Focus Groups Reveal HPISD Pros, Cons

OK, not pros and cons exactly — “strengths and challenges.” David Thompson of Thompson and Horton and former DISD superintendent Mike Moses conducted a day of focus-group meetings with HPISD community members on April 7 to determine what community members saw as, you guessed it, strengths and challenges of the school district, as well as what they were looking for in a new superintendent.

On April 29, they revealed their findings to the board of trustees. Most of them were unsurprising. Among the strengths, focus-group members listed commitment to excellence, tradition, culture, and a shared value system.

“It’s a small town in a big city,” Thompson said. “The schools are integrated in the community, and the pride in tradition was mentioned over and over.”

Here’s where things get fun: parental involvement rose to the top of both the strengths list and the challenges list.

“One thing that we did hear quite a bit was parental involvement — how to handle it correctly,” Thompson said.

Among other challenges were the usual suspects: facilities topped the list, with the acknowledgement that the new superintendent will have to navigate accommodating more students on limited land. Increasing difficulty for middle-class families to afford living in the Park Cities was another challenge, which then affects attracting and retaining staff members who may be tempted by school districts closer to home.

“We’ve worked hard to get good people and keep the kind of teachers we want,” Moses said.

As for the superintendent search itself, focus-group members want someone with a strong education background, though business sense is obviously important. They also would love to see a native Texan, though they want trustees to search high and low. Other factors include someone “familiar with high expectations” and someone “looking to stay for awhile.”

“We heard that we hope for someone with good stewardship and business sense, but the core is teaching and learning,” Moses said.

The board of trustees will be conducting a series of interviews with candidates at the Park Cities Hilton May 7-9.

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