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Posts published in “Day: September 6, 2011

North Forest sets turnaround plans

Project Transformation” includes New Principal at HS, Auditors, Education consultants, Publication

NORTH FOREST– This beleagured school district continues with a multiple faceted plan to turn around academic and financial standings with the state, and through appeals gain status to forego a closure order from the Texas Education Agency. At last Monday’s board meeting, acting Superintendent Edna Forté presented details of this plan, called “Project Transformation.” Helping with the presentation was North Forest High School’s new principal, James Troutman.

Forté emphasized changes and improvements at the High School, where the TEA accountability rating has been Unacceptable and helped pull the District into the same rating.

To help with the transformation, the board approved contracts with two educational consultants, approved a modest tax increase, and hired an additional associate principal for the high school.

They also approved a new Employee Handbook, and confirmed the hiring of a new Athletic Director and Football Coach. The new AD is Darrell Hawkins, the new football coach is Plez Atkins.

Project Transformation, as explained by Forté, consists of three components: Academic achievement, sound Financial Policy, and reestablishing Public Trust.

This is accomplished in eight steps, she said.

First, establish a competent Transformation team, and designate the principal as the internal lead facilitator for the high school;

Second, move toward school autonomy, allowing the high school to make more decisions and be responsible and accountable;

Third, work with stakeholders to build support for the Transformation strategy;

Fourth, contract with external professionals to provide guidance and review and evaluate academic progress;

Fifth, provide rigorous staff development, including training, continual monitoring and evaluation and modification as required;

Sixth, increase learning time with additional funding and partnerships as necessary;

Seventh, reform instruction through a variety of means, including leadership, alignment of instruction with standards and benchmarks, curriculum adjustments as required after monitoring and assessment, provide different teaching modes, emphasize homework and parent involvement, and finally employ effective classroom management;

Eighth, lead change with communication, acting on collected data, optimizing educational conditions, and be willing to discontinue failing strategies.

The board adopted a new tax rate for the 2011-12 school year, of $1.469292 total, compared with $1.37 last year. This amount reflects a 9 cent increase in the I & S Fund tax, which does not require voter approval, only board action. This was recommended by the external auditor, Mr. Karr, and was less than originally proposed in the public notice. The auditor emphasized that due to an increase in the overall appraised property in the District of about $76 million, the District will receive about $1,300,000 additional funds in their budget. The increase in the tax rate will mean only about a $10 increase in the average home in the district. The District has reduced its overall budget this year, from $51.3 million last year to about $47.6 million this year, with a small surplus of $500,000 projected to build up the reserve fund as required.

The board voted to hire an education consultant familiar with this type of demographic, Dr. Pedro Noguera of NYU School for Urban Education, and a firm LEAD4Ward, to aid in implementing and assessing the new Texas STAAR tests. Dr. Noguera is co-author of a book, “Unfinished Business” about education in an urban minority district in New Jersey, and the ability to reform it.

Bills by Walle, others take effect Sept. 1st

AUSTIN — Several pieces of legislation passed by State Representative Armando Walle (D-Houston) will go into effect September 1, 2011.

Rep. Walle passed a package of laws taking effect today that are designed to help appropriately address disciplinary problems and keep at-risk youth out of the jailhouse and in the schoolhouse. House Bill 350 now allows juveniles charged with Class C misdemeanors at school to dispose of their sentences with community service or tutoring hours, in lieu of paying a fine. “Disciplinary problems are a red flag that a child is at risk of dropping out of school, so it is important for our courts to offer consequences that appropriately address the discipline problems and help students stay in school,” said Rep. Walle.

Rep. Walle successfully shepherded Senate Bills 61 and 209 through the legislative process, which also take effect today. These bills are designed to ensure that youth in municipal and justice of the peace courts are given the best chance for success. The bills will make certain that juvenile case managers have necessary training and require that they report to the appropriate judge. “These changes in law will ensure that court-involved youth have access to folks who can give them the best chance possible to get back on the right track,” said Rep. Walle.

Rep. Walle also passed legislation by amending other bills. Rep. Walle’s House Bill 206 was passed as an amendment to Senate Bill 573, requiring water utility companies to explain to their customers the reasons behind a rate increase and to provide resources for low-income ratepayers. Rep. Walle’s House Bill 2723 was also passed this way, as an amendment to House Bill 1951, requiring that health insurance companies give policyholders adequate notice of changes to their coverage or rate increases. Both measures will take effect today.

Other measures passed by Rep. Walle, including House Bill 710 and House Bill 1341, took effect earlier this year. H.B. 710 saves the state millions of dollars by granting the Health and Human Services Commission greater latitude in using appropriate technology to detect and prevent fraud. The cost-saving measure reduces red tape for applicants and dedicates more taxpayer dollars to vital state services. H.B. 1341 gives universities greater flexibility in setting tuition payment deadlines based upon the characteristics of the student body.