Saturday, March 02, 2013

Saving JJ

Figures that a bunch of stuff would blow up as I'm scrambling to replace my computer.

One of the things that has come up during the week my computer died is the shocking news that the HISD board wants to consolidate my alma mater Jesse H. Jones High ironically with the school I was zoned to in Ross S. Sterling.

Next to Jack Yates (which I still sarcastically refer to as Burger King High because BK's 1970's work uniforms were in Yates' gold and red school colors) Ross Sterling is our biggest rival.  

The district football game we played against each other was nicknamed the 'South Park Super Bowl' and I'm happy to note that during my time walking JJ's halls we Falcons never lost to to the Raiders.   I still bow to Galen Gillum every time I see him at our reunions for saving me from a year of trash talking from my neighborhood by kicking the school record 38 yard game winning field goal in the 1979 game that JJ won 22-20.

You've seen some of my JJ themed posts on the blog, read me bragging about my old school's athletic exploits, and discussing my reunion with the Class With Class, JJ's class of 1980 of which I am a proud member.

But my school which has been open since 1959, counts former HPD police chief Elizabeth Watson, actress JoBeth Williams, NFL all pros Darrell Green and Alfred Williams, NBA baller Daniel Gibson and countless doctors, attorneys, business people, and a human rights activist and blogger amongst its alumni is on the verge of of having its doors shut forever.

In the upcoming agenda meeting at 4:00 PM CST Monday and the HISD school board meeting on Thursday at 5 PM a proposal is being floated to consolidate the two high schools in the wake of the just passed bond issues that allocates $72 million to tear down and rebuild Sterling's campus that opened in 1965. 

The plan is to move the 888 students currently on the Sterling campus to Jones' campus in the fall while theirs is being rebuilt.  Once construction is complete, they and the 451 students currently on JJ's campus will be combined into a new school.

Of course, that plan is not sitting well with either alumni group and especially the parents in South Park who would have to send their kids several miles away from South Park to Sterling or whatever they rename the combined school.

Two of the suggestions for the renamed school are Martin Luther King Jr HS and Barack H Obama HS.  Others have suggested it be named for an African-American Houstonian or Texan.

In case you're wondering TransGriot readers, Barbara Jordan's name already graces a Houston high school.

There were two meetings held Tuesday night at Jones and Sterling in which peeps voiced their less than enthusiastic response to the plan.    There's also a Facebook group of Jones and Sterling alums working together to put a third option on the table of keeping both schools open and enhancing the programs available at both schools.

Much of the hostility on the JJ end is the fact that popular programs like the Hotel and Restaurant management one, the International Baccalaureate one, and the Vanguard one that drew me to the school have been stripped away from the Jones campus.  The way the Vanguard programs was moved in 2002 despite opposition to it from the neighborhood and alums, the messing with Lawrence Allen, one of the schools popular principals (and a JJ Class of 80 alum) during the early 2K's that was the flimsy pretext used by predominately white Vanguard parents groups to force the program off campus also didn't engender warm and fuzzy feelings toward HISD.  

It has led to an air of justified side-eyed suspicion toward HISD's motives in all this especially since Jones alumni, students and parents have the attitude that once again, JJ is being screwed in all this..  It also doesn't help that since the retirement of our longtime principal Arthur L Pace, there has been instability in the principal's chair that has led to six people occupying it in a five year span and last year at a neighborhood meeting at Worthing HS when the question of asked of Superintendent Terry Grier of this possibility, the assembled crowd at that meeting was told there were no plans to merge the two schools. .

And they wonder why neighborhood parents have been sending their kids elsewhere? 

What the alumni and neighborhood parents are wanting from HISD is to invest the money in Jones they promised to get us to vote YES on that 2012 bond issue.   One of the other suggestions that has been floated, since they know we are still pissed off about the Vanguard program shadily being moved from JJ's campus back in 2002 to what is now called the Carnegie Vanguard campus is creating a second Vanguard campus, housing it at JJ and naming the school for Mr Pace, who was the first African-American principal of the school and the longest tenured one.

And you peeps can also hit up the HISD school board on this one as well.

Well, as many of us have asked, if you're going to do that, then why not keep Jones alive for the neighborhood kids since Vanguard was originally a 'school within a school' and until it was yanked off the campus functioned quite well in that role? 

I'll definitely be at the board meeting, and will keep y'all posted as to how this turned out.

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