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Wow, I can’t believe I’m here!

Posted by Texas Education on October 22, 2009

I was researching some data for facebook. Yep, I do facebook now, not so much on the twittering, and I haven’t done much on my blogs. I do miss it a bit, but I just don’t have the time or the energy much anymore. But, since I was rummaging around the old barn, I thought I would strike up the old pen (well keyboard) and put a few syllables here. Haven’t been keeping up much with the legislative stuff, nor the Humble ISD information. Just doing more plain old political things now…oh, and teaching (subbing)! Oh, how I long for a classroom! It pains me so to walk into a classroom and KNOW I could be doing a better job. Oh, but I digress! Looks like I need a new hobby. Any ideas?????

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Humble ISD – update 3/10/09

Posted by Texas Education on March 12, 2009

Just in – update from Humble ISD. I missed Tuesday night’s meeting, and it looks like there was much covered. The trustees voted on next years calendar, so you will need to synchronize your calendars with your children’s. Elementary #25 gets a name Lakeshore Drive, oops, my bad, it’s just Lakeshore, I guess…Elementary. And Wood Creek for the newest middle school, ummm….that one is going to be hard to get used to, to open in 2010. Also, a regional program for the deaf, in conjunction with New Caney ISD, great idea! I’ve always assumed things would come to this, sharing with other districts. It’s come up in past budget meetings, and it’s not a bad thing! Using a commissioning agent for ES# 26 and future construction projects? ES #25 cost us $30,000, no comment! Then Dr. Sconzo’s comments, he goes on about the bond and the PSF, oh, not so good. And finally, the board’s comments. We are working hard at bridging that huge gap between school districts and the Lege. I’m feeling optimistic too Bonnie.

2009-2010 School Calendar
The Humble ISD Board of Trustees approved the school calendar for the coming year. The 2009-10 calendar mirrors this year’s and includes a two week Winter Break, a one week Spring Break, and a three-day Thanksgiving holiday. School starts on August 24, 2009 and ends on June 2, 2010 for students. View/Print the new calendar

Elementary #25 gets a name: Lakeshore
Lakeshore Elementary is the name selected for Humble ISD’s 25th elementary school. The name was chosen based on preferences expressed by parents, students and community through a web site survey and the review of the Board’s School Naming Committee. The school opens in August 2009. It is located at 13333 Breakwater Lane, Houston.

Woodcreek Middle opens in 2010
Woodcreek Middle will be the name of the school district’s eighth middle school. The name was selected based on the preferences expressed by parents, students and community through a web survey and the review of the Board School Naming Committee. The school will open in August 2010. It is located at 14600 Woodson Park in Houston. It is near Beltway 8 and West Lake Houston Parkway.

Establishing a Humble ISD regional program for the deaf
The Board approved a shared services agreement with New Caney ISD to establish the Humble Regional Day School Program for the Deaf. In this agreement, New Caney will pay tuition to Humble ISD for serving its deaf education students. This is expected to be a more comprehensive and cost efficient way for both school districts to provide services for deaf children.

In other business, the Board approved:

  • United Healthcare as Humble ISD’s new third-party administrator for our Health Care Program.
  • Using a commissioning agent for elementary 26 and future construction projects. A commissioning agent adds a level of professional review of design documents, assurance that operating systems function properly, pre-operation reviews and recommendations, start-up testing with verification of system’s efficiency, one year follow-up assessment, etc. The total cost is $.30 per square foot. For Lakeshore Elementary, the cost was $30,000.

Superintendent’s comments
Dr. Guy Sconzo noted that the last bond sale from Bond 2005 and the first sale from Bond 2008 were planned for this month, but will be delayed. The state’s Permanent School Fund (PSF) is not available to guarantee school bonds at this time. The problem is that there has been no Federal action to approve the increase in the eligibility cap for securing bonds with the PSF yet.

One of the negative ripple effects of the current economy is the demise of all bond insurance companies. Purchasing bond insurance instead of having the PSF guarantee is no longer an option. Without the PSF guarantee or insurance for bonds, Humble ISD would pay a significantly higher interest rate on bonds sold. This is why a delay in selling bonds is necessary.

Dr. Sconzo noted the need to avoid losing ground on “must have” bond projects that need to begin this summer. Losing ground could mean up to a year’s delay in necessary roof and HVAC replacements, Community Learning Center renovations and additions, ES #26, and Turner Stadium renovations. The immediate amount required to begin and/or complete these critical projects is $12.9 million.

To avoid the interest costs of short-term borrowing, the district plans to temporarily redirect a significant portion of unencumbered balances in Bond 2005 projects to fund the “must have” summer projects. Humble ISD’s financial advisors believe that the climate will be better for the planned bond sale in September or October 2009. In the worse case scenario, the school district might have to consider conducting the bond sale absent the PSF guarantee at that time.

Dr. Guy Sconzo reviewed the progress of the Citizens Boundary Advisory Committee and the Summerwood community’s representatives regarding Lakeshore Elementary’s boundaries. Action on this is expected in April.

Comments by Board Members
Humble ISD Board members have been actively working with legislators in Austin to increase funding for education and to provide more equitable funding solutions for Texas. Charles Cunningham, chair of the Board’s Legislative Committee, noted that Board members have talked with at least half of the House and Senate Education Committees’ members and have received a warm response and an invitation for the superintendent to “have a seat at the table” to help legislators work through funding solutions.

Board members Dan Huberty and Dr. Bonnie Longnion expressed cautious optimism about the response from legislators. Huberty noted that it is difficult for legislators to argue that the current funding formula is equitable when districts like Katy and Humble with their similar demographics, have such disparate funding.

Longnion stated that she is especially pleased with our local community’s enthusiasm and public engagement. She noted that the Humble ISD Legislative Committee’s work is especially energetic and that we must keep up the effort.

For complete information about this Board meeting, see the board packet .

Note: the complete packet is posted by the end of the day after the meeting. If you would like to be on the list to receive this report by email every month, please visit Your Schools Insider and sign up!

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Texas PTA Legislative Update – Bills of Interest

Posted by Texas Education on March 11, 2009

Blogging from a remote location…computer too slow, driving me crazy. Just in from Texas PTA. Lots here, pay attention!! 🙂 HB3 and SB 3 filed, everyone’s abuzz on VOTER ID BILL COULD IMPACT LEGISLATION IN SENATE, I’m certainly interested in SHAPIRO SEEKS TO END TOP 10% RULE, another concern of mine VOCATIONAL TRAINING SEES SUPPORT,oh, not so good STIMULUS PACKAGE STALLS LEGISLATURE, LEGISLATION AIMS TO TAKE FINANCIAL TOLL ON GANGS, do we really want to know about?- POLITICS 2010, and our good buddy Rep. Scott Hochberg HB 1297 Relating to optional flexible school day program courses offered by school districts to enable students to earn course credit under certain circumstances. Oh, and LEGISLATIVE REPORTS See below:

Texas Legislature considers changes to school accountability system HB3 and SB 3 Filed
Public schools may get relief from the high stakes of the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills in a proposed overhaul of the way Texas measures how well they are doing. The legislation would minimize the importance of the much-criticized standardized tests and instead encourage schools to prepare students for success after high school. Senate Education Committee Chairwoman Florence Shapiro, R-Plano, said school districts would be able to decide some of their own criteria for assessment.

The new system, which was called a work in progress, would be made up of two parts. One level would grade schools based on student achievement, completion rates and the district’s financial performance. The second level would grant “distinctions for excellence” based on measures like growth in student achievement, fine arts, physical fitness, second language learning and work-force readiness.

The 128-page bill would grade schools on students’ progress over time rather than on a one-time passing rate on state tests. It would eliminate the school ratings of exemplary, recognized, acceptable and unacceptable. Here are other features of the bill.

Schools would receive “accreditation status.” Districts and schools would be designated as accredited, accredited-warned and accredited probation. Those labels would be based on a variety of factors, including improvement in student test scores, drop-out rates and the financial accountability rating of the school as determined by the state.

Schools could also be evaluated on how they serve special populations, such as special education or limited-English students, and the effectiveness of their career and technology programs.

Students would not necessarily be required to pass the TAKS to be promoted. Districts can determine who is eligible to move on to the next grade.

Schools could earn “distinctions for excellence” in various areas including academics, work-force readiness, second-language learning, fine arts and physical fitness.

Three tracks for graduation would be created. The Texas and advance diploma would require four years of math, English and science. A standard diploma would allow students to take only three years of math. Physical education would no longer be a high school requirement, and students could take eight electives.

The higher education commissioner could award a grant up to $1 million to a college or university to develop advanced math and science courses to prepare high school students for jobs in high-demand fields. Associated Press

VOTER ID BILL COULD IMPACT LEGISLATION IN SENATE
The Senate is poised to debate the contentious issue of voter ID on March 10th. In a surprise move early in the session, the Senate voted along party lines to make an exception to the way they determine what bills may be heard on the floor of the Senate, identifying the voter ID bill as the only bill for which a 2/3 vote of the members of the Senate would NOT be required in order to hear the bill on the floor. The likely outcome if the bill is passed is a decrease in the collegiality for which the Senate is known, and the possibility that the session may descend into partisan fighting over most if not all legislation for the remainder of the session. In short this issue could negatively impact much of the proposed legislation this session. According to the current schedule the full Senate will likely vote on the issue by St. Patrick’s Day. The lawmakers are expected to vote along party lines.

SHAPIRO SEEKS TO END TOP 10% RULE
The Top 10 percent rule actually hurts Texas universities according to Sen. Florence Shapiro. The current bill filed by Shapiro marks the third time she has filed legislation to revise the 10% rule. If passed the proposal would limit the number of students admitted under the Top 10 percent rule to half the admitted class. Last session, the Senate passed its own hybrid version, with 60 percent admitted under the Top 10 percent rule. The bill was rejected in the House.

VOCATIONAL TRAINING SEES SUPPORT
Lawmakers have filed two bills which would strengthen vocational training programs in the state. Sen. Chris Harris’ bill would set up a fund to reward technical and community colleges that offer high-quality vocational and technical courses with grants. A second bill would create high-quality courses for high school students through a “best practices” clearinghouse and also reward school districts that support the development of vocational courses.

STIMULUS PACKAGE STALLS LEGISLATURE
With the possible injection of $17 billion in federal stimulus to Texas the current session has shifted form. Over six weeks ago lawmakers were worried about tapping into the over $9 billion rainy day fund to balance the budget. With this reversal the question now seems to center on how the money will be spent and when. Speaker Straus said publicly this week that it “would be up to the budget-writing Appropriations Committee to act on the recommendations of a newly formed panel, led by Democratic Rep. Jim Dunnam of Waco that is reviewing agencies’ plans for spending the stimulus dollars.” Adding to the confusion, Gov. Perry’s aides have said that they believe he can block some of the funds from the legislature, while lawmakers contend they have the authority to override any such decision. This could lead to a veto by Perry on any extra spending or programs he sees as unnecessary.

LEGISLATION AIMS TO TAKE FINANCIAL TOLL ON GANGS
A Texas lawmaker has proposed new legislation to crack down on crime stemming from Mexican drug cartels. Sen. John Carona, R-Dallas, filed a bill Thursday that would allow civil lawsuits against gangs, stiffer penalties for online gang recruiting and mandatory rehabilitation programs for young gang offenders. Carona, chairman of the Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security, said his legislation would allow businesses, communities and parents to seek civil judgments and penalties against gangs to “cripple them financially.” Gov. Rick Perry urged the Legislature to pass the bill and to spend $135 million to continue crime-fighting efforts along the Texas-Mexico border. (Statesman)

POLITICS 2010
Democrat Tom Schieffer launched a committee on Monday that allows him to raise money for a possible run for governor. A former owner of the Texas Rangers, his bid has already hit its first impediment. Schieffer is a former Bush appointee (Ambassador to Japan) and that does not sit well with the base of the Democratic Party. David Mauro, a party activist and son of former state official Gary Mauro, recently created a website to draft Sen. Leticia Van De Putte as a candidate for governor saying, “I am very hesitant to let a Bush appointee use our place on the ballot when there is so much at stake for our state and for our party”. In what is already the most anticipated race of 2010, Schieffer is seen as the first serious challenger from the Democrats.

LEGISLATIVE REPORTS:
For information on all the bills being tracked by Texas PTA please click on the following links:

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