Sunday, July 27, 2008

Irma Lerma

I get a lot of questions about the all-girls school to which I drive. Most folks in Dallas are unaware that such an animal even exists.

It's called "Rangel" but the official name is (ready?) "The Irma Lerma Rangel Young Women's Leadership School at Chappie James". Miss Irma was an attorney and state legislator from south Texas. The school was established about five or six years ago and will have its first senior class ever this upcoming school year. There were 28 girls in the original class and 21 of them have stayed with the program and are seniors. The numbers per grade increase as you go down the ladder. The lowest grade is the 6th.

The prospective students have to jump through all sorts of hoops to get accepted, including essay-writing and an extensive interview. Naturally, they have to have the grades and test scores just to get a foot in the door. What are the benefits? How 'bout no boys, for starters. Having loitered around the school now since February, I can tell you that serious instruction with little or no distractions is the norm. The curriculum is tough. Each student is issued a laptop. I can vouch for the fact that these girls carry books home every night and seem to constantly be working on projects.

Here's the best perk of all: all girls who stay with the school and graduate qualify for a college scholarship to the tune of 12K/year. To keep the scholarship they must maintain a 3.0 GPA. One semester below that and they lose the scholarship. This money isn't DISD money. The school employs a couple of folks who are money solicitors...talking to corporations and foundations and raising the funds.

It's one impressive place. Having spent 36 years in the district and seeing mostly the grimy underbelly of urban education, this school is a breath of fresh air. The girls, for the most part, are mature and serious. I said "for the most part" because I had a couple of silly 6th graders on my bus this year that I don't think had the necessary attitude and approach and will probably not be around much longer. It was cool this year having passengers on my bus who were actually discussing what they had learned at school that day...unbelievable! I know one thing...I never want to drive for any other school. I finally reached nirvana.

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