Students and teachers fighting to keep Mendez Middle School open


This week’s Austin ISD school board meeting was full of passion, and even some tears as students, teachers and community members stood up to fight to keep the campus open.

The Texas Education Agency has Mendez Middle School on their radar after four consecutive years of not meeting the state’s academic standards. If the southeast Austin campus fails again this school year, it could be closed.

“Mendez Middle School has helped me conquer my fears,” a student told the board while holding back tears. “Mendez needs to stay because I am not the only champion in my community. Other kids need the same chances I had to show that we are not defeated — we are strong — so tonight, I stand up for Mendez!”

Austin City Council Member Delia Garza also showed up to the speak to the school board meeting, and told trustees it was the first time during her four years in office she has testified to a governing body. 

“The families in southeast Austin have faced and continue to face so many obstacles to begin with, and then families in my district do not have the luxury to choose their neighborhood based on school performance — many are just living where they can afford to live,” said Garza. “This community shouldn’t face the additional fear of their neighborhood school closing, becoming segregated or less reflective of the community.”

The district is in the process of putting together a turnaround plan which includes finding an outside entity to partner with who can help turn things around.

Austin ISD had to go back to the drawing board after receiving no applications in its recent request for proposals.

“These circumstances are a result of the annual statewide testing and it is our belief that one standardized test should not define a school,” AISD said in a statement to KXAN. “With that in mind, AISD will work diligently with the Texas Education Agency as well as the school community to keep Mendez open.”

Rene Hernandez has a seventh-grade son at Mendez and says he is feeling the added pressure of performing well on the STAAR exam, which plays a big role in a campus meeting state standards.

He has faith the state and district will make the right decisions.

“Hopefully, everything works out for the benefit of the students,” said Hernandez.

The history of Austin ISD and school closures

This is not the first time the district has been faced with a school closure, and had to overhaul campuses.

In 2008, the state closed Johnston High School in east Austin after it failed to make the cut for five years in a row. It reopened that fall as Eastside Memorial High School.

The state also closed Pearce Middle School in the summer of 2009. Austin ISD reopened the campus as two single-gender campuses: Bertha Sadler Means and Gus Garcia Middle School.    

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