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'Wildcat nation has prevailed': HISD celebrates historic Wheatley High School's turnaround

After nearly a decade of failing academic performance that led to the threat of state takeover at HISD, Wheatley HS earned a passing grade of C.

HOUSTON — Houston ISD is celebrating its B rating from the Texas Education Agency. One of the district's biggest improvements happened at one of its most historic campuses: Phyllis Wheatley High School in the Fifth Ward.

After nearly a decade of failing or poor academic performance, the Wheatley wildcats did something critics questioned was even possible and turned things around earning a passing grade of C.

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It joined 94% of HISD campuses that earned an A, B or C. 

"The message to the state is what some thought might be impossible is possible," said Superintendent Millard House II. "Our kids are capable of doing everything we want, everything we expect."

Years of past failure at Wheatley prompted the state to threaten to take over HISD. It's why this turnaround is so significant.

"Wildcat nation has prevailed," former Wheatley Principal Joseph Williams said. 

Williams says it took consistency and perseverance. 

"We did a lot of things to bring in that joy factor where they [students] wanted to come to school, that's number one," said Williams. 

Williams credits teachers, alums and the community, but ultimately the students. 

"We didn't take the test," said Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. "We didn't do the improvements. These students did."

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And that's what community leaders hope state officials realize - Wheatley students just needed to be given a chance to succeed.

"TEA should never come this way again," said Jackson Lee. "That Wildcat attitude is going to be restored. That's what was happening. People were saying I have to go somewhere else, now they say how fast can I get my son or daughter to Wheatley HS."

And with a new school year set to begin next week that Wheatley pride will be on full display. Superintendent House is pushing students to not be complacent and keep pushing for more. 

"It's not about just being a C, we want to move this to be an A one day," said House. 

And the celebrations continue next week, it is Teacher Appreciation Day at Minute Maid Park on August 25. The Houston Astros have invited Wheatley teachers to take part in honor of their hard work.

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