Thursday, January 16, 2014

Gratitude at Hogg

In the fall, I shared some wonderful news about the positive changes at Hogg Middle School.  The Learn Local parents group continues to work with Dr. Schnitta to build enthusiasm in the community for this improving school.  One of the major milestones that is exciting both parents and students is the newly renovated library.  The Texas Observer's December 3, 2013, article discussed the sad state of the libraries in Texas schools (emphasis is mine): 
Even after absorbing $5.4 billion in funding cuts from the 2011 Legislature—damage only partially remedied this year—Texas schools have shed 3 percent of their counselors, 2 percent of their teachers and 1 percent of their nurses. But they’ve cut 9 percent of their librarians. (All while the student body grew by 3 percent.) Forced to skimp by the Legislature, many administrators went skimping in the library. 
In early October, the Houston Chronicle told the story of Mary Burgert, a middle-school librarian laid off mid-year because of budget cuts. Houston ISD is a particularly tough place for librarians. The state’s largest school district has just 97 certified librarians, down from 169 four years ago, according to the Chronicle. About 60 percent of the district’s schools, theChronicle reported, are without a librarian this year. In dozens of schools, the library is simply closed.
Hogg was one of those schools.  Was.  At a time when librarians are last on the list for respect and first on the list to lose their jobs, Hogg has brought in Suzanne Webb, a Heights resident and Travis parent, as their new librarian.  This is a sure sign of the committment the school has to its students and yet another reason some local families will skip the tedious magnet application process and start attending their zoned school. 

In an effort to get the library where they wanted it to be, Ms. Webb reached out to the community.  She posted a fundraising effort via a website called, a free online fundraising site that allows schools to use the funds raised to buy books.  This effort would help stock the shelves and bring more and more books to the students.  My wonderful friend Amber, who does not live in the Heights and does not have a child who will be attending Hogg, was inspired by their efforts.  She made a very small donation to the library fund, satisfied with the hope that some child could benefit from the book she helped buy.

And then she got this:

Amber posted the photo on her Facebook page with the caption "Thank YOU, Hogg Middle School." I was blown away, as were many of her other friends. Sometimes it's the simple things, you know...
"I couldn't imagine what mail I might be receiving from Hogg Middle School? My kids are 1 and 4 and we aren't zoned anywhere close to the school. When I opened the envelope and saw the printed thank you note, I recalled the small donation I had made. Then, when I saw the handmade thank you cards, I actually welled up. I know the school is fighting to earn a good reputation. Having seen this project I don't doubt they are doing just that. They are clearly a school to watch and to support, whether my kids will attend or not."
I think Amber is totally right.  These cards demonstrate how hard Hogg faculty is working to raise expectations, both in the community and from their students.  While this is a good lesson in letter writing for some and perhaps etiquette for others, it is a good exercise in gratitude for everyone.

To contribute to the on-going efforts at Hogg, follow the LearnLocal page on Facebook. They have many projects on deck, including a fundraiser to help the boys' basketball team acquire matching uniforms.