CIS February Newsletter

Introducing our New CEO: Lisa Descant, LPC-S, LMft-s

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Former Chief Operating Officer Lisa Descant took over as Chief Executive Officer on January 7, 2019, succeeding Cynthia Clay Briggs, who retired after 40 years at CIS. Descant took the helm as the need for CIS and the number of schools CIS is serving has expanded rapidly.

“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.”

Descant brings 20 years of counseling and leadership experience to her new role. For years Descant has worked together with state, community and education leaders on critical efforts to support students and their success in school and in life. She 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 Descant recognized her purpose: to support students who are coping with major life challenges and everyday stressors so they can focus on achieving their full potential. A licensed professional counselor (LPC) and marriage and family therapist (LMFT), she earned her Master of Psychology from Our Lady of the Lake University and worked for CIS in elementary, middle and high schools. In the past 15 years at CIS of Houston, Descant served as a Student Support Manager, Director of Quality and Standards, Chief Strategic Officer and Chief Operating Officer.

“Cynthia Clay Briggs, CEO Emeritus, had a profound effect on the formation, governance and vision shaping CIS of Houston as it stands today, and for all that she gave to CIS and the more than three million students impacted during her service, we will be FOREVER grateful.”

-Lisa Descant

Student Support Superstar

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When a CIS Student Support Specialist enters onto a school campus, they have the opportunity to really transform the environment and make an impact. One person in particular who brings the CIS magic to her school and its community is An Dang at Alief ISD’s Alexander Elementary School. An is a master at leveraging resources and providing her students with any basic needs they may need, as well as going above and beyond to give her students enriching and engaging opportunities. One example of this work is how An partnered with local businesses to make her Principal's vision for painting neglected areas of the school a reality. While educating students is always the priority, An advocated for the school’s need for resources to keep the school attractive and up-to-date and reached out to businesses near the school.

Thanks to An’s initiative, Home Depot and PPG donated 30 gallons of exterior semi-gloss paint, paint kits and rollers, liners, drop cloths, and everything they needed for the school-wide beautification project. The students had a great time working with the school’s art teacher to paint murals around the school. They were able to brighten up their learning environment and express themselves artistically. An is just one of the many CIS Student Support Specialists we have on campus who go the extra mile to do whatever it takes to help her students succeed.

CIS Expansion


Just two short years ago, during the 2016 - 2017 school year, Communities In Schools of Houston was in 121 schools. Today, we are embedded within 157 campuses year-round to help more than 117,000 students annually in their times of need.

From crisis intervention, trauma and mental health counseling to basic necessities and extra-curricular activities, CIS Student Support Specialists do whatever it takes to help break down barriers to students’ success.

Houston Independent School District, the largest public school system in the state, is investing $4 million over the next four years to expand its comprehensive wraparound support, including mental health services provided by CIS of Houston, for thousands more students. HISD earned the funds through a Teacher and School Leader Incentive Grant funded by the U.S. Department of Education.

CIS of Houston’s Student Support Specialists work on campuses in Houston, Spring Branch, Alief and Fort Bend Independent School Districts and six Lone Star Colleges. CIS of Houston has impacted more than three million students over the organization’s 40-year history.

“As we expand partnerships with educators and other community leaders to support a record number of students facing challenges of all shapes and sizes, we are bolstering our services to meet unprecedented demands,” said Communities In Schools of Houston CEO Lisa Descant

With Gratitude

Wayne Duddlesten Foundation:

Thank you for many years of supporting our students

One of the things CIS takes pride in is our ability to transform lives through building relationships. The focus on building strong relationships is not only present with our students, but also with our partners within the community, the campuses we serve, and our funders who make our work possible. One outstanding foundation in particular we have developed a meaningful relationship with over the years is the Wayne Duddlesten Foundation.

Since 2013, the Wayne Duddlesten Foundation has supported CIS Project MOVE Dental, a program in which CIS partners with UT School of Dentistry at Houston to provide preventive and restorative dental care, and oral health presentations to elementary school students. CIS facilitates a state of the art mobile dental clinic that provides free dental services on the school campus.

In more recent years, in addition to supporting Project MOVE Dental, the Wayne Duddlesten Foundation has been an amazing asset providing foundational support for CIS of Houston’s overall mission to provide integrated student support for students, as well as allowing CIS to provide emergency assistance to students in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

Wayne Duddlesten was known for his commitment to the city of Houston and his work in real-estate development. He was also the key figure to bring the NBA to our city. Wayne Duddlesten was a proud Houstonian whose legacy left a lasting impact on the development of our city and also through his charitable work to support the city and its community.

We are so grateful for the Duddlesten Foundation for entrusting CIS to care for Houston’s students and provide them with the resources and opportunities they need to succeed.

Penncomp LLC

PennComp has been a part of the CIS family for 13 years, and we are so grateful for their IT services as well as their pro-bono support, keeping CIS technology running well. Thank you PennComp for your long-time support of CIS.

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Society of Petroleum Engineers:

Thank you for Hosting a job readiness seminar for our high school students

This January, we partnered with Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE) to host our 21st annual Job Readiness Seminar for our high school students. Our students learned about resume writing, the hiring process, what employers look for, as well as learned about the different internship opportunities for CIS students.

Special thanks to Marathon Oil for hosting CIS at their offices, and to our keynote speakers: Noel Pinnock, City of Houston Bureau Chief of Youth and Adolescent Health and Myra Johnson, Principle at Ephesus Investments, LLC.

CIS Houston