Why is HISD Superintendent Terry Grier and His School Board Ignoring the Black Community’s Voice in a Key Study?

HISD-logo-610x344Darwin Campbell, African-American News&Issues

HOUSTON-When it comes to HISD justifying the closing of schools in predominantly Black neighborhoods, it contended that its own enrollment and projection studies supported the move.

However, an independent study conducted by Dr. Reba Wright tells a totally different story than the HISD board is telling about its reasons and defense of closing schools in Black communities.

“The HISD board members need to stop, take a step back and rethink its proposal…,” she said.

According to Wright, there are as many as six misleading justifications that HISD is using to close minority schools.

The district is aware of the independent study and even has been provided a copy by the community, but has failed to meet with them to consider the merits of the report or to even recognize the report, despite Wright and others demanding the public know the truth – or at least have a fair chance to review the issue from the community perspective.

The African-American News&Issues believes the public deserves to examine the community’s original report and raise its own questions to Superintendent Terry Grier and the HISD school board as to why the board fails to listen to taxpayers and ignores their community views, ideas and desires to build the kind of district that reflects its community populations.

According to Wright, students bear the most burdens once decisions are made to close schools.

HISD’s first proposal was to close five schools in predominantly African-American communities. Their initial justifications for the closings were low enrollment, high transfer rates, high budget costs per student and changing demographics.

After community meetings, the district decided to close Dodson Elementary and repurpose Jones High School, which eliminated athletics at the school.

Dr. Reba M. Thompson Wright was born in Pineville, Louisiana. Her parents relocated to Texas

when she was seven years old.

She is a proud product of public education, graduating in 1979 from Jesse H. Jones High School.

Thereafter, she entered into Texas Dental Technology School, where she received a Certification as a Dental Technician in 1981. She continued her education and entered into Massey Business College in 1983, where she received a Certification as an Executive Secretary. With her continued desire for knowledge, Dr. Wright attended Houston Community College and received an Associated of Art

Degree in Business in 1992. She then entered into University of Houston, where she received dual degrees in 2001, a Bachelor of Arts in Finance, and a Bachelor of Arts in Management. However, unrelenting in her quest for knowledge, Dr. Wright entered into Texas Southern University and received a M.B.A. in 2003.

Her educational endeavors final concluded when she received her Ph.D. in Urban Planning in 2013 from Texas Southern University. Through her hard work, dedication, and exemplary G.P.A.; Dr. Wright was inducted in Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, and Gamma Beta Phi Honor Society.

Dr. Wright has also served in various positions, but currently works as a Financial Analyst. She has

been a dedicated public servant for nearly 25 years.

Wright conducted an analysis of 24 HISD high schools to determine the validity of HISD’s school closure report. During her research, Wright discovered six major things she contends should raise serious questions about HISD’s motives and plans after gutting neighborhoods.

One of the first findings indicates that Jones enrollment is not much different than other high schools in the district. For example, Jones current enrollment of 440 students is only 60 students less than Kashmere High School’s enrollment of 500 students. Jones enrollment also was not remarkably different from Carnegie Vanguard at 590 students.  It should be noted that 38% of high schools in HISD have enrollments populations of less than 1,000 students.

A second point of interest is Jones High School has 915 transfers out,meaning that over 900 children zoned to Jones opted to attend other schools.  In her study, she points out that Jones transfers were not much different than other schools in the district. six other schools, Lee, Houston High, Sharpstown, Sterling, Westbury and Wheatley has over 1,000 transfer requests. Jones, like other schools experienced negative enrollment.

The third point of interest is the justification HISD is using to move forward with its plan to close schools is that in schools like Jones, the cost to educate students is twice as much compared to other schools. For example, the  board argued that it cost $12,000 per student to educate Jones children. However, that cost per pupil is cheaper than other schools that cost more. Jones cost are $12,096 compared to $12,235 per student at Kashmere.

“The justification boils down to a numbers game. When enrollment numbers increase, the cost expenditures decrease,” she said.

The fourth point of interest is the misleading facts that justify closings based on demographics. Population numbers are showing that South Park, where Jones is located is growing like many ares in Houston.

According to the census, the African-American population will increase 2% and Hispanics 46% by 2014. Wright indicates that the census, the increased population would be a justification for keeping this neighborhood school open.

“In my opinion, HISD defended  the jones closure because the increased Hispanic population would also account from 77% of Jones transfers,” she said.

The fifth point of interest involved Grier’s statement, “it hurts students because they are robbed of the opportunity of advanced educations programs that schools with larger enrollments have.”

Wright pointed out that during that defense of closing what Grier did not share is the fact that HISD had robbed Jones of its programs. Jones had 13 programs (six geared toward supportive services) compared to popular high schools like Bellaire, 19 programs; Lamar, 20; Chavez,19; and Milby, 19.

Jones also had a S.T.E.M. program for science, technology, engineering and math – which set the school apart from other schools. HISD tampered with those programs and changed school educational direction from Vanguard to a more restrictive school wide program and future.

I agree with Dr. Grier when he said it hurts students when schools do not have program opportunities…,” she said. “I do not agree with  Dr. Grier’s decision  to close Jones because it is not the fault of of Jones the students, or the community that enrollment is low at Jones. It is HISD’s fault.”

Other issues affecting decisions to close schools include the removal of the Vanguard program. It the same program were operating at Jones, projected enrollment at Jones would be 1,030 students.

A final point of interest is the decision to send performing students at a performing school to schools that Jones was outperforming.

Wright argues in her study that there are not substantial or material justifications to closing Jones or other schools.

To view the report in its entirety, a complete copy with detailed data and statistics is available at www.charity-productions.org.

 

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