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Posts published in August 2014

Thorne Stadium to get high tech Electronic Scoreboard

A big thing is coming to Thorne Stadium, and just in time for the upcoming football season.

When the 2014 season opens on Aug. 28, fans and players will be greeted by a new video scoreboard that will be capable of showing live game action and replays. The 36×19-foot Spectrum video board should also help attract post-season games in addition to the slate of regular-season games scheduled for this season, according to Aldine ISD Director of Athletics Richard Delgado.

“We are very excited about our new addition to Thorne Stadium,” Delgado said. “One of the things we are really pumped up about is how much added excitement the new video board will provide for our kids when they see themselves on the big board. It should also give us the chance to host more playoff games.”

The new video board cost more than $500,000 and will be up and running when Nimitz High hosts Conroe High on Thursday, Aug. 28 at 7 p.m.

Delgado said the athletic department surveyed districts across the state and received positive feedback about the impact a video board can have on a district and the community.

He added it will also serve as a teaching tool for AISD students, who will help run the board along with two full-time AISD technicians.

“We’ll have six kids from Carver High assisting with running it this first year,” Delgado said. “It will be good training for them. Three will work in the control booth in the press box with our technicians, while the other three will work the on-field cameras.”

Businesses interested in advertising on the video board should contact Jason Spencer at (281) 985-6202 or Delgado at (281) 985-6100.

Worldclass Skatepark opens in Greenspoint

NORTH HOUSTON – Spring Skatepark opened to the public last Thursday.

With hundreds of skateboarders present, the opening ceremony of the skate park took place at Rankin Rd. and Kuykendahl just off the North Freeway.

This worldclass park, the largest in North America, includes in its design a 12-foot vertical ramp, a 10-foot-deep basin, a Texas-shaped bowl and a “lazy river” – style pathway accessible for skating.

Sally Bradford, executive director of the Greenspoint Redevelopment Authority, predicts they may draw skateboarders from all over the world.

The park has 78,000 sq. ft. of skate surface, and admission is free. The Park was designed by Grindline, a Seattle firm.

The first half of the park, Dylan Park, a park dedicated to children with special needs, opened at the end of last month.

Admission at the park is free but skaters need to fill out a waiver in case of an accident. Summer hours (June – August) for the park are Monday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday 8 a.m. – 10 p.m. Tuesday the park is closed. Saturday 8 a.m. -10 p.m. and Sunday 10 a.m. – 9 p.m.

Lone Star College System approves budget, calls for Nov. 4 bond election

HOUSTON (Aug. 8, 2014) – The Lone Star College System Board of Trustees voted to approve the 2014-15 operating budget and to put a bond referendum before area voters on Nov. 4.

Voters will be asked to decide on supporting a $485 million bond which will be used to create more learning space to accommodate the extraordinary growth being experienced in the LSCS service area.

“From fall 2007 to fall 2013, Lone Star College has seen a 57 percent increase in student enrollment, adding more than 30,000 students,” said Dr. Steve Head, LSCS chancellor. “With the current population boom in the LSC service area, we are projecting more than 96,000 students at our colleges by 2018.”

According the Greater Houston Partnership, the Houston region is expected to have 74,177 openings annually in middle skills occupations from now to 2017.

The proposed bond plan includes:

-680,000 square feet of learning space to address growth needs and the area’s shortage of skilled workers.

-No tax rate increase associated with the bond referendum

-Enhancing campus security and improving technology infrastructure

Workforce education, economic development and community prosperity are the key themes of the bond program. Dr. Head remarked, “This is about student access to high quality, relevant programs of study that lead to good careers with sustained earnings potential. It’s good for students, it’s good for employers and it’s good for the community. We all benefit.”

Trustee Linda Good continued, “I know personally how transformative a good community college can be. I want all of our students to have that same transformational experience.” Good, an attorney, was a community college student who began her higher education at the age of 32 and completed each degree in the traditional amount of time while raising three children.

During a recent meeting of area businesses, education leaders, government and civic sectors, LSCS demonstrated how it will be able to absorb this construction debt due to its strong financial foundation through superior budget management and accelerated pay down of previous debt. The college system also maintains administrative operating expenses below 12 percent, which is among the lowest of any college in the nation.

The election will be held Tuesday, Nov.4 and will include the $485 million bond referendum as well as three LSCS Trustee spots up for consideration. Early voting is set for Oct. 20 – Oct. 31.

The board also approved the operating budget for the 2014-15 fiscal year which:

-Anticipates a tax rate decrease for home owners, with the amount to be determined once certified tax rolls are released at the end of August.

-Maintains efficient administrative costs, one of the lowest in the nation at 11.4%

-Provides an innovative Tele-Health program that makes free telephone access to doctors and medical care available to all employees (FT/PT/Adjunct) and their families regardless of insurance status.

-Funds a moderate cost of living adjustment for full time employees (2% on 9/1/14 and 1.5% on 3/1/15) and 4% increase for part time hourly employees.

The approved budget also finances the full implementation of the LSC Honors College. The Honors College is designed to meet the needs of high-achieving students seeking to improve their college transcripts and transferability with challenging coursework provided across a broad range of disciplines.

Senator Sylvia Garcia focuses on Education issues

EAST HARRIS COUNTY – Emphasizing that her work in the legislature is based on input she receives from her constituents, State Senator Sylvia Garcia held a “networking” event last Wednesday evening at the Phelps Courthouse Annex in Pasadena.

The event was open to the public, but in addition she had invited a cross-section of community educators and leaders, to talk specifically about Education, which she typified as the great “equalizer” among people.

Garcia queried each person in the room, of which about 50 persons were in attendance. She asked each to describe some aspect of their experience with education, and what recommendations they had for her legislation.

As examples, John Moon spoke of the need for more preparation for incoming college students, and more emphasis on 2 year programs instead of 4 year.

San Jacinto College Chancellor Brenda Hellyer wanted to discusss motivating students to complete their studies, and to help them make a transition from high school.

Pam Warfin of Lee College thought that more information was needed to get out to students, so they understood the potential for good careers and high pay that community colleges offered.

Allatia Harris, vice-chancellor of San Jacinto College, noted that community colleges offered extensive workforce training, and were sensitive to diversity in their student body. She praised HB5 for moving the state back in the right direction.

Several recent graduates praised the education they had received from community colleges. One revealed that she had no financial debt due to reasonable costs at her community college. Another mentioned that dual credits and AP classes in high school were quite helpful in giving a student a headstart when they go to college. This was echoed by Baytown city manager Bob Lieper, from his own college experience.

Paula Henney, Galena Park ISD community liaison and GP Rotarian, said that involving parents was a key challenge, and led to success for their students. She said that GPISD has a “Parents Academy” to help with this effort.

Star publisher Gilbert Hoffman summed up the various suggestions that had been offered, and added a personal story of how the East Aldine management district was helping finance a new Lone Star campus, knowing it would have far reaching effects on the lives of residents in the Aldine area.

Senator Garcia thanked all for their contributions. She said that other issues she was concerned about were immigrant children and payday lenders, perhaps the subjects for another networking event.

METRO previews new FLEX ZONE for Aldine bus service Would replace Route 59 in 2015

HOUSTON – For the last few months, METRO has been re-examining its route system, and is now ready to announce a radical new redesign, according to a presentation made last Thursday night by METRO representatives at the East Aldine offices.

Representative Armando Walle had requested the meeting, to learn the fate of the Aldine Mail Route No. 59, and what transit service might be planned after the new Lone Star Campus is built on the Town Center site.

Jim Archer and Jose Pulido of METRO revealed that the board will get a Draft Plan in mid-August, and if they adopt the recommendations, a new route structure will be put into place June 7, 2015.

METRO officials said that there will be many benefits to the new system:

1. Simpler routes, straighter, improved connections, fewer branches

2. Better connections, aligned with where riders want to go, i.e. jobs, shopping, recreation.

3. More service, with higher frequency on main routes, weekend service that is similar to weekday, shorter wait times.

4. Links to job centers and activity centers.

Changes to the system were made after extensive meetings and community input over the last year, but this is a draft report, and additional comments and input are sought. You may send your ideas or comments by email to reimagining@ridemetro.org.

A key feature of the new system, as presented by the METRO staff, is the new concept of FLEX ZONES. There are five of these, in areas where ridership on fixed-route lines is too low. They include the following route numbers:

376 – Fifth Ward/Denver Harbor

377 – Mesa

378 – Kashmere

395 – North Shepherd

398 – Jensen (including Aldine Mail Route).

Here is how the Flex Zones are intended to work:

What are Flex Zones and how do they work?

Some parts of our service area have relatively low levels of population and street patterns that make it impossible to design an efficient bus route. Yet these areas still have a need for transit service. Flexible Service is a more effective way to offer basic access to hard-to-serve areas.

Within designated Flex Zones, customers can call to request service, which will pick them up at their curb or at a nearby intersection. The service will take them anywhere inside their zone or to a local transit center or connection point served by multiple fixed routes where they can connect to the rest of the network.

Service will be available once an hour at a time specified by when you call, and it will make stops to pick up other people. However, it is an efficient way to provide access to meet the needs of a community where fixed route bus service cannot be effectively operated.

Also, some customers within the Flex Zone area will be within walking distance of a fixed route service giving multiple options for utilizing the transit system. The flexible service allows riders to make the best decision for their trip.

METRO will discuss the potential Flexible Service with the communities in which it is proposed to be sure it is operated in a way that best meets their needs.

New Route Maps reduce local service in Aldine

It was noted in the meeting, that the new route maps do not show any East to West bus lines, and therefore no direct service to the Town Center site, the proposed Lone Star College on Aldine Mail Route, or access to the Flea Markets on Airline Drive, shopping on the North Freeway, or connections between Aldine High School and MacArthur High School, except through a very circuitous route through the Transit Centers.

New College plans reviewed

EAST ALDINE – The East Aldine Advisory Group met with representatives of Lone Star College last Wednesday afternoon, to hear Chancellor Dr. Stephen Head bring them up to date on planning for the new campus to be built on Aldine Mail Route.

Plans are proceeding, he explained, because the college will use a new financing method known as NMTC, or New Market Tax Credits, in lieu of a general obligation bond which was not approved in the election of 2013. But due to the pressing need for the Aldine community, Lone Star will meet the need by having a private developer build the building and the college will lease it back for academic use.

Lone Star will utilize 13.75 acres of the 61 acre site that the East Aldine District is developing. EAMD will donate the land, valued at $1.2 million and pay for service roads, utilities, and flood retention features on the site to an additional value of $1 million.

Lone Star College is planning on a building of 65,000 square feet, with 650 parking spaces. The facility is envisioned to be a center for workforce and academic preparation, economic and community development, and a focal point for training for area residents. The center will be designed to accommodate a student enrollment of 3000 students. It is expected to employ 100 full time staff, faculty, and administrators. In addition, about 100 part-time employees will be needed, according to Melissa Gonzalez, special assistant to the president and in charge of the new building.

The center is expected to open for classes in the Fall of 2016, according to Dr. Head.

The facility will have two major components:

Approximately one half of the facility will be designed to house “state of the art” training labs and dedicated classrooms for workforce programs. These workforce programs will be for both credit and non-credit course offerings. The workforce programs under consideration include high demand and high paying fields in the oil and gas industry and construction.

These may include the following: Machining Technology, Welding, Pipe-Fitting, Petroleum Technology, Electrician and Heating, Air Conditioning and Refrigeration (HVAC). Additional programs that may be offered in this center are Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) and Phlebotomist, and Medical Coding. The specific programs will be determined by advisory groups composed of community and business leaders and based on data such as job openings, future trends, educational attainment and liveable wages and salaries.

The remainer of the faility will be designated for academic support functions, including traditional offices such as admissions, advising and counseling, financial aid, and testing as well as administrative support. The instructional componenets of this facility will be designed for academic courses included in the first two years of a bachelor’s degree, and/or the completion of an associate’s degree. In addition to academic classrooms, instructional space will also be provided for science and computer labs. Furthermore, there will be designated classrooms for GED, ABE and ESL instruction.