Administrator Magazine
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This Month's Profile

The surprising moves of Houston Independent School District superintendent Dr. Abelardo Saavedra.

January 2009


HOMETOWN: Corpus Christi, Texas

FAMILY: Wife, Myrna, a former teacher; two daughters

EDUCATION: Doctorate in school administration, University of Michigan. He is also a graduate of the Broad Academy for Urban Superintendents.

EXPERIENCE: 36 years in public education. Dr. Saavedra became a principal at age 28. Before coming to hisd in 2004, he was superintendent of public schools in Corpus Christi.

SALARY: $314,000; eligible for performance pay up to $80,000

PHILOSOPHY: “Every school must create a college-bound culture,” declared HISD's first Hispanic superintendent in 2006. Two years later, nearly all high schools in HISD have college centers, beefed-up curricula, and college counseling.

ON HISD CULTURE “We’ve not introducing any magic reading or math program or extraordinary technology into the district. What we are doing is changing the focus and culture of hisd to center around student growth. Our performance pay system is centered around that.”

LATEST BOLD MOVE: Saavedra recently hired former Teach for America executive director Ann Best to be his “deputy superintendent for human talent.” Best will oversee the district’s hiring (and firing) process. Union chiefs quickly criticized the outsider hire; reformers praised the move.

DROPOUT STRATEGY: With his Reach Out to Dropouts initiative, Saavedra, the mayor, and other officials go door-to-door to truants’ homes cajoling disaffected students. Last year, they convinced 541 students to drop back in.on his new contract: “I will stay as long as the relationship remains strong and we’re making a difference in the lives of kids. I’m a young 57 right now.”

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