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Archive for November, 2008

Difficult not to support good teachers

Posted by Texas Education on November 26, 2008

Cross posted at Friends of Texas Public Schools. I thought this was a pretty moving piece.

By Rayanne Schmid

Paper: The Daily Times
Date: September 2nd, 2008

Full disclosure first: I am the daughter of a longtime teacher.

The six of us kids spent a lot of time in her classroom, where we helped, waited and watched.

It gave us a unique view of what teachers go through while trying to educate a classroom of 25 young minds.

Now I see teachers from another point of view as the parent of two elementary school children and one 3-year-old.

In six years, we have seen many loving, caring people who truly care about the students they teach or oversee. Only a few might have needed a career change. The girls have spent time with teachers who bestowed confidence, work ethic and knowledge upon them.

Those positive experiences make it tough to argue when it comes to purchasing school supplies or helping out in the classroom when asked.

The Kerrville Independent School District lists seemed quite in line with the basic needs of a classroom. The three boxes of tissues might seem a bit excessive, but I’ve watched the many years my mom’s kindergarten classroom ran out of tissues when each child brought only two boxes. The perfect amount might be two and a half boxes, but that’s hard to request.

What parents don’t see are the numerous supplies teachers don’t ask for but purchase on their own.

They might pick up special googlie eyes for an art project, $6; snacks for kids who have none, $4; a math worksheet book, $25; two special pencil grips for a little girl who needs extra help, $4; cupcakes to celebrate the 100th day of school, $8. That’s just the beginning.

The real work comes after all the purchases are made and the classroom seats are filled.

There are 20-plus children from varied backgrounds with a variety of needs and problems. A lucky teacher finds she has a group of gifted students who needs to be challenged.

Mixed in with those high-level learners are slow learners, those on track, the learning or emotionally disabled, the undisciplined, the unloved, the spoiled and the simply untamed.

Despite the varied students, these educators prepare students for the next level and contribute to the adults they will become.

I don’t envy the task before them and am amazed they take it on with so much energy and grace. But I am thankful for all they do and won’t begrudge them a list of school supplies.

Rayanne Schmid is managing editor of the Times. She may be reached at Rayanne Schmid.

Posted in Good Stuff, leadership, teaching, texas education | Tagged: , | Leave a Comment »

Humble ISD Election Roll back results November 2008

Posted by Texas Education on November 23, 2008

Looks like the tax increase for Humble Independent School District has passed for November 2008.

Final Election Results Nov. 22
Early Voting
Humble City Hall
North Belt Elementary
Oaks Elementary
Foster Elementary
Kingwood Middle
Creekwood Middle
5,123 – 65%
2,745 – 35%

Posted in In-the-news, Texas schools | Tagged: | 1 Comment »

Good luck with that!

Posted by Texas Education on November 20, 2008

The East Montgomery News Observer just posted an article: Education committee sends resolution to Texas lawmakers.

In an effort to provide better funding for schools, the Community Chamber of Commerce of East Montgomery County Education Committee passed two resolutions urging Texas lawmakers to review the current public school funding laws.

The resolutions, which passed unanimously at the committee hearing Nov. 10, called on the Texas Legislature to establish a statewide task force including elected officials and school districts.

I say, good luck with that. We all know what needs to be done, we all know how the schools are hurting financially. But, the bottom line is, the Legislature refuses to put forth anything that will help the schools. Schools are closing their doors, and you would think somebody would wake up, but alas, still no. The same leadership, for the most part, is still in place in Austin, so there probably won’t be any changes for us to look forward to. In fact, I know from an excellent source, that they (the Legislature) does not have anything “educational” on the agenda come January. So, all this rhetoric, wishing, wanting, etc, IMHO, is for naught.

We are cutting out programs, (band, art, day time sports) we are laying off personnel, (janitors, aids, teachers) Now, we will be laying off librarians, nurses and more teachers, so the teachers that are left will have more students in their classes, too many. They have too many NOW. You can only make so many parent phone calls in a day. The stacks of papers to grade, endless. (I sure hope from this day forward, I never hear someone complain about how good teachers have it, with summers off and all. I think I will haul off and slap the yahoo.)

I may not always agree with how the districts are spending their money, I may not agree with what needs to be done, but what I do see is the inequalities between districts. There are serious funding issues in this state that need to be addressed.

“It’s to provide the funding and support that we need to provide quality education,” Committee Chair Nadine Jenkins said. “If there is no money, how do you ensure good education?”

You go girl!!!

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University presidents’ pay through the roof

Posted by Texas Education on November 20, 2008

The Dallas Morning News is reporting on something that we all should wake up and pay attention to: Texas college presidents’ pay rises with tuition.

As college tuition has risen and financial aid has lagged, paychecks for higher-education leaders in Texas and the rest of the country have continued to grow, according to a new national survey.

I believe in people getting paid for what they do, I won’t argue with that, but…and the article has some comments like:

The leaders of nine public universities and systems in Texas earned more than half a million dollars in 2007-08, the most recent year available, according to the survey by The Chronicle of Higher Education, released this week. And most of them received generous raises from the year before – as much as 30 percent.

Heads of private Texas colleges were well compensated, too, with four receiving more than a half-million dollars in 2006-07, also the most recent year available.

I can’t argue with this:

“Whatever happened to public service? The president of the United States makes less money than the president of the University of Texas,” said Zack Hall, a UT-Austin senior from Frisco who has lobbied for lower student costs.

Bringing in donations, hosting fundraisers, etc., well, heck, isn’t that their job? Does the money they bring in (the amount) have to be in direct correlation to their salaries?

And don’t get me started on coaches pay!! Just shaking my head here, just shaking my head.

The good news is, if you can call it that:

State Rep. Dan Branch, R-Dallas, who heads a special committee on education finance, said he believes the current economy will affect future contract negotiations. “I would predict you would not see as healthy a compensation package,” he said.

Posted in accountability, Higher Education, In-the-news, say what??? | Tagged: , , | 1 Comment »

Crabb, Dr. Sconzo and the HB 1 Bill

Posted by Texas Education on November 19, 2008

A dear friend of mine telephoned Rep. Joe Crabb’s office recently to find out how he had voted on the HB1 bill. She was interested because she had just read Dr. Sconzo’s article in the paper on that bill. She was told by his aide that Rep. Crabb had conferred with Dr. Sconzo before the vote and that Dr. Sconzo was very much in favor of it. When she told the aide that she was surprised by that, given the negative impact its passage had on our district, his reply surprised her even further, he claimed that board members told him that “the district’s financial problems were more a result of errors by past school boards than by HB1. Board members said that Kingwood Park should never have been built like it was, that it was a mistake…”. Suffice it to say, my friend was completely shocked by such “candid” remarks.

I don’t want to say I don’t believe a word of that…but! Also, once again, Mr. Crabb sends his lackey to do his bidding, as always.

My friend contacted Dr. Sconzo to get his reply. She told Dr. Sconzo that she is a former educator, a parent of two children who have been in Humble ISD schools for the last 10 years and is very pro-public education. Further, she added that she and her husband have been extremely pleased with the education their children have received in this district, at every level. The impression she got from the telephone conversation with Rep. Crabb’s office was that his vote was based on Dr. Sconzo’s recommendations. She stated that she strongly believes that we should hold our elected officials accountable for their votes and she was just trying to understand how we arrived at our current economic crisis.

She also thought Dr. Sconzo’s article was very informative, but was very confused by the remarks coming from Rep. Crabb’s office. She asked Dr. Sconzo to comment on those remarks and clarify what he believes the focus for the next legislative session should be regarding school finance. Dr. Sconzo thanked her for giving him the chance to share his thoughts, and very much appreciated and valued her for taking the time to get the facts straight. He also was sorry that she received some conflicting information.

With respect to my meeting with Rep. Crabb and his aide prior to the vote on H.B. 1, I vividly recall my openly supporting the teacher salary increase, new $225 per student in grades 9-12 high school allotment, and lowering of the M&O (operating budget) property tax rate to $1.00 with the state paying for the loss of local revenue to school districts for the difference between the $1.50 tax rate and the $1.00 tax rate. I also vividly remember articulating that H.B. 1 was not the long-term fix needed for school finance in our state and that we and virtually all school districts would be in trouble financially and back to the Legislature in 2007 for help.

Knowing our past and current Trustees as I do, I do not at all believe that any Trustee would state or even feel that our financial crisis is the result of mistakes made by previous Boards, rather than H.B. 1. If that were the case, and again, I do not believe that for one moment, then I wonder how the Representative’s office would explain why we are now one of over 200 school districts in the state having to go to our voters for a tax rate election in just two years of the full effect of H.B. 1? I wonder how his office would explain why the majority of school districts state-wide had to adopt deficit budgets this year? Did every school district’s board make a historical mistake, or is H.B. 1 the serious funding problem I contend that it is!

To me, the real issue is not who voted for or against H.B. 1, the issue is what’s the legislative commitment to correcting this state-wide public education funding train wreck? H.B. 1 gave school districts ONLY one means of increasing operating revenue to a level greater than the level of total operating revenue received in 2005-06 and that is to increase the local operating tax rate. Our board exercised that by increasing our operating tax rate from $1.00 to $1.04 by a vote of the Board and now is asking the community to increase it to the state maximum cap of $1.17 in order to avoid an additional $17 million in budget reductions in balancing this year’s budget.

Truly and reasonably fixing H.B. 1 for a long term solution, in my opinion, involves…

  • Allowing school districts to keep any additional local property tax revenue realized by either higher appraised values or new properties on the tax rolls and NOT offsetting those increases dollar for dollar by a reduction in state aid.
  • Closing the equity gap in Weighted Average Daily Attendance (WADA) funding to school districts. Our WADA funding level is $4,937 and Sheldon ISD’s is over $6,100. There is no acceptable reason for that inequity and statewide, the gap in WADA ranges from $4,000 to over $12,000!
  • Building in at least an inflation factor revenue increase for school districts on an annual basis. I used the train wreck analogy because when operating revenue is frozen at the 0-06 level and clearly expenses are not, it is only a matter of time before indeed there is train wreck!
  • Legislators will tell you that we do realize an increase in WADA funding per increases in enrollment, and that is true. However, when our WADA is frozen at the 05-06 level, we get to a place where especially as a fast growth school district, we today receive a WADA of $4,937 as revenue, but our actual operating expenses per student exceed $6,800!

I must commend Dr. Sconzo for his promptness, his complete openness, and how he truly cares about our school district. And I would like to see the board members response to these allegations by Rep. Crabb’s office.

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Legislative Watch

Posted by Texas Education on November 19, 2008

legislativewatchbutFrom Humble ISD’s website:

Texas legislators could begin pre-filing bills for the 81st Legislative Session Monday, and pre-file they did! As of Thursday, Nov. 13, more than 500 bills and resolutions were filed – many that will impact Texas public schools. The Texas Association of School Boards web site has excellent information about these bills on their web site.
In the coming weeks, TASB will write bill summaries of education-related bills and post them online, along with updates about what is happening at the Capitol; a regular accounting for all the important issues, events, and stories.

You can get involved now, by joining Humble ISD’s Legislative Committee is gearing up for the 2009 session. Call 281-641-8200 or email – first meeting is Dec. 2. Join Now!

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Cheerleading debacle at Atascocita High School

Posted by Texas Education on November 18, 2008

Wow, I was at the board meeting a few months back when a bunch, I do mean a bunch, of parents were a hooping and a hollering about some “injustice” being done on their beloved cheerleaders. Suffice it to say, I’m not a huge cheerleading fan. Cliques, is an understatement, and I will expand upon that later. At the board meeting, which I actually spoke at, giving a thumbs up on our water polo endeavors, though things can change ever so quickly, and they have, and more on that in another post. There is an article in the Tribune about parents up in arms about a student that was allowed back into the squad, though she did not make the tryouts this year. I’m still not clear on the whole issue, one, even why it’s an issue. The big deal (IMHO) is a policy was changed for one girl, who’s parents apparently made a stink, and the rest of the team and their parents were up in arms over that policy change by the board.

The student in question was awarded the position based on her previous membership in the program and her following elimination at tryouts. The ruling changed the policy retroactively, at Principal Donna Rovigno’s discretion, and was upheld by Associate Superintendent Paula Almond.

So, why am I here, why do I even give a rats patootie? Well, some parents have filed a law suit against the school district. OMG!

David and Maria Paulus brought a Level III grievance against the district following the addition of a varsity cheerleader five months into the year. According to the Pauluses, the addition was a violation of the handbook, which states that all members must try out, regardless of previous position on the squad or class level.

Mr. Paulus states in the article, “‘You are virtually crippling this person, because they now believe that they can get whatever they want, despite rules,” said Paulus. “We want to teach our students life lessons,” he said.” Dave Martin, school board president says, “I want inclusion. These aren’t 25-year-old women that need to be taught a lesson. When we went down this path to making smaller learning communities, we gave students the opportunity to be involved.” And Dan Huberty also says, “Our focus as a district is to be inclusive and let children participate. Has there been harm done?” I have to totally agree with both of these board members.

I also like to use the saying, “don’t sweat the small stuff.” Based on what our students, teachers, parents, administrators and district have been going through, to bring a law suit to this district, only intensifies and exacerbates our problems. The parent goes on to say, “Harmony of the team has been shaken this year,” said Paulus, and added that cliques had been formed as a result of the controversy. Um? The harmony has been shaken because a student that had previously been on the team didn’t qualify, but was put on the team anyway? I’m sorry, but this sure smells of a bunch of whiny parents. Of course, I don’t know the whole story, but based on what I’ve seen and what I’ve read, these people need to get a life. I may be a bit blunt, but with our economy, schools in crisis, teachers and positions being eliminated, great programs being cut, this seems a bit petty. And even when I was in high school, seems cheerleading and cliques were synonymous, weren’t they, and aren’t they still?

Yeah, many will argue that this was, maybe, not right. Some were hurt and maybe an injustice was done. But to the degree of a LAWSUIT? And unfortunately, the Tribune misspelled Ms. Rovegno’s first name, for the record it is Dania!

Posted in bizzare, say what??? | Tagged: , , , , , | 4 Comments »

Rollback Election Day is November 22

Posted by Texas Education on November 17, 2008

Looks like tomorrow is the last day for early voting and election day is Saturday, November 22.

This election allows voters to decide whether or not to increase the Maintenance and Operations tax rate by 13 cents to $1.17 giving Humble ISD a total tax rate of $1.52. Our total tax rate in 2005 was $1.77! Approval means that Humble ISD will not need to make reductions beyond the $9 million already cut for this school year. Voter approval means that Humble ISD will receive about $17 million needed to balance the budget this year. Since about 87% of the school district’s budget is personnel, these funds would be used for salaries and to keep existing programs in place. Read Dr. Sconzo’s entire message.

For much more information go to Humble ISD’s website.

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Shocking! Texas Legislature likely to address school finance again

Posted by Texas Education on November 17, 2008

I’ll believe it when I see it.

“School finance is always a legislative priority because it is a very complex issue that impacts most Texans,” said Dick Lavine, senior fiscal analyst at the Center for Public Policy Priority, an Austin-based think tank. “It may not be the dominant issue next year like it was three years ago, but it will definitely be a big issue.”

I’m a bit shocked, yes, that this is not a dominant issue. Well, I take that back, I should NOT be surprised. They, the Lege, certainly do not think this is an important issue, and based on the election results, I do not see things changing…much. This is getting very tiresome waiting and waiting and waiting for the state to pony up their share of funding our schools. I, for one, would like to see our kids prosper, flourish, and be successful. They can’t do that when we are always playing catch up, scratching for funding, working off budgets from 20 years ago (that’s just appalling.) Well, the people spoke, when they kept people like Joe Crabb, and David Bradley in office. I just can’t understand that. This is someone who has been characterized: “Bradley was just like a playground bully with anyone who disagreed with him. He was condescending and even turned his back on teachers who were speaking.” I did see where Crabb gave one of our local papers the time of day, finally. Oh, I guess if I were just elected to an office that I don’t do diddly squat, I’d say a little something to the people, eh? All I can say is OMG. Please tell me, how do people like him sleep at night? Knowing he’s done nothing to help our schools for the last 15 years?

I will never understand the people who vote for people like him.

Full story here.

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Shutting the door on school vouchers??

Posted by Texas Education on November 13, 2008

Woo Hoo! I just found a fantastic new source for information on education. Post cards from the Lege! I love it, and the first article I found…vouchers! At least, trying to defeat vouchers. Go Kirk Watson!!!! We will be keeping an eye on this one!

Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, is looking to close what some public school advocates say was a back door to private school vouchers.

SB 186, submitted on Monday, removes language from the education code that allows nonprofit organizations to get certain public grant money.

The inclusion of that language in the 2007 law allowed nonprofit private schools to compete for the public grant and made the relatively small $6 million program to help dropouts the focus of intense criticism.

Three nonprofit organizations were among the recipients, which prompted a lawsuit from the Texas State Teachers Association. The association failed in an effort to block the Texas Education Agency from disbursing money to the nonprofits but the overall lawsuit continues.

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