Yes, you read that correctly!
The historically Black Worthing, Wheatley, and Kashmere High Schools are at risk of being closed if they can’t show enough improvement to be taken off the State’s “Improvement Required” list according to comments at yesterday’s press conference held by HISD Trustees Wanda Adams, who serves as the Board’s President, and Rhonda Skillern-Jones.
Remember the now extinct M.B. Smiley eagles, the blue and gold Forest Brook jaguars, and the rest of North Forest ISD?
A distant memory, right?
Remember how the district was dismantled in 2013 and essentially handed over to HISD like soggy leftovers from dinner at Applebee’s? Well, these schools and roughly ten others may cause HISD to follow the same fate.
A state law passed in 2015 by Houston-area State Rep. Harold Dutton (D) puts schools who end up on the State’s “Improvement Required” list too many years in a row on the chopping block. If unable to get off that list in time, the State (TEA) offers 2 simple options: allow TEA to take over the schools through a board of managers who are unelected, or close the school.
It's clear the intent was to raise standards for schools who consistently kick the can down the road when it comes to performance, but the bill is also putting an unpopular spotlight on historically Black neighborhood schools.
What’s even more astonishing about the law is that it could actually allow the state to snatch control of the district from our elected school board.
Community Leader Larry McKinzie says he sees these recent moves as an attack on public education, and that it onus is on all elected officials in the Houston area to reign in TEA. "There is a Charter School agenda at hand, and if you can get the largest district [HISD], you can get the entire state," said McKinzie. He says we should cast the net wide when thinking bout who's to blame for our district's performance problems. "Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, all the Texas State Reps and Senators from Houston, the County Commissioners, the Harris County Board of Education Trustees, all the city council people, the pastors, priest and rabbis deserve some of the blame," continued McKinzie.
According to some school board members, the problem comes from the State constantly changing the goals. Trustee Skillern-Jones likened recent years to a moving target. She also points to a need for additional resources to truly combat issues at schools in marginalized communities.
“If you look at the statistics on each one of these schools, you’ll see the correlation between the affects of poverty and low achievement,” said Trustee Skillern-Jones. That’s absolutely true. You can’t teach hungry children.
As a community, we need to address the elephant in the room: Poverty
“When you pass laws like these that are blanket and do not take into consideration all of the things that happen to kids in Texas and the various situation, that’s drilling a hole [in the ship],” continued Skillern-Jones.
Only time will tell what becomes of the schools on the list, and HISD itself. The schools have roughly nine months to get out of “Improvement Required” rating or face closure.
The question is: What can the community do to get OUR schools off the list. Bigger question: How do we take more control of the system that allows LISTS to control the fate of our neighborhood schools?
What can WE do as a community?
After a closed session, the HISD Board of Trustees plan to hold a meeting this evening at 5:00 at the HISD Administration Building where this issue will surely make the public comments section.
VIEW THE FULL PRESS CONFERENCE HERE:
On the "Improvement Required" List for HISD:
Blackshear Elementary School
Cook Elementary School
Dogan Elementary School
Henry Middle School
Highland Heights Elementary School
Kashmere Gardens Elementary School
Kashmere High School
Lewis Elementary School
Mading Elementary School
Wesley Elementary School
Wheatley High School
Woodson PK-8 School
Worthing High School