Harris County Department of Education celebrated National Principals Month during October. Our four school leaders are put in the spotlight for their endless commitment to the principalship.

The four principals celebrated include Marion Cooksey, Highpoint School; Donna Trevino-Jones, Academic and Behavior Center East; Antony Moten, Fortis Academy; and Victor Keys, Academic and Behavior School West.  Plaques and accolades were given by HCDE board members and administrators.

“Principals are near and dear to my heart because being a principal is one of the most challenging jobs in public education,” said Superintendent James Colbert Jr. “The principal is responsible for every person on the campus. Our principals do an exceptional job. Our principals don’t ask questions; they take every student and promote a culture where everyone loves that student. We appreciate everything you do.”

We asked our four principals several questions. Here are a few of our favorite answers:

Marion Cooksey: Tell us something your co-workers don’t know about you?
Next year will be 30 years in education for me.  I did not attend college immediately following graduating from high school. Life took me in a different direction, and it wasn’t until several years later that I attained my bachelor’s in elementary education.  Seven years after that, I earned a master’s in educational administration.  Earning both degrees was a testament that it is never too late to pursue your dreams.

Victor Keys: What made you want to become a principal?
I wanted to implement programs to help my students be more successful. For example, a day care at my last school. At ABS West, we have a vocational program, web-based curriculum, golf and chess programs. We have positive relationships with our community partners.

Donna Trevino-Jones: What motivates you each day?
I love helping our students, parents and teachers with whatever they may need. There are times they just need someone to talk to and I am happy to be that set of ears that can listen, reserve judgment and see how I can support them. This has been such a unique opportunity for me, and I do my best to make a difference every day.

Anthony Moten: What made you want to become a principal?
One of my old campus principals told me that I would be a good principal and allowed me to serve as principal for a day. I saw how principals can impact the learning outcomes for every child. I became enamored with the challenges and responsibilities of ensuring that every child received a 21st century education.

Photo: Holding plaques and being celebrated during Principals Month by administration and board members are principals Anthony Moten, Fortis Academy; Donna Trevino-Jones, ABS East; Victor Keys, ABS West; and Marion Cooksey, Highpoint School (not present, but treasured).

Source: HCDE
The Houston area has been hit by numerous tropical storms and hurricanes in the past, and the public may not know what happens behind the scenes with emergency personnel. Thanks to a collaboration between multiple agencies, several dozen students were educated about the role of first responders. More than 40 eighth graders from Cy-Fair ISD’s Hamilton Middle School participated in an interactive exercise with the Harris County Office of Emergency Management and Harris County Department of Education’s Center for Safe and Secure Schools where they formed their own government and planned and recovered from a major weather event. StormZone is a program out of Miami, FL that teaches students about the science of severe natural hazards, the effects of climate change, and how emergency management agencies work with local governments to prepare for and recover from such disaster. “I’ve always wanted to bring this program to the rest of the gulf coast especially to students in Texas,” said StormZone Executive Director Lucien C. Proby III. “We look forward to coming out each year and educating a new group of students about preparing and recovering from hurricane-related disasters. Hamilton Middle School Principal Kim Sempe said that the eighth graders are beginning to look at their high school endorsement program to see what careers interest them and choose high school electives for next year. “We’re excited to have this unique and special hands-on opportunity with StormZone and the Harris County Office of Emergency Management,” she said. “The challenges students participated in ties into some of eighth grade focus and curriculum. This also gave them the chance to talk to professionals from a variety of professions in one place.” Eighth-grader Ryan Wolfram portrayed the judge during the mock exercise. “I was assigned to oversee everyone doing their respective duties and after each challenge I read aloud what each did to solve the problem,” Wolfram said. “I thought it was a great experience and something that I will hold with me forever.” Source: HCDE

School Safety is the topic as three international and local safety experts talk about school violence and solutions at Harris County Department of Education Oct. 15, from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m.  Psychologist Scott Poland, emergency preparedness expert Michael Dorn and Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez lead the discussions. Learn to recognize, respond to and prevent acts of violence at the School Safety Forum Oct. 15, from 8:30 a.m.-3:30 p.m. The Center for Safe and Secure Schools, a division of HCDE, and the Harris County Sheriff’s Office (HCSO) partner to present the School Safety Forum 2019. The workshop equips parents, teachers, students and the community with an empowerment toolkit. Cost for the workshop is $95 for in-county residents and $105 for out-of-county. Register at  https://bit.ly/30QTPSP . Presenters: Scott Poland, Ph.D., is a licensed psychologist and international recognized school safety expert. His presentations include youth suicide, self-injury, bullying, school crisis prevention/intervention, threat assessment and parenting during challenging times. He co-authored Suicide Safety School Plans for the state of Texas and was the former psychological services director for Cypress-Fairbanks ISD.

Scott Poland

Michael Dorn is executive director for Safe Havens International where he shares his expertise in safety, security, culture, climate and emergency preparedness assessments.  Dorn is an established school safety expert who works internationally; he has authored or co-authored 27 books on school safety and emergency preparedness. As a renowned public speaker, he known to speak on topics ranging from bullying prevention to student supervision.

Michael Dorn

Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez, keynote speaker, served 18 years in the Houston Police Department before joining the Harris County Sheriff’s Office. He served on the HCSO hostage negotiation team and was assigned to homicide as an investigator prior to becoming sheriff. As chair of City Council’s Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee, Gonzalez broke new ground with initiatives to protect vulnerable seniors from elder abuse. He has also expanded the HCSO’s fight against human trafficking, His law enforcement background strengthens his ability to improve public safety and protect area neighborhoods. (This project was supported by Grant No. 2018-YS-BX-0153 awarded by the Bureau of Justice Assistance. The Bureau of Justice Assistance is a component of the Department of Justice’s Office of Justice Program, which also includes the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the National Institute of Justice, the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention, the Office for Victims of Crime, and the SMART Office. Points of view or opinions in this document are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the official position or policies of the U. S. Department of Justice.) Source: HCDE
Harris County Department of Education is hosting a job interview fair to recruit teachers, teaching assistants, family service providers and cooks to join any of its 15 locations throughout northeast Harris County. The recruitment event will be held Friday, Oct. 18, 2019, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at 6300 Irvington Blvd. “We are looking for highly energetic, passionate individuals who enjoy working with young children to join our team,” said HCDE Head Start Senior Director Venetia Peacock. “Our employees help transform lives of children and their families, along with making a difference each day.” Qualifications for Head Start teaching assistant, Early Head Start teacher and Head Start teacher include experience working with young children and an interest in early childhood education. Those who hold child development associate (CDA) degrees are strongly encouraged to apply. Interested candidates can apply online at http://www.hcde-texas.org or call 713-696-8287 for information. HCDE Head Start provides services to facilities in Barrett Station, Baytown, Channelview, Compton, Coolwood, Dogan, Fifth Ward, Fonwood, Humble, J.D. Walker, La Porte, Pugh, San Jacinto, Sheffield and Tidwell. Head Start ensures future success for students both academically and socially and provides comprehensive health, education, nutrition and financial services to families. Find more information on positions available and qualifications, visit: https://bit.ly/2Oqnmj5. Visit http://www.hcde-texas.org/head-start for general information about HCDE Head Start and locations. Source: HCDE
Start early and young in regards to recognizing any mental health symptoms in children is what early childhood educators learned at the 5th annual Healthy Minds Healthy Families Conference Sept. 27. The conference was sponsored by the HOGG Foundation for Mental Health and Harris County Department of Education Head Start. “We believe in order for our communities to be whole and well, that children and families have to be well,” said Vicky Coffee, HOGG Foundation for Mental Health director of programs. “By supporting this conference that focuses on learning and education around mental health, the signs and symptoms of what to look for with young children we are starting early in recognizing their needs in ways we can support them in their future endeavors.” This year, over 200 attendees participated in breakout sessions ranging from depression, infant mental health, ADHD, stress, etc. Dr. Dawn Brown, a double-board certified child psychiatrist, founded The ADHD Wellness Center in Houston. “I love working with ADHD because I have it,” she said. “I do recommend medication management to my patients even to children as young as 5. There are roadblocks and detours, but I am wanting to change that perspective. We are meeting your child where you are and teaching positive reinforcement.” Licensed professional counselor and registered play therapist Haley Garth believes play is children’s truest language, and toys are their words. She always gets asked what the toys mean, and she responds that they can mean whatever they want them to mean. “When a child asks me this question, I say it’s whatever you need it to be,” Garth said. “We have a wide array of toys, physical and spiritual, animals, inanimate objects, highly aggressive and non-aggressive animals. The treatment cycle varies from 16 to 20 weeks to a few years, depending on the circumstance.” Attendees benefitted from specialists and also heard from keynote Dr. Melitón Moya. The goal is for early childhood providers to be mindful of mental health issues and to be able to connect families to resources, said HCDE Head Start Senior Director Venetia Peacock. Source: HCDE
Pizza and chicken nugget choices were top with students from school districts around Harris County at this year’s Harris County Department of Education Choice Partners Nutrition and Product Expo at the Humble Civic Center. This annual event brings about 100 vendors who offer products through HCDE’s co-op showcase their foods in their uniquely beach-themed booth. A few of the new offerings this year included PizzaBoli from Tasty Brands and the maple seasoned beef sausage and pancake breakfast sandwich from Integrated Food Services. Students and child nutrition directors from Channelview, Galena Park, Huffman and Humble ISDs and HCDE’s Fortis Academy sampled various lunch options for their districts. Many of the products showcased this year will end up in their school cafeteria lines soon. To view more pictures from the event, visit https://bit.ly/2oMKcqs. (Password: hcde1889). Source: HCDE
Applications are currently being accepted for Harris County Department of Education Trustee Position 1, Precinct 2, formerly held by George Moore. Moore submitted his resignation for the position, May 15. The individual appointed to fill Moore’s position will serve the remainder of the current term ending December 2022. The appointee and any other qualified person may run for the position during regular elections held in November 2022. The elected individual would then serve a full six-year term beginning January 2023. Applicants for Position 1 must complete a letter of interest; submit a resume; and include a notarized affidavit affirming the individual’s eligibility qualifications. Qualifications include a requirement the appointee live in Precinct 2 for at least six months preceding the date the application is filed. Deadline for application is 12 p.m. Monday, Oct. 14, 2019. Additional details about eligibility and the application process are available online:  https://bit.ly/2lpwlF7 or https://hcde-texas.org/board-trustees/. Source: HCDE
Afterschool in Houston this school year receives a $770,000 funding infusion through City Connections, monies from the city of Houston. The program is administered by the Center for Afterschool, Summer and Environment for Kids, or CASE for Kids, a division of Harris County Department of Education. For a sixth consecutive year, families in 11 Houston City Council districts benefit from the city funding. Nonprofit organizations in each of the council districts receive $22,250 from Oct. 14-Dec. 31. The city and CASE for Kids encourage nonprofits like arts organizations, faith-based organizations and civic groups to apply through a request for proposal. In January, new funding opportunities of $22,250 will be available through a request for proposal in each council district as the new city council is sworn into office. Those afterschool funds will be used from March 9-May 15.
“City Connections gives Houston youth opportunity to grow, develop skills and discover hobbies,” said Lisa Thompson-Caruthers, director of CASE for Kids.  “Besides promoting child safety, afterschool supports social and emotional learning. We are grateful for the continued support of afterschool by city of Houston leaders, including the mayor and the council members.”
As an afterschool intermediary, CASE for Kids provides resources, trainings and funding for students in grades pre-k through 12 in afterschool programs in schools, childcare facilities and community centers. As a branch of Harris County Department of Education, the division was founded in 1999 with a goal to keep kids safe, help working families and improve academic achievement. According to the national nonprofit Afterschool Alliance, more than 15 million students—including approximately 3.7 million middle schoolers—are alone and unsupervised between 3 to 6 p.m., the peak hours for juvenile crime and experimentation with drugs, alcohol, cigarettes and sex. HCDE Superintendent James Colbert Jr. said CASE for Kids City Connections is critically needed as one or both parents or guardians work in many families, leaving unwatched children vulnerable during out-of-school time. “We are thankful the city continues to invest in our children and their families, especially as afterschool funding is being cut through other sources,” Colbert said. To find out about the organizations in each council district that will provide services or to contact CASE for Kids about new opportunities in January 2020, visit http://www.hcde-texas.org/after-school . Source: HCDE
Students at the 15 Harris County Department of Education Head Start Centers now have a new book to add to their home library thanks to Balint Charities, a nonprofit seeking to strengthen school success by enriching young lives with reading and music. Four members of the Balint family toured the Fifth Ward Head Start Center and learned what students do each day. Barbara Balint read Curious George Museum Mystery, the book each student received, to a class. “I didn’t realize the extension of the Head Start program here like serving breakfast, lunch, the curriculum and visiting the homes of students; it’s amazing,” said Steve Balint. “We’re happy to donate books because it helps children grow and they have something to enjoy at home.” Balint Charities began working with HCDE Head Start in 2017 after Hurricane Harvey affected the Houston area. To date, they have donated over 5,000 books to head start students. To learn more about Balint Charities, visit http://www.balintcharities.org/. Source: HCDE
With the welfare of county taxpayers in mind, Harris County Department of Education’s Board of Trustees voted for a fifth consecutive year to lower its tax rate. Fiscal accountability continues to be top of mind as HCDE trustees adopted the 2019 tax rate of $0.0050 in a vote of four to three. While the rate is lower than the 2018 rate of $.005190, it will support the FY 2020 adopted budget and will produce more revenue than last year, due to rising property values. “HCDE continues to be good stewards of taxpayer dollars for the citizens of Harris County,” said James Colbert Jr., Harris County school superintendent. For a home valued at $150,000, the adopted rate of $0.0050 means the taxpayer will pay HCDE $7.50 a year. For a home valued at $250,000, the tax bill will be $12.50 annually. HCDE benefits school districts and the community at-large by providing wraparound services which include adult education, special schools, school-based therapy services, Head Start and afterschool programming. Source: HCDE