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Posts published in “Day: May 14, 2002

Let the Sun Set on SBEC

Teacher certification Board Fails Texas

By Chris Patterson

Improving Texas public schools depends on qualified teachers. That’s why the threat of a teacher shortage prompted the Texas Legislature to create the State Board for Educator Certification in 1995.

But SBEC has done nothing to fix the problem In fact, SBEC has increased the likelihood that children sit in classrooms without an academically qualified teacher.

Since its inception, SBEC has methodically dismantled the academic requirements for prospective teachers. Today, you could be certified to teach algebra even if you never took algebra in college.

According to education research, there are two factors that contribute to being a good teacher. The first is a broad body of academic expertise in the field being taught. The second is an expansive vocabulary.

SBEC requires only that prospective teachers pass the academic equivalent of the TAAS for the grade they hope to teach. This means a seventh-grader could meet the SBEC academic requirements for teaching the sixth grade. Parents should be frightened. These requirements don’t mesh with what we know about good instruction.

SBEC is divorcing academic knowledge from teacher certification even further. Two years ago, SBEC drafted a proposal to let teachers teach subjects and grades outside their certification for three years.

If SBEC wants educators to teach outside their certification, why have certification in the first place? Fortunately, the State Board of Education had the authority to veto this misguided idea.
Of course, SBEC is hoping to change that. They want to be autonomous. That would be a disaster for teachers and children.

Many Texans had hoped SBEC would craft an alternative to traditional teacher certification that would allow knowledgeable individuals to bypass teacher education programs that are weak in academics and strong in fuzzy teaching methods
Over the past seven years, SBEC has only increased the number of teachers with alternative certification by a paltry seven percent. Last year, school districts reported that 25 percent of new teachers were not certified to teach in the classrooms they were hired to lead.

If increasing the number and qualifications of teachers isn’t SBEC’s main concern, what is’? SBEC recently completed work on a new ethics code for teachers. This new code would prohibit a teacher from sharing her professional and personal judgment with parents about their children, unless the law compels schools to release such information. What could SBEC find wrong with open, honest parent-teacher communication?

It is clear that either SBEC should be placed directly under the authority of the elected State Board of Education, or that individual districts be allowed to decide who is qualified to teach – provided there is full disclosure to parents of teacher qualifications.

Growing bureaucracies and expanding regulations will never produce classrooms staffed by academically qualified and responsible teachers.

Texas’ children, parents, teachers and taxpayers deserve better. As the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission reviews SBEC this year, Texans have an opportunity to reshape the educator certification process in a way that makes it more responsive to the academic needs of our children while enhancing parental involvement.

(Chris Patterson is the director of education research at the Texas Public Policy Foundation. Her research can be found on the web at

The Houston Downtown Street Festival presents a tribute to Hendrix

This year’s Houston Downtown Street Festival will present A Tribute to Hendrix on Friday, May 24, from 5:00 until 11:00 P.M., and Saturday, May 25, from Noon until 11:00 P.M. The Festival will be held in Downtown Houston’s Jones Plaza, This one block square park located across the street from the Alley Theater & Jones Hall is bounded by Smith on the West, Louisiana on the East, Texas on the North and Capitol on the South.

Jimi Hendrix who died in 1970 at the age of 27 may have been history’s greatest guitarist. He expanded the range of the electric guitar into areas where no musician had ever ventured. The combination of his creative drive and technical ability created songs that forever transformed rock and roll.

The Festival is designed not just for music lovers, but for the whole family. A variety of musical talents will be featured and entertainment will include music from the many styles of Jimi Hendrix including rock, blues, and all forms of rhythm & blues.

Each performer playing at the Festival will pay tribute to Jimi Hendrix by performing two of Hendrix songs. Entertainment will include the Classic Rock Laser Light Spectacular featuring a special Tribute to Jimi Hendrix. Many of the acts performing at the Festival are “unsigned” by major recording companies and are seeking positive reviews, performance bookings and record contracts.

In addition to its music, the Festival will feature hand made arts and crafts, music-oriented vendors and select food menus showcasing the restaurants of Downtown Houston.

By focusing on the Downtown environment, it’s events, historic buildings and unique culture; this Festival draws people under its spell.

Tickets for the Houston Downtown Street Festival Tour are available at all Ticketmaster Outlets.

Ticket prices are $6 per day or $10 for a 2-day VIP pass. On Saturday, from Noon until 3:00 P.M., the Festival will accept donations of $5 in cash or nonperishable food in lieu of admission.

Donations will benefit a local food pantry and the Endangered Species Media Project, an organization that promotes the understanding of how the quality of human life can be enhanced by the preservation of our wilderness and wildlife.

Annual Bee Fit Day at Mendel Elementary all wet

After a hard day of games and relays, students relax with cold watermelon. Left to right are Salvador Carreon, Andrew DeLeon, Kevin Aldaco, Crystal Mendoza, Maria Suarez, and Jasmin Rodriguez. Back row: Nallely Torres, Crystal Cobio, Gerardo Garza and Francisco Villerreal.

Ernest F. Mendel’s annual Bee Fit Day, directed by Physical Education teacher, Stacie Veinotte, was ALL WET, to say the least. This years’ theme was SPLISH SPLASH. Students from all grade levels participated in a variety of fun and exciting games and relays.

Some of the relays were Watermelon Roll, Pass the Bucket, Go Fishing, Beach Belly Relay, and Snorkel & Finn Relay.

The final event was “Dress the Teacher.” Students hurried to dress the teachers with large sunglasses, fins, a head umbrella, face mask, beach towel, along with sand bucket and shovel. The students were laughing as hard as the onlookers. Kindergarten teacher, Lynda Cole was the first to be dressed. The students were all provided with sun visors in summer colors to enjoy the events with. After the watermelon contest the classes were able to enjoy a watermelon party.

Parents, teachers and students had a wonderful time and want to thank Mrs. Veinotte for all of her efforts in making this annual event a success.

High Meadows Library will offer the following programs in May

•Texas Writer’s Exhibition, May 6-27. This 22-panel display features the portraits, biographies and, especially, the words of between 70 and 75 writers.
•“Books & Tennis For Life,” program sign-up throughout May. Ask Children’s Librarian/Reference Desk for details! Program includes: Free tennis instruction; brand new loaner racquets.
•Session one – June.
•Session two – July.
•Sign-up now for one or both. Limited to 150 applicants for each session.
•Remember, Summer Reading Program sign-up starts the last week in May.
Ongoing Weekly Programs
•Story and Crafts: Tuesdays at 10:30 a.m.
•Beginning Computer/Internet Classes (English and Spanish): Call library for information,
•Play/Learn Chess: Thursdays at 3:15 p.m.
•Community Exercise: Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, 12:00 noon – 3:00 p.m.
•ESL Classes: Tuesday and Thursday, 1 – 3 p.m.
•Citizenship Class: Wednesdays, 2:15 – 4 p.m.
Please contact High Meadows for further information about library activities: 4500 Aldine Mail Route Road 281-590-1456

Accept the invitation to go to ‘My Big Fat Greek Wedding’

The story behind “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” is almost as charming and entertaining as the movie.

Nia Vardalos grew up in a large, loud extended Greek family in Canada. The actress-writer developed a one-woman play about her family, her life and her marriage to a non-Greek.

Actress Rita Wilson who is Greek (also known as Mrs. Tom Hanks) went to the play with her mother. They loved it so much Wilson sent her husband, who then told Vardalos that his production company wanted to make her play into a movie.

Vardalos said great, because she had already written a screenplay, but she wanted to star as Toula Portokalos. She got her wish and the result is a very funny, sweet romantic movie.

We learn that Toula has constantly been reminded that she is Greek and as she says, “Nice Greek girls are expected to do three things: Marry Greek boys, make Greek babies and feed everyone until the day we die.”

Horrors, she is 30 and not yet married. She’s “way past her expiration date.” This disturbs her father and others in the family to no end, though mom is pretty sympathetic. Toula is not that concerned with marriage, it’s her job in her parent’s restaurant that has her troubled. She wants to do something else and decides changes must be made, not only in how she looks, but what she does.

Your familiar with the plot, ugly duckling becomes the swan and gets the man of her dreams. Unfortunately, the man of her dreams is not that of her father’s so there’s conflict, and compromises must be made. Fortunately, for the audience all of this is done in an amusing light tone with a fairytale type air about it and lots of heart.

The movie is highly autobiographical; Vardalos just expands and exaggerates her life. Some might find the characters stereotypical, but there is a definite ring of truth about most of them.

She is a little harsh in her depiction of the parents of her husband to be: Boring, dry stiff middle class white people. Not that they don’t deserve to be made fun of, but it’s so easy to do and has been done in very similar ways before.

Anyone remember “Fools Rush In” from a few years ago? There the cultural clash was between Hispanics and the boring, white middle class. Other movies have had similar themes. Don’t get me wrong, “My Big Fat Greek Wedding” is the best of the bunch I can remember, but I was still disappointed when they reached for laughs from such a familiar bag of stereotypes and clichés.

The very cute John Corbett (“Sex in the City,” Serendipity”) plays her love, Ian. This guy is the sweetest man in the world so it’s just a little hard to believe that some other nice girl had not snapped him up faster than a 75-percent off leather coat.

Vardalos real life husband is actor Ian Gomez (“The Drew Carey Show”), who plays Mike, a friend of the movie’s Ian.

You might not know the names, but you will probably recognize many faces in the cast. Andrea Martin from “SCTV” (Vardalos was a “Second City” member) plays Aunt Voula. Veteran movie and TV actor Michael Constantine plays Toula’s loving but overly protective chauvinist dad.

‘N Sync fans will want to catch Joey Fatone as one of Toula’s many cousins According to the press notes, Fatone says big fat Greek weddings are very similar to big fat Italian weddings.

Even if you’re not from an ethnic group, I bet you will find something familiar and something agreeable in the entertaining “My Big Fat Greek Wedding.”


Lane School students gain job skills with help of Shell retailer

Once the final school bell rigs, teenagers scatter by the numbers to their afternoon routines-band practice, cheerleading, or maybe “Saved By the Bell” re-runs. But for a group of area students, 3 p.m. means there are shelves to stock and gas pumps to clean-and it means a step towards independence.

What began as a hotdog sale at a local service station grand opening, has developed into a successful relationship between a group of high school students with mental and/ or physical challenges, the community, and a Shell retailer with 102 locations across the Houston area.

Each afternoon, students from Ellen B. Lane School in Houston take a quick bus ride to a co-branded Shell – Burger King station at 1950 N. Sam Houston Parkway E. At the station, the students stock shelves, clean gas pumps and coolers, wash windows, refill paper towel dispensers and clean the premises both inside and out. Under the watchful eyes of “job coaches” from their school, these students are learning work and social skills that can make them employable and functional in the community. Additionally, these are qualifying for a post-secondary education program that offers long-term employment, work-oriented services and residential living.

According to Bob Toner, job coach with Lane, this type of experience is difficult to simulate within the schools. The program relies on business partners like Shell and Burger King to provide opportunities where students can learn behaviors through interactions with co-workers that occur naturally in a work setting. School administrators carefully screen the students, who exhibit a wide range of mental and physical challenges, to match each individual with the right job.

Ahmed “Danny” Dhanani, operations manager of Gulshan Enterprises, Inc. and owner of the Sam Houston Parkway location recommends the program to other retailers and credits its success to helping his station fully integrate into the community. As a new service station that opened less than a year ago, Ahmad routinely receives positive feedback from both the students and area residents.

I’m confident your readers will enjoy learning more about how this unique program is opening the doors of opportunity for Houston-area students. I will contact you soon to discuss this idea further. In the meantime, feel free to contact me at 713.513.9501 or for additional information.

Johnson Elementary celebrates Cinco de Mayo

Johnson Elementary School celebrated “Cinco de Mayo” with a program Friday, May 3rd. Constable Victor Trevino was the guest speaker, and guest performers were from the Mixteco Folklorico Ballet Company. All grade levels participated in the program. The kindergarten classes performed a dance to “La Cucaracha”. Second grade presented a tribute to soccer and danced to “La Copa de La Vida”. Third grade modeled traditional Mexican costumes, and fourth grade presented the history of the celebration. Many parents were in attendance.

Aldine Middle School honors Judge Lykos

Pictured with Judge Lykos (l to r) are Steven Nelson, Oscar Servin, Martha Monsivais and Noemi Rodriguez.

Aldine Middle School recently honored District Judge Patricia Lykos for outstanding support of the AMS student body. Judge Lykos is a sponsor of the “Do the Write Thing” essay contest in Harris County. She has also been supportive of the LOTC program and the library.

The LOTC cadets performed for Judge Lykos and presented her with a Drill Team rifle. The library dedicated two books about the legal system and Mr. Luis Pratts, AMS principoal, gave her a plaque.

Gunnery Sgt. John Peoples is thee sponsor of the LOTC and Mrs. Susan Kalson is the AMS librarian.

Cornyn rules in favor of HMO & PPO fee disclosure

Health insurance plans no longer will be able to keep secret their reimbursement practices if the Texas Department of Insurance performs according to an opinion issued today by Attorney General John Cornyn.

“This is a long overdue victory for Texas physicians and their patients,” said Texas Medical Association President Fred Merian. MD.

“HMOs have been arbitrary and unpredictable in their interpretation of health plan contracts with physicians. This has made it difficult for doctors to continue serving patients, adding to the problem of access to care.

“General Cornyn has paved the way for everyone – patients, employers, and doctors to understand the rules,” Dr. Merian said.

Cornyn ageed with TMA’s assertion that HB 610, passed two sessions ago, authorizes TDI to issue rules requiring HMOs and PPOs to disclose their fee, bundling, and downcoding information.

Physicians submit their reimbursement requests to health plans using a “code” developed by the American Medical Association for each service or procedure. Arbitrary changes to these codes by health plans have been a serious problem for doctors trying to determine whether they have been reimbursed in accordance with their contracts with health insurance providers.

“Bundling’ and “downcoding” are methods HMOs and PPOs use to evaluate a health care provider’s claim for payment. After treating a patient, the provider submits a claim for payment that includes the “code” for each service or procedure. A “code” is a shorthand description of the service or procedure.

The problems occur when the HMO or PPO arbitrarily alters these codes to reduce reimbursement to health care providers. “Bundling” is the practice of combining two or more codes into fewer codes. “Downcoding” is when the code submitted for reimbursement is changed unilaterally by an HMO or PPO to a code describing a lower level of service, hence a lower reimbursement rate

When TDI claimed it did not have authority to require this disclosure, Rep. Bob Turner (D-Voss), chair of the House Committee on Public Safety, requested the AG opinion.

“We urge Gov. Perry to instruct TDI and Commissioner Montemayor to write these rules immediately,” Dr. Merian said. Expedited rule-making could be done within 60 days, if the commitment is really there.”

The Texas Medical Association is the largest state medical society in the nation, representing more than 37,000 physician and medical student members. It is located in Austin and has 119 component county medical societies around the state. TMAs key objective is to improve the health of all Texans.

Reed Academy students score at math competition

Winners in the AISD Intermediate Math competition from Ruby Reed Academy are shown left to right Edward Wong, Lindsey Calfee, Caoch Jennifer Forsberg, Dejaune Bickham and Jeffery Hamilton.

Six students from Ruby Reed Academy participated in the Aldine Independent School District’s lntermediate school’s math competition on Saturday, May 4th. They competed in three different contests against seven other schools.

The first contest termed “Number Sense,” is a 10-minute timed test where the students are not allowed to use a calculator or show any of their calculations on the paper. This contest teaches students to quickly and accurately make mental calculations in their minds.

Eight schools participated in this competition, but one of Ruby Reed’s finest students, Lindsey Calfee, won the honor of 1st place for the sixth grade Number Sense competition. Lindsey said “ten minutes is not very long, so I was very surprised that I won. When they called first place Lindsey Calfee from Reed Academy I was fixing to faint. I’m really proud of myself.”

Her coach, Jennifer Forsberg, says she was extremely proud of her as well. “She has worked so hard after school, before school, and at all times of the day to ensure her success.”

Other participants in Saturday’s competition included sixth graders Jeffery Hamilton and Kaelynn Prichard. Jeffery placed 5th in the individual math category. Fifth graders who participated included Dejaune Bickham, Stephanie Hamilton, and Edward Wong. Edward placed 5th and Dejaune placed 6th in the individual math category. Mrs. Forsberg said, “They have all worked so hard and deserved every honor that they received, I couldn’t be more proud!”