in Houston, Texas
Representation balanced for schools, trustee districts on Houston ISD budget advisory committee
Wednesday, Mar 23, 2011, 03:14PM CST
By Lynn Walsh
Balanced rocks
Most of the people who sit on an advisory committee for the Houston school system’s budget are school system employees, documents show, but representation on that committee seems pretty balanced between schools and trustee districts.

Each of the nine school board trustees have a teacher or principal representative from a school in their district on the 32-person advisory committee -- except for school trustees president Paula Harris. However, Harris said one of the advisory committee members, the Rev. Leslie Smith, is someone she knows personally and serves as her appointment to the Superintendent's Public Engagement Committee.

Members of the advisory committee weren’t chosen with regard to ensuring that every trustee district had a representative, HISD spokesman Jason Spencer said.

Trustees Manuel Rodriguez, Harvin Moore and Anna Eastman each have two schools represented, and Juliet Stipeche has three.

Westside, Chavez and Lamar high schools are represented by principals or teachers, as are Marshall, McReynolds, Stevenson, Project Chrysalis and T.H. Rogers middle schools. One early childhood center, Martin Luther King, is represented, as are four elementary schools: Janowski, West University, Cage and Felix Cook.

In December, HISD employees provided the district with suggestions on how it could save money. Some ideas included cutting district travel, eliminating breakfast in the classroom, reducing magnet funding and turning off lights at night. (To submit a suggestion, send an e-mail to CFOcomments@houstonisd.org.)

To see a map of the trustees throughout the district click here.

The suggestions and the budget advisory committee's work are intended to help the nation's seventh-largest school system prepare for state funding cuts that could range from $203 million to $348 million next year, according to HISD. State law requires the district to approve a budget by June 30.

HISD also recently considering revamping its $17 million-a-year magnet program. Superintendent Terry Grier put those proposed changes on hold earlier this month.

HISD is also looking at the $10 million it will spend this year to help dozens of low-enrollment schools offer the same programs and services as larger ones. Part of the recommendations include possible closures or consolidations at four elementaries: Love, McDade, Grims and Rhoads.

More than half of the campuses with representation on the advisory committee have magnet programs. McReynolds and Project Chrysalis middle schools, Janowski and Cage elementaries and Martin Luther King early childhood center do not.

Of the eight campuses that do have magnets, five were recommended for removal by an outside consultant: Westside, Chavez and Lamar high schools, T.H. Rogers Middle and Cook and West University elementary schools. The consultant recommended keeping the magnet programs at both Marshall and Stevenson middle schools.

Only one of the schools represented on the committee, McReynolds, near the Denver Harbor/Port Houston neighborhood, is on HISD’s “small school” list (schools that are under-enrolled and at the center of closing/consolidation talks in December). The middle school has just over 635 students at the campus, below the 750 the district would like each middle school to have.

***
Contact Lynn Walsh, Lynn@TexasWatchdog.org, 713-228-2850 or @LWalsh on Twitter.

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Photo of balanced rocks on the California shoreline by flickr user qf8, used under a Creative Commons license. 

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