School is now back in session for most of the school districts around Harris County. This means children will be walking to-and-from schools in the early morning hours and late afternoon. Harris County Department of Education’s Center for Safe and Secure Schools Director Julia Andrews offers tips to drivers to prevent accidents this school year.

“It is so important for drivers to slow down and pay attention when children are present- especially before and after school,” Andrews said.

If you’re dropping off:
• Do no double park; it blocks visibility for other children and vehicles.
• Do not load and unload children across the street from the school.
• Carpool to reduce the number of vehicles at the school.

Sharing the Road with Young Pedestrians
• Do not block the crosswalk when stopped at a red light or waiting to make a turn, forcing pedestrians to go around you; this could put them in the path of moving traffic.
• In a school zone when flashers are blinking, stop and yield to pedestrians crossing the crosswalk or intersection.
• Always stop for a school patrol officer or crossing guard holding up a stop sign.
• Take extra care to look out for children in school zones, near playgrounds and parks, and in all residential areas.
• Do not honk or rev your engine to scare a pedestrian, even if you have the right of way.
• Never pass a vehicle stopped for pedestrians wherever they may be, no matter who has the right of way.

Sharing the Road with School Buses
• Never pass a bus from behind or from either direction if you are on an undivided road- if it is stopped to load or unload children.
• If the yellow or red lights are flashing and the stop arm is extended, traffic must stop.
• The area 10 feet around a school bus is the most dangerous for children; stop far enough back to allow them space to safely enter and exit the bus.
• Be alert; children often are unpredictable, and they tend to ignore hazards and take risks.

According to the American School Bus Council, passing vehicles cause an estimated two-thirds of school bus loading and unloading fatalities.

“By exercising a little extra care and caution, drivers and pedestrians can co-exist safely in school zones,” Andrews said.

Source: HCDE

Post-summer “brain drain” or summer learning loss for students is real, according to Harris County Department of Education Center for Afterschool, Summer and Enrichment for Kids (CASE for Kids) Director Lisa Thompson-Caruthers. Most teachers spend at least three weeks re-teaching last year’s lessons at the beginning of each school year, she said.

Research outlined by the National Summer Learning Association reveals that most students lose two months of math skills every summer, and low-income students lose another two-to-three months in reading.

“Summer camps and activities for children are important for a number of reasons,” said Caruthers. “During the summer it’s important to keep kids engaged, maintain regular sleep routines, provide social interaction with other kids and practice following rules.”

Regardless, gaining a healthy transition back to school can be achieved, Caruthers said.

Here are some tips for getting kids back into their academic routines:
1. Jumpstart a healthy family routine. Get back to normal sleeping schedules.
2. Identify a child’s interests in books. While school ramps up the academics, it’s important for kids to access books based on their interest areas. Visit the library to check out books that compliment school-day learning.
3. Prime the mental pump. Museums are abundant in the greater Houston area, and many have free or discounted hours or days. Mix in educational apps to the games your kids play. along with their favorites. Have them watch educational YouTube videos and report back what they learn.
4. Get homework help and enroll in afterschool. When homework is completed inside an afterschool program, family stress is reduced, leaving more quality time at home for family time. Afterschool provides a variety of activities that reinforce school-day learning, encourage social interaction and help youth develop skills.
5. Add incentives to your child’s learning with quality family time. After homework is over, play a family game. After six weeks of school, let your child plan a weekend excursion. Make a wish list of places your child wanted to visit this summer, but time ran out.

CASE for Kids provides resources, trainings and funding for afterschool programs, serving students in grades pre-k through 12 in afterschool programs in schools, childcare facilities and community centers throughout Harris County. For more information go to . For research about summer learning loss, go to

Source: HCDE

Students are heading back to school starting this week and physical and occupational therapists at Harris County Department of Education offer tips for backpack safety.

Five tips you can practice to help prevent backpack strain with your child:
• The bottom of the backpack should rest in the curve of the back and be no more than four inches below your child’s waist
• Have padded and adjustable shoulder straps. Make sure your child uses both shoulder straps when wearing the backpack to evenly distribute the weight of the pack.
• Have a padded back that will provide cushioning against your child’s spine.
• Have compartments to secure items in place and pack heavier items closest to the child’s back.
• Weigh less than 10 percent of your child’s weight when fully packed.

“Make sure only necessary items are inside your child’s backpack and that it is adjusted and worn correctly to prevent back strain and long-term effects on posture and the developing spine,” said Carie Crabb, senior director of HCDE School-Based Therapy Services.

HCDE’s therapy specialists work with students in school districts and charter schools throughout greater Harris County. Specialists include physical therapists and assistants, occupational therapists and assistants, and music therapists.
For questions about backpack safety or HCDE School-Based Therapy Services, contact Crabb at

Source: HCDE
The four Harris County Department of Education schools attended two days of professional development workshops Aug. 13 and 14 hosted by the University of Houston Downtown’s College of Public Service (CPS). Workshops such as legal updates, unique learning, applied behavior analysis (ABA), behavior intervention plan de-escalation and many more were offered to staff members of Academic and Behavior School East and West, Highpoint and Fortis Academy. Community partners and CPS faculty provided the resources to effectively support students who deal with a variety of social, emotional, academic and behavior challenges. Prior to the training, first-year ABS West teacher Ivernoner Fultz reviewed the agenda so she would have a basic idea of what to expect. “I didn’t know the unique learning workshop would go into so much depth and there are so many benefits it provides to staff and students,” she said. “I was really excited to hear about it and have the support now in the classroom to help develop our students and the lessons that are more centered towards the individual student and that student’s particular need.” She also enjoyed the ABA training because they were given resources and information about social autopsy, which is reteaching a lesson if there was a misconception. “When it comes to social issues such as a student pushing someone, that’s considered an error too because they’re pushing and they don’t know not to do it, so we have to go back to reteach those social errors like we teach academic errors,” Fultz said. “I really enjoyed learning this because if you don’t know, then you have to reteach it.” When looking for a university to collaborate with to help grow HCDE staff professionally, senior director of schools Anthony Mays said UHD came forward last year. “We continue to collaborate and think about ways to support their students and our staff with professional development opportunities,” he said. HCDE hosts several CPS student interns at the schools to work with students. In return, UHD supports the opportunity for HCDE teaching assistants to earn their teaching degree and teachers to work on their master’s degree. Source: HCDE
Dave Einsel is the new director of communications at Harris County Department of Education. The veteran journalist was named director after serving as multimedia manager at HCDE since 2017. He acted as the Department’s chief photographer, created a variety of printed marketing materials and created graphics and videos for web and social media. Before joining HCDE, Einsel was senior manager for communications and publications at Houston Independent School District. Previously he led the photography department at the Houston Chronicle, where he worked for 18 years. The Friendswood resident is an alumnus of Texas A&M University and has won numerous photography awards throughout his career. Most recently he earned the 2018 Crystal Commendation for photography portfolio from the Texas School Public Relations Association. He was also awarded the Hearst Newspapers Eagle Award, a one-time award given for outstanding contributions, as well as the inaugural Amnesty International Media Spotlight Award. Source: HCDE
Calendar: Key dates for the 2019-2020 school year for all 25 Harris County school districts are available through Harris County Department of Education’s comprehensive school district calendar. Harris County Department of Education compiles the calendar each year which includes the school year’s beginning and end dates, holidays, and teacher workdays for multiple districts. About half the districts return to school on Aug. 14 or 15. All public schools are back in session by Aug. 26, including the largest district in the state, Houston Independent School District. Thanksgiving holidays are observed by all districts from Nov. 25-29 and winter break begins Dec. 20 in some schools and Dec. 23 in the remainder. All staff return to school in 2020 on Jan. 3. Spring break is generally observed from March 9-13 or from March 16-20. Staff workdays and other holidays vary from district to district. Classes end as early as May 21 (Alief, Katy and Pearland) or as late as June 3 (Huffman and Sheldon). (The Harris County School Districts Calendar is published as a courtesy of HCDE.) About Harris County Department of Education: HCDE is a unique, educational hybrid serving school districts, governmental agencies, nonprofits and the public in the third-largest county in the U.S. HCDE annually serves a quarter-million students and educators through schools for students with profound special needs; the largest adult education program in Texas; Head Start early childhood education; school-based therapy services; and afterschool programs. Educator professional development and certification, school safety, records management, and a purchasing cooperative are also provided. #SeeTheImpact at Source: HCDE
Julia Andrews is the new director of the Center for Safe and Secure Schools, a division of Harris County Department of Education. Andrews has served since early 2018 as the school culture and climate specialist for the center. She has been responsible for conducting numerous school safety audits; leading and facilitating restorative practices training; and developing threat assessments for schools and districts. Prior to coming to HCDE, she was a teacher and assistant principal in Cypress Fairbanks and Houston ISDs. She received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Northern Iowa, master’s degree from Prairie View A&M University and is actively pursuing her doctorate in organizational leadership at Abilene Christian University. The center partners with federal, state and local entities and is a nationally recognized leader in the development of increased safety and security strategies, standards and best practices in school security. Andrews said her goals for the center include meeting the needs of area school districts and charter schools by providing exclusive, relevant trainings to support legislative-related mandates in youth mental health, school safety and social emotional learning. Source: HCDE
Did you know a map can be used to tell a story? More than 10 Harris County students attended the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Summer STEM Academy July 29 – Aug. 1 to learn about geocaching and developing a personal StoryMap. During the four-day camp, students also took two field trips and interacted with professionals who use mapping technology on the job. In order to create the StoryMap, students used the Esri ArcGIS platform, which combines interactive maps with text, photos and effects to create a dynamic storytelling tool for informing others about topics containing geographic information. Students were able to share their StoryMaps with each other on the last day of the camp. HCDE Curriculum Director for Science Lisa Felske oversaw the camp with the help of volunteers Hank Deslaurier, an advanced placement U.S. History teacher from Houston ISD, and Linda Brack, a science teacher from Conroe ISD. Hailey Thomas, a junior from Alvin ISD’s Shadow Creek High School, was looking for summer camps that involved computers and engineering, and her and her mother came across HCDE’s GIS camp. Her mother works with GIS as a pipeline designer and engineer. “I didn’t know anything about GIS and my mom makes it seem really fun, so I wanted to see what it’s like,” she said. Not knowing anything about GIS, Thomas learned how some jobs are tied into GIS along with how to layer maps, how they can be designed and how maps are key to GIS. “It’s cool to see how the different types of maps that GIS brings into the job such as where to build a fire station or where we should be able to track a hurricane and evacuate people in a safe manner,” she said. “To be able to do all of that on a piece of paper is really cool.” Her StoryMap was about the evolution in history of recreation of hip hop. It illustrated how hip hop spread across the country, the origin, how it was started, what it is like, how it has changed and the types. “I’ve been interested in learning about it for so long, but never took the time out until now and this camp gave me the opportunity,” Thomas said. This camp was put on in collaboration with the Education Foundation of Harris County and HCDE Teaching and Learning Center after receiving a combined total of $12,500 from the Dudley T. Dougherty Foundation, Kinder Morgan Foundation and the Susan Vaughan Foundation. Source: HCDE
When Tasha Crockett was growing up in Livingston, TX, her parents enrolled her into the Head Start program to help her get the social and academic skills she needed for school. Fast-forward to April 2008 when her son, Christian, turned 3 years old and would be enrolled in the Harris County Department of Education Head Start Program in Humble. “I knew I wanted him in the program because it’s family-centered, it helped me grow when I was his age and I knew it would help him, too, especially with his speech impediment and dyslexia,” she said. The program continued to shape her as a parent volunteer with the policy council. “I was going through a divorce at the time and participating with the Head Start Policy Council was life-saving by helping with the changes I was going through,” Crockett said. Being involved with decision-making through leadership in the policy council motivated her to go back to school to get a degree in social work. She graduated summa cum laude from the University of Houston-Downtown in December 2018 and will receive her master’s degree in May 2020 from Stephen F. Austin State University. As she was learning so was Christian because of the programs Head Start offered. He started speech therapy at age 2, and his therapist continued working with him during the two years he was at the Humble center. “His academics and personality blossomed during those two years,” Crockett said. “He even graduated early from speech therapy. He would have been in longer if he didn’t have the help from the therapist and Head Start.” Christian is now a well-rounded middle school student and his teachers have said they would have never guessed he had a speech impediment. HCDE Head Start is now enrolling children at its 15 Head Start centers. Visit or call 713-679-2510 for information. Source: HCDE
Horse therapist Stephanie Twellman spent three years working with her 9-year-old client, training him to care for and ride a horse. The client with emotional and physical disabilities now rides independently and competes in horse shows, and his maturity level has skyrocketed, she said. Students at all four Harris County Department of Education special schools will be participating in the equine therapy programs called Self-Improvement through Riding Education (SIRE) during the 2018-2019 school year. The 35-year-old program, which began on the east coast, builds self-esteem, confidence and relationship skills for all students through feeding, grooming and caring for horses. Academic and Behavior School West Principal Victor Keys and several students visited SIRE this summer for an introduction to the program. Students learned how to approach a horse and were introduced to the SIRE program. “There is a special bond between humans and horses,” said Joe Wappelhorst of SIRE. “Bottom line is horses have been bred for thousands of years to work in partnership with humans. Horses can sense our needs, emotional state and are excellent at reading nonverbal communications. To have a personal relationship, humans learn to modify actions and emotions to meet the needs of the horse.” Students with emotional, mental and physical disabilities and troubled youth will all benefit from the equine program. Services include therapeutic riding which is individualized for each rider to meet specific life goals. A student with cerebral palsy will be tasked with building core strength, stretching leg muscles and communication skills. Autistic students gain social skills. “SIRE also provides nonriding sessions, usually in 4-10 weeks’ time periods to engage participants with horses for a specific purpose such as leadership skills, team building, and addiction work,” Wappelhorst said. “For many students just the work of feeding, grooming and caring for horses builds esteem, confidence and relationship skills.” Keys looks forward to building the program into the AB School West curriculum next year and cites the benefits of social emotional learning with all populations at the school. “The students were really excited about the program, and we look forward to learning more about horses next semester as both the students and horses get to know each other,” Keys said. Source: HCDE