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TAK

Let's talk about "good schools"

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You'll notice I put that in quotes, because it seems "good schools" is code for "demographics".

I want to ask the "good school" chasers a question.

First, I'll give my background and reasons for asking.

Background: Married, late 30s, two children (2.5 years and 6 months - both boys). MBA from a top university. 10+ years at a fortune 15. Income is "enough" (but I grew up poor, so I'm cheap.)

Reasons:

1. Wife and I work out of house, so we need a larger house (currently < 1500 sf 3 br, one of which is used an office, we actually need 2 office spaces).

2. With 2 boys and a large, outside dog, we'd like a larger yard (currently have a small yard owned by dog.)

3. Don't want to pay for private school.

4. Trying to decide what suburb we should move to.

5. We have real reasons not to put ourselves too far out into one area (ie, need a 'centrally located' suburb like Fall Creek, Champions, Spring Branch, etc, instead of The Woodlands, Kingwood, Greatwood, Katy).

So now, the question...

How do you move to 'good school' areas when you have a 2 year old and a 6 month old? 15 years from now, when they're in high school, most of the so-called "good schools" will no longer be. I went to Humble when it was a 'good school'. I went to Wells Middle School when Westfield was a good school. I went to Shotwell when Eisenhower was a good school and Inwood Forest (where I live now) was "new rich". Olde Oaks was developed by Kickerillo, and now it's a "bad area"? C'mon!

What keeps Pearland, Klein, Katy, Cy-Fair, Cy-Creek, Ft Bend, Conroe, or any other neighborhood school or ISD from falling out of the "good school" category like Humble, Westfield, Jersey Village, Willowridge, Hightower, Eisenhower, Spring, Mayde Creek, Klein Forest, or whatever the 'bad school' is now?

Is it just the colored folks that make the school "bad"? If so, I might as well stay where I am, because colored folks want the same thing as non-colored folks, and will move to the best area the income will support.

Or, do I just have to move every 7 - 10 years while my kids are in school?

It's the internet - you can be truthful (not that you can't off the internet, but most people are afraid to offend someone in person.)

Those who know a little about me... shhhhhhh! (for now)

Thanks!

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Texas Education Agency

Here's a good website for you to use as a resource in your search for a "good" school.

Picking a "good school" is more than just "demographics". It's a combination of many different things, some more important than others, and only you can decide where to put more weight on thing such as:

1. How far will I be living from where I will be working?

2. How much do I want to spend on a home?

3. What are the crime statistics for different areas?

4. What are the school ratings for different districts?

5. How far away are the services I will be needing, i.e. doctor, dentist, grocery stores, etc.

I wish you luck in your search for that elusive "good school". One more thing you might want to look into is how much parent participation is at each school you're looking at. We have extremely high parent participation at all three of our schools, as do most of the schools in The Woodlands, which seems to help the schools a lot. I can't speak for other school districts as their levels of parent participation, but if you're visiting elementary schools, and you see a lot of parents there in the school; reading in the library, helping out in the workrooms, helping out in the classrooms, that's a good sign. :)

Edited by pineda

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Meyerland is affordable, close-in, and feeds Bellaire High School, which has been a reliably good school for decades (one of the top public high schools in Houston, Texas, and the nation). I believe the feeder elementary schools are also good, but you'll have to do a little digging on intermediate schools - focusing, of course, on the honors programs.

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Pineda,

Thanks for the feedback.

I think I know how to find where the good schools are NOW, but I'm asking how does anyone know that the Klein Oak area won't be Inwood Forest in 15 years when my kids are in high school?

Tory,

Meyerland is not relatively affordable. I can afford Meyerland, but it is not affordable - especially when you consider the size needs I have... Large yard, at least 4 bedrooms and a study. We'd need about 2000 SF. To my knowledge, it isn't "child friendly" either. As for the schools, the only thing HISD has to offer is Vanguard. Other than that, HISD is generally as bad as where I am now, and for what it's worth, Aldine ISD has IB and Pre-IB, etc, that is on par with Vanguard. They just don't have as much of it.

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Pineda,

Thanks for the feedback.

I think I know how to find where the good schools are NOW, but I'm asking how does anyone know that the Klein Oak area won't be Inwood Forest in 15 years when my kids are in high school?

Tory,

Meyerland is not relatively affordable. I can afford Meyerland, but it is not affordable - especially when you consider the size needs I have... Large yard, at least 4 bedrooms and a study. We'd need about 2000 SF. To my knowledge, it isn't "child friendly" either. As for the schools, the only thing HISD has to offer is Vanguard. Other than that, HISD is generally as bad as where I am now, and for what it's worth, Aldine ISD has IB and Pre-IB, etc, that is on par with Vanguard. They just don't have as much of it.

Disagree. From what I've seen, some of the magnet schools are as good as, or better than, some of the Vanguard schools. However, all of the good schools, magnet or magnet-Vanguard, are very tough to get into, so your point is somewhat valid.

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pineda hit right on about the parent involvement aspect - this is crucial but maybe difficult to assess from the outside. If parents aren't aware/don't care about what's going on in the schools, you'll see the decline in student participation and the quality of teachers and programs.

I also agree that schools that don't offer Vanguard/IB can be as good as those that do (though many schools do offer those or other programs).

I think the programs have changed names over the years, but the two elementary school I went to (Memorial Drive in SBISD and Horn in HISD) both had gifted and talented programs - I think they are now actually just called "G/T."

I also went to Lanier MS and Bellaire HS (HISD) and they had Vanguard and IB, respectively.

Unfortunately, there's no way to know what will happen to some schools 10-15 years from now. Lanier, Horn, and Bellaire were pretty diverse and were "good," but I don't know the history of their performance, either..

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So now, the question...

How do you move to 'good school' areas when you have a 2 year old and a 6 month old? 15 years from now, when they're in high school, most of the so-called "good schools" will no longer be. I went to Humble when it was a 'good school'. I went to Wells Middle School when Westfield was a good school. I went to Shotwell when Eisenhower was a good school and Inwood Forest (where I live now) was "new rich". Olde Oaks was developed by Kickerillo, and now it's a "bad area"? C'mon!

What keeps Pearland, Klein, Katy, Cy-Fair, Cy-Creek, Ft Bend, Conroe, or any other neighborhood school or ISD from falling out of the "good school" category like Humble, Westfield, Jersey Village, Willowridge, Hightower, Eisenhower, Spring, Mayde Creek, Klein Forest, or whatever the 'bad school' is now?

Is it just the colored folks that make the school "bad"? If so, I might as well stay where I am, because colored folks want the same thing as non-colored folks, and will move to the best area the income will support.

Or, do I just have to move every 7 - 10 years while my kids are in school?

TAK, you really just answered your own question. Depending on what YOU define as a good school, you will be forced to move in search of that ever elusive good school. One thing I do happen to notice in every one of these discussions is that every questioner is demanding to know what others are doing to make these good schools, when in reality, the key to good schooling is what you and your children put into it. Most of the rest of it looks to be window dressing (demographics).

When you consider what caused the schools you mentioned to become bad schools, you will realize that it is impossible to predict what schools will be good in 7-10 years. The schools that you claim were good in the early 80s became bad in the late 80s to 90s. While some may blame the change in demographics, the real issue was socio-economic. The mid 80s real estate bust made many of the closer suburban areas exceedingly affordable, allowing the working poor to move out somewhat from the inner city. Granted, many of these families were black or hispanic, but the bigger problem for the schools was that the children in these families were not coming from homes ideal for learning. Some were single parent households where the parent worked long hours to support the family. Others came from families that never placed an emphasis on education. These are common problems in poorer neighborhoods, not necessarily minority ones.

The current economic climate leaves us unsure what changes will affect the Houston metro. Will the mid 80s reoccur? With the current trend of gentrification of close in areas, will inner city schools prosper? Frankly, no one knows, though many have opinions. It seems to me, your best bet is to pick an area that is stable or gentrifying with adequate schools, and the rest is up to you and your kids. Or, just accept the fact that you may move in 7 years.

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Westside High would probably the best "regular" High School in HISD and even then it is still HISD and a public school, but it will probably be the best with the most affordable areas to live with houses that meet your criteria...unfortunately Westside and some of it's feeder schools took in a ton of Katrina trash so you will want to see how that is turning out....I believe Walnut Bend and Paul Revere (both schools I went to) have since lost much of theirs, but I am sure some still lingers until they are old enough to drop out or become socially promoted

I would look at what areas Memorial High School or possibly Stratford pull from although Stratford goes up and down way more than Memorial

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Is there a way to view statistics for certain schools (like drop out rates)? That might be useful...

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Is there a way to view statistics for certain schools (like drop out rates)? That might be useful...

Someone (VicMan, perhaps?) previously posted a link on HAIF to a site that contained historical demographic statistics for individual schools - I thought I'd bookmarked it, but I can't seem to find it now, and I don't remember the name of the site. I can't remember if it contained dropout rates or not.

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You'll notice I put that in quotes, because it seems "good schools" is code for "demographics".

I want to ask the "good school" chasers a question.

First, I'll give my background and reasons for asking.

Background: Married, late 30s, two children (2.5 years and 6 months - both boys). MBA from a top university. 10+ years at a fortune 15. Income is "enough" (but I grew up poor, so I'm cheap.)

Reasons:

1. Wife and I work out of house, so we need a larger house (currently < 1500 sf 3 br, one of which is used an office, we actually need 2 office spaces).

2. With 2 boys and a large, outside dog, we'd like a larger yard (currently have a small yard owned by dog.)

3. Don't want to pay for private school.

4. Trying to decide what suburb we should move to.

5. We have real reasons not to put ourselves too far out into one area (ie, need a 'centrally located' suburb like Fall Creek, Champions, Spring Branch, etc, instead of The Woodlands, Kingwood, Greatwood, Katy).

So now, the question...

How do you move to 'good school' areas when you have a 2 year old and a 6 month old? 15 years from now, when they're in high school, most of the so-called "good schools" will no longer be. I went to Humble when it was a 'good school'. I went to Wells Middle School when Westfield was a good school. I went to Shotwell when Eisenhower was a good school and Inwood Forest (where I live now) was "new rich". Olde Oaks was developed by Kickerillo, and now it's a "bad area"? C'mon!

What keeps Pearland, Klein, Katy, Cy-Fair, Cy-Creek, Ft Bend, Conroe, or any other neighborhood school or ISD from falling out of the "good school" category like Humble, Westfield, Jersey Village, Willowridge, Hightower, Eisenhower, Spring, Mayde Creek, Klein Forest, or whatever the 'bad school' is now?

Is it just the colored folks that make the school "bad"? If so, I might as well stay where I am, because colored folks want the same thing as non-colored folks, and will move to the best area the income will support.

Or, do I just have to move every 7 - 10 years while my kids are in school?

It's the internet - you can be truthful (not that you can't off the internet, but most people are afraid to offend someone in person.)

Those who know a little about me... shhhhhhh! (for now)

Thanks!

You might want to factor in where you work because there are good schools on every side of town so there is no reason to base your decision on schools alone. I am from SW Houston and would recommend Sugarland or West Houston.

Westside High would probably the best "regular" High School in HISD and even then it is still HISD and a public school, but it will probably be the best with the most affordable areas to live with houses that meet your criteria...unfortunately Westside and some of it's feeder schools took in a ton of Katrina trash so you will want to see how that is turning out....I believe Walnut Bend and Paul Revere (both schools I went to) have since lost much of theirs, but I am sure some still lingers until they are old enough to drop out or become socially promoted

I would look at what areas Memorial High School or possibly Stratford pull from although Stratford goes up and down way more than Memorial

I graduated from Westside in '04 and heard from many people it went downhill while the Katrina evacuees where being integrated and still isn't as nice as it was prior Katrina. They have built a new elementary school and middle school to accommodate the growing area.

Is there a way to view statistics for certain schools (like drop out rates)? That might be useful...

Here is for HISD:

HISD

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Thanks for all of the responses. They are, as I expected, all over the map...

*School depends on parents. I know that. I'm involved with MY kids, but I don't know what you're doing with YOUR kids.

*Move to Bellaire, Memorial, Stratford, etc... sure thing. Find a house in the area that is priced at the median +20% and fits my needs and I'm on it. I doubt you will. I refuse to pay more than $250k for a house in the greater Houston area.

*Go to HISD and get your kids into Lanier. Well, no kidding, everyone wants to get their kid into Lanier, but I don't think that works out so well. FWIW, I went to River Oaks and Lanier, too, and I think that's a great idea, but execution isn't as easy as typing it up on the web.

*Move every 7 years... I'm sick of moving. Been moving most of my life.

*etc

Red probably hit it the closest... you CAN'T figure it out, which is why so many people chase. I think it's a scam. I guess I'll just fine the neighborhood and house that my family likes and go from there.

Thanks, everyone.

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You can forget HISD if you have a budget. Plus Schools in HISD are more likely to change over the years due to Houston's lack of zoning. (I know. I graduated from Westbury when it was a great school. Before all the ratty apartments were built in the area). What your looking at was our quandary almost 25 years ago. That's why we moved to Sugar Land. I'm not saying you should move to Sugar Land but if you want to find a stable school district at least find a community with strict zoning laws that is opposed to Metro and apartments. The schools my kids went to have changed very little with the exception of the high school which is more "international". Which I think is a good thing. Prepares them more for college. Although not the cream of the crop in Fort Bend the schools were good enough that both my kids got into Rice University. Not too shabby.

ps. If you are interested in Sugar Land you could come look at our house. We are downsizing since both our kids are now out of the house. Even if your not interested in our house you should check out our area.

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Stratford, in SBISD, has been good for decades. It's more econimically mixed than Memorial, but most of the kids come from homes pulling in well over 100k a year.

The farther west you go in the zoning the more affordable the homes, yet you are still looking at least $200,000 or an apartment.

We went from Briargrove Elem in HISD (we didn't like Grady MS and that was coming up fast) to Conroe ISD, and were seriously disappointed in The Woodlands schools. We ended up back in town in SBISD, but chose private to "catch up and stimulatethe boys." We are considering Stratford for HS though..

In otherwords, chose where YOU want to live, within reason, the rest will fall into place.

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Red probably hit it the closest... you CAN'T figure it out, which is why so many people chase. I think it's a scam. I guess I'll just fine the neighborhood and house that my family likes and go from there.

Chase? Finding a good home and just living there? You sound just as lost as you did when you posted your request for help.

No need to "chase." And certainly no one in their right mind would let their family move into a home that they "liked" irrespective of the school district it is in - if sending your kids to a good public school is a priority.

There are several non-HISD public school districts that have had "good schools" in them for decades. Trying to send your kids to the one or two good schools in HISD is just foolish.

Here's a good way to narrow your search:

http://zipskinny.com/

Look for zip codes that have higher incomes (80K+) and lower crime, that are adjacent to similar zip codes with higher incomes and lower crime. Then take that zip code... and put it into this:

http://www.har.com/

...and then make sure that any homes that come out of the HAR search are located/zoned to the school, within the district, you want to send your kids to. Countless, good family homes within 150 to 200K, that would satisfy any person's need that is looking for modest living, sensible housing, and good schools for their kids, using the approach above.

Edited by BryanS

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You'll notice I put that in quotes, because it seems "good schools" is code for "demographics".

I want to ask the "good school" chasers a question.

First, I'll give my background and reasons for asking.

Background: Married, late 30s, two children (2.5 years and 6 months - both boys). MBA from a top university. 10+ years at a fortune 15. Income is "enough" (but I grew up poor, so I'm cheap.)

Reasons:

3. Don't want to pay for private school.

Thanks!

Save your money for the expense of moving, stay where you are, and pay for private school. You may be "cheap", but ask yourself, what are your kids WORTH to you ?

Edited by TJones

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Save your money for the expense of moving, stay where you are, and pay for private school. You may be "cheap", but ask yourself, what are your kids WORTH to you ?

I agree. I'm confronting the same dilemma myself, and think that I'm leaning more towards living inside the loop/paying for private school. Unfortunately, I don't think you can't predict how a school or area will be in 10+ years, but it's safe to expect a private school to hold up since you have to pay $$$ for enrollment. I went to a public school and turned out fine though :D

I know someone mentioned the decline of Olde Oaks. I checked out a couple homes for sale there last month and was shocked at all of the sf/beautiful homes available for less than 140K. I saw one home that used to be my "dream home" as a kid that was 120K. So tempted to buy, but didn't because of the schools. If I'm going to pay for private school, I'm going to be in the loop.

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Save your money for the expense of moving, stay where you are, and pay for private school. You may be "cheap", but ask yourself, what are your kids WORTH to you ?

I haven't noticed a difference in the "worth" of adults who went to private school vs. those who did not, so i'm not so sure paying a couple of mortgages (i have two kids) is "worth" more than having a good home in a good area with good neighbors. if my house were larger, i probably would stay right where i am (and i'm considering moving in the same neighborhood).

spending 10k - 30k (2 kids at 5k - 15k) per year for the next 18 years would be a relatively terrible use of funds (for my entire family). that's several homes purchased and paid off, which could be leased and sold for additional income to pay for college (which is probably more important than the difference between an education at St. Thomas vs. a decent public school.)

Thanks, BryanS, for zipskinny. i hadn't heard of that before. i'll be using that for personal and investment property searches...

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You can forget HISD if you have a budget. Plus Schools in HISD are more likely to change over the years due to Houston's lack of zoning. (I know. I graduated from Westbury when it was a great school. Before all the ratty apartments were built in the area).

All of the City of Bellaire, the City of West University Place, and the City of Southside Place are in HISD - They have zoning. Plus there are portions of Missouri City, Jacinto City, Hunters Creek Village, and Piney Point Village in HISD. Also there are inner city areas that are improving.

Also parts of the City of Houston are in other school districts. These districts are: Aldine, Alief, North Forest, Spring Branch, Pasadena, Clear Creek, Cypress-Fairbanks, Katy, Fort Bend, Galena Park, etc.

Then you have unincorporated areas of Harris County, which certainly do not have any sort of zoning whatsoever. Notice what happened to Spring ISD?

Someone (VicMan, perhaps?) previously posted a link on HAIF to a site that contained historical demographic statistics for individual schools - I thought I'd bookmarked it, but I can't seem to find it now, and I don't remember the name of the site. I can't remember if it contained dropout rates or not.

It's schooldigger.com - But I don't see dropout rates on it.

Edited by VicMan

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Thanks, that's perfect..

Just browsing a few high schools I could think of off the top of my head, I was surprised (in a bad way) at the various statistics!

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All of the City of Bellaire, the City of West University Place, and the City of Southside Place are in HISD - They have zoning.

LOL. Who can afford to live in those areas?

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I have no knowledge of how the public school system works.. If you are zoned to a particular school that let's say is shoddy, can you send your kids to another school? If so, how does that work?

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I have no knowledge of how the public school system works.. If you are zoned to a particular school that let's say is shoddy, can you send your kids to another school? If so, how does that work?

Technically, yes. You can apply for an in-district transfer, or you can apply to a magnet school. However, the good schools are highly sought-after, so you are unlikely to get a spot.

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Technically, yes. You can apply for an in-district transfer, or you can apply to a magnet school. However, the good schools are highly sought-after, so you are unlikely to get a spot.

So.. whatever the good highschools of HISD are... what are those btw.... you're saying in-district transfer is possible, but that because everyone can and does try to move to the better schools... it's actually impossible to achieve for most ?

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So.. whatever the good highschools of HISD are... what are those btw....

Lamar, Bellaire and HSPVA come to mind. I'm sure there are more.

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Lamar, Bellaire and HSPVA come to mind. I'm sure there are more.

Bellaire is part of HISD? I thought they had their own district like Spring Branch does..

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Bellaire is part of HISD? I thought they had their own district like Spring Branch does..

Yes, it is. I know it's confusing. I'm not sure why SBISD is separate. Spring Branch is not even a city, is it?

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Yes, it is. I know it's confusing. I'm not sure why SBISD is separate. Spring Branch is not even a city, is it?

Spring Branch is an area of Houston. However the six Memorial villages are separate from Houston.

In Texas all school districts (except for one - Stafford MSD) are independent of the municipalities and counties. School districts may cross city and county boundaries; they answer only to the state.

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Spring Branch is an area of Houston. However the six Memorial villages are separate from Houston.

In Texas all school districts (except for one - Stafford MSD) are independent of the municipalities and counties. School districts may cross city and county boundaries; they answer only to the state.

So a person living in wherever HISD could not request a transfer to Memorial HS ?

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So a person living in wherever HISD could not request a transfer to Memorial HS ?

SBISD allows "out of district" transfers, so in that case one could. I don't know how easily one could get into Memorial HS. Yes, Memorial HS is "out of district" for HISD residents.

Edited by VicMan

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When I was a kid, I lived in SBISD, but ended up in Vanguard in HISD, because SBISD didn't have anything rigorous enough to keep me out of trouble - daily. Not sure how they'd handle that now, but it sounds like they have some type of reciprocity for exceptions.

Anyway, I'm still looking...

Everything reasonable and with decent schools is FAR AWAY. I guess that's life in (and around) the big city.

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I kind of agree with RedScare... life, kids and schools are what you make of them. But you're leaving out one important thing too... what your kids want. You can position them to be in the best high school known to man, but it's not going to stop them from wanting to go somewhere else. HISD is spotty, but so is Cy-Fair, Alief and all of the others.

And trust me, kids can get in trouble in the suburbs. Cy-Fair has some crippling drug issues that kill some of those kids every single year. But we don't hear about it b/c it's Cy-Fair and not HISD. So if a kid wants to find trouble, they'll find it. That's where being good loving parents comes in.

As far as going to an excellent college, I guess the school matters some. HSPVA is a great place if your kid wants to be an opera singer. But if you're raising a football star, they'll be much better off at Northshore.

As far as all-around schools, I can't agree more with Bellaire. I have worked with several students in the system, and they are very bright and very focused. I'm pretty confident that Pin Oak Middle and Bellaire High School will be much stronger in the next 10 and 20 years, just b/c they have the resources to go on. HISD is a very lopsided animal, and Bellaire sees all the benefit of that. I wouldn't be so confident in the River Oaks schools forever either.

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