A Fixer-Upper

Jones High needs a lot of renovation -- and not just the buildings. At least HISD can't pretend it doesn't know it has a problem. Its own task force told it so.

A downtown Rotary Club committee considers applicants on leadership, character and citizenship, but the most weight is placed on "academic attainment" and "economic necessity."

Katie was second this year in her senior Vanguard class at Jones. The salutatorian had SAT scores of 800 in math and 730 in verbal, and has been accepted at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where she has a partial scholarship. Her résumé of honors and activities is exhausting. It includes four years of varsity tennis, captain of the team for two; French Club; Junior Engineering Technology society for four years, president for two years and VP for one. The former Girl Scout scored first in district UIL competition in calculator, math and number sense, and second in news writing. These achievements and more were listed in an accompanying letter of support from counselor Woods.

Moreover, Katie's father, Don, makes $27,000 a year as a self-employed landscaper. Her mother works a few part-time hours each day. The $12,000 scholarship for Katie would make a crucial difference.

Allen is going to have to make a lot of changes to bring his school up to standard.
Deron Neblett
Allen is going to have to make a lot of changes to bring his school up to standard.

It would seem that she was a shoo-in.

But when the list of winners was recently released, Katie's name was not on it. Her father began to make persistent calls to the Rotary Club, to Jones High, to the district. He wanted to know why the Rotary Club had turned down his daughter. If Katie didn't qualify, who could?

As it turns out, the Rotary never saw Katie's application. Don says he was told by counselor Woods that she didn't forward her application because it was missing some information. Katie had failed to include the tuition amount.

This amazed the Gallaghers because Katie had told Woods she didn't know what the exact tuition would be. "Mrs. Woods, she told her, 'No problem,' " Gallagher said his daughter told him. "She said, 'I'll take care of that for you. I have a book and I will fill that in for you.' "

When the Houston Press checked with Principal Allen, he gave a somewhat different reason for the rejection of Katie's application. He said it was held by the school because it was not typed. School policy said it should be typed.

This further agitated an already upset Don Gallagher. Katie didn't type the application form because she, like most everyone else nowadays, doesn't have a typewriter. There was a typewriter in the counselors' office, and other parents have said the kids were told they couldn't use it. Most resorted to using a computer, printing out their answers and pasting them onto the form, which didn't look great.

Katie tried to scan in her answers at home. She couldn't get the computer program to work and ended up neatly hand-printing her application, her dad said. Nowhere on the Jones Foundation application, her father said, does it say the answers have to be typed.

Gallagher said he went to see Woods for an explanation and she told him she'd already filed her report with Allen. Gallagher saw Allen, who never apologized, Gallagher said, but did tell him he was in charge of making the decision about who got an $8,000 Worthing Scholarship and that a letter would be headed the Gallaghers' way shortly.

The Worthing Scholarship did come through, in fact, and the Gallaghers are grateful for the consolation prize, but as Don Gallagher notes, there is a difference between $12,000 and $8,000. And Gallagher, not one to let anything drop, still wants an explanation from the highest levels of HISD about the Jones Scholarship application.

Allen told the Press he planned to "review all procedures pertaining to the receiving and issuing of scholarships in the future."

Jones High also wanted the Worthing Scholarship application typed, Gallagher said. The school typed it for Katie.

As the task force noted, the split between the Vanguard parents and the parents of other students will disappear by next fall. The Vanguard program will relocate to become a separate school in what had been Carnegie Elementary (see "Split Decision," April 18).

Following Stripling's early April decision to move the Vanguard program but to retain Allen at Jones, several Vanguard parents have reported that African-American Vanguard students are being urged not to go to Carnegie but to stay at Jones and take Advanced Placement courses.

In fact, parents have said that counselor Woods has pulled kids out of class to talk to them about not making the move. When first asked about this, Allen said he had "no knowledge" of such actions by Woods. Asked if he had talked to her about it, Allen said yes, adding: "I understand that some students came to her with questions about the next school year. Ms. Woods was never given a directive to pull students to discuss this issue."

Contacted at Jones, Woods first said she would talk to the Press and set up a time for the next day. She was not available at that time, however, and subsequent calls to her went unanswered.

Since AP courses had been taught by Vanguard teachers who will be going to Carnegie, Allen was also questioned on how Jones can offer AP courses, which require special training. He said Jones will have several AP courses next year and that staffing decisions were still being made.

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