I’ve been watching this whole debate over the closing of several schools in central El Paso by EPISD. From a distance, and without actually reading the articles written on the subject, I figured it was just another inflammation of our hippy enclave in the Newman Park area. I was wrong and I was right, which is odd because normally I’m just wrong… so says my wife.
The hippies are inflamed. I’m right about that. I’m actually feeling a little sorry for them this time, but not because their local school was to be shut down. I feel bad for them as taxpayers.
Nostalgic people who move into 100 year-old homes on purpose tend to think old, expensive to maintain buildings are not only cool, but essential to the lifestyle they seek. God bless’em, it’s their right to like things other people don’t. That’s why I love this country.
However, their level of panic was partly increased by an intense dislike of change. Not many people like change in their life. Don’t believe me? Block off a street and require people to detour one block out of their way for a day and see how enraged a community can become. Your city representative can tell you all about that.
The community, and to be honest not all of them are hippies, was alerted to a problem caused by a much larger problem. Our school district spends money unnecessarily on new stuff and it leads to the shuttering of the old stuff, which in turn pisses off the people who really liked their old stuff and have no use for the new stuff. Got that?
In the original article that appeared on Newspaper Tree an EPISD official indicates that a newer school (Paul Moreno School) was built on the speculation of population growth. They speculated wrong - leading to a situation where they have too many schools in a small area. They couldn’t very well make people move to the area and forcing the residents to have more kids would have overstepped the authority vested to EPISD by the State of Texas. Although, I’d be quite interested in seeing how that ad campaign turned out.
Unfortunately the reason, in my opinion, that we’ve got one too many schools in an area is because the culture of ISDs has become focused on form over substance.
Superintendents trot out their success via real estate portfolios rather than test scores. Rooms full of state of the art computers and astro-turfed football fields have taken the place of test scores, graduation rates and a local economy flush with educated young people. The measure of a superintendent’s success is starting to really be about dollars spent versus the old gold standard – kids educated.
When a taxpayer asks to see where his or her money has gone it’s rather hard to pull out EPISD’s test scores and knock people’s socks off. Providing results that are test score based are hard to produce and control. So many factors go into educating kids that it’s hard to control the outcome and use it as an answer to the question, “what are you doing with all of our money?” A tour of a brand new field house for a high school football team is much easier to pull off.
School board members and other elected officials apparently like to see brick and mortar projects. It allows for more opportunities to post their buddy’s names on the side of buildings (case in point) and it makes for good bragging points with constituents. How often does an elected official tout growth in their district as related to new educational facilities? How often do they brag on the test scores of the kids in that district?
I have a recurring dream where a politician stands proudly in front of a brand new school and says, “Congratulations, I built you a brand new school. No guarantees that your kid is going to stop eating paste, but at least he’ll be doing it in state of the art facilities.”
Brick and mortar projects are shiny spoons that divert our attention from the real problems of modern education. At some point superintendents, who answer to the school board, found that fine arts centers and multi-media rooms were their ticket to success. A school district that is progressing is one that is constantly building!
In a time when Alamo Elementary is sitting empty with a brand new HVAC system rusting away on its roof, it’s easy to believe that they built an entire school a mile away instead of refurbishing the one they already had. I guess updating is less sexy than brand new. The “Paul Moreno HVAC and Bathroom Renovations at Houston Elementary” doesn’t have the same ring as “Paul Moreno Elementary,” I guess.
While we are all playing with our shiny spoons they’re robbing us blind. I feel bad for the teachers who see what is basically a needless building boom while their paychecks remain insufficient for their investment in the community.
And I hate to divert off topic for a second, but is it me or was there two tragic stories working last Friday when we got the news a young man drowned at Wet ‘n’ Wild while on a school field trip? Obviously the loss of a young person is as tragic as life can get for his family and friends. The other tragedy was the admission that more than 700 other students from other school districts were at the park swimming that day as well. How is a swim party at Wet ‘n’ Wild a good use of taxpayer dollars and what is it doing to increase the quality of our children’s education?
Forget I asked. I don’t want the school district building it’s own water park so they can say they saved taxpayer dollars by not having to bus kids to Anthony to go swimming all day. However, I’m sure the school board would be just dazzled by the new project and include pictures of the new facility in their next campaign mailer.
Lucky for us, we’ve got people like them in charge of educating our kids.