Seventh-Inning Stretch

HISD's Stripling stalls while opposing sides clamor for a decision about the T.H. Rogers playground

The Pony and Little Leagues in turn began giving over their Web sites to diatribes against Fields For All. "When they say 'Fields For All' they actually mean 'No Fields For Y'all' " was the heading on one message. Fields For All is trying to "eliminate youth baseball and adult softball from HISD grounds for its exclusive, grandiose plans."

This, while the Pony League and Little League had invested more than $1 million in improvements to the property over the 20 years they've been there.

Despite a few attempts, representatives of the two groups never were able to pull off a meeting.

The ball fields may be state-of-the-art, but the facilities have some problems. High winds took down this pole and fencing.
Margaret Downing
The ball fields may be state-of-the-art, but the facilities have some problems. High winds took down this pole and fencing.

Relationships were little better between Rogers parents and HISD trustees. The trustees were invited to tour the facility accompanied by Rogers parents. None did.

As trustee Shadwick explains it, the invitation, which went out over Principal Nancy Manley's signature, was well intentioned but misguided. "This really put the trustees in a difficult position…It's Kaye Stripling's job to run the school district."

As school board president Laurie Bricker explained it, what were the trustees supposed to do then? Retour the school with the Little League parents? Stripling wrote a letter to trustees assuring them she had the matter well in hand. Whew.

Rogers parents took to e-mail early, sending a flurry out to administrators and trustees. In response, an e-mail that was obviously meant for someone else went instead to a Rogers parent in October. "All of a sudden we are being besieged by letters from TH Rogers. I say we go slowly as they can hurt us on Nov. 5. From what I hear, Jeff told them 'no' so we need to be careful. I too will refer my many letters." The email was signed "L."

A Rogers parent e-mailed Bricker, asking if she was the author. Bricker wrote: "If you are speaking about a vague email from 'L' that could have been from me. I got into town late last night and returned all emails until very late. Sorry if I sounded vague. I didn't intend to. Laurie."

The Rogers parent, saying he did not want to misquote anyone, repeated the initial e-mail and asked again if it was hers. Bricker's reply: "I am not denying this email and I possibly did send it to someone though it is only a piece of what was said, it seems. I am also not about to deny my total commitment to the passage of the bond election. Too many people, including me, have spent too much time and money to make sure we can build public sentiment and pass the bond to build schools for our children. Any misstep can hurt our collective efforts."

Bricker said she and two other trustees, who have many Rogers parents in their districts, have continued to discuss the issue with Stripling. She is sure the superintendent will produce "a compromise that everyone can live with."

Tensions increased again when Jeff Shadwick was quoted as saying that perhaps what needed to be done was to move the Vanguard program. If these parents weren't happy with the status quo at Rogers, perhaps they'd find things more comfortable at another school. Some of the parents interpreted the suggestion as a threat.

According to Shadwick, that wasn't what he meant at all. "If a student body population that is mobile is not happy with their facility, then that's an option. Of course, they took that badly.

"It doesn't have to be you or baseball. It can be you at a location that you like better and baseball here," Shadwick. He said the whole idea is totally hypothetical but pointed out there's significant overcrowding at nearby Briargrove Elementary and that the district now houses 180 students at the YMCA next to Rogers, and those students could be moved to Rogers.

"These kind of issues don't really come up where there's a neighborhood component to the school," Shadwick said. "There's a Vanguard component coming in and making what would otherwise be reasonable demands that might conflict with the neighbors, so the Vanguard people are considered to be the interlopers."

HISD did send Abe Saavedra, executive deputy superintendent for school support services, out to look over the Rogers playground on the day before Thanksgiving. Stripling walked the grounds by herself over Thanksgiving vacation.

On December 5, Stripling met with a group of Rogers parents and later with representatives of Post Oak Little League. From all accounts, no promises were made.

Tanglewood Park, about a mile away, has become a chief discussion point. Shadwick said it could be a backup soccer field for Rogers. Rogers parents don't understand why it couldn't instead be a baseball field. Shadwick said a Pony League field wouldn't fit at Tanglewood and besides, they couldn't get it insured with baseballs flying out into Woodway.

And in an example of the Byzantine relationships that exist among the YMCA, Rogers and the Little League, Shadwick said if the Y could no longer have the Pony League field at Rogers to use for its own adult softball league, it was likely to be less willing to let Rogers use its fields for soccer and HISD to put 180 kids in school at the Y.

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