Jones defender: Your article did not exhibit good, fair and accurate journalistic skills ["The Great Divide," by Margaret Downing, March 7]. You interviewed Vanguard students who have no firsthand knowledge to make such remarks. For example, freshman Jarrett Mostiller said there are about three good teachers there, but he doesn't even take any classes from the comprehensive teachers. Why didn't you interview any students from the comprehensive side of the school?
Nowhere in your article did I read that Mr. Allen's daughter is a Vanguard student at Jones. That tells me that Mr. Allen could very well be a part of the VPO meeting behind his back to have him removed. There are those who would have the public believe that Mr. Allen is the one causing a division in the school. He is not.
When I was a student at Jones (class of '82), students understood that we attend the same school. It was not "this is the Vanguard hall, and if you're not a Vanguard student, you can't come over here." Now my daughter is not allowed to use the good library because she is not in Vanguard. The Vanguard students have a pay phone, but there are none for the other students. Most of the comprehensive teachers who taught when I was there are still there today. That sounds like to me they are good teachers.
I don't understand what VPO president Becky Udden means when she says "we are in the third-world prison" other than she is looking at the school fence and the two HISD police officers, which is the case in every HISD school I have visited -- and that she can't just come into our school and "have it her way." For her to say such a thing is appalling.
I request, nearly demand, that you print a rebuttal and include in that rebuttal a statement from other teachers, students and parents.
Keep it at Jones: Thank you for your article on Jones High. I think it will do a world of good in bringing the plight of my school to the eyes of the community. I transferred to the Vanguard program this year (as a sophomore) from DeBakey HSHP because of the individuality of the program. I love the school, problems and all, and I hope that the Vanguard program will not be moved.
Perhaps, though, the plight of the comprehensive students should have been discussed. After all, it is the community's school, filled with the community's children. The comprehensive program will be there whether Vanguard is moved or not, and it certainly has just as many, if not more, issues that need to be resolved before it is the school that South Park deserves.
Talking the talk: I wasn't sure whether Principal Lawrence Allen was good for Jones High School until I read this quote: "I wouldn't know what assignment Mrs. Woods has. She serves another populace with the school." I just know HISD has hired the right guy 'cos he talks just like all the other administrators I've grown accustomed to hearing in 20-plus years of teaching.
Pious dictator: I have found that when the leadership of any organization loses the confidence of those it leads, it doesn't matter whether the leader is capable or qualified. The authority, once undermined, becomes ineffective and doomed to failure. In politics, we often find that perception of wrongdoing is as damaging as any actual wrongdoing.
The words of Mr. Allen himself show that he feels "destined" to run Jones High and that since his mother is on the state board of education, he is immune to criticism. This feeling, if true, disqualifies him.
Administrators are not effective because they attend football games or understand the plight of the students. They are effective because they are facilitators, creating an environment where grievances are responded to, where student performance is the primary consideration.
To continue under the uncertainty and hostility would benefit Allen at the expense of the students, the parents and the Vanguard program itself.
In one visit to Jones, I saw so many things that could be made better with very little or no money. If the kids really took pride in the school, and if the administration behaved in a way that fostered pride, many of the problems could be remedied by students. The apathy exhibited by the school district and the perception of political issues in the mix add up to student indifference and apathy as well.
We lead by example. If that example is one of pious dictatorship, then the result is an understandably cynical and distracted student population. It is easy to understand why there is only one Vanguard program for high schools. If Jones is the shining example, I wouldn't want one at my local school, either.
Red Light District
Rear-enders: I agree with every person quoted in this article ["Crunch City," by Jesse Washington, March 14]. If I have to take a freeway to get there, I'm not going. In the last ten years I have been hit from behind twice when I did not run a red light.
Insurance issues: Thanks for your article "Crunch City." This past November, my insurance company took me out of its preferred category because of a one-car accident I had in 1999 that was not my fault, so it was interesting to see some backup for my agent's reasons for the increase. And as someone who has been hit by an uninsured motorist, I found some of your statistics interesting.
Unfortunately, the answers to most of the rhetorical questions are fairly obvious: Why was Wright driving at all if the DPS had not renewed his license? How was he planning to renew his license if he was not carrying insurance? How on earth do 21 percent of Texas drivers get away with not carrying insurance, with all the checks this state has in place? Why would anyone owning a high-end car like the Infiniti Q45 not carry full coverage?
You quote Captain Mark Fougerousse as saying that "local motorists just don't drive defensively." Well, of course Houstonians drive defensively. I see examples of defensive driving in Houston every day, and the rules are probably the simplest in the nation: 1) maintain speed; 2) lean on your horn.
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Gym dandies: Well-written article, though it falls short of its potential. The author never mentions the accident rate or fatality rate per million vehicle-miles traveled, which is the only way to accurately compare accident rates.
The role of enforcement is not fully explored. As a former Houstonian, I wondered why Houston police are out with multiple units running radar on Christmas Day, yet nowhere to be found during a normal day. Why does HPD continually set up to catch speeders at "honey holes" such as the West Loop southbound frontage road south of Memorial even though it's not a high-accident location? Enforcement is good, but don't let HPD fool you, they are far from targeting their patrols in high-accident areas.
Where is the DPS? When was the last time you saw the state working a wreck or running radar on a freeway in Harris County? They don't often, because they're too busy doing drug interdiction out on I-10 east and west of town. DWIs don't pay for their new gym in Austin. Drug seizures do.
Name withheld by request