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Posts published in June 2007

NFISD board ignores TEA, denies Simpson reinstatement

Bucking a recommendation by a Texas Education Agency examiner, the North Forest ISD Board of Trustees has said they will not reinstate Dr. James Simpson as superintendent of the district.
On May 25, the board met in a special called meeting to review the recommendation and decided on Simpson’s contract.
During the meeting, the board decided to place Simpson on suspension with pay pending further appeals. They also said that William Jones would continue to serve as interim superintendent.
Earlier in the week Jeff Horner, an attorney and independent examiner working on behalf of the Texas Education Agency ordered the North Forest Board of Trustees to reinstate Simpson.
Horner said that in March, when the board voted 4-3 to terminate Simpson’s contract they did so illegally. The board, he determined, did not provide Simpson with due process that is; they did not follow the proper procedures in terminating his contract. Specifically, the board did not notify Simpson is advance of the March 8 meeting that he could be fired. According to the post agenda, which is required for all open meetings, the board was scheduled to “discuss and/or take action” on Simpson’s contract.
The North Forest ISD was ordered to return Simpson to his former post as well as pay him $35,000 in back salary.

Board President Barbara Gaston, who voted to fire Simpson, sent the superintendent a letter on March 13 explaining the board’s vote.
The letter, Horner wrote in his ruling, “came as some type of attempted after-the-fact due process.” Horner also said the letter provided “little specific connection between the areas of Simpson’s alleged deficiencies and district policy.”
The board has maintained that they had just cause to fire Simpson and they stand by their decision.
Simpson said that he was fired in retaliation for investigating allegations of illegal or improper activity against district police officer Gerald Eagleton.
Eagleton was formerly married to the sister of school board member Charles Taylor.
Gaston, however, said that Simpson not only “failed to properly advise the board of a bomb threat at a district school” and “failed to timely notify the board regarding preliminary TAKS results” but that the board had lost confidence in his ability to lead the district.
At the time of the firing, North Forest ISD was also under an investigation by the TEA. The school district, the TEA said, had failed to account for some funds provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency for repairs following Tropical Storm Alison. The funds were discovered missing prior to Simpson coming to North Forest.

Kirby’s Ojiaku named North Forest ISD Teacher of the Year

Kirby Middle School’s Clementina Ojiaku was named North Forest ISD’s 2007-2008 Teacher of the Year at the “Celebration of Excellence: Dancing with the Stars” held May 19.
A special education teacher, Ojiaku said she feels especially honored. Because special education students don’t have some of the same requirements as other students, Ojiaku said special education teachers are sometimes “seen, but not heard.”
“When you become a teacher, you are a teacher of children, not just special education or special needs children,” she said.
The star-studded evening also highlighted service pin recipients and retirees. And in keeping with the night’s theme, it featured special dance performances by NFISD staff and students.

But the moment everyone waited for was the presentation of the campus teachers of the year. They are Mitzi Ball (Rogers), Alma Cooper (Elmore), Pamela Denmon (Oak Village), Anitra Grant (Thurgood Marshall), Shawanna Jasper (Shadydale), Lenora Lewis (Learning Academy), Willie Montgomery (Fonwood), Clementina Ojiaku (Kirby), Shaunda Roberts (Lakewood), Helen Shields (Tidwell), Neelam Singh (Hilliard) and Kimberli Wright (Forest Brook).
M.B. Smiley Principal Erroll Garrett stood in for his school’s teacher, the late Barbara Stack.
Each of the educators were lauded for their commitment to teaching, but reminded that only one could reign as the district’s overall teacher of the year during the upcoming school term.
Both the elementary and secondary teacher of the year receive a $500 stipend. The overall teacher of the year, chosen from the two, receives an additional $500.
After all of the campus nominees were named, the elementary and secondary teachers of the year were announced as Shields and Ojiaku respectively. And Ojiaku was named the district teacher of the year. In her new role, she hopes to take a more active part in the district and the surrounding community.
“It’s a big hat,” she said. “Now I am an ambassador for the entire school district. I just don’t want to be confined anymore. As district teacher of the year, I really have to be one there in my school district… doing anything that will make life better for our children.”
While the teacher of the year selection was the evening’s highlight, long-time district employees and retirees were also recognized.
District employees received service pins for five, 10, 15, 20, 25, 30, 35 and 40 years of service.
W.E. Rogers Principal Tatyanna Williams accepted a pin on behalf of Roger’s employee Myrtle Melvin for 40 years service to the district.
Interim Superintendent William Jones congratulated all honorees on behalf of the district.
“Thank you for your commitment to our students and our district family, “ Jones said.

Wild smells comin’ from the kitchen…

Think you could eat 59 _ hotdogs? A 22-year-old fellow in Tempe, Arizona managed to gobble down that many and broke the world record of 53 _. Talk about being as full as a tick.
Big Momma is fussing this weekend because of the odor in the house. Yesterday it all started with red potatoes which were on boil with pickled (whole) jalapenos. A strong odor indeed, but the finished potatoes are very good and tasty.
Then the wine batch was transferred to a glass jug (carboy) and capped with an airlock. With each bubble of the airlock out comes an odor of fermenting wine and it too is pungent. It is gurgling every 12 seconds or so.
Dared not tell her that it might take several months for the wine to stop bubbling; at least the jalapeno odor masked the yeasty smell for a while.
This is a second attempt at making blackberry wine as the last batch a few years ago started to mold and it was tossed out the back door with the dish water.
Directions for making this batch came from Rome, Georgia and Billings, Montana. Both instructors are in the medical profession and their instructions were crystal clear.

The cousin in Montana said she hopes the batch does not blow up because of excess sugar. Was told the more sugar added the higher alcohol content so you know me.
Of course I told her that making the wine is just a step up from making corn liquor except that the wine does not smell near as bad as sour mash from corn and water. That smells so bad it would knock a buzzard off a gut wagon.
Moving on now, one of my buddies told me of another friend saying when she cranked her car, the entire dash shook from vibration. Long story short, after looking under the hood, she could not find anything so off she went. A few days later a horrible odor was coming from under the hood of the car.
Apparently a Copperhead had crawled up and into the fan shroud as far as it could get but got caught when the car was cranked. Needless to say, she got somebody to get the dead snake out and she has moth balls scattered where she parks the car.

Airport Festival entertains crowds despite weather

NORTHEAST HOUSTON– The 25th Annual Intercontinental Airport Festival drew hundreds of air fans and their families, despite heavy rain during part of the day. The event was held last Saturday, June 16th, at Hangar E and the adjacent apron at the airport.
Displays of aircraft, food, drink, entertainments, exhibits, live bands, a zoo mobile, childrens games, airport Rangers on horseback, search dogs, and much more kept the large crowd entertained, and the spacious hangar kept the rain off.
The event is sponsored by the Houston Airport System, and the Chambers of Commerce of Houston Northwest, North Houston-Greenspoint, and Humble Area.
Many local organizations had booths with exhibits, including the Lone Star Flight Museum, Houston Police Department, Houston Fire Department, Houston Zoo, Continental Airlines, the three Chambers, North Harris College, Metro, and many more.
Airplanes on exhibit, and open to the public, included an Apache helicopter, Life Flight, a FedEx A300 Airbus freighter, three jet fighters, and others.

Other highlights of the Festival included Miss Teen Texas, Michelle Jones of Spring; Alabama-Couchatta youth dancers; vocalists from Klein high school; and the Dekaney Diamonds Drill Team from Spring. Many door prizes were awarded, including free airfare from Continental. The Festival opened with a ceremony presented by the Girl Scouts from the San Jacinto Council.
The Festival was from 12 to 4 on Saturday afternoon. Door prizes were awarded at the end of the day, as Seth Sharr, Steve Hrncir, and Barbara Thomason of the Houston Northwest Chamber pulled the winning tickets for the many prizes.
The theme of the Festival was “IAH- Houston’s Silver Lining” a reference to the 25 years since the Airport Festival began, in 1982. The airport itself opened for the first flight in 1969.
Celebrating the airport’s contributions to the local economy, the Airport Appreciation Day Festival is highly attended by airport and airline employees and their families, as well as the public. Funds raised by the airport festival provide scholarship monies for areas students.

Neighborhoods protest water rate increase by new utility company

Residents in area neighborhoods receiving water or sewer service from Texas American Water, formerly known as Southwest Utilities, are being urged to attend one of two community meetings.
The meetings are being organized to prepare the residents for an upcoming hearing before the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) on the proposed rate increase. The first meeting will be on Tuesday, June 26 at 6:30 p.m. in the Community Room at the Aldine Sheriff’s Storefront located at 5202 Aldine Mail. The second meeting will be held on Wednesday, June 27 at 7 p.m. in the Community Room at Pep Mueller Park located at 14750 Henry Road.
Earlier this year a group of area residents from Greenwood Village led by Representative Kevin Bailey and community leader Irene Garcia successfully forced an international utility company into a contested water rate hearing. The water utilities for several North Houston neighborhoods, were purchased last year by one of the world’s largest energy corporations in the world and the new owner immediately filed a rate increase.
“I made a commitment to support area residents in their fight against a company that is attempting to increase water rates more than 33% and sewer rates more than 60%,” said Bailey. “We already suffer from extremely high electric rates at the hands of powerful electric providers and now many of my constituents are receiving water bills as high as their electric bills. It has hit elderly residents living alone and the disabled particularly hard. We are determined to fight this outrageous increase.”

Bailey went on to explain that he has requested assistance from the East Aldine Management District so the residents will have legal support when the contested rate case goes to hearing. The hearing process is required by law if more than 10% of the utility’s customers request a hearing so residents of the Greenwood Village neighborhood went door to door with petitions to reach the threshold required to force the hearing.
Since the EAMD is not a utility customer they do not have legal standing in the case. However, they have employed Austin attorney Jim Boyle to review documents submitted from Texas American Water to the TCEQ and to serve in an advisory capacity.
According to Arlene Nichols, who works in Bailey’s Houston office, the best defense for residents is to attend the meetings and consider forming an organization that can go on record in opposition to the rate increase. This, she added, is commonly done in mobile home parks, where the park itself serves as a stronger voice than each individual customer.
Local neighborhoods served by the company include Greenwood Village, Mary Francis, Colonial Hills, Aldine Meadows, Bergville, Bertrand, Kenwood and Stretner.
If you have any questions regarding the upcoming meeting or about the contested case hearing, please contact the District Office of State Representative Kevin Bailey at 281-847-9000.

Aldine ISD approves $439M budget, plans tax cut

With just weeks left before the start of the school year, the Aldine ISD Board of trustees took care of the biggest issue that faces them each summer, the school budget.
The Board has approved a $439.2 million budget for the 2007-2008 school year.
The new budget is the first budget under incoming superintendent Dr. Wanda Bamberg, who moved into the position following the retirement of Nadine Kujawa at the end of the 2006-07 school year.
The budget is $1.6 million less than the initial budget for 2006-2007 and more than $20 million less than the amended budget, which the board was also approved.
Despite the lower budget, school officials say that not programs will be cut. According to Keith Clark, assistant superintendent of finance the district was able to cut the budget by avoiding several one-time expenditures it paid out in the last school year.

Those included the purchase of computers, construction at the M.O. Campbell Center and $12 million in property purchases for two future elementary campuses, one middle school and one combined middle and elementary school.
In her first board meeting as superintendent, Bamberg said that in a time when school districts across the state are struggling financially, she is pleased with Aldine’s budget and proposed tax rate.
“We look very carefully at our revenue and expenditures, and we do what has to be done,” Bamberg said.
The budget is not the only area going down, which is welcome news for taxpayers.
The district is also proposing a lower tax rate.
The district is proposing a tax rate of $1.23 per $100 valuation. The 2006-2007 tax rate is $1.604 per $100 valuation.
The tax rate is broken down into two parts: Maintenance and Operations and Interest & Sinking. The first part, known as the M&O, is used to pay for the daily operations of the district. The second part referred to as I&S, can only be used to pay outstanding bonds.
The district will be able to lower the tax rate for a number of reasons.
The biggest decrease will come from action taken during the 2005 session of the Texas Legislature. During this session, officials approved a property tax relief bill. The tax relief will have a direct impact on the M&O. Last year, the M&O part of the tax rate was $1.49. It is projected that this will go down to $1.09. The district was also able to retire some older bonds, which will allow them to lower their I&S from $.11 to $.10.
Also affecting the new tax rate is the proposed budget. The district plans to cut last year’s total budget by 1.95%.
As anticipated by the district, a report from the Harris County Appraisal District shows that property values are on the rise in the district, which means more dollars for district coffers. The total taxable value of property in the district rose $23 million from last year.
According to the district, the average taxable value of a residence is $76, 289. With a tax rate of $1.233 per $100 valuation, the average taxpayer would pay $940.64 a year. This is $280.32 less than in 2006-2007.

Pirates 3 suffers from too much plot, not enough Depp

“Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End”
Running time: 168 minutes
MPAA rating: PG-13

The third (and hopefully final) installment of the Pirates of the Caribbean series suffers from the misapprehension that “more is better.”
Sometimes it isn’t. And in the case of “At World’s End,” more is too much: Too much plot, too much exposition, too much Keira Knightly and Orlando Bloom (Zzzzzzz), and at nearly three hours in length, too much movie.
What “Pirates” doesn’t have enough of is Jack Sparrow. Let’s be real here: Johnny Depp carried the first movie. It was his portrayal of the swishy, swashbuckling savant Jack Sparrow that made the first movie the hit that it was. It wasn’t the love story. It wasn’t the special effects. It was Depp. Depp. Depp. … Period.

In this film, there aren’t enough scenes of Depp doing what he does best, chewing up the scenery as the scheming, bumbling cad we adored from the first film.
Instead, we get a convoluted plot concerning the alliance between the East India Company and Davy Jones and the search for nine pieces of eight (yes, you read that right) and a pirate congress and plots within plots and people sitting around yelling “Arrrr!” and talking about what they’re supposed to be doing — instead of just DOING IT.
But no. For a three-hour pirate movie, it’s a crime that we have to wait nearly two hours before we see a monkey get shoved into a cannon. A pirate movie should have PIRATE STUFF in it. Not a bunch of talking. And certainly no boring love story — especially when the two people in love are portrayed by two of the most dull, emotionless actors on the planet.
Keira Knightly, who’s looking more and more like an anorexic catfish every day, thinks that projecting emotion is simply a matter of sucking in one’s cheeks. The more she sucks, the more emotion she’s supposedly emoting.
Orlando Bloom reads every line as if he’d just had a chemical lobotomy performed. Needless to say, SuckFace & Durrrrrr pretty much ruined most of the movie for me.
I can’t recommend “At World’s End.” It had the potential to be a Great White Shark, but instead, it’s just a blowfish.

Aviation related scholarships highlight Airport Festival Lunch

By Gilbert Hoffman
Northeast News
As a prelude to the 25th Annual Intercontinental Airport Festival, a Scholarship Awards Luncheon was held last Thursday at the Wyndham Hotel Greenspoint.
The scholarships and festival are sponsored by three area Chambers of Commerce, in conjunction with the Houston Airport System. The Chambers are the Houston Northwest, the North Houston Greenspoint, and the Humble Area. The scholarship program was originally started by the Houston Northwest Chamber, and has grown to include the others.
Fifteen scholarships of $1500 each were awarded to students who applied, on the basis of academics and community service. These students are expected to go to college to pursue careers in aviation or hospitality, according to Committee Chair Steve Hrncir. Scholarships were sponsored by local businesses and individuals with an interest in the airport system.
Scholarships went to students from the Aldine, Klein, Cypress-Fairbanks, Spring, Humble school districts, and NHMCCD college.
This is the 25th year for the Airport Festival, which featured public displays of current and vintage aircraft, games, drawings, exhibits, music from live bands, zoo mobile, airport rangers, search dogs, free food and drink, and door prizes.
The Airport Festival was held at Continental’s 777 Hangar Building E at the airport. The theme was “IAH-Houston’s Silver Lining,” a reference both to the 25th anniversary and the airport’s impact on the region.

Speakers review progress of Houston Airport System

Hundreds of well-wishers packed the ballroom of the Wyndham Hotel Greenspoint last Thursday, to honor the recipients of the Airport Festival Scholarships, and to hear leaders of the community talk about the progress that the Airport System has made over the years, and the importance it has to the region’s economy.
Pilot Capt. A. J. High recounted how he was the first official plane to land at the new Intercontinental Airport in 1969, flying for Texas International.
Mayor Bill White extolled HAS for being the best air system in the world, and noted that Intercontinental airport now has risen to have the second most flights in North America. He noted that Houston has historically invested in public transportation, which has fostered the growth in the region.
Continental’s Larry Kellner noted that his airline now land 750 flights a day at IAH, the fastest growing airport in the nation. He thanked those who supported Proposition G in the last election, necessary to support the airport.
Rick Vacar, Director of HAS, announced that money had been appropriated for a new master plan for IAH, and the airport will continue to grow, with two new runways planned.

Too many plots weaken Shrek III

“Shrek The Third”
Running time: 93 minutes
MPAA rating: PG

Just so you where we stand: I adored the first Shrek movie. I own the DVD and have watched it at least a dozen times. The animation, the voice acting, the musical numbers … magic.
“Shrek 2” was pretty good, too. The addition of Antonio Banderas as Puss in Boots was a stroke of comic genius. And while the sequel wasn’t as magical as the original, I still thought it had a lot going for it.
Which brings us to “Shrek the Third.”
Gah. What a snoozer.
I can’t believe that a movie that is so beautifully animated and rendered could be so boring. Even most of the cast sound like they’re reading their lines in their sleep (Cameron Diaz and Justin Timberlake, I’m looking in your direction). The jokes are the same tired, rehashed gags we’ve seen a thousand times. Sure, there were a few times I chuckled, but I didn’t have the belly-laughs I got when watching the original.
“Shrek the Third” has three plots: 1. Shrek (Mike Myers) dealing with the Mega-Angst of becoming a father; 2. The king is dead, and because Shrek has Mega-Angst about becoming king (because for some reason, the king’s Daughter By Blood, Fiona, can’t become the monarch), he goes in search of Arthur (Timberlake) to take the crown; and 3. Prince Charming plots to assume the thrown while Shrek is away on his Quest, leaving Fiona (Diaz) and a gaggle of princesses to defend the land of Far Far Away.
That’s a lotta plot — and it gets in the way of what makes a good Shrek movie. It’s the relationship between Shrek and his friends that makes the movies great — the comedy of diverse personalities, not self-consciously hip pop culture references.
I really can’t recommend that you pay full price to see “Shrek the Third.” Catch it at a matinee if you simply MUST see it. Otherwise wait for it to hit the dollar theater or home video.