HISD Board Increases Performance Bonuses
The Houston Independent School District board has approved higher teacher bonuses, the elimination of out-of-district tuition, changes to the Student Code of Conduct involving gang-related symbols and attempted bribes and approved two grants, one aimed at reducing school bus emissions and one to improve the teaching of American history.
The teacher bonus plan calls for an increase in the performance bonuses for HISD teachers to a maximum of $7,800 next January for the teachers’ work in the 2007-08 school year, and then to $10,300 for their work in helping students improve in the 2008-09 school year. The bonuses of more than $10,000 will be paid out in January of 2010.
Out-of-district tuition has been eliminated. More than 50 out-of-district students currently pay $5,000-$7,000 for tuition enrollment in a HISD schools, including magnet programs. HISD charged out-of-district enrollment because the state would not provide funding for students who live outside the attendance zones. In recent years, the state has begun providing funding to reimburse school districts for the cost of educating out-of-district students.
The board approved improvements in the Code of Student Conduct include new restrictions for students trying to wear or be tattooed with gang-related symbols.
Every year HISD’s Code of Student Conduct is updated with recommendations from a committee of school principals, teachers and parents. This year, HISD attorneys said one school reported a student attempted to bribe a data-entry clerk to change a grade. Although bribery is illegal, there was no language in HISD’s Code of Student Conduct that specified punishment for such an attempt. After Thursday’s vote by the school board, any student tries to offer a teacher, clerk or any other school official a gift in exchange for a better grade may face suspension from school or removal to a disciplinary alternative school, in addition to any possible criminal sanctions under the law.
The committee this year also determined that stronger language was needed in the Code of Student Conduct to prohibit the display of gang-related tattoos and other gang symbols.
The language in the old Code of Student Conduct prohibited “Wearing dress or attire signifying gang affiliation.” The proposed new language broadens the code to include tattoos, prohibiting any “visual display of gang-related signs or symbols on the body, clothing, accessories, or personal property of the student (e.g. notebooks, book covers, journals). Gang-related associations may be referred to the HISD Police Department for appropriate documentation.”
The new Code of Student Conduct language says students must “cover up while on campus or at a school-related activity any tattoo that is inappropriate, obscene, offensive, vulgar or gang-related.”
Violations of the new Code of Student Conduct language regarding gang symbols could cause a student to be suspended or removed to a disciplinary alternative school.
The board approved a $249,460Texas Commission on Environmental Quality grant under the Texas Clean School Bus Grant Program, which will be used to equip 382 HISD school buses with closed crankcase-filtration systems. The systems will help to reduce particulate matter emitted by the school buses. The closed crankcase filtration system will reduce particulate matter emissions by 97 percent
The board also approved a U.S. Department of Education three-year, $1.35 million Texas Teachers Teaching American History grant to increase student achievement and teacher knowledge in American history. This grant is the fourth Teaching American History grant that HISD has received since 2001. The goals of the grant are to increase student achievement in American history at targeted campuses and to create strong teams of teachers to support rigorous American history standards. The total grant award is $1,353,908 from July 1 to June 30, 2011, with a potential additional $835,000 for years four and five.