The Dallas Public Schools administration has said that Woodrow Wilson High School must “restructure,” the first mandate of this kind given to a high school in our City.

What does the mandate mean, and how much support will Woodrow receive from the district?

The answers are unclear.

To Woodrow Principal Eduardo Torres, restructuring means “starting over,” he says.

The mandate to restructure came after Woodrow was rated a low-performing school by the Texas Education Agency in both of the past two years. Woodrow received this rating in the 1994-95 school year for excessive Hispanic dropout rates and in the 1995-96 school year for high failure rates of African-American students on the math portion of the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills test.

The school must do everything it can to avoid receiving a low-performing rating a third consecutive year, Torres says.

But the school already is doing everything it can with the resources the district provides, says parent Paul Dalton, chair of Woodrow’s School Centered Education Council.

“Woodrow has been severely deprived of resources for years compared to other schools,” Dalton says. “The faculty does an outstanding job with the tools they are afforded by the district. They just need more tools.”

Dalton says Woodrow needs more computers and science equipment. Torres says Woodrow also needs more teachers.

“We are educators, and we have a problem, but we (the administrators) are not doing anything about it,” Torres says. “We are saying: Do more with less. If I had teacher power, I know I could get scores up.”

The district provides schools with one teacher for every 27 students, Torres says. But not all groups of students have the same needs or backgrounds, he says.

Many Woodrow students are economically deprived and academically unprepared. Some come to Woodrow unable to read, write, add or subtract, and special programs are needed to bring these students up to grade level, Torres says. Without additional staff, Woodrow would have to eliminate established programs to create new ones, he says.

Several faculty members, including Torres, are already at the school from early morning to late evening, Dalton says. They don’t have “15 minutes” to spare, he says.

If the restructuring effort fails, Dalton says he will blame the district, not Woodrow’s faculty. Additional district funding and teachers, however, do not appear forthcoming.

What the district has provided is a new assistant principal. The district has also allowed Torres to hand-pick his staff for this school year, an unprecedented move.

Torres was given the authority to have any of his teachers transferred to another school within the district. Torres said he made staff decisions based on the attitude and expectations teachers had for Woodrow and its students.

Of Woodrow’s 88 teaching positions, 23 changed hands this year, and about 15 of these changes were due to restructuring, Torres says.

Staffing changes have made a big difference in the school’s atmosphere, Torres says.

“It’s nice to hear the teachers talk about academic problems,” he says. “They want to do things. They want to go places.”

Woodrow has a lot to do before February, when this year’s sophomores take the TAAS test. (Performance ratings are based on sophomore test results.)

In September, teachers gave a TAAS practice test to each of the 30 African-American sophomores at the school. All 30 students failed, Torres says.

The school is offering tutoring sessions on weekday evenings and Saturdays to help students pass the TAAS, but volunteers are needed.

“It’s going to take something short of a miracle,” Torres told the SCE Council last month.

To become a tutor, call Torres at 841-5100.

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