by Dr. Sheila Pope
Last night, I attended the Worthing High School and Woodson Community Meeting. I wanted to show my support for my former students and my former colleagues at Worthing High School. I went to hear Worthing’s outcome from Wanda Adams, Dr. Latham, and Dr. Cranbill for myself. I am so glad I attended the meeting.
First, it was an awesome feeling to see my former students the moment I got out of my car. They found me with my new vehicle. lol! They still know my voice. They looked
great! I am so proud of them. I look forward to seeing all of them graduate in June 2018! I have a few more students that I taught that will graduate in 2019. I came for them too! I also enjoyed sitting in a well-lit auditorium! Yes, we could see each other and we could see the data, newsletters, and other handouts due to new lights, new paint, and new SMARTboards used in the auditorium. When I worked at Worthing for three years, we did not have light or technology in the auditorium. I left in 2016. Good leadership understands nothing get recognized in the dark!
Next, I respected the way Board Trustee Wanda Adams allowed the principals of Woodson and Worthing share all of their positives before sharing the faith of both schools. Both principals acknowledged their staff and their teachers. They were their own press agents! No one could say that new leadership had not made a difference at both schools.
I respect the position Trustee Wanda Adams is in, but I wish she had the COURAGE and
CONVICTION to just shot straight sometimes! I understand she has to be guarded, but you can ADMIT Worthing MIGHT close. You need to have told parents, You cannot control the outcome of 10 years of negligence on and off your watch! Sometimes, you have to address the elephant in the room, but still speak with hope and not recklessness.
Dr. Latham and Trustee Wanda Adams acknowledged Dr. Campbell and the principal at Woodson were working hard to change the culture of the schools. Dr. Latham said, she supported their leadership and hoped the new PARTNERS would keep them in their current positions. Unfortunately, both principals might lose their jobs because new organizations tend to bring in their own folks! Under the new partnership, HISD does not have ANY say in hiring and firing of staff!
It was clear to me that Dr. Latham maybe the new interim Superintendent of HISD; she does not plan to change leadership at the two schools while she has control of Woodson and Worthing. However, it was also clear to me TEA and Dr. Latham did not agree on key points.
Dr. Latham said the district was going to recommend a partnership with a nonprofit that had a successful record of turning schools around. They prefer higher education entities. She said partnership would not be charter schools nor the nonprofit from Boston mentioned earlier this year. The new focus of Worthing and Woodson would be the International Baccalaureate Program. This seems to be an odd choice, but not worth challenging now. New partnerships will have their own plans. Dr. Latham believes both schools will benefit from a new rigorous IB program.
Dr. Latham said the partnerships would last for three years. The partnerships would be effective immediately in August 2018-2019 school year. The partnerships would have total control of schools that were failing. The partnerships could hire/fire who they wanted to immediately. Therefore, teachers and staff COULD be FIRED due to performance issues or budget issues by June 2018.
Wanda Adams said she would not SUPPORT closing HISD schools. However, TEA does not need Trustee Wanda Adam’s support to make the decisions to close and reopen (reset) failing schools. HISD will submit the application/contract for partnership by April 12th. At the next school board meeting, decisions will be finalized by HISD. Dr. Latham said HISD would publish partnership contracts; however, Dr. Cranbill, TEA rep, said the contracts would not be published. TEA will announce their decisions after HISD submits their complete packages for partnerships on April 30th.
By April 30th, HISD will submit all the names of staff, teachers, and leadership for all 10 failing schools. Some staff/teachers will know their employment status before/on April 30th. HISD will submit the new configurations of the failing schools by April 30th. For example, Dr. Latham announced Woodson, would only serve Pre-K through 3rd grade under HISD new application/partnership. Teachers in grades 4th-8th will be fired or moved around because of HISD restructuring of its campuses.
TEA will tell the district what it will do on by June 2018. If TEA does not accept HISD application/partnership agreement, Worthing will be RESET. Dr. Latham said under reset plan, Worthing will be a 9th-grade center. Students currently in 10th, 11th, and 12th grade will go to another high school that IS NOT in Improvement Required Status. HISD will bus students to their new schools. Dr. Latham did not give the names of new schools nor did she act as if TEA might disregard their partnership agreements.
I was happy to see Dr. Pretta Vandible Stallworth attend the meeting representing Houston Community College as District 9 Trustee. She is an alumna of Worthing. She has great plans to partner with Worthing High School to provide trades/skill credit classes off campus at Houston Community College@ Reed/288 location. However, it seemed like she and Dr. Campbell needed to talk more about their SHARED vision.
Dr. Campbell announced Worthing planned to provide Teacher Education classes, Hotel and Restaurant classes, and Agriculture classes during 2018-2019. With all respect to the Worthing Committee for the efforts, but I DO NOT LIKE the choices. Dr. Campbell said they conducted a survey and the choices were a result of a survey. Maybe the committee needed to try a couple other methods to get more input from students to see what they wanted. We have to listen to Worthing Students!
Worthing students would benefit from ROTC, welding, cosmetology, air conditioning and refrigeration, auto mechanics, Chef programs, and Dual Credit English, government, history, and psychology courses ON CAMPUS and off too. The classes should be offered to 10th grade – 12th-grade students. I thought Worthing was offering these classes this school year, but the plans fell through once again!
The community meeting did not have as many people as I had hoped. There were a few incidents but at the end of the meeting, I walked away thinking Wanda Adams and HISDneeded to prepare for TEA rejecting their plans. They needed to start thinking of how to move forward if TEA suggests a RESET. Having a contingency plan is WISE. I also felt they should have invited a potential partner to talk to the community and other stakeholders. It would have been nice to hear a potential partners’ plans to turn things around.
It was good to see Mr. Marcus McGee, Mr. Gerry Wayne Monroe, Rev. Curtis Dockery, Sheryl Scott Taylor representing State Representative Shawn Thierry, Lighthouse for Students and representatives from Congress Woman Sheila Jackson Lee, Commissioner Rodney Ellis, Urban League, and all of the principals from the South Districts out to support VB Evan E. Worthing and Woodson. I will attend the school board meeting on April 12th! I hope to see you there!
At the meeting, we will see the outcomes of the games that have been played with our children’s futures. We will see who can admit change is necessary and see how HISD moves forward. We will see their new vision for 10 failing schools and their new attempt to turn things around.