Following a board meeting that left parents feeling anxious and concerned about their children’s educational future, Fort Bend ISD Superintendent Charles Dupre managed to get parents excited again.
Dupre led back-to-back community meetings May 29 and 30 at Ridge Point and Hightower high schools to discuss schools on the east side of the district. He took responsibility for making parents feel anxious following the 8.5-hour meeting on May 14 that resulted in multiple recommendations, some that brought dismay.
During the Ridge Point High School meeting, his announcement that they would add a high school building to the bond issue drew a round of applause. Earlier the board said it would look into land for a school but nothing was placed for an actual facility.
The angst brought on by the May 14 meeting also prompted parents to collaborate. So now parents from the four high school feeder patterns on the east side of the district – Hightower, Marshal, Ridge Point and Willowridge high schools – formed a group called the Fort Bend East Side Alliance.
In their introductory letter to the board and administration they wrote, “Times are changing within the FBISD boundaries. Sleeping constituents are waking up and raising a voice that will be heard. Not one voice, but the voice of many. Communities on the east side of FBISD are no longer divided,” the letter states. “No longer working and advocating in isolation. No lone fighting for our children alone. We are the Fort Bend Eastside Alliance and we are together.
“We deserve and expect equal attention to what is consistently given to the needs of the west, and no longer accept the political influence of those in other constituencies who overshadow us.”
As a result, collaborative work has already started. For example, Hightower High School did not have a parent-teacher organization in their school. They have partnered with another school to organize one.
So as parents organized and board members demanded more answers to vague proposals, Dupre and the administration gave a few more details about plans for FBISD elementary schools that are under capacity.
“The board asked us to set goals. It is not fiscally prudent to have 50 percent utilization as we move forward,” Dupre said.
The board asked the administration for more details. To attract more students they will consider dual language and gifted and talented elementary schools, an early literacy center, a fine arts academy and a young men’s leadership academy.
“Some kids leave our district today to go to charter schools or home schools. We want to partner with the community leadership and we will be making calls,” Dupre said.
Such partners could include the Missouri City business community, state Rep. Ron Reynolds, heads of super neighborhoods and parent-teacher organizations. Dupre said there are issues to address in every high school.
“We are trying to solve the academy structure. Zoned students are not getting top ranks because of the academy students. We don’t want all the transfer students taking all the scholarships and money. It’s a real problem we need to solve,” Dupre said.
On Ridge Point growth, Dupre said, “We came up with an idea that sounded good on paper. You say it publicly and the reaction of the crowd tells you. We have a school board that shoots straight with me. The board made it clear that ideas were not acceptable to them or this community.”
On Hightower: “Hightower felt devalued and that is not the case. We do care and we are dedicated to the success of Hightower. So we went back and revisited and changing the recommendations in June. There was a fear that we would rezone out of Hightower and move kids to Willowridge but that is not part of the planning discussion. It would be a few hundred children, not a whole community.”
On Marshall: “Why not make Thurgood Marshall High School a law academy? We could have a court reporter, paralegal track, that is one of the major ideas we want the community to work with us on,” Dupre said. They could have high school students graduating with an associate degree.
On Willowridge: “It’s a different journey as the second oldest high school in the district. They opened in 1979. Because of all the work done and the mold, we want 85 percent utilization.
There is a perception that Willowridge is an iconic African-American school but the school is 55 percent Hispanic and that brings different challenges.
On partnerships: “Anthony Snipes, the Missouri City manager, reached out to me to ask can we be at the table.”
Social issues: “Some students are living in poverty, living in trauma. Our role as a public school is to change the trajectory of a student life. We cannot solve all the problems but I envision a fortress of learning.”
Safety: “We’ll have schools not just with bulletproof glass and police. We’ll look at addressing social and emotional needs. Also considering the use of metal detectors.
The board of trustees meets 6 p.m. June 11 for a workshop to discuss Dupre’s recommendations.