District Administration December2017 - 20
First Person: Recovering from Hurricane Harvey
Becky Zalesnik, innovation officer at Sheldon ISD (7,000 students) on the outskirts
of Houston shares her district's story of recovery
In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey,
Sheldon ISD in Houston has relied on
community support and its own resilience to get classes going again.
When the storm hit on August 25,
it brought record rainfall-51 inches
in four days-and unprecedented
flooding. Three of the district's schools,
including C.E. King High School, sustained significant damage and were not
fit for use. In addition to hundreds of
students being displaced, more than 90
district employees experienced severe
flood damage at their homes.
School administrators were finally
able to meet three days after the rain
Zalesnik: "We met and we said, 'Well,
since we can't get into our schools right
now, the first thing we need to do is
take care of our kids, our teachers and
the people affected.'
20 December 2017
"We opened up our bus barn, and
overnight moved out all the buses, and
then put out the call we needed help.
We needed bleach, food, supplies, diapers, clothing-everything. And people
started showing up within 24 hours
with 18-wheelers, and we opened up a
donation distribution center. Within
one day, we had it full of donations and
supplies, and it kept coming."
Supplies were distributed to hundreds of families in the district. The
focus then turned to getting students
back in class. School officials and volunteers removed tons of damaged books,
furniture, computer equipment and
other debris from affected buildings.
Zalesnik: "We then asked, 'Now what
are we going to do to get kids back in
school?' We agreed that 'nobody has
the best idea right now, but when we
leave this room, we're going to have an
idea that's going to take care of kids
from pre-K to 12.' The big thing that
first day was the high school kids. We
had to get them back in school and
college classes because they could lose
credit. It could affect their graduation,
and affect their future if we didn't sort
that out first."
Nearly 2,400 high school students
needed to be accommodated. Nearby
San Jacinto College provided classrooms for credit-recovery students and
400 others who were enrolled in early
college classes. The district only had to
To make room for high school
classes, the students and teachers of
Sheldon Elementary-which wasn't
damaged-were relocated to a building
loaned by Royalwood Baptist Church.
Meanwhile, the pre-K students of Shel-