Building a Better Future for Education in the Five Corners District

Christina Autry

If you’ve been in the Five Corners District for very long, you’ve probably heard of the South Houston Concerned Citizens Coalition (SHCCC). This volunteer group formed a non-profit in 1993 in an effort to work on behalf of the community now referred to as the Five Corners District.

Once the Five Corners Management District was established by the Texas Legislature in 2007, the two groups began collaborating to “promote civic welfare of the residents within our boundaries,” according to SHCCC President, Mya Carroll. “We work closely with the Five Corners District; we have many of the same goals: beautification, safety, and economic development.”

Community volunteers actively reach out to the City of Houston and City Council Members to advocate for much-needed changes within the area. The SHCCC celebrated a recent victory when they stopped the construction of a 27.2 acre brine pit that was approved by the Railroad Commission of Texas to be dug near Buffalo Speedway.

Shawn Rushing, Chair of the SHCCC Education Committee

An essential component of improving the welfare of any community is ensuring quality education. The SHCCC puts an emphasis on “bridging the gap between the community and our schools,” says Shawn Rushing, the Chair of the SHCCC Education Committee. Twelve Houston ISD schools operate within SHCCC boundaries, including Madison High School, Lawson and Billy Reagan middle schools, and nine elementary campuses.

“Our goal is to connect the dots between the leadership of the schools and the community, promote highly effective teachers, and do what is best for the children,” says Rushing. Building communication between the community and school leadership starts with fostering relationships and information-sharing with parents. “Communication is the best vehicle to empower parents and community members,” explains Rushing, as she describes the various avenues SHCCC takes in disseminating information both electronically and face-to-face.

Building trust and collaboration between parents and administration can only happen when parents choose to put their children in Five Corners District schools, which will be encouraged through greater economic growth, and initiatives the SHCCC is diligently pursuing. “We would like for fewer children to be bussed outside of the district, and for families to remain in their neighborhood schools.”

The Education Committee creates awareness for parents of what their local public school can offer their children, as well as navigating what can be an intimidating school system. Rushing describes the issue they are confronting: “When you’re a parent, you want the best education for your child, but sometimes that conversation lacks clarity. We want to help parents get the most out of their child’s education, while holding the schools accountable.”

Part of being informed means knowing what programs are already available in neighborhood schools. “We want our parents to be aware of what our schools have to offer, because we have a lot of great things going on,” says Rushing. For example, Madison High School students participate in Theater, Marching Band, Ensemble, Choir, Debate, and Art Club. Students can also build skills through Welding, Auto Tech, NJROTC, Marketing, Agriculture, and more.

On a typical day, Rushing and Education Co-Chair, Linda Scurlock, may attend school Shared Decision Making Committee (SDMC) meetings, which are campus-based groups that meet monthly to engage in campus planning. According to HISD policy, SDMC members consist of parents, community members, teachers, and school staff, so that all parties are represented. Minutes of the meeting conversations, which include topics such as budgeting, curriculum, or school improvements are made available to the public upon request.

The SHCCC takes the conversation outside of the Five Corners community as well, with schools willing to collaborate and share best practices. Being part of the larger conversation on education in the City of Houston allows Five Corners District schools to benefit from the successes and struggles faced by schools around the Bayou City.

With Madison High School’s new Principal Carlotta Brown taking leadership of the school in March of this year, SHCCC is determined to support the changes that she has already begun making at the school. “Our new principal is a good fit for Madison,” says Rushing. “We have a new school, and we need a new outlook. We want to start fresh, by implementing policies beneficial for our children in the long run,” she adds. In the short time that she has been in leadership, Principal Brown has taken steps to improve the learning environment of the school, initiated a dual credit program partnering with HCC, invited a nonprofit to mentor students, set up a scholarship night for seniors, and is working to build relationships with students, staff, and parents.

As the SHCCC engages in the tough conversations at the campus level as well as with the district and city, they know that community involvement is the key to any improvements. “Hearing the concerns of the community is how we create our agenda,” says Rushing. The public is more than welcome to attend SHCCC meetings which occur every 3rd Thursday at 7PM at the Hiram Clarke Multiservice Center. As Rushing emphasizes, “We are a community that is alive and awake, and we are paying attention. We are looking to empower and engage more families.”

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