Grier pushing to dump CEP

As we know, HISD Superintendent Terry Grier has been pushing to get HISD away from using Community Education Partners (CEP) as a provider of alternate schools for kids with discipline issues. He has now made his recommendation to the Board of Trustees, who were somewhat skeptical.

Grier, who has been on the job six months, said CEP’s price tag — nearly $22 million this school year — is too high. He wants the school board to invite other groups to submit proposals to run a smaller, less expensive alternative school. CEP could re-apply.

“We want the best program to meet the needs of our kids,” Grier told the board at a Monday night meeting.

The new alternative school, estimated to cost $14 million, would serve only those students who commit serious offenses such as selling drugs or bringing weapons on campus that require expulsion under state law or district policy. HISD currently gives principals the option of sending students to CEP for discretionary reasons such as smoking, using profanity or chronically misbehaving.

Grier is proposing that students who commit less serious offenses get sent to another HISD campus in a swapping program. Problem students at one middle or high school would be sent to another in hopes that their behavior would improve in a different environment — away from friends but without the metal detectors and strict rules of an alternative school.

Hair Balls has more on this, in particular more on the pushback from the trustees. I don’t know enough about this to fully form a judgment, but Grier’s proposal would cost less and would be less punitive to students whose infractions are minor, and both of those things are appealing to me. There are clearly some legitimate concerns, though, and I do agree that this is another big change at a time when there’s a whole lot else already going on. I’d like for there to be a full and frank debate so that we can make a well-informed decision. As such, stuff like this isn’t helpful:

Houston Federation of Teachers President Gayle Fallon, an ardent supporter of CEP whose union has exclusive bargaining rights at the Houston campuses, criticized Grier’s idea.

“That jerk is willing to throw these kids away rather than save them so he can divert a few dollars into his asinine new programs that no one wants,” she said.

I get that HFT doesn’t much care for Grier right now, and I certainly get that they have good reason to feel like they’re under siege. Fallon’s job is to protect the teachers’ interests, and I don’t expect her to be too happy about this idea. But if you hope to persuade me of the merits of your argument, that’s not the way to do it. So please, tell me why CEP is the better choice. I can’t make a good judgment if I don’t have that information.

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6 Responses to Grier pushing to dump CEP

  1. Dan Losen says:

    As a civil rights advocate and education researcher I have found that Dr. Grier is on target on this subject. There are much better alternatives than sending kids away to the expensive CEP for minor infractions. Research done in Indiana indicates that schools that impose firm rules but revert to suspension as a last resort not only suspend fewer students, but produce higher test scores.

    Hasn’t the “for profit” CEP been the subject of a number of lawsuits and a great deal of controversy? Wasn’t a Houston Board member a CEP employee or consultant at one time? Fallon’s intense response makes me wonder whether she might have some connection to CEP, too. Wouldn’t kids be better off if Houston used the funds it now gives to CEP to help teachers improve their classroom management instead, or provide other supports for teachers? I’d rather see Houston’s teachers get paid for professional development than send such high numbers to the “for profit” and very expensive CEP for extended periods of time.

    Dan Losen

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