Naked City

Parents Hail Johnston Makeover

Proud parents packed the Johnston High School cafeteria Thursday night to hear their sons and daughters play in the band or recite poetry for the annual community winter dinner. The program, which included both seasonal standards and original compositions (such as poetry in honor of English teacher Ms. DePrang), kicked off with the announcement by principal Tabita Gutierrez that Johnston would be the first high school in Austin to undergo a "redesign" to bring greater rigor and career relevance to the curriculum.

"Our school, which is already the pride of the Eastside, will now be the pride of all of Austin," said Gutierrez, who like the rest of the teachers that night, sported a jaunty Santa hat. Warning that the changes in store would not be minor, she encouraged parents to participate in the process, inviting them to a forum scheduled for Jan. 5.

To many of the parents gathered around the glitter-covered tables, the redesign sounded like a fine idea. Jese Torres, whose son attends Johnston, particularly latched onto the "rigor" idea. "I'm not putting the school down. I think they do a good job. But I don't think they're pushing him hard enough," he said.

Betty Gonzales, sitting at the same table, agreed. "We need new programs that will prepare them for the real world," she said. "My son is an honor student and this is the time we really want to push him in the right direction."

To Torres, positive change could be as simple as assigning more out-of-class work. "They need to bring homework back," he said. "When I was in school, I did homework. I want to see him bringing homework home."

He thought for a moment, then gestured to his plate of green beans, mashed potatoes, and other festive holiday delights. "And they need to have more of these dinners," he grinned.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

Johnston High School, redesign, winter dinner, Tabita Gutierrez, Jesse Torres, Betty Gonzalez

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