Education News

New School Year Brings Long-Delayed Construction At Worthing High School

The Sunnyside community waited almost 10 years for the new wing.

Principal Duane Clark welcomes guests to the grand opening of the new classroom wing at Worthing High School in Sunnyside.
Principal Duane Clark welcomed guests to the grand opening of the new classroom wing at Worthing High School in Sunnyside.

Before the first day of class, students got a sneak peek of the new wing at Worthing High School in the south Houston neighborhood of Sunnyside.

It was an emotional grand opening for Worthing. The new wing has two floors, with new science labs, a college-style lecture hall, a library and bright, modern classrooms. As students head back to class this week, the Houston Independent School District is opening six new school buildings as part of its massive school construction program.

Principal Duane Clark stood in the hallway to welcome the community.

“My students are excited, we're excited,” Clark said. ” This is a new Worthing. We have a new school and new expectations. We're going to do great new things and we're going to try and continue of the great traditions of the past.”

The new addition is both a celebration and a reminder of ongoing challenges at HISD.

The Sunnyside community waited almost 10 years for the new wing. HISD promised it when voters approved new construction projects in 2007. Worthing was supposed to be one of the first schools completed. Instead, it's one of the last. Delays, contractor problems and lawsuits plagued the project.

“I want to apologize because it has taken this project longer than it should have taken,” HISD Trustee Wanda Adams told the crowd of students, parents and alumni at the school auditorium.

Trustee Wanda Adams and Worthing graduate Marye Dean joined the grand opening. Adams apologized for the long delay in the project, first promised in 2007.
Trustee Wanda Adams and Worthing graduate Marye Dean joined the grand opening. Adams apologized for the long delay in the project, first promised in 2007.

“But I tell everybody that things have to happen, but because they’ve happened, we're able to build a state-of-the-art school and have the money necessary to complete all the projects for Worthing High School,” she added.

Worthing will continue to get a makeover worth $30 million in total.

It's one of 40 schools in HISD that taxpayers agreed to renovate or rebuild in the 2012 bond package. At almost $2 billion, it's the largest school construction project in Texas history.

It's had its own share of problems. Costs ran over by $200 million. The district's auditor issued a critical report, saying there was some mismanagement. Now the board is waiting for an independent audit from the outside firm KPMG. Trustee Anna Eastman said that they should release that in early September. It was originally due months ago, in the spring.

“From what I can see, I believe the bond is better on track than it has been since it was approved by the voters,” Eastman said. “I see projects moving. We have several schools, North Houston Early College High School opened, Condit opened,” she said.

At Worthing High School, people wanted to celebrate instead of dwell on problems.

The new mural at Worthing High School was commissioned by alumna Marye Dean, Class of 1999. It depicts her mentors, state Rep. Alma Allen and Sen. Rodney Ellis, both from Sunnyside.
The new mural at Worthing High School was commissioned by alumna Marye Dean, Class of 1999. It depicts her mentors, state Rep. Alma Allen and Sen. Rodney Ellis, both from Sunnyside.

One alumna, Marye Dean, commissioned a new mural for the library. She came back to Sunnyside from New York where she's an attorney. She wore her green and gold letter jacket from 1999 as she explained the message in the mural.

“The theme is ‘Each One Teach One.’ It's an old African proverb because it was illegal for slaves to read. So if one slave learned to read, he had a duty to teach the person next to them, which spawned the phrase ‘Each One Teach One,'” she said.

The mural captures some of the history of Sunnyside, showing local teachers and alumni who ended up in politics at the state capitol.

But as students walk down the new gleaming hallway, Worthing faces other challenges.

The school is failing to teach students, according to state standards. It's rated "improvement required."

Enrollment is below 700, about half of the future capacity of the new campus.

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Laura Isensee

Laura Isensee

Education Reporter

Laura Isensee covers education for Houston Public Media, including K-12 and higher education. Previously, she was a staff reporter at The Miami Herald and contributed to South Florida’s NPR affiliate. Her work has also appeared in The Dallas Morning News, Reuters and Clarín in Argentina. Laura has won awards for...

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