Friday, May 02, 2014

Rezone for School Expansion? Seriously?

I read with great interest the total absence of solutions concerning the possibility of rezoning to balance the number of students at our three high schools, especially this quote by Board member Ken Martin, “At some point, we’ve got to figure out how we will up Lee High School.  The only way I know to do that, honestly, is to rezone.”

Seriously?  That’s the only way?  Holy mother of all that is righteous.  Maybe I should be on the Board.  Knock knock.  Who’s there?  Anyone listening?

Was there any discussion whatsoever about the looming industrial expansion and influx of people moving to Baytown over the next five years and the multiplied number of students who will need to enter the workforce when they graduate?  Are all of them going to go to GCM?  Do we need to crank up the “bus them across town program again”, but this time to share the load of students?

Industry is screaming loud and clear that they do not have qualified people to fill the coming positions, but what I see here is more talk about qualifying for arts and sports programs and the size of the football teams by Board members or voting to make our newest high school bigger.
I just sit back in my chair as I type this and shake my head.  We are thinking like we’ve been trained to think and that needs to change and the sooner the better.  Now to be honest, I am and always have been a bit rebellious toward convention and taking cheap shots at the Board from the safety of my computer is unfair to a point.

What I am going to say will sound hypocritical, but hear me out please.  Kudos to Daniel Blackford and Ken Martin for voting no for the expansion of Goose Creek Memorial to facilitate vocational expansion at this time.  I realize citizens voted in the May bond election to add more space to GCM to house career and technical programs, but I think this may be the wrong direction we should take.
Instead, seeing that Robert E. Lee has a declining enrollment, why not pour the funds into it for a first class vocational and technical school?  There would be no need for rezoning at all.  The only change needed would be in logistics to provide busing.   Busing, as in bussing like before?  Yup, except for the right reasons.

I’ve impotently harped on the need for this for at least eight years and now industry is screaming for qualified workers.  Why should a student have to wait until they have graduated high school to begin to learn a trade?  We are seriously underestimating their worth and ability to learn by continuing to give them a generic state-regulated education that dumps them on the streets at ages 17 to 19 and then wonder why they don’t become productive workers or go off to college.

We need a first class Vo-Tech high school in addition to what we already have with our two other high schools, the Peter E. Hyland Center, IMPACT Early College High School, POINT Alternative Center and John M. Stuart Career Center.  Robert E. Lee could be everything from nursing to pipe fitting and complement the other career schools.  The sky is the limit here folks and it’s all about tipping over the paradigm that has suffocated independent learning in high schools across the state and country.

Give the young students something to shoot for in junior high besides making the football team, or becoming a cheerleader.  Sure, those are honorable I guess, but it won’t feed them or their families down the road.

If we do not fill the Vo-Tech void, these prime jobs will go to people moving here from out of state and foreign countries and most of our kids will flip burgers for a vocation, instead of learning a true craft or trade.  I vote to be proactive- NOW.  I vote we put teeth in this thing and do whatever it takes to break free of teaching kids to pass state tests and give them the knowledge and path to earning a living after high school.  I vote to put the power back into our educator’s hands and show the rest of the state how we do it in Baytown.

Baytown has an opportunity to set the standard for other schools across the country.   What say we break out of the rut of standardized education and hire first class instructors to teach our kids and equip them to follow the American dream?


Anonymous said...

I read the Baytown Sun today regarding the expansion of Goose Creek Memorial and Bert's article about his ideas of how to solve problems he believes need to be solved regarding the allocation of resources. His article and a letter to the editor were in part the result of a vote Monday night to carry out the will of the voters who voted for the GCM expansion by the largest margin in recent memory for a Bond Proposition.
A lot of the concerns expressed are actually being addressed in the bond you the voters passed by more than 70%.
First, Bert ask "why not pour the funds into it (Lee High) for a first class vocational and technical school". For the answer a quick look at the Bond detail available to anyone with internet access (Bert and I have had longer than most) shows Monday night's vote was about spending a little over $7 million on a new wing at GCM. A closer look reveals that the same Bond has over $23 million for renovations including CTE (the current terminology for what we use to call voctech)at believe it or not Robert E. Lee.
But if you really want a first class CTE school as Bert and I do continue to use the magic of the internet and behold there is $14.3 million to build just that on Wye Drive, the current location of the Stewart Career Center.
I applaud the interest in the future of education of our students and our future workforce. I have made it my life's work serving on the Lee College Board for more than 30 years. My wife, Jenice, stayed and taught in the classroom for more than 27 years. She never left for the real money in administration and gave here considerable talents to thousands of our children. She is continuing her dedication to our children even in her retirement by serving on GCCISD school board. She is now in her second term. Together we have a unique perspective and opportunity to make it a seamless transition from pre-K to Process Technician or any other vocation or profession.
Dr. Brown and Dr. Cavazos have started preliminary conversations about a Early College High School that would be a CTE Early College High School where students would graduate with the certification to go to work for industry (see Wye Drive above). Industry is not hiring workers straight out of high school as they did when Bert and I were young (more than 40 years ago).
Before I became a lawyer, I worked for Exxon for 10 years. I went through their 3 year apprentice program but that is not the way it is done in today's world.
In conclusion be assured that Goose Creek ISD and Lee College are well aware of industry's future workforce needs and are addressing them even as you are reading this. Thanks for your time and attention. Don Coffey

Anonymous said...

I'm happy to see GCISD is striving to go the right direction for our students. Thanks Bert for your column and thank you Mr.Coffey for your commitment to our local education. VR

Anonymous said...

I really liked your column today. Best yet!

Anonymous said...

Very well written. We have some tough decisions to make. DB

Anonymous said...

That's great Bert! DT

Anonymous said...

Certainly worth thinking about. SW

Anonymous said...

Excellent. Should be the goal of high schools everywhere to teach youngsters how to become productive adults whether or not they are college bound.

Anonymous said...

Excellent excellent idea! Makes so much sense! Now that you are retiring , you can run for the school board!

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