December 31, 2007
Looking Forward to 2008: Paula Harris

(Note: I have asked a variety of people to submit an essay to me to be posted during the month of December, to be called "Looking Forward to 2008". This entry was written by Paula Harris.)

New Year, New Adventure, New Learning opportunities - they all are cause for excitement and energy and the expectation of opportunity. This is the time of year I spend time canvassing my brain for the appropriate theme for the new year. One idea I have as I move forward into 2008 is the theme "BACK to the BASICS". In these times of complicated problems and complex solutions, I just want to make sure that I examine and deduce everything in its most simplified manner. This will be a year of discovery and my learning curve is probably equivalent to that of an entering college freshmen. With that said, I will focus on uncovering the root cause and underlying issues as we look to identify and solve issues. This method will work in my personal, public service, spiritual and professional life. To further explore this theme, I engaged experts in simplification, a group of 7 year olds. I asked them as Charles Kuffner asked me "What are you looking forward to next year?". The answers were simple, concise and all similar. They are looking forward to

1. Their birthdays.
2. Holidays (Christmas and Halloween ranking highest)
3. Doing well in school.
4. Summertime.

It's that simple. I am going to take a page from their book because what I see and hear from them, in the simplest form, is

Another year of life
Valuable time with family, friends and God
Setting and achieving goals
Rest and time for self

With that said, I know that there will always be complex issues that need to be addressed, but as I approach the freshness and innocence of a new year that will be a completely new experience for me and my village I am headed "Back to the Basics" for 2008.

As the newest HISD Trustee that represents District 4 there is so much to look forward to. There are new relationships, new adventures, new goals and new achievements. We have a higher community focus on education that has not been experienced as of late. What makes this so exciting is the potential to have input, recommendations, solutions and volunteerism from a population that has not been engaged in our schools for this latest generation of inner city children. Our community leaders have indicated that they are ready and more than willing to take the challenge, roll up their sleeves and do the hard work that it is going to take to turn our schools and achievement levels around. The thrilling part of this equation is knowing that the extra commitment to our children will equate to higher student achievement. Gaining commitment from pastors, civic leaders, business leaders, parents and other stakeholders to engage on each campus through the campus "Shared Decision Making Committee" (SDMC) will be a monumental start. The SDMC is an educator and community group that sets school budget, policy, procedure and strategies for success. A strong SDMC can provide the support that our school leadership needs to begin the systematic positive change needed in our schools.

When I say "Back to the Basics", I am also defining the pilgrimage back to our strong community driven solutions, championed by the people and organizations that can put an enormous amount of sweat equity into our children. Historically, the reason we as a community have invested in our children was not because they were birth children or relatives. We have traditionally invested using the village mentality, that all of them are ours and their success is our success and their failure is our community failure. Our schools need help and I am turning to the very people who made sure that I was successful in school. My success in 1970's HISD classroom was not guaranteed by the governmental establishments, it was the community that made sure that the establishment provided the basics and the community made sure the tools were in place to take us to the next level. With that said, as the new school board member I will be depending on our community to be involved in our schools and to keep this high level of excitement, interest and alignment with our schools. My commitment is to work diligently to ensure that the programs, policies, strategies, resources and decisions made at the board level, positively affect student achievement in our community.

Let's look forward to 2008 as a year to declare "if it's to be, it's up to me". We have to heat things up, demand accountability from everyone who has access and decision making powers over our children and in turn our future. I not only welcome community involvement, our children need it and will depend on it.

Looking forward to 2008, the potential for positive change is great. If we take a page from the playbooks of our 7 year old advisors and remember to be excited about another year of life and the potential it brings, spend time with friends and family while you work for your community, set your goals and expectations high then work hard for success, and lastly never forget that in order to help others, you must take good care of yourself.

I have to say a special thank you to my esteemed panelist of advisors who are wise beyond their 7 years and I wish each and every one of you the best that the new fresh year has to offer.

Paula Harris is the newly-elected Trustee for HISD District 4.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on December 31, 2007 to Looking Forward to 2008

Paula, i must first say that I am extremely proud of you and all of your accomplishments. As a mother with two kids that I love and cherish, I can honesty say that you are best person for the job and will ensure that each child mindless of their situation will succeed if you have anything to do with it!!! Your heart, patience and business savvy is incredible. Paula, you will give the kids the strength that enables them to go anywhere, and to be a leader, and to do anything positive just as our parents have taught us.

Everyone doesn't have it---a visionary, being able to take people out of their comfort zones, taking their negative attitudes and turning them into positive attitudes, blueprinting the future, and changing their directions that the both of you truly believe in whole heartedly.

My last word is juggle---to be defined as performing feats of dexterity, and by tossing objects in the air and catching them, keeping several in the air at the same time with ingenuity. This is you P!!!! AND YOU DO IT SO WELL!!!!!I love you:)

Posted by: Nicole C. West on December 31, 2007 11:46 AM

Paula, I commend you for the dedication that you have shown for the task that you have ahead of you. Also, as a mother of two, I applaud your integrity and accountability...this is something seriously lacking in those who represent us today...but there are a few and you are at the top. Thank you for being a champion for all children.

Posted by: Roslyn B. Bryant on January 1, 2008 8:56 AM