Focus on Fleming Middle School: What campus life is like under state takeover

HOUSTON – Fleming Middle School Principal, Devin Adams, acknowledges the hesitations many community members have regarding the Houston Independent School District’s state takeover and the newly implemented curriculum at 28 New Education System campuses and 57 NES-aligned schools.

“I think that change always makes a lot of people uncomfortable,” says Adams.

Adams, now in his second year leading the school, remains committed to HISD and his school’s campus. Built in 1968 for 1100 students, Fleming Middle currently has about 350 students and has experienced a steady decline in enrollment.

MORE:I want to make an impact’: Fleming MS principal says he’s happy to be part of changes implemented at his school

Adams provided insight into the school’s demographics: “About 60% of our students are African American, 40% are Hispanic, 97% of our students are economically disadvantaged, and the vast majority of our students are being raised in non-traditional family structures.”

“Statistically, these kids are going to face additional hurdles that more economically advantaged kids may not have to worry about,” adds Adams.

According to data presented by the state-appointed superintendent, Mike Miles, this summer, white students in HISD are outperforming their black and Hispanic peers on reading and math proficiency tests.

Fleming Middle School has not had an official librarian on campus for at least two years. Adams explains, “Last year, there was an expectation district-wide that every school has a librarian or a media specialist. So, we did end up hiring a media specialist, and that person was there to help the students check out books.”

“It is not much different from what it has been,” he adds.

Principal Adams emphasizes that students can still use the library before and after school and can take books home to read.

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Team Centers stirred up controversy when the concept was first introduced, with some community members referring to them as discipline centers and Zoom rooms.

“It was never called a discipline center or a Zoom room. This is a place for students to go when they have mastered their lesson. Of course, there may be students who, if they are unable to participate in the ongoing lesson and become distracted, will come here. The learning coach will help them get logged onto the teacher’s Zoom, and they’ll still participate in the lesson,” clarified Adams.

Many in the community were concerned that under the New Education System, teachers would operate like robots and not be able to express their personalities. Principal Adams dispels this notion at Fleming Middle.

“We ensure our teachers internalize and personalize the lessons, making them feel authentic and genuine. We also recognize our unique student population, and though the district provides the curriculum and slide decks for instruction, they may not understand each student’s specific needs. But as teachers, we do,” Adams emphasized.

RELATED: First look inside Fleming Middle School, the HISD campus KPRC 2 will spend a year chronicling

Principal Adams firmly believes that the structural changes at Fleming will benefit students in the long run.

“I believe in the New Education System. I believe the instructional model of the New Education System will truly help our students achieve,” said Adams.

“To hear of the bold change from the superintendent, truly excited me because what was happening previously wasn’t working. There was never any doubt—I was going to be here unless they didn’t want me. I’m grateful they did,” he said.

About the Author:

Candace Burns is committed to helping keep her community informed, and loves sharing inspiring stories about people who make the world a better place.