The key to success at Houston’s Jack Yates High School is student data and working with the community and alumni, according to new principal Samuel Coleman.
“We want to provide a holistic solution to address student need,” Coleman said Friday afternoon during a district “meet and greet” with the new principal. “Part of that means we have to take some time, we have to take a look at data, we have to ask good questions and be real receptive to the answers that we get,” he said.
Coleman is replacing former Yates principal Ronald Mumphery, who the Houston Independent School District investigated last year for multiple allegations of sexual misconduct with former students and HISD employees dating back to the 1980’s. Mumphery was reassigned by the district in September and soon retired. HISD police said Mumphery will not face criminal charges.
“We finally have someone to take control, to lead us,” Marcus Brooks, a 1991 Yates alum, said. “This is good for the new era we are trying to go into.”
Brooks said previous leadership has not necessarily hindered Yates’ success, “but with so much chaos and different ideas from so many different people, it is time for a change -- whether that is good or bad, we’ll see.”
According to Coleman, people like Brooks will be a key to the future success of students at Yates.
By “working with community groups and alumni associations to try to figure out what other support they can provide, maybe mentoring or other ancillary things,” he said, Yates can meet students’ needs.
Brooks agreed. “The kids these days don’t have a sense of tradition and respect that has gone on here, even before my time,” he said. “I’m an eighth-generation Jack Yates alumni in my family. We just have to bring back that pride, the overall pride that used to be here.”
Yates, in the city's historically black Third Ward, has a rich history as one of the two oldest black high schools in Houston (an honor it shares with its Fifth Ward rival, Wheatley High). It has remained a boys' basketball powerhouse -- rated No. 1 in the nation last year by USA Today and holding back-to-back 4A state basketball titles -- but it has struggled academically in recent years and is rated only "academically acceptable" by the Texas Education Agency, one step above failing.
Newly appointed HISD school board President Paula Harris said the decision to hire Coleman was hard. “Usually, I get calls saying, ‘They sent us who they want,’ or ‘Oh, we don’t want these people,’ but, really, the only calls I got was, ‘Man, it’s a hard decision. There really are some quality, quality candidates being brought before us,” she said.
Coleman previously served as a special education program manager for the San Diego Unified School District, the same district from which HISD Superintendent Terry Grier came to Houston. Harris said she was not able to interview or meet all of the candidates interviewed and the community and staff played a key role in Coleman’s hiring.
One community member voiced concern at a recent school board meeting over the decision to hire Coleman, saying he was “inexperienced.”
“Come talk to me,” Coleman said. “I understand that part of the reason people may feel that way is because I am kind of unknown. And so, part of that means I have to prove myself, and I am looking forward to the challenge.”
Coleman also said he has the experience. As a special education administrator, he was in charge of more than 60 schools and 8,000 students. “My experience is varied,” he said. “For parents that are concerned about my ability to lead, I invite them to come meet with me, and I’d be happy to share my data.”
The new principal told Texas Watchdog he is glad parents and community members are showing concern over his hiring because it shows that they are willing to be involved and “that means this (Yates) is a good place to be.”
Coleman will begin his leadership role at Yates later this month, HISD said.
Have you had a chance to meet Principal Coleman? What do you think the future of Yates High School will look like? Texas Watchdog wants to hear from you. Contact Lynn Walsh, Lynn@TexasWatchdog.org, (713) 228-2850 or on Twitter, @LWalsh.
Photos of Coleman at Friday's meet-and-greet by Texas Watchdog's Lynn Walsh.