HISD plans to expand magnet school program

February 14, 2013 6:46:52 PM PST
HISD wants to open several new magnet schools that will focus on certain areas of education and training, but it needs federal funding to make those plans a reality.

The school board approved this proposed expansion Thursday evening, and supporters of these magnet programs say that is certainly good news for some much needed specialties within HISD. But some parents we spoke with say they hope the entire program will be revamped.

Of the more than 100 magnet school programs at HISD, Debakey High school is one of the most well-known.

"I always thought medicine was interesting, and it's good to get a basis in medicine, kind of know what your doctors are talking about," said Ryan Taylor, a high school junior.

Now the district wants to tweak and expand its existing magnet program by eight more schools, with a focus on math and science, funded by federal grants.

"It gives the kids goals," said Dr. Irene Howard, a teacher at Debakey High School. "It gives them something to strive for. I don't think it will hurt anybody to do it that way."

If the magnet program expansion is approved, Ryan Middle School would become a feeder school to the already well-known Debakey health science program.

Debakey Principal Agnes Perry said, "I think the earlier in their school life that you expose them to different options, different career paths, the better they are in preparing."

But not every HISD parent thinks relentless expansion of magnet programs is a good idea. Jay Aiyer, with two kids in the district, says the existing magnet schools aren't funded fairly and the program needs an overhaul.

He said, "I would just urge them, use this as an opportunity. If you're going to add more, try to revamp the entire system."

HISD board members admit that even after the plan is approved it will still need some work.

"We still haven't seen the last plan yet, but I think it's fine," said HISD board member Paula Harris. "I think putting in good schools and more choices for parents is just what it is, if you call it a magnet, and got the funding under a magnet grant."

It's still a work in progress, but the board is expected to pass the proposal.