Houston ISD trims magnet programs, threatens others - FOX 26 News | MyFoxHouston

Houston ISD trims magnet programs, threatens others

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In the business of education, schools with so-called "magnet programs" are, by definition, expected to attract students from the outside.

But fulfilling that fundamental mission has proven problematic for many HISD campuses, so much so, that District leaders have dropped a heavy hammer - effectively shutting down the specialized instruction in 20 of the 115 schools where they are currently offered.

"To continue being a magnet school they need to be drawing 20 percent of their students from outside the neighborhood and we identified 20 schools where that's not happening," said Jason Spencer, HISD spokesman.

Not even close.

HISD says the programs set for termination, including the Math and Science magnet at West University Elementary and the leadership magnet at Sharpstown High drew only 4 percent of their student body from beyond their immediate boundaries - just 750 kids in 20 schools.

While the District plans to initiate a half dozen new magnets on different campuses it also put 13 additional schools on notice that funding for their specialized programs is in danger if academic performance and outside enrollment fail to improve.

Sterling High School principal Dale Mitchell says an all-out effort to preserve the aviation magnet on his campus is well underway.

"Interventions are taking place our culture has completely shifted. The aviation program is our future. That's the way plan to do everything for the next 20 years," said Mitchell.

And that's more than just wishful thinking. Blue prints of a soon to be constructed campus include a high school literally built around a high tech aviation hanger.

Mitchell plans to attract more students by expanding beyond pilot training to new courses in aircraft construction and maintenance.

On a campus where teenagers actually learn to fly Mitchell believes students and teachers will elevate their academic effort to prove their magnet's worthy of survival.

"When you are faced with a challenge like this you Have to look at it just as that. It's an opportunity to sit back and say, what are our obstacles and what are our goals and how can we overcome those obstacles to reach those goals," said Mitchell.

Unlike most of the other campuses hit West University Elementary lost its magnet program because the school is so well regarded there was not enough room to allow students outside the neighborhood to attend.

HISD says the shutdown of the 20 magnets will free up $20 million for the district to spend elsewhere.

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