The replacement of Eastside Memorial High school with IDEA Charter is a stunning example of a school board pushing forward over the clear wishes of the students and families it was elected to serve
Like many high schools in relatively isolated, low-income sections of cities, Johnston High School, in a pocket of east Austin, had quietly suffered for years. As in other places, the reality of a low-income low-resourced community meant that keeping a school successful was a challenge. But there was an extent to which some really good things were happening ... and had been happening for a long time.
Then came the swift decline. And as in other places, the decline started after a fateful moment. At Reagan High school, which is also in east Austin, the tragic blow was a stabbing and killing in the school by a deeply disturbed young man who will now spend decades in prison. At Johnston High, the blow was less horrific, but no less effective in terms of the damage inflicted upon the school. In the case of Johnston High School, the school board ensured the school's demise by removing its Liberal Arts Academy. The Academy, even as just one section of the school, kept many stable working class families of color invested. Once the Academy was gone, so was the base of support. More and more kids transferred to spots like Austin High - a straight shot west and most important, a school on the other side of the IH35 magic dividing line that separates east and west Austin.
Thank goodness though for educational reform, right? Once NCLB was passed and accountability was dramatically ratcheted up everything would get better, right? Wrong. What came with reform was a wave of experiments in the building, none of which were given a full chance to work, but all of which required community support if there were to have a chance. Again and again, poor and working class families responded to calls to action, supporting the school, going along with new programs and leaders, placing faith in the public school system. Time and again micro and macro-initiatives were abandoned half-baked.
|AISD Superintendent and school board members helped kids get excited |
about the new version of their school ... two years before shutting it down.
Long story short, the school has made improvements, but not fast enough for the state and federal accountability systems. The system demands miracles and when it doesn't get them in an instant, knee-jerks into action.
|Students rallied ... and were ignored|
|Kids and families who had invested themselves in Eastside came out |
en masse to protest its closing and replacement with IDEA charter.
Long live IDEA charter!! Let's see how this one turns out.