Letters

Magnificent Survivor
Congratulations to Randall Patterson for his sensitively written, compelling story of one woman's magnificent obsession and her daughter's magnificent survival ["Momma's Girl," April 17]. Two unusual people coping with the challenges of their lives and making a contribution to the world they live in -- a lesson for us all.

Susan J. Lamb
Houston

Love and Pain, Grace and Lizzy
Randall Patterson's attempt to explain a mother-daughter relationship that I have known up close and personal for 30 years was outstanding. There is so much beautiful and unique about Lizzy Hargrove and Grace Greene.

I was amazed at his ability to put into words a relationship so wrought with love and pain. I lived Lizzy's pain and relationship with Grace and experienced it all over again in your article.

Terri Schwartz
Houston

Apparently So
I was just wondering if it would be safer to take pictures of marijuana plants to Kinko's and pictures of life on Mars to the one-hour photo ["The X(erox) Files," by Steve McVicker, April 17]?

Mike Copenhaver
via Internet

Set Babs A'Spinning
Barbara Jordan must be spinning in her grave viewing her alma mater Wheatley High and its dramatic decline into mediocrity ["What's Wrong with Wheatley?" by Michael Berryhill, April 17].

R. Mike Harvey Sr.
Houston

What's Right with Wheatley
I enjoyed Michael Berryhill's "What's Wrong with Wheatley?" In examining Wheatley's weaknesses, he offered an important and insightful historical chronology of the school's tragedies and trials. But faced with the complexity and confounding nature of the many challenges Wheatley faces, he disproportionately highlighted failings over successes.

The many faults of Wheatley were Horace Williams's to inherit; the line of responsibility for mediocrity stretches backward through many years. It is the shared shameful legacy of black and white administrators at all levels. I contend that if there is a record of recent and real success to be found at Wheatley, it belongs to Williams more than perhaps any Wheatley principal to date. Guided or misguided by many of the alumni Mr. Berryhill mentions, Williams has reinstated many activities of the Wheatley of olden golden years and has done more than pay just lip service to their importance. He has funded them! Regrettably, Mr. Berryhill chose to focus on failure. The Wheatley of today boasts many, many successes.

I will not address the politics of Wheatley, except to say that it is simply fallacious thinking by Harold Dutton, El Franco Lee or anyone else to assume that a graduate of Wheatley can better understand and deal with the school's challenges than anyone else! Aside from some occasional in-house squabbles, probably common to all schools, Williams has done an admirable job of keeping community, school board and "color" politics away from the schoolhouse steps.

It may be true that not a single Wheatley teacher lives in the neighborhood from which the school draws its students, but I'd venture to say the same could be said for the majority of HISD schools. It is patently unfair of Mr. Berryhill to use this fact to broadside Wheatley's many concerned and caring teachers! Indeed, as Mr. Berryhill points out, "The Wheatley community is largely made up of ... the drug and alcohol addicted ... the poor and elderly raising their grandchildren in a neighborhood that has lost its leaders ...." Are Wheatley teachers to be faulted if they choose not to live in such an area?

What's wrong with Wheatley? As a new (two-year) teacher on the Wheatley staff, I certainly do not claim to know! But I do have some ideas that I'd like to share with Mr. Berryhill and his readers. I'm just bold enough to suggest that Mr. Berryhill might do well to examine them the next time he does a Wheatley wellness check:

1) Parents: Elderly grannies and young girls cannot successfully raise children. It takes a mother and a father! It does not take a village to raise a child, but it does take a family! Until the school's feeding communities take the responsibility for the formation of family units, Wheatley will remain a second-class surrogate. There is much more to parenting than indiscriminate and irresponsible procreation. One cannot just bring a child to the schoolhouse door. One must accompany the child inside and stay around long enough to know not only what is going on, but also to help in the process of maturation and education.

2) Personnel: Failing students can be the result of teachers not teaching. My Wheatley experience has taught me to strongly favor a mandatory rotation of teachers after five years at any one campus. There is a huge difference between five years of experience and one experience repeated five times. Teaching is changing, and obstinate obstructionists should, no, must be ousted.

3) Academics, Not Athletics: It is phonetics, not football! It is the basics (read, write, spell, speak, compute), not basketball! Until the alumni and all accept the actuality that it is academics, and not athletics, that offers Wheatley youth a successful path through school and out of the Fifth Ward wasteland, the school will continue to flounder.

What's wrong with Wheatley? Much! What's right with Wheatley? Much more than is wrong! Wheatley is a good school well on its way to becoming a great school! My advice is: Don't believe everything you read, but come inside and see for yourself. After all, it's your school, and your kids.

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