Community leaders fear historic high school in danger

November 17, 2011 3:28:45 PM PST
There's growing concern about the future of a local high school that has a rich history within the African American community. A state representative is calling on the community and the Houston Independent School District to do more to help the school succeed.

A meeting is planned at Booker T. Washington High School in north Houston. Organizers of the community meetings say they believe HISD has ignored this school. Hundreds of people are expected to pack the building in an effort to fight for its future.

Booker T. Washington is a historic high school many families in Independence Heights say they've depended on for decades.

Neighbor Michael Wyatt said, "Well, it's the backbone of the community."

Now some local leaders say they fear Houston's oldest African American high school could be in jeopardy of closing in a couple of years if the community doesn't step in.

"The numbers are going down," said State Representative Sylvester Turner. "Academically, they are sliding. The band program, for example, is down to single digits from where it used to be."

Turner has called a community meeting for Booker T. Washington. He says he's concerned about the school's current academically unacceptable standing and how it has wiped out several extracurricular programs.

"You cannot leave this school in the same condition as it has been since 1959, build new structures, new high schools, new programs around it, and then expect these kids to be walking around as if they have the same benefits and advantages of everybody else," Turner said.

The school's principal plans to give out a letter at the meeting, detailing her commitment to improving academics and addressing declining enrollment. Among those things, she suggests hiring additional math teachers, reducing class sizes in math and adding a new reading program to help struggling students improve skills.

"Let's not wait until somebody says we are going to close it," Turner urged. "Let's stop it. Let's do what we need to do now from a community vantage point."

Representative Turner says the meeting is not a gripe session. He says it's about protecting the future of this school.


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