After a flurry of community organizing and strategizing to “save Hightower School,” parents learned Thursday that the proposal to place all the district academies in Hightower High School, which would result in moving out neighborhood students, will not be pursued.
In an email letter to all parents, Fort Bend Independent School District Superintendent Charles Dupree announced the academy proposal was no longer an option.
“During the board workshop, one recommendation to consolidate academy programs at Hightower High School was discussed, but after additional review and consideration by the administration, we are no longer presenting this to the board as a viable option. Additionally, a recommendation to repurpose Barrington Place Elementary School has been reconsidered, and we will update the board on other options, while keeping the campus operating as a K-5 model for the near future,” Dupree wrote.
Monday night during the workshop of the FBISD Board of Trustees, the community heard for the first time the final draft recommendations to the board of the Facilities Master Plan. The board will discuss and vote on the options Monday, May 14, at district headquarters on Lexington Avenue.
The plan was a culmination of information from multiple steering committee meetings and input from community meetings that attracted more than 4,000 people.
When the final draft recommendations were presented to the board, the steering committee did not recommend changing Hightower into a condensed academy that could exclude neighborhood students. But the majority of the board gave vocal support for the idea of placing all academy students in one location.
That prompted Hightower parent Geralynn Prince and several other parents to organize. They held a planning and strategizing session Wednesday night at a local restaurant that attracted more than 40 people including FBISD member KP George and state Rep. Ron Reynolds.
“Mr. Reynolds was very instrumental in helping us strategize and get ready for a fight. Then we received the email they will not consolidate and we were so thankful. We still have concerns like what will the district plan to do about overcrowding at Ridgepoint. We just wanted to make sure that our Hightower students are not displaced,” said parent Orjanel Lewis.
Prince, who said parents are still organized to attend the Monday, May 14 meeting, said she was preparing for the worst.
“I was thinking at the very least we’d get a great group of people to lean onto in the future when we needed help. I didn’t think they (school district) would listen to our concerns or act on them. I really appreciate Addie Heyliger, who is on the board and lives in the Hightower feeder pattern, Grayle James at the board meeting, and KP George who came out and said he would not vote for this if this is not what we wanted,” said Prince.
She created a Facebook page called “We Are HIghtower” that initially had 188 members which grew to more than 500 members supportive of the school.
“We got a lot of community engagement, people saying what can we do to help and where can we go from here?”
Reynolds said he was pleasantly surprised.
“I did not expect the change so dramatically. We had a plan for the whole weekend to engage stakeholders, businesses, the area. We had a full-out approach to sound the alarm bells that the board knew that this was not something the community wanted to happen.
“The initial concern was that the district was not listening to the will of the steering committee by doing something dramatically different. If there was no pushback, I am certain there were going to go through with it. I think they did the right thing and people need to stay engaged, all stakeholders.”
Reynolds said the strategy meeting attracted a diverse crowd.
“There were people who did not have children, they were concerned about the neighborhoods and property values. What was even more impressive to me is that you had residents from Sienna who came and said we are with you. We don’t think this is the solution and we will stand with you. That was refreshing to see,” said Reynolds.
The superintendent noted, “This has been an exciting week for Fort Bend ISD, as we received the 2018 H-E-B Excellence in Education Award for Outstanding School District in the Large District category – and with it, $100,000! This award recognizes school districts based on their commitment to student achievement through innovative programs, parent/community involvement, and professional development opportunities for teachers and administrators. We are especially proud of this award because it demonstrates the true partnerships that exist within our community, and among our community, staff and parents.
“As I have shared previously, this part of the update to the district’s Facilities Master Plan is centered on providing the best learning environments, valuable opportunities and access to programs in accordance with the board-adopted Profile of a Graduate. Ultimately, the updated Facilities Master Plan will inform the development of the District Capital Plan. FBISD is a much different district than it was five years ago when we last updated the Facilities Master Plan, so the updated plan provides a revised foundation on which to build for the future.”
The full letter can be seen at: https://www.fortbendisd.com/site/default.aspx?PageType=3&DomainID=149&ModuleInstanceID=237&ViewID=6446EE88-D30C-497E-9316-3F8874B3E108&RenderLoc=0&FlexDataID=124270&PageID=156