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HSPVA Gets $7.5 Million & a New Name

A rendering of the new High School for the Performing and Visual Arts being built downtown.
A rendering of the new High School for the Performing and Visual Arts being built downtown.

A rendering of the new High School for the Performing and Visual Arts being built downtown.

For the past couple years, the Houston Independent School District (HISD) has been building a new downtown campus for the city’s High School for Performing and Visual Arts (HSPVA). The 168,000-square-foot building marks a new step in the school’s history—HSPVA has called Montrose, a quirky, hip Houston neighborhood, home since 1981. Currently, the school enrolls about 700 students, but the new campus promises room for more. When the building opens in 2018, it will offer five stories of classrooms, performance spaces, dining areas, theaters, and everything else talent hungry high schoolers would possibly want.

Recently, on October 13, the HISD board of trustees voted to accept a $7.5 million donation from the Kinder Foundation towards the construction of HSPVA’s new campus. In turn, once HSPVA reopens, it will be renamed the Kinder High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. This comes after the school received $80.2 million from HISD’s 2012 bond election.

For more info on the new school building, please go here and here.

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    We reached out to alumni and friends to help us ask the Kinder family to give back the HSPVA name, by amending their naming rights contract with HISD. We hope they act as the good citizens and neighbors we know them to be.
    • SELLING NAMES IS BIG BUSINESS. Universities and museums don’t sell their names. They sell names of theaters, stadiums, and park benches. The new Kinder building at the MFAH cost Kinder $50 million. Many would accept naming a theater in return for a substantial contribution. The HSPVA naming contract pushes HISD far outside the norm, granting the top-level school name “in perpetuity” for $7.5 million.
    • DALLAS DOES IT BETTER? In 2008 Dallas philanthropists and citizens raised $42 million in a $55 million capital campaign to renovate Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts. Naming rights for parts of the building were recognized but the institution’s name remained the same, and the community of committed and connected supporters of the school was enlarged. Brand was never for sale.
    • STRONG-ARMING THE BOARD OF EDUCATION AND THE PUBLIC. When the board tried to delay the vote for discussion and study, on the day of the vote Kinder said to take it or leave it. The offer would “expire” six days after the announcement of the name change. Don’t think, just vote!
    • IDENTITY AND HISTORY WERE SOLD. HSPVA was the first magnet school prototype in HISD and one of the first public performing arts high schools in the nation. Kinder’s name on the nationally-recognized school implies they founded it and endowed it. They did neither. The school’s public identity is subsumed into the Kinder identity. What does this say about Houston? Money matters most.
    • MISREPRESENTATION. HSPVA Friends refers to the sales price of $7.5 million as a “donation” and a “generous gift.” Friends brokered the sale of publicly owned intellectual property to a billionaire. There is no difference between a contract for sale and the HISD agreement.
    • TAXPAYERS ARE PAYING FOR 95% of the building. The total cost of the building is $92 million. Kinder’s $5 million of theater equipment is only 5%. A name on an office building in HSPVA’s downtown location near Discovery Green would cost many millions on a continuing annual basis. HSPVA is no office building. It’s an iconic cultural institution.
    • PRECEDENT. The new (2015) HISD naming-for-funds policy was written for new “facilities or part of facilities”. It was never intended to put historic school names with established reputations at risk. Contrary HISD policy changed when the board ratified the agreement. The contract allows the school to access the last third of the total, $2.6 million, as late as 13 years after the name change, for capital needs non-existent today. This “Dibs!” provision means no current capital need is required to justify the sale of a name. All schools are for sale all the time.

    HSPVA represents something special: what our city can make with love, collaboration, creativity, and the ordinary limits of public school funding. The Kinder name will not enhance the HSPVA brand. It needs no enhancement. The Kinder money did not build HSPVA.

    We all did.
    Read all about it and sign the petition 887 of us sent to Kinder’s at http://www.KinderGiveItBack.org

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