The Great Divide

Principal Lawrence Allen is a role model to some, an inept bumbler to others. Jones High School is split: Magnet-program parents versus the local community. It's up to Superintendent Kaye Stripling to make it right. Lucky her.

He denied disliking Vanguard and insisted he does not want to see the program leave Jones. He denied that he has any bad feelings toward Vanguard parents.

Allen said it was not true that students didn't have textbooks. He's heard the one about the advanced physics class with no books. Well, there's no state-approved advanced-placement physics book, so he couldn't order one from the HISD warehouse, he said. But the regular physics course book was available and in the classroom, he said.

The class-scheduling problems last year were not the result of counselors not doing their jobs, he said. Allen insisted that parents just didn't understand that some of the advanced courses are offered only one time because only a very small number of students want to take them. Yet parent Jeanne Liang, who has since moved her son to Westside High School, said she was able to reconfigure the lineup so that more Vanguard students could get their courses.

Parent J.R. Wilson, last year's head soccer coach at Jones, thinks Allen might be better at a career in marketing.
Deron Neblett
Parent J.R. Wilson, last year's head soccer coach at Jones, thinks Allen might be better at a career in marketing.
Kristen Spark, Katherine Gray, Jarrett Mostiller, Asenat Trevino and Ari Gonzalez all like Allen but think he needs to go to summer school for his administrative skills.
Margaret Downing
Kristen Spark, Katherine Gray, Jarrett Mostiller, Asenat Trevino and Ari Gonzalez all like Allen but think he needs to go to summer school for his administrative skills.

Yes, some Vanguard parents got very upset about the video game machines in the cafeteria. Brought in for a fund-raising community carnival that didn't generate that much money, the machines -- Street Fighter and Pac-Man -- were moved inside the cafeteria after the vendor failed to return for them, Allen said. Students began playing during lunchtime. "It was not a distraction," Allen said. "One parent objected to the Street Fighter game. I expedited the removal [of both machines]. It took about a month, not the six months they've been talking about."

Cash receipts from the video game income show deposits made in November 2000 and March 2001 -- a four-month span. Those deposits totaled $318 and went into the student council fund, which only added to the questions.

"There is no student council," said Becky Udden. "So that was an interesting choice of where to put that money. There hasn't been one for a couple of years."

Questions also have been raised about the money paid to the school for student uniforms. Allen laughed about this. "There is not a big pot of gold someplace that has been consumed." As Allen explained: The money goes to a central activity account used to fund such things as bus rides to sporting events and student newspapers. Uniform sales don't bring in much money, he said, because some uniforms are handed down, and others are free to poor students. Some students don't buy uniforms; they're allowed to wear standardized colors instead.

According to Heather Browne, HISD did investigate Allen on the allegations of misallocation of funds and found them invalid.

There were no purchase orders or contracts for uniforms the last two school years at Jones. Instead, Jones was using a "direct pay" method, which means that vendors submit invoices for reimbursement when they sell something to the school, said Ann Ebrahimi, manager of HISD's Records & Document Imaging Services. She said most of the HISD high schools use purchase orders to buy uniforms.

The truth is, Allen said, that the Vanguard program is producing a memory book, not a yearbook. (No, said Simpson, it's a yearbook.) Allen said the comprehensive program is also producing a memory book, one that will feature seniors.

Allen confirmed the school had not been paying its yearbook bills. When he arrived in '99, there were unpaid yearbook bills from the three years before, he said. He figured that a school the size of Jones could expect to sell no more than 300 yearbooks a year, so it would have to charge $70 a book to cover costs. Since he knew few kids could afford that, he decided to stop the yearbooks, he said, and instead concentrate on settling the school's accounts.

The Jones principal said he welcomed the team coming in as an opportunity to get a professional assessment. Asked how he felt he would fare with them, he bristled, saying the question had negative implications.

"Mr. Allen is here to do a job. This team is not here to assess Mr. Allen. This team is here to assess Jones High School and its programs and how it may go forward," Allen stated emphatically.

That was not the message that HISD's Heather Browne was dispensing: "If the district is not satisfied…then certainly the option is there at the end of the school year to remove him permanently."

While many people involved insist the tension at Jones is not racial, others say that yes, indeed, this is part of the problem.

"If you can snatch Lawrence Allen away from us, a lot of our kids will say, hey, the white man can do anything he wants to do," said Craig Beverly. He is president of the Jones Alumni Association, which he reactivated after his son came home from school and told him Allen had been given the boot.

Several Vanguard parents say they were told their complaints about Allen's performance were just "white Vanguard parents stirring up trouble." Allen denied saying that.

The Vanguard program has 187 kids. While it is portrayed by many, including Allen, as predominately white, the program is actually minority-majority, with 40 percent white, 30 percent African-American and more than 20 percent Hispanic. Allen is black, so are Simpson and August -- the latter two are well liked by Vanguard parents, who uniformly speak highly of both of them. Vanguard parents have said publicly they wish Simpson would be principal of the entire school.

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Sorry, I meant to say CARNEGIE got pushed out, so JONES is dying.

This should make parents at Booker T really butter up to the Engineering program there.


And since the school got pushed out, the school is now twitching in its dying throes

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