Abernathy, Texas, is a small town just west of I-27, an old stop on the Santa Fe when it was the way to get from Lubbock to Amarillo. Its population of 2,000 is larger than most other South Plains communities glued together by little more than their schools. Houston ISD, with 200,000 students, serves two and a half times as many students as are in the nearly five dozen ISD’s on the South Plains. The challenges that Houston ISD has faced are significant. The state placed it in leadership and management receivership. The constellation of small-but-tough schools populating the South Plains is different. There is a fierce sense of independence and ownership of the schools, fueled by a powerful but humble survival instinct. Communities centered on families allow school leaders, teachers and staff at every level to guide students beyond algebra and literature into productive citizenship. Passion for this charge creates a family-like atmosphere.
In Abernathy I watched the school principal Mr. Ezra Chambers with admiration. He introduced me to a young lady who is committed to coming toWest Texas A&M University, and he told me what a great student she would be. Proud like a father.
In Abernathy I watched the school principal Mr. Ezra Chambers with admiration. He introduced me to a young lady who is committed to coming to West Texas A&M University, and he told me what a great student she would be. Proud like a father. As student after student entered the auditorium, they showed appreciation for their principal. The last student I met that day was his daughter. She showed the same kind of appreciation for Mr. Chambers. While in loco parentis may be out of favor in many larger urban school systems, it appeared to be matter-of-fact at Abernathy High School. Mr. Chambers knew everyone, and everyone knew him. This is commonplace in many South Plains Schools. The school is a family, not intended to displace the immediate family, but people with a shared responsibility of one to another at every level. Wilson, Amherst, Sudan, Muleshoe and Klondike are but a handful of examples. In Spur, Texas, Principal Mike Norman had a similarly positive and paternal relationship with students. He knew each of them. I explained a program at West Texas A&M University that allows any family that has three members concurrently enrolled to only pay for two. He told me he was going to call the mother of triplets attending the high school and let her know of that opportunity. WT values families and WT appreciates the ever-increasing costs of attaining a college education. I am never surprised when teachers and administrators in schools raise their eyebrows and nod their heads approvingly when this opportunity is discussed. However, I am surprised that in almost every case students react the same way. Even students in these micro metropolises know that individual liberties and responsibilities nurtured in families are the building blocks of a free society.
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