Townview Restructuring a HUGE Mistake
As a proud graduate with honors of the Talented and Gifted Magnet high school at Townview, I was deeply appalled at Superintendent Hinojosa's recent announcement to combine the six nationally prestigious high schools of DISD's crowned jewel into two. Not only has this move been presented with absolutely no definitive plan whatsoever, but it's been apparent for weeks in Hinojosa's television and newspaper interviews that he, and quite possibly many other people on the school board have no idea how Townview is structured, or why the schools within achieve the critically-acclaimed levels of unparalleled success they do every year.
Hinojosa repeatedly refers to Townview as a "school", when in fact it's just a building. There are six schools within Townview. And although budget cuts and lay-offs are occurring in school districts throughout the state, there are no other schools that are being flat-out shut down or amalgamated with other schools. Which is why it makes absolutely no sense whatsoever DISD would start with the magnets at Townview.
The TAG Magnet in particular has withstood constant controversy since it's influx into Townview from it's original home at Pinkston in 1995, and despite this, the results the school has produced from it's alumni have been unflappable. The school has been rated "exemplary" by the TEA as long as they've issued the rating, highest TAKS commended rates in the district, more National Merit recognition than any other DISD school every year, highest Advanced Placement pass rates of any other DISD school every year, and averages between $12-14 million in scholarship offers to each class of roughly 40-45 students. Despite DISD's collective bottom-of-the-barrel ranking amongst other Texas school districts, the TAG Magnet has always given the district something to hang their hats on. Dissolving the program, laying off it's teachers (3 of whom are college professors who write and edit AP exam items), and merging it with other schools that don't share half the credentials will not bolster this success, and it's the students that will suffer from it.
The proposed "plan" presented by Hinojosa consists of laying off five principals and combining the six magnet schools into a "School for Arts and Sciences" and a "School for Humanities", which is vague to say the very least considering art and humanities are more closely-related than art and sciences. It's clear this is just one step forward to combining all six schools into one and eventually laying off one more principal. There has been absolutely no proposal or reassurance that the core curriculum of these schools will be preserved or continued, which also leaves the question "What will Townview BE?" if and when Hinojosa's restructuring is allowed to move forth. His nebulous plan will ultimately destroy Townview and dissuade the same caliber students from enrolling in future generations. Many of my former classmates have even cited private schools as a better option for their children.
There has also been no mention of how admissions into Townview's new schools will be affected. TAG in particular has always maintained a racially-balanced admissions prerogative as well as a required high level of academic achievement. Also has there been no mention as to how graduation ceremonies and school-specific interdisciplinary seminars such as TREK and TAG-It will be affected. DISD might as well take a wrecking ball and tear down the entire building and build a new school from scratch since that is what they essentially propose to do anyway.
Although a money shortage and economic recession is the ultimate excuse from DISD to obliterate the best thing it ever had, it's clear not all factors have been evaluated. As previously mentioned, private schools have been discussed by alumni as a better option to get the same caliber education those students thrived on at Townview. Perhaps if DISD charged monthly tuition fees to students who enroll in magnet programs, then money would not be an issue. It would definitely be a nuisance to some families, but at least the core elements and scholastic excellence of these magnets programs would be preserved, and teachers' and principals' jobs would be spared. It would also help alleviate concerns from critics who have believed DISD has allocated too much money towards Townview in recent years. It's a win for all sides. It's definitely better than starting over from scratch.
Another option would be to increase the classroom sizes of core-classes within the magnets such as mathematics, history, english, and science, which would free-up more periods for those teachers to attend to students outside of their respective magnets in other courses. Foreign language course availability could be decreased to only Spanish and French. Several other courses of similar criteria such as gym and health, theater and speech, and art and art history could be merged as well. However, merging the schools themselves is not the answer.
My 4 years at Townview were undoubtedly the 4 most special years of my life and I wouldn't trade them in for anything. The six schools within are life-changing experiences for each of the 2000+ students who attend every year and grant them opportunities in life very few schools in the nation can compete with. I emphasize this because it is not something I believe DISD either believes or understands. No amount of money in the world would change my mind, and no amount of money in the world should ruin it for future students.