Before the HISD board of trustees voted to change Ryan Middle School, the plea from the community was clear.
“When education leaves a community that community begins to spiral, because that’s the centerpiece.”
“Today, I’m asking the board to vote no.”
“It is discriminatory and insensitive to place new schools in our neighborhoods at nothing for our neighborhoods.”
That was the Reverend Reginald Lillie president of the Houston NAACP, Assata Richards and Arva Howard. They lost their plea.
“The motion passes five for, three against.”
The trustee who represents the area, Paula Harris, missed the meeting.
Board president Anna Eastman says it was a difficult decision.
“I don’t think closing a school is ever easy on a community. And while it’s counterintuitive to think that closing a school is actually a better option for kids, I know I believe we need to make sure that kids are in schools that are fully funded.”
HISD managers say Ryan Middle School has less than 300 kids and that enrollment doesn’t generate enough money.
The school has gotten extra funding – almost $2 million – from the Apollo program meant to improve struggling schools.
Michael Cardona is the chief school officer for middle schools at HISD.He says a middle school needs at least 500 kids to cover the budget.
“When your school gets so small that you can’t offer, you know, the art, the cheer, the dance, the UIL [University Interscholastic League], we as a district have to make those decisions. And I’m a dad and I’m thinking as a dad and also a chief. And I want those kids at Ryan to have those same opportunities.”
He says there’ll be more programs when students from Ryan attend Cullen Middle School, about four miles away, in the fall.
Meanwhile, the Ryan campus will reopen as a new district-wide magnet.
The plan is sort of a middle school version of the prestigious DeBakey High School for the Health Professions.
Board members postponed a similar plan to merge two high schools, Jones and Sterling.
That delay did not impress Arva Howard.
“It means they’re cowards. The issues are the same. The communities are parallel. It’s just by that time I guess they were too afraid to do something else.”
Howard says they will take the issue to a larger forum before the vote on the high school merger.