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Aldine State of the District

Growth, new schools, performance reviewed

Aldine Superintendent Wanda Bamberg addressed an early morning meeting of about 300 teachers, staff, board, community leaders, community partners, and others who came to hear the report on the State of the District for 2008, and projections for 2009 and beyond. The breakfast meeting was held at the Sheraton Hotel on JFK Boulevard last Friday morning.

Bamberg reviewed the current status of the District, which has grown to almost 62,000 students, on 72 campuses, with 8500 employees, and a budget of $470,000,000.

High points of the last year include finalist for the Broad Prize, which brought the district a $250,000 award for scholarships, and the 2008 HEB Excellence in Education Award, a $100,000 prize that is being used to expand the virutal campus opportunities for on-line students.

Bamberg noted that in Academic performance, Aldine ISD is equal to or exceeds state averages, However, she noted that academic achievement could be better, with the District only receiving an Academically Acceptable rating from the state.

“Science and math continue to be the most challenging courses for our students,” she noted. This rating is in spite of the fact that the district had 12 Examplary campuses and 29 Recognized campuses, she said.

Also, Aldine ISD did not Meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) a federal education standard. She said that the milestones had been raised each year, with more difficulty to achieve.

She presented charts to explain that Aldine has special challenges due to its high minority poulation, as compared with other districts nationwide. 69% of the students are in an At Risk category, and 84% are Economically Disadvantaged.

In spite of this, she pledged that the district is committed more than ever to “Produce the Nations Best”, and to prepare graduates for college, for post secondary training, and for work. To this end, she is studying “How School Boards can Improve Performance of Districts through Policy.” She also plans to put a strong emphasis on involvement of parents.

Her theme for last year was “212 degrees,” or how a little extra effort changes water to the power of steam. This year her theme is “Our Iceberg is Melting,” emphasizing that fixing fundamentals that are not obvious has an effect on the obvious performance results seen above the water line.

She noted that AISD has a strong attendance record of 95.5%, although her goal is 97%. Student population is now white 3.3%, Hispanic 65%, African-American 29%, and Asian and others 1.8%.

In other achievements, she noted that AISD now had an IB World School program, and that graduates on the International Baccalaureate program stand a higher chance at college admissions and credit for completed high school classes.

The Aldine Scholarship Foundation (ASF) awarded 65 scholarships last year, and since 1991 has awarded a total of 635 scholarships. Total scholarship, academic and athletic, in 2008 totalled about $9,000,000 for the studetns. The district also received about $9,600,000 in grants for various programs.

Houston Endowment also awarded students in the district $225,000 in the Preparing to Dream program, for scholarships over the next three years.

Bamberg noted that the budget for 2009-2010 will be about $471,000,000 but that the district is in good financial shape, due to conservative management. The state had rated AISD Superior Rank in its Financial Integrity Rating System, for the 5th consecutive year.

An unusual expense for 2008 was damage from the Hurricane Ike, which caused about $7,000,000 to AISD facilities. The district lost 9 school days, but made up 4 of them with scheduling.

She noted that the current tax rate is 1.292 cents, one of the lowest in Harris County. This includes 1.13 for M&O and .158 for I&S. She said that about 63% of this money comes from state reimbursements, but hopes that the 81st Legislature, now meeting in Austin, will devise a new formula for school funding that will be easier on the taxpayer and more beneficial to the districts. She also thinks the ratings system, or Accountability, could be improved and should be worked on by the Legislature.

She noted that last year the district was able to give employees a 2% pay raise, but that this year’s economic situation may be different.

Bamberg’s presentation included a map of new high school zoning that will be proposed when the new high school, to be located in the Gears Road area, opens in 2011. She said that they will work with the public to refine the boundary lines.

She also announced that when the new school is opened, it will allow students now in the Carver area to choose either to attend Carver, or go to Eisenhower at their choice.