Home               En Español               The Truth!               Volunteer              List of Supporters               Media Info               Contact UsHome.htmlSpanish%20Home.htmlVolunteer.htmlList%20of%20Supporters.htmlMedia%20Info.htmlContact%20Us.htmlshapeimage_3_link_0shapeimage_3_link_1shapeimage_3_link_2shapeimage_3_link_3shapeimage_3_link_4shapeimage_3_link_5
The Truth About Closing Webb
Ask most people who have read something or heard something about this situation, and they’ll say that the school district has already decided to close Webb because it has failed its TAKS test three years in a row. People have already given in to misinformation, both from AISD and from the local news. Here are the facts. We’ll keep adding to this page as we get new information.
1. The Webb closing is not a “done deal”!
    In a letter that was sent by Dr. Forgione to the “Webb Community” on Jan. 19, it was strongly implied that the decision to close Webb has already been made. To quote the letter, “We have reached the difficult conclusion that the best solution for Webb students, their families, and the Webb faculty and staff is to decide now to close the campus at the end of this school year, instead of waiting for TEA to tell us in May or June to close the school.” The letter goes on to say that the faculty supports the decision. What this letter (even though it goes on to say that the Board of Trustees is being urged to declare Webb closed) implies is that the closing is already decided. Done. There are no other options.
    The letter also falsely implies that the state will likely close the school, based on three years of unacceptable rating on the TAKS test. This reinforces the argument that closing is inevitable.
    The TRUTH is that state law allows four years of testing, not three. The TRUTH is also that the TEA has other options, including putting the school under the management of a non-profit (something done in other parts of the country) or of another school district in Region XIII. TEA can also simply decide to leave Webb open with a team continuing to work on improvement. This information is directly from TEA, following state law. In fact, the law never mandates the closure of a school with no other options, despite what Dr. Forgione says or implies.
    The decision to close has not been made. In fact, it is not Dr. Forgione’s decision at all. He makes a recommendation, but it is the School Board (Board of Trustees) who votes on closure. Last year, two other schools, Oak Springs and Becker, both faced closure votes. In the face of strong public response, both remained open on 5-4 votes of the school board. THIS IS NOT A DONE DEAL if we, as a community, stand up. But the school board will, in all likelihood, vote for closure if the only input they have is from Dr. Forgione.
    By the way, don’t give an credence to “teacher support” of the decision. Teachers are on 1-year contracts with no job security. They won’t publicy go against a superintendent if they want a job next year. We are the ones who need to speak FOR the teachers. They need us to be their voice!
2. Webb has passed almost all of the TAKS tests over the last three years.
    To call a school “academically unacceptable” sounds really bad. It must be a total failure. I have spoken with community people who say Webb should shut because they have heard this term used about Webb in the news.
    What, exactly, does “academically unacceptable” mean? The TAKS test grades a school in 26 categories. Not all of these are academic. One category, “drop-outs,” refers to the transition of Webb kids to Reagan. Only a certain percentage of kids are allowed to drop out between 8th and 9th grade. Three years ago (2004), Webb passed in all academic categories but just barely missed in the dropouts category (or cell). In fact, Webb had passed but the law was changed in April, 2004, lowering the drop out level. Webb, along with many other schools around the state, got caught in this change. If they had known the new level beforehand, they could have tracked a few more kids (consider that 1/3 of Webb kids move in and out each year in this highly transient, low-income area). AISD should have applied for a waiver for Webb, but didn’t (note: Anderson High School, a few years ago, was judged AU because of special ed students and AISD obtained a waiver for them. Why not Webb?)
    Therefore, Webb’s “failure” in 2004 had nothing to do with academics. Look at the stats in 2005 and 2006 and you’ll see steady improvement by Webb kids. In 2005, they fell short in 3 cells and 2006 in 6 of 26 cells. Maybe this sounds like a little or a lot, but know that the standards are going up each year, so much so that there are multiple bills in the state legislature this session to stop the TAKS madness. At the current rate that requirements are rising, school will be closing in droves around the state, especially in low-income areas. Kids can improve 20% from one year to the next and still be branded as “failing.”
    At the very least, Webb deserves a waiver from the TEA for 2004, especially given that state TAKS law could change this year! Webb could be closing just before rules change that would allow it to stay open. And kids who are working hard to improve (and are, by any standard, improving) should not be branded as failures.
3. AISD does not HAVE to close Webb.
    Dr. Forgione has implied, both in the press and in letters to the Webb community, that AISD’s hands are tied. He has said the same thing about other schools. But AISD does have options. Perhaps the schools does need new management by TEA to be successful, along with the funding that would bring. Why doesn’t AISD want to let the kids have their chance at the test this year, especially given that so much was poured into the school this year (over 1 million dollars) to help kids bring their scores up? Let’s let the kids have their chance. If the kids don’t pass in one of the 26 cells, why not let the TEA make the decision? They could opt to close the school, but they could also opt to keep the school open just as well.
    To be honest, there seem to be other agendas at work here.
4. The Webb faculty and students are working hard to pass this year’s test.
    AISD, in cooperation with TEA, did a partial reconstitution of the school this year. This means that, in order to improve the school, some of the teachers were asked to reapply and new teachers were brought in, supposedly with stronger skills. Over 1 million dollars has also been poured in this year to give extra tutoring, a new reading program and a Saturday school to Webb. All eyes have been on passing TAKS.
    But when Dr. Forgione came to the faculty just before Christmas and told them to start looking for new jobs because Webb is closing, he took the wind out of their sails. What were they working for? Many have tried to keep their eyes on helping the kids do their best, but it’s difficult. Kids are discouraged because their efforts are being discounted. At the recent community hearing at Webb, Dr. Forgione said publicly several times that the kids were probably going to fail anyway. This was shocking, coming from a superintendent, and deserves investigation.
    Even with this discouragement and manipulation from the district, parents and community volunteers are organizing even more tutoring for the kids in advance of the February and March TAKS tests. We believe, and we are hoping the kids will believe again, that this test COUNTS.
5. There may be other reasons why the district wants to close Webb.
    There may be other agendas at work here, ones that have played out in the efforts to close other schools in recent years. Read the article linked here about the losing fight to keep Porter Middle School open and the district’s strategy to build new schools is outlying areas, as well as Dr. Forgione’s affection for school redesign and the funding that goes along with it. Don’t for a minute think that closing Webb is all about test scores.
    (By the way, I’m not saying that the other agendas are all bad. But Dr. Forgione needs to be upfront with the School Board and the community about why he wants to close Webb and let the issue be decided on the basis of those factors, not manipulation and fear.)
    All of this leads you to believe that the main reason for such eagerness to close Webb is to populate the new Gus Garcia Middle School. Opening next fall, Garcia only has 400+ students for its 1,100 student capacity building. By closing Webb and transfering those students to Pearce and Dobie (two other low-performing schools), kids from those schools can be shifted to Garcia. Actually, in Dr. Forgione’s letter home to parents about Webb, he states as his first reason for closing Webb that “the opening of Gus Garcia Middle School . . . (leaves) plenty of room for our middle school students.” Why fight for Webb when you need to fill Garcia?
    But his agenda and our agenda are different! We want a community school where kids can walk to school, one where parents who use the bus as transportation can have access to their school. We don’t want our kids shuffled “like merchandise” (as one parent put it) to two schools that parents can’t reach.
6. The state legislature may change the TAKS law this year.
    Of course, this discussion of Webb’s closure would not be happening without TAKS or “”No Child Left Behind.” Many state legislators are deeply concerned about the havoc that TAKS is wreaking on Texas schools. Without change, the bleeding will increase and schools throughout the state will close. The head of the Senate Education Committee is putting forth a proposal to abolish TAKS completely and start over. What is almost sure is that some measure of common sense will temper the current state accountability requirements. As community members and parents at Webb, we have awoken to to the need to be part of this state-level discussion.
    What a shame it would be if Webb was closed forever, just one year shy of changes that might save it. You can see why it is important to go back and argue for a waiver of the 2004 results based on dropout rates. For Dr. Forgione to kill the patient just before help arrives, or the treatment has had time to take effect, is tragic.
    Already, the “Save Webb” parents are meeting with state legislators to help us keep Webb from being hastily and wrongheadedly closed.
7. AISD’s plan is to send Webb’s kid to two other “academically unacceptable” schools, Pierce and Dobie.
    In Dr. Forgione’s presentation to the public at Webb on Jan. 25, what struck listeners was the lack of discussion about real education. It was all about numbers and state requirements, manipulated to emphasize the district’s desires. Kids were at fault. The phrase “Effort equals intelligence” was repeated. Basically, Webb’s kids and parents were blamed for the impending closure. They just didn’t try hard enough. Dr. Forgione, effort is important, but doesn’t what neighborhood you’re born into help a little? Doesn’t having English as your first language smooth the way? Having literate parents who have time to spend with you, helping you on homework? All I heard from Dr. Forgione was that Webb kids should have tried harder.
    All kids could try harder, but it seems that Dr. Forgione is abandoning the district’s responsibility to educate ALL kids, no matter their starting place. Effort is one element in intelligence, but there is much more, and that is where an intelligent school system fills in the gaps. FAIR and EQUAL EDUCATION means that you do everything in your power to educate all kids. What we’
8. AISD has closed down two other schools where kids have passed their tests.
9. It is important to have COMMUNITY SCHOOLS!
10. Public support matters!
11. Which school is next?
12. Don’t let them shift the blame!
A large group of parents and community members have joined to form a group to SAVE WEBB! We need lots of volunteers to do everything from tutoring kids for the TAKS to writing letters to our officials and calling parents.
Our next meeting is Thursday, Feb. 8 from 6-7 p.m. at Webb.
To volunteer, call 653-4935 (English) or 940-4320 (Español), or e-mail volunteer@savewebb.org
Community March to Save Webb        Feb. 17    1:30 p.m.    March from Reagan High to Webb      Celebration 3-5 p.m.March%20Info.htmlshapeimage_6_link_0