New HISD schools named

January 15, 2009 10:19:17 AM PST
Former HISD Superintendent Billy Reagan and United States federal judge James DeAnda will be the namesakes of two new HISD facilities. Under the proposal, to be voted upon by the Board of Education, a new bond program school temporarily called the Dowling K-8 Relief School would be named the Billy R. Reagan K-8 Educational Center and the Mitchell Relief Elementary School would become the James DeAnda Elementary School.

The Board of Education will vote on the new names during its regular meeting which begins at 5 p.m. on Thursday, January 15, at the Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center (4400 West 18th Street, 77092).

Billy Reagan has devoted more than 50 years to improving education. Reagan earned undergraduate and graduate degrees from the University of Texas and a doctorate from the University of Nebraska. He served as the Superintendent of HISD for 12 years. During that time, he implemented a basic-skills competency program that led to a district-wide accountability system. He created a Magnet school system as a tool to achieve integration, which became a national model. He also appointed the first female African-American Principal to a secondary school.

"During that period of time, we were still desegregating schools," said Reagan. "We worked with the community and staff to be able to reach our goal of getting unitary status. It was a challenge, but we achieved it."

Now at 78, Reagan is still active in education by conducting research and providing consulting on educational issues. Billy Reagan, his two daughters, three grandchildren and sister will be present during the board meeting on Thursday.

"It's the highest honor that I've had in my life," said Reagan. "It's a dream come true since I believe very strongly in the K-8 organizational concept. It's something that I never ever expected, I'm just grateful for everyone that I had an opportunity to work with over the years."

DeAnda, a native Houstonian, attended HISD's Jefferson Davis High School and later graduated from Texas A&M University. He received a law degree from the University of Texas and went on to re-write history in defense of the civil rights of Hispanics. As a practicing attorney, he held a key role in desegregating Texas juries on behalf of Mexican-Americans when he was one of four attorneys who tried Hernandez v. State of Texas, which went all the way to the Supreme Court. It was a historic event because no Mexican-American lawyer had ever argued before the Supreme Court. In 1979, President Jimmy Carter appointed DeAnda to the federal bench.

DeAnda retired from public service in 1992. He passed away in 2006 at the age of 81 after a lengthy battle with cancer. DeAnda's stepson Patrick Martin will be attending the board meeting.

"Judge DeAnda altruistically served his country and the public's best interest his entire professional life," said Martin. "He first served as a proud and decorated marine during WWII, followed by an illustrious but unassuming career as a civil rights attorney and advocate. He completed his distinguished and uncelebrated public service career as a Chief Federal Judge of the Southern District of Texas. We are deeply honored and pleased by this special recognition."

"Naming the new school after Judge James DeAnda provides for another example of leadership to the students of not only the new school but all children of Houston," said HISD Board Trustee Manuel Rodriguez. "DeAnda is a nationally known role model who has served his fellow men by standing for the equality and rights of others by using the legal system to make decisions for those who were not able to defend themselves."

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