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Posts published in August 2004

Change is the word as ’04 football season kicks off

Change is in the air as the 2004 football season kicks off into high gear this Labor Day weekend.

At the high school level, Aldine ISD will welcome three new head football coaches in Larry Haynes at Eisenhower High, Bob Jones at Aldine High and David Suggs at Nimitz High. Jerry Drones now becomes the most tenured head coach in AISD as he begins his third season at the helm of the MacArthur High program. The AISD schools and their counterparts in Spring Branch ISD will also be changing districts now that they are in District 18-5A after the University Interscholastic League realigned the state’s districts in February.

The college landscape won’t see such drastic changes, but the power has appeared shifted from the state of Florida to the West Coast, where USC appears to be the team to beat heading into the ’04 campaign.

But don’t count out the Oklahoma Sooners, who return the brunt of their team that reached the BCS title game a year ago before falling to LSU in the Sugar Bowl.

And in the NFL, look for a change in the way defensive backs will cover receivers this year. The league has vowed to enforce the five-yard bump rule and defensive holding, so expect the passing game to flourish in 2004. That’s good news for the Peyton Manning’s, Daunte Cullpepper’s and Trent Green’s of the world and bad news for defensive backs and defensive coordinators whose jobs will become all the more difficult.

Even with change on the horizon, it appears this will be another exciting season as the country’s most popular sport continues to grow and prosper. So, without further ado, let’s take a look at what the first full weekend of high school and college action has to offer.

High School

Aldine vs. Madison: Bob Jones takes over for the legendary Bill Smith at Aldine High and the former Fort Worth Dunbar head coach has brought energy and excitement to his new assignment. The Mustangs will present a balanced look on offense this year and their season opener against a perennial playoff contender will be a good test to see how the new system looks. My pick, Aldine 24, Madison 16

Eisenhower vs. Lufkin: Talk about going from the frying pan to the fire! Larry Haynes and the Eagles opened the season last Saturday in Reliant Stadium against The Woodlands, a team that reached the Class 5A Division I title game a year ago, and this week, they host a Lufkin team that could make a lot of noise themselves this year. But the Eagles have a few weapons themselves. Haynes will unveil his new offense, which will feature the passing game more, before the home fans in Thorne Stadium on Friday night. Expect plenty of fireworks in this one. My pick, Eisenhower 26, Lufkin 23

Nimitz vs. Klein: The Cougars and new head coach David Suggs play their second game of the season against a Klein High team that’s not expected to do much this season. Nimitz, on the other hand, is loaded with talent and has its sites set on ending Eisenhower’s reign as district champion. Look for Suggs’ crew to start building momentum in non-district as it looks forward to its season-ending showdown with the Eagles on Nov. 6. My pick, Nimitz 31, Klein 13

MacArthur vs. Conroe: Jerry Drones begins his third year as the Generals’ head coach with high expectations. The Generals will be young, but have enough talent to make some noise this year. Much will depend on how healthy the team remains throughout the season. Drones admits there is not much depth available, but he likes what he’s seen from his starters. Look for the Generals to get after a Conroe team that finished 2-8 a year ago. My pick, MacArthur 27, Conroe 12


Texas A&M at Utah: The Aggies open their 2004 season with a tough road test against a Utah team that finished 10-2 a year ago. Many believe the Utes could run the table and get in contention for a BCS (Bowl Championship Series) game, so the Dennis Franchione’s Ags will have their work cut out for them. One thing is for sure, Aggie fans should expect vast improvement from last year’s disastrous 4-8 season. Look for quarterback Reggie McNeil to bounce back to have a big year. The Ags may not win this one, but you can bet they will play harder this year. My pick, Utah 23, Texas A&M 20

North Texas at Texas: Texas fans may not be expecting a national title run, or for that matter, a Big 12 title run this year, but don’t be surprised if the ‘Horns pull a fast one on their fans this season. UT lost three-fourths of its receiving corps to the NFL, but there’s plenty of young (albeit untested) talent on hand to make Texas a factor this year in the conference race. And one of its best players is senior running back Cedric Benson, considered a Heismann Trophy candidate by many NFL scouts. Look for Benson to get plenty of work early while Vince Young settles into the starting QB position. Texas needs to take North Texas seriously. The Mean Green has won their conference three straight years and would like nothing more than to leave Austin with an upset win. My pick, Texas 38, North Texas 21

SMU at Texas Tech: It’s Sonny Cumbie’s turn to put up big numbers for the Red Raiders as Mike Leach’s high-octane offense makes its 2004 debut against a SMU team that finished 0-12 a year ago. Cumbie takes over for B.J. Symons, who in one year as the starting QB threw for more than 5,800 yards and set a single-season NCAA passing record along the way. Tech should be dangerous on offense again this year with the brunt of the unit back. Look for plenty of points to come out of Lubbock again this year, but it’s the defense that will be the key to how successful Tech is this year. That unit must improve on its porous 2003 season, and with another year under their belt, look for the Red Raider defense to carry its share of the load in 2004 as Tech competes for the Big 12 title. My pick, Tech 45, SMU 13

Notre Dame at BYU: The Catholics vs. the Mormons in the season opener for both schools that suffered disappointing seasons in 2003. The word out of South Bend is that this could be a make or break year for third-year head coach Tyrone Willingham. After leading the Irish to a bowl game in his first year on the job, ND fell to 5-7 a year ago and was outplayed much of the season. This year, the Irish return an experienced offensive line, so look for an improved running game, but their success will depend on how far sophomore quarterback Brady Quinn has advanced from last year to this year. This game should feature plenty of aerial excitement as the Cougars attack an inexperienced ND secondary. My pick, Notre Dame 34, BYU 30

Florida State at Miami: What a way to start the season. Two long-time and bitter rivals kick off their seasons Labor Day evening on ABC, with the Monday Night Football crew calling the game. And there will be more at stake this time around than state bragging rights. Miami is now a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, so this game is not only important as far as the BCS title hunt is concerned, but also the ACC race. These two played two hard-hitting affairs a year ago and expect much of the same this time around as a national television audience finishes off its holiday weekend with what should be a heck of a battle. Both teams return plenty of talent, but the quarterbacks will decide this one. Both FSU’s Chris Rix and Miami’s Brock Berlin had so-so seasons in 2003 and both are prone to turnovers. Both will need to be wise with the ball on Monday night. I’m giving the edge to Rix because of his level of experience, and because he has a solid running game to call on when he needs it. My pick, Florida State 23, Miami 21

New development underway

NORTHEAST HOUSTON — Business leaders and residents of the area bordering the Eastex Freeway were pleased by the announcement this week that a major developer had acquired 38 acres of land at the corner of East Little York and US59, with plans to build a large new shopping center.

Clay Trozzo, a spokesman for Property Commerce Company, said they had acquired four separate tracts at this corner, totalling 38 acres. One major piece was owned by Solid Rock Baptist Church, who planned to build there. That site was originally a Ford dealership.

The new development has been named Northeast Marketplace, according to Trozzo. It will total 275,000 square feet of retail space. The first tenant that has been identified is Home Depot, who purchased 11 acres of the project, for a new 135,000 square foot store.

Demolition is already underway, as evidenced in the photos above, and an opening of Spring 2005 has been set for the first store. Property management also plans to lease space to two more mid-size stores, approximately 30,000 sq. ft. each, but these have not yet been identified.

According to the plans, this would leave about 75,000 sq. ft. for smaller, neighborhood type stores. Architect Charles Thompson is reported to be working on the plans for the new center.

Property Commerce is a Houston developer, who is also working on a new project at US290 and Spring Cypress Rd.

Trozzo pointed out that the Eastex corridor is now underserved, a point that the Aldine Improvement District has been working on for over two years. They anticipate that sales taxes from this project will be used to fund other area improvements.

Trozzo said that within 5 miles of the site, over 250,000 people live, work and shop, and the potential for commerce is very strong. In addition, many more people pass the site on US59 every day on the commute to downtown Houston.

New Directors at Aldine Improvement District

Aldine Improvement District held their regular public meeting last Tuesday, August 17th, and introduced three new members of the board of directors to the public. These are John Broussard, William Townsend, Jr., and Gerald Overturff.

The District received 5 applications to fill the three vacancies on the board. It reviewed all five, and found them all qualified. However, it recommended the following as well suited to the needs of the AID district, according to Ray Shotwell, committee chair:

JOHN BROUSSARD, to fill the position 2 formerly held by Sylvia Bolling. Mr. Broussard has lived in the Aldine area for 30 years, and owns Broussard Air Conditioning and Heating. He belongs to ACCA, Knights of Peter Cleaver, and Acres Home Chamber of Commerce.

WILLIAM (JIM) TOWNSEND, JR., to fill the vacancy formerly held by Leland Jauer, for position 4. Mr. Townsend is Chief Financial Office of North Houston Bank, at Little York and US59. He is a CPS, and a career banker. He has served on the Tomball Chamber of Commerce and as an advisory director of the Tomball Economic Development Board.

GERALD OVERTURFF, to fill the vacancy of position 7, formerly held by Art Murillo. Mr. Overtuff has lived in the Aldine district for 43 years. He is retired from supervisor for Harris

County Pct. 4 Road and Bridge department. He was part of the team that created Sunbelt Fresh Water Supply District, and served 4 years as its president. He is a member of Humble Masonic Lodge 979, and the Arabian Shriners of Houston.

Due to enabling legislation, Mr. Broussard will be recommended to the County Commissioners for confirmation, and the others will take office by action of the AID board.

Passing TAKS doesn’t make students college-ready by Rose Rennekamp

TAKS, FCAT, HSPA? These probably look like just a jumble of letters to most of us, but to high school students in 24 states, these letters mean the difference between a diploma and a ticket back to high school. They are the abbreviations for high school exit exams.

Students come to dread the exit exams required for graduation. But it’s worth it once they get that passing score. They’re ready for college or a good job, right?

Unfortunately, no. Too many students who pass exit exams are still not ready for college or for a well-paying job.

A study by Achieve, Inc., a nonprofit organization formed by governors and business leaders to promote high academic standards, shows that most high school exit exams don’t measure the skills students need for success in college or the world of work.

The report, Do Graduation Tests Measure Up?: A Closer Look at State High School Exit Exams (available free at, analyzed tests in the six largest states requiring them. It found that students who pass the tests in those states aren’t necessarily college-ready. In fact, the “exit exams,” more closely resemble ACT’s EXPLORE Assessment designed for 8th and 9th grade students.

High school students need to know that passing an exit exam doesn’t mean that they’re ready to succeed in college. I’ve met many students and parents who assume that the courses required to graduate from high school are the same as the courses required to be admitted to and succeed in college. In a word, “WRONG!” ACT recommends high school students take at least these classes to be prepared for college:

* 4 years of English — grammar, composition, literature, etc.
* 3 or more years of math — algebra I and higher
* 3 or more years of science — Earth science, biology, chemistry, physics
* 3 or more years of social studies — history, economics, geography, civics, psychology, etc.

Many colleges also recommend:

* At least 2 units of the same foreign language
* Additional courses in visual arts, music, theater, dance, computer science, etc.

Students who followed ACT’s guidelines scored two and a half points higher on the ACT Assessment in 2003 than students who did not. But less than half of the students who took the test took the recommended courses in math and science. In other words, many students who intend to go to college are making the choice to avoid courses that will prepare them for college.

It doesn’t make sense, does it?

When students are unprepared for college-level coursework, they need remedial (sometimes called “developmental”) classes. These classes cost as much as a college-level course, but the student doesn’t
get credit for them. They don’t count toward graduation requirements. It’s a waste of both money and time, learning skills that should have been mastered in high school. Even students who enroll in community colleges, thinking they might not be held to as high an academic standard, receive a rude awakening when they are placed in remedial classes. In too many cases, this means a lot longer than two years to earn a “two-year” degree, and more than four years to earn a “four-year” degree.

An exit exam can be a good tool to see what students have learned, but it should be viewed as a minimum level of learning. Students need to go further to truly prepare themselves for college and for the future. If you’re a parent of a high school student, it’s a good idea to consult with your student’s counselor and make sure his courses are the ones needed for college success. The hard part is convincing some students that hard work in high school will pay off down the road.

College requires a lot of difficult preparation, and students must have the foundation on which to build their knowledge before they arrive on campus.

Rose Rennekamp is the vice president of communications for ACT. She is a mom and has a master’s of education in guidance and counseling. Have a question you want answered in a future column? Send a letter to this newspaper or e-mail Rose at

MacArthur student finalist for Bush/Kiwanas Sports Hero Award

MacArthur Senior High School junior Alexander Johnson has been named one of three finalists for the 3rd annual George H.W. Bush/Kiwanis Sports Hero Award. The winner will be announced on Tuesday, Aug. 24, during a dinner at the Intercontinental Hotel.

The award honors a Houston-area football player who is a standout on the field and in the community. Johnson is a two-year letterman for Jerry Drones’ Generals. When the 2004 season begins, Johnson will be a starting linebacker for the second straight year and will also see duty at tailback.

The well-spoken Johnson is also a star in his community and in the classroom. He volunteers in the nursery at Wheeler Avenue Baptist Church and is involved in various youth organizations at the church. Academically, Johnson carries a 6.8029 grade point average taking AP (advanced placement) and GT (gifted and talented) classes.

MacArthur Senior High principal Rose Avalos said Johnson is a joy to be around. “Alexander is the ideal student,” Avalos said. “He is a fine young man. He is a leader on and off the field. He has a strong faith and shares it with others.”

Drones echoed Avalos’ statement.”Alexander is a coach’ s and parent’ s dream,” he said. “He’ s a shining example of what being a student-athlete is all about. Even though he was a sophomore last year, he was
one of our team leaders and we’re expecting more of the same from him this year.”

Johnson said he was honored to be nominated for the award. “I was elated to get this far in the process,” he said. “This is an honor that I will always remember.”

The likeable junior added he learned at an early age the importance of sharing his time and talents with others in the community.

“I’ve always been taught that you give out what you put in (to others),” Johnson said. “It’s important to help out in the community and in any way that I can. I really enjoy working with the young kids in the nursery at my church. I know all of their names.”

After high school, Johnson would like to attend the University of Southern California and study pre-law. He is the son of Maurice and Deborah Johnson.

Gasoline for 2 cents a gallon, today’s prices…

Just think, another month and it is fall of the year. Time flies when you are having fun or so they say.

I ain’t been having fun as I’ve been playing plumber and working on the sink faucet trying to stop a leak. At least it was from the spigot and into the sink so no major clean up mess. Thought I might have to replace the entire faucet fixture and that would be a night mare trying to disconnect the lines and reconnect them. Seems to be too much of me getting under the sink, and I’ll swear the opening has shrunk over the years. Fortunately the leak was stopped by installing new rubber seals.

Had lunch with the old policemen this past week and one brought up conversation about a fellow coming back from Iraq in a week or so. He told of the price of gasoline was two cents a gallon and diesel was three cents a gallon over there. This same fellow who is coming back to the states and will be hunting with us soon; it should prove real interesting to listen to what he has to say about working over there and all.

An old friend from back home spoke of a labor of love tending to his recently incapacitated wife. I had to look up labor of love and found mostly “having a baby” articles. Using the definition: it said something like doing what you are doing for self satisfaction with no compensation or reward.

It could have read: “Like your growing tomatoes this year Charlie” because my crop was not worth a hoot.

It goes farther than that and deep down in the heart. The Mrs. asks me how difficult I thought it would be taking care of an incapacitated person, doing all of their chores in between coupled with my own.

Gave her a look and shook my head negatively in response.

We be blessed so let’s move on.

Hurricane Charley went through the Southeast with a huff and a puff.

Old brother in law in SC lives on the backwaters of a large lake there. He said they drawed the lake down in anticipation of the on coming hurricane (10 inches). I thought that was a grand idea of whoever is in charge of the dam on that water.

Too bad the engineers on Texas reservoirs don’t do that in preparation of heavy rainfalls upstream, etc. There has been enough flooding over the years that might have been eliminated if the water in our dams was lowered in time. What do you think?

Of course they don’t do flood control or so I read a long time ago.

Times change and so should those people’s thinking.

Or should they?

Old friend said happy hour is a nap.

If Bush loses, what happens in Texas?

BOSTON — Even while busy officially nominating John Kerry for president, Texas Democrats concede President Bush is almost certain to win his home state. The Texas delegation held up red cards during Wednesday night’s presidential roll-call to signify Texas is a “red” Republican state on electoral maps.

But to demonstrate their hopes for the future, the delegates flipped the cards to show the blue on the other side — for a Democratic “blue” state.

“We certainly can make Texas a blue state again,” Former San Antonio Mayor Henry Cisneros told the delegates at their breakfast meeting Thursday. ((7/29/04)) “There is no reason in the world that the Republicans have to control every statewide office in Texas.”

If Texas Democrats help get out the vote in neighboring states, including some Bush carried in 2000, they can help put Kerry in the White House. And that can reverberate in Texas much sooner than might have seemed possible, Cisneros said.

Several states Bush carried in 2000 have elected Democratic governors or senators, Cisneros said. If Texas Democrats help in states such as Indiana, Missouri and Arkansas, Kerry might carry them too, Cisneros said.

With Kerry in the White House, “we will remove the dominance of the George Bush machine in Texas” and de-fang Bush political adviser Karl Rove, Cisneros predicted. With Bush gone, Democrats could rebound in Texas, Cisneros said.

“Texas at heart is not a Republican state.”

Democratic Congressman Gene Green of Houston called on the delegates to help preserve five Democratic congressmen “in peril because of Tom DeLay,” plus several tight races for the Texas House of Representatives.

DeLay, the Republican House majority leader from Sugar Land, engineered the first mid-decade congressional redistricting not ordered by the courts, with the aim of unseating several Texas Democrats. They include Lloyd Doggett of Austin, Chet Edwards of Waco, Charles Stenholm of Stamford, Martin Frost of Arlington, Max Sandlin of Marshall, and Nick Lampson of Beaumont. Doggett’s new district, which reaches to the Mexican border, leans heavily Democratic, but the others have tough races, including two — Frost and Stenholm — against Republican incumbents.

Congressman Ciro Rodriguez of San Antonio, whose district was reconfigured enough that he may have lost a hotly contested primary to a former friend from the Texas House of Representatives, Henry Cuellar of Laredo, said Democrats have the potential to win.

“We have the numbers to turn it around,” Rodriguez said. “The key is turning them out.”

Congressman Jim Turner of Crockett in East Texas, another Texas Democrat whose district was reconfigured so much that he didn’t seek reelection, said by helping his colleagues survive politically, the Democrats can build political momentum.

“Let’s make Democrats the majority party in Texas again,” said Turner.

Northline’s Mike Corcoran assigned to Iraq duty

Things have been a bit quiet around the Northline Mall management offices the last few weeks since marketing coordinator Michael Corcoran shipped out to serve in Kuwait. In addition to his career at Northline Mall, Corcoran is a heavy crane operator in the Navy Reserves. He has served in the military over ten years and will soon be promoted to E7 Chief Engineer. Corcoran and his unit are in Kuwait for what could be a six month to one year deployment to off load and in load supply ship for the war effort in Iraq.

“We are a family here. We are all beginning to miss him,” said coworker Lee Garza.

Corcoran’s absence left a mark on the staff at Northline which has grown used to Corcoran’s mischievous humor and practical jokes. One of Corcoran’s favorite toys around the office was a dart gun. “I’d sit at the computer and the next thing I know, there’d be a dart on the computer screen,” Lee said. The staff said Corcoran usually got out of trouble by flashing a smile.

When he is not serving in Kuwait, Corcoran lives in the Woodlands with his wife Brenda. He often works to improve his truck and remote control boat. Corcoran also competes at slalom skiing. “He may try to talk the admiral into towing him behind the boat,” said mall director Rebecca Victor.

The Northline Mall office sent Corcoran away on a positive note with a farewell party at his favorite Mexican restaurant. The office staff can’t wait to hear how Corcoran is doing in Kuwait. They are especially curious about how he is dealing with the heat. The office thermostat was often fought over by the coworkers. “He likes it cold,” they said.

While the office crew misses Corcoran’s antics around the office and the work he does promoting the mall, they know he is fulfilling an important role in the country’s military defenses. They just look forward to a barbecue with some cold beers to welcome him back home.

Chamber welcomes new Teachers

NORTHEAST HOUSTON – As students and teachers were preparing to head back to school this week, the new staff got a big welcome from the North Houston Greenspoint Chamber, to set the mood for a good school year.

The first event was a luncheon at Campbell Center, held for the new staff of Aldine ISD. Over 700 attended this record breaking event, and over 480 new teachers were present for the event, which featured a motivational talk by Mike Jones of Discover Leadership Training. Jones is also known for his work for Soul Patrol, featured on TV shows such as “Oprah” and “Good Morning America.”

Present for the ceremony were the MacArthur HS Army color guard, and the Nimitz HS choir.

On Wednesday morning, about 50 new teachers of North Forest ISD were welcomed by the Chamber in a breakfast event at the Hotel Sofitel.

Present at the ceremony were the new Superintendent of the district, Dr. James Simpson, and the board members and new staff.

Speaking to this group was Dr. Bennie Lambert, motivational speaker from North Harris College.