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At the grand opening celebration of the school that bears his name, Gov. Mark White acknowledged the significance of having new building dedicated in his honor.
“It’s exciting. But what gets me so thrilled is looking at the faces of the children who go to Mark White Elementary,” he said. “It’s going to be an exciting place for children to come and learn.”
Nearly 250 people shared in his enthusiasm on Tuesday as they crowded into the new cafeteria to attend the official grand opening ceremony for Mark White Elementary School — one of first six schools completed under the 2012 Bond Program.
The school, which opened in August, offers the first public French dual language program in Texas, providing students with the opportunity to spend part of the day learning in English and part learning in French.
“It’s amazing to consider that a year ago this was just a foundation,” Principal Lisa Hernandez told the crowd. In just a few short months, Hernandez said, the school has become a community, embracing a diversity that reflects some 30 countries among its more than 500 students.
Constructed on a wooded tract off Westheimer Road, the $23.4 million, 83,000-square-foot school was built to relieve overcrowding on the district’s west side. It features open learning spaces, large windows, natural light, and collaborative areas for small or large group learning.
Designed to reflect its natural surroundings, the school is currently seeking distinction through the LEED Green Building Certification program. Plans call for an outdoor theater and rooftop garden to be built in the spring.
Several dignitaries attended the celebration, including HISD Trustee Harvin Moore, HISD Trustee-Elect Anne Sung, HISD Deputy Superintendent Sam Sarabia, and Houston City Council Members Jack Christie and Mike Knox. Also in attendance were friends and family of Gov. White and representatives from the French Consulate General in Houston, as well as many members of the White Elementary School community.
White Elementary students showcased their newly acquired language skills at the start of the celebration by performing two songs, including one in French. Later, two fifth grade students paid tribute to Gov. Mark White and his public service, both as Attorney General and as the 43rd governor of Texas.
“To me, Mark White is the type of person who worked hard to accomplish all he did. I think he set a good example for our school to follow,” student Sean Freeman said, explaining that he and his fellow students wanted to follow his lead as they worked to make their school the best it could be. “Mark White has shown us the model of someone who has constantly made himself and those he served better.”
Several speakers, including Moore and Christie, thanked White for his support of public education over the years, and said the name was a fitting honor. White, in typical fashion, was modest.
“The name of a school is not near as important as what goes on in the school,” White said as he addressed the crowd.
He added: “We have much to be thankful for. Young people across the land are yearning for the opportunity to succeed and lead, and it all begins here.”