumni network. "Our faculty are sitting and former superintendents with extensive expertise in superintendency, coaching and executive-level leadership development," said Zatopek. Upcoming free, live information webinars are set for April 10 and 23 and May 9 where benefits, requirements and payment options are discussed.  Register for information sessions: April 10 April 23 May 9 Deadline to apply for the superintendent program is June 20, 2019. Go to for information or contact Lidia Zatopek, . Source: HCDE