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Posts published in “Day: August 29, 2006”

Things are looking up for the Houston Texans; Longhorns have shot at defending title

It’s been a long six months since the last football game of meaning was played in Detroit where the Pittsburgh Steelers finally got “one for the thumb” when they defeated Seattle in the Super Bowl to join the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers as the only three franchises in the NFL to win five Lombardi Trophies.
As the season approaches (the college season begins Thursday, Aug. 31, while the NFL season begin Thursday, Sept. 7), it’s time to take a look at the upcoming season before the picks column returns on Tuesday, Sept. 5.
As in the past, we’ll predict the outcome of high school, college and pro games from now until December.
But before the picking begins, let’s take a look at how the season might play out this year, starting at the local level.
The landscape at both the pro and collegiate level have seen drastic changes, and two of the biggest moves came right here in the Lone Star state as University of Texas fans sadly said good-bye to superman Vince Young, who led UT to its first national title in 36 years with his spectacular performance in the Horns’ 41-38 victory over USC in the Rose Bowl. Here in Houston, Texans fans gladly bid farewell to head coach Dom Capers, who fell out of favor with fans and team owner Bob McNair after a 2-14 debacle in 2005 in what was to be the Texans’ coming out season after showing progress for three straight seasons.
NFL
McNair called on former Texas A&M star Gary Kubiak to ride in and save the day for the five-year-old franchise and if the preseason is any indication, it appears McNair made the right move in hiring one of the up-and-coming coaches in the NFL.
But let’s remember, this is preseason. While the Texans do look like a much-improved team, it would be premature for Texans fans to think this team is on the brink of being a playoff contender.
One thing is for sure, the 2006 Texans have no where to go but up and it is safe to say the Texans will improve on their two win total from a year ago.
The key to this team will be the emergence of quarterback David Carr and the ability of the offensive line to protect the much-sacked signal caller. The line has show vast improvement during training camp and the preseason. Let’s hope that improved play carries over into the regular season.
Houston also needs to figure out what to do at the running back slot. Last year’s starter, Dominick Davis, missed all of training camp with a knee injury, but second-year man Vernand Morency and rookie Wallie Lundy have filled in capability and have grasped Kubiak’s zone blocking scheme.
The defense must also show improvement over last year and the addition of 6-7, 290-pound defensive end Mario Williams should improve the pass rush, which will take pressure off a beleaguered and banged up secondary.
Kubiak will be given a pass this first year and don’t be surprised if the Texans are one of the most improved teams in the league. I’ll go out on a limb and predict a 7-9 finish for them this year.
As for the rest of the AFC, look for Indianapolis Colts to win another AFC South title. Even though the team lost All-Pro running back Edgrin James, quarterback Peyton Manning is still around, along with a pair of 1,000-yard wide receivers in Marvin Harrison and Reggie Wayne.
Look for Jacksonville to be the Colts’ chief rival this year.
In the AFC North, the Steelers look like a solid pick to unseat Cincinnati and take the division title. Bill Cowher’s team returns the majority of the team that won the Super Bowl as a Wild Card team and quarterback Ben Rothlesberger appears fully recovered from a near fatal motorcycle accident in June. The Bengals must hope quarterback Carson Palmer, who led the NFL with 32 touchdown passes a year ago, is able to bounce back from a serious knee injury he sustained in the playoff loss to the Steelers. If Palmer can’t go early, there is still enough talent on hand to keep the Bengals on the winning track. This should be a three-team race as an improved Baltimore team with new quarterback Steve McNair and a healthy defense, led by linebacker Ray Lewis and safety Ed Reed, return to make this one of the league’s toughest divisions.
In the AFC West look for Denver to once again rule the roost. Something tells me Oakland might be the most improved team in this division; while the Chiefs and new head coach Herm Edwards take a step back.
The AFC East race should be an interesting one to watch as defending division champ New England gets a real challenge from the up-and-coming Miami Dolphins. Second-year head coach Nick Saban’s team won their final six games last year and have added a lot of talent in the off-season, most notably quarterback Daunte Cullpepper. The Pats lost a lot of firepower, but they still have the league’s best head coach and one of the top quarterbacks in Tom Brady.
In the NFC North, look for Chicago and its ball hawking defense to be the team to beat. The offense should be much improved as former UT star Cedric Benson gets the nod at running back. Look for him to spark a so-so offense. Minnesota and a much-improved Detroit team should give the Bears a run for their money, while Brett Favre and the Packers struggle through another losing campaign.
In the NFC West, defending NFC champ Seattle should sleepwalk its way to another division crown. Arizona and St. Louis should be improved, but they have a ways to go before they challenge the Seahawks for the division crown.
The NFC South should be another competitive division to watch. Carolina, Tampa Bay and Atlanta will once again all be in the hunt, while the Saints will be on the outside looking in, although they should be a fun team to watch with all the offensive weapons they’ve accumulated in quarterback Drew Brees, rookie sensation Reggie Bush, tailback Deuce McAllister and a talented group of receivers. But New Orleans does not have the defense, unlike Carolina, TB and Atlanta. Look for the Panthers to come out on top at the day.
Which brings us to perhaps the best division in football, the NFC East.
All four teams are capable of winning this division, which means every game will have meaning when they line up during the season. Dallas improved itself immensely in the off-season with the acquisition of wide receiver Terrell Owens and kicker Mike Vanderjagt. If Owens buys into head coach Bill Parcell’s program (and he’d be foolish not to), the Cowboys should be the team to beat. Their offense is improved even without TO and the defense is young and talented. The Giants and Redskins also improved themselves in the off-season, and don’t count out the Eagles. They will rebound after a disappointing 2005 campaign. The key for the Eagles will be how well they are able to run the football.
So, who will be in the playoffs in 2006? Here are my picks and my picks for who will meet in the Super Bowl in Miami on Feb. 4.
AFC South – Indianapolis
AFC East – Miami
AFC North – Pittsburgh
AFC West – Denver
AFC Wild Cards – New England and Baltimore
AFC title game – Indianapolis over Pittsburgh
NFC South – Carolina
NFC East – Dallas
NFC North – Chicago
NFC West – Seattle
NFC Wild Cards – Tampa Bay and New York
NFC title game – Dallas over Seattle

COLLEGES
Last year, Texas and USC entered the season head and shoulders above the rest of the competition, but that’s not the case entering the 2006 college football season. There is no clear cut favorite, but a host of solid teams that will contend for a spot in the BCK title game set for Tempe, AZ in early January.
Texas fans should be in store for another quality season. There’s not doubt losing Young was a huge blow to the team, but remember, 16 starters and a host of players return from last year’s 13-0 team (Texas will enter the season with a 20-game winning streak, the best in the nation). The defense could be even better than last year’s salty group and the offense will be led by running back Jamal Charles, a superstar in the making.
Texas’ hopes of defending its national title hinge on the play of young quarterbacks Colt McCoy, a red shirt freshman, and true freshman Jevan Sneed. Both are talented, but both are young and will make mistakes. If Texas beats Ohio State on Sept. 9, another trip to the BCS title game could be in the offing.
Look for UT to win the Big 12 South and the conference title considering Oklahoma dismissed starting quarterback Rhett Bomar due to his violating NCAA regulations. The Sooners will still be good behind the sturdy legs of running back Adrian Peterson. Look for Texas Tech and its prolific offense to push OU for the runner up slot in the Big 12. Nebraska looks like the team to beat in the Big 12 North, but in the end, it will be Texas over Nebraska for the Big 12 title.
SEC – Look for Auburn to win the West Division over a talented LSU squad.
I’d pick LSU, but they have a brutal SEC road schedule with trips to Auburn, Florida, Tennessee and Arkansas. In the East, I’ll go with Florida with Auburn beating Florida for the overall SEC title.
Pac 10 – USC lost a ton of talent to graduation and the NFL, but head coach Pete Carroll has an ample amount of talent waiting in the wings.
Look for UCLA and Arizona State to give the Trojans a run for their money.
Big 10 – Ohio State gets the nod here due to an offense that is loaded with talent. Quarterback Troy Smith could be this year’s Vince Young, and in wide receiver/kick returner Ted Ginn Jr., the Buckeyes have one of the most electrifying players in the country who can score from anywhere on the field. The defense returns only two starters, but the new starters are talented and gained valuable experience as reserve in 2005. Look for Penn State and Michigan to also contend for the title.
ACC – This could be a down year for the ACC. There is no clear-cut favorite as all of the contenders have question marks. Look for Florida State to come out on top at the end of the year.
Big East – West Virginia and its explosive offense will contend with Louisville for the title. The two will meet Nov. 2 in Louisville, and the winner of that game should have a clear-cut path to the title.
Independents – Notre Dame is the class of the heap as record-setting quarterback Brady Quinn returns with his sites set on a national title and the Heisman Trophy. The Irish play a brutal schedule as they take on seven bowl teams from a year ago. Their offense should be explosive and if the defense improves, this bunch could be playing on Jan. 4 for the national title.
So, who does meet up in Tempe on Jan. 4? Notre Dame and Texas, and the winner is….Notre Dame!
Enjoy the season. It should be a fun one to watch.

Aldine’s Kujawa finalist for Texas Superintendent of the Year

The Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) selected Aldine ISD Superintendent Nadine Kujawa as one of five finalists for the prestigious Texas Superintendent of the Year award. TASB released the names of the five finalists on Monday, Aug. 21.
Mrs. Kujawa, the Region 4 Superintendent of the Year, was one of 16 superintendents from across Texas who were interviewed by TASB’s State Selection Committee Aug. 18-19 in Austin. The committee then selected Mrs. Kujawa, along with Daniel King of Hidalgo ISD, Vivian Baker of Belton ISD, Sylvester Perez of San Marcos ISD and John Folks of Northside ISD, as the five finalists who will vie for the coveted Superintendent of the Year Award at the TASB/TASA (Texas Association of School Administrators) annual conference, slated Oct. 6-8 at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston.
Mrs. Kujawa, along with the four other finalists, will be interviewed on Friday, Oct. 6. The winner will be announced on Sunday, Oct. 8 at the third general session.
“This is truly a wonderful honor and I am humbled by it,” Mrs. Kujawa said. “But I do not consider this an individual honor, but one that must be shared with our board, and our entire staff of dedicated administrators, principals and teachers. We are a team that works well together to meet the needs of our students.”
Mrs. Kujawa and her fellow finalists were chosen for their strong leadership skills, dedication to improving educational quality, the ability to build effective employee relations, student performance, and commitment to public involvement in education.
Dr. Bill McKinney, executive director of Region 4, said Mrs. Kujawa’s selection as a finalist was well deserved.
“Nadine Kujawa has proven repeatedly during her professional career and her tenure at Aldine that she possesses the vision, the talent, the commitment and the leadership to work successfully with others and to make those decisions that truly are best for our children,” he said. “As a very involved member of the community, Mrs. Kujawa has a special commitment to ensuring that all students succeed.”

Suspect in machete murder is now captured

A local man wanted in the murder of an area restuarant owner is in police custody thanks to one of Houston Police’s new billboard wanted posters.
In June, a billboard began displaying information about murder suspect Leon Andradé. On March 12, police say Andradé and a friend pulled up outside a restaurant at 66 East Crosstimbers. At that time, William Hsing Huang, 61, was locking up for the night. His employee and her daughter were waiting with him outside.
Andradé is the employee’s estranged husband. He approached the trio and began physically assaulting Huang. Then Andradé went back to his van to grab a macheté and struck Huang repeatedly.

Saavedra: ‘No Talk of Closing’ Sam Houston High School

By Gilbert Hoffman, Publisher

NORTHEAST HOUSTON– Hundreds of parents, educators, students and community supporters gathered in the auditorium of Sam Houston High School last Wednesday evening, to voice support for keeping the school open in spite of a warning from the HISD board that it will close the school if state TAKS ratings don’t improve by the end of the 2007 school year.
However, speaking for the administration, Superintendent Abe Saavedra claimed their was “no talk of closing this school. We have do doubt that we will have the success to keep this school open.”


This statement came in spite of the fact that the HISD trustees voted 8-1 at a meeting on August 10th to close the school if it didn’t improve. Lone trustee Kevin Hoffman voted against the resolution, and he was warmly supported by the public speakers later in the meeting, just as trustee Natasha Kamrani was criticized for her vote not supporting the school and not showing up often enough, even though it is in her District 1.
The meeting was organized by City Councilman Adrian Garcia, who spoke in opening remarks about the need for the community to pledge their support to help the school.
Principal Aida Tello, in a prepared slide presentation, pointed out that the school’s performance was not really that bad, and in the TAKS scores, in the 20 categories that are tested, SHHS students achieved scores above recognized in 10 categories, acceptable in 8, a bye in 1, and only 1 category had an unacceptable rating. This had 3%, or only 9 students that couldn’t pass this part of the exam, she pointed out, but 97% did pass.
In addition, Tello, who is starting her 3rd year leading the school, said that she sets daily and weekly goals for the staff and students, and expects that performance will improve by the end of the year.
Her motto, emblazoned on yellow tee shirts, is “Yes We Can. Si Se Puede!”
After the opening remarks, the speakers on the platform and then from the audience took their turns at the microphones.
An unusual show of support came from the Consul of Mexico, Carlos Gonzalez, who said that he was there to support the school, because “we are concerned about education in the Hispanic community.” He indicated that Mexico had chosen Sam Houston HS for extra support over the next school year, including a Mexican Institute to be held with SHHS on Sept. 12th.
Sen. Mario Gallegos said that education and healthcare for his constituents are his number one priorities, and that he had just come from a meeting that day with state education commissioner Shirley Neeley, regarding school performance and the TAKS tests.
Rep. Kevin Bailey said that closing SHHS was not acceptable, and that he will press HISD to come up with a plan to keep the school open. He said that “for a long time, schools on the North side of Houston have been underfunded, without enough resources,” and it was time for that to change.
Rep. Farrar pointed out that we should include the feeder schools, as well as high schools, to achieve improvement. She noted that in successful schools, Homework is emphasized, as is parental involvement with the students.
A presentation by Yvonne Rodriguez of the SHHS staf pointed out the importance of volunteers and parent involvement, and said that signing up on the HISD web site was the first step.
She said that students with mentors:
-have a better attitude
-have better attendance, behavior
-are more responsible
-are more enthusiastic
-have more and better interaction with their peers.
At this point, the meeting was open for comments and questions from the audience and parents.
Parent Maria Mendosa led off, with scathing remarks against the administration and trustees for lack of support over the years. She called for more tutoring and pay incentives, and noted that 8 of the 9 trustees had voted Aug. 10 for closure at the end of 2007 school year, in a meeting that was not publicized for the community.
Parent Sharon Justice Black criticized trustee Kamrani for not caring enough about SHHS.
Sue Freshauer, an alumni, pointed out the proud history and many accomplishments of the school and students. Successful alumni engineer Ruby Medina, and attorney Sandra Solis, pointed out the good education they had.
Students Marisol Cantu and Emmanuel Amando spoke about how important the school was to them, and Emmanuel said “you are shutting down our dreams, our future…”
Alumni Dana Castro spoke about the mistake of closing all the special programs such as shop, cosmetology, and band, and how important these were to some of the students. Parent Ofelia Monte spoke about keeping the Tigercadet drill team, and how important it was to morale.
Saavedra’s closing remarks pledged to reduce class size in core subjects, and work together with the school to keep it open and successful.
The next community meeting is scheduled for Wed. Aug. 30th at 6:30 pm. at the school.

Humble ISD achieves acceptable and recognized ratings

HUMBLE– More than half of Humble ISD campuses have been named exemplary or recognized schools under the state’s accountability system. The state released official accountability ratings on Aug.1. Eighteen out of 29 schools received exemplary or recognized ratings. Eleven schools received an academically acceptable rating. Humble ISD, as a district, also received a rating of academically acceptable. No Humble ISD campuses were rated unacceptable in 2006.
“I am very excited about the results we’ve seen with year’s state accountability ratings,” Superintendent Guy Sconzo said.


“Our entire staff commitment last year to studying the TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills state curriculum) and best assuring that students’ learning was our priority focus clearly paid off.”
Sconzo noted that the district saw gains in 23 out of 25 areas measured by the accountability system.
Named as exemplary schools were Elm Grove Elementary, Greentree Elementary, Hidden Hollow Elementary, Shadow Forest Elementary and Willowcreek Elementary.
Elementary schools to receive the recognized rating were Bear Branch Elementary, Deerwood Elementary, Foster Elementary, Maplebrook Elementary, Oaks Elementary, Oak Forest Elementary, Pine Forest Elementary, Timbers Elementary and Woodland Hill Elementary.
At the secondary level, Kingwood Middle, Creekwood Middle, Riverwood Middle and Quest High also were named recognized schools.
Elementary schools to receive an academically acceptable rating were Fields Elementary, Humble Elementary, Lakeland Elementary, North Belt Elementary, Summerwood Elementary and Whispering Pines Elementary.
Secondary schools receiving the acceptable rating were Atascocita Middle, Humble Middle, Timberwood Middle, Humble High and Kingwood High.
The ratings are based on numerous criteria including student performance on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills tests. The tests measure students’ understanding of reading/English language arts, writing, social studies, science and math.
The rating system considers not only the performance of the student body as a whole, but also the performance of student groups. Student groups include African-American, Hispanic, White and Economically-Disadvantaged students. Schools often meet the passing rate overall for an exemplary or recognized rating while falling short of meeting the passing rate for every student group.
Other criteria used in the rating system includes the performance of students on special education tests, middle school drop out rates and high school completion rates.
The accountability system is one tool school districts use to focus on areas for improvement. For more information about Humble ISD ratings, visit the Office of Accountability pages.
Ratings for all public schools in Texas can be found at www.tea.state.tx.us.

Wayside housing compromise reached with Developer


Last week, the Houston city council approved the first 150 homes to be built in the Wayside Village subdivision. While community members protested against the development, they now consider the approval to be a win-win situation.
Residents and Super Neighborhood residents from all over Houston showed up at City Hall July 11to protest an in-City MUD on an affordable housing project. Again on August 1, 55 community members wore black to the countil meeting to reiterate “no more bad development”.



While the community has not changed its position on the feasibility of having an in-city MUD on an affordable housing project, it was found that the city had no choice but to approve the MUD in this situation.
North Forest leaders were unaware that the city approved the MUD in July 2005 under the leadership of past District B. City Council Member Carol Mims Galloway.
“If the MUD did not go forward, they city of Houston would have had a liability on their hands,” said community organizer Ivory Mayhorn.
The City Council passed the MUD for sections one and two only on Aug..1th with the developer pulling the already approved general plan and will not go for plat approval until a new land plan is designed with community input. The council held an hour and a half discussion on the project and decided that the city will negotiate what will happen with the rest of the development.
“Councilmember Jarvis Johnson and Peter Brown went to bat for our community and now we will have a better planned project,” said Super Neighborhood 47 president Jackie Mayhorn.
The developers now have to revamp their plan and come back to the table willing to work with the community and NFISD.