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Archive for June, 2008

Humble ISD finalizes budget

Posted by Texas Education on June 30, 2008

Humble Independent School District, after months of balance sheet wrangling, finalized its 2008-2009 budget with nearly $9 million in reductions and the request to voters for a 13-cent increase.

The cuts are coming in response to news at a May 27 budget workshop that the district was looking at a $26.42 million budget deficit for the ‘08-‘09 school year and $31.29 million short fall for ’09-’10 without a 13-cent tax increase, which would put the district at the state’s tax limit.

Dr. Sconzo said the tax election date will come when the district receives certified values from the Harris County Appraisal District. The appraisals could come as early as August, which would put the election some time in the fall.

I missed this blessed event. But, my friend RYAN HICKMAN at the Atascocita/Kingwood Observer covered it most nicely. Don’t think there are any real surprises here. And at least now we can move on, lick our wounds, buck up, get a thick skin, keep our chins up. Yeah, yeah, I know enough already…

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Teacher banned for using ‘Freedom Writers’ book

Posted by Texas Education on June 30, 2008

Just stepping outside Texas Education for a bit. I thought this was, at least, newsworthy. CNN reported about a teacher who decided to teach/read the book “Freedom Writers,” a book by Erin Gruwell and later a movie was made (a must see by any teacher.)

Here’s what one person wrote concerning the story:

Technically, she was fired because she was insubordinate.
Realistically, she was fired because the book was banned from
classrooms.

She did deliberately not collect the books from her students
after she got an email from the district telling her to. So
that’s the insubordination.

She waited three months before that to hear about using the
book, and when nothing happened, got permission from 149 of
150 students’ parents to use the book.

It’s in the school library, but they said there’s a ‘lesser
standard’ for books that go in the library. That’s funny to
me, because at least with a teacher, the kids would have an
adult to discuss the ideas with.

One of the district board members said that the teacher set a
bad example by doing something she was told not to do. I
think she set the example that you do something in good
conscience, even if you know that the result for you will be
negative–civil disobedience and all that.

Ellen Gruwell even testified at the hearing. (from teachers.net)

Also, one of the anonymouses from detentionslip.org (I just love this site) said:

Welcome to America. Land of the free. Home of th…ose afraid of books. She went to the parents – there is no higher authority for a child’s learning than a parent. Breaking the rules for the right reasons is better than doing the ‘correct’ thing. I think that those freeing slaves illegally and the Founders of America might have something to say about “the ends do *not* justify the means”.

and T said:

This woman has shown that she is a very passionate teacher who wanted to do right by her students and to engage them to be better people. It seems to me that she is also standing by her principles.

149/150 parents gave permission to read this book. The parents spoke. The school board should listen.

You can go to that website to get more of the smart comments, along with the not so smart ones (I just love this one):

Just another ‘glowing example’ of why Homeschooling is the only sane and necessary alternative to the socialist ‘youth indoctrination camps'(gov. schools) that infest our once fair country. Read ‘Dumbing Us Down’ by John Taylor Gatto if you need insight into why ‘public schools’ are nothing more than training grounds for our young to fail in life. Yours In Liberty!

Wow, public schools are nothing more than training grounds for our young to fail in life? I guess that would include me. I guess I’m a total failure, along with, well, almost everyone I know. I honestly can’t think of anyone (off hand) that I know who went to a private, or Catholic school. Oh, I take that back, I may know of a few that went to Catholic schools, but a lot of them ended up going to public high schools, I do know that. I enrolled my son in our Catholic school for kindergarten, but had heard our public schools were better. I never got the chance to find out, we moved the following year. (Just some trivia about me and mine.)

This story seems a little djavue-ish. You can read what the Southside times wrote about this story.  On that blog there is someone, Steph Mineart, who has a great blog also, said, commenting on what Richard said:

“And I feel that the school district should not be promoting books with blatent cussing in them. But, since this story is not about the book, it is about her insubordination, perhaps we should talk about that.”

First of all – the work blatant is spelled B-L-A-T-A-N-T. You need to go back to English class, outraged_at_teacher, before you comment in public, because that.

Please. The story IS all about the book. Without it there would be no issue at all. No one is fooled by that line of cheap rationalization.

I can’t believe that anyone is objecting to this book because of “cussing.” That is ridiculous. Kids in high school are not STUPID. They can read words without adopting them into their everyday lives (as if none of them use these words already.)

It’s time for the prude police to grow up and get a life.

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Around Texas

Posted by Texas Education on June 29, 2008

Around Texas more and more school districts are facing major (millions of $$$) cutbacks due to “lack of funding.” There is much news just this week as ISD’s are finalizing their budgets for the fall. With the closing of schools, staff reductions, figuring out how to pay for the increasing gas and food prices, and on and on and on…

AISD OKs balanced budget of $9.3 million Alpine ISD trustees approved a balanced $9.297 million budget for the 2008-09 school year amid warnings that — in the words of business manager Darrell Dodds — “until the Legislature does something, we’re stuck.”

Athens ISD woes:

More than 25 residents packed Thursday night’s Athens school board meeting to protest the district’s decision to close R.C. Fisher school. Two members of the group addressed the board during the public comments portion regarding the closing. The end of the 2007-2008 school year marked the last for Fisher, which was closed for financial reasons and to send its sixth-graders to Athens Middle School.

Isle ISD’s budget woes may force job cuts:

The district will have a $7.4 million shortfall if it doesn’t cut the budget, officials say. If trustees agree to cuts administrators have proposed, such as laying off employees and eliminating vacant positions, it still faces a $5.7 million shortfall.

“We’re going through what every other school district in this state is going through,” said Board President Andy Mytelka. “The school finance system set up by the Legislature doesn’t work. We have a variety of things to look at, frankly, none of which are very good.”

Few Options

Predicting grim finances, the district closed two schools and eliminated 40 teaching jobs, six administrators, 12 aides and 37 auxiliary employees, including maintenance workers and food service employees since 2003.

Ok, do I hear some similarities here???

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What you need to know!!!

Posted by Texas Education on June 28, 2008

Districts face higher costs – for fuel, insurance, supplies, employee compensation and more – and yet state funding is frozen at the level received in the 2005-2006 school year. The state funding formula does not account for inflation.

This is problematic, wouldn’t you say?

There are huge discrepancies from one district to another in the amount of sate funding that districts receive based on WADA (weighted average daily attendance.) For example, Humble ISD receives $4,937 per WADA while Katy ISD receives $5,174 per WADA. It would mean an additional $9.2 million in sate aid if Humble ISD was to receive the same WADA as Katy ISD.

The state transportation allotment to school districts has not been increased since 1984.

Umm, how would you like to be working off income from 1984??? This is insane. I honestly can’t believe the Texas Legislature is putting it’s constituents through this. How is this even remotely fair???

Districts do not benefit from increased property valuation. The state reduces, dollar for dollar, the amount it sends to districts receiving more money from local taxpayers due to raising property values.

Again, fair?? I think not. Oh, but there’s more:

The Humble ISD Board, along with school boards all over the state, faces difficult decisions in adopting a budget for next year. With millions in cuts and much more to come, discussion of a possible roll-back election is beginning to be heard in the community. A tax rollback election means that residents would vote on whether to allow the district to raise the property tax rate to generate more operating money. School income is essentially frozen in Texas, since any rise in property values benefits the state, not the school district. The state decreases its share of aid to the schools when property taxes rise.

Wow, so, come fall, we need to make sure we VOTE the tax increase. I know, I know, we certainly are taxed to death, but, unless we want our school district to become a ‘minimal’ school district, or worse – close, we HAVE to do this.

This information was obtained from the Humble ISD website.

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Letter from Humble ISD Board Members

Posted by Texas Education on June 28, 2008

A Letter to the parents, employees, and taxpayers of Humble Independent School
District:

Over the last several weeks, we have received literally thousands of e-mails from
you about the current financial situation of Humble ISD and next year’s budget.
Although we have tried to respond to as many of you as possible, we think that it
is important, as people elected by you and as trustees of your tax dollars and the
education provided by this district, to give you more detail about the district’s
current situation so that you know what we are up against. We decided that an
open letter is the best way to convey what we know.
It is beyond dispute that Humble ISD currently is facing a budget crisis. If we
continue current operations without change, Humble is faced with a projected
shortfall of $25 million for the 2008-09 school year. The district has made budget
cuts totaling over $17.5 million over the last seven years while at the same time
educating an additional 8,000 students, but these previous cuts were targeted to
limit the impact on education and how the district operates.
Indeed, many with children in the district should not have noticed a change in
service, and our student’s test scores are improving yearly. The cuts that we are
currently facing, however, will require ending some programs, classes and
extracurricular activities that Humble has offered for decades.
In short, the cuts we are being forced to make will be felt across the district and at
every level.

We are in this crisis because of the current way our state funds public education.

Read the rest of this entry »

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Legislative Update – ATPE

Posted by Texas Education on June 27, 2008

this just in from ATPE…

6-26-08 ATPE files suit to protect educator privacy

ATPE filed a lawsuit June 23 against the Austin Independent School District and the Office of the Texas Attorney General to prevent the release of educators’ personal information to local media outlets. Since news of the lawsuit broke, ATPE has heard from many educators applauding the association for taking a stand on educators’ rights:

•One blogger wrote: “I’m a member of one of the other teacher organizations here in Texas (we don’t have unions per se, and are a right-to-work state), but I am thankful that the ATPE has filed this suit to keep the results of teacher background checks from becoming subject to release under the state’s public records laws.”

•One member reported cutting out an article about the lawsuit from The Dallas Morning News and saving it to share at her district’s new-teacher orientation and with campus representatives. (Read the Associated Press article on the lawsuit at www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/ap/tx/5852522.html.)

•Another member wrote: “I [was] aware that we educators will be fingerprinted sometime in the near future, but I did not consider that the background check could be public knowledge. I wholly support the [background check] process to protect all of us, but as your [op-ed at atpe.org] states, all of us deserve privacy. Thank you for your diligence!”

ATPE decided to file the lawsuit after Austin ISD was unsuccessful in its attempt to convince the attorney general’s office to reverse a decision requiring the release of information from Austin ISD employees’ recently completed criminal background checks. Austin ISD is the first district to complete the new criminal background check process mandated by Senate Bill (SB) 9, which was passed by the Legislature in 2007.

In filing the lawsuit, ATPE hopes to protect the privacy of all Texas educators. Although ATPE believes strongly in the use of background checks to identify school personnel whose past convictions indicate that their presence endangers the safety of students and faculty, we do not believe that releasing this personal data serves any public good. If released, the information would make no distinction between serious and minor offenses or distinguish between recent or long-past events. Nor would it discriminate between unfounded arrests and arrests that led to prosecution.

School districts across Texas will complete the SB 9-mandated background checks over the course of the next three years. Because the process raises many questions for educators—from questions of procedure to questions of privacy—ATPE has created a Fingerprinting Resource Center for Texas educators at www.atpe.org/Resources/educators/fingerprintingResources.asp. The resource center contains information about fingerprinting procedures, the history of SB 9 and privacy concerns, and ATPE will also post updates on the lawsuit there. Please share this link with your colleagues.

6-25-08 ATPE testifies against granting state funds to private schools to recover dropouts

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) held a hearing today on a controversial commissioner’s rule that would allow the agency to award grants to schools, including private schools, that identify dropouts and help them receive high school diplomas or achieve college readiness. ATPE has long opposed any program or initiative that directs public funds to private schools and testified at the hearing to outline our concerns about the plan. ATPE is concerned because:

•The plan would send public funds to private schools that are not accountable to the state or taxpayers.

•The plan does not contain safeguards to prevent parents from using this program to remove their children from public schools and send them to private schools.

•The plan does not require private schools to offer services that are research-based.

•The state would have no mechanism for sanctioning private schools under the Dropout Recovery Pilot Program..

View ATPE’s testimony in its entirety at www.atpe.org/advocacy/lan/dropoutRecoveryRuleTestimony.pdf.

TEA plans to implement the program by the end of August. ATPE will continue to monitor this issue closely and will report on any significant developments.

for more updates

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Districts battle to lure educators as state upgrades students’ courses

Posted by Texas Education on June 26, 2008

Oh, that’s only the sub title. (From Sunday’s Chron – Teach math, science? You’re hired.) But…I gotta say, I got a little steamed as I read this. Here, I’ve had a difficult time, at best, in finding and securing a position at a school/district. And here if you are math or science savvy, you get some districts offering signing bonuses or stipends, and at least one area district, Galena Park, is offering perks typically reserved for corporate executives. Wow, this is amazing.

The royal treatment

The royal treatment and perks. Galena Park ISD paid for someone to fly to Houston to spend two days with other out-of-town recruits. They stayed at a Galleria-area hotel, went to a “really great” Tex-Mex restaurant and, of course, got a tour of the schools and met with several principals.

“It was kind of like speed dating,” she said, “where you sat and talked to a principal for one school and then 20 minutes later, you switched.” If that’s not enough, What’s more, Galena Park awards signing bonuses of $5,000 for all middle and high school math and science teachers who make a two-year commitment. The district also reimburses up to $1,500 in moving expenses and pays health care premiums for a year, said spokesman Craig Eichhorn.

The Houston Independent School District offers one of the area’s biggest signing bonuses to math and science teachers: $6,000, with $4,000 paid upfront and $2,000 awarded in the second year.

Teachers who continue on the job also get an extra $1,000 annually, said Gomez, the interim HR manager. The article goes on to say.

The article, to me, seems to be boo hooing for the smaller school districts,

“It’s raising the bar for other districts to compete,” Gomez said. “And it hurts other districts if you don’t have the money to spend.”

not for teachers like me, who are teaching a “disposable” commodity, technology – an elective. Ok, call me bitter, but this is crazy, don’t you think? I understand the problems with the 4 by 4. And I also feel for the states, districts, and the teachers who are teaching math or science. I don’t envy them on that. I just wish more could be done for the electives, studies show extracurricular activities boost the kiddos grades, attendance, and make them all around better students and life long learners. Plus, colleges like to see that.

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Legislative Update

Posted by Texas Education on June 25, 2008

State Board of Education (SBOE) Okays New English Language Arts and Reading (ELAR) TEKS – In a sharply divided decision the SBOE approved a final ELAR TEKS replacement presented as a last minute compromise merging portions of two different ELAR TEKS proposals. The final version merged a document produced under a SBOE-issued contract with StandardsWork Inc., with work produced by workgroups consisting mainly of teachers who were invited to TEA this spring to provide input. A major change to the ELAR TEKS was a decision to eliminate a requirement that the education commissioner create a suggested list of “heritage” and “contemporary” authors that teachers could use in the ELAR curriculum. Instead, the education commissioner will compile a list of reading resources websites that districts and teachers can use in their ELAR lessons. The new TEKS will be implemented in the fall of 2009. New textbooks that cover the ELAR TEKS in grades 9-12 will reach schools in the fall of 2010, and the fall of 2011 for elementary and middle schools. For more information on the ELAR TEKS visit www.tea.state.tx.us.SBOE Agrees to Clarify 4×4 Rules to Provide More Flexibility for Science
TEA has clarified issues related to the science requirement of the 4×4 graduation requirement. TEA’s frequently asked questions (FAQ) section has been updated now to include clarifications to the science-related requirements. To review this section visit www.tea.state.tx.us/curriculum/fourbyfour.html.
I received this from Texas PTA. If you have kids in public schools, please join your PTA or PTSA. It’s a worthwhile cause, and it’s only the price of a couple of cups of Starbucks.

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Texas Clean School Bus Program

Posted by Texas Education on June 25, 2008

Good news! Finally, and it’s not a costly one! This is a program that offers funding and resources to Texas schools to reduce the emissions of diesel exhaust from school buses. And yes, Humble is on the list. Thanks for those who put us there. If your school is not on the list, it’s not too late.

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What’s going on?¿?¿

Posted by Texas Education on June 24, 2008

I’m baaaccckkkk!!! I’ve been awol for a couple of days. (And now that you have the Marvin Gaye song in your head…if not, you do now) I’ve been busy cleaning, busting up concrete and building a fence. Yes, I’m muti-talented, indeed!! Soon, I will be a contributing writer for TexasKaos. Look for me there. Talk about getting in over my head, I only hope to rise to the top 😉

Lately I’ve been running into friends, acquaintances and former students (from my subbing days) and they either don’t know I was at KPark, or don’t know I’m no longer at KPark. A dear friend, who is no exception, I saw tonight, (on my way to seeing Get Smart, a must see, hilarious) asked me if I like teaching. Oh my, my I told her I love it. It’s probably the most difficult thing (other than giving birth — twice) but also the most rewarding (also like having children) that I’ve ever done. I can’t imagine doing anything else. I miss my kids, and will miss teaching, if I will not be teaching web or dtp or even teen leadership come fall, and I will be highly disappointed, to say the least. Now,

on to what is news…

I have it on good authority that the lege is in fact putting the education issue on the agenda come January. I also have it on good faith that Dr. Lawrence Kohn, principal at Atascocita High School, has left in order to accept the position at Sam Houston State University that he had previously interviewed for. I decided to post this because it seems everyone I talk to has not heard. We wish him all the best. I just wonder who will take the position, a daunting task, no doubt.

I just want to say those who have welcomed me to the blog-o-sphere, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. I feel like I’ve joined a family and I’m continually learning — this, a new “trade.”

Stick with me…more later…

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