Lee High School (Houston)
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (December 2010)|
|Lee High School|
|Motto||"Fortune Favors the Brave"|
|School district||Houston Independent School District|
|Principal||Jonathan Nguyen Trinh (as of 2015)|
|Grades||9-12 District 21-4A|
|Color(s)||Black & Gold|
Lee High School, formerly Robert E. Lee High School, is a publicly funded secondary school located in Southwest Houston, Texas, United States 77057. The Houston Independent School District, the 7th largest school district in the United States, operates Lee, a public admission school that enrolls grades 9 through 12 (ages 14–19). The school serves the neighborhoods of Uptown, Briargrove, Westchase, and Gulfton areas of the city of Houston.
- 1 History
- 2 Facility
- 3 Student body
- 4 Student dress and school uniform
- 5 Student discipline
- 6 Academic environment
- 7 AP/Magnet Program
- 8 Electives, Clubs and organizations
- 9 Athletics
- 10 Parent-teacher organization
- 11 Alumni and alumni organizations
- 12 Neighborhoods served
- 13 Transportation
- 14 Feeder patterns
- 15 Notable alumni
- 16 Notable employees
- 17 See also
- 18 References
- 19 Notes
- 20 External links
|This section needs additional citations for verification. (December 2010)|
Lee High School is officially Lee Senior High School, named after Robert E. Lee and opened in 1962 to relieve high attendance at Lamar and Bellaire high schools. At that time, Lee High School had a white and mostly affluent and suburban student body. For its first twenty five years, Robert E. Lee High School built a comprehensive suburban high school, drawing students primarily from Afton Oaks, Tanglewood, Briargrove, Briarcroft/Briarmeadow, and Rivercrest/Briargrove Park/Walnut Bend neighborhoods, all south of Buffalo Bayou. It has been home to multiple award winning students and faculty, service clubs and programs, athletic teams and graduates over its 50 year history. The school's motto is "Fortune Favors the Brave", taken from the Lee family and based on the Roman philosopher Virgil's quote.
The United Daughters of the Confederacy's Robert E. Lee chapter number 186 supported the school in its early years; it donated portraits of Lee, gave American Civil War-related books to the library, and gave the school a rebel flag. The school's symbol is the Lee family coat of arms, which has a squirrel on the top holding a nut.
The Lee campus was the subject of a 1974 "60 Minutes" story on drug culture in American High Schools. It was expanded significantly by HISD to address overcrowding two times in its first 25 years; first in 1967, and again in 1987.
As times changed, the demographic of Lee's student body shifted. As of 2008, it was made up predominantly of Hispanic immigrants and sons and daughters of Hispanic immigrants. Lee's multi-ethnic population changes parallel Houston's immigration waves, beginning with the Vietnamese families in the early 1980s. With the change in apartment housing rules in the 1980s, both the community and the school population changed. The demographic of Lee's student body shifted significantly in the 1990s, as student's from the south zone (Gulfton area) who are a majority Mexican and Central American immigrants and/or sons and daughters of Hispanic immigrants became the overwhelming majority of the student body. Lee became one of the largest 5A high schools in the region by the late 1990s.
Lee's student body was relieved of about 1,000 students when Westside High School, about 7 miles (11 km) west of Lee, opened in 2000, removing the last significant numbers of middle-class students and non-Hispanic White students. When Westside opened, residents of the Lee attendance boundary gained the option to attend Westside instead of Lee.
Around 2000 the school stopped using the "Robert E." part of the same, and its logo became that of a four-point, star-bodied person. Steve Amstutz, the principal, said around that year "People think we stole it from Cingular." The school removed its portraits of Robert E. Lee. The star in the logo juggles ten balls, representing ten learning communities established around that year to provide personalized education to students. The establishment of the learning communities was part of a $68 million HISD initiative to personalize and improve high schools throughout the district; this reflected a national trend of personalizing education in high schools.
Newcomer Charter High School (as of 2007, known as Liberty High School) was opened in January 2005 and housed in Lee High School. In 2006 it was scheduled to move into a new campus at 6400 Southwest Freeway (U.S. Highway 59).
According to the Houston Independent School District October 2006 "For Your Information" newsletter, Lee was one of four high schools that took the most refugees from Hurricane Katrina.
In the 2005-2006 school year, HISD was required to provide free tutoring to low income students at Lee because for three consecutive years, Lee did not meet academic targets, which were set by the federal No Child Left Behind act. During the school year, 2,912 students at Lee, Marshall Middle School, and Kay On-Going Education Center qualified for the tutoring. The tutoring, which covered the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS), began on February 4, 2006. On the three campuses, 74 students, 3% of the eligible students, enrolled in the tutoring program. Mercedes Alejandro of the group Parents for Public Schools accused HISD of not effectively communicating that the tutoring was available to the communities at the schools.
In 2007, a study by Johns Hopkins University and the Associated Press referred to Lee among American high schools designated as "dropout factories", where at least 40% of the entering freshman class does not make it to their senior year.
YES Prep Lee, a charter middle school, was located inside the Lee High School campus; the school planned to expand to a six through 12 campus with 30 classrooms. In the summer of 2007 the school was established on the third floor of Lee High School. YES paid $65,000 annually to lease the space. YES intended to grow its school to around 700 students. YES and charter officials wanted state officials to pass a bill allowing schools occupying the same campus to share test scores; the bill failed.
In December 2009, YES Prep moved all of the around 400 students in the Lee program off of the Lee campus. In January 2010 the board of YES Prep voted to terminate its partnership with Lee High School. YES Prep Lee, now YES Prep Gulfton, is no longer located inside Lee High School.
In 2010, Amstutz stopped being the principal of Lee. HISD did not state whether his departure was voluntary or involuntary. Amstutz continued to be an employee of HISD. Paul Castro from Westside High School was transferred to become the new principal of Lee High School. He resigned after three months. In April 2010 Terry Grier, the superintendent, announced that he had an improvement plan for Lee. Xochitl Rodriguez-Davila was promoted from HISD's Stonewall Jackson Middle School leader to become Robert E. Lee's 18th principal (its 14th since 1990) in July 2010. During that summer Newsweek ranked Lee HS among the "America's Best High Schools" list.
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In 2010 Lisa Falkenberg said "The Lee of today, with its crumbling façade and graffiti on nearby buildings, is far from the glistening school on the prairie that opened in 1962 to relieve overcrowding at prestigious Lamar High." As of 2010, one of the brick façades outside one of the entrances had bricks missing. Lisa Falkenberg of the Houston Chronicle said that it was "left to gape like a toothless mouth for the past eight years." After Xochitl Rodriguez-Davila was hired as the Lee principal, she arranged a campus facelift.
During that year, HISD reported that two distinct portions of the 49 year old main school building's foundation are sinking into the ground at different rates.
Although. ever since the 2012 Bond Proposition was passed Lee is one of the first campuses that will receive a new school building in the next 2–3 years as soon as 2016. Due to this event many of the conflicts Lee High School has faced will be relieved just like the establishment of Westside High School in 2000.
Houston Robert E. Lee High School had 1,891 students during the 2010-11 school year. They are drawn largely from its attendance zone, which borders include Bellaire Blvd., Gessner Road, Buffalo Bayou and IH 610 West. There are a smaller percentage of magnet students drawn from multiple other zones within the HISD boundaries. The ethnic diversity break down of the 2010-11 student body is:
- 5% White American
- 8% Asian American
- 73+% Hispanic American
- 13% African American
- About 1% are Native American.
In 2010-11, Lee qualifies as a US Department of Education Title I campus: thus, 76% of the student body qualifies for free or reduced breakfast and lunch under federal poverty guidelines. As of 2015 96% of the students are classified as low income.
In the 1960s and 1970s, Lee's student body consisted of affluent White Americans. Principal Steve Amstutz stated in 2003 that Lee's student body was "a sea of white faces. They all looked like me." As the school matured, the demographics of the students changed. By the 1999 Lee was very overcrowded, so many students had to use air conditioning units as chairs. Around that time period, half of a given 9th grade class would no longer be present in the class once it became a 12th grade class. Around 1999, students fought in the hallways daily. The opening of Westside High School in 2000 removed the last significant numbers of White and upper income students, causing the school to refocus itself to cater to its new population.
In 2010 Harvin Moore, Lee's HISD school board trustee, said "There is no high school in Houston that has a more unique and difficult challenge with respect to a significant portion of the children who attend there," citing the concentration of older, immigrant students who come from third world countries and often lack basic education. Monica Rhor of the Houston Chronicle wrote that in 2015 many of Lee's students "are coping with problems at home." The school provides a weekend lunch program to give students meals on days when school does not operate.
National origins and languages
In a 2003 article by the Houston Press, Amstutz stated, referring to the "Hispanic" designation, "But that covers from Nuevo Laredo to Tierra del Fuego. We're from the top of Mexico to the south of Argentina. And I've got kids from everywhere in between."  Amstutz said in a 2002 article that "Sometimes I can lose a whole country in a day, other times I can gain one." Lisa Falkenberg said in 2010 that Lee was a school "Where being Rwandan isn't 'weird'".
As of 2010 over 40 languages were spoken by the Lee High School student body, and the number of English language learners, over 700, was higher than the populations of some other peer high schools in the area. Although, as of now in the year of 2013 the percentage of ESL learners is only 35% of students. As of that year, half of the HISD students zoned to Lee did not attend that school.As of 2010 about half of the HISD students zoned to Sterling did not attend that school.
Student dress and school uniform
- Seniors wear yellow shirts and sophomores wear grey, junior wear maroon freshman wear forest green, solid "Polo style" 2-button knit shirts.
- All students wear khaki pants, shorts, or skirts.
Students have the option of wearing a university/college T-shirt or a Lee HS club shirt (only) on Fridays. Additionally, at the end of each month, seniors can opt to dress professionally on a designated day.
Some teachers who worked at Lee after the student population became mostly Hispanic recalled that some members of gangs who were enrolled at Lee openly wore gang colors and other gang insignia while on campus.
Around 1990, according to Strong Families Strong Schools: Building Community Partnerships for Learning, the school had a "serious gang problem". The school adopted a "zero tolerance for gangs" policy. A committee of ten people, including Houston Police Department security guards, HISD administrators, and administrators and teachers at Lee identified possible gang members and evicted any who were identified as violent. A group of administrators and teachers also worked to properly identify gang members and avoid misidentifying a student who would participate in a gang due to alienation if they are misidentified. In addition, the City of Houston established a school day curfew with fines for parents of children truant from school. The Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) scores of Lee, which was still considered "low-performing" by the Texas Education Agency in 1993, had increased over a three year period ending around 1994. Strong Families Strong Schools: Building Community Partnerships for Learning argued that the TAAS score increase is evidence that "things are turning around" and "The climate of the school has changed dramatically".
Now Lee High School begins to start changing policies in the past couple years, their rating has met AYP Status, and Has increased to acceptable rating, the school now has four principals per grade level like many other schools, and is improving its system to meet it with other high schools, it has changed many things and is now showing significant improvement.
In 2010 Lisa Falkenberg of the Houston Chronicle said of Lee: "Lee High School isn't your typical failing school. In one campus, its students seem to personify every major socio-economic problem and demographic challenge facing urban schools today. At the same time, it's a petri dish for academic innovation, full of Stand and Deliver-type successes." During that year she also said "The school is flailing in a test-driven accountability system blind to extenuating circumstances like poverty, pregnancy, 30 percent student turnover, and 780 students out of 1,850 considered "English language learners."" Lee High School U.S. Army(JROTC) program has re-emerged as a force, improving from 24th to 7th place, out of the 25 HISD Army based student programs. Successful, statewide award winning distributive teaching programs in Metal-fabrication and Woodworking have been built in recent years, as well.
In 2010, Lee had improved its state mandated TAKS test scores significantly, yet was named academically "unacceptable" by the TEA, due to its 30% dropout rate. As a result of 3+ years of this designation, it became one of the HISD "Apollo 20" laboratory schools. It was subject to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) "turnaround" model for reforming schools in jeopardy of closing, including replacing the administration and much of the existing faculty. As of 2010 the think tank "Children at Risk" ranked Lee as one of the most improved high schools in Greater Houston. As of 2015 the STAAR exam failure rate at Lee was about 70%.
When Lee began as a high school, all of its foreign language activities occurred in the "Language Lab" area.
As of now[when?] the Lee High School has a drop-out rate of <1% less than any other comprehensive high school in HISD, and Lee is also a subject to 100% of Seniors Acceptanced to a 2 or 4 year university or college.
Lee High School administers an advanced placement curriculum, where high performing students take college level classes while in high school and earn college level credits. The number of students taking AP courses and exams has increased dramatically since the AP Program was re-introduced at Lee. A March 2009 Houston Chronicle article stated that the student body took approximately 550 AP tests; eight times the number taken in 2004. In June 2010, Newsweek magazine ranked Lee #151 out of over 16,000 schools nationwide, acknowledging it among "America's Best High Schools" for its number of students taking AP tests. Jason Spencer of the Houston Chronicle called the ranking a "head scratcher," since prior to the announcement of the ranking the HISD administration had forced 160 teachers at Lee and other schools to leave due to low performance. Thompson explained that the ranking system, which divides all of the AP exams taken by the total number of students, is "freakishly simplistic" since it does not take into account performance during the AP exams. The ranking done by the think tank "Children at Risk" that year placed Lee in number 133 out of 140 high schools. Responding to the Newsweek ranking, HISD superintendent Terry Grier said "The efforts at Lee High School to encourage more students to take college-level courses are to be commended. We must raise the level of achievement for all students, and it is for this reason that we will be initiating the Apollo 20 project at Lee in the next school year. We will continue to build on the work you and your colleagues have done so that we can ensure that every child in our school district receives a quality education that will prepare him or her for college and career success."
There are a number of advanced, college prep Advanced Placement courses taught at Lee, including:
AP World History
AP U.S. History
AP U.S. Government & Politics
AP English Language
AP English Literature
AP Calculus AB
AP Calculus BC
AP Studio Art
AP Spanish Language
AP Spanish Literature
AP French Language
AP Environmental Science
AP Physics B
In May 2010, 300 students signed up to take approximately 800 AP tests, with increases in exemplary scores in AP US Government, AP Macroeconomics, and AP Calculus across the board.
The school is divided into 4 academies, paralleling grades 9-12, each managed by an assistant principal. There is an additional academy for non-English speaking students and 9th graders in need of ESL or additional math or English tutoring.
Electives, Clubs and organizations
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There are a steadily growing number of electives, student clubs and organizations at Lee. Some of these include,
- Lee Guard Dance Team
- Theatre Arts
- Theatre Production
- Guitar Instruction
- Human Services
- US Army/ JROTC
For extracurriculars and student clubs:
- National Honor Society
- Debate Team- Houston Area Forensics
- Anime Club
- Academic Decathlon
- Media/Lee TV
- Modern Music Club
- The Welding Club
- The Interact Club
- The Arab Club
- The Nepali Club
- The Woods Project
- Young Life
In 2011 Lee begun to offer Band and Guitar Instruction Class Again.
From 1962-2000, Lee had student service organizations, including Pilot Club for Women's Anchor Club, Galleria Area Rotary Club's "Interact," and Kiwanis Club's Key Club. Marla Morrow, a former student quoted in Education Week, said that prospective members of the Key Club were required to reproduce the financial statements of their parents. As of 2011, Galleria Rotary Club is working with both Robert E. Lee and Lamar High Schools to re-organize and sponsor Interact student service clubs at each campus.
Robert E. Lee HS currently plays a full complement of UIL girls and boys varsity sports in District 21-4A, along with HISD's Waltrip, Davis, Yates, Sharpstown, Reagan, & Austin High Schools. Lee has alternated as a 4A and 5A school throughout its 50 year history, playing in 19-4A, 18-4A, 18-5A, 21-5A, and the current 17-4A district. It plays Men's varsity soccer in UIL District 44-A, where it is the 2011 District Champions.
Robert E. Lee Varsity sports teams include:
- Baseball (club)
- Basketball (Girls)
- Basketball (Boys)
- Cross Country (Girls)
- Cross Country (Boys)
- Varsity Cheerleading (Girls)
- JV Cheerleading (Girls)
- Varsity Football (Boys)
- JV Football (Boys)
- Dance/ Drill
- Track & Field (Co-ed)
- Varsity Volleyball (Girls)
- JV Volleyball
- Wrestling (Boys)
- Soccer (Girls)
- Soccer (Boys)
- Softball (Girls)
- Swimming (Co-ed)
American football team
From the 1960s to the 1980s, Lee High School's American football team often appeared in high school playoffs. Many famous football players and coaches were involved in the program. Of the seven most recent inductees to the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame as of August 24, 2010, two were involved with Lee High School. Joe Clemens, a famous football coach, coached at Lee in the 1960s. Peter Gardere, a former University of Texas at Austin quarterback, played for Lee in the 1980s. The significance of American football at Lee decreased when the student demographics changed.
The opening of Westside High School, which decreased the number of students at Lee from 3,100 to 2,100, drained most of the American football players from the school and the school did not have enough children who were interested in playing American football. In 2003 the school dropped American football from its sports program; This is likely because American football is not a popular sport in the home countries of its largely Hispanic student body. Steve Amstutz, the principal, said that he did not receive complaints after the team was cut. After 2003 soccer (football) became the main sport at Lee High School. Soccer is played at Lee's homecoming games instead of football. In 2010, some alumni visiting the school expressed shock when they found out that football was not a sport at Lee. The school no longer had its historical American football trophies. Around 1995, the principal at Lee had virtually all of its athletic and academic trophies thrown out, leaving the cases empty.
In February 2010 the school administration decided to re-establish American football as a school sport. As of May 2010 plans to re-establish American football were ongoing. The school administration assembled the football team from scratch. As of August 2010 the players originated from countries in Africa, Canada, Guatemala, Mexico, and other countries. The team had some Muslim players. In 2010, the R.E. Lee Alumni Association worked with the school and district, and established a partnership with the Houston Texans Football Team, to help re-establish a permanent football program. In accordance with UIL rules, LEE will field a JV football squad for 2010 and 2011, returning to 21-4A Varsity District play in Fall, 2012.
The Lee High School girls' golf team existed in the 1970s. When the demographics of the school shifted, the golf team ended. Around the time that American football was cut, the school revived its boys' and girls' golf teams. As of 2003 six boys and four girls played golf for Lee; one of the ten was a White American. Steve Amstutz, the principal, explained that Lee founded the team to teach students how to learn to commit to a goal and to give them an activity that would keep them involved and attending school.
As of 2003 the Lee golf team had relatively little experience with the game compared to other area teams. In 2002 Lee's golf team was ranked last in a golf competition, with none of the players selected to continue forward in the competition. The players did not like to be ranked first, because the best player would compete against other district golf teams. The teams of Bellaire and Lamar high schools had more experienced players, and many of them had played with golf professionals. During that year Ryan Rhodes, the coach, said "It really is frustrating for the guys and girls to go out there and compete against somebody who's been playing a lot longer and has a lot better grasp of the game." Amstutz said that the team was not as well performing as other teams, because the team had been recently established. As of 2011 Lee no longer offers golf.
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When Westside HS opened in 2000, most of the infrastructure and active parents transferred their allegiance and PTO assets to the new school. As a result, since 2000, Lee does not have a parent-teacher organization.
Alumni and alumni organizations
As of 2010 Lee was coordinating an alumni database with Harris Publishing and has an on campus alumni liaison group. Almost all of the inquiries that former Lee principal Steve Amstutz received from Lee alumni (2000–2009) asked for information on when school reunions would occur. Lisa Falkenberg of the Houston Chronicle said in 2010 that when she writes about Lee, she receives responses from Lee alumni. She said that some e-mails criticize illegal immigration, holding it responsible for Lee High School's decline. She received some complaints about Lee no longer using the name "Robert E. Lee."
After Falkenberg aired her 2010 column about former principal Paul Castro leaving the school after three months, she received messages from school alumni who stated that they intended to help Lee. 1965 Lee graduate Martin Bailey requested for volunteers to assist the school. Two alumni, Tom Behrman, and John Carloss, began discussing possibilities of charitable activity with the school administration, including donating to the Lee NEXT STEP Fund, a nonprofit fund that places Lee students in career and university preparatory programs; mentoring; and holding speaking events.
In April 2010 a group of alumni who intended to start an alumni organization organized a tour of the school. One alum in the tour, Joe Berwick, reported that he enjoyed meeting the students. Another, Behrman, expressed disappointment towards the deteriorated condition of the physical plant. After the Lee tour, the involved alumni proceeded to award two $5,000 scholarships to Lee students. An editorial in the Houston Chronicle praised the alumni for supporting their school. Three Lee alumni, Behrman, Melanie Hauser, and Richard Spence, founded the Robert E. Lee High School Alumni Association to reconnect alumni with their alma mater and provide additional, ongoing assistance for Lee High School and to help it improve its community relations. The Robert E. Lee Alumni Association hosted a 50th Birthday, "Gray & Gold JubiLEE" All School Reunion in October 2012, where alumni from all 50 graduating classes convened to celebrate and recognize 50 years of Generals history.
A significant number of Lee's students now come from the Gulfton community, a group of apartment complexes housing recent immigrants. Other areas zoned to Lee include Uptown Houston, St. George Place (Lamar Terrace), Larchmont, Briargrove, Shenandoah, Tanglewood, Tanglewilde, Briar Meadow, Briarcroft, Woodlake, West Oaks, Jeanetta, the Houston ISD portions of Piney Point Village and Hunters Creek Village, Sharpstown Country Club Estates, and small portions of Westchase east of Gessner Road.
Lee High School served all areas within the Westside attendance boundary until its 2000 opening, including Walnut Bend, Briargrove Park, and Rivercrest. The pre-2000 Lee attendance zone bordered City of Bellaire, the communities of Alief and Spring Branch, and Greater Katy.
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Houston ISD provides school buses for students who live more than 2 miles (3.2 km) away from the school or who have major obstacles between their houses and the school. Students are eligible if they are zoned to Lee or are in the Lee magnet program. A METRO bus stop is located beside the school's entrance.
Elementary schools that feed into Lee include:
Middle schools that feed into Lee include:
Students of the Briargrove, Emerson, Pilgrim, and Piney Point elementary attendance zones may also attend Briarmeadow Charter School, so that school feeds into Lee.
- Andy Fickman (film and stage director and screenwriter) - 1982
- Jeff Filgo (television producer and screenwriter) - 1985
- Peter Gardere (American football player and member of the Texas High School Football Hall of Fame) - 1988
- Billy Gibbons (member of ZZ Top) - 1968
- Edward Gonzalez (Houston City Council member) - 1987
- Mike Quinn (American football player)
- Robert K. Ritner (professor of Egyptology at Oriental Institute of the University of Chicago) - 1971
- John P. White (actor) - 1991
- Gil Bartosh (football coach, former Texas El Paso head coach, and member, Texas High School Football Hall of Fame)
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- Cherry, Brice. "Peter Gardere inducted into the Texas HSHOF." Waco Tribune-Herald. May 1, 2010. Retrieved on February 7, 2011.
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- Lee High School's official website
- Tee Time - Houston Press
- Robert E. Lee Alumni Association Website
- Report on Houston High Schools by WhatKidsCanDo
- Lee Next Step Fund
- Letters from Lee
- Former Lee football coach Joe Clements in Texas HSHOF—May 3, 2010
- Peter Gardere inducted into the Texas HSHOF, May 1, 2010