Saavedra’s Final Farewell

September 1, 2009
Melinda Garrett, chief financial officer of HISD, will serve as interim superintendent until the board finally approves the hiring of Dr. Terry Grier of San Diego.

Melinda Garrett, chief financial officer of HISD, will serve as interim superintendent until the board finally approves the hiring of Dr. Terry Grier of San Diego.

In a farewell message to educators in the Houston Independent School District, Dr. Abelardo Saavedra said he had “bittersweet emotions” on his final day as HISD superintendent.

Saavedra’s  last day with the district was Monday.

“While I will enjoy more time with my family, I will miss the great people that have made HISD one of the best public school systems in the country. I will always have fond memories of the work that we completed for the benefit of our students,” Saavedra wrote.

The HISD board of trustees has chosen Dr. Terry Grier, superintendent of the San Diego Unified School District, as Saavedra’s successor. Melinda Garrett will serve as interim superintendent, before a final board vote. Grier was unanimously approved as the sole finalist for the HISD position on August 20, but state law mandates a 21-day waiting period before the final vote.

Saavedra left the HISD board with his final annual report. It lists his accomplishments during his 5-yeat tenure as superintendent, including improved academic achievement in the district.

“HISD isn’t just the biggest school district in Texas, it’s also the best. In 2009, it beat all other urban districts in both the number and percentage of top-rated schools,” Saavedra told the board.

“Academic achievement has skyrocketed, with a 1,400 percent increase in the number of Exemplary schools (from 6 to 84),” Saavedra noted.

Saavedra also told the board that HISD has made gains in two key indicators: college readiness and narrowing the learning gaps between white students and minority students.

Since 2004, Saavedra said that HISD students’ higher-education readiness scores in reading and math had dramatically improved. From 2004 to 2009, students’ English language arts skills improved from 18 percent to 53 percent; and mathematics skills improved from 25 percent to 61 percent.

HISD also is narrowing the learning gap, Saavedra wrote.

“As performance on the TAKS improved, the gap between White students and minority students closed by 22.4 percent for African-American students, by 29.6 percent for Hispanic students, and by 56.5 percent for children of poverty,” he said.

HISD schools also have been recognized by national and statewide organizations.

Saavedra’s final report notes that, “Twenty-one HISD schools made the National Center for Educational Achievement’s annual list of highest-performing schools in all subject areas. That not only beats all other urban districts in the state, it also beats them combined.”

The Texas Business and Education Coalition also announced 21 HISD schools named to its honor roll Monday. Those schools included West U Elementary, T.H. Rogers Elementary, Condit Elementary, River Oaks Elementary, and Lanier Middle School.

In closing his final message to HISD teachers and staff, Saavedra closed with a prayer for the district’s continued success.

“God bless our students. God bless HISD.”

InstantNewsWestu Staff

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