After months of relentless complaints from a relatively small but extremely intense group of parents opposed to Houston ISD renaming its nationally recognized High School For the Performing and Visual Arts after a donor in return for $7.5 million from the Kinder Foundation, that donor, Rich Kinder, has offered to let the district off the hook.
In an April 21 letter to HSPVA Friends organization (the nonprofit school booster group and driving force behind accepting this donation), Kinder said he was willing to forego the pleasure of turning HSPVA into KHSPVA.
In Kinder's April 21 letter to the HSPVA Friends and Superintendent Richard Carranza, he wrote:
"The last thing we would want is to create any controversy which could negatively impact the institution, its faculty and students. Consequently, we release the Friends of HSPVA and HISD from any and all obligations concerning naming rights included in Article 7 of the Grant Agreement. We will of course honor our side of the Agreement and complete our gift as pledged."
And, he added, the Kinder Foundation would still give the school the $7.5 million.
So, game, set and match to the opponents of selling off naming rights to the school who either thought the deal was unethical from the get-go or didn’t think HISD asked for enough money. The school can use the money with no strings — especially the permanent kind — attached.
Except, except, except. HSPVA Friends are not taking this lying down.
In a followup letter on April 23, written to Sarah Terrell, who operates an opposition website at kindergiveitback.org, as well as HSPVA alums Jeff Wayt and Karl Bowles, HSPVA Friends leaders indicated they still support renaming the school after Kinder.
"We will be meeting with HISD to make our position clear: HSPVA is honored to be associated with the Kinder name," said the letter signed by Alene Haehl Coggin, executive director of HSPVA Friends, and Bob Boblitt, chair of that group's board of directors.
"We will live up to our commitment — our word," they pledged. "We accepted the Kinder Foundation’s $7.5-million gift, will invest it as outlined in our agreement with HISD and the Kinder Foundation, and will celebrate the opening of the new Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in 2018. That is in the best interest of the reputation for excellence that HISD, the Houston community, the Kinder Foundation, HSPVA, and our alumni inspire."
The writers also warn their critics that "Your uninformed response to their generosity does not reflect HSPVA’s values. The petition puts the future of HSPVA in jeopardy and is a threat to all public schools that wish to seek their own private-public partnerships in order to offer stronger opportunities for young Houstonians."
Don't expect any of this to be over soon.
Opponents have posted a lengthy list of reasons for not wanting the deal on the kindergiveitback.org website, as well as made an appeal to the Kinders.
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"Forcing the school district to give Kinder the maximum recognition for the minimum contribution and allowing only six days for the public to respond, demanding a quick vote with a take-it-or-leave-it offer, is not the right template for others to follow at HISD. The Kinders are good people and they are not made of stone. They will hear us if we speak up."
Which, of course, they did.
Here's the letters, if you'd like to read them over in full: