Houston Forward Times

05 March 2014 Written by  Dr. Michael L. Fain

Jones H.S.: The Need to Help the Community Rather Than Being Closed!

Since it opened in 1956, Jones High School has been a pillar of the South Park Community. Opened as an all White school, the demographics of Jones reflected the extreme change in the South Park area of Houston and became a predominately African American school by the early 1970’s. Today, the neighborhood that surrounds Jones has become significantly Hispanic – and provides a great opportunity for Jones to change again. Such a change to a more Hispanic culture will enable Jones to continue its representation of the community that surrounds the school.

The numbers that support this needed change are blatant. Over 2,000 students live in neighborhoods that surround Jones – but the total no. of students at the school are only 440. A majority of the students who have chosen to transfer to neighboring schools are Hispanic; now they are attending Austin, Milby, and Chavez High Schools. Each of these high schools are predominately Hispanic and provide a more comfortable culture in terms of the faculty, staff, and students than is currently available at Jones. Because of the relatively low number of students who attend/remain at Jones, the cost of educating each Jones student exceeds $12,000 per year. If only 400 more students will attend Jones annually, the cost per student will drop significantly to 6,400 per year.

Without question, Jones needs to supplement its annual offerings and create a more welcoming Hispanic culture to attract and retain students in its surrounding neighborhoods rather than closing its doors. At present, Jones has one of the lowest number of electives and extra-curricular programs among all HISD schools. Once more programs are added – and more bilingual staff (speaking Spanish and English) are added – Jones will have a much greater likelihood of keeping the 2,000 students in its enrollment.

To encourage more opportunities for all its students, a speech and interpretation contest be hosted for K-5 grade students and administered at Jones in the next month. This contest will allow contestants to perform and compete in either Spanish or English, promoting the bilingual environment of a majority of HISD campuses.

From a historical perspective, HISD must keep Jones alive so the policy of racial integration is maintained. A redesigned Jones will allow this school to become one of the greatest examples of racial integration that will exist in HISD – with a student population that will be very balanced between African American and Hispanic students. Since 1971 when HISD first announced its effort to officially end segregation in its schools, Jones has been a leader in reflecting the high degree of racial integration achievable in HISD.

To close Jones, HISD would be encouraging predominately Hispanic school (Austin, Chavez, & Milby) to become even more Hispanic. Likewise, HISD would be ensuring that predominately African American schools (Sterling and Worthing) to become even more African American. Both of these impacts are exactly what HISD attempted to discourage in 1971 when HISD first outlawed its own segregation.