Tenth grader Ernie Vita hits the books pretty hard at Carnegie Vanguard High School, a magnet for gifted and talented kids.
He also loves baseball. He’s a pitcher and third baseman on the school’s team.
“Win or lose, I just want to play baseball,” Vita said.
To keep playing, Vita took his case to the board of trustees for the Houston Independent School District. It was about to strip competitive sports from Carnegie Vanguard, and the board was considering a new policy to allow sports only at comprehensive neighborhood high schools.
But Vita and other Houston students said they don’t want to choose between athletics and academics — and they managed to convince the school board not to force them.
“The bottom line is every student should have access to sports. It gives everyone the chance to grow as a student, it allows the student body to grow as a whole and it benefits schools,” Vita told the board at its meeting last Thursday.
He appealed in particular to two trustees who once played sports in HISD: Wanda Adams and Jolanda Jones.
“I have mixed feelings about it again because I’m an athlete and always will be an athlete,” Jones said.
They heard Vita — especially the last part of his argument to allow sports at all specialty schools — not just Carnegie.
“But if at the end of the day, we end up having one school, or if we even have five specialty schools that have sports and the rest of them don’t, there’s nothing about that that’s equitable,” Jones added.
Some families hope the decision will kick off athletics at their campuses.
Tanyel Bennett is the PTO president for her sons’ school, Mickey Leland College Preparatory Academy for Young Men. They’ve felt shut out from sports before.
“Basically you’re saying you can be a separate school but we’re not going to treat you equally for purposes of the sports program. What this does is say all schools will be treated the same when it comes to sports. And that’s really what we hope for,” Bennett said.
For them and other schools, the next challenge will be money.
A campus has to pay up to $135,000 to compete in the University Interscholastic League, or UIL. And HISD is facing a $100 million shortfall.