River Oaks Elementary School (Houston)
River Oaks Elementary School is a magnet Vanguard school for the Houston Independent School District. It is located in the River Oaks neighborhood of Houston, Texas, United States and functions as a neighborhood school for the River Oaks, Avalon Place, Oak Estates, and Royden Oaks neighborhoods in addition to being a Vanguard school. As of 2017 Dr. Keri Fovargue is the principal.
River Oaks Elementary School has an accelerated multidisciplinary curriculum. It became one of the first three elementary schools in Texas to get authorization for the International Baccalaureate Primary Years Programme (the primary school division of the IB program) during the 2002 - 2003 school year, and the curriculum was changed accordingly during the same school year.
Ima Hogg, Mrs. Agnese Carter Nelms, and Mrs. Pat Houstoun originally considered founding a private school, but after they approved of the philosophy of HISD superintendent Edison Oberholtzer, they supported his efforts. Since HISD distributed most of its funds to junior and high schools, the "Supplementary Aids committee" founded by Hogg and the other women funded a furnished library for River Oaks. Hogg, HISD officials, and a group of mothers selected Eva Margaret Davis as the school's first principal. Estelle Sharp, Hugh Potter, and the Hoggs created a telephone campaign which had River Oaks mothers make telephone calls to persuade Edison E. Oberholtzer, the HISD superintendent, into modeling the school's education program after John Dewey's ideals. River Oaks opened in 1929.
From 1986 to 1995, up to 50% of the houses in River Oaks had changed ownership. By 1995 River Oaks Elementary had a waiting list, and it became one of the most prestigious public elementary schools in Houston. By that year several new families had established themselves in River Oaks and many of them were interested in sending their children to public school.
During that year, the HISD school board voted on a proposal to open the school to neighborhood parents. The four White board members voted in favor, while the five non-White board members voted against it. Lana Shadwick, an assistant attorney of the Harris County government, campaigned for the HISD board to allow neighborhood enrollment at River Oaks. Two board members, Esther Campos and Robert Jefferson, said that an entity, through intermediaries at the request of Shadwick, offered $50,000 in board election campaign contributions if they would change their votes, and threatened to rally a group of parents to campaign for their opponents if they did not change their votes. Jose Salazar, the intermediary who contacted Campos, said that no such offer had ever been made. McAdams stated that the controversy caused public attention to focus on the HISD board and its racial makeup.
In an editorial, the Houston Chronicle staff argued that "Until there is another vote, HISD should continue its work to improve all of HISD's neighborhood schools to lessen concerns that a child must qualify for some kind of magnet program and be bussed across town to be assured a quality education," and that the voting was done out of decentralization and not racial reasons, and so the perception that it was racial "helps to give the issue a racial tinge it does not deserve, which only serves to aggravate an already tense situation.
In the 1996-1997 school year, River Oaks Elementary introduced the neighborhood program, with for grades kindergarten through 2 admitted immediately. Grades 3 through 5 were grandfathered into the system. Prior to the rezoning, parts of the River Oaks neighborhood were zoned to Wilson Elementary School in Neartown, while other parts were zoned to Will Rogers Elementary School (which closed after the 2005-2006 school year), and other parts were zoned to Poe Elementary School in Boulevard Oaks.
The original building was in an "H" shape, with the auditorium in the back. The original plan situated that 5 acres (2.0 ha) would be dedicated to a play area with three playgrounds, with one for younger children of both sexes, one for older boys, and one for older girls, as well as a basketball court, a baseball diamond for students of both sexes, gymnastic equipment, jumping pits, a track, sand boxes, swings for smaller children, and a volleyball court. The playground for smaller children was to be located in the center of the play area tract, the playground for older boys was to be located on the south side of the play tract, and the playground for older girls was to be located on the north side of the play tract. The plan called for trees to be planted parallel to sidewalks along Avalon Road, Kirby Drive, and San Felipe Road. The auditorium was built square-shaped.
As of the 2011-2012 school year, River Oaks Elementary had 717 students. 50% were White, 20% were Asian or Pacific Islander, 16% were Hispanic, 7% were black, and less than 1% were Native American. 8% of students qualified for free and reduced lunch.
Donald R. McAdams wrote that in 1995 River Oaks was "not really full of gifted children". He cited the fact that, at the time, HISD put ethnic balances on the gifted and talented roster, with no more than 35% White and Asian and at least 65% Black and Hispanic overall, leading many White and Asian children to be excluded. In addition McAdams cited the mechanisms for gifted testing at the time. As of 1995, under Texas state law a gifted child was defined as one in the 95th percentile. Testing for gifted and talented status took place at Kindergarten. McAdams wrote that many children identified as gifted under this formula were simply well-educated by their parents and that this became apparent in the third grade. However a school would not dismiss a child already identified as gifted at that point. In 1997 HISD removed the ethnic guidelines to Vanguard enrollment after a reverse discrimination lawsuit was filed in a federal court.