The closing of Austin Middle School is a deeper issue than success or failure of a school. It speaks to who we are as people and who we aspire to be as a community.

Galveston has always been a solace of inclusion, a port of vibrant diversity. Sadly, this isn’t reflected in a school that represents exclusivity and privilege.

While I understand the desire to preserve success, our greater purpose is to serve all families in our community with equity and opportunity. Closing Austin doesn’t diminish who we are — but highlights who we want to be.

The data couldn’t be clearer; Austin is disproportionately white. Our district is 27 percent white, 44 percent Hispanic and 27 percent African American. Austin is 47 percent white, 34 percent Hispanic, 9 percent African American. This is the definition of de facto segregation. And while some may argue, “Why close a successful school,” I would ask, “When is success for 25 precent of our populace good enough?”

Closure addresses a multitude of issues, including eliminating excess infrastructure, refining cost structure, reducing overhead for reinvestment, easing logistical inefficiency, fostering athletic success, expanding fine arts, ending academic inequity, mitigating age disparity and providing a streamlined experience that will unite our children and community under one banner.

The economics are clear, the moral imperative is clearer.

Galveston houses three middle schools when one is required. Few, if any districts, are emulating this dysfunctional model. As a community, we have a responsibility to all of our children, not just our own. Central was long a seventh- and eighth-grade campus that served all of Galveston, and it should do so again. Weis should be converted to a fifth- through sixth-grade campus, the 39th Street properties should be sold and district offices moved to Austin, where you have the capacity to host professional learnings, re-create model teaching, and honor the history of an edifice that has long represented our diversity.

For those concerned with replicating Austin’s success, you can create cohorts within Central that reflect the same excellence at Austin while providing a depth of experience aligned with Ball High School. We accomplished the same thing in the ‘80s and ‘90s with the Roadrunner team, which grouped gifted and talented students together. I was one of them.

We were tremendously successful, and we were one. The lessons that have emanated from our diversity have made me more worldly, more empathetic, and more aware. They’re indelible reminders of the beauty of our community and the power and potential of all of us.

Closing Austin would foster efficiency, create streamlined standards, aggregate teaching and leadership talent, and build a sense of true community and togetherness. Austin is a great school with an innovative leader. Leverage that expertise and unify the community while changing cost structure to add more funding to student achievement, developing teachers, and building capacity, both physical and strategic. Embrace our diversity and our history.

Galveston and its schools are for all of us, not just the privileged few.

Rob Lewis lives in Galveston.

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(3) comments

Trudy Deen Davis

Well said, Rob! That was a very well thought out explanation I have not seen in any other story!

Raymond Lewis

Thanks Mr. Lewis. Best take on the issue I've.

Hal Rochkind

Amen, Rob!

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