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Posts published in “Day: June 3, 2003

Observing Memorial Day as cowboys do

I hope you all had a great Memorial Day weekend. It’s a really special time when we pay tribute to all those men and women who served in the defense of our country by serving in the military. Mostly, we want to take time and remember those who paid for our freedom with their life. Thanks to all you veterans from every war or branch of service.

That bein’ said, I think someone, or several someones, in the Dayton ISD should be taken out behind the barn for makin’ the kids go to school on Memorial Day. It’s pretty insulting to try to trot out that less than sorry excuse that “it was to make up for a bad weather day”. Give us a break, already! The school board and the Superintendent just didn’t plan very well, did you folks?

Memorial Day is a national holiday, so designated by the Congress of these United States. So why does this school district choose to ignore it? Is it really because of “Bad Weather makeup days”, or is it they just didn’t care?

I, for one, wonder why they don’t miss, for any reason, Dr. King’s Day, yet the veterans are always having to fight, again, for their day? I’m not necessarily against Dr, King’s Day, but it is more than disrespectful to make kids and their parents miss Memorial Day!

Here’s a great question for the Dayton ISD, why not just add a day to the end of the school year if a “Bad Weather Day” is needed? Then, after the required time, you send everyone home, just like you do on Memorial Day? Everyone (with the possible exception of the School Board, et al) knows that the kids aren’t doing any real school work the last few days anyway, they are “just there” to fulfill the state mandated number of days for the school year.

Now, this may not be making some of you happy, and that’s just too doggone bad. Right is right and the truth is the truth. Get over it and take the proper action so this type stupidity is not repeated next year, folks!

I think I should let the folks mentioned above know that one of the freedoms our veterans fought, and died for, was the right to a free press and the right to free speech.

Therefore, I will continue to back my veteran friends on this, cause I’d rather have them watching my back than anyone else!

So, what else is happening in our lives? Well, I heard my ol’ gatekeeper, Charlie Farrar was involved in an accident. Someone was so anxious to see him, they ran right over the back of his car! Reportedly Charlie’s alright, though just a little sore. Glad he’s goin’ to be OK. I guess he’ll not be leavin’ the gate open so much, now!

My wife is finally retirin’ from teachin’ school after 29 years. She will be movin’ to the Rancho Pequito permanently, next week, so I’ll have to straighten up some. But, I figure she’s worth it!

I have selected the winners of the contest, but it was hard, I’m tellin’ you! Thanks to all of you who took the time to send me your letters. I decided to pick five winners instead of just three, with four getting’ signed CD’s.

But, you’ll have to wait to see the winners in next week’s paper, cause one lucky winner is goin’ to have to eat catfish and ribs with me at Lonestar with Val and Mike. Watch next week!!!

Gotta go feed. Just a Ridin’, Lloyd

Aldine ISD honored on floor of Texas Senate

AUSTIN– Aldine ISD was recognized by the Texas Senate for its outstanding work in educating students in the school district.

Superintendent Nadine Kujawa traveled to Austin on Tuesday, May 27, to accept the resolution, which was read on the Senate floor, lauding the school district for the numerous accomplishments the district has reached in academic achievement among its students. The resolution was introduced by Senator Mario Gallegos and signed by Lt. Governor David Dewhurst.

The resolution singled out a number of achievements reached by the district over the last few years. Those achievements were:

•Aldine ISD’s ranking among high-performing school districts since 1996;

•The district earning a Recognized rating from the Texas Education Agency for six consecutive years;

•The district being ranked No. 1 in the state among large school districts for educating Latino students and No. 2 in the state (among large school districts) for educating African-American students;

•Twenty schools in the district named high performing schools by the Just For The Kids Foundation for sustaining high academic performance in 2000, 2001 and 2002 in various academic categories;

•The district being named a “best practices district” by the Just For the Kids Foundation, along with the National Center for Educational Accountability; and The Aldine ISD Board of Education chosen as the Outstanding School Board of Texas in 1998 by the Texas Association of School Administrators (TASA), the Standards of Excellence Award and National Outstanding Marketing Award for its Child Nutrition Department, receiving the National Encore Award from USA Weekend for three consecutive years and its elementary schools being ranked among the best in Texas by Texas Monthly.

The resolution also paid tribute to Aldine ISD for its dedication to the education of young people in Aldine and congratulated its schools for their exceptional accomplishments.

North Forest ISD dismisses Superintendent Edwin Walker

By P.J. Williams

The North Forest ISD school board replaced Superintendent Dr. Edwin Walker with Dr. Elaine Berry during two meetings held last week.

The board placed Walker on leave May 26 pending his resignation and a financial settlement. The decision was announced after more than three hours in closed session. Six board members voted to dismiss Walker while Mae Sykes abstained.

Walker served two years of a three year contract that would have expired in April 2004. He replaced Gloria Scott who was hired in 1996, fired in 1997, reinstated by the school board after membership changed, and then dismissed in 2000.

Neither Walker nor the board would comment until negotiations are finalized.

Dr. Jacqueline Smith served as acting superintendent until May 30 when, after one hour in closed session, the board voted unanimously to appoint Berry Interim Superintendent.

Berry served North Forest for 34 years until she retired in June 2000 from her post as Deputy Superintendent of Curriculum and Development. “I find it hard to believe that I’m back in North Forest,” she told the board after accepting the appointment.

Berry said she intends to create a strategic plan to address the concerns of the district. The crowd applauded when she said, “There’s one thing we must keep in mind: we are here for the children.”

Approximately 75 concerned citizens attended and more than 40 remained throughout the three hour Friday night meeting. Those in attendance seemed split over the decision to replace Walker, but most supported Berry’s appointment.

“I thought [Walker] was doing a good job. But anytime something happens, they always blame it on the superintendent,” said Tim Watson, a North Forest bus driver for the last eight years. “Hopefully they’ll [Berry and the board] both work together for the employees and the kids.”

Lorenzo Calloway, a father of three children in the district said North Forest needs someone who can forecast future needs, deal with funding issues, and integrate new teachers into the school community. “We need the opportunities to have the same success as in other demographics in Houston,” Calloway said.

The budget was another hot topic at last week’s meetings. Budget and Cash Manager Darrell Dortch and internal auditor Charles Houston reported on a recent negative cash flow. Monday night the board approved the finance department to apply for a line of credit up to 10 million dollars. The department acquired a 2.5 million dollar temporary loan that covered payroll and was repaid by funds from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) by Friday night’s meeting.

“Timing is the major issue right now” Houston said. They explained that regular income from the TEA arrives after payroll is due. Also, the district is waiting on reimbursements from FEMA for flood repair damage.

“We are not broke” Houston said. “It’s a temporary deal in one fund.” Dortch added, “And we have several funds.”

Walker had a 3 year contract, that paid $110,000 per year, and ran from 2001 to 2004. However, the NFISD continues to be troubled by falling student population, low achieving schools, low morale, and deficits in their budget. Walker was supposed to solve these problems, but apparently the board thought he was not achieving the goals.

In addition, the hiring and firing had racial overtones, with Walker being the chief administrator of a predominately black staff and student body, although he is white.

Walker came to North Forest from the Diboll ISD, where he was an assistant superintendent.

Crime lab legislation goes to Governor Perry

AUSTIN – Legislation authored by State Representative Kevin Bailey, D-North Houston, requiring accreditation of Crime Labs has been sent to the Governor for his signature.

Bailey, Chairman of the Texas House of Representatives General Investigating Committee, held a number of public hearings to take testimony from invited witnesses to ascertain the extent of the problems with the Houston Police Department (HPD) Crime Lab before filing the legislation.

Bailey’ s legislation requires that the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) establish an accreditation process for crime laboratories, including DNA laboratories, and other entities conducting forensic analyses of physical evidence for use in criminal proceedings. Physical evidence subjected to forensic analysis and testimony regarding evidence will not be admissible in a criminal court if, at the time of analysis the crime laboratory is not accredited by DPS.

The legislation will now go to the Governor. Since it was sent to the Governor within 10 days of final adjournment of the legislature on June 2, the Governor has until Sunday, June 22 to sign the legislation, veto it, or allow it to become law without his signature.

On Monday, May 26, the Texas Senate unanimously passed House Bill 2703, authored by State Representative Kevin Bailey and sponsored by State Senator Mario Gallegos (D-Houston). The bill requires that the director of the Department of Public Safety establish an accreditation process for Texas crime laboratories.

The bill’s passage is in response to the controversy surrounding the Houston Police Department Crime Lab. Of Texas’ 19 labs, is among the three that are not accredited.

“I am proud to have partnered with Rep. Bailey on this bill to try to restore confidence in our criminal justice system, Sen. Gallegos said. “Upon investigation of negligence by the Houston Crime Lab, over 500 cases have been reopened, evidence retesting has been reordered in nearly 200 cases, and several individuals convicted based on faulty DNA data have been set free on charges such as rape and capital murder.”

Since October 1996, the HPD Crime Lab has been experiencing tremendous problems with the DNA evidence testing and examination operations. Most recently, an independent audit of the Houston Crime Lab details a wide range of deficiencies in the DNA analysis section – from the potential for evidence contamination to a lack of basic record keeping.

“While House Bill 2703 does not correct the serious existing problems with the Houston Police Department Crime Lab, it will insure that laboratories operating in Texas will be accredited and that any problems in a lab will be easier to spot during internal and external audits,” Rep. Kevin Bailey (D-Houston) said.

The HPD Crime Lab has not conducted the mandatory in-depth internal or external audits that accredited laboratories conduct each year to assure that accurate evidence testing, examinations, and procedures are being followed.

“To correct these problems, HB 2703 requires accreditation from the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors,” Sen. Gallegos said. “It specifies that physical evidence subjected to forensic analysis and testimony by any lab is not admissible unless the lab is approved by DPS to be accredited or until September 1, 2005, if a second DNA sample is preserved.”

The bill’s passage is contingent on the signature of Governor Rick Perry.

Aldine ISD blends humor with honors at recognition ceremony

Aldine ISD held a Performance Recognition Breakfast last Thursday morning at Campbell Center, and it was a mix of high praise and high jinks.

With superintendent Nadine Kujawa as emcee, the achievements of the district over the last academic year were reprised, and those with special accomplishments had the “limelight” on them.

To enliven and offset the serious side of the notices, four skits were interspersed. Staff and teachers acted out varous themes, including “American Idol”, “Beachcombers”, the Clean-up “Stomp” Group, and the “Dragnet” group.

Kujawa made sure that in between the fun, everyone that deserved it got recognition for their contribution to the central theme of the district, “Producing the Nation’s Best”.

She took note of the many national and regional mentions that the district received this year for excellence. She especially noted Just for the Kids, which singled out 20 high performing schools in the district.

Also, the FFA raised $80,000 at their livestock sale for scholarships. In total, their were 649 college scholarships that went to 307 students. This was an increase from last year. The total value of the scholarships was $4,270,000, toward graduates’ college tuition. There were also 1511 students that achieved the status of Texas Scholars.

She noted that State Senator Mario Gallegos had singled out the district for recognition on the floor of the State Senate in Austin, for its achievements with Latino and African-American students. (See adjacent story).

She noted that the district had just approved the so-called Freeport Exemption, which will allow industries to store inventories within the district tax-free. Although their is some loss of tax revenue from this, she noted that it is exceeded by the jobs and real estate values added by many companies that want to take advantage of the proximity to the airport and the city.

Joey Doyle, art coordinator, was noted for his success with regional and local art programs.

The athletic department was singled out for having 2 more students move into pro football ranks this year, making a total of 18 that have played at the pro level.

Accomplishments were noted in the police department, and the public relations departments.

It was noted that the technology department is wiring the school facilities with fiber optics, and students, staff, and faculty are taking advantage of the internet with a total of 1,000,000 connections per day.

Kujawa said that the district was in good financial shape, but is managing a budget of $365,000,000 this year.

She noted that several grades had just received results of their first TAKS tests, with mixed results that help establish a “base-line” for improvements in the future.

To close the morning, the several hundred staff, board, and teachers that were assembled sang a song for Kujawa, “There’s a Hero in Everybody’s Heart”.