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Posts published in April 2008

TEA to NF: “No money for hires”

NORTH FOREST– State representatives and board trustees continued to clash at last Monday night’s regular NFISD board meeting. The issue was primarily the financial condition of the district, but it was manifested in two actions: the board voted to rehire the former chief of police, Tyrone Walker, and staff member Edward Durant; and the second issue was changing the days of the month when employees are paid.
Many audience members, some of them employees, protested vehemently that changing the pay dates on short notice would create a hardship that might result in credit problems and evictions. The motion being considered, was to change pay dates from the 5th and 20th of the months, to the 15th and last workday of the month, starting in May. After listening to the objections, the board indicated that they thought they might not change these dates, at least until much later. But TEA representative Ron Powell told them in must be done, because the district had no money available to meet payroll, and an alternative might be to issue worthless checks. Finally a compromise was reached, that the first paycheck in May can still be issued on May 5th.
On the issue of rehiring and reinstating two employees, Walker and Durant, Rowell and Boening issued a similar ruling. Citing authority to overrule the local school board, as stated in the Texas Education Code Section 39.135 (c)(2), they said that the board vote to hire the two employees was “revoked and overturned.”
When pressed for the reason for this action by Trustee Allen Provost, Rowell said that it was a financial decision, not a personnel decision, and that the board simply cannot hire anyone at this time because “You’re Broke. There’s no money in the bank for pay day. You need every penny that we will send you on April 25th (to meet existing payroll).”
TAKS Results Good

Not all the news was bad at the meeting, however. Dr. Sharp and mr. Louis reported that TAKS test results at the elementary and middle school levels had shown vast improvement, with Reading tests at 5th grade showing an overall 72% passing and 3rd grade 80%. At middle school, overall Reading tests at 8th grade were at 82% passing, and Math at 65%. The passing level must be above 50%.
Questioned by Trustee about improving high school graduation rates, they said that resources available to improve the rate include tutors, Saturday classes, specific student packages, and on-line TAKS study guides.
Copper Theft problem
Facilities head Paul Johnson reported to the board that 5 chillers at three schools had been vandalized, and all the copper wiring and piping was gone. The schools are Learning Academy, Fonwood Elementary, and Kirby Middle school. Johnson reported that an estimate of repairs and replacement had been made by Johnson Controls, for $75,000. He noted that the insurance had a deductible of $100,000.

Water Company challenges Aldine Ratepayers’ petitions

By ARELENE NICHOLS Special to Northeast News
Texas American Water Company (TWAC) has responded to the emergency motion filed by Aldine Ratepayers Association (ARA). The company is challenging the signatures on the petitions that ARA filed with the emergency motion to suspend the proposed rate increase for 150 days.
Unless petitions are received from 10% of the water utilities customers, their legal challenge to the rate increase will not be scheduled for a hearing.
“Last year we surprised the company when we challenged their rate increase and then showed up at the public hearing with an attorney representing our folks,” said Rep. Kevin Bailey. “It appears that this year the company is preparing to fight us every step of the way. We anticipated their challenge to our petitions and consequently we have been working to collect as many signatures as possible.”

According to Texas American Water’s response, the signatures submitted by ARA appear to fall short of the 10% of customers required to mandate a hearing. TWAC contends that 185 of the 460 signatures are invalid because the name, address or phone number is illegible; the address is not listed as a TWAC customer; the name is a duplicate on another petition; or the name is not a customer of record at the service address.
“Many of the signatures they are challenging are simply a case of the family member who signed the petition not being the family member whose name appears on the water bill, “said Bailey. “ We do not have a list of customers so it puts us at a disadvantage when collecting signatures, but we are certain that we will meet the threshold criteria to move forward with a legal challenge. Since the company listed the signatures they were challenging, volunteers have been able to go back to those households and make sure we have the signature of the person whose name appears on the water bill.”
Bailey went on to explain that petitions are still be collected in three neighborhoods. If you have any questions regarding the petition drive or the contested rate case, please contact the Bailey’s district office of at 281-847-9000.

Aldine Ratepayers file emergency motion to suspend water rate increase

By ARLENE NICHOLS Special to the NE News
Aldine Ratepayers Association (ARA) has filed a motion to suspend the effective date of a rate increase by Texas American Water. The motion was filed on April 14 with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) in Austin.
“In just the last thirty days TCEQ approved the prior rate increase by Texas American Water and here they are back again requesting another rate increase,” said Rep. Kevin Bailey. “We believe we are justified in taking the rare step of requesting that the latest request for a rate increase be suspended so that we can have a hearing on the merits of the case prior to any increase in rates. It is very difficult to believe that they can justify another rate increase so soon.”
The most recent filing by Texas American Water requests a 34% increase for the company with an effective date of April 22. The emergency motion filed by ARA would suspend the rate increase for 150 days. In the filing ARA stated that there is no basis for allowing Texas-American to put rates into effect without a hearing on the merits of the case. This is especially true given the fact that many of its customers live on fixed incomes.

“I made a commitment to support area residents in their fight against the company and I am following through on that commitment. TCEQ has rarely suspended rate increases but we have a situation that calls out for them to use their authority to suspend this increase,” said Bailey. “If our request for a suspension is granted then we will have an opportunity to have a hearing on the merits of the case.”
Last year ARA contested a rate increase by Texas-American. The company had attempted to increase water rates more than 33% and sewer rates by more than 60% before Rep. Bailey organized area residents to mount a legal challenge against the company. After two lengthy hearings the company settled for a 13.6 % increase in water rates and a 27.2% increase in sewer rates.
Aldine Ratepayers Association was formed by North Houston residents so they could protest rate increases by Texas American Water. The group represents residents who live in several North Houston neighborhoods including Greenwood Village, Mary Francis, Colonial Hills, Aldine Meadows, Bergville, Bertrand, Kenwood and Stretner.
The East Aldine Management District, after receiving a request from Bailey, hired attorney Jim Boyle of Austin to represent area residents in the legal process. Boyle was the Director of the Office of Public Utility Counsel for the State of Texas before going into private practice in Austin. He is recognized throughout the state for his knowledge and abilities in public utility and administrative law cases.

Getting gourmet hospital food?

If you sod busters do not have a crop or a plant in the ground, you are missing the boat, tis the time to get’r done.
Have not planted the first hot pepper plant this year, there’s three in front that are left over from last year with peppers on them already. Matter of fact, I picked 34 pods of cayenne pepper last weekend and put another two pounds of jalapeno with it to made a batch of chowchow. Think about it, that many jalapeno and cayenne in 10 pints total think it will be warm?
You seen those Ped Egg Pedicure things? Been using one for over a month or so now and would not do without it no more than I can do without my water pic.
Apply a little pressure and push it back and forth, as it cuts both ways. No fear of cutting too deep or to in the quick. They really work, I have lost a quarter pound already.

Been trying to eat right lately and have discovered the best place to eat in town, cheap too. I know I am cheap but I am serious as a heart attack on this.
The restaurant on the second floor of San Jacinto Methodist Hospital is the place to get great food. Not going to see someone in the hospital, just going to eat.
The restaurant was previously operated by Marriott and has since been taken over by Sodexo that specializes in food service and facilities management.
If you eat the catfish, theirs are very good but I have sworn off the wormy things.
You can find me at the hospital most mornings with a bowl of oatmeal and the local daily newspaper as my place mat.
You are recommended to eat fish four times a week so when they have the codfish, you will find me there and the Mrs. too, if it is on a weekend.
Sound crazy? Maybe it does, going to the hospital to eat but you will get some exercise walking there as well with their parking, if you savvy.
Fresh fruit cups, some with yogurt. Already made salads and an open salad bar that charges by the pound. Some of the best-looking, large breakfast muffins you would want to see in the mornings but it takes will power to resist.
Here I am going to the hospital every day and taking the elevator. One of the nastiest things there is, is the first floor button at the elevator, going up or going down.
Good thing they have those hand sanitizer dispensers handy. The Mrs. says her company has them all over its building.
Are we becoming germophobic?

The Fab Five

By Kristan Hoffman

For Valentine’s Day, my boyfriend did not buy me chocolates or flowers. He also didn’t take me out to dinner. He didn’t give me a giant teddy bear, or a mix tape, or any of the usual romantic Hallmark-y things. No, for Valentine’s Day, my boyfriend drove me from Cincinnati to Chicago — for the Spice Girls concert. If enduring a whole weekend of Girl Power doesn’t demonstrate his love, I’m not sure what could. (Nevermind the fact that for Valentine’s Day, I made my boyfriend endure a whole weekend of Girl Power…)

In fairness, both of us agree that regardless of your age, gender, sexuality, or musical taste, those were two of the most entertaining hours you could imagine. The “Fab Five” designed a spectacular show that used their music to illustrate their professional and personal journey as a group. I must confess that I don’t remember much about their first tour in the 90s — except the heartbreak of Ginger Spice quitting just before they came to the States — ut I am quite certain that I will never forget their Reunion.

It began with a slew of their biggest hits (“Spice Up Your Life,” “Stop,” and “Who Do U Think U Are” to name a few) as well as elaborate silver costumes designed by Roberto Cavalli. There were about seven video screens, twenty male dancers, and a whole lot of screaming fans. My voice had gone hoarse by the fourth or fifth song, but of course I had no intention of stopping.

For the rest of the night, Scary, Baby, Ginger, Posh, and Sporty tore through elaborate themed sets and costumes: giant feathers and pink heart-shaped dressing room doors; red flamenco capes; dominatrix black leather, whips, and chains; and more. Each also performed solo, some electing to cover classic hits (like Right Said Fred’s “I’m Too Sexy”) while others sang their own songs (like Melanie C’s “I Turn to You”). This is when much of the crowd went silent and I began to feel like a superior fan, because I knew all the words to their solo works and their third album, i.e., I stuck by them even after they’d faded in popularity.

Then Andy rolled his eyes and said, “Don’t be a stuck-up Spice fan. That’s worse than not being a fan at all.”

Doh.

One of the most popular performances of the night was “Mama,” in which the Spice Children joined the Spice Girls on stage (with protective earphones the size of their heads). A video of the Spice Mothers played on the background screen, giving the audience three generations of Spice. Tasty!

The night ended with their first #1 hit, the one that brought Girl Power to the whole world: “Wannabe.” It’s never been my favorite song of theirs, but there’s something to be said for being the start of it all, and I think that’s why they chose to come full circle and end the night with it.

If you wannabe my lover, you gotta get with my friends.

So it may not have been a conventional Valentine’s Day, but by indulging me in this, Andy “got with my friends” Mel C, Mel B, Emma, Victoria, and Geri, and definitely made me zig-a-zig-ah.

Hepworth, Willingham named Aldine ISD’s Teachers of the Year

Ivan Hepworth of Nimitz Senior High School and Shirley Willingham of Houston Academy were named Aldine ISD’s Teachers of the Year during the district’s annual Teacher of the Year Breakfast, held Friday, April 4, at the Crowne Plaza Hotel.
Hepworth was named AISD’s Secondary Teacher of the Year, while Willingham was named the district’s Elementary/Intermediate Teacher of the Year.
The two were selected from six finalists chosen for the prestigious award by a committee of fellow teachers, administrators and community members.
The four other finalists were Carrie Schultz-Sellers of Johnson Elementary School, Wanda Woods of Hill Intermediate School, Edward Brimer of Grantham Academy and Sharon Kay Carlson of Lane School.
Hepworth, Willingham, the four finalists and each campus Teacher of the Year, were also honored by a number of North Houston/Greenspoint area businesses that donated gifts to them.

Continental Airlines presented Hepworth and Willingham each with two first-class round trip tickets to anywhere Continental Airlines flies in the continental United States. Halliburton presented the two winners with $600 each, while InvesTex Credit Union presented the two winners with $100 each.
The DoubleTree Hotel at Intercontinental Airport presented Hepworth and Willingham each with a complimentary weekend night stay for two, while the Houston Astros provided each of the winners with an Astros baseball cap.
The two winners also each received a $100 American Express gift card from North Houston Bank, while Charles Christiansen and the Main Event in The Woodlands awarded Hepworth and Willingham with two tickets each to the Houston Family Arts Center valued at $50 and each received a $25 gift certificate from the Downtown Tomball Merchant’s Association.
The two winners also each received four season passes to SplashTown and Greenspoint Mall awarded the two winners a $100 gift card. The Houston Rockets provided each winner with a Rockets backpack and T-shirt, while Luna’s Mexican Restaurant awarded each winner with two complimentary dinner gift certificates.
The North Houston Greenspoint Chamber of Commerce awarded Hepworth and Willingham with two complimentary tickets to the Houston Laff Stop.
The four finalists each received $100 American Express gift cards from North Houston Bank, two complimentary tickets to Splash Town, while the Houston Astros awarded the finalists players cards autographed by Brandon Backe and Chris Sampson and Astros baseball caps. The North Houston Sheraton Hotel presented each of the finalists with a weekend night’s stay, including breakfast for two, while Greenspoint Mall awarded the four finalists each with a $50 gift card.
The Houston Rockets presented each finalist with a backpack and T-shirt, while InvesTex Credit Union awarded each of the finalists $100. The Holiday Inn Houston Intercontinental Hotel presented each of the finalists with a complimentary weekend night’s stay and breakfast for two.
Hepworth said he believes it is his duty to give his students his best each and every day while teaching.
“I believe all children can learn and they have the right to my absolute best effort,” he said. “I stay current on the latest theories and philosophies of education and keep students from being bored. Most importantly, I care about my students.”
Willingham said she enjoys getting the best out of her students and challenging them each and every day in the classroom.
“I don’t only teach the basics, but I also challenge students to think, to reason, and to solve problems independently. I empower students by giving them opportunities to make decisions about what they will learn and how they will learn.”
Lisa Edwards, Title I program director, chaired the Teacher of the Year Committee. Her co-chairman was Maggie Doran, program director of elementary language arts. The committee consisted of: Carrie Durley, executive director of human resources, Richard Woods of Conley Elementary School, Evelyn Hempy of Stovall Middle School, Mary Neeley Stevens of Carter Academy, Julie Mata of deSantiago EC/Pre-K Center, Valerie Sutton of Hambrick Middle School, and parent representative Dawn Lara.

Smiley FFA livestock sale

GRAND CHAMPION STEER was purchased by the Northside Group for $5500, with $175 in add-ons for a total of $5675. The steer weighed 1320 lbs. and was raised and exhibited by Jahmar Sampson. The Northside Group included, l to r, Bill Ginder/Caldwell Companies, Bob Beasley/Beasley Tire, David Hawes/Hawes Hill Calderon, Clyde Bailey/Jed’s Hardware, Jane Grothe/North Houston Bank, and Steve Mead/Component Sales.

Texas American Water files for another rate increase

By ARLENE NICHOLS Special to the NE News
Residents in area neighborhoods receiving water and /or sewer service from Texas American Water have received notice that the company will be raising rates for water and sewer service. The current increase comes shortly after residents received a refund on the last rate increase by the company. The new rates will go into effect on an interim basis subject to approval by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).
Last year area residents served by Texas American Water, led by State Representative Kevin Bailey and community leader Irene Garcia, formed Aldine Ratepayers Association to challenge a rate increase by the company. After two day-long hearings, the group reached a negotiated settlement with the company that resulted in a reduction in rates and a refund to the customers. Notice of the most recent rate increase was received the same week that customers received the refunds on their water bills.
“We are determined to fight this outrageous increase. I am working with area residents to file a protest of this latest increase in rates that has been filed with the TCEQ,” said Bailey. “ We have already collected more than 300 signatures on petitions but will need an additional 100 signatures of residents who are customers of Texas American Water.”
Bailey went on to explain that he has requested assistance from the
East Aldine Improvement 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. Since Texas American Water has expanded the number of customers by merging two companies, Southwest Utilities and Walker Water
Works, the number of signatures required to successfully require a contested rate hear has increased significantly. Residents of the
Greenwood Village and Colonial Hills neighborhoods have been going door to door with petitions to reach the threshold required to force the hearing. If you have any questions regarding the upcoming meeting or about the contested case hearing, please contact Bailey’s office at 281-847-9000.