Communities In Schools of Houston names Lisa Descant new CEO

Current COO to succeed retiring leader Cynthia Briggs during organization’s 40th year of supporting students in schools

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Communities In Schools of Houston, the nonprofit which partners with education leaders across Greater Houston to support more than 120,000 students annually, named a new CEO. In January 2019, Chief Operating Officer Lisa Descant will succeed Cynthia Briggs, who is retiring after 40 years of work at CIS of Houston.

CIS Student Support Specialists are on campuses year-round to help students in their times of need. From crisis intervention, trauma and mental health counseling to internships and extra-curricular activities, CIS Student Support Specialists do whatever it takes to help break down barriers to students’ success.

When the organization first launched on a single Houston campus in 1979, Briggs was its first social worker. Ten years later, she became the organization’s executive director and has worked in the CEO role ever since. Under her leadership, CIS of Houston expanded significantly with Student Support Specialists now on 148 campuses in Houston, Spring Branch, Alief and Fort Bend Independent School Districts, Houston Community College and Lone Star College. CIS of Houston has impacted more than three million students over the organization’s 40-year history.

“CIS staff are partnering with a record number of schools as education leaders see an unprecedented need for comprehensive student wraparound support,” Briggs said. “I’m confident the organization’s momentum working toward new and exciting goals will continue with Descant at the helm.”

Following a national search, the CIS of Houston Board of Directors voted unanimously to promote the organization’s COO Lisa Descant to CEO. Descant brings 20 years of counseling and leadership experience to her new role.

Descant was introduced to CIS while volunteering for Boys & Girls Clubs as a college student at The University of Texas at Austin. It was through that experience she recognized her purpose: to help students who are trying to cope with major life events and everyday stressors, so they can focus on their studies. Descant went on to earn her Master of Psychology degree and work for CIS in elementary, middle and high schools. In the past 15 years at CIS of Houston, she served as Director of Quality and Standards, Chief Strategic Officer and Chief Operating Officer.

“I’m privileged to work for Cynthia, a servant-hearted leader—an exceptional social worker through and through—who has inspired so many of us to carry on this critical community-wide effort to support students and their families—especially in times of struggle,” Descant said. “The world-class work of our Student Support Specialists would not be possible without the immense support from our Board, education leaders, public officials, community partners, and so many other caring individuals with whom I look forward to working more closely for years to come.”

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