Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Sneak Peek: Red Dessert Dive

Jessica Lusk grew up in Tomball, but with strong ties to the Heights. Her grandfather grew up here, her mother lived here until high school, and her family still owns her grandfather's Heights home. These ties make it no surprise that this community has drawn her in, this time to start a small business in Houston's most local-business-loving neighborhood.

While attending Texas A&M, where she would eventually graduate with an Environmental Design degree, Lusk left Texas to head to New York City for an architecture internship, where she fell in love with the small spaces occupied by unique businesses. So much in New York seemed "tiny and weird" compared to what she had always known in Texas, but she relished it. She returned to Texas and then stayed close to home, earning a Masters in Architecture at University of Houston.

When Lusk began her career in Houston, she soon realized that, despite her excellent education, the working environment of architecture was not where her heart was. She decided she wanted to be an entrepreneur and Stella Bakes was born. Stella Bakes, a homebaking cupcake business, was an experiment; a way for Lusk to see if she had the mettle to own her own business- to do all the work and assume all the risk. She decided she did and put together a business plan for... more work and even greater risk.

1045 Studewood, next to the new SOHO boutique
When Jessica Lusk was living in New York, one of her favorite places was the original Magnolia Bakery. Tucked in to a tiny space in the West Village, Magnolia Bakery was practically an institution the day the doors opened. Inspired by the Magnolia and encouraged by her experience with Stella Bakes, Lusk decided she wanted to own a dessert shop. Unlike both Magnolia and Stella Bakes, Lusk did not want this dessert shop to be "cute." She doesn't think that desserts, whether it's cupcakes or cheesecakes, need to always be so "girlie." She wanted something decidedly different and came up with the concept of Red, a business named for her grandmother, a "feisty redhead and amazing baker."

While the general aesthetic of Red will be very different from it's inspiration in New York, one similarity remains in Lusk's new venture: small. She knew she wanted the Heights area and she knew she wanted less than 1200 sq feet. What she has ended up with is a little sliver of Studewood, coming in at a very New York-ish 961 sq ft.

The state of 1045 Studewood 2 weeks ago, when Jessica invited me in to chat

Jessica Lusk's background in architectural design has definitely helped her dream of tiny become a big reality. Lusk did all the plans for Red herself and has plans to put every inch of the space to use. As plans developed, the concept became clear for Lusk. Red will have "classic American desserts with a twist" plus a nice selection of beer and wine. There will also be a strong coffee program from Boomtown Coffee on 19th Street. Coffee "was not am afterthought" for Lusk, and in it's final incarnation, Red be more "of a coffee shop with an emphasis on desserts" than a bakery itself.

The Fredricksburg light fixture that is dictating the interior design of Red
Red will share parking with SOHO Boutique, eeking out just enough to allow permitting for eating and drinking in house. Right now, there isn't much to see inside, but that isn't stopping Lusk from holding to a May opening. What you will be able to expect come May is a "a funky, fun, eclectic bakery," where the Rolling Stones provide the soundtrack and funky versions of desserts you love will satisfy your sweet tooth. Lusk has drawn interior design inspiration from an amazing light fixture she found outside of Fredricksburg, TX. A subway tile wall will give focus to the service area, where you'll find eight bar stools and a window bench for enjoying your sweet with your beverage of choice. Materials like reclaimed wood and cast iron piping will create an environment, Lusk hopes, that bucks the trend of cutesy when it comes to desserts.

Service area will be on the south wall,
eye catching white subway tile and rustic elements for an almost masculine aesthetic

Plans for the finished space, including a micro-office for Lusk

True to the neighborhood, Lusk is focusing on using local vendors for everything from beer selection to coasters to employee uniforms. While she is getting help on the wine list, Lusk will be putting the beer list together herself. And she is no longer doing the baking. Focusing on operations is where she thinks she's best used, so she has a pastry chef, as well as a barrista to handle the front of the house. When the doors open for business, Red is going to be open from roughly 7 am until 8 pm. Lusk is open to changing this as she is able to see what her customer base prefers. With hours and some other aspects of the business, Lusk is willing to remain flexible and experience some trial and error "until we find our sweet spot." Pun intended?

As of today, April 16, some good progress toward Red's anticipated May opening
Red Dessert Dive + Coffee Shop
1045 Studewood
Houston Heights
Twitter/ @Red_HoustonTX
Facebook/RedHouston

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

All Signs Point "True North"

My interaction with True North started with this email from Heights Kids Group early Saturday morning:
Bungalow Rooftop in the median on Heights Blvd 
Does anyone know anything about this? Someone put a rooftop (and part of a house/garage?) in the median on Heights between 4th and 5th. Looked like workmen were arriving with tools to remove just now. (hope not) Looked like a statement to the death of the bungalow. Spot on IMO. Go see quickly if you are interested.
A quick update shortly after noted that they were not removing it, but had actually added a steeple to it. Someone wondered if it had to do with the fire at Heights Presbyterian... Then someone announced: it is an art installation. The rooftop at 4th St has had everyone talking, with multiple pictures posted to The Heights Life Facebook page and in my Twitter and Instagram feeds.































So, what's the real deal on the project? It's called “True North” and has been a long time dream of Gus Kopriva, owner of Redbud Gallery on 11th and an icon in the local art scene; a name recognized both nationally and internationally.  Kopriva has long dreamed of producing large scale public art exhibitions in Houston. He hatched a plan "to expand the placement of public art pieces to numerous locations throughout the city and particularly along the esplanade of Heights Boulevard." The esplanade, which is a Scenic Right of Way from White Oak Bayou to 20th Street, has long enjoyed the tender, loving care of the Heights Association with native trees, flower gardens, irrigation systems, drinking fountains, the much-loved jogging trail, plus memorials, benches, gazebos, and public "Thank Yous" to the likes of long time residents, business owners, and volunteers like Carl and Melvalene Cohen. With much effort and cooperation, this project got approval from the City’s Parks Department and Public Works as a major location for a public art exhibit. And now we all get to benefit.

What is True North about? The idea is for a sculpture project that "is a representation of local works of contemporary art along the esplanade for the enjoyment of our community and visitors.  Exhibits—produced by highly recognized Texas artists—will foster the understanding and advancement of art." Sounds good.

The first True North sculpture installation will be in place for roughly nine months.  There will be ten total sculptures from eight artists, including a 2-piece project from Lee Littlefield, who passed away last year and to whom the show is dedicated. 

Here is the line up, in no particular order:

Carter Ernst- The only piece by a woman artist, "Pointing North" is actually not installed yet.  Weather caused some delays, but sometime on the weekend of April 4 you can expect to see a large fiberglass dog on 600 block of Heights. Her piece is inspired by Ernst's own dog and, as Gus Kopriva noted in our chat, is perfect for the Heights, a very dog-centric neighborhood.

Dan Havel- Pictured above, the church that launched so much speculation is "Wildlife Sanctuary." Back in the 1990s, an old church was torn down/converted in to a funeral home on 18th at Columbia. Havel is re-introducing a piece of Heights history back to the neighborhood, but he is also making this architectural remnant functional with a purpose. If you get close, you'll see small doors that hold bird seed for the many feathered friends that live in and travel through the Heights. Another elemtnet of note: the steeple was once hit by lighting, which twisted it.

Paul Kittelson- Lawn Chairs (my apology to the artist. I failed to get the official name of this really awesome piece). Kittleson is known for large scale, whimsical art like giant popcorn pieces and lighting strike. He also does a lot of public works. A sculpture prof at UofH, his piece is simply "about furniture that is utilized a lot in the Heights." A piece of wall art with the fabric used for the chairs will be available at the Heights Association auction next weekend.

Lee Littlefield- His "Cypress Flowers" should look familiar to anyone in Houston. He took cypress and pine wood and used those materials to create brightly colored trees which are installed all over town.

Patrick Medrano- "From the Hood to The Heights" --- Medrano has taken the common architectural element of the shotgun house, suited it for dogs, and gave the dogs' house oars for a canine escape from some kind of imminent flood or hurricane. Once again, we love our dogs in the Heights.

Steve Murphy- "Things You CAn't Get From Books" Kopriva isn't sure what that means! LOL! In any case, this abstract sculpture is found in a small stand of trees, giving it more of a presence.

Dean Ruck-  "Hourglass"- This sculpture on 18th, is 14' tall with 150 5" mirrors. Dean is well known for his previous works with Dan Havel, most notably the Inversion house in Montrose. 

Ed Wilson- "Folded Plane" Wilson created a giant stainless steel paper airplane.

A year of planning and a Mayor’s Initiative Grant through Houston Arts Alliance, along with private donations, has made this project possible. There has been effort from many notable locals working with Kopriva. A Heights icon herself, artist Chris Silkwood is a long time community activist and was also leadership for this bunch of loveliness. 

It's only been three days and I already love everything about this art installation. I asked Kopriva if there would more sculptures or other projects after these are gone in November? He can't say right now but I think he hopes so. He sees Houston really bursting in to the national art spotlight right now and believes that there ample room for projects like this around our lovely city. We "have a lot of Boulevards," he noted. He wants to see the neighborhood's reaction and take community in to consideration. I think this is a thoughtful way of operating. I feel pretty sure, based on the excitement I've seen so far, that our community will welcome projects like this many times over. 

Like all art, our interpretations will be subjective. I imagine the piece open to most interpretations will probably be "Wildlife Sanctuary." Kopriva shared a story with me about being stopped by a pastor during the installation of the piece. "Is this a church?" he asked. He was concerned about a sinking church and what that might be symbolic of. "Oh no," Kopriva told him. "It is arising. It's being re-born." The pastor was lucky to have someone to work on his perspective with him that day, allowing him to leave in a more positive place than he arrived. Not everyone will be able to interact with the curator of this project or the artists who created it, but certainly many discussions will be had about all of it and what it might mean.

Some might muse about the meaning of True North and how it applies to each sculpture. The name  is the most literal part of the project: it is a reference to Heights Boulevard, which does, indeed, run true north.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Why do I support local businesses?

There are a lot of reasons. One is because for every $1 you spend at a local store, there is a greater return in to our local economy. The 3/50 Project urges people to support local businesses because for every $100 spent locally, $68 comes back to our local economy:

from www.350project.net








And then there is the way local businesses care about the community they live and work in. That care is demonstrated in posts like the one Justin Engle, owner of the just-starting-to-get-built microbrewery Town In City Brewing Company, made to our community's Nextdoor message board.

Hi fellow neighbors!
I wanted to give you a heads up about West Cavalcade at the five point intersection. Starting tomorrow (February 27), Town in City Brewing will start excavating their lot. There will be numerous trucks off-loading dirt from the property and bringing select-fill for the property. The trucks should be spread out throughout the day. With the current construction on N. Main and Airline, you may have a slight traffic delay for the next two days.  
I will try and give a heads up when the concrete pour comes as there will be a lot of truck traffic for those two days.  
If you have any questions, please feel free to comment or private message me. I do apologize for any inconvenience that this may cause.


It's thoughtful things like this that make this network of streets and electrical lines and sewer pipes a community. 



Thanks, Justin, for being a great neighbor and a great local business owner. Your thoughtfulness is noted and much appreciated. And your beer is super good.

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Short and Sweet Valentine's Story

More than a decade ago, a woman named Tanita lived on Harvard Street in the Houston Heights. A mere three blocks away, a nice young man named Keith was living the bachelor life on Columbia. The nearby-neighbors met, fell in love, got married, had a daughter, and that is how the rest of us got the Heights Candy Bar.

OK, maybe that is too short, although no less sweet.

Gorgeous gifts from Hammond's

Tanita Gumney met her husband while they were both single and living in the Heights. Soon after they got married and settled in to his house on Columbia, Keith's mother opened a small shop in the neighborhood. You may be familiar with it: Oa La La on Studewood. When I moved to the Heights Judy Pfardresher's beautiful gift shop was still young, yet was one of the very first Heights landmarks that I knew well, even before the shops on 19th Street or Onion Creek.

Since Oo La La opened in 2003, the space has seen some changes. Pfardresher has subdivided the building in to three shops. On the north side is Tulips and Tutus, helmed by another Judy, Judy Meyer (allowing me to refer to my visits to the shops as "Going to see The Judys."). In a rare location switch, Meyer actually left the 19th Street retail district to join OoLaLa. While that meant a reduction in foot traffic, it almost doubled the space for precious baby gifts, thoughtful toys, and adorable clothes. On the south side, we've had the first incarnation of Kaboom Books. When Kaboom relocated to Houston Ave, Frosted Betty cupcakes moved in.

A few months ago, Frosted Betty closed up shop. As Gumney and Phardresher sat around one evening talking about what new thing they would love to see in the vacant space, the concept of a candy shop was stuck in Phardresher's head. One thing lead to another and her daughter-in-law agreed to helm the shop. Heights Candy Bar was born.

"I really wanted all natural candy," said Gumney, but when she got to picking stock, couldn't get away from traditional candy because, well "[it] is so much fun!" In the end, she decided to go with all of the above. "Life is a balance, and there is room for both."

Gumney is optimistic about the community supporting another locally owned business, especially one that is unique in the neighborhood right now. "Everyone needs a little sweet something-something every now and then, right? I've tried to get a good mix of traditional candy, natural candy and gift-y items." She thinks the space feels good when you walk in, and hopes it will be a destination, "somewhere worth the stroll or drive over."

Giant heart shaped lollipops

Although she has barely been open a week, she/s already having fun with the concept. Opening right before Valentine's Day has helped make the first few days a lot of fun, despite the stress of opening a new business. 
The thing I like best, so far, is people coming in to buy Valentine's for a sweetheart - and I know both people (giver and receiver). Glad to be sharing sweet love! I really like recommending the all natural chocolates, then someone tries them for the first time, enjoys them as much as I do, and gives them to their sweetheart. I got a text from one customer that simply read, "Oh my" and my response was, "I know!"
Stop in to see the shop for yourself and make your sweetie happy many days a year, not just this one prescribed to us. Whether you're a hard core chocoholic, fan of retro dime store candy, or need a gift in a pinch, I think Gumney's hope will be realized: Heights Candy Bar will be a great, local destination.

Marich is a California based, family owned company that has been making premium candies for over 30 years
Hammond's, made in Denver, was skyrocketed into the national consciousness when Williams Sonoma started putting the candies in their ubiquitous catalogs



Heights Candy Bar - 833 Studewood 77007
Hours are 10-6 Tuesday-Saturday (closed Sunday & Monday)
Follow them on Facebook Heights Candy Bar



P.S. Oo La La has started a Facebook page as well. Follow Judy here: OoLaLa 




Thursday, January 16, 2014

Gratitude at Hogg

In the fall, I shared some wonderful news about the positive changes at Hogg Middle School.  The Learn Local parents group continues to work with Dr. Schnitta to build enthusiasm in the community for this improving school.  One of the major milestones that is exciting both parents and students is the newly renovated library.  The Texas Observer's December 3, 2013, article discussed the sad state of the libraries in Texas schools (emphasis is mine): 
Even after absorbing $5.4 billion in funding cuts from the 2011 Legislature—damage only partially remedied this year—Texas schools have shed 3 percent of their counselors, 2 percent of their teachers and 1 percent of their nurses. But they’ve cut 9 percent of their librarians. (All while the student body grew by 3 percent.) Forced to skimp by the Legislature, many administrators went skimping in the library. 
In early October, the Houston Chronicle told the story of Mary Burgert, a middle-school librarian laid off mid-year because of budget cuts. Houston ISD is a particularly tough place for librarians. The state’s largest school district has just 97 certified librarians, down from 169 four years ago, according to the Chronicle. About 60 percent of the district’s schools, theChronicle reported, are without a librarian this year. In dozens of schools, the library is simply closed.
Hogg was one of those schools.  Was.  At a time when librarians are last on the list for respect and first on the list to lose their jobs, Hogg has brought in Suzanne Webb, a Heights resident and Travis parent, as their new librarian.  This is a sure sign of the committment the school has to its students and yet another reason some local families will skip the tedious magnet application process and start attending their zoned school. 

In an effort to get the library where they wanted it to be, Ms. Webb reached out to the community.  She posted a fundraising effort via a website called Titlewish.com, a free online fundraising site that allows schools to use the funds raised to buy books.  This effort would help stock the shelves and bring more and more books to the students.  My wonderful friend Amber, who does not live in the Heights and does not have a child who will be attending Hogg, was inspired by their efforts.  She made a very small donation to the library fund, satisfied with the hope that some child could benefit from the book she helped buy.

And then she got this:


Amber posted the photo on her Facebook page with the caption "Thank YOU, Hogg Middle School." I was blown away, as were many of her other friends. Sometimes it's the simple things, you know...
"I couldn't imagine what mail I might be receiving from Hogg Middle School? My kids are 1 and 4 and we aren't zoned anywhere close to the school. When I opened the envelope and saw the printed thank you note, I recalled the small donation I had made. Then, when I saw the handmade thank you cards, I actually welled up. I know the school is fighting to earn a good reputation. Having seen this project I don't doubt they are doing just that. They are clearly a school to watch and to support, whether my kids will attend or not."
I think Amber is totally right.  These cards demonstrate how hard Hogg faculty is working to raise expectations, both in the community and from their students.  While this is a good lesson in letter writing for some and perhaps etiquette for others, it is a good exercise in gratitude for everyone.

To contribute to the on-going efforts at Hogg, follow the LearnLocal page on Facebook. They have many projects on deck, including a fundraiser to help the boys' basketball team acquire matching uniforms.

Monday, December 16, 2013

A [Emerson] Rose Grows on 19th Street

One of the things I've discovered about many local business owners is that they rarely start out where they've ended up, i.e. their small, local shop is often a second career path. Whether they were teachers or engineers, artists or full time parents, many come to a realization that there is something else they want to be doing. Every once in a while, though, I come across someone who knew the highs and lows, the reward and the struggle, of being a small business owner and despite the hard work, realized early that it was their only path. This is the case for 23 year old Bonnie Reay, who is opened Emerson Rose on 19th St this morning.

Reay spent the first years of real adulthood in a woman's wear boutique. Her mother opened Bliss on Main in Sealy, TX in 2009. Like many kids whose parents own a business, Reay was a partner in the success of the venture. She attended markets with her mom and helped pick what the store would stock. She also spent a lot of time doing the less glamourous work of unpacking boxes, printing price tags, and steaming garments. It's not always easy and the notion of owning her own store took time to develop. 

In the meantime, Reay left Sealy for Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, where she was a Political Science major. Four years quickly passed and she was a college graduate and a law school applicant. Reay thought she found something she was passionate about and would help her forge her own path. She studied, prepped, and sat for the LSATs. Like many law school applicants, she found herself anxious as she awaited her scores, the results of which which would determine her future. 

When Reay's LSAT scores arrived they were great; exactly what she needed them to be for her choice of law schools. Unexpectedly, after the positive results she was left with a lingering anxiety which she realized wasn't about the scores themselves. Her inability to be happy about her good scores told Reay that she wasn't going to be a lawyer. She realized she was happiest when she was doing even the mundane work of running the shop with her mom at Bliss on Main. Reay realized owning a shop would be her first, and hopefully only, career.

Bonnie Reay and her family spent a lot of time in Houston when she was growing up. She has fond memories of browsing the antique and resale shops in the Heights. Back in Sealy, she had a dress-up trunk that was the envy of her school friends, packed with all kinds of dresses, costumes, and accessories collected from shops around this neighborhood. Those road trips and shopping excursions were the impetus for the choice to relocate to Houston, and open Emerson Rose, a woman's boutique based on what she knows and loves from the Sealy store, tailored to her tastes and the neighborhood she now calls home. 

Reay moved to the Heights in the early part of summer, 2013. She settled in a quaint duplex in walking distance from many of the spots she has loved on all those road trips to the neighborhood- Dacapo's and Antidote, to name a couple. With her mom's guidance, she started investigating real estate options in the neighborhood. The building which had formerly housed Harold's in the Heights was now split in to 3 spaces, with the small, center spot seemingly begging to be a boutique. For Reay, the Harold's space just felt perfect. On those early road trips to Houston, her father and uncles shopped at Harold's. She felt that clothing could and should have a home in that building again.



Emerson Rose will have a sort of "light industrial interior," which was easy for Reay to decide. "The space was its own inspiration," she says. Over it's life span, the Harold's building has seen a hodge podge of renovations and Reay wanted to "keep evidence of some of that." She didn't add a ceiling, keeping the space tall and open to pipes. She painted it white, but kept the exposed brick. Reay feels this will work well since, visually, "many clothes and textiles works well against hard materials."

Some of Reay's favorite elements of the store's interior design are the wooden planks from Wayne's Barn Wood on 11th Street used to mount the clothing rods and the mailboxes in the dressing rooms, inspired by the first one she found at August Antiques on Heights Boulevard. There are also the beautiful light fixtures, handblown in Cleveland, TX.


As at her family's store, Reay plans to stock a broad range of clothing. She says there will be something for most budgets, with blouses starting at $30. She will also stock some of those splurges you "buy once and wear for years" coming in closer to the $200 price point. The vast majority, she says, will fall in the affordable $30-60 range. 

A trio of tops from Blu Pepper brand. Middle top, which can be worn as a tunic or dress, retails for $32.95
There is also going to be a heavy emphasis on accessories. "More than what you usually see in a clothing boutique," Reay says. Emerson Rose will also stock a small collection of body care and occasional gift items.
Top left: Giving Keys necklaces, which are designed to be given as gifts. The company who makes them employs "those looking to transtition out of homelessness."
Bottom left: Super sparkly hair accessories and  agate necklace.
Right: Paper bead necklaces, made in Tibet
Reay doesn't have current "go-to" brand or designer that she heavily favors for Emerson Rose. They store won't have a "staple" line; instead the merchandise is all about diversity. And even in the lower price points, Reay wants an emphasis on well made. 
The size ranges will be based on the successes in the Sealy store- everything from XS to XL available. While she didn't have it in time for opening, Reay plans to bring in a well thought out selection of plus sizes. Denim will start at Size 24 and go up to 32. 
Left: A small collection of LBDs, great for holiday or NYE parties.
Top Right: Embelished knit dress $122
Emerson Rose is open as of today, December 16. New merchandise will continue to arrive during the Holiday shopping frenzy, and a Grand Opening is anticipated for January. 

And for those of you who love pop culture as much as I do, I asked Bonnie Reay if she intentionally named her boutique after Terri Hatcher's daughter, who was sort of famously named Emerson Rose 15 years ago? Being that she is only 23 herself, I wasn't surprised that she in fact did not name her shop after Terri Hatcher's daughter and, in fact, did not even know Hatcher had a daughter of the same name. I'm sure she probably doesn't know that Terri Hatcher was Lois Lane back when Reay was in elementary school, either. "Emerson," she explains," is a family name. I wanted to add something feminine and soft, so I chose Rose." Makes much more sense.

Emerson Rose
350 West 19th Street Suite B 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Where's Waldo's?

Here's the quick and dirty: the new Waldo's, soon to be known as Boulevard Coffee, has an expected open date of December 15.

Work is plugging along on a larger deck. The expanded outside area is intended to be dog and kid friendly. The gravel driveway and grassy area in back are being paved and may serve as a spot for entertainment in the future.




















The inside has changed format as well, from the cozy rooms of an old bungalow to the more functional, HGTV favorite "open concept." The expanded kitchen will have coffee and baked goods, plus paninis and other lunch-y items.

I am excited about the new concept and can't wait to try it out. There isn't a lot in the way of easily accessible food/drink for those around this location. And we all know the Heights loves its caffeine. I look forward to the opening and hearing what you guys think!

Pooch Party


Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Healthy Competition for Heights Middle Schools??


Looks like we have a little healthy competition in the Heights! A couple weeks ago I made this post about positive changes and community involvement at Hogg Middle School under the leadership of their new Principal, Dr. Mina Schnitta. 
Now an email is circulating from the new Principal at Hamilton Middle School. Wendy Hampton has taken over from retiring Principal Roger Bunnell, who spent more than a decade at the school. Ms. Hampton is enthusiastic about her new school, which is always the first thing any school needs in an Administrator. Her excitement about the school is obvious in her letter, which outlines all of the successes Hamilton has had, making it the desired middle school in the Heights. But it's not just the current state of good things going on at the school that caught my eye in this letter. There is a little bit about the future of the school that made me smile. Because I love some competitive spirit...


Hamilton Middle School on 20th (photo: panoramio.com)
Dear Parents, 
Alexander Hamilton Middle School is a great place for students to learn! We have a long-standing history of success and most recently received two distinctions by the Texas Education Agency: Distinction in Reading/ELA and Distinction in Student Progress. Prior to the new state accountability system, AHMS remained a TEA Recognized school for six years in a row. 
As the principal of Hamilton Middle School, I am committed to ensuring that students are academically challenged and prepared for advanced high school coursework in a positive environment where they enjoy learning. 
Hamilton Middle School offers Pre-advanced Placement (PreAP) courses for both Vanguard and non-Vanguard students. We believe all students should have the opportunity to complete advanced coursework that prepares them to take up to four classes for high school credit in 8th grade. We also know that fine arts enhance student performance academically. It also gives students an outlet for their creativity. We currently have an award-winning band program, beginning to advanced art, theater arts, and choir. 
Our "FUN FLEX" program adds an additional opportunity during the school day, four days a week, for students to participate in activities, including UIL Number Sense and Calculator competition, Name that Book, Odyssey of the Mind, Speech and Debate, Tennis, Dance, Robotics, and more! If also offers a time for students to receive support academically during the school day when they are not available to stay after school. 
Keeping active and physically fit also supports adolescent development and Hamilton has a wide selection of athletic events for both boys and girls, including an indoor heated pool for our swim team! 
It is a very exciting time for parents in the Heights Community. At Hamilton Middle School we are more committed than ever to remaining the best middle school in the Greater Heights and surrounding area, a top middle school in the district, and the number one choice for students and parents. 
Our doors are always open and you are always welcome on our campus! Come see what we have to offer by attending one of our scheduled tours, or set up an appointment for a tour at your convenience. 
For more information, please visit our newly designed website atwww.houstonisd.org/hamiltonms and follow us on Facebook atwww.facebook.com/hamiltonms1 . 
Sincerely,
Wendy Hampton, Principal
WHAMPTON@houstonisd.org


Did you see it there? The highlighted part? 

Now I am not saying this email is a direct result of the ongoing efforts at Hogg. I am pretty certain any motivated and caring school administrator wants to see good things for all public schools. I can't help but see the slightly competitive nature of that paragraph, though. And it's exciting! It can only mean good things for our neighborhood kids when our two local middle schools strive to be the best. There are no losers in this type of contest.