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Posts published in September 2013

Aldine EF breakfast kicks off second year of fundraising

The Aldine Education Foundation held a “kick-off” breakfast last Wednesday morning, to start the second year of their fundraising for scholarships and teacher grants for the Aldine ISD.

Moderated by Terry Williams and Seth Sharr, the audience was reminded of the progress that the foundation has made in just one year of existence, receiving over $732,000 in pledges and donations, and granting 35 scholarships and 5 innovative teaching grants. In addition, the AEF has merged with the ASF, or Aldine Scholarship Foundation, and is now providing more choices and opportunities for graduating seniors as they plan their college selections. Together in May they awarded 139 scholarships.

The breakfast program included a keynote talk by Scott McClelland, the H.E.B. Houston president, well known for his clever TV commercials. H.E.B. has been involved for many years in supporting education, and McClelland’s talk was about the importance of completing a good education, through high school, and entering the job market with needed skills.

In addition, the breakfast featured talks by several recipients of scholarships, and teacher grants.

Herbert Ash was an at-risk student who thanked his Eisenhower/Victory Early College advisor, Gerald Scott, for guiding him out of trouble. He is now a student at Lone Star College, thanks he said, to his scholarship and “the blessing of having someone close that cares.”

Two teachers spoke about the value to their grants, Michaelann Kelley on the importance of art as a “life discipline,” and Cathy Roach on her weight-loss program, featured on TV’s “The Biggest Loser.”

Major conference eyes the future of Greenspoint area

NORTHEAST HOUSTON – The Greenspoint District mounted a major conference last Wednesday morning, to examine “The Future of Greenspoint” as development pushes out from the center of Houston to many areas, including Greenspoint and beyond.

The relevance of this panel was underscored by the imminent completion of a large new office center for ExxonMobil Corporation, until now a major tenant in Greenspoint and downtown Houston.

Greenspoint District president Jerry Lowry explained in his opening remarks that it was time to see the positive side of all these changes, and to seek direction and new opportunities.

Participating in the conference were seven representatives of major real estate developers and commercial realty firms that are active in this area and other parts of the city. These included Chip Colvill of Colvill Office Properties, Lee Jeanne of Avison Young, Dan Bellow of Jones Lang LaSalle, Palmer Letzerich of Hines, Zaya Younan of Younan Properties, Bryan Marsh of Digital Realty, and Michelle Wogan of Transwestern, who moderated the panel. Hosting the event was Bisnow’s Will Friends, adding humor and civility to the serious pronouncements.

The discussion was both general, and detailed in some cases, and lasted about one and a half hours.

Lowry presented a slide show that emphasized the strengths of Greenspoint, including location close to the airport, proximity to the seaport, and access to fiber networks on the I-45 corridor. In addition, it was noted that when ExxonMobil vacates space over the next two years, it will present good opportunities for new tenants who desire Class A space. Lowry said that current marketing efforts by the District are focusing on international prospects through trade missions and partners. There is also a major effort to retain current tenants, with interviews of companies to determine and meet their future needs.

It was noted that while Oil and Gas interests were the major tenants in Houston’s past, it is now much more diverse, with the city becoming more of a technology center. To this end, innovation will drive the growth, said Dan Bellow. Bryan Marsh said that his property at the northwest corner of I-45 and Beltway 8 is indicative of what can happen in the Greenspoint area, with available fibre networks attractive to technology firms.

Some negatives were examined, including the dormant Greenspoint Mall and a high percentage of apartments with a transient population.

Participants agreed that the area can meet its challenges with upgrades to infrastructure, retail and amenities. Future tenants will be seeking power, fiber networking, security, low crime and flood risk, and tax incentives, all of which Greenspoint District and the City can work to provide.

HCC-NE plans expansion of North Forest campus – Three phases to develop whole city block

Houston Community College Northeast reached a milestone that has the potential to impact North Forest and surrounding communities for many years to come. North Forest residents are now able to take advantage of increased training opportunities at the newly renovated HCC North Forest Campus at 6010 Little York Road.

The North Forest Campus, which has completed the first phase of its renovation, also has plans for two additional phases that will renovate existing space and add a workforce building. Additional parking will be added and the existing building will receive an exterior face-lift. Currently the newly renovated space accommodates a full service student service center, student lounge, classroom and lab space, a computer lab and a small business incubator. Workforce programs offered at the campus include EMS, Drafting Technology and introductory courses for energy feeder programs.

Proposed programs for phase two include Cosmetology and Barbering, Certified Nurse Aide, Adult Education programs (GED/ESL) and Health Careers. Phase three calls for an Automotive Technology Facility Center of Excellence, as well as programs in manufacturing, welding, HVAC and plumbing. Expansion plans have been guided by community input from the Blue Ribbon Committee, a group consisting of North Forest residents and community leaders, which has served in an advisory capacity to the college since 2008.

The College moved into the former North Forest ISD administration building in mid-August. “The HCC North Forest Campus will serve as a hub for workforce and academic training as well as a place for the community. We are delighted to be a resource in North Forest,” says Dr. Margaret Ford Fisher, president of HCC Northeast.

This semester, the campus has seen a significant increase of students. In particular, students at the North Forest Campus have taken advantage of the energy feeder classes and are on track to continue in their programs at the HCC

Northeast Energy Institute as a part of the Division of Science and Engineering Technologies. These programs lead to employment opportunities as technicians in the oil and gas industry with beginning salaries ranging from $50,000 to $60,000. This opportunity is especially meaningful for those who live in North Forest and surrounding communities because of its potential to provide a pathway for economic empowerment.

The HCC North Forest Campus offers full-day services and provides the community with academic and workforce training during the day,evenings and on Saturdays.

For the latest information on the HCC North Forest Campus, class offerings or registration requirements, call 713.718.8300 or visit

HCC – Northeast remodels and occupies former North Forest Adminstration Building

NORTH FOREST – After Houston ISD took possession of NFISD buildings and schools on July 1st, at the orders of the Texas Education Agency, they decided to sell the administration building to the Houston Community College for their new campus.

HCC-Northeast plans to expand their North Forest campus, responding to a commitment they made to the community, and to properly use bond money that was raised several years ago.

In a recent tour of the new facilities that the Northeast/North Forest News took, Administrator Sheron Bruno and campus manager Mike Frazier explained that HCC is no longer using the Forest Brook Middle School building for their classes. Approximately 700 students have signed up for classes in the new facility, they said, and more are anticipated as they become familiar with the opportunity, and HCC adds more classes to the current offerings.

Classes started at the new building on Monday, August 26th, and at this time students can still come into the program as “second start” students.

The new HCC-NE building is at the corner or Homestead Road and Little YorkRoad, in the old NFISD administration building. Mike Frazier, a graduate of NFISD’s Smiley high school, remembered when the building was used as an intermediate school, known as Northwood Middle School, and built about 1962. After the hurricane Katrina, it was abandoned until remodeled later as the administration building.

The tour of the building revealed completely new classrooms, hallways, offices, small conference rooms, media center or library, laboratory room for chemistry and biology subjects, and a student lounge. It also includes a large suite that is a “business incubator” where business practices are taught, and students can reserve space to start their own businesses with the help of the college.

When HCC gains access to the eastern wing, which had been used until July 1st for NFISD administrative offices and board room, they will remodel it for a large lecture hall and more classrooms. This wing will have classes that emphasize workforce subjects, preparing students for jobs in the community.

The current classroom wing is teaching academic subjects, process technology, and workforce classes. The second wing will also have construction subjects, cosmetology, and EMT training. These are all specialty classes, that require space and equipment that until now have not been available.

Long-range plans for the campus were revealed to the Northeast/North Forest News by HCC-NE president Margaret Ford Fisher, who said the vision for the future is to develop the whole block from East Little York to Langley as a super campus, with a “Flagship” third wing built to accommodate manufacturing programs, welding, and automotive classes to further prepare students for skills and jobs that are needed in the community.

Aldine Town Hall hears updates from four legislators

A large crowd of interested residents turned out for a Town Hall session last Tuesday evening, to meet and hear from their elected representatives in state and federal government. The meeting was held at the Sheriff’s storefront on Aldine Mail Route.

After introductions, Congressman Gene Green reported on the state of bills in Congress, and his constituent events this month while on break. Included is a Northside Job Fair on Monday, September 9th from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the Campbell Center. Also, a Paying for College workshop will be held September 16th at Jeff Davis High School, from 6:30 to 8:00 p.m.

Green’s reports included updates on the ACA or Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), the Immigration Reform bill, not yet passed, the NSA surveillance program and its infringement on civil liberties, the federal budget, and sequestration or the limit on government spending.

Senator Sylvia Garcia made a report on her activities in the State Senate, with emphasis on issues that had local interest. She co-sponsored a bill to control and license salvage yards, but this was vetoed by the governor. With Representative Thompson, she sponsored a bill to allow the East Aldine district to collect sales tax in a small section adjacent to the current area. She worked to get water district legislation, to benefit customers and limit water companies. This will be on the ballot in November, she said. Another ballot issue which she was in favor of will be funding in the amount of $1.2 billion for road construction and maintenance. This will not require new taxes, the money will come from the “rainy day” fund. She was concerned about the Voter ID laws, that will be in effect and require voters to show a photo ID. She said this may infringe on some minority’s voting rights. Garcoa. Thompson, and others including Wendy Davis in the legislature supported a bill to require equal pay for women, known as the “Lilly Ledbetter Act.” This passed but was vetoes by the governor.

Representative Senfronia Thompson, known familiarly in the Legislature as “Mrs. T,” reported on a variety of issues that she and her colleagues had sponsored.

She started by characterizing the Legislative sessions as akin to a “soap opera” at times, but nevertheless resulting in some positive bills.

One of the most important issues that Representative Thompson spoke out for was the limit on abortions after 20 months of pregnancy. The appeared on the House Floor and spoke strongly against this bill, and the right of woman to determine for themselves.

She said that Texas plans on establishing a trade office in Taiwan, to enable importation of Texas products, including beef producers to sell their meat there.

She said the education bill included $80 million for a new high school for North Forest, with a new sports facility also. She pointed out that after Hurricane Ike these facilities were damaged, and the district was unable to restore them to an acceptable condition.

She also worked to raise the funding on legal aid for disadvantaged citizens from $10 million to $50 million. Also, the salary for DPS troopers was increased to be more competitive and to insure retention.

An important bill for many seeking employment is House Bill 798, which will no longer deny an occupational license if the applicant has a class C misdemeanor record. Also, House Bill 1188 will allow the employment of ex-prisoners without an employer assuming more liability for their work.

Thompson, also an attorney, said that she helped pass the “Michael Morton Act,” which requires prosecutors to disclose evidence to the defense team that they previously could withhold.

She also sponsored, along with Senator Wendy Davis, a bill to help victims of sexual assault cases, requiring rape kits at their hospital, adequate reporting, and counseling.

House Bill 392, will make it easier for servicemen and women deployed overseas to vote in elections.

House bill 3935 authorized the annexation by the East Aldine District of four adjacent parcels, to collect taxes and provide services to these areas.

In the area of eduction, Thompson supported the change in required testing for high school seniors, limiting the tests to five, and to allow seniors to graduate with one of two career avenues, college or vocation, with different requirements.

She also supported the increase in the number of charter schools statewide, an increase in teachers’ salaries, and an increase in the budget for mental health services.

Representative Walle praised Senfronia for her work, and her stature in the Legislature.

He noted that the legislature restored much of the money previously cut from the Education budget, restoring $3 billion.

He said his work was “neighborhood centric” and cited the limitations now placed on water utilities and their billing practices.

Other neighborhood issues he is working on include noise control, and salvage yards.

He wants expansion of federal Medicaid funding, and cited failed leadership by Perry and Abbott as the problem.

He praised the legislature for providing new funding for transportation, putting the “Rainy Day” fund on the ballot for a citizens’ vote.

On the abortion bill, he opposed it, and said this is a personal decision all must make, not a political issue as some tried to make it.