Just junior dirtballs: After reading "Learning How to Survive (at) CEP" [by Wendy Grossman and Margaret Downing, May 31], I concluded that the CEP program is an unmitigated success. It does get the disruptive students out of school, and judging from the students' complaints, they seemed to have learned that associating with students just like themselves is a dismal experience. I can understand their need to return to their old school so they can disrupt a better class of students.
Conversely, the program is a failure in that some of the students and their parents still see themselves as victims rather than the expected product of their behavior. The program also fails to teach the children the skills they need for their chosen career path, such courses as Choosing Balanced Meals from Dumpsters, Picking the Right Bridges to Live Under, or Earning a Living Selling Your Ritalin Prescriptions.
John D. Griffith, M.D.
Contract hits: When I worked for Harris County, data that I reviewed demonstrated without a doubt that HISD staff indiscriminately assigned serious felony delinquents to CEP's alternative program. Why? To meet their contract quota. It makes me sick to read about young, vulnerable, noncriminal students warehoused for 180 days (or one day) at this privatized "academic" hellhole. CEP President Randle Richardson is irredeemable. He's in it for the money. What would be refreshing, however, is for someone -- anyone -- holding a position of public trust at HISD to admit that they made a mistake, apologize, and commit to ridding Houston of these charlatans before more tax money is wasted and more young lives are harmed.
Reality checks: As a retired HISD teacher (22 years), I read your articles concerning the school district and its various foibles with great relish, and usually find myself in total agreement with them.
As much as it grieves me to say this, I must take some issue with your story on CEP. While I agree that in the main this is just another example in the history of the HISD board abrogating its responsibilities to the teachers, the kids and the parents that it is supposed to serve, I feel that HISD and CEP are not totally at fault here. A large amount of blame must lie with the parents who have not taught their kids that they are responsible for their actions.
The reason that CEP exists is because HISD is unwilling to enforce its "zero tolerance" attitude with the disruptive, defiant and, in many cases, dangerous kids, and the parents who feel that their "little darlings" are always right. Like it or not, CEP is the dumping ground for those kids. Those complaining attitudes, not their referring teachers and schools, are the real reason that their kids are in CEP in the first place.
Things that the general population needs to realize about CEP:
1. Like charter schools, this is a "for profit" venture, where the name of the game is not really the education of kids but to make money for the corporation. This is done in two ways: a) by keeping the enrollment up to a certain minimum number, and b) keeping expenditures down to an absolute minimum, and that certainly includes the salaries of the "learning facilitators" (teachers).
2. CEP is a form of incarceration, and like all forms of incarceration, there are certain freedoms that are lost for specified periods of time.
3. Given the low salaries, the student population, and the attitudes that both parents and students have to work with, is it any wonder that the turnover rate at CEP is what it is?
4. It's also an unfortunate fact of life, but in every school, the weak become the prey of the bullies. Those who were bullies at their home schools find out that at CEP, there is someone there who is meaner than they are, and now the bully becomes the victim.
Paybacks are hell.
I had an assistant principal once tell me that "the real reason that we have school is not to provide kids an education but to keep them off the streets and out of trouble, and that schools are in fact nothing more than society's baby-sitters." And people ask me why I retired. With this attitude, is it any wonder that CEP looks good to HISD?
William T. Robertson
Not Ready for Prime Time
Wait a minute: Very interesting story ["Credit Check," by Jennifer Mathieu, June 7]. I had the privilege of being a student of both Ms. Davis and Mr. Howard a few years ago. At that time I was about 25, out of the Marine Corps and working full-time. I can recall a few instances where younger students fresh out of high school seemed ill prepared for some of the subjects and discussions presented in class. Abortion, pornography, school prayer, gay rights, obscenity laws and other mature subjects did bring about some snickering and laughs from several students. I can only assume that the same holds true for the high school students who are trying to complete GOV2301 and GOV2302 in such a short amount of time.
My congratulations to Tim Howard and Carolyn Davis for holding on to their beliefs in spite of the administrators' wishes.
The Well Runs Dry
You missed it: The closing of C. Davis Bar-B-Q ["Bad Day for the Blues," by John Nova Lomax, May 31] is a huge loss for those of us who loved and supported it, and other places like it, for a long time. The Johnny-come-latelies who showed up on the final day to find out about C. Davis have missed some wonderful music over the years.
It is predictable that the table-walking, cover tune-playing lawyer/bluesman would show up on the last day to grab the limelight in front of the locals. But local legends like Wilbert McFarland, D.D. King, Joe Hughes, Paul Roberts, Tika McHenry, Larry Guy, Andy "Too Hard" Williams, Gene Hawthorne, Joe Nettles, Jimmy "T-99" Nelson, Oscar O'Bear, Trudy Lynn, Milton Hopkins and Calvin Owens have regularly performed at C. Davis, and most have forgotten more blues than the Chinese-American wildman will ever know.
To devote three paragraphs and highlight a profane quote from a frustrated patron is a disservice, and it is a poor way to portray over 30 years of our cultural history. It also give an unfair impression of the type of patrons C. Davis Bar-B-Q attracted. Many of the regulars were territorial, but maybe after that many years they had a right to be. Mr. Lomax is an observant writer, and to his credit, he understood that nuance.
I recall the last time Clarence Davis performed late one Sunday afternoon at the urging of I.J. Gosey. He slowly walked to the stage and transformed from a feeble man into a honking, gyrating blues musician. It was only then that everything I saw over time fit into place. He was a man who always put his family first, ran a successful neighborhood barbecue business for 30-plus years, and could sing and play a mean harmonica when given the chance.
The Texas legislature should take a proactive look at the need for broader economic development of our state's musical heritage as a tourist attraction. A Web site could accurately tell our Gulf Coast history to the world, and C. Davis Bar-B-Q would have been a perfect tourist destination.
As the old blues song goes, "You don't miss your water till the well runs dry!"
Rory O. Miggins
Moving On Down the Road
Unequal distribution: Greetings! "Divided Road," by Richard Connelly [May 24] is a wonderful article.
The main point that rings true to me as an art car artist and activist is the fact that art car artists are now being used by a system that does not adequately compensate them for their efforts and for the success they bring to the event. Instead, beer is limited while the fat cats have whatever they want in the restricted area. It is not important that the Orange Show did not make much money. It is important that they did not compensate artists fairly, reduced them to second-class citizens and did not share profits evenly.
While we can perhaps never go back to small, we can certainly go back to fair and simple. Stripping back the hype is difficult because so many profit from the spotlight they have stolen from the artists. It can be accomplished, and it is not rocket science.
I encourage you to join the art cars e-mail list. You can do this for free at www.yahoogroups.com.
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Not one more: I moved to Baltimore in January of this year. Prior to that, I had worked at the Orange Show for the past 13 years and had been in the first art car parade in 1986. I love the Orange Show and Susanne dearly, but one of the reasons I left is because I could not bear to do another art car parade. It sucked the soul out of the staff. My heart goes out to everyone there, because frankly the parade has gotten so big that you can't win for losing. You have to have corporate sponsorship or else you cannot pay for something that big. For the past several years I have seen Susanne and Jen McKay battle it out with the Houston International Festival, fighting tooth and nail to maintain the parade's integrity, and in the end there ends up being a level of compromise -- because that's just the way the world works -- that makes no one happy.
I think the art car artists should just once break off and do their own parade. That would be great, but then at the same time they'd begin to appreciate all the hard work that the Orange Show has done for them, and also the festival people will be left scratching their heads wondering where the hell the crowds are that the parade generated.