Efficiencies

HISD students see vocational programs discarded, along with some of their dreams.

When news broke about the end of the auto-body and other programs at Barbara Jordan, some students were ready to stage a walkout. This prompted a March 31 memo to teachers and parents from Schur warning that this would be a violation of district policy and the kids could get in a lot of trouble. Crisis averted. Schur pointed out that 100 percent attendance would also help them make their goal of being named an "exemplary school."

The principal refers to what she's doing as "kind of shifting and tweaking of our programs, not necessarily full cuts." And despite the changes, she insists that they won't lose any students — in fact, she predicts increased enrollment with the new programs they're offering in health science and engineering.

All of which is really good, but in a car-centric city like Houston, all those vehicles are going to disappear?

HISD, like most other districts, pays a lot of lip service to the importance of career technology education and the adage "College isn't for everyone." But moves like this, with the insistence that the only worthwhile things are "21st century," are a step away from that. Car repair is like plumbing — a necessity of life, and someone has to do it. These kids want to.

Fallon says it looks like HISD is pushing the responsibility for career technology courses to the community colleges. For years, she says, the union has said HISD's high schools should be doing technology programs in conjunction with Houston Community College and others. But, she says, that meant "coordination," not that high schools would end their own programs.

Not everyone can afford to go to college. "Some students have absolutely no interest in going. It has nothing to do with ability," Fallon says. That doesn't mean they can't have productive careers, lead happy lives, rejoice in their abilities — to say otherwise is just impossibly condescending.

Fallon's prediction: "People are going to be very unhappy when school opens in the fall and they see huge classes, almost no career and tech, and a lot of electives gone. What we're getting rid of is all the things that used to keep kids in school, even in the academics department."

At the start of this school year, Cuevas wanted a bigger challenge than in years before, so he and a friend scouted junkyards till they got the gnarliest pieces of body parts they could find. Cuevas ended up with a rusted-out, smashed-up Chevy fender that would have been tossed out of any professional body shop as too much work. But he wanted to prove himself and worked for months to restore it.

Zuniga's successfully-met challenge was to score a place on the All A-honor roll in the fall semester. In return, Gonzales paid the $200 cost of her trip to Corpus Christ for a car-painting competition.

Gonzales can't understand why HISD would shut down its auto body. "Baytown has one, Pasadena has one, La Porte has one. Houston can't have one?" Gonzales says. It's hard for him to let go of his own set of dreams.

"I wanted one more year. I have one student, a freshman this year, who did really well. I think I could go to nationals with her."

margaret.downing@houstonpress.com

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20 comments
Jaqueline Zuniga
Jaqueline Zuniga

If it wasn't for this program I would not have learned what I know now Mr.Gonzales is an amazing teacher thanks to him I'm working on cars painting and doing body repair on expensive vehicles I could not be happier college is not for every one thats why BJ was a career school now it's nothing. As a female in the automotive industry I'm very happy because not only males can do awesome work I'm proud of what I do for a living when you wreck your car you will be bringing it to me.!

Haowan
Haowan

Is there something the board can do to stop the principal from cutting the programIt would be especially embarrassing for neighboring smaller districts to have the program, while HISD does not.

Fradelnav
Fradelnav

You're right, Gayle, "condescending" does describe Principal Andria Schur's comments and attitude best. Mr. Gonzales, I congratulate you on your past success and urge you to continue your mission in vocational education and in your current effort as an active advocate for your students. May you be blessed, sir!

Rob
Rob

they should do away will all elective programs.!!!! Spend the money on better teachers, to emphasis math in science. If the kids want to obtain a trade let them sign up for trade school with diploma in hand.

Haowan
Haowan

Rob: This is a technical high school intended for students who are NOT going to the universities. Beyond the amount of mathematics and science needed for trade courses, how would forcing students to take additional math and science courses help?

Students who do not want to take those courses may simply drop out if you try to force them to take it.

guest
guest

Quiz on the use of irony in the article; which of the following best demonstrates irony:

A) As an HISD teacher with no contract for next year yet, my car sits in the garage with a ding and a scratch I can't afford to repair

B) As an HISD teacher with no contract for next year yet, my grey roots are showing as I can't afford to go to the salon and have them done

C) My parents made me get a teacher's certificate after I insisted on majoring in Art History, and told me that design and art appreciation were "fluff". My father told me I was always going to have a job as a special education teacher.

D) HISD is now funding AP courses (to Pearson) in lieu of spending the funds elsewhere (teacher salaries, for instance)

E) All of the above.

mad
mad

I'm sick, sick, sick of Pearson getting tax money. I wish someone in the media would do an in-depth investigation about the paper trail and political connections.

Parent
Parent

Let me see if I have this straight. The principal wants to replace a program that gives kids outdated skills with programs that require more valuable technological skills, and somehow that's a tragedy? The intstructor seems like a good man who is beloved by his students, but frankly, that's not good enough.

I'd love to see schools offer a variety of programs, but the sad truth is the state budget cuts are forcing principals to cut their budgets. If not this program, then what? If people want to save the body shop program, they need to have suggestions for what else to get rid of. It's easy to say this program shouldn't be cut, but what else would you have the principal do? Everyone crying for this program should be asking themselves if they'd pay higher taxes to keep it.

Fradelnav
Fradelnav

The sad truth in this public school scenario has a set of inner-city kids prefering to incorporate their innate artistic talent with technological skills in award-winning automotive collision design/repair. Utilizing their head, heart, and hands to create amazing artpieces these youths should merit public recognition and respect. Instead, the HISD feels compelled to extinguish their burning desire to complete this vocational program and perhaps gain a foothold in creating a prosperous future for themselves and their families. What a pity!

Dolphin1
Dolphin1

Thanks to Rick Perry and his support for children, education, and educators!

GlenW
GlenW

I will gladly pay more taxes. Probably cost me an extra $100 a year, right? I can swing it!

Bobby G
Bobby G

21st century thinking is exactly why we are in the fix we are today. We have become a nation of consumers rather than producers. No more steel, auto or textile manufacturing. A country of high tech services ---no production.

Richard Doll
Richard Doll

Unforturtunately the public school system has mostly turned away from teaching real life job skills and instead is intent on preparing every student for college. The fact is not every student is going to college, or for that matter should go to college. Schools used to teach young people life skills that would prepare them to either go off to college, or enter a skilled trade where they can make a decent living. With a high school diploma, no trade skills, and no college, you may end up working for Walmart. Good for Walmart, but bad for our young people and bad for our country.

Guest
Guest

As a parent of a graduate of Barbara Jordan High School, I agree. I sent my daughter there because she desired to become a licensed hair stylist. Upon graduation from there she had passed her state exam and became a licensed beautician. She is now a successful entrepreneur who owns her own shop and has several people renting booths from her. She was not college material--I knew that when she enrolled, but she loved the COSMO crew there and her story and the story of several of her classmates who graduated from there is one of success.

I have a niece who is now a junior there and based on her comments about the new principal, Mrs. Schur, the school is DOOMED! I understand that the woman is inexperienced and operates like a loose cannon. It is being said that there is no longer any "school spirit" and both teachers and students are extremely unhappy with the current administration. Barbara Jordan should RISE UP FROM HER GRAVE!!!!!

Richard Doll
Richard Doll

Oops - Unfortunately...not Unforturtunately.

T. Roll
T. Roll

Why does Houston need an education system at all when it gets all the money it needs from oil and medical companies, which in turn hire their employees from out of state? Teaching locals well enough to work those jobs themselves would hurt the growth of Houston! Anyway, schools are a liberal created institution that unfairly give resources to members of society who do not give anything back to the community in return for what they take from hard working Americans!

Ryamorris62
Ryamorris62

HISD is so messed up. I've friends there and they're all justing hanging on until they can retire. And 21st century programs? Like there won't be any cars that need body work in the 21st century?

Gary Packwood
Gary Packwood

Yet another lady principal who doesn't want that smelly auto-collusion program stinking up her school and disturbing all those children preparing themselves for admission to Princeton or Rice.

Suppose anyone at HISD knows that BMW and Volvo solved this problem many years ago when they assigned their own auto-collusion experts to the school program? They actually handle the curriculum sections on (1) Safety, (2) Quality Measurement and (3) Customer Service?

I suggest someone in that army of administrative people at HISD call the Automobile Dealers Association of Houston and do the same for our kids here. If not the Automobile Dealers call The Greater Houston Partnership. You know, ...P.A.R.T.N.E.R.S.H.I.P..

The curriculum is already written, printed and approved for Safety AND Quality Measurement AND Customer Service.

And the time spent and materials provided by Auto Dealers helping out in the schools is a corporate tax deduction. Not to mention a ready supply of new talent for their auto-body shops.

Should one of the kids not find a job in auto-collusion those resume bullet points of (1) Safety (2) Quality Measurement and (3) Customer Service look mighty good for hundreds of jobs out there in the real world.

Just Do It!

 
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