Hogg Middle School May Transform into an IB School After Parents Fuss

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Can Hogg make the jump to an IB school?
It was the politest group of revolutionaries Hair Balls can ever remember meeting. Gathered in the church parlor at St. Mark's United Methodist Church in the Heights, a small group of mothers gathered last night to discuss their petition drive to revitalize Hogg Middle School.

Disturbed by what they say is abysmal academic progress at the school, they collected a petition with 870 signatures on it in a week and a half -- and more than 400 of those in just two days. They either want Houston ISD to fix the school located at 1100 Merrill Street or allow them to collaborate with a good charter school in town. Asked what they'll do if they don't hear back from the Houston ISD administration -- they met with Superintendent Terry Grier two weeks ago -- one responded: "We're starting to politely fuss."

Today, Chief Middle School Officer Dallas Dance said he not only agrees with the group that Hogg is far from what it should be, but that HISD has been developing plans he hopes to be released within two weeks announcing that the school will be transformed into a schoolwide International Baccalaureate program.

That academically rigorous program is a pretty far jump from the picture of the school painted at Tuesday night's meeting. Parent Yvonne Cosgrove, a mother with two children at Travis, said she was told by Hogg school officials that 60 percent of the kids at the school are arriving below grade level and 77 percent leave below grade level.

Gretchen Himsle, a parent with two children at Travis, said Hogg is bookended by a great high school in Reagan and with wonderful elementaries such as Travis and Harvard, but that "there's a void in the middle." Feeder elementaries to Hogg are Browning, Crockett, Harvard, Memorial, Stevenson and Travis.

And mother of two Jennifer McClure said that before she'd let her two children now at Travis Elementary move on to Hogg, "I would homeschool."

Sylvia Hollingsworth, who has a sixth grader at Pershing Middle School, and Adela Prieto, with children at Hamilton and the Rice School, both said they would love to be able to send their children to Hogg if it were an academically viable school.

Parents said there had been constant turnover at Hogg -- three different principals in the last four years. Raquel Gaytan, with a third grader at Travis, said: "The neighborhood really lost faith in the school." She pointed to declining population at the school which she said was a little more than 700 in a school designed for 1,200 students. "Since the 2003-4 school year, the school's enrollment has dropped by nearly 25 percent," the petition said.

"In 2009, only 64 percent of Hogg eighth graders passed the TAKS math test and less than half passed the TAKS science test," the petition said.

And several agreed that parents outside the Hogg zone send their kids to the school, thinking that because it's in the Heights it has to be good, whereas parents living nearby know differently.

"We have recognized that over the years there have been some issues at Hogg; there were some leadership issues there last year," Dance said. "What the community has really called for and I completely agree with them is that it needs to be a quality neighborhood school where folks are coming from Harvard and Travis."

He said HISD hopes to improve the school not only for the incoming students of the future, but for the present-day Hogg students. If the IB program is adopted, he said, there would be extensive teacher training.

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