Don’t overlook your neighborhood campuses when shopping for a school

Crockett ES is not a magnet school for fine arts, but its program is top-notch due in part to art teachers like Geetha Thomas, pictured here with some of her students. Parents are encouraged to check out the offerings at their neighborhood schools first, before shopping for alternatives.

It’s fall in Houston, and that means many HISD parents are already thinking about which campuses to send their children to for the 2015–2016 school year.

But while the attraction of the district’s many magnet programs is undeniable, parents are encouraged to take a closer look at the “zoned” schools located in their neighborhoods, as sometimes a hidden gem can be right around the corner.

Crockett Elementary School (2122 Crockett, 77007), for instance, has such an outstanding visual arts program that its students won HISD’s annual holiday card design contest four out of five years in a row (see related interview with art teacher Geetha Thomas here). The campus is also known for its imaginative teachers, such as Mona Quinney, whose entry in the “Wildest Dreams” contest resulted in the school’s entire first-grade class going to Disneyland on Oprah Winfrey’s dime in 2005.

“Crockett believes in educating the whole child, as we want our children to succeed academically, socially, and emotionally,” said Principal Claudia Chavez-Pinto. “We provide a renowned fine arts program and a safe and nurturing environment. In addition, we have obtained five out of the six TEA distinctions. We excel at closing the performance gap. We get students to grade-level and beyond.”

At the secondary level, both Henry Middle School (10702 E. Hardy, 77093) and Waltrip High School (1900 W. 34th, 77018) stand out for their award-winning music programs. Although neither is a magnet campus for music, Henry’s top-notch mariachi program has resulted in three consecutive first-place finishes at the prestigious Mariachi Vargas Extravaganza in San Antonio, and Waltrip’s Ram Band represented HISD in Washington D.C. during President Barack Obama’s last inauguration.

Waltrip also has an outstanding robotics program, which earned its students prizes in two international competitions, and Henry’s administrators have been recognized for their innovative attendance- and morale-boosting strategies.

“We are focused on empowering scholars to build habits that lead to academic and personal growth now, and excellent opportunities in the future,” said Henry MS Principal Sarah Stafford. “We do this through creating a community that operates with integrity and perseverance. We value each scholar’s unique strengths and interests and provide opportunities for involvement in arts, career investigation, apprenticeships, CSTEM, and robotics.”

“Waltrip provides not only a dedicated, high-quality teaching staff that focuses on rich, engaging academics, but also a comprehensive experience to support and grow the whole child,” added Principal Andria Schur. “We value all programs that enrich children’s lives.”