When Gerry Monroe visited Cullen Middle School on Tuesday, he was simply hoping to talk to kids about gangs as part of his One Houston/One Hood program. But when he was led into the room to speak, he was dumbfounded by what he saw.

“I asked what was this room. They said it was the library. I was floored because the shelves had no books,” he said. “After years of using books, students taking them home, the supply started to deplete. The principal barely has a budget to run the school, so I’m not faulting him, but this should never happen. Now I can understand why our kids are struggling.”

Monroe immediately rallied other members of his community coalition to spread the word about the dire circumstances at Cullen and Yates.

“These are great schools, they have a great administration. They just have no money. The district needs to find some money somewhere. We don’t have the basics and that’s failing our kids,” Monroe said.

Houston Independent School District officials say while the bare shelves look bad, students still have access to books in some classrooms.

“All HISD middle schools recently were equipped with classroom libraries to provide more access to literary resources thanks to Literacy in the Middle, a district wide initiative that aims to increase literacy among middle school students,” the district wrote in a statement.

            “HISD administrators are aware that some middle schools still need books to supplement their school libraries and are searching for ways to meet that need despite significant financial challenges resulting from the state’s school finance system,” they concluded.

HISD board Trustee Jolanda Jones, who represents the Third Ward school was just made aware of the issue and immediately began investigating with the hopes of being a part of the solution.

“Literacy is an issue I’m incredibly passionate about, and now that I have been made aware of this I’m going to work with HISD administration to fix it! I also want to thank Gerry Monroe for bringing this matter to my attention,” said Jones.

Cullen Middle School is currently working on a donation webpage for those interested in donating money to help purchase additional books for the school’s library. For more information or to donate, call the school office at 713-746-8080. A link to the donation webpage also will be available on the school’s website on Nov. 3, 2016.

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