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Posts published in “Day: May 5, 2009

MacArthur mourns death of student in tragic bus accident

Counselors & Benefit at school; Driver’s record in question

ALDINE – Students, parents and neighbors were witness Thursday afternoon to a tragic accident, as a 15 year old student from MacArthur 9th grade was hit and killed by the bus that had just dropped her off near her house.

Alma Meza got off the bus on Shady Lane near Castledale at about 3 p.m., and crossed in front of the bus, according to sheriff’s reports. She was heading for Worsham Elementary, across the road and drainage easement, to pick up her sibling as she usually did.

But the bus driver, Nellie Cormier, did not see her and proceeded ahead. The bus hit the girl, who clung to the front bumper for a few seconds before she lost her grip and fell under the bus and was run over by the rear left wheels, according to the sheriff ’s report.

Students on the bus heard a thump and alerted the driver, at first thinking she had hit an animal, and looking back realized it was a student. They screamed for the driver to stop.

According to Sgt. D. A. Coleman of the Sheriff’s office, the bus stopped and the driver went back to check, then called for help. When authorities arrived on the scene, the girl was pronounced dead from her injuries.

Deputy Coleman said that the driver showed no signs of impairment at the scene, such as drugs or alcohol, but that she will be tested for these anyway. The investigation will also look into why she did not see Meza, perhaps due to sight lines from her seat, or some other obstruction or distraction.

Neighbors and parents were quick to complain that this driver had been reported previously for poor driving, but that the District had not responded appropriately.Aldine spokesperson Mike Keeney would not release information on her driving record, but others reported that she had been involved in three other accidents, one on a Aldine school bus and involving another student that had to be hospitalized after she hit her. Using a Freedom of Information request, the Houston Chronicle confirmed this from records with the District.

Sheriff’s deputies also disclosed that Cormier had two other accidents within the last five years in private vehicles. Keeney told the Northeast News that the driver had been relieved of driving duties and assigned to a remedial driver training program. No other action had been taken by the district as of last Friday.

MacArthur 9th grade school canceled TAKS tests which had been scheduled, and had three counselors available to talk with students and help them with their grief.

The school also scheduled a benefit program for next Friday, during their Cinco de Mayo activities, to raise money for the family, which lives on Castledale near the accident scene, and is attempting to deal with their grief and details of the death.

Meza had many friends, was considered an exceptional student academically and athletically, and will be missed, said Keeney, adding “it is a sad day for our district and of course the family.”

Postage rates go up May 11

The cost to mail that letter or car payment is going to be a bit higher next week.

The U.S. Postal Service is raising the rates on some of its most popular services. The postal service says that the new rates are needed to compensate for higher fuel and supplies prices, effective May 11.

The new rate for the standard letter (first class and less than two ounces) is 44-cents. This is up from the 42-cent rate adopted last year. Anyone purchasing the Forever Liberty Bell before May 11 will be able to use them without an additional surcharge; other 42-cent stamps will require an additional two-cent added.

Beyond two ounces the First class rate goes up to 61-cents for two ounces and 78-cents for three ounces. International rates will also increase, with the standard rate going up to 75 cents, $1 for two ounces and $1.25 for three ounces.

The postcard rate will also increase to 28 cents. Large envelope rate will start at 88 cents, while packages will begin at $1.22 for one ounce and smaller.

The postal service said that it routinely changes prices each May, rather than wait a couple of years and have a single larger price change.

The postal service says that there will be “minimal increases” for postal box rentals. This applies only to new rentals; current box renters will not have to pay the higher rate until their current rental period expires.

Special service mailings such as Express Mail and Priority Shipping were not included in the May 11 increases.

The postal service is planning a new series of stamps to go along with the new prices. On May 7 they will release a four stamp “Simpsons” series.

Northeast HISD school closed due to Swine Flu

The Houston ISD has closed a Northeast area elementary school after one of the students tested positive for the H1N1 influenza (also known as swine flu) strain.

Lyons Elementary, 800 Roxella closed on April 30 after a 10-year old boy was confirmed to have the illness. School officials say that the school will be closed indefinitely, and will not reopen until they are given the “all clear” from health department officials.

The Lyons student is the first confirmed case in Houston, Houston Health and Human Services spokeswoman Kathy Barton said.

Lyons is the third HISD to close because of the Swine Flu. The Hamilton Middle School and Harvard Elementary School campuses also closed last week after two probable cases were reported. Officials say that a nine-year old girl and a 14-year old girl.

All three students are reportedly at home, suffering minor symptoms.

State Representative Armando Walle, whose district includes Lyons Elementary, said that he is “in close contact with our state leaders and the Houston ISD to address this situation. Our state leaders have been working around the clock to minimize the public health risk to Texans.”

Walle said that if parents or students have questions about H1N1 influenza or school closures in Houston ISD, they should call the HISD hotline at 713-556-6005, between 7 AM and 7 PM.

Effect on TAKS?

The closures come at a normally stressful time for schools. Last week the TAKS test was administered statewide. “I will also be working closely with HISD and the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to deal with the rescheduling of the TAKS test,” Walle said. “Be assured that arrangements will be made so that students can complete the test after the schools re-open.”

The TEA sent a memo to schools last week telling them that they are expected to complete the TAKS testing within the first week after students return to class.

Statewide, 26 district has seen closures because of Swine Flu (as of May 1), of these 11 complete districts have closed. The first closure came at the Children of the Sun school in Rio Grande City on April 28.

Precautionary measures

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), regarding the H1N1 (Swine) flu, offers the following precautions:

Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it. Wash your hands often with soap and water, especially after you cough or sneeze. Alcohol-based hand cleaners are also effective. Avoid touching your eyes, nose or mouth. Germs spread this way.

Try to avoid close contact with sick people. If you get sick with influenza, CDC recommends that you stay home from work or school and limit contact with others to keep from infecting them.

If you become ill and experience any of the following warning signs, seek emergency medical care. In children emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include: fast breathing or trouble breathing; bluish skin color; not drinking enough fluids; not waking up or not interacting; being so irritable that the child does not want to be held; flu-like symptoms improve but then return with fever and worse cough and Fever with a rash.

In adults, emergency warning signs that need urgent medical attention include: difficulty breathing or shortness of breath; pain or pressure in the chest or abdomen; sudden dizziness confusion and severe or persistent vomiting.

Airline District completes pedestrian, bicycle mobility study

The Airline Improvement District recently completed a Pedestrian and Bicyclist Special District Study along the Airline corridor and adjoining roadways.

The study was funded through a grant from the Houston-Galveston Area Council, Airline Improvement District funds as well as input from Harris County Precinct One. The study was conducted by Lockwood, Andrews and Newnam, Inc. with the assistance of the Clifford Group and Nelson/Nygaard Consulting Associates.

The main focus of the study is along Airline Drive where 5 large flea markets are located and congestion of both vehicles and pedestrians is a major concern for the District, flea market owners and the neighborhood residents. The study seeks to improve the safety of pedestrians in a busy commercial zone as well as normalize the flow of vehicles to improve access for transit and emergency vehicles.

The project team also conducted field inventories of traffic signals and sidewalk conditions on major roads throughout the District area and made recommendations of infrastructure improvements in those areas.

The study provides a list of twenty eight possible projects which are broken down as short, medium and long term recommendations as well as cost estimates for each.

The District has formed a Mobility Sub-Committee headed by Paul Weisser, an AID Board Member as well as Senior Transit Operations Liaison and Assistant Transportation Superintendent with METRO. “We have the beginnings of a solution for the weekend traffic problems in the Airline Flea Market areas and plan to work closely with private businesses in the area, Harris County, METRO and H-GAC to implement these solutions in a timely, cost effective way,” said Weisser. The committee also includes Brian Rego, AID Board Member and Administrative Aide to Commissioner El Franco Lee as well as Randy Sim, AID Board Member and owner of Mercado Sabadomingo Flea Market. The sub-committee has reviewed the list of projects and re-prioritized them. They will present the re-prioritized list back to the full Board for approval. The District will then seek funding assistance and begin discussions with pertinent entities such as Harris County and METRO on those projects that it would like to begin implementing.

Government paydays are back again…

The eagle screams this week. In case you do not know what that is, it is payday for government service. That is what it was called aboard ship in the Coast Guard and they paid us in cash. Generally the supply officer and a gunner’s mate, both armed with .45’s, made the trip to the bank to pick up the ship’s payroll.

Those once a month paydays are back now that yours truly is drawing social security. While working in the banking industry for years, we were paid on the 15th and 30th of each month. Never received an actual paycheck, everything was direct deposit, still is. During my last year, the bank changed our paydays to every other Thursday and that was a nice treat. Sometimes before on those long weekends before payday, you would have to wait for payday to do something and to buy groceries.

One thing about the social security, and you have probably heard about it before,I’ll tell you flat out if you expect to live just on social security alone when you retire, you best move on into the poor house. You might think you are there now but you are in for a big surprise. Ma said if you think we are poor this week, wait until next week.

What I draw from the government is just enough to pay required insurance on the old truck and old car, the old house plus all the various and assorted taxes one must pay to live in the great state of Texas. Not to mention the light bill, water bill, phone bill, cable bill, Dr bill, drug bill, and incidental bill, and still out of your check is the income tax Uncle Sam charges you to pay you. Ain’t nothing wrong with cornbread and peas but some good fried streak-o-lean is good every now and then.

Enough of the poor mouth but fortunately for me, I married a woman younger than me and she is still working. She has a ways to go before she retires and continues to work to this day. As my old buddy would say, you cut a fat hog on that one.

Uh-O, that almost got me in trouble, I had to explain what that saying meant.

Charlie A. Farrar is author of many columns of homespun Georgia thoughts, that have appeared in local newspapers. He has published a book with some of the best, “Two Cents Worth.” To purchase a copy, send $12.95 to NEWSpaper, PO Box 405, Highlands, TX 77562.