Letter From Woodrow High: You Call This a Gem?

When a teacher I know recently told me what it was like to substitute teach at Woodrow Wilson High, I was taken aback. Woodrow enjoys a reputation as a bright spot in DISD. That reputation didn’t jibe with the teacher’s experience. So I asked the teacher to describe in writing what happened. This is only one person’s take, but it would concern me if I had a kid at Woodrow.

My Day at Woodrow

If you have kids in school, they’ve had or will have a “sub.” And in DISD, they are the least-appreciated but very essential group of people. With a master’s degree, decades of successful teaching, years of being a mentor-teacher, I earn $90 per day before deductions. When I choose to sub, I don’t babysit; I teach.

When I saw Woodrow Wilson HS needed a sub in my elective area, I chose to accept the assignment because I’d read so much positive PR about the “Gem of DISD.” I was in for a shock.

After a lengthy wait in the office, I was released to the classroom. It turns out the teacher had retired months before and administrators decided not to hire a full-time teacher. Only substitutes had been used. They are much cheaper. The kids were rude and out of control, angry that I expected them to participate in a lesson that I happened to bring with me. Most were texting and/or listening to iPods; the rest were yelling at each other. Worse than that was the classroom itself: totally savaged, filthy, trash thrown everywhere, drawers and cabinets broken open with junk falling out. Water snaked across the floor from a broken water fountain. The ceiling was partially caved in from long-time roof leaks. There were no books, no materials, just some paper.

Kids told me they earned 100% if they did any classwork, a zero for no work, no grade in between. Who gave them a grade, with no teacher? Is there a two-tier school? I don’t know, but I saw maybe six Anglo students out of five big classes. And three of those six left the classroom (“We always go”) to practice for the musical play.

I spent two hours trying to clean the room during planning time, and piled up enough trash to fill an outside bin. A student asked, “Why did you bother? Nobody cares.” During passing time in the corridor, sagging, bagging, swearing, and electronics were rampant. District policy about such was ignored by students and adults alike.

Maybe only some electives get so totally ignored; I’m sure AP English models exemplary attention. But as a teacher, a parent, and a taxpayer, I was appalled and discouraged by my day at Woodrow. What was good about the experience? A friendly secretary, a really nice teachers’ lounge.

But DISD’s gem is made of plastic.

Citizen Sub


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72 responses to “Letter From Woodrow High: You Call This a Gem?”

  1. Daniel says:

    I knew a guy who taught 12th-grade English at Woodrow and his superiors told him not to bother assigning a novel (the very simple, short, and episodically presented Cat’s Cradle). So you can graduate from Woodrow never having read a novel. What a gem.

    After 10th grade, students should have a choice to continue academic pursuit, go to trade school, join the military, or simply drop out under the condition that they complete 100 hours of community service with legitimate employment providing an exemption.

    But that would make too much sense. Keep pretending that people to whom academic success is meaningless must succeed academically, so that academically inclined students can, God willing, ship off to college having never read a novel. Home of the brave.

  2. publicnewssense says:

    What class was this? English? And why isn’t that principal being reassigned and someone with a sense of responsibility being given the task of putting the students ahead of the budget. Oh, for goodness sake, this makes me want to cry. How can this happen? Isn’t there someone for upset parents to call? Oh, yeah, how stupid of me.

  3. Bob Loblaw says:

    My second-grader at Lakewood (feeding to Woodrow) is reading near-full-length novels, so I’m skeptical on the “not-reading” comment. And I know 2 kids who graduated from Woodrow and went to Yale. I know there are many other success stories.

    I think we all know that Woodrow has a very diverse student body,–it’s a strengh and a weakness. And even smart teenagers can act like jerks and say stupid stuff. But I’m sorry to hear of a sub having a bad time. I hope (and believe) it was a one-off matter.

  4. PR says:

    Not surprised at all. The sad thing is we all want DISD to succeed even to the point of trying to convince ourselves of it positive attributes that may or may not exist (like still thinking the Cowboys were a good team before the final Philly game — you think its true because you want it to be true).

    Mesquite ISD is going through the same issues now. Take North Mesquite for example. Residents are told it is a great school with many great kids going off and succeeding in college. That may be true — surely there are some good kids there — but to hold it up as the same school it was 20 years ago is disingenuous.

    The fact is, that despite all the hard work of the many great teachers there, and a MISD administration that is second to none, this school is struggling. With the flight from Dallas, this school is experiencing many of the same problems that schools in Pleasant Grove did 10 years ago — fights, problems with the English language, parents who don’t give a hoot, etc.

    I agree we need our public schools. The problem is that until we get serious — and that means holding parents criminally responsible for their kids actions, forcing kids to live op to their potential, not dumbing down the classrooms, and ending the practice of catering to students who don’t speak English at the expense of an entire classroom — our schools will not get better.

    Yes, let’s better fund them. Yes, let’s give them all the tools they need to succeed. yes, let’s pay our teachers more. Yes, yes, yes!

    But start making these kids responsible — and that starts with make parents responsible– and accountable.

  5. SB says:

    Not surprisingly, this is DISD we’re talking about. DISD: the school district that just can’t seem to get it right…in any regard.

    Too bad, especially given the taxing power it has and how it affects property owners (those who own our homes RENT them from Dallas County when you get down to brass tacks).

    I want a refund.

  6. SB says:

    *effects. Thanks, public schooling.

  7. Woodrow Parent says:

    My 9th grade son is in AP English at Woodrow and has read one book this year.
    As for the broken down classroom, one of my son’s is like that.
    Vail only wants to please the Lakewood parents, which is why they are starting the pompous-sounding International Baccalaureate program.
    If you are not in the “right” socio-economic demographic group, Woodrow might as well be North Dallas.

  8. Daniel says:

    Bob L,

    Of course, I failed to mention that academically inclined students have access to advanced placement courses, as well as nationally recognized magnet schools.

    But the non-reading anecdote is not apocryphal. It’s true. Presumably most of the kids in my friend’s class had not arrived at Woodrow by way of Lakewood Elementary.

  9. Daniel says:

    Woodrow Parent,

    That’s precisely what I’ve heard from other non-Lakewoodite Woodrow parents — practically to a word — but I’m not sure what that means or how it plays out. Is there a special “Lakewood Freshman AP English” class where they’ve read half-a-dozen classics, but your son was denied admittance based on his address?

  10. J Montenegro says:

    When I was there, I volunteered for a peer tutoring program where I helped teach a fellow 9th grade student how to read and write. Dude could barely write his own name and he wasn’t alone in that deficiency. That’s the Woodrow I remember.

  11. Rawlins says:

    1) It was a substitute teacher.

    2) The latest in several months of same with no continuity.

    3) Substitute teachers are wonderful to harass and / or torture. Like at DISD’s North Dallas High where I went. Like when I told the sub that her ‘chest in that sweater looks like an abandoned ski resort seen from a helicopter after an undetermined seismic event has caused unprecedented ground-level carnage on an unearthly scale’.

    Ah teenage boys. Better kept in kennels.

  12. towski says:

    Does this mean the DMN’s reporting on DISD will be greeted differently here at FB, now that we have been given anecdotal evidence?

  13. Biff Tannen says:

    Only six Anglos? I’m surprised you survived with those animals!!

    You poor, poor “teacher.”

  14. towski says:

    Why does this whole thing read like one of those viral emails that goes around, usually forwarded by my relatives in Oklahoma, that ends up on Snopes?

  15. Rawlins says:

    If you really want to drive blog traffic—add the ‘rumor’ that a Dallas Police officer accosted this subbing teacher, pulling her car over when she was leaving Woodrow, brandishing a gun yelling because his son (who goes to Woodrow and is Captain of the football team and an Anglo Valedictorian) was prohibited by the substitute teacher from attending an after-school prayer service in the detention hall.

  16. All across East Dallas, in WWHS homes, word documents labeled “shocked and appalled” are being opened, dates being updated, and names plugged into the few blanks.

  17. Then there’s the one lady who has it as a macro.

  18. Daniel says:

    “Feces littered the hallways … armed thugs roamed with impunity, stubbing out their ciggies on the obnoxious heaps … in the squalid shadows, six Anglos engaged in musical play … but the teachers lounge had a flat-screen, a make-you-own-waffles station (they were pretty good waffles!) and a geisha girl they called Lily.”

  19. PR says:

    Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!

  20. VJ says:

    @Daniel: Who are you quoting?

  21. PR says:

    In the future, crime is out of control and Woodrow Wilson High is a maximum security prison. Grabbing a bargaining chip right out of the air, convicts bring down the President’s plane in bad old East Dallas. Gruff Snake Plissken, a one-eyed substitute teacher new to prison life, is coerced into bringing the President, and his cargo, out of this land of undesirables.

    Somehow that night on the 10PM news, ignoring the Woodrow story, Brett Shipp’s lead story is that 2 seats at the Cowboys 20-year old stadium are still not sold.

  22. Daniel says:

    It’s from the must-read expose Inside Belo by Derek Gumby.

  23. Rod Dreher says:

    @Trey: Heh, heh.

  24. elbow says:

    Give me a break. It was like this at Nimitz Irving, too. Jeez, people got shot at that school and burned down the auditorium, but if you were in all-AP classes, you didn’t have to associate with the riff raff that did that sort of thing. The key was to practically run to your next class and not loiter in the hallway. Don’t want to be in the way of the next bullet, dontchaknow.

  25. Ferny says:

    While your experience is deplorable I will have to say as one who has substituted before and has substituted as a long-term sub it’s just as bad at other ‘gem’ schools in other districts.

    Kids treat subs like crap, always have, always will.

    Just because a sub’s pay is less than that of a teacher isn’t the reason the teacher hasn’t been replaced. Funds to pay teachers are in a certain line code and can’t be moved to pay for anything else. If you move it, you loose it. So not replacing the teacher would not benefit the school monetarily. Must have been some other reason . . .

  26. Woodrow Parent says:

    I guess I wasn’t clear. I am an Anglo Lakewood parent. My son is in the “right” socio-economic group.

  27. elbow says:

    Right, and I am not in the “right” socio-economic group and I worked my ass off in AP Bio 2 (and the like) and barely passed. I did everything I could to stay out of regulars classes, even if it meant a lower GPA. But that was 10 years ago–I’m sure it is very different now.

  28. fred says:

    There’s a teacher who has a dispute with the principal who keeps putting charges like this on the blogs – I wouldn’t pay too much attention to it..also there is an anglo parent (jealous of Lakewood parents for some reason – not all are rich and white) who went off during the presentation on IB and started calling the media claiming elitism.

    Unsubstantiated pap

  29. Unsubstantiated pap

    Truth in labeling?

  30. fred says:

    Well Trey I guess a real reporter would go visit the campus before making flippant glee over this.

    That goes for you too Dreher.


  31. Peterk says:

    “one lady who has it as a macro.”

    or better yet has it tied to a database so they can just modify on the fly

    the only way we will ever know what WW is really like is to fill the halls and classrooms with video cameras and put the feeds live on the internets. but even then the true believers will say that what they rest see is only special effects

  32. Joy Brock says:

    I am a white “Lakewood” parent in the right socio-economic class. My daughter is a senior at Woodrow. She is on the honor roll and takes AP classes. The books she has read this year in AP English class are Catch 22, Confederacy of Dunces, Othello, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Awakening, Their Eyes Were Watching God…. So don’t say they

    More than half of the student population take AP classes.

    If Woodrow Parent’s son is in 9th grade, he is not taking AP English. Maybe pre-ap???

    All DISD high schools will be redesigned. Woodrow took the initiative to do it early. Yes, the IB will be a great attraction to parents and students; however, a student can attend Woodrow and NOT be in the IB program. Geez!

    It sounds like the sub was in the art room. It is an old school with leaks, tired worn tiles and ancient bathrooms, but it’s still a gem. And we still have our fair share of the rif raf, but that’s life, man. My daughter is friends with all colors, gangbangers and geeks. (I envision Rod Dreher biting fingernails at the thought of this)

    Come see the Woodrow parade on April 25. I believe Carroll Shelby will be there. Yes, that Carroll Shelby.

  33. citizen sub says:

    Hey fred; I’m the teacher who wrote it. I don’t know the principal, never saw the principal, have never put a “charge” on blogs. I described my experience because I have hopes that it could instigate change. Watch out about you label “pap.”

  34. I’m picturing citizen sub surrounded by WW parents all pointing and moaning at him like Donald Sutherland in the last five seconds of Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

  35. citizen sub says:

    Sorry. I left out the word “what” – it’s “what you label pap.”

  36. Cathy says:

    While the semi-humorous remarks and inside jokes may entertain a few, it only temporarily deflects the concern we all should have about the state of “education” in this country. Unless parents can afford the luxury of a private school or such “public” schools as Highland Park, most kids (even if they want it) have less than adequate access to an education that will allow for a decent future. If you are a parent of a school age child or a citizen whose future depends on the next generation of kids to run this country, become aware of the immediate needs of the present system and work to upgrade it.
    I reply as a second generation WWW graduate, a substitute teacher, and a scorer for the TAKS (which gives me a present day snapshot of the horrific inadequacies of the public school systems all over Texas).

  37. RT says:

    “citizen sub” so you chose to air your thoughts publicly and anonymously rather than seeking out the principal or trying to determine if yours was an unusual or normal state of affairs in the classroom?

    Since you do not sign your name or name or give us any other background about the class subject, who substituted before, etc..how can we really take you seriously?

    So the fact that you aren’t comfortable with being around minorities and you let them and the “Anglo” kids con you doesn’t mean that Woodrow is in dire straits. Maybe you aren’t cut out for the place.

    I would say most Woodrow kids would know how to handle the situation better than you. It’s not Highland Park, thank God.

    Woodrow is a kaleidoscope of contrasts and contradictions which may appear to be chaos to outsiders with cursory or no actual experience within the school.

    I ask that you detractors attend the musical April 16-19, or the school’s 80th anniversary celebration on April 25th to witness first-hand the alchemy produced from such “savaged” classrooms.

  38. Oh Yeah says:

    Good luck seeking out the principal. She is too busy meeting with the anglo parents and partying with downtown people. She doesn’t have time to protect students against child predators.

  39. Arden says:

    The cynicism here astounds me. Snide, snippy remarks are going to accompany every post about DISD, Woodrow, the newspaper. It’s as if everyone wants the institutions to fail. And then what would you blog about? The teacher’s letter is disturbing. Woodrow parents should demand answers from the principal about this class and the conditions. But the rest of you need hearts and lives!

  40. Cathy says:

    bravo, Arden…

  41. RT says:

    It did not take much effort to learn that the “citizen sub” was in art classes which the revered Mr. Chapa taught for 25 years before his retirement this spring. I suppose I could “out” the poster but I wouldn’t want the poor person to be afraid of us East Dallas ruffians who don’t respect that “master’s degree”.

    Apparently that degree did not guarantee any skills in reading and carrying out the school’s policy on electronic devices nor any of the instructions for substitutes given by by the front office (which include reporting violations and complaints). It certainly did not impart any deftness in handling students who can spot an inner-city neophyte at a glance.

    Yes Arden, Dreher and Garrison want to make the school look bad to validate the strange choices they have made for their children based upon their own peculiar prejudices.

    As far as I know they have never stepped over the Tennessee marble thresholds at 100 S. Glasgow but the “professional writers” have written several critical items regarding what is inside.

  42. Sandra says:

    If you’re calling the Caucasian kids Anglos–why not just call them “gabachos”, you’re saying the same thing–you’ve already lost the battle. Respect for all begins in the home and needs to be taught there first. Sorry, you’re not doing it, you’re just parroting and acting out the stereotypes handed to you by popular culture. No wonder your kids see right through you, ignore you, and just go with their own pop cultural impulses instead. That’s what you’ve taught them to do.

  43. Samsung says:

    What happened to that teacher who got arrested for sexual relationship with student? Did parents receive a letter from the principal about the dangerous adults she hired?

  44. Woodrow Alumni says:

    I am sorry this sub had a bad experience but there are problems in every high school in America. There are many wonderful things about Woodrow Wilson.

  45. LakeWWWooder says:

    Gosh, gone for a day or two and I miss all the excitement: Ersatz Escalante Eviscerated by East Dallas Locos!

    I see that popped some monocles on your bubble-based blog.

    However can those recent Woodrow grads graduate from Yale or Princeton, prepare your taxes, fix your pipes or even trim your hedge just the way you like?

    Newsweek must be all-wet to rank Woodrow above McKinney, Allen, Richardson and Plano East! Oh well, that’s the east side.

    Perhaps I can offer a translation of what my fellow Wildcats saw for the Ivory Snow set:

    “Tiffany” wants to be on the board of your non-profit. Her hubby has made a small fortune in manufacturing. Smelling fresh meat, the old line coaxes her into writing a large check she probably can’t afford then hangs her with clean-up duties after the gala.

    The sub must have been raised in a “yes Miss Landers” world but I hope a taste of the real one will forge a better future for the poor fellow.

  46. your humble servant says:

    A retired teacher from Hillcrest goes to Woodrow for a day to gather material for a hatchet job on the old rival Wildcats which have now eclipsed the Panthers. Shocking!

  47. citizen sub says:

    humble servant, thanks for the LOL!

  48. Woodrow Mom says:

    My son attends Woodrow. He is in the AP track. My husband and I rarely hear from his teachers and NEVER from Principal Vail.

    The place is full of gang activity and drugs. No Woodrow is no gem and neither is the principal.

  49. Wildcat Parent says:

    Woodrow Mom:
    Why don’t YOU contact your son’s teachers or Mrs. Vail, if you need to talk to them.

    Woodrow is not full of gang activity and drugs. If you’re not happy, why don’t you find another school.

  50. fred says:

    I thought the charge was that Mrs. Vail only tries to please or talks to the AP parents. Get your story straight, anonymous Woodrow Mom (who posts on every blog, sometimes posing as a teacher). Maybe she’s really a jealous Hillcrest Mom. Who knows? Frontburner specializes in letting accusers remain anonymous.

  51. A Woodrow Student says:

    This sub was in the art room where giving critical grades on art work is not really an option since it’s . . .art and therefore open to interpretation. But that’s not the point. Don’t you think that maybe we the students are not completely to blame? Yesterday I had a substitute in an AP class who was unable to read the lesson plan correctly (since it is apparently difficult) and didn’t bother to listen to us when we told her that we knew our assignment. Now I understand that a substitute might be skeptical of students that say they know what to do, but when you are unable to understand a lesson plan, it doesn’t give you much ground to stand on when it comes to education expertise. Did you not consider the fact that what you had planned to teach may not have been what they had been learning at all this year? When we see a substitute waltz in with their own agenda and just ignores our teacher’s plans, we see the substitute as disrespectful to not only us but our teacher.
    And before you make generalizations about the student body at Woodrow, citizens sub, maybe you need to take a stroll around the school and realize that just how many smart and talented kids there are. Just because your one bad experience doesn’t reach your “standards” doesn’t mean the school is on the verge of chaos.
    And by the way, do you really believe teenage rowdiness is something new?

  52. ZoomZoom says:

    The teacher arrested is I think now fired. We had a sub last week in 3rd period but he just read the newspaper and kept us quiet but he let us play cards and listen to our ipod. Now Ms Escanilla allow Ipods no more because students are abusing and texting stuff so we’re all scared to get it out of our pockets. Then she came to our class today and we all froze like zombies because she’s so strict about phones and ipods she just wants us to study all the time and disses me in her office when I got a failure notice. scares the hell out of me but i like her because she always says good morning in the hallways and she knows my name. I love Woodrow because we always do things in class like in Biology and Algebra and we talk a lot of things in Mr. Broyle’s class. He was a sub when our teacher got fired by the principal but now he’s a fun teacher. So peace out to all haters at Woodrow.

  53. Digsivu - WW Parent says:

    I tried mu daughter out there for her sophmore year and half her junior year. She went in on the AP track and quite/calm normal girl. I pulled her after having to visit the school and Vail and others and getting very little response from any of the faculty. It was a nightmare. On the plus side, she found the pot crowd, dropped all her AP stuff and has her eybrow peirced.

    She now attends a school of my choosing in Telluride, CO.

    When I asked for help from the staff I heard a lot of “She can pick the gangsters or the good kids.” But they were absolutely no help in guiding her through the 3500 gangster wannnabe’s to the 300 or so “good kids.”

    thanks for letting me vent.
    -anglo right side of the tracks dad.

  54. LakewoodBlue says:

    There’s a handful of teachers, staff, and two administrators that are very helpful and dedicated to the education of students at Woodrow. Unfortunately, the principal is not one of them. Mrs. Vail, if you are reading this blog, open your eyes and heart to what is going on at your school.

    And to all WW parents who said there is no gang and drug activities, request for police reports for 75214 and you will see the real answer. Both Mrs. Vail and most right-side tracks parents are in denial.

  55. RT says:

    Sorry but I would tend to doubt posts which place enrollment at 3,800. It’s around 1,400 with about 400 of those being transfers in from low-perfoming schools. They will be replaced over the next couple of years with transfers in for IB.

    But I suppose that will be also rallying point of contention for those who want to dengirate the most-loved school in Dallas.

  56. Ferny says:

    Just go visit the school. Call the principal’s office let them know you’re a community member and would like to find out more about the school. Ask them to meet with a staff member who can show you the school and answet whatever questions you might have.

    See for yourself. Woodrow, it’s a fantastic school, it will be well worth your time.

  57. Wildcat Parent says:

    @Digsivu: It’s Ms. Vail’s fault that your daughter found the pot crowd? I could find the pot crowd in the middle of a Baptist convention if that is what I was looking for.
    They are absolutely right that she could pick the good kids or the bad. It’s YOUR job to help her with that. It’s YOUR job to tell her no to piercing. It’s YOUR job to be a parent, or is it EASIER to send her off and let someone else do YOUR job.

  58. Stillwaggin' says:

    I’m a graduate of Woodrow and it’s still basically the same school which I attended and loved. Yes it can be a very mixed bag but most are missing the point – THIS IS AN INCREDIBLE ASSET.

    Some are trying to justify their racism by saying it’s a bad school. It’s a great school, one of the best and most unique in the world. It takes some people a few years to realize this. The social crucible is as important (if not more so) as the academics.

    Yes, I am white and went to Lakewood Elementary but my father had a modest job. Thanks to being exposed to old money, new money and NO money my family learned how to be frugal and become financially independent.

    Many of my friends were from the wrong side of the tracks and they wear that label proudly. When Woodrow celebrates its 80th anniversary on April 25th and inducts a new hall of fame you will see that many of the successful came from that side.

    I had friends of all colors, incomes persuasions and morals and I am a better person for it – they are still my friends. I imagine that is frightening to some insecure parents.

    I am none the worse for wear academically as I have earned two degrees (so far) from a prestigous private college.

    Woodrow IS a gem and it has many facets.

  59. Stillwaggin' says:

    I’m a graduate of Woodrow and it’s still basically the same school which I attended and loved. Yes it can be a very mixed bag but most are missing the point – THIS IS AN INCREDIBLE ASSET.

    Some are trying to justify their racism by saying it’s a bad school. It’s a great school, one of the best and most unique in the world. It takes some people a few years to realize this. The social crucible is as important (if not more so) as the academics.

    Yes, I am white and went to Lakewood Elementary but my father has a relatively modest job. Thanks to being exposed to old money, new money and NO money my family learned how to be frugal and become financially independent.

    Many of my friends were from the wrong side of the tracks and they wear that label proudly. When Woodrow celebrates its 80th anniversary on April 25th and inducts a new hall of fame you will see that many of the successful came from that side.

    I had friends of all colors, incomes persuasions and morals and I am a better person for it – they are still my friends. I imagine that is frightening to some insecure parents.

    I am none the worse for wear academically as I have earned two degrees (so far) from a prestigous private college.

    Woodrow IS a gem and it has many facets.

  60. woodrow07 says:

    Although I may not have as much life experience as some of the posters on here my 4 years at woodrow were the best of my life thus far, easily. Stillwaggin’ has got it about right I would say. For the parents out there complaining about the school, I feel bad for you. No Mrs. Vail is not a great principal, and there are a number of teachers who are more or less uninterested which is a shame. The place may just be a little too real for some parents…that is also a shame. How many second and third and fourth generation wildcats do there need to be before outsiders realize there is a great benefit to the school even if it doesn’t look quite like an HP or a Plano (thank the lord) and I am quite certain that the benefits I got from attending woodrow i could not have gotten at ANY OTHER SCHOOL in the entire metroplex or as far as i can tell anywhere else. i’m sure this won’t change anybodies mind on the subject, some people just have bad experiences, but the majority of the people I know who went to woodrow or go to woodrow absolutely love it, and there are a great number like me who wouldn’t trade our time there for anything

  61. Woodrow2009 says:

    Now you’re talking, woodrow07. I guess we have the same little experience in life although I’m still at Woodrow right now waiting to graduate in May. I say the last two years have been the most rewarding years for me at Woodrow. My freshman and sophomore years were so boring because there was nothing much to get interested in. I was hooked with the wrong crowd and got rescued by my caring counselor Ms. Mathis. I took a verbal beating from her but it was all worth it. Coach Wallace helped me get into Reconnect to gain two failed credits in 10th grade. I was constantly reminded by Mrs. Escanilla to get good grades and to stay out of trouble. She paid for my AP test last year, thank God I passed. Mr. Crabb helped me get a job in the work program so now I earn some money to buy clothes and for some spending money. Others who inspired me are Mrs. Castaneda, Mr. Gibbens, Mrs. Harbaugh, and Mr. Bustos. These people did not give up on me even if society branded me as someone in the ‘wrong track’. I am going to graduate and I never felt so proud of myself to have accomplished what other members of my family have not done. I am determined to get a college education though it may take more than 4 years to finish a degree because I have to support my family.

    Who says that there are no caring teachers at Woodrow? I hope people will realize that the success of a school is not all about the number of AP courses students take, or the principal of the school, or the crowd that we hang out with, or how strong the support of parents and alumni although they all contribute. Put altogether the care and respect that are in the hearts of teachers and administrators and that’s what makes Woodrow shine from the rest. Woodrow has no secret for its success. Every school can copy what Woodrow has. The problem is, they choose not to.

  62. another woodrow mom says:

    My non-Lakewood son graduated from WWHS a few years ago, having attending a private school though 8th grade. He graduated from UT in 4 yrs, although it was a very tough school for him. That he got in, that he graduated, is due to a few gifted teachers over 12+ years, involved parents and his own (still-evolving) maturity. Woodrow was a huge factor in his development. He did not learn to his parents’ standards in all subjects, but he did in some. He was able to participate in sports and the arts, and excel in both because of the small enrollment. Being a big fish in a small pond created a hugely self-confident young adult, and Woodrow offers all its students that opportunity via multiple avenues. No matter your color, no matter your zip code. The school is sorely lacking in updated equipment and facilities, but parents, alumni, the community and the overworked, caring teachers make up for these shortcomings as best we can. It takes a village, and that is WWHS. And it also takes parents who sacrifice their own precious free time and get out of their comfort zones to take on the very hard second job of raising a child. Good teachers contribute to that goal, of course. But it should be the parents’ main job in life. If things don’t work out, more often than not it’s due to poor parenting, not poor schooling. No one school is perfect for every child. Figure it out and do what’s best for your kid. But just because it didn’t work for your kid doesn’t make Woodrow a failure. There are way too many remarkable success stories over the last 80 years that prove otherwise.

  63. e.b. says:

    I am one of those kids who had parents who made me go to private school and not Woodrow. I regret that decision.

    My kids are in Long and will be at Woodrow soon. My cousins went to/ are going to Woodrow and I have two nephews who recently graduated.

    It’s a wonderful place that is without peers in Texas. The close feelings and camaraderie shared by those at the school sometimes incites jealousy. I know I am jealous sometimes of the kids my age who went there while I was sequestered in a not-so-great private school.

  64. Woodrow 09 too says:

    I think I know you Woodrow2009. We were in Ms. Hunt’s class when you got so mad at Ms. Escanilla coz Mrs. Harbaugh wrote you a referral and you have to do community service with Mrs. Harbaugh. She worked your tail off now Mrs. Harbaugh is your hero. I guess she talked to you for hours while you were cleaning her tables and you kinda tune her out but really she got you listening. Haha! I’m glad it worked out for you. But yeah she is a sweet old lady you have to respect her like you do with your grandma. Wish I can say that with Ms. Barber. No way. She is a very loud teacher her country voice is the loudest in the whole universe. Wear earplugs if you are in her class. Seriously, Woodrow is a really nice school you need to come and study there to believe it. Seniors have their own courtyard and fun activities and the teachers are so easy to get along with. My best teachers are Mr. Benavidez, Ms. Hendrixe, Mrs. Sanchez, Mr. Evett, and Coach Chavez.

  65. El Gran Rogelio says:

    I stumbled upon this article while doing some searching for a fellow graduate, and both the column and the commentary are insightful, in spite of themselves.

    I see little different with Woodrow, in many ways, in the 24 years since I graduated. Add MP3 players and cellular telephones to the mix, and it’s pretty much the same. There’s a small cabal of relatively wealthy white elitists — perhaps liberal now, whereas they were conservative before — but self-righteous elitist ignoramuses nonetheless. Heads in sand, they toot endless streams of mindless, rah-rah-Wildcat boosterism while abjectly ignorant of reality. To these sorry clowns, hell hath no place sufficiently toasty for anyone who dares denigrate the tiniest smidgen of Woodrow life, apparently. Get real.

    I see the infrastructure still is crumbling. That’s nothing new. [Wonder if the pigeons on the upstairs ledges still carry parrot fever?] Maybe the patchwork in the plumbing still is there after my buddy Fish snuck out to the restroom and flushed a chunk of sodium down the toilet while Mrs. Evans was away. Perhaps that’s the source of the leak about which the sub complained, nearly a quarter century gone by.

    There’s a fantastic musical and performing arts program, as there was with Mrs. Bircher. I know minorities are allowed, and flourish, as was the case then, and as I see them in photographs today. Outstanding.

    By contrast, gangbangers of both genders abound (back then it was Las Homies, Los Vatos Locos, etc.). A quarter century later, and the place still is segregated by cliques of jocks, Lakewood preps, gangbangers, nerds, and the unclassifiable detritus of leftover misfits (i.e., me).

    Jocks get all the hottest chicks. That wasn’t mentioned here but still surely is the case. The football and hoops teams are far better now than then despite not having Tim Brown thereon.

    The poor whites and non-banging minorities were a segment of school society all to themselves in a tiny little corner, belonging to no other group except ourselves. Yes, that was a first-person collective. I came from the wrong side of the tracks and was repulsed by both the dripping arrogance of the rich, lily-white Lakewood crowd and the easy-way-out slacking and banging of the motivationally bereft minority-majority, who seemed to pride themselves on their ability to malfunction academically. Looks much the same now, eh?

    From the outside, the architecture remains as splendid and classical as ever, a true work of art constructed by people who clearly cared about their job.

    A small but outstanding group of kids — really good kids, driven to excel, props up the test scores and participates in the activities, while the rest wallow in the sediment, choosing to fail, yet blaming teachers, parents and society for their own shortcomings. That’s nothing new either.

    I got a good education there — good, not great, and I made well of it. I guess it was worth my while. It wasn’t the TAG magnet, for sure, and it hardly ever challenged me, but it sufficed. At least there are more AP offerings these days.

    Last but not least, the kids themselves (and many of the alumni, apparently) continue to exhibit absolutely appalling writing skills. Yes, that means you, Woodrow07, Woodrow09, RT. Learn how to compose words and sentences intelligently before embarrassing yourselves in public as you did in these comments. I won’t blame Woodrow for your wretched level of education, because it’s up to *you* to succeed, not your teachers.

    In the end, it’s ***just a school*** — not as special as the boosters portray, not as primitive and life-threatening as the detractors claim. It’s simply another inner city school, a mosaic of all that comes with the territory. Don’t make it out to be more or less than it is, or has been since the 80s.

    The more things change…

  66. woodrow07 says:

    your completely unnecessary ad hominem attack on myself and a couple other posters makes me disregard the rest of your post which was, on the whole, pretentious, uninformative, bitter, and lacking any real insight. i generally have the restraint not to respond to random internet babble like the kind you’ve decided to post above, but you really have no idea what you’re talking about when you refer to me personally, so, as we would say at woodrow: KEEP MY NAME OUT YO MOUF

    oh and i learned “ad hominem” at woodrow. apparently you weren’t one of the “small but outstanding group of kids” who helped buffer the school’s test scores or you might take a different approach to rhetoric instead of spewing substanceless garbage. thanks mcghee!

  67. Observer says:

    El Gran,

    Glad we could be here for the therapy session. Seems like some folks never get over being the outcast in high school. (Why do I get the sense you’re still the outcast?) If the Woodrow “elite” intimidated you, you should be grateful you never had to darken the door of a private school. Rumor has it they have some really rich folks there. Even jocks. Of course, had you gone to one of those finer institutions, you might have learned to write even better — something you seem to care a great deal about(by the way, I think these students expressed themselves quite well and I commend them for caring enough to weigh in). Although it is apparent you consider yourself quite the writer (how long did it take you to craft the oh-so-colorful and clever commentary?), it seems there are a few errors in your post. Think dangling modifiers. Subject – verb agreement. Yep, they’re there. But, hey, I don’t want to be judgmental — I’ll leave that up to you. Perhaps you can find your errors — perhaps, even the errors of your attacking, pompous way. Oh, all of this dashing reminds me. In the fourth paragraph up from the bottom of your post, you misused the dash. It should read: “…good — not great — and I made well of it.” It takes two dashes to effect the parenthetical; otherwise, it just looks …embarrassing.

  68. Boy Loco says:

    Yeah that was mean El Gran Rogelio. We’re not applying for a job here why worry about grammar and all that. Shoot, my English teacher is better than you. So, like Woodrow is a really nice school if you know what I’m talking about. We just have to get rid of some mean kids who are so loud in the halls. Mrs. Vail should hire teachers who are older and have control of the class cuz if they’re young and kinda hot the girls will go crazy with them not that the boys get jealous. The teacher who got fired is a loser for thinking crazy about the girls not his age. That is sick. I have two pretty teachers now in my classes but they’re like very strict and they don’t smile at all , well sometimes, and don’t want us near their desks. I think the older teachers get more respect but if the sub is old they don’t do a thing cuz maybe they’re tired already. So the solution is hire teachers and subs in the middle age. That’s just my opinion. You better not say anything about my opinion, El Gran Rogelio!

  69. El Gran Rogelio says:

    Well, isn’t this precious. It seems that two people got excessively annoyed by a post that was rather innocuous by my standards. Outstanding!

    A respected graduate school educator once told me, “If you write a polemic that didn’t piss off anybody, you’ve failed.” Given the variably articulate and invariably hypocritical nature of the two responses so far, each being rather thin-skinned, incredibly hypersensitive and ignorant of the positives I cited, I’ll treat my success as a shining badge of honor. If my post offended them, I’ve done something right!

    Get out that dictionary again; and please, Woodrow07, learn the location of the “SHIFT” key on your keyboard! Oh, I used your handle, silly me. I’m using Loco Boy’s too. Quaking with fear, I await my horrifying floggings. [ROTFLMAO]

    A few salient tidbits…

    Loco Boy and Observer, get this straight. Nothing and no one ever has “intimidated” me. Without unnecessary and overly tangential elaboration, let’s suffice to say that I was not picked on our “outcast” at Woodrow or any other school. Nor have I been since. I chose my status; it wasn’t chosen for me. I was in full control of my fate then, and remain so today. No one else dictated my terms. In fact, contrary to apparent impressions herein, I got along quite well with classmates. That is, I befriended those who were open-minded, intelligent, strongly motivated, diligent academically, responsible, uncontaminated by pop-cultural mores, and stridently self-disciplined. Sadly, I report that such a combination of attributes described perhaps four kids, at most. Those kids are successful achievers today, despite their meager economic backgrounds.

    As for “bitter” or “pompous” or “mean”, hardly. Try “amused” instead. I stand here on the sidelines of the stupidity and ignorance that plagues most forms of media and discourse thereabouts, casually observing the lunacy and irrationality of all manner of society, lords and scum alike, occasionally offering commentary through variegated fora. This is, as always, entirely by my own choice and nobody else’s. It beats the role of a participant, and certainly did in high school. It is why I’ve never done drugs, and never will, nor have I ever consumed alcohol. Contrast this with any given random sample of kids at Woodrow, past or present.

    It was, and apparently still is, a good school for some. Such is the case with any given edifice of education among the thousands whose variegated architecture and manicured campuses liberally sprinkle the landscape of this nation, from abject inner cities to towns with names like Knob Noster, Missouri. Woodrow isn’t that special, and little has changed. This apparently applies to the old “Hot for Teacher” concept among some students, too. Loco is right about one thing: It most certainly seems as if Mrs. Vail should hire more authoritarian teachers.

    Amuse me some more. Bring it on, members of the “Woodrow as Ninth Wonder of the World” peanut gallery. I’ll check again sometime.

  70. El Gran Rogelio says:

    Let’s see who is the first to pass a little test I deliberately embedded in the last post. I’ll give the lucky winner a figurative sticky star.

    In the meantime, I’m rather bored here at the dentist’s office, so I’ll offer additional enlightenment before scooting off to the world of molar sealants, gritty cleaning paste and voluptuous blond dental assistants scolding me for insufficient flossing.


    Meanwhile, Woodrow07/09 and Loco Boy and all other students who read this: I shall offer you a life lesson, one to read, one you need, one to heed, and at least as valuable as anything in the classroom.

    Pay attention, because as a fellow Woodrow alumnus, I’m trying to help you. Call it “tough love”. You absolutely, positively *do* need to show writing skills worthy of a job interview, anytime and everywhere. Prospective employers aren’t entirely morons. Reputable, well-paying employers should and sometimes will look up your posts online, for as many years back as they appear, under any alias with which you could be associated. I would, and I have. Why? Easy. I want nothing but top-notch work ethic, highly motivated people who are genuine, creative, smart, undeterred by adversity, driven by a passionate, unbridled ethic of excellence that is extraordinarily rare to find in this world of spoiled slackers.

    What you type here and everywhere else online (including the likes of Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, etc.) is available to future employers, is fair game, and will be for as long as these fora exist. Showing a fundamental lack of understanding of basic spelling, punctuation and capitalization makes *you* look like a moron, like it or not. Such inattention to detail will earn you nothing more ambitious than sweeping floors at the local YMCA, or resentfully hacking loogies into the mushroom burgers you’re preparing in your dead-end job at the corner Jack-in-the-Crack. Moreover, failing to compose your thoughts as if it is a “job interview” is a lazy approach. Practice skillful, creative composition in all media, understanding that anything you type can and will be used against you in a job interview.

    Think about how you would respond when your desired employer slaps one or three of your online posts onto the desk before you and says, “I looked these up, and they’re yours. I am not impressed. Convince me you’re better than this in the next five minutes, or I’ll have you on the next DART bus back where you came from.”

    That’s reality. Welcome to it. And grow a much thicker skin that you’ve displayed here; you’ll need it. Adults like “Observer” (who, by the way, could use a refresher course in English composition) clearly haven’t learned this concept yet, but it’s not too late for you.


    Finally, I propose that the writer of the story responsible for this thread, Tim Rogers, should chime in. I’m calling him out. His story was largely ill-informed pap, sloppily written and clearly researched with only superficial effort and selective agenda. I’ll even stand here, flapping my arms and clucking like a chicken if it will goad him into daring discuss his story with me, right here and in public. I bet a beef burger at the Blue Goose that he won’t.

    Sure, as it the case in most news fora, the bulk of the material that has been posted here in response to Rogers’ column is mindless boosterism, marginally literate waste and/or tangential rubbish, unworthy of the discussion of the issue at hand. No more. Mr. Rogers, welcome to my neighborhood. I’ll see your deuce and raise you a King. Defend yourself, now.

    Have you (not “Citizen Sub, but you, personally) set foot in Woodrow for more than twenty minutes? Did you bother to interview the handful of truly devoted and excellent educators that Woodrow (like any other school) surely employs? Clearly not. For as lame as the commenters have been, your story was almost as useless. Cherry-pick an inexperienced, disgruntled and frustrated sub straight off a single bad day, however representative or unrepresentative her experience of the school at large, and of course Woodrow will come across as a snakepit infested with the hissing vermin of youthful society. Maybe large segments of it are like that. Whither the rest?

    Mr. Rogers, you probably would go to the Ouachita Mountains of Arkansas, fail to recognize a flyspeck of the natural beauty in all quadrants, and focus instead on some toothless meth-cooking hillbilly hunting for Bigfoot when not aimlessly adrift in a narco-haze, in a slanted portrayal of a backwoods hellhole.

    See, unlike your superficial and lackadaisical effort, and unlike the bulk of respondents who clearly need to cast aside their rose-colored glasses, I’m fair and balanced.

    Once again, I’ll offer that Woodrow was, and remains, nothing too special, and nothing horribly bad either. It was and is a quilt of both diligent and horrible students and teachers, the two extremes dichotomously segregated from one another except where forced to intermingle, with a large number of slackers and/or brown-nosers scattered amid the spectrum. This is the average American public school. If Tim Rogers were correct, excellence wouldn’t exist there; yet it does, and has, for decades. It is clear that the Dallas Observer’s employment standard for its writers is disgracefully low. Tim, you fail.

    And yet, and yet… If the rose-colored boosters were correct, Woodrow would be a lovable little neighborhood school gleaming on the hill with hallways of gold and silver-plated water fountains, only the most minuscule of warts or blemishes here or there. Get real. Those warts are, in truth, malignant tumors in the form of thumb-texting slackers, gangbanging blowhards and materialistic Lakewood kids driving shiny four-wheel drive vehicles that never have seen a single off-road trail. The entire lot could use a serious attitude adjustment.

    I feel most sorry for the very tiny minority super-smart kids who actually use their big brains, busting the grindstone, refraining from involvement with the petty cliques, pop-cultural garbage and potheads. They, having been educated to the lowest common denominator, yet somehow still being gifted with 3.5-4.0 GPAs by overly generous educators deathly afraid to impart real rigor to their curricula, will leave Woodrow better equipped than their peers, but still ill-prepared in an absolute sense, for the challenges of university and beyond.

    Ta ta! Back to your regularly scheduled, grammatically bereft screed…

  71. Boy Loco says:

    One thing I learned from my teacher was to stay on topic when making a commentary about an issue. Obviously, Rogelio can’t do that. Instead, he picks on students like me. I think he was picked on some bullies when he was a student at Woodrow so now he is lashing out on students he can bully, at least on the internet. His blogs give us a real perspective on how traumatic it is for students to be bullied in high school. I feel so sorry for you, Rogelio. Get some help to get over your bad experience. See a psychiatrist. The medical center located at Woodrow parking lot is open 5 days a week, and it’s free.