HISD magnet schools under microscope

HOUSTON For many parents, this is the most important meeting they've ever attended at HISD. They want to know what is happening with HISD's magnet program.

Parent Sharnelle Jones said, "The fear that I have, and the reason that I am here today, is because I was told that there would be some kind of system, instead of my children knowing exactly what school they're going to go for middle school, all of these kids are going to be thrown into a pile."

"Of course we don't want to lose funding for the magnet schools and we would like to be able to keep choice in HISD for parents where their identified schools sort of meet the needs and interests of our own children," parent Laura Lomax-Bream.

Right now in HISD, there are 113 magnet schools that cost approximately $21 million to fund. The vast majority of that money, $15 million, is for transportation, leaving $6 million for the schools. HISD wants the audit to identify and help resolve what they acknowledge are funding inequities and evaluate the student selection process.

HISD Board President Greg Meyers said, "When we get this review, this audit, you know, we can decide to use some of it, all of it, none of it as it relates to what we do and our core philosophy in HISD. Do I anticipate changes? Absolutely."

Magnet schools have been at HISD for almost 40 years and are theme based. One at Wharton kindergarten through eighth grade is a dual language program. Any student can enroll and selection varies from campus to campus.

Most parents understand the need for an audit, but change, especially when it involves your child, can be scary.

Parent Renee Harkness said, "If changes are made to the magnet program, particularly in Wharton's case, where would our children go? What would change for them? How would their education be affected?"

Those are questions HISD wants to have answered as well. That's why they're holding the audit. Those results are expected to be presented in December. HISD Superintendent Dr. Terry Grier says he's not sure exactly when any changes would take place.

HISD will hold four more meetings later this month about the future of its magnet program. The next meeting is Tuesday, October 26 at Madison High School, followed by a meeting the next night at Key Middle School. Another meeting is set for Thursday, October 28, also at 7pm, at Bellaire High School. The final magnet meeting will be held Friday, October 30 at 9am at the Hattie Mae White Educational Support Center. All parents are invited.

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