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Posts Tagged ‘North Forest ISD’

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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North Forest rollback election is defeated 4-1

Posted by Texas Education on December 8, 2008

Ouch, looks like ACORN was a bit misguided.

The referendum failed by a 4-to-1 margin Saturday night, according to preliminary results. The local Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN, mounted a campaign against the rate hike.

“It was a difficult time to be calling an election,” said Adrain Johnson, the state-appointed superintendent and a former TEA associate commissioner. “I’m disappointed, but not discouraged. There’s a lot of work to be done to rebuild the trust in the community.”

I truly feel for this district, and after this, wonder what is going to happen. My thoughts and prayers go out to the community, administrators, parents, teachers and especially all the students of North Forest ISD. Chron story here.

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North Forest needs taxpayers to vote YES!

Posted by Texas Education on December 4, 2008

A wonderful article in the Chronicle today by the new super at North Forest ISD. I thought I was keeping up with the comings and goings of North Forest better than I actually have been. Did not realize their super was Adrain Johnson. Seems their scenario is not as bad as ours. We needed 17 mil just to keep our heads above water for the remainder of the year. They need only 4 mil. I know it’s still a ton of money no matter how you slice it, but if 4 mil, costs their taxpayers only $66 a year, not too shabby, I’d say. Seriously, if that’s what they need to asked the voters of North Forest to approve a 13-cent increase in the property tax rate, which will generate $4 million a year to help resolve the crisis (but, lets be serious, it will only be a band aid, again) and make improvements in their schools, I sure hope it passes.

That’s why Dec. 6, 2008, is a crucial day. On that day, citizens have a chance to cast a vote for better schools and a better future for our children.

At our district Legislative committee meeting Tuesday, board member, Dan Huberty, explained how Tommy Williams told him in no uncertain terms, we have to go to them and show them how many coaches we have fired, what kind of cutbacks we have made, etc., well, we have and so has North Forest:

The employees of North Forest ISD have worked with the leadership to make tough cuts in the budget to become more efficient. We’ve consolidated our two high schools into one and merged two of our elementary schools as well. We have also cut administrative jobs throughout the district.

I was deeply impressed with this article. Got to be the first time I was impressed with anything that had the words North Forest in them. My heart always goes out to North Forest ISD, where I got my teaching certificate, so it will always hold a place in my heart. I love the kids, and sure hope the best for them as I do for ours here in Humble. Just yesterday when I was at TMS, again, I was passing out some papers and a student said, “were you at Oak Village?” I looked at her and, didn’t recognize her, asked her her name and then said, ” were you in my class,?” she said no, thank goodness, so I didn’t forget her, but she knew me!!! By getting around, different districts, almost 11 years of subbing now, I can’t seem to go anywhere without seeing a student who, I feel, I have touched their lives, and of course, they have touched mine!

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Voting on “rollback” elections

Posted by Texas Education on August 28, 2008

Things certainly are gearing up, educational wise. And I’m not just talking about school starting. Much abuzz with budgets (or should I say cuts) going on, on an ongoing basis (say that three times fast,) gun toting teachers, drumming up dollars by advertising on buses and the like, building and opening of new schools (major growth,) and of course, the dreaded “rollback” elections that are about to commence. The decision to increase the tax will go to voters most likely after the November general elections because the districts did not receive their certified tax values from the county appraisal district in time for the deadline. There is still no firm commitment by our district, and some others, as to whether or not it will be become an issue, but everything sure seems to point to that happening.

I’m hearing a lot of buzz that it might not pass. I too have struggled with this. I’m seeing a lot of funds misappropriated, clubs and organizations being funded by the district that should not have been funded by the district, and more. But, and considering I lost my job because of budget cuts, many more will go by the wayside due to more cuts. Our district is not the same as it was when we moved here almost to the day, 10 years ago.

It’s being reported that we, Alief and North Forest are expected to vote this week on whether or not to hold the elections. Austin, Corpus Christi have already made the decision this week, and Galena Park is the only district that sought an increase last year, and it passed, which is surprising to me.

Here is an editorial to help understanding of the school roll-back elections.

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Are Hispanics underrepresented in North Forest?

Posted by Texas Education on August 11, 2008

The Chron says today, last year, Hispanic students made up nearly 30 percent of the district overall, but that there are no Hispanics on the board. Well, if North Forest is not in the news, the Chron will in fact put them there. Why? I’m not sure. This is a weird article, IMHO. I understand what they are saying, but isn’t the board voted in? Don’t the people of the district have that option to vote? I’m all for representation, for what ever you are talking about. But, why this, why now? I do have an Hispanic friend/colleague that I worked with at North Forest ISD, who often spoke about running for the board. And I sure do plan on calling him and asking him if he still plans on running. This seems like a good opportunity. More on the story here.

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North Forest in the news…again :-(

Posted by Texas Education on August 9, 2008

From the Chron’s blogging device…School Zone, a couple of articles about how bad things are at North Forest ISD. I don’t really have to tell you that. Based on my experience, and what I’ve witnessed in the news, it just seems they are in over their heads. If someone would just put their foot down, and HELP them. Couldn’t hurt…for your summer reading,

With TEA watching, schools appeared to play by rules during TAKS

Trying to stop those pesky allegations of cheating, the TEA once again tried to surprise schools in the spring with outside monitors who kept a watchful eye on testing day.

Not to be cynical but, with the 2007-08 school ratings now out, can you believe that the ratings are based on legit TAKS scores? Yes, if you believe the monitors (at least in those schools that had monitors).

Under the Texas Public Information Act, I recently requested copies of the testing monitors’ reports for any of the Houston-area schools observed during the spring testing dates. I received 23 letters from the TEA to district or charter school superintendents, and all but three — North Forest ISD, Mainland Preparatory Academy in La Marque and Stafford ISD — received an A+. The infractions were mostly a result of disorganization, not blatant cheating — though some Forest Brook students apparently were denied calculators on the science TAKS.

The North Forest report addressed problems during three testing days at Forest Brook High School (which ended up being rated “academically unacceptable” for the third year in a row). The memo pretty much summarizes what we already reported: students were talking to each other during a restroom break, a student armed with a cell phone took several trips to the restroom, a test administrator gave a student a test without knowing whether she was actually supposed to take it.

Also, one test administrator at Forest Brook gave wrong directions for the 10th-grade science test (the TEA memo did not specify what was wrong) and did not give students calculators. I don’t know how much the calculators would have helped (teachers/students, can you enlighten us?), or whether the monitor could have rounded up calculators. But Forest Brook, like Smiley, did not do well on the science TAKS. At Forest Brook, 39 percent of the students (not just 10th-graders) passed. At Smiley, where students presumably had calculators, the passing rate was one percentage point lower.

At Mainland Preparatory, the report said that not all test monitors were “actively monitoring during testing” and the school didn’t retain inventory records. In Stafford, one student was spotted with a cell phone, while another broke the testing seal for the wrong section (now that’s a tough testing monitor!).

For the other districts checked, this paragraph was standard:

“Based on the recent on-site TAKS monitoring conducted in your district, test security and confidentiality requirements and procedures were followed consistently. School staff demonstrated effective planning and monitoring of the administration to ensure a quality testing program. Further Agency review or intervention is not necessary at this time.”

For the districts cited, this sentence was repeated:

“Upon careful review of the irregularities, the Testing Monitor Program recommends no further action be taken by the Agency.”

Here’s a list of the districts and charter schools in Region 4 that had monitors in at least some schools (it’s not clear which schools were observed in all the districts):

Continue reading “With TEA watching, schools appeared to play by rules during TAKS”

Posted by Ericka Mellon

The North Forest trustees actually agree on something

During a special called meeting Monday night, the board voted 7-0 to ask Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott to reverse his decision to overthrow the elected board and appoint his own three-person board of managers. The board also plans to appeal to the U.S. Department of Justice, which must sign off on the state’s decision. Some trustees even encouraged residents to start a letter-writing campaign to the feds.

We knew from Saturday’s news conference that four trustees — Tobie Ross Jr., Allen Provost, Silvia Brooks Williams and T. Marie McCall — disapproved of Scott’s order. The other trustees — Charles Taylor Sr., Barbara Gaston and Albert Lemons — were not at the media event but they, too, said on Monday that they wanted to keep their unpaid jobs.

Taylor raised a new point though. He noted that three trustees (himself, Silvia Brooks Williams and T. Marie McCall, I believe) will be up for re-election in November. The U.S. DOJ is not expected to rule on the board’s ouster until October. So Taylor suggested that the TEA hold off until the regularly scheduled election takes place to see whether voters oust the incumbents on their own. Of course, only three of the seven trustees are on the ballot. And the bankruptcy clock is ticking, as North Forest is $11.8 million in the red.

When I asked the TEA’s Ron Rowell about Taylor’s argument, Rowell did not seem persuaded. Perhaps he cannot forget the 17 pages of problems documented in this TEA investigative audit [pdf, slow download]: multiple years of inflating student attendance figures, a lack of internal controls, possible wrongful spending in the special education department, etc.

In the most recent election, in November 2007, Albert Lemons, the principal of HISD’s Atherton Elementary School, won the seat being vacated by Maxine Lane-Seals, and voters re-elected incumbents Provost and Williams. Williams won by six votes. (If I understand things correctly, Williams’ seat is up for election again because she was only serving the remainder of Jarvis Jermaine Clark’s term. Clark, who pled guilty to taking district funds for training sessions he did not attend, was forced to resign as part of a plea deal with the DA’s office.)

On Monday night, trustees lobbed harsh criticism against the TEA. Rowell, the TEA representative who has been attending the board’s meetings as the commissioner’s eyes and ears, pretty much stayed silent.

“I am totally against the commissioner’s decision,” Lemons said. “I think it’s retaliation. I’m tired of being blamed for things that happened before I got here.”

Lemons said he previously had considered stepping down from the board out of frustration, but the commissioner’s decision has reinvigorated him. “I refuse to … be kicked off a board that I think we have tried to rectify some of the wrong that has been done,” he said.

Continue reading “The North Forest trustees actually agree on something”

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North Forest ISD under new management

Posted by Texas Education on August 1, 2008

I’m not surprised to hear this — being a former employee. I just recently spoke to a colleague asking him how the year went and if he was still there. He said they would change the schedule – mid day, and just change and go to a block schedule, they would change the pay days and more. I’m very glad they gave pink slips to the board, long, long over due. Let’s keep an eye on them, and hope those kids get the education they deserve.

There was a drastic move Thursday to help save a troubled school district. Now, new leaders will be named at North Forest ISD.

[READ THE LETTER: See what the TEA sent to North Forest officials]

The school board and superintendent are out. And state education leaders say they are bringing in an entire team to help students and teachers who go to North Forest ISD.

It’s a long time coming. Problems have plagued this district since the mid-1990s. The students at North Forest before this move faced an uncertain future at best. In reversing North Forest’s election and yanking the elected school board out, the state education agency called the district unstable, adding that effective leadership does not exist in North Forest.

It cannot be too much of a surprise. North Forest was already on academic probation, one step away from being closed by the state. Earlier this year, the state installed a conservator and academic advisor to oversee a school district losing students, funding, and academic credibility.

According to the state, North Forest could not meet payroll last year despite closing schools and laying off staff. It will start the school district, with a budget deficit of $11.8 million dollars and a tax rate that cannot support the district. And parents have been demanding accountability for months.
‘Where’s all the funds going? That’s all we want to know,’ said one parent during an story ran back in March of 2007 on Channel 13.

That was more than a year ago when parents were angry at the district for money woes. The district had also just fired Superintendant James Simpson, handing over $233,000 in severance pay. Since then, North Forest’s board has twice tried to rehire Simpson, moves blocked by the state and cited in Thursday’s letter to the district: ‘We have tried every intervention at our disposal except this one. While our management team and agency employees have helped the district cut its deficit and improve its academic performance, (North Forest) remains in a precarious position.’
It is accountability some in the district have waited a long time for. More than year ago, Houston City Councilman Jarvis Johnson warned North Forest to change its ways.
‘You must change your policies. You must change your direction,’ he said. ‘Because if you don’t, we will change it for you.’

North Forest’s students are some of the most at risk in our area. The move seems aimed at keeping the schools open and accredited. The current board, in a statement, points out this is not directed to students, but to district governance. The TEA’s action comes after a 13 Undercover unit first exposed serious mismanagement in North Forest’s special education department. It was money meant to go to children with special needs — more than a million dollars in federal tax money. But it was found much of it was going to friends and family members of the special ed director. Many were paid thousands more than they were supposed to get, and some of them were not even qualified to teach special ed. That director has been reassigned. The district attorney’s office is still investigating the whole special ed mess.

North Forest ISD Statement:

North Forest ISD Officials and administrators are aware of TEA Commissioner Robert Scott’s decision to appoint a board of managers and a new superintendent in the North Forest Independent School District.

It is important to note that the Commissioner’s decision deals with governance issues and does not affect North Forest ISD students or staff.
North Forest ISD has cut its deficit and improved academically during the past school year-facts that Commissioner Scott, himself, has pointed out. However, the District respects and accepts the Commissioner’s authority in making this decision. Additionally, North Forest ISD’s administrators and staff are committed to working with TEA to continue to stabilize and improve North Forest ISD.

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North Forest In-the-news

Posted by Texas Education on June 19, 2008

“State puts North Forest school district on probation.” Ericka Mellon reports on the critical despair of North Forest ISD. Ok, many people I talk to about North Forest (where I worked last year,) I either get an “oh my,” or a “where is that?” Meaning, either people know about North Forest’s rap (and I’m not talking about song,) or they’ve just never heard of the place. When I interviewed with them, I had never heard of them either. But I had gotten some advice from a dear friend who said, “don’t go there.” Well, I was desperate, and I did. But, I do not regret it, not for a minute. I learned so much as a first year teacher, one big thing I learned is that teachers are teachers, where ever you go. They are the most wonderful and dedicated people put on this earth. I think everyone of ear shot of this should, “hug a teacher, no make that kiss a teacher.” Oh, better scratch that, that might get some in trouble, unless of course, you are married to them or something like that. I digress. There’s really not much to this story other than what we know already. Just that things are actually happening. Erica has blogged on School Zone (one of my favorite blogs-see right) on this story today, including some things that missed the paper, for more on this story.

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Few options offered for Texas schools facing closure

Posted by Texas Education on June 16, 2008

A story by Eric Mellon, she is the reporter who put me in the Chronicle. I felt like a real celebrity, except for the fact I thought I was going to lose my job at Oak Village. Well, I didn’t, but that quote has followed me on the internet highway every since it was published over a year ago. She’s put Oak Village in the papers once again, only this time it didn’t come from me. Nope, it could possibly be one to face the chopping block. See her story here.

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