Saturday, June 04, 2011

Last Day Of A School

Yesterday was the end of the 2010-11 school year in HISD, and it affected me moreso than it has in previous years besides having to worry about the younglings running around when I drive through neighborhood streets for the next two months..

As part of the budget cutting affecting school districts in Texas due to our Republifool controlled state legislature working on trimming $4 billion out of public education over the next two years, the local school districts are responding by making painful cuts on the local level

To save $1.6 million, HISD is closing four low enrollment elementary schools.  One of the four schools that closed its doors permanently was Joseph J. Rhoads Elementary, one of the elementary schools I matriculated at for my kindergarten and several years later third grade when the HISD school pairing desegregation plan kicked in.   

The school was named for African American educator Joseph J. Rhoads, a Marshall, TX born educator who was an honors graduate of Bishop College, attended Yale for a year, was principal of Booker T. Washington HS in Dallas from 1923-1929, obtained a M.A. from the University of Michigan in 1935, taught at Tuskegee Institute, and in 1929 became the sixth president of Bishop College. (which unfortunately shut its doors in 1988).  He was also the first African American alumnus of the then Marshall, TX based school to head it.  

During his tenure as its president which lasted until 1951 he established the Dallas branch of the school in 1947 to which Bishop College later moved from Marshall in 1961.  The J. J. Rhoads Education Building on the Dallas campus was named for him along with elementary schools in Houston and Dallas.  He distinguished himself as an educator, administrator, and a civil rights warrior in the Lone Star State.

Mr. Rhoads was president of the Texas Council of Negro Organizations and chairman of the Texas Commission on Democracy in Education, and fought for equality of opportunity for all citizens and equal salaries for Black teachers in Texas.   He passed away on October 9, 1951 and is buried in Marshall

J.J. Rhoads opened its doors to serve the Cloverland neighborhood in 1957.  When I was attending the school in the late 60's the school needed temporary buildings to house all us baby boomers that were coming through the campus.   There was a Black population shift occurring out of the Fourth and Fifth Wards on the northeast side of town to South Park, Sunnyside, Cloverland and southwest Houston.

There was also new Black segregated suburban housing being built in that general area the school serves in King Estates, Kennedy Heights and my Crestmont Plaza neighborhood that was swelling enrollment as well. It was down to approximately 350 students when the doors closed yesterday under the leadership of its last principal Dr. Debera Balthazar.

Back during that time, J.J. Rhoads, true to its namesake, was a leading all Black grade school so renowned for academics there was a waiting list to get in.   That reputation as a academic powerhouse started breaking down after the Singleton Ratio to desegregate schools in Texas began to be implemented and the experienced Black teachers started getting sent to predominately white schools and the Black schools got inexperienced white teachers in return. 

I had mixed emotions about J.J. Rhoads since I barely remember my kindergarten year with Ms Williams (who was also my 1st grade teacher at Law) and my third grade year was a less than pleasant experience for the first three months I was there.  I liked Law since it was a brand new building and hated being rezoned back to Rhoads.  Also being messed with and averaging a fight a week until I sent an unmistakable 'don't jack with me ' message by painfully (for them) beating down three boys during a three on one recess fight didn't endear me to the school either.

But walking its halls is always going to be part of my childhood, and it was a surprisingly sad day when they permanently closed the doors to J. J. Rhoads Elementary school. 

No comments: