UH Fight Gets Nasty: Closing acclaimed Human Development Lab preschool angers parents

Highlights from the Blog at HOUSTONPRESS.COM

Wimpleberg had also furnished the parents with a list of alternatives the parents could pursue, which inspired a blast of sarcastic fury from Lab School parent Lori "The Wine Woman" Gray: "I must just say 'WOW!' What wonderful help you have been in our time of crisis that you created for us. It was 3 weeks ago that you told us the school would be closing and you are just now getting around to 'scheduling' a meeting with Collaboratives for Children for us...???... Are you serious when we are T-minus 8 weeks? Also, thanks for the list of 'daycare' centers we can contact. Looked similiar to the phone book."

Such vitriol over the closure is to be expected, not least because the school was so well loved. "It's a model preschool," Chiao tells Hair Balls. She adds that it was one of the few preschools in Houston in which the teachers were treated with the respect due true professionals. "That's the loss to the community," she says. "This is what preschools should look like — they shouldn't be these places where teachers are paid $8 an hour."

That respect fostered an environment all too hard to find in the world of pre-Ks, she says. "The teachers get paid, they get benefits, there's very little turnover. One of my son's teachers had been there 18 years. The teachers got a lot of continuing education, and they were just really gifted with kids. Yes, they were paid well, but it was clear that they were there because of the kids."

In the end, Chiao thinks the closure is not just an indictment of the University of Houston, but the city as a whole. "To me this is such a Houston thing," she says. "They just raze everything and build new here. There's no thought for tradition. Here's a 50-odd-year-old program, but you know what, it hasn't been meeting our needs for the past six months so let's just get rid of it. And they did it without any — ANY — conversation about alternatives."

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