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Posts published in January 2006



Harris County Commissioners Court approved on Jan. 24 a recommendation for the Harris County Flood Control District to award a contract to Shaw Environmental, Inc. for approximately $10 million for the excavation of a stormwater detention basin inside the City of Houston?s Keith-Wiess Park.
When complete, the Keith-Wiess Stormwater Detention Basin will comprise roughly 112 acres of the park and be able to store 1.6 million gallons of stormwater in the event that Halls Bayou overflows. This amount is the equivalent to just more than half the size of the Astrodome.
The basin is expected to lower water surface elevations by as much as 0.8-feet during a 10-year storm event, and by as much as 0.4-feet during a 100-year storm event.

A 10-year storm has a 10 percent chance of happening any given year. A 100-year storm has a 1 percent chance of happening any given year.
The area expected to receive the largest reduction in water surface elevation from the Keith-Wiess Stormwater Detention Basin is between Jensen Drive and Homestead Road. Generally speaking, the basin will ensure safe storage of stormwater and reduce the risk of flooding for this area.
Construction on the basin, which calls for the excavation of approximately 1.8 million cubic yards of soil, is expected to begin in April, 2006 and take an estimated three years to complete.
While the basin?s primary purpose lies in reducing flood risks for those in the Halls Bayou watershed, it also will be the site of new park amenities, including a 1-mile concrete hike and bike trail, 2 miles of soft-surfaced nature trails and a footbridge over Halls Bayou, recreational equipment, habitat and wetlands plants, three soccer fields, interpretative signs, a fishing pier and a wetlands boardwalk.
These amenities will be paid for by a $2 million grant from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and from monies from Harris County, the City of Houston and the Aldine Community Improvement District.
The basin is part of the District?s $130 million conceptual plan to excavate six regional detention basins along Halls Bayou, in addition to widening and deepening the channel and several bridge modifications.


For the most part, the Super Bowl has rarely lived up to expectations. There have been the occasional thrillers in the past 39 Super Bowls leading up to the 40th edition this Sunday in tropical Detroit (why in the world is the “ultimate” game being played in a northern city in February? Bet the media is going to love covering this one!), but let’s be honest, for the most part, mismatches and routes have been the norm in the game that determines who reigns supreme in the NFL.
But this year, as the NFL celebrates XL years of Super Bowl competition, fans should get the chance to view what could be one of the most competitive title games in Super Bowl history.
The game pits one of the league’s Super Bowl dynasties in the Pittsburgh Steelers, 4-1 in games that decide the Lombardi Trophy, against the Seattle Seahawks, a team that is making its first-ever trip to the championship game, but a team that is worthy of its berth and a team that is as hot as any team that has ever made it this far in the season.

Ironically, when Seattle entered the league in 1976, they were placed in the AFC, but when the Houston Texans arrived four years ago to bring the league to 32 teams, the league shifted Seattle to the NFC and Seahawks fans are glad they did.
Both teams enter Sunday’s game on a roll. The Steelers have won seven straight games to reach their sixth Super Bowl in franchise history, while Seattle has 13 of their last 14 games with the only loss coming in a meaningless season finale at Green Bay where head coach Mike Holmgren rested most of his starters.
The Steelers and Seahawks have also been dominant in the playoffs, with the Steelers earning easy wins at Cincinnati and Denver in addition to dominating Indianapolis in a game that was not as close as the final score of 21-18 indicated (the officials kept the Colts in that game or it would have been a double digit win for Pittsburgh), while Seattle cruised to wins over the Redskins and Panthers.
These two teams are evenly matched. The Steelers are averaging 28 points in the playoffs, while the ‘Hawks are averaging 27 points in post season play, so expect a tight contest when these two meet at 5:30 p.m. Sunday on ABC (in what will be ABC’s final NFL game and will be the swan song for Al Michaels and John Madden).
So, who’s going to be holding the Lombardi Trophy at the end of the day?
I’m glad you asked and I’ll you my answer later in this column.
Both teams have quarterbacks who are playing well at the most important time of the season. Steelers’ QB Ben Roethlisberger has completed 49-72 passes for 680 yards and seven touchdowns in three playoff games with only one interception, while Seattle’s Matt Hasselbeck is 36-54 for 434 yards and three touchdowns and no picks in two post-season games (the Steelers had to play one extra playoff game because they were a Wild Card team, while Seattle earned a first-round bye thanks to winning the NFC West). Both QBs have each recorded a rushing touchdown as well. Big Ben and Hasselbeck manage the game well and know when and when not to take chances, Expect both of them to be cool customers come Sunday, but I’m giving the edge to Big Ben because he is on a roll and I expect him to continue to play well in the Big Game on Sunday.
Seattle gets the edge in the running game thanks to NFL MVP and leading rusher Shaun Alexander. Alexander shredded Carolina for 132 yards and two touchdowns in the AFC title game and appears to have shaken off the effects of the concussion he sustained in the Divisional game against Washington. The Steelers do not have a go-to guy in the backfield, instead opting for the running back by committee formula, which has been effective. Willie Parker usually gets the start and does the heaving lifting, but when Pittsburgh gets close to the goal line, Jerome “The Bus” Bettis is called on to finish the job. Bettis will have extra incentive for this game considering it might be his last and he is playing in his hometown of Detroit, so looked for him to come through when called upon.
Both teams have solid offensive lines, so that’s a wash. Expect both lines to excel in pass protection on Sunday.
So, if the two teams are evenly matched on offense, who gets the edge on defense? The Steelers, of course. This is a franchise that was built on defense and took pride in striking fear into foes. The Steel Curtain of the 70s (when the Steelers won three of their four Super Bowls, the fourth game in the 1980 game against the Rams) was perhaps the greatest defensive unit of all time, and this group is pretty fair itself. Led by safety Troy Polamalu, who seems to come up with a key tackle or turnover when it’s most needed, the Pittsburgh defense’s play would make their forefathers proud. The unit has stepped up its game since the regular season and has been a major factor in why the Steelers are in Detroit. Aside from Polamalu, there are no stars on the defense, which makes even a Cowboys fan root for them. They play hard, hit hard and don’t look for credit. Expect another outstanding effort from them on Sunday.
Don’t get me wrong, Seattle’s defense has also played well in the playoffs and is an underrated bunch. They will makes some plays against Roethlisberger, which should keep them in the game until the fourth quarter. That’s when the Pittsburgh defense will take over and come up with a key turnover or sack to seal the Seahawks doom and hand the Steelers their fifth Super Bowl title, tying them with Dallas and San Francisco for the most in NFL history.
This should be an entertaining game and one that could turn into a high-scoring affair. Both teams have enough weapons on offense to turn this game into a shootout, but as stated earlier in this space, the Pittsburgh defense will have the final say in the outcome. My pick, Pittsburgh 27, Seattle 23


GREENSPOINT– The North Houston Greenspoint Chamber of Commerce held their annual Awards Banquet and Installation of the board, last Thursday lunch, Jan. 19th at the Houston Airport Marriott.
Jerry Lowry, of the Greater Greenspoint District, was installed as the new Chair of the board. Other new officers are Bill Ginder of Caldwell Watson Real Estate as Chair Elect, Rosemary Buske of Contact Promotions as Secretary, Bill Townsend of North Houston Bank as Treasurer.
Highlight of the luncheon was the presentation of annual awards.

The Company of the Year Award was given to Brookside Funeral Homes and Memorial Park; the Citizen of the Year Award went to Bill Ginder; Business of the Year was awarded to Magoo’s PrintShop; Committee of the year was the Gala Committee; Chamber Volunteer Award went to Bill Townsend; a special award for Community Development was given to Rep. Kevin Bailey for his work in creating the Airline Improvement District, and to Houston Mayor Bill White; the Pinnacle Award for support of the chamber over a number of years went to several: Ralph Wheeler, Jerry Lowry, Rosemary Buske, and Ray Shotwell; and the Shining Star Award for outstanding volunteer effort went to Bill Hester, Kelli Knapp, Bill White, Martha Velazquez, Mary Skaff, and Mark Hecker.
In his acceptance remarks, Lowry shared his vision for his 2006 term. He said that he wanted the Chamber membership to be “Connected for Growth.”
In detail, he said the emphasis in the New Year was on “new,” in particular:
– New location – in the heart of our service area, where east and west anchors meet at the doorstep of the 2nd largest domestic airport
– New Vision – Houston’s Gateway for Global Growth, where we take advantage of being the gateway to Houston and the World
– New Look – a new logo that gives freshness to the image of the organization
– New Vitality – a streamlining of the volunteer organization and an increased utilization of evolving technologies.
New board members who where installed are Ray Bennett, ABS; Cheryl Canova, GFI Management; Margaret Eyster, Magoo’s PrintShop; Bill Ferebee, O’Donnell, Ferebee, Medley & Keiser; and Ralph Wheeler, YMCA.
Retiring board members are Erv Baumeyer, Terry Burge and Nadine Kujawa.
Other Vice Chair officers that were installed are Bill Hester (Business Development), Dr. David Sam (Community & Governmental Relations), Jill Boullion (Marketing & Fundraising), and Mary Skaff (Membership).
Lowry also stated that the focus in 2006 is to advance the Chamber as a thorough and efficient organization that is responsive to the volunteers’ time, the members’ resources and the businesses’ needs.


Superintendent, Dr. James Simpson, pictured left, served as co-grand marshal of the 2006 MLK Grande Parade-Houston. On January 16, 2006 at 10:00 a.m. in downtown Houston, he and Dr. Margaret Ford, pictured right, president of Houston Community College Northeast and the parade’s other co-grand marshal for this year’s event, stood at the helm of a procession of bands, drill teams, and floats.


Aldine ISD Superintendent Nadine Kujawa addressed business and community leaders as she took a look back at the 2004-05 school year during the annual State of the District Breakfast, held Jan. 20, at the Sheraton North Houston Hotel.
Close to 300 business partners, community members and Aldine ISD personnel attended the annual event.
Kujawa, in her fifth year as AISD’s superintendent, reminded the audience that the district’s vision continues to be to produce the nation’s best students, help those students attain college scholarships to the best colleges and universities in the country and to land the best jobs possible.

She added that the district’s leadership team had modified the district’s objectives from four to three main points to live up to its vision statement of producing the nation’s best students.
The three objectives are:
•Demonstrate sustained growth in student achievement;
•Implement effective management strategies to improve student behavior;
•Increase communication and provide opportunities for active parent engagement.
Kujawa said the objectives changed because she believes student achievement rises when students are engaged in an atmosphere that supports learning, parents participate in and monitor learning and parents are kept informed of what is going on in the classroom with their children.
“You want to have high standards and you want your kids to attain skills that will help them become productive citizens when they leave us,” she said.
She also provided the audience with a snapshot of Aldine ISD’s demographics. Enrollment has reached more than 58,000 students due to the fact the district took in approximately 1,800 evacuees from Hurricane Katrina. The district is 60 percent Hispanic, 32.2 percent African American, 4.8 percent White, 2.1 percent Asian and 0.1 percent Native American. She compared those numbers to statewide public school enrollment, which is 44.7 percent Hispanic, 14.2 percent African American, 37.7 percent White and 3 percent Asian.
Adding 1,800 new students has been a challenge, Kujawa said, but she said the district has been up to the task.
“We don’t look at those children as Katrina evacuees, but as Aldine students,” she said. “They are ours to teach, and to meet their emotional and physical needs.”
Kujawa also highlighted a number of achievements and recognitions the district earned during the 2004-05 school year. For the second consecutive year, AISD was one of five national finalists for the Broad Prize for Urban Education. The district also received the Texas Business and Education Coalition’s Distinguished Achievement Award (one of only two school districts in Texas to ever receive the award), and seven AISD schools were named to the Just For The Kids Honor Roll. Additionally, Aldine was the subject of a study conducted by the Harvard School of Business, and a study by Texas A&M University/UT-Pan American and UT-Dallas/Oakland University which found that Aldine ISD ranked second among large school districts in Texas for educating African American students and it ranked third among large school districts in Texas for educating Latino students.
She also provided an overview of the district’s approach to teaching, which includes establishing a belief system, setting high expectations, identifying skills, identifying strategies, assessing progress and monitoring and adjusting.
Kujawa then discussed the two accountability systems public schools in Texas must adhere to, the State of Texas’ accountability system – the Academic Excellence Indicator System (AEIS) – and the federal government’s No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB).
She explained the differences in the two systems and compared data of how Aldine ISD students fare with fellow students across the state. Aldine students perform at or above the state average in reading, writing and social studies. Kujawa admitted there is still work to be done in mathematics and science, but that the district is striving to make progress in those subject areas.
Aldine received an “Acceptable” rating from the Texas Education Agency after earning a “Recognized” rating for seven consecutive years under the previous state accountability system. The goal is to return Aldine ISD to being a “Recognized” school district, Kujawa said.
“Our goal is to move back into the “Recognized” area and it’s going to take a lot of diligence on our part to reach that goal,” she said.
The superintendent also discussed school finance, a key component to providing a quality education for AISD students. She provided detailed information of how funds are allocated and where the money comes from (state, federal and local level) to fund education in Aldine.
She concluded her address by looking at the challenges Aldine will face in the future. Those challenges include funding, accountability and growth.
Kujawa noted that as students’ needs grow and the academic bar rises, funding becomes more and more critical. She said the state must come up with a funding plan that is adequate, equitable and has the capacity to be flexible.
She also touched on the growth the district is experiencing. She said the 1960 area and the north side of the district are seeing a lot of new construction, and that displaced families from Hurricane Katrina and Rita have also increased enrollment figures in the district.
“Growth is a good thing, but it is another challenge we must meet,” she said. “We have completed all of our construction projects from the 2000 bond issue, but if we continue to experience the level of growth we are currently seeing, we will have to look at new construction projects to meet the enrollment needs of our students.”

MacArthur student dies in house fire

MacArthur senior Rachel Lynch, 17, died Tuesday, December 27 after a fire tore through the family’s home. Shortly after 3:30 a.m. firefighters arrived at the house in the 11800 block of Shadymeadow Lane near Sandy Meadow.
Before the fire department arrived, neighbors used water hoses to try to help put out the flames. Firefighters found Lynch in a back bedroom, but she had already sustained major injuries. She died at the scene.

Lynch’s brother Cornelius, 22, received minor burns and was treated and released from the hospital later that day. Two other family members managed to escape without injury.
Classmates created a shrine in the home’s front yard filled with teddy bears, pictures, and flowers.
Officials are still investigating the cause of the fire.

Year in Review 2005

• Community members met to discuss groundwater contamination near the Eastex Freeway and Hartwick.
• Aldine ISD hosted a city-wide conference on student race relations.

• Alberto Gonzalez, an Aldine ISD alum, was confirmed as the first Hispanic U.S. Attorney General.
• Northline Mall announced plans to demolish the existing structure and replace it with an open air shopping center.
• Aldine FFA students earned $84,800 at the 46th annual project show.
• Houston ISD superintendent Abe Saavedra announced the district would seek outside help for Sam Houston, Kashmere, and Yates High Schools. Parents voice opposition.

• Aldine community groups petition to save METRO’s Route 54 bus line.
• Houston Texan and Aldine ISD alum Aaron Glenn donated $15,000 to the Aldine Scholarship Fund.
• Smiley High creates the first teen Community Emergency Response Team.
• Habitat for Humanity built is 500th house in Houston. The home was built in the Wood Glen subdivision where more than 200 Habitat houses have been built.

• Aldine ISD is named a Broad Prize finalist for the second consecutive year.
• The water line project for Inwood Place received an $80,000 boost with a grant from the Harris-Galveston Coastal Subsidence District.
• A Teague Middle School student brought a gun to school.

• Houston ISD decided to retain the principals at Sam Houston and Yates but replaced half the teachers.
• Aldine YOUTH opened the Youth School of Business and Renewed Blessings Resale shop on the center’s 15th anniversary.
• Houston ISD fired two former Bowie Elementary teachers because they helped students cheat on the 2004 TAKS test.

• METRO’s new Route 59 along Aldine Mail began service.
• North Forest ISD approved school consolidation and a new administration building. The distribt also swore in three new board members: Jarvis Jermaine Clark, Charles H. Taylor, and T. Marie McCall.
• Smiley High School biology teacher, Melvin Johnson, was indicted for possessing and receiving child pornography.
• Scenic Woods Library opened after being closed two and a half years for renovations.
• The owners of Chinese Wok on Aldine Mail Rt. were arrested for illegally smuggling immigrants from Mexico and making them work at the restaurant for slave wages.
• Two Aldine ISD trustees, Steve Mead and Art Murillo, were robbed at gun point in the district office’s parking lot following a meeting.

• Two Aldine High students admitted to torching the car of their chemistry teacher in exchange for passing grades.
• North Forest community gave support to the proposed Royal Oaks Terrace subdivision. The project calls for 64 homes to be built near Homestead and Tatenhaun.
• A sheriff’s deputy shot and killed a deputy constable when he was mistaken for the fleeing suspect.

• A tip from America’s Most Wanted helped police catch a suspect in the abduction and rape of a 12-year-old at the Fiesta on Airline.
• Developers met with community organizations to discuss the creation of Wayside Village, a proposed housing development to contain 1,600 new homes near East Little York.

• Area citizens stepped up to aid victims of hurricane Katrina.
• Local stores ran out of water, gas, and supplies as Houston braced for Hurricane Rita. Evacuees clogged I 45 and Highway 59 as they tried to leave town.
• Airline Improvement District tax approved by voters.

• Broad prize awards Aldine ISD $125,000 in scholarship monies.
• Aldine YOUTH receives new parking lot.
• Landvest announced plans to build 200 homes near Aldine Bender and Lee Road.
Emmett Hill resigns from Aldine school board due to health concerns.

• ACORN Housing announced plans to build 89 homes near Mesa and Tidwell.
• Seven of nine constitutional amendments passed, Adrian Garcia was reelected to District H.
• High Meadows Library reopened after being closed eight months for remodeling.
• The Texas Art Education Association named MacArthur art teacher, Michael Hall, best art teacher in the state.

• Jarvis Johnson was elected as council member for district B after a run off election against Felicia Galloway-Hall.
• North Forest ISD reinstated superintendent Dr. James Simpson after he was placed on temporary paid suspension in November.
• Aldine ISD’s board of trustees chose Dr. Alton Smith to replace Emmett Hill.
• MacArthur alum Phanta “Jack” Phoummarath died during a fraternity hazing at the University of Texas.

Aldine ISD Defensive Player: Alex Johnson

Contributing Writer
Alexander Johnson is a parent and coach’s dream.
The 5-11, 190-pound senior excels in the classroom and on the football field.
In the classroom, Johnson is all business. He ranks seventh in his class of 425 seniors and has drawn interest from Ivy League schools Harvard and Dartmouth, two of the most prestigious colleges in the nation.

In addition to excelling the classroom, Johnson serves as the senior class vice-president, is a member of the National Honor Society and serves as a math tutor to fellow MacArthur students.
When it comes to athletics, Johnson is at the top of his class there as well. He was a three-year starter at linebacker for Jerry Drones’ Generals and he completed his senior season in outstanding fashion as he recorded an eye-opening 165 tackles (42 unassisted, 123 assisted tackles) as he helped lead the Generals to an 8-3 season and their first playoff appearance since 1995. In addition to averaging 16 tackles per game, he also had 25 tackles for loss, five sacks, broke up four passes and caused three fumbles.
Johnson’s stellar senior season earned him the Northeast News’ Defensive Player of the Year honors. The District 18-5A coaches also honored him as they voted him the league’s Most Valuable Defensive Player.
“He made so many plays for us this year,” said Drones, who knows a thing or two about playing defense having started at defensive end for three consecutive years (1967-69) at the University of Houston. “Alexander was a solid player for us for three straight years and we’re going to miss him. He’s an outstanding young man.”
Johnson has come a long ways in a short time, Drones said. As a freshman, he played on the B team, but within a year he was starting as a sophomore on the varsity thanks to his work ethic and athleticism.
“We found out early on that Alexander had a knack for finding the football ball and reading keys and attacking the ball carrier,” Drones said. “We started him on the outside as a sophomore then moved him inside his junior year and things worked out well for him. This year he did a better job of meeting them (the ball carrier) at the line, or behind the line of scrimmage.”
Drones added that Johnson improved each season and saved his best for his final year as a General. Finally, others aside from Drones and his staff noticed his outstanding play.
“He was good as a junior and led us in tackles, but the strange thing was that he wasn’t named first or second team all-district. We were sort of disappointed because we felt he played very well as a junior, but he made up for it this year with an outstanding senior season and we’re thankful that the rest of the coaches in our district realized that as well.”
The MacArthur head coach added that Johnson put in the work to make himself the player he is today. Unlike his teammates, Johnson did not have an athletic period because that would have kept him from pursuing upper level courses, so while his buddies were lifting weights and getting stronger, Johnson was putting his work in the classroom. He had to lift on his own time, but he found the time to do so to help his team.
“He has a strong work ethic,” Drones said. “He didn’t lift with the other guys, but he got his work in.”
Drones added Johnson led by example and the veteran head coach said he will sorely miss him next year.
“We were fortunate to have him. He was one of our leaders and there’s no doubt we’ll miss having him around, but he’s got a lot going for him and I think we’re going to hear a lot about Alexander in the future.”