t p, vt , ITT .rtl , 7-A7 yr ,, .mmtm. tr ts,w,t,,r Trf =TN vrTtl,,y M TrAT t t .tt, tt y, t M:MM 0;i: z **torr:$1.07:7T p,P0,Pf;tp : tptp,tt,tf root= r7-t t2 .,,,t,1,, ;t r ti t TIT I::M t rt rtt t !ti: tr 4ttqt.t, , , 11,4 ttp tt lk 111 M t tt .g. MMMM trt rt t lt; tt ,:’:, 71r: Tri ttr t !t rrttti:: . M . : M11771 rfr i , r trr. 3 177. 7.4 rtr,. trr rrirt 7,1111M ‘ r -17,7% trrtr. fiE; , tilt f r i MN VNIONOM 111/. ‘”; 1111f1101111111 1 ====== 11111111 ‘1 -Sat 1r WWI* 9111 1711 t ,141;11u 1s. S m ;14 re twt;:flawl . 7toecoltillc4Vot , t;lnowns10 :ittmilmla;Armt, -mxtrAlm’Al saortro ?ITN/A.”1.1mA, lotivtlf7n.v.s ,. , r.s4 The Galleria: In the heart of Westheimer’s proposed ISD By Dave Precht Pho tos by Dave Prec ht Westheimer’s Joel Coolidge Westheimer Breakaway Houston One rainy Sunday afternoon in 1969, Houston school board president Bob Eckels called three school principals to his home to discuss ways of improving the quality of education in the city’s public schools. If the purpose of the meeting wasn’t especially remarkable, the outcome certainly was. The four officials decided that their neighborhood in west Houston, known as Westheimer, should split off from the Houston Independent School District and either merge with an adjoining district or set up its own school system. None of the proponents of the breakaway has ever been able to define educational quality, except in terms of what HISD has failed to do. After the nearby Spring Branch Independent School District rebuffed the secessionists, they decided to go it alone and form the Westheimer Independent School District. That’s what they called it. HISD officials called the breakaway district “a threat to the educational and economic stability of Houston.” HISD supt. Billy Reagan has blamed the prospect of a breakaway district for the loss of a hoped-for triple-A rating for the $70 million school-construction bond issue HISD floated last month, as well as a dip in employee morale, a possible federal court order requiring massive inter 18 The Texas Observer district busing to achieve integration, and the potential erosion of HISD’s tax base. Reagan fears that a successful WISD would encourage other prosperous, white middle-class neighborhoods to split off from HISD. “We can look forward to other districts splintering off and steadily eroding our tax base,” says Bill Russell, a school trustee who lives in Westheimer and who would stand to lose his seat on the Houston board if WISD becomes a reality. But the domino most likely to fall second, the city of Bellaire, has all but scrapped a proposal to set up a school district of its own in the wake of a feasibility study that found the expense of providing an equivalent level of education prohibitive. WISD wouldn’t face the same financial problem. The 23-square-mile district encompasses the fastest-growing residential section of Houston \(the “magic which would account for about half of WISD’s estimated $963 million tax base. WISD as proposed would have 8,000 students, or less than 4 percent of Houston’s 210,000 student enrollment. But Westheimer propertyowners contribute more than 10 percent of HISD’s tax revenue. If WISD can keep all of its tax money at home, it would be in a position to spend more than twice as much per student as HISD does now, says Joel Coolidge, president of the Westheimer school board. Coolidge is a lanky, country-talking lawyer who would fit better the role of a rural West Texas school board president. When Westheimer proponents won a referendum to establish the new district on Jan. 15 by a vote of nearly seven-toone over the objections of the HISD and the U.S. attorney general Coolidge said, “Well, I guess we showed them where the ox came through the canebreak!” A few weeks later, he characterized one of Westheimer’s few setbacks in court as just “another bump in the rocky road to independence.” There will be many more “humps,” quite a few chugholes and a roadblock or two in the way of the Westheimer seces There will be many more bumps, quite a few chugholes, and a roadblock or two in the way of the Westheimer secession, and most of them lie in courtrooms.
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