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Craig Zeno-June 2009 Employee of the Month

Craig Zeno, Employee of the Month for June, is a dropout prevention specialist for the Barbara Jordan, Kashmere, and Phillis Wheatley High School feeder patterns in the district’s North Region. He worked as an associate teacher before accepting his current position in September of 2007, and served as an officer with the Harris County Community Supervision and Corrections Department. Prior to his employment with HISD, Zeno also held management positions at Neighborhood Centers, Inc., and Workforce Solutions.

As a dropout prevention specialist, Zeno works with at-risk students to ensure their continued enrollment, counsels students who have dropped out (almost half of whom have “aged out” of the state’s compulsory-attendance laws), and attempts to facilitate their return to school. A former dropout himself, Zeno often uses his own experiences to help struggling students find hope in their lives, and to recognize the many opportunities for success that are still available to them.

Zeno is such a strong believer in the value of education that he sets aside 10 percent of his pay each month to help students in extenuating circumstances to purchase basic necessities, such as bus passes, school supplies, or uniforms. He also offers transportation to any student wishing to explore alterative education programs, and he spends many hours outside of the normal work day conducting home visits, because early mornings, evenings, and weekends are when dropouts are usually at home.

Zeno has been featured in a number of online articles for his work, including the Wall Street Journal (October 2008), the Wall Street Journal: Classroom Edition (January 2009), and The Story with Dick Gordon (2008). He was also interviewed and followed by an ABC News film crew in 2008 for a possible future segment on Nightline or Good Morning America about Houston-area dropout-recovery efforts.

A native Houstonian, Zeno attended Golfcrest Elementary School, Contemporary Learning Center, and Charles Milby High School. He earned a peace officer’s license from the University of Houston-Downtown Police Academy and a bachelor’s degree in the administration of justice from Texas Southern University. Zeno lives in Houston and enjoys mentoring children in his old neighborhood, volunteering with political campaigns, and traveling.

“Craig is a valuable member of the Department of Student Engagement,” said Director Mark White. “He brings unmatched insight and passion to his job. He is successful in connecting with students and families through his approachability, his compassion, and his trustworthiness. He supports his schools with dedication and professional attention.”

“Craig Zeno personifies dedication, dependability, and pride, and he deserves to be recognized for his service to the students of HISD,” added West Region Dropout Prevention Specialist Sylvia Tristan. “He has taken his job far beyond its description, and does not shy away from any challenge. After Hurricane Ike, HISD was closed because of storm damage, but knowing that the state deadline for finding dropouts was fast approaching, he worked from home every day—including Saturday and Sunday—making phone calls and conducting home visits to students who failed to return to school. Craig is conscientious, loyal, and a servant at heart.”

“Craig Zeno has been superb in working to recover dropouts and encouraging potential dropouts to remain in school,” explained Wheatley High School Principal Wiley Johnson. “He coaches students to make good decisions when it comes to obtaining an education, and his passion to help students meet with success is incredible. He has been a great advocate for them.”



Last updated or reviewed on 8/19/11

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