That will be the new acronym for the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.
After impassioned debate, the Houston school board voted 7-2 Thursday to accept a $7.5 million gift for the district’s renowned arts high school and to rename the campus after the donors in an unprecedented move.
The Kinder Foundation, run by billionaire couple Richard and Nancy Kinder, offered the donation in exchange for calling the campus the Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. The money is supposed to help with rebuilding the school downtown, funding theater lighting and seats, a sound system, a specialized dance floor and more.
“We hope these joint and cooperative efforts preserve the long-term future of one of Houston’s most acclaimed and diverse schools and forges a new path through public/private partnership to support future HISD schools,” Rich Kinder said in a statement after the vote.
Board approval of the deal was in doubt just hours before the board meeting. Several trustees expressed frustration over the private negotiations that took place concerning the deal and questioned the fairness to other campuses in the Houston Independent School District. Board member Mike Lunceford, whose trustee district includes the arts school in its current Montrose-area location, had brought forward the proposal.
Houston school board member Rhonda Skillern-Jones, who said Monday that she was conflicted about the proposal, said Thursday that, although she thought the renaming policy needed to be strengthened, she believed the students at the arts school deserved the funding.
“I do not believe you deprive our high-performing schools of what they need to get to equity,” Skillern-Jones, who has a son attending the arts high school, said before voting with the majority to support the proposal.
Houston board member Jolanda Jones, who opposed the deal along with trustee Diana Davila, described the gift negotiations as “sneaky.”
“I find it offensive that people say if you don’t vote for this, that you don’t care about the kids. Actually I care about all the kids in HISD,” Jones said.
“It seems like HISD is like a pimp, and the schools are what they sell,” Jones added. “That was the nicest way I could think to say it.
Here’s an earlier story, from when the grant was announced, and a Chron editorial in favor of taking the cash. I’ve advocated selling ad space on school buses and school rooftops, as well as naming rights to stadiums, so I’m hardly in a position to turn my nose up at this. I’m fine with reviewing the board policy to ensure we get what we want and not what we don’t, and I absolutely want to see grants like this going to poorer and less prestigious schools, which need the money more, but neither of those concerns should have an effect on this, so I’m glad the Board voted to accept. Maybe someday when we finally fund our schools at an appropriate level this sort of thing won’t be needed, but until then, I say bring it on. The Press has more.