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Posts Tagged ‘HISD’

Cash infusion controversy and more

Posted by Texas Education on January 27, 2009

I recently had some people talking about my blog on-line. I won’t say how I was able to access their conversation, suffice it to say…technology!! They were talking about some of the things on my blog, that I’m a teacher “waaaa more money,” and I was for TFN (Texas Freedom Network) and RYHT (Raise your hand Texas). Now, I won’t go into those, right now, suffice it to say, I’m all for both organizations and I’m also for Texas Parent PAC. Just like President Obama, not everyone is going to agree with what they do and say, not 100% of the time. The group talking about me were parents for Autism and homeschooling. Saying I was making fun of homeschoolers on this post. I posted this because I received it as an email (I’ve received it before) but posted it because it’s puppies, who doesn’t like puppies? I thought it was cute, that’s all, just cute. Not making fun of homeschooling. I’m all for homeschooling, but I do have concerns, which I won’t get into now. That’s for another time and another post. I’m also concerned about Autism and neurobiological disorders.

Back to my purpose of this particular post. Looks like, per our new president, we may be getting more money for schools. I sure hope so. Yeah, me, teacher, “more money”! I honestly don’t think (even some educators, parents, and especially the general public) understand how some of our schools are functioning. I was quoted in the chronicle when I was at North Forest,

Take supplies, for example. Patty Pinkley, a first-year teacher at Oak Village Middle School, began teaching a course called “technology applications” in August. The only problem: The district didn’t give her computers that worked until last week – eight months into the school year.

“I’ve been teaching a lot of vocabulary,” Pinkley said. “But unfortunately it’s hard for (the students) to grasp it, just seeing it on paper.”

It can be found under “wikipedia”. Only place I’m in wikipedia…so far!

Others have commented about the conditions of their schools:

Judi Caddick, a middle school math teacher in blue-collar Lansing, Ill., just south of Chicago, said in the older part of her World War II-era school, classrooms had just two power outlets, forcing teachers to string multiple extension cords into the rafters or to unplug a TV power point presentation in order to plug in a computer for a child.

This certainly reminds me of my classroom. They did put the computers in, but never got the internet connected to them. So I never really got to use them. Unfortunately, that never made the paper. Another teacher was teaching science, towards the end of the year, she lost power in her classroom so she didn’t even have an overhead projector. Most of the overhead’s bulbs would burn out and they were never replaced.

I always would say that by studying technology I would never be a floater. Well, never say never (I WAS a walking cliché that year!) I floated for the first semester. The second semester I had a room (no computers) but a room. I even got a laptop because I was making the badges for the school. I’m not complaining, well, maybe just a little, but the conditions were deplorable. Don’t get me wrong, one of the first things I say about teaching is we learn from our mistakes and our problems. I learned a ton, and I also made friends with teachers, learned from them when I was floating, that I never would have been able to do had I had a classroom from the beginning.

Ms. Craddick went on to say:

“It looked like a spaghetti bowl.”

Special-education classrooms flooded when plumbing backed up, leaving an unmistakable smell on hot days, not to mention allergy and asthma problems, despite efforts to clean the carpet, she said. And hallways were so dark and crowded, teachers often couldn’t see shoving and bumping among students in time to stop fights.

A new building to replace that old school is now almost complete. The last group of students, the eighth-graders, moved in earlier this year.

“It’s a huge difference,” Caddick said. “We don’t have to have necessarily state-of-the-art and fluffy stuff. But at least when you don’t have mold problems, and you don’t have things that are broken, and you don’t have an inability to use the technology, it’s an investment.”

These types of upgrades can also make kids healthier. Measures to prevent mold can decrease asthma. I suffer from asthma. It has gotten much worse for me now. I had an attack just recently, and I don’t even remember having attacks when I was a child. I had to call my dad and ask him how old I was when I was having attacks. I was about one year old. The school I was at, at North Forest, often flooded too and talk about yer mold.

The massive economic-stimulus package unveiled by House Democrats this week and President Barack Obama includes more than $100 billion for K-12 and higher education — for building repairs, technology upgrades, (music to my ears) financial aid, and programs to help special education and at-risk students.

I see a lot of negativity concerning our schools, our districts needing more money. Not just Texas, but the nation as a whole. I once remember seeing a bumper sticker saying, “It will be a great day when our schools have all the money they need and NASA will have to hold a bake sale to build spaceships.” Imagine that! You can’t, can you?

“It’s not only economic recovery, but it’s investing in kids,” said Jeff Simering, Legislative Director of the Council of the Great City Schools.

Dr. Guy Sconzo, Superintendent of Humble ISD, foresees an increase in teachers, lower class sizes and more tutorials if the district receives the estimated $11 million earmarked under the Democrats proposal.

In North Forest ISD, where voters recently rejected the proposal to raise the property tax rate, Superintendent Adrain Johnson said he would welcome the estimated $20 million stimulus payout.  Johnson said he would like to expand after-school programs — to introduce more students to musical instruments, for example — and his schools could use millions of dollars to fix leaky roofs and persistent drainage problems.

I can relate to that! And, I’d like to see that too!

President Obama has given few specifics about the economic recovery plan, which could cost as much as $850 billion over the next two years. But, there is no way to know how much of that will go to our schools. The only dollar figure from President Obama so far, is that schools would share with roads in an immediate infusion of $25 billion for repairs and rebuilding.

I only hope we do see some relief, and soon. I would like there to be more money for technology, not only for the kids and the teachers, but it might just open some new doors for me too!!!

More on this subject here.

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Legislative manate that delayed the start of the school year – did it work??

Posted by Texas Education on August 24, 2008

I certainly was a naysayer when it came to the legislative manate that delayed the start of the school year until the last week of August. Seems all it did was frustrate school officials and teachers, but certainly not the students. But, I bet if you polled them and asked if they like going to school in the month of June, bet you get an overwhelming response of NO! Check out what Anne Linehan has to say about it at blogHouston.net

Last week the Chron’s Jennifer Radcliffe wrote a story with the following thesis: School district utility bills have gone down since the Lege ordered later start dates:

Texas public school leaders may still be fuming about the legislative mandate that delayed the start of the school year until the last week of August, but advocates point to lower utility bills as a sign that lawmakers made the right choice.

In the first year, schools statewide appear to have saved millions of dollars in August utility bills. The Houston Independent School District’s monthly payment to Reliant Energy, for example, dropped almost $200,000 between August 2006 and August 2007. Officials attribute about $66,000 of the savings to lower electricity costs.

You might already be able to see the problem with Radcliffe’s story: She focused on August utility bills alone. Guess what? A later start date means a later end date, which means the possibility of extra utility usage at the end of the year. Might the savings have been offset by that? The Chron doesn’t know:

HISD spends about $57 million a year on electricity, meaning $66,000 is a slight savings, officials said. And they said some of the savings probably were erased by extra days in May and June, but they couldn’t provide the figures.

We heard from HISD’s Terry Abbott who disputed Radcliffe’s conclusion. Abbott said HISD advised Radcliffe the assertion might be wrong, and that HISD was running the numbers to see if the savings held up with the addition of the extra days at the end of the year. As it turned out, HISD’s month-by-month electricity usage analysis did not show a savings; in fact, HISD’s electricity usage and costs were higher for the 2007-08 school year when compared to the 2006-07 school year.

Abbott requested a correction or retraction from the Chron, but so far the editorial leadership has declined.

While Radcliffe’s story features HISD, a sidebar notes August utility savings for fourteen school districts. In asserting that Texas schools “have saved millions of dollars,” did Radcliffe get the last-month-of-school numbers for any of those school districts? If she did, they’re not listed; therefore, Radcliffe’s conclusion (millions saved) is not supported by her partial facts (August numbers only). To come up with that conclusion she needed to get complete utility numbers for all the districts.

Did any other districts try to warn her against using incomplete data? Unclear, but it doesn’t appear the Chron is going to revisit the issue, and this example of shoddy reporting will be the end of the story for Houston’s daily newspaper of record.

Posted by Anne Linehan

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Getting too expensive to educate those in the Alternative Education Programs

Posted by Texas Education on July 14, 2008

Humble ISD approves contract for expelled students

Looks like school districts are trying to find creative ways to “fund” the students who don’t make it in the general population. It’s getting expensive to house these students. To educate and provide instructional and counseling services for those who have been expelled. School districts are required by law to educate students, but what if they really don’t want an education? They have a difficult time conforming to the school rules? And they end up at “high point,” for Humble ISD students? Recently posted in the Kingwood/Humble Chronicle:

Dave Martin, board president, brought attention to the high cost of educating children at Highpoint.

“I’ve done the math,” said Martin. “It’s about $17,300 for every child we send there each year.”

Sconzo explained that with the growth of the district, the number of students requiring alternative education will also increase.

“Bear in mind that it’s expensive,” said Sconzo. “With student growth, there is a growing demand on everything we do, including discipline.”

Sconzo said the district’s responsibility is to provide the same educational opportunities for every school age child. He asked the board to explore the possibility of creating a district discipline program similar to the one at Highpoint.

“The program would be something we’d design” said Sconzo, “I’d like to develop our own (HISD) Highpoint. I think it would be at least as effective if not more effective for less than $17,000 per student.

“Our real obligation is to remove (expelled) students from the campus and to remove disruption from the learning environment. Right now, our only alternative is Highpoint.”

You have to give them credit for trying to come up with a solution to this expensive dilemma.

Also under scrutiny is HISD’s alternative education plans, story here.

HISD urged to reconsider education deal

Not only is it expensive, but they are also having problems with the source they are using.

The Houston school board must decide next month whether to continue working with the private company that runs the district’s two schools for students with serious discipline problems.

[…]

The multimillion dollar decision comes at a time when Community Education Partners is suing one of its biggest critics in Houston and is on the other side of a lawsuit in Atlanta.

The American Civil Liberties Union is suing CEP and the Atlanta school district, alleging the alternative school there is “a warehouse for children of color.”

[…]

Since 1997, when HISD began outsourcing its disciplinary education program, it has paid CEP about $158 million, according to data from the district. That includes $18 million last school year.

I know I’ve been touting how the districts need more money, but sometimes we uncover expenses that can be used better, like in preemptive action to then spend less later.

Seems to me, if the districts would put more money into smaller classrooms and programs that help teachers, more aids to help with special ed students, give teachers more resources (technology) to keep the students interested, they would save money in the long run. But, maybe that’s just me. Putting more students in a classroom is only going to burden the already over TAKs-ed teachers, I’ve always been against that idea. Students need more one-on-one, if we expect them to “get it.” Making a teacher teach 30-35 (secondary) 20-25 (elementary) and totaling 150-180 class load, how on earth do they expect teachers to do an exemplary job? I’ll step down from my soap box now before I get hurt.

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Newsworthy

Posted by Texas Education on June 16, 2008

Summing up a school is the heading for the editorial in today’s Chon. Wharton Elementary is on the chopping block for HISD’s beginning of the end. Wow, talk about “cutting off your nose to spite your face.” This is what I see happening to our “Education Crisis in Texas.” Oh, there’s a saying I take credit for. Check out their website. What a waste that is going on. This school, with their organized, small army of Montrose residents coalition, has been diligently working to rectify this situation. This is a school we should all look to as success. Their students (all of them) graduate as dual-language sixth-graders. They passed the math TAKS with 100%, how often does that happen? Along with being able to take the TAKS in either English or Spanish. It goes on to explain, oohh and this ain’t good, that HISD refuses to act with transparency and respond to local input. Zowee, does that sound familiar?? This was said by the activist and at least one board member. Ouch!!

This is what we are up against. Which leg, arm, finger, foot do we cut off first? I just got back from my doctor. I am officially on diabetic medication, yikes!! A while back I was almost hired by him to tutor his young daughter who is struggling with her speech. I asked him how she was doing, and at the time he had decided to put her in a private school, cause of course he can afford that, he’s a doctor. But, guess what?? (see vouchers part one & deux) he says the private school does not cater to special needs students, thus his decision to put her in a public school now, where she can get the best education possible. Wow, how’s that for an I told ya so???

I was trying to understand what happened at the Republican convention on vouchers – so like I always do, I googled it. Here it is, put that in your pipe and smoke it:

pp.14 -17: Education

p.14: Supports school vouchers.

p.15: “We call for the abolition of the U.S. Department of Education and the prohibition of the transfer of any of its functions to any other federal agency.”

When the Rev. Jerry Falwell was just creating the Moral Majority, he envisioned the future of this country:

“I hope to see the day when, as in the early days of our country, we don’t have public schools. The churches will have taken them over again and Christians will be running them.” (America Can Be Saved!, Sword of the Lord Publishers, Murfreesboro, Tenn. 1979, p. 52-53.)

This is why we should never ever speak of being in favor of vouchers. (I guess you could say this is vouchers- part deux (a).) This is what the goal is of the pro-voucherers. Seems they keep forgetting our Texas Constitution says, or what Wikipedia says the Texas Constitution says:

Article 7: “Education”

Establishes provisions for public schools, asylums, and universities. “. . . it shall be DUTY OF THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE to establish and make suitable provision for the support and maintenance of an efficient system of public free schools” (Article 7, Texas Constitution). This issue has surfaced in recent lawsuits involving the State’s funding of education and restrictions it has placed on local school districts.

Read it and weep…

Just remember no truer words were spoken by Horace Mann, “Education then, beyond all other devices of human origin, is the great equalizer of the conditions of men, the balance-wheel of the social machinery.” Ask your state officials, how they were educated? I’m finding a lot of them have family ties to educators. How can they justify what they are doing to our education system? Enough for now, getting tired.

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