By Casey Michel
By Dianna Wray
By Dianna Wray
By Sean Pendergast
By Casey Michel
By Cory Garcia
By Jeff Balke
By Craig Malisow
These kids rejected Bellaire and Lamar as too big, too impersonal, too preppy and too concentrated on rote learning. Part of the big attraction for the white students, they said, is that they are in a distinct minority at Jones and could learn about another culture.
Jones offers smaller classes in a smaller school. Jarrett Mostiller said he can go there without having to decide at age 14 on his future career by signing up at a subject-specific magnet.
All in all, though, Mostiller said he wishes he'd gone to Booker T. Washington instead. He said he could not recommend the regular side of Jones to any student either. "There's about three good teachers over there. There's always something breaking down. I feel like I'm watching the school decay. I hope this task force at least will get it going in the right direction."
As some Vanguard students leave or consider doing so next year, parents are split on recruiting new students. Without numbers, any chance at clout with HISD is lessened. Others say they cannot in good conscience recommend to anyone else that they send their children to this program. "Most of these kids got in somewhere else, too," Udden said. "It's not like this is their only choice." Although it's pretty tough to quit if you're in your junior or senior year.
Udden said that after Allen's return, her follow-up meeting with Kaye Stripling went well. Accompanied by two parents and with Deputy Superintendent Margaret Stroud in attendance, Udden said, there was a frank discussion that included the possibilities that Allen will remain principal, that he will leave or that the Vanguard program will be moved from Jones.
Udden said things have been going better since Simpson was placed in complete control of his program. He was able to get a counselor from Lamar to come and help the students.
This was necessary, Udden said, because there continued to be problems for Vanguard students from the Jones counseling office, even after the arrival of the task force -- problems that evidenced themselves in "foot dragging and truculence and refusing to meet with Dr. Simpson and do what needed to be done for the Vanguard students."
The general feeling among Vanguard students is weariness, waiting to see what will happen, Udden said. "The wait-and-see is fine, but every day there's little irritations, little interruptions."
Some of the Vanguard kids wanted to go on a field trip to Cinco Ranch for TAAS tutoring. When they tried to get on the bus, they were stopped by the counselor in charge, Udden said. Students were told, "That's what you get for trying to be a separate school," Udden said. All 12 of the Vanguard students involved, parent Susan Levy said, are African-American.
Every year the school gives out Jesse Jones college scholarships. The administration nominates 16 kids who are given forms to hand in by January. On February 25 at noon, one of the counselors brought in the Vanguard nominees' applications, saying there were mistakes on them and these students would have to retype the forms that day, Levy said. Well, there's only one typewriter in the building, it's in the counselors' office, and the kids were told they couldn't use that machine, Levy said.
So instead, kids were pulled from their classes in order to use the Vanguard program's computers, then cut and pasted the text onto the applications -- which didn't look great, Levy said, and which might hurt their scholarship chances.
Vanguard parents had been told they would have the opportunity to talk to the task force about these and other problems, and were eagerly awaiting their chance. But it turns out that the task force quietly completed its study in late February and handed over its recommendations to Stroud and Stripling.
The superintendent and her first assistant were still reviewing the report last week, Browne said. A decision was anticipated "maybe within the next three to four weeks."
Udden recently traveled to New York City to visit her sister. They decided to tour the World Trade Center site. The bus left them off right in front of the Stuyvesant School, a public high school. "My sister said, 'That's where the smartest students in New York City go.' Absolutely a beautiful, elegant monument to the best in education.
"Here, we are in the third-world prison -- that's our Vanguard school. I used to believe we could make it work on the Jones campus. But I don't think so. I don't think the program can work there given the current hostility."
J.R. Wilson sees it differently. "It's not so much the program in Jones as it is the management of that school. Whoever's at the helm has to be able to diffuse the resentments and the fears." With a student council, with more welcomed input from parents on both sides of the school, Jones could work for everyone, Wilson said.
"I'm putting my trust in Kaye Stripling and Margaret Stroud, in their leadership, to do the right thing."
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