HOUSTON --Based on the recommendations of an independent audit, HISD is considering ending 53 magnet programs at its campuses. It's a proposal that has parents and students upset. The meeting at Waltrip High School was one of eight district-wide meetings held on Tuesday night to focus on HISD's prestigious magnet programs, a sensitive topic for the parents of 42,000 students enrolled in them. Jeylan Jones likes the playground at Oak Forest Elementary, but his mom, Rhonda Jones, likes the school for a whole lot more. "He's happy where he is. He's well-adjusted and he's learning," she said. "There's a core of parents that participate very well in enhancing the kids' education. We have an excellent principal who manages his budget to the dime, and we have a group of dynamic teachers." Jeylan Jones is in the Vanguard program, one of the areas targeted by a recently released audit of HISD's magnet programs. It recommends cutting 55 out of 113 programs and stripping funding from all Vanguard schools, including Oak Forest. "Our hope is that they will do away with the entire report," Rhonda Jones said. And that's why Rhonda Jones and a few hundred parents settled into the auditorium at Waltrip High School. They sat through a presentation of the overall status of the magnet programs and then lined up to speak. "I would urge you -- I'd even beg you -- not to cut the funding for this exemplary program," one taxpayer said. "I, like other parents here, would think nothing of moving out of the district and taking my tax dollars with me to get my child the education that he deserves," another concerned taxpayer said. Then it was Rhonda Jones' turn. "It's life-altering recommendations -- changes that put our children's quality of education at risk," she told school officials. While Rhonda Jones was happy to have her turn, she's no more convinced the programs she calls success will be spared. "I'm just not confident that our concerns will be heard," she said. HISD says it's committed to these magnet and Vanguard programs, but it is still concerned about the admissions process, funding and capacity. Those were the concerns behind the magnet review in the first place, as well as the audit. Administrators say they're considering the audit as well as the feedback from parents before they make their own recommendations about the future of the district's magnet programs to the entire board of education in March.
The magnet discussion meeting dates and locations are:
Tuesday, February 1
Saturday, February 5