By Mary Alys Cherry
The state of education in Bay Area Houston is quite good and better than most places.
Clear Lake Area Chamber members got an update from Clear Creek ISD Superintendent Greg Smith, San Jacinto College Vice Chancellor Teri Crawford and University of Houston-Clear Lake President Bill Staples, at their monthly luncheon, held at South Shore Harbour Resort.
Each told of recent successes at their schools and stressed the importance of working together.
“It has been a headline type of year for CCISD,” the superintendent said, noting that the district has been recognized as one of the top school districts in the Houston region by Children At Risk, that CCISD had been named a top workplace in Houston for the fourth year by the Houston Chronicle while two students were excelling at the International Science Fair.
One of them, Clear Brook High junior Syamantak Payra, received the Intel Foundation Young Scientist Award and a $50,000 scholarship for developing a low-cost electronically-aided knee brace that allows an individual with a weakened leg to walk more naturally after seeing his uncle struggle to walk with a prosthetic leg.
Going on to tell how students are using their math and science skills to build boats, wetlands, an aquaponics farm – even a galley table for the International Space Station, Dr. Smith added, “We want your children to not just read about the world, but experience and positively impact it as well.”
Currently, CCISD has 41,000 students attending its 40 campuses, 5,000 employees and 2,800 graduates in 2016 and a 98 percent graduation rate.
SAN JACINTO COLLEGE
San Jac Vice Chancellor Teri Crawford’s community college works daily with both area school districts and colleges, so it was only fitting that she was the middle speaker.
And, she couldn’t help but brag a little about SJC’s very successful early college high school program which started with CCISD’s Clear Horizons Early College High School. Since its first class graduated in 2009, it has sent several hundred students out into the world with both a high school diploma and an associate degree earned while still in high school.
Since then, San Jac has added Pasadena, Sheldon and Galena Park ISDs to the Early College Program, with many among the 4,969 students transferring to four-year institutions in 2014-15.
“More and more students are entering college,” she said, adding that SJC today has 30,000 credit students. It awarded 2,682 degrees and certificates in 2006-07, compared with 6,156 awarded in 2014-15 – an increase of 129.5 percent.
“Today we are ranked as one of the top 100 community colleges in the country, including No. 2 in granting associate degrees in science technologies/technicians, No. 7 in granting associate degrees to Hispanic students and No. 17 in associate degrees across all disciplines.”
Dr. Staples also had plenty of good news to share with his educational partners and the business community: UHCL has been named one of the Best Regional Universities in the West by U.S. News and World Report, and enrollment is growing.
In addition to 234 in the 2014 freshman class, UHCL added 250 freshmen in 2015 from 72 different high schools – the top five, CCISD schools. Of its 4,500 transfer students this past year, 2,500 students came from San Jacinto College.
But his really big news was about buildings UHCL will break ground for in 2017. Among them are a $65 million Science, Technology, Engineering and Math and Classroom Building and a $38 million Recreation and Wellness Facility – both at UHCL. A third building – a $24.6 million Health Sciences and Classroom Building is planned at the Pearland campus.
“We are also looking into the possibility of building more student housing on the UHCL campus.”
Other initiatives include expansion of services at the Center for Autism; start of its third doctoral program, a doctorate in psychology; a pre-engineering track for undergrads and a partnership with UTMB on an MBA program for medical students.
“By education, business and government working together – and you have two of the best in Dr. Smith and Dr. Hellyer – we can make a real difference in the lives of our students and in our communities,” he said, with both of his fellow speakers quickly indicating Dr. Staples should be on any list of the best.