Today was the "Save Sam Houston" town hall meeting. Sam Houston High School is my alma mater, I graduated in 2001. It is located in the predominantly African-American side of San Antonio....the Eastside.
I heard about Sam closing about five months ago when I ran across an article on www.mysa.com while I was in Korea. I was upset, not because the school was closing, but because everyone was all of a sudden up in arms about it! Why all of a sudden did everyone want to raise hell now? What happened during the past two decades when Sam was performing below state AND district averages in every single statistic? ACT scores, SAT scores, TAAS scores, TAKS scores, graduate rates and dropout rates are the six factors I researched and found to be more than unsatisfactory, they were shameless. Here are some numbers for you that I researched and calculated myself based on the past five school report cards from the Texas Education Agency. (http://ritter.tea.state.tx.us/perfreport/aeis/index.html)
State's passing rate average for standardized testing based on students who passed all tests: 85%. That means an average of 85% of students in the state passed all four components of the state's standardized test.
District passing rate: 75%
Sam Houston Passing rate: 57%
State SAT/ACT average score: 989/19.9
District average score: 802/16.9
Sam Houston: 726/15.4
State average graduate rate: 84%
State average dropout rate: 4.5%
State's average for standardized testing: 62%
Sam Houston: 20%
State SAT/ACT average score: 987/20.1
Sam Houston: 733/15.6
State average graduate rate: 85%
Sam Houston: 80% (one of the few times we beat district average...by one point?)
State average dropout rate: 3.9%
Sam Houston: 10.5%
State's average for standardized testing: 67%
Sam Houston: 23%
State SAT/ACT average score: 992/20
Sam Houston: 746/15.4
State average graduate rate: 84%
Sam Houston: 70%
State average dropout rate: 4.3%
Sam Houston: 16% (yeah, 16%)
State's average for standardized testing: 70%
Sam Houston: 34%
State SAT/ACT average score: 991/20.1
Sam Houston: 753/15
State average graduate rate: 80%
Sam Houston: 57% (What happened to the community meeting about this?)
State average dropout rate: 8.8%
Sam Houston: 31.4% (Yes, I actually TRIPLE-checked that one and it's listed on the 2007 report AND the 2008 report)
State's average for standardized testing: 72%
Sam Houston: 26%
State SAT/ACT average score: 992/20.2
Sam Houston: 748/15.6
State average graduate rate: 78%
Sam Houston: 60%
State average dropout rate: 11.4%
Sam Houston: 23.4%
So, the average difference between District averages and Sam Houston averages on standardized testing for the past five years is 27.8%. The average difference between State and Sam Houston is 41.4%. (FYI, our average difference on the Math component alone? District, 29.2% higher and State, 41.6% higher.)
Okay, so, many people may think I am providing these numbers to discourage and disgrace. I assure you that is not the reason. I am providing these numbers because apparently no one else in the district, state or school has exposed them to the community. I am sure that if they did, then there would have been marches, protests, door-to-door campaigning, and all the other tactics I heard about today to get Sam Houston back on the right track...right?
I stood up during the "open floor" portion of the meeting today and I knew no one really knew me and therefore no one knew my stance on this issue, so I decided to switch up my planned approach at the last minute. I asked the audience, "When is the last time there has been a community meeting for Sam Houston?" I received a lot of confused looks (maybe cause the mic was messing up) so I repeated myself, to which I received an overall response of, "None.". So I acted surprised to hear that. I continued by asking if there was anyone in the audience who had been attending PTA meetings in recent years. Two or three (literally) ladies raised their hands. I asked them, "How many people do you usually have show up to the meetings?". They told me that an average of ten or twenty people show up at the PTA meetings. I replied, "Ten or twenty? For a school of 800+? hmmm..." I then continued by expressing my anger with, not the district, not the school, not the students, but the neglectful community that allowed this high school to fail. I questioned why there were no community meetings when all the statistics were (not just lower) SIGNIFICANTLY lower than state and district averages for the past two decades. Where were the major uprisings and petitions then? No one cared then, did they?
What also upset me is that at the beginning of the meeting they mentioned twice that we had 11,273 taxpayers in the Sam Houston High School area that were paying taxes and wanted a high school in there community. We had, what looked like, about 40 people in attendance. (I don't think I need to go any further with that point...)
Considering the facts I have provided above, I can understand why the district wants to close Sam Houston. There is nothing to respect in a school with that type of disdain for excellence or even mediocrity. (It's pretty bad when we are content with less than MEDIOCRITY.) Why should the district put more money into a school that hasn't shown to be a good investment for the past two decades? If one of my subordinates is taking the money I'm giving them and wasting it, then why am I going to continue to allow that to happen?
Okay, time for me to talk like a Cherokee. :) Why in the hell did it take this long for the district to do something? Why was their first push for reform an entire closure of the school?! If I was on the school board for the past twenty years, ten years or even five years I would have raised hades with the community leaders, parents, administration and everyone to get this fixed a loooong time ago. Where have they been?! Do the Eastside residents pay their taxes just to pay board members to close schools? Or do they pay them to keep schools from getting to a point where they need to close? It hurts my soul to know that when I was a student at Sam Houston for my four-years that I had people that were supposed to be looking out for me, but did not. It hurts me to know that this has happened for so many others. I remember all the lost souls along the way when I was going to school. So many, with so much potential wasted, because of carelessness, laziness and complacency. Why was it so easy for them to set up a committee to get rid of Sam Houston, but there was never an effort to find and address the issues that have plagued the school for so many years?
When I got into the military I learned not to complain about things unless you have a solution to follow your complaint. Anyone can complain about everything. It takes a certain kind of individual to provide a solution along with it.
Door-to-door campaigning on the Eastside. Recruit all those people that showed up to the meeting. Have them recruit others. Grab the NAACP members and their counterparts, grab the Masons and make them get off their behinds for once, grab the Frats and Sorors from their parties and make them come out. Talk to every person on the Eastside and create a COMMUNITY for once. If you look at SAITSU's mission statement, this is our main focus, Community.
During the door-to-door campaigning get phone numbers, e-mail addresses, mailing addresses, etc., to provide as many means of communication as possible. The biggest thing lacking for the Eastside is a means of communication. We have a lot of older folks and elderly folks who are not very capable when it comes to 21st century communication (i.e. Facebook, Blogspot, e-mail, etc...). If we have to call everyone on the phone at night to notify them of what is going on, then so be it. Do what we need to do! The door-to-door campaigning should be a one-time thing. We should be able to reach everyone in person one time and then maintain communication through more reasonable means from then on.
Provide a listing of Eastside attributes that are worthy of investing in a high school in our community. The district/state isn't going to save the school because 40 or so people showed up to a meeting. They MUST have a reason to save that school that will rebuild trust in regards to their wallets. How do they know that five years from now it won't be the same story for Sam Houston? If we could just show a con-joined effort from the Eastside community that we are willing to step up and correct the situation I believe that would be enough of a reason. It must be an very impressive showing though. We can't show up with 40 people and think that will work.
All of my solutions are going to revolve around the community aspect because, from what I have seen, it has always been a lack of community involvement that has caused us to get to this point. We have no one else to blame.
Here's some news coverage the meeting received from our local WOAI news station...yep, I'm on TV!! ;)
Please sign the petition to save Sam Houston High School...