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Posts published in “Day: August 28, 2012

METRO extends Route 59 to stores on North Freeway

NORTHEAST – METRO announced this week that the route for the #59 bus has been changed to include the stores on the west side of the North Freeway near West Road.

METRO representatives Karen Marshall and Art Murillo have led a task force that included the East Aldine District, the office of State Representative Armando Walle, citizens groups, and METRO representatives. They have been working for months to improve service on the Route #59 Bus that travels along Aldine Mail Route and Airline Drive.

This route serves a number of important stops, but due to low ridership if was threatened with cancellation last year. A subsidy from the East Aldine District has kept it running through the end of 2012, and if ridership can be improved, METRO says it will continue beyond that date.

However, citizens’ groups have complained that ridership is low for two reasons: it does not run on weekends, when many people use it for shopping, including the flea markets on Airline, and it does not reach major stores such as Walmart at West Road and vicinity.

METRO said they had constraints on equipment and time schedules that made it difficult for them to extend the route, but after a number of meetings and strategies to rework the conditions, they agreed to change the route to include the frontage roads on the east side of I-45 from West Road to Aldine-Bender, and then down the west side from Aldine-Bender to West Road and then back to Airline.

Rides on the 59 Aldine Mail Crosstown, as it is officially known, cost $1.25 each way or $.60 cents per ride with a Student METRO Q Fare Card. Buses run Monday through Friday, starting at 5:30 a.m. on Aldine Bender eastbound, and 6:06 a.m. starting at US59 westbound. They run for about 12 hours each day, until about 5:58 p.m. from Aldine Bender eastbound and 6:06 p.m. from US59 westbound.

The value of this busline is obvious by studying the schedules. It serves a number of schools, including Aldine High School, MacArthur High School, Aldine Ninth Grade, MacArthur Ninth Grade, Hambrick Middle School, Stovall Middle School, Bussey Elementary, Eleson Elementary, and Stephens Elementary.

In addition to numberous stores which now include Walmart, Home Depot, Best Buy, Fry’s, and the Dump, there are several pharmacies such as CVS and Walgreens on the route.

Other important agencies serviced include the Social Security Offices, the Harris County Aldine Community Health Center, the Aldine WIC, Aldine CTC, and the YMCA Aldine-Greenspoint offices on the North Freeway. Additionally, two public libraries, High Meadows and Aldine Branch are on the route.

Sports and social venues that are on the route include Primavera and Azteca Park on Aldine Mail Route.

Food supermarkets that are serviced directly on the route include Kroger’s, Food City, Fiesta, and Walmart. Hardware stores include Jed’s and Home Depot.

Another important aspect of this route is the ability to transfer to other routes such as 6, 83, 56, and 66. These are shown on the map accompanying this article. By transferring once or twice, riders can also reach other stores and employment centers, such as St. Anthony’s Hospital, Bush Intercontinental Airport, Airline Flea Markets, Greenspoint Mall, Northline Commons, Houston Northwest Medical Center, and Willowbrook Mall.

The new route started Monday, August 27 and will continue indefinitely. METRO plans a demonstration ride for the committee, and the public, on Friday August 31, starting at the Social Security stop on Aldine Mail/US59 at 12:06 pm and reaching the Walmart for a special stopover, and then returning at 1:00 p.m. from there.

Districts optimistic about budgets, growth for next year

By Gilbert Hoffman

NORTHEAST – After a year of budget cuts, population growth, opening of new schools, and trimming of staff and special programs, the three superintendents of school districts in the North Houston area were prepared to report that they had survived with their education programs in good shape, and that the next year or two would be easier and results better.

The occasion for the report was the annual Luncheon of the Houston Intercontinental Chamber’s “State of the School Districts” event, and it was well attended by the community and the Chamber. The luncheon was held last Tuesday, Aug. 21 at the Hyatt North Houston hotel.

After introductory remarks by Chamber Chair Kirby Sanford, and president Reggie Gray, a short film was shown by Dr. Ralph Draper of Spring ISD, entitled “Ever Increasing Burden on our Public Schools.”

This film, narrated by Jamie Vollmer, was intended to make the point that in the last century the school classroom has added so many social and cultural teachings to the curriculum, that basic academics have had to compete with resources for time and attention.

The point made in the film is that more resources must be allocated if the schools are to continue to teach these non-academic subjects.

The film points out that since 1920, schools have undertaken responsibilities for transportation, business, art, music, kindergartens and pre-school, school lunches and breakfasts, head start programs, safety, counseling, and internet and technology advances. All of these have required time, money and attention resources.

After the film, a special talk was given by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee. She commended the superintendents, and the educators present for their enormous “caring” for the children. She pointed out that special needs children must be provided for, even after they reach their teens. She noted that test scores are affected by how these children are dealth with, and urged districts to provide special vocational training so they can to on to lead productive and normal lives.

Each superintendent then made a presentation of the state of their districts.

Dr. Ralph Draper of Spring said that for the first time in 8 years his district was not opening new schools or changing boundaries, had only a 2 per cent growth rate, and a surplus in their budget. This return to a more normal routine was welcome, and he said that it gave the district an opportunity to concentrate on programs such as their Early College, which now has 200 enrollees that will get a Lone Star Degree as well as a high school diploma this year.

Spring was also able to open a “Green” school, Marshall Elementary, and saw this as a start on a 21st century teaching environment.

Dr. Draper thought that the future of his public education district was good, with the drop-out rate having been reduced to 8 percent from 28 percent in 1960. With the partnership with Lone Star College, he said a recent scholarship recipient told him “Now I have a future.”

Dr. Bamberg, superintendent of Aldine ISD, was proud to announce that the district will open its fifth full academic high school this year, Davis High School, named after a Tuskegee airman. She said some of the highlights of the last year included graduating 68 students from two classes of Urban College, and permitting students to bring iPads and iPhones to campus, a recognition of changes in life styles and technology.

Aldine Scholarship Foundation will honor the East Aldine District with a luncheon on Sept. 15, noting their substantial financial support of the ASF program.

Although the Aldine District was cited by the federal AYP program for not meeting their standards, she noted that 70 percent of Texas schools did not, and that they will not again this year. She questioned whether this metric was valid related to a good education. She told the story of a Nimitz Salutatorian who is now at MIT, doing well and not limited by his AISD education.

In general Bamberg was upbeat about the upcoming year, noting that the legislature will meet in January and probably have less of a budget problem related to education next year.

She opined that all of the educators were dedicated to their field, and the important reward was seeing the difference they made in children’s lives.

Klein superintendent Dr. Jim Cain thanks the chamber and the businesses present for their support of the schools. He noted some growth in the Klein district, about 700 new students this year.

The Klein ISD budget for next year will be $450 million, and he is looking for the legislature to help with more funding in January 2013. Texas continues to grow rapidly, with 160,000 new students statewide every two years. About 60% of these can be classified disadvantaged, requiring additional help from the state.

The audience questioned whether there was enough emphasis on skill or trade training, vs. college-bound teaching. Bamberg noted that state accountability ratings do not recognize skill programs, a problem. Draper suggested that there is too much testing emphasis, and that this gets in the way of education goals.

Want to help the School Districts? Both are having fund-raising golf tourneys, Klein on Oct. 16th and Spring on Oct. 30.

Former Aldine football coach honored

Former Aldine football coach Bill Smith was honored Saturday as a member of the Class of 2012 Gridiron Legends.

Smith, who served as head coach at Aldine High School for more than 30 years, took his place alongside three other accomplished Texas football coaches for the honor, announced by the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas during halftime at the Aug. 18 Houston Texans

game at Reliant Stadium.

The designation recognizes those who have made “a significant contribution to the game of football in the state of Texas” at the high school or college level, according to the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas website.

Smith led the Mustangs to state and national championships in 1990, a perfect season and 273 wins during his career, the fifth most of all time among Texas Class 5A coaches, according to an Aldine press release.

In 2004, one year after his retirement, Aldine renamed its stadium after coach Smith to honor his contributions to football and the school.

Other members of the Class of 2012 include: 1990 Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer and College Football Hall of Fame coaches Darrell Royal, the winningest coach in Texas Longhorns football history, and Hayden Fry, former head coach at the Iowa, North Texas and Southern Methodist University.

Smith will be inducted during the 2012 bowl game on Dec. 28 at Reliant Stadium.