PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Local News

September 20, 2010

New PA Charter School provides Hope to area students

— There is a new charter school in town and it is already giving Hope to children in the community.

Seventy-five-years ago, the Hughen Community made its mark in the Port Arthur area, and now with several other facilities already in place The Hughen Center finally has a school to call their own — And they called it The Bob Hope Charter School.

“I feel like a proud papa,” Monte Osburn, executive director of The Hughen Center, said. “I’ve been trying to get this together for a long time and it is finally here.”

It took about three and half years to come. From the time, Osburn first took his place as a leader at the Hughen Center, he had his mind set on making his dream of opening the school a reality. At the beginning of September that dream came true.

“We are just so passionate about our school,” Osburn said. “From the faculty and staff to the staff at the Hughen Center and the students, there are just so many people who helped in this process and it’s so great that there are so many people the students can rely on.”

This includes Esteban Ramirez, a seventh grader dressed in his tidy blue and white uniform, who says The Bob Hope School has already received his stamp of approval.

“Teachers don’t have to walk us to lunch,” Ramirez said. “You really don’t have to walk much at all because it’s so small. And the teachers don’t scream at you and give you a lot of work. It’s clean and they take care of the school.”

Ramirez may not realize it but all those things were intentional. According to the school superintendent, Bobby Lopez, the small classrooms are just one of the beauties of the school’s features.

“The beauty of what you get here is a small concept,” Lopez said. “The kids can stay more focused because the classes are small allowing more personalized attention from teachers for students.”

Recognized by former president George W. Bush for serving on the Texas Youth Commission board, a state-wide correctional program and by Governor Rick Perry who appointed him to the board’s position, Lopez has been a superintendent going on 14 years and said this school was a good career move.

“I love it,” Lopez said. “This is a great program and it is a great opportunity for children and we’ve had a great turn-out with a lot of support.”

Osburn said he could not have been more thrilled to have a man of his qualities leading the school during the first year.

“It was such a thrill not only to find someone but to find someone with these credentials, recognized by the president (former) and governor is just amazing,” Osburn said.

Lopez wears several hats in the school, beginning with his role as superintendent, then there’s sociology teacher, problem and solutions teacher to hall and cafeteria monitor. How does he do it, some may ask. Well, according to Lopez, it takes a willingness to help others progress in life.

“You can’t just bring the public school blueprint into the charter school.” Lopez said. “You have to take the needs of the kids and focus on that.”

Lopez was a superintendent at a charter school in Houston for several years prior to his current position and said this school offers something a little different from what he was used to.

“This is a great program where needs are met,” Lopez said. “You have the history of The Hughen Center going on 75 years and a good program — things just go hand-in-hand here.”

Another thing that goes hand-in-hand is the 60,000 square foot space the school shares with the Hughen Center’s three main buildings; The Hughen Center, Hope Center and the Hebert Adult Center. The school is housed in the Hughen Center which has about 20,000 square feet of space.

There was a welcoming sound of laughter that permeated the halls followed by the fragrant smell of hamburgers with french fried potatoes that wafted through the air as students commuted between classes.

The walls were spruced up with a sparkling new white pallet and baby blue streaks on the bulging bumpers on the walls — an improvement from the flash from the past yellow and brown tones people became accustomed to. Not to mention, a new roof sits atop the partitions that separate each classroom. The partitions were strategically put in place to provide seclusion but also to benefit funding needs.

Funding for this renovated facility did not come cheap. The cost came to about $600,000. One of the priciest renovations was for the roof, which took a bad blow from Hurricane Ike.

“Hurricane Ike happened and it was unfortunate but it was a good thing too because we received a lot of grant money from it,” Osburn said.

The 6th through 12th grade Charter School accepts students who live at Hughen as well as students in Port Arthur and Mid-County. In fact, all the residents who live at the Hughen Center go to the Hughen School. Already the school has 210 students, with a big bulk of those students being 6th graders.

Not only did the school provide a place for area students to learn but it also provided more jobs.

“I am proud to say we have created jobs for this area,” Osburn said. “We have about 15 to 18 certified teachers, along with maintenance, cooks, so you’re looking at about 25 to 30 positions. Adding this school has doubled our employment.”

April Sherman, middle school teacher is loving every minute of this new experience.

“I’m a first year teacher and I’m really enjoying the kids,” Sherman said. “The kids are so much fun and that’s why I come to work.”

Everyone is getting acclimated to the new innovative technology.

A cut above the old green boards and powdery white chalk, teachers at The Bob Hope School are using smart boards (interactive computerized teaching tools) in several classrooms, providing students with a new and fun way to learn. That is in addition to the 36 laptops donated by Total of Port Arthur sitting in one of the new computer labs.

A combination of education and treatment, The Bob Hope school, according to Osburn provides a place for students of all educational backgrounds a place where they can feel at home.

“Even though the school goes back to the 1930’s we still have found a place that provides a type of community for kids focused on their future,” Osburn said.

All perpetrators beware, you’re on candid camera.

At almost every corner of the school, a video camera can be spotted to provide children with a safe environment.

Not to worry sports fans, but the mascot has already been chosen. Hopefully students from the volleyball team, chess squad, and flag football teams will get to show off their Eagle printed letterman jackets in due time.

With an average 15:1 teacher-student ratio, it is no wonder why Osburn believes this school provides a good educational experience for driven individuals.

“We want to make sure they are ready for that next step,” Osburn said. “We want to answer that call to promote a readiness for students to enter the workforce and make sure they are ready for that next big step.”

rbrown@panews.com

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