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Archive for September 18th, 2008

Texas Tuition Promise Fund – a good deal

Posted by Texas Education on September 18, 2008

From chron.com. At a time when Americans remain deeply worried about the faltering economy and their own financial situation, the new Texas Tuition Promise Fund, which opened Wednesday, is good news for parents. As college tuition costs continue to spiral upward, the fund can help bring a measure of stability and predictability to planning for children’s college years.

The fund allows families to lock in tuition and required fees at current prices at Texas’ public colleges and universities. It offers an array of flexible options to prepay those expenses before a child begins college.

Yes, the plan is a great deal more costly than was the Texas Tomorrow Fund, a similar prepaid tuition program that closed to new enrollments in 2003, the year state lawmakers deregulated college tuition. Immediately, the cost of state colleges skyrocketed, with an average 70 percent tuition increase in University of Texas system schools. And while the cost of higher education at a Texas university remains a bargain compared to the cost of private institutions and flagship public universities in some other states, families can still use all the help they can get in paying for four years of college.

The new Promise Fund is geared to families in that economic sour spot where incomes are too high to qualify for need-based financial aid but too low to afford all out-of-pocket expenses. Texas Comptroller Susan Combs calls the fund an “exciting, flexible way to save for college.” It will, she says, enable families “to pre-pay for a four-year degree, or you can prepay in small bites for just a few classes or a few semesters. And best of all, you don’t have to worry about future tuition increases, because you lock in current prices.”

Three levels of pricing are offered to advance pay undergraduate tuition at schools ranging from public community colleges to four-year state universities. An attractive feature of the plan is that funds also may be used at out-of-state or private universities, with students and their families paying the difference in cost.

Families can find information describing the fund in detail at http://www.EveryChanceEveryTexan.org, along with information about other college savings plans, called 529s, which are an option to prepaid plans covering only tuition and required fees. Funds in 529 plans can be spent on tuition and fees, room and board and related expenses.

Parents should start early to research their options and figure out which is the best plan for their student. No matter which choice parents make, it is important they start the process early and are careful not to underestimate total costs.

It’s a scary and expensive proposition, putting a child through college. But the rewards, both both for the student and society, make it one of the best investments a parent can make. Plans such as the Promise Fund are valuable tools to aid in that effort.

Likewise, Texas lawmakers and taxpayers must recognize the value of supporting the next generation of homegrown Texas talent and ingenuity. Texas residents need more large-scale, effective measures to help middle-class parents provide their children with a college education. If Texas is to prevail in an increasingly competitive and complex world, it will find innovative ways to help families get their kids through college — and without going bankrupt in the process.


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Update on Humble ISD’s return

Posted by Texas Education on September 18, 2008

Our close-knit community was dealt a severe blow by Hurricane Ike. Humble ISD campuses had mild to moderate damage and repair crews have been working from dawn until after dark to ready campuses for students as quickly as possible.

Humble ISD tentatively plans to re-open for students on Thursday, Sept. 25th. Support staff members in construction and maintenance should report to their supervisors beginning today, Thursday, Sept. 18. Child Nutrition personnel should report to their supervisors on Monday, Sept. 22nd. Campus and administrative personnel should report to work on Wednesday, Sept. 24th. Please share this information with your neighbors and co-workers – and be alert for updates and changes.

The annual Humble ISD Education Foundation Golf Tournament has been canceled. Reschedule information to be determined soon.

from the Humble ISD website.

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The latest from the ISD’s in Texas on school openings

Posted by Texas Education on September 18, 2008

The following is from chron.com on the listings and explanations of the schools and when they will be opening.

The latest from Katy ISD

Katy ISD plans to re-open on Monday, but high school football returns tonight.

See a story from Chronicle high school sports reporter Sam Khan Jr.

For a complete schedule of Katy ISD football and volleyball games this weekend, see the Katy ISD Web site.

The latest from Spring ISD

Regina Curry, Spring ISD’s assistant superintendent for communication and community relations, said only seven of the district’s 32 school campuses had power on Wednesday. Also, several of the district’s support buildings were without electrical power.

The district has reported that school is closed through Friday, Feb. 19 and that employees need not report to work unless notified by a supervisor.

“It is hard for us to do a good, solid damage assessment until power is restored to a building,” Curry said. “We have water in some buildings and there is debris everywhere.”

“We are in bad shape,” she said. “We have widespread damage.”

Once power is restored to a school, Curry said, the district’s damage assessment teams get to work evaluating the damage and repairs that need to be made. District personnel will make the repairs they able to make but some will have to be contracted to outside repair companies.

“It will take a while to get our buildings clean and make sure they are safe,” she said. “Once the schools are ready, we will call our staff back first and get them ready to receive students.”

At the same time, Curry said district officials must ensure that there is clean water and food for students at those schools, and safe transportation routes.

Curry said in addition to making sure school are safe for students’ and staff members’ return, district officials are very concerned about the status of those students, their families and staff members.

“We have a lot of families who need access to community resources and we are trying to help them get that,” Curry said.

Curry said the district would continue contacting students’ families and staff members through the automated telephone messaging system, and would post updates to the web site – www.springisd.info/.

—Reported by correspondent Kim Jackson

Posted by HowardD at 09:41 AM in

The latest from Cy-Fair ISD

Cy-Fair ISD spokesperson Kelli Durham said schools and 18 support facilities will be closed until the conditions are safe for students and staff members.

“We have to have power before we can begin making progress by leaps and bounds,” Durham said.

Durham said that district personnel immediately mobilized after Hurricane Ike passed through the area Saturday, and assessment teams started inspecting schools to determine the general condition of each property.

Some repair work started immediately – manually clearing out water that had seeped into school buildings – but it was not until electrical power was restored that that the teams were able to determine if there was damage to mechanical equipment and the building’s infrastructure.

She said at an emergency board meeting Sunday, the Cy-Fair ISD board gave district personnel the green-light to begin repair work immediately. They are able to issue purchase orders and hire contractors, when needed, to get the work done as soon as possible.

“Over 600 staff members and contractors have been working around the clock,” Durham said. “Damage is being remediated as soon as we find it.”

District officials are also communicating with local water districts to determine the status of water service and quality, and are evaluating road conditions and intersections to make sure they are safe for buses transporting students.

“We have over 719 bus routes,” Durham said. “A traffic signal that has become a 4-way stop due to a power outage is just too dangerous for our buses to maneuver.”

“One of the biggest challenges facing us is the damage to infrastructures surrounding our schools,” she said.

She said the district has been contacting parents and staff members through an automated phone message system and would continue to do so. They are also posting updates to the district’s web site – www.cfisd.net – sending out thousands of e-mail updates and working with the media get important information out to the community.

—Reported by correspondent Kim Jackson

FROM A CFISD press release:

Due to lack of power at many schools and support facilities, wind and water damage and other hurricane-related issues, CFISD will remain closed for the entire week, through Friday, September 19.

When it became imminent that Houston would be hit by Hurricane Ike, the district’s emergency and restoration teams began making preparations. Hours after Ike hit, assessment teams were dispersed to make initial damage reports. Emergency, assessment and restoration teams have been working continually.

Because the impact of Hurricane Ike was so widespread, one of many challenges has been the availability of staff. For example, about 60 percent of the operations staff has been unable to report due to personal circumstances resulting from the hurricane.

Immediate challenges for the district include those similar to what parents and property owners are experiencing: lack of power and a variety of mechanical and structural issues.

The district has 78 schools and 18 support facilities to be ready for the return of more than 100,000 students and 13,000 employees.

The aftermath of Hurricane Ike brings the onset of concerns about water quality. Several Municipal Utility Districts have contacted CFISD to announce the need to boil water. More than 40 MUDs are represented within the 186-mile radius of the district. The emergency team is initiating contact with each of the MUDs that have not shared the status of water quality within their jurisdiction.

Other obstacles include the delivery of supplies and food products to the district, as well as nonfunctional traffic lights that would interfere with the safe and timely delivery of students traveling to and from school.

The district will remain closed until schools and facilities are safe for students and staff members.

Parents and key communicators have received regular updates regarding school closings through an automated calling system as well as updates that are posted on the district website. If parents emergency phone numbers change throughout the year, it is their responsibility to contact the schools with this information.

Click here for the latest on Houston-area school closings.

Posted by HowardD at 09:40 AM in

The latest from Tomball ISD

As of Thursday morning, Tomball students and staff members are being asked to report to school on Monday, Sept. 22, but district officials are keeping a close eye on the status of school repairs and power outages and could reevaluate that decision at the end of the week, said Staci Stanfield Tomball ISD’s director of communications.

“It is going to depend on electricity,” Stanfield said. “We anticipate we will have power restored to all of our buildings by Monday.”

As of Tuesday, all but five schools had electricity, she said.
Based on damage assessments there were minor leaks in some buildings, and all roofs were intact, she said.

“We have been very lucky – all of our buildings are intact,” Stanfield said.

The district would continue to utilize the telephone messaging system to deliver information to students and staff members.

A core group of personnel would continue to meet each day to discuss the status of building repairs, power outages and any other matters related to what to do in the wake of Hurricane Ike.

Stanfield said Tomball ISD Superintendent John Neubauer would make the final decision about the re-opening of the district’s schools and facilities.
The districts web address is www.tomballisd.net

—Reported by correspondent Kim Jackson

Posted by HowardD at 09:39 AM in

The latest from Pearland ISD

Chronicle reporter Robert Stanton talked with Pearland ISD Superintendent Bonnie Cain:

Hurricane Ike dealt Pearland schools a severe blow, knocking out power throughout the district, damaging roofs and flooding classrooms. Superintendent Bonny Cain estimates total losses of $2 million.

Here’s what she told Robert on Wednesday:

We didn’t have any loss of life. Our information shows that all of our students are safe and all of our staff is safe. While our facilities did sustain damage, it was not the staggering damage that other school districts have received. So, we hope to be able to return to school sometime next week.

For a list of school damage and more Pearland ISD, click here.

Posted by HowardD at 09:33 AM in

September 17, 2008

The latest from Conroe ISD

Conroe Independent School District will evaluate their campuses Friday before issuing a list of schools expected to hold classes Monday, Sept. 22.

The district will post the school openings after 5 p.m. Friday, as well as distribute them to local radio stations, television and print media, said Kathy Clark, director of communications for Conroe ISD.

Each campus marquee will also announce whether students should report to school Monday. Clark said the district’s buildings suffered minimal damage beyond some fallen trees and roofing problems, but electricity is still the major issue. All schools with power as of 2 p.m. Friday will open Monday.

“No power, no school,” Clark said. “The whole issue is created in large part because we’re such a big school district geographically. That’s the reason behind the staggered openings.”

Conroe ISD covers 348 square miles in Montgomery County with schools in Conroe and The Woodlands.

Clark said all district employees are directed to call their supervisors for an update on whether or not school will be held at their campus next week.

“We want the community to get back to normalcy as soon as possible,” she said.

For more information, residents can call the district’s main number at 936-709-7752 or visit their Web site at www.conroeisd.net.


Click here for the latest on Houston-area school closings.

Posted by Samira Rizvi at 06:58 PM in

The latest from Humble ISD

Humble Independent School District Executive Director of Public Relations Karen Collier said that the tentative plan for the school district is to have employees report for work on Monday, Sept. 22 and for students to report back to school Tuesday, Sept. 23.

“But let me stress, those plans are subject to change,” said Collier. “Right now we have three schools (out of 36 campuses) that have power. Once we establish power, we then need to replenish our food supply and then we need to get the computer systems working. Once all that is done, we should be ready for the kids.”

Light damage to school campuses

Humble Independent School District leaders say overall damage to school campuses has been light, though several areas have been hit hard by Hurricane Ike.

Superintendent Guy Sconzo said in an e-mail that many buildings were spared from more than superficial damages, while others sustained heavier losses.

“There is no major damage, but we have serious damage to over a dozen portable classrooms,” he said.

Like many other school districts, Humble ISD has called off classes through Friday and set for students to return to campuses on Monday.

Sconzo said the district is working hard at making that timeline, though no concrete estimates can be made until later this week.

“So long as power returns, we could be ready for Monday, but we don’t know for sure” he said. “Only four campuses have power at this time.”

He said the district is also working on rescheduling many of the events that had been cancelled after the storm hit, including an open house at Humble High School. The annual Humble ISD Education Foundation golf tournament has also been cancelled.

“We will try to reschedule as many activities and events that have been cancelled as possible,” he said.

Updates are being posted to the district’s Web site at www.humble.k12.tx.us.

Click here for the latest on Houston-area school closings.

Posted by HowardD at 06:55 PM in

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