Houston ISD Trustee Carol Mims Galloway wasn't exactly booed last night, but she was rewarded with a chorus of disbelieving "No"s when she told more than 100 parents at McDade Elementary that Kashmere Gardens is a good school.
McDade is one of the four elementaries that are being considered for closure in HISD because of their small enrollments. If approved by trustees on April 21, most of the McDade students will be rezoned to Kashmere Gardens, with some going to the nearby Paige.
Galloway told the group that Kashmere Gardens is due for another $500,000 in renovations this summer and already has a "state of the art library. It is a very clean, neat school."
The parents, several of whom said they'd already had their children at Kashmere Gardens and got out, weren't buying. They don't think Kashmere Gardens is clean enough or provides enough support to its students.
Carolyn Miller, past president of the Houston Council PTA, said: "ZIP code 26 has the largest number of sexual predators in the city of Houston," and she and others expressed concern for students walking those streets to Kashmere Gardens.
Several mentioned being the parents of autistic children who they said would be especially upset by the move. And they wanted to know what would happen to McDade's teachers and principal.
Miller also charged the district with creating the situation at McDade. "Through the years this school has been stripped of programs that would attract kids," she said to applause.
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Chief School Officer Sam Sarabia, speaking in English and Spanish throughout the evening, insisted that McDade's closure isn't set in stone, but from the explanations he was giving, that seemed not to be the case. He urged parents to recruit more kids to the school, but with only two weeks left before the vote, how that was going to work was anyone's guess.
Bertha Robledo, mother of a third grader, asked why Paige students couldn't be moved to McDade (which has been a recognized and exemplary school) so that McDade would have enough students. Sarabia said that it made more sense to move the 272 students at McDade to other schools rather than disrupt even more kids from Paige (349) or from Kashmere Gardens (416). The district is trying to get all schools up to a 500-minimum enrollment.
And he repeatedly said that as a district "of choice," HISD's other schools are still open if parents want to apply to transfer their children there. As McDade's children move, McDade's teachers will be needed at their destination schools, he said.
Asked why the district built all these schools if it is going to close them now, Sarabia said, "Neighborhoods continue to change. We're having to react to change." One parent asked what the district planned to do with the land and building once it closes McDade. Sarabia said that was a board decision.