Terry Grier, the superintendent of the Houston Independent School District, was named the 2014 Urban Educator of the Year at the annual conference of the Council of the Great City Schools.
Grier, Houston’s superintendent since 2009, is credited with expanding his students’ access to Advanced Placement courses and increasing the number of students who now take SAT college-entrance exams, according to the Council of the Great City Schools, the Washington-based group that represents 67 of the nation’s big-city school districts.
“Superintendent Terry Grier knows how to confront challenges in urban education, and has the commitment, experience and energy to overcome the odds to provide a quality education for students,” Michael Casserly, the council’s executive director, said in a statement announcing the award.
Grier said he was surprised at the award and he came without prepared remarks. But, he asked members of “team HISD,” who were attending the council’s banquet at the Wisconsin Center in Downtown Milwaukee, to stand and participate in the honor.
“This is really about them, it’s not about me,” he said.
“We have great opportunities in this country, all of us in urban education, to make a difference in the lives of our children,” he said. “I often say in Houston that our kids have one time in school, and we have to make sure that they have a great education. Without an education, in today’s world, there is no future for our young people.”
The district has done some “exciting” and “fantastic work,” he said, with one of the best staffs in the country, backed by a supportive community.
“We’re that close in Houston,” he said. “We’re that close to being a breakout urban district, and we’re not going to stop until we make that happen.”
Under Grier’s leadership, the district was awarded the Broad Prize for Urban Education last year—becoming, at the time, the first district in the prize’s history to win the award twice. The district first won in 2002, which was the Broad Prize’s inaugural year.
In recognizing Houston’s achievement at the time of the 2013 award, Broad officials cited the district’s increase in graduation rate, which grew at a faster rate than other urban districts that were eligible for the prize. Judges for the prize also cited Houston’s progress closing the achievement gap between low-income students and their more affluent peers by 40 percent in middle and high school math and science; and overall improvement in college-readiness, particularly among the African-American and Hispanic student population.
With about 213,000 students, Houston is the nation’s seventh largest school district.
The other award finalists were Alberto Carvalho of the Miami-Dade County schools, Eric Gordon of the Cleveland district R. Stephen Green of the Kansas City, Mo., district, and Valeria Silva of the St. Paul school district in Minnesota.
Last year’s winner was Denise Link, a member of the Cleveland school board.
The award is officially known as the Green-Garner Award and is named after Richard R. Green, New York City’s first African-American chancellor, and Edward Garner, a businessman and former member of Denver’s school board. It comes with a $10,000 college scholarship that the winner may choose to award to a high school senior in his district or to a student who will graduate from the winner’s own alma mater.
A version of this news article first appeared in the District Dossier blog.