Families for Houston originated in 2016 as a result of conversations among four families of young children living in the Henry H. Houston Elementary catchment area. Discovering a common desire to start early on engaging with and supporting our neighborhood public school, we met informally with members of Houston’s Home and School Association, and then with Houston’s principal, LeRoy Hall Jr. In August, we created a 501c3, Families for Houston.
Our early conversations with the school administration and community reassured us that Houston, at the corner of Rural and Allens lanes, has strong fundamentals, including committed and effective teachers, a well-liked principal and a committed group of library and tutoring volunteers, and that stronger engagement from future Houston parents would both be welcome and potentially have a big impact. Since then, we have tapped into a lot of enthusiasm. Our first community meeting, held in Houston library in October, drew around 20 local families to hear from Principal Hall and discuss what they would like to see from — and do for — Houston. Since then, we have held a well-attended playdate and playground cleanup and a community “happy hour” at which attendees voted on the award of small grants for classroom projects proposed by Houston teachers. For Martin Luther King Day, we helped paint murals on the first floor. Benjamin Moore in Chestnut Hill donated paint, and volunteers joined in painting and also worked to clean up and organize classrooms.
Out of discussions at these events, and as more families have become involved, our plans have coalesced around several projects, falling into three broad areas, for which we are now raising funds and making plans.
- First, we are supporting projects with an immediate and ongoing impact on the school. These include a focus on the school infrastructure inside and out, including taking over maintenance of Houston’s hidden gem of a playground from the Friends of Houston Playground group; working with Houston’s energetic library volunteers to improve the library facilities; supporting the ‘Houston bucks’ rewards program; and improving classroom technology.
- Second, we are working on longer-term projects: Most notably, this includes a major and ambitious renovation of the Houston schoolyard, following plans developed as part of the Mt. Airy Schools’ Coalition work with all six Mt. Airy public elementary schools. We also are discussing with Principal Hall how best to support his plans to build the school’s language program.
- Finally, we continue to engage the community and in particular encourage local parents to consider or commit to sending their children to Houston. This will include further community events and outreach through our online and offline networks, as well as support for tours and open houses. On March 10, City Councilwoman Helen Gym, known for her public school activism, is coming to Houston at 7:45-8:45 a.m. to hear from parents, prospective parents and the community.
We welcome volunteers who can commit to anything from taking on leadership of a project to helping out on occasion. Find out more at www.familiesforhouston.org, join our mailing list by emailing us at firstname.lastname@example.org, follow us on twitter on @famforhouston, or like our facebook group at www.facebook.com/groups/familiesforhouston/.