In the Allen school district, 4,373 voters have approved a 13 cent property tax rise (to $1.67 per $100 valuation) by 60.5% to 39.5%.
The 9.7% turnout was a large turnout for a school election proposition.
The school district board explained the tax raise was needed to, "offset $21 million in cuts to local funding by the Texas Legislature in 2011."
"The Texas Legislature reduced funding of over $4 billion to Texas public schools in June. Cuts to Allen ISD are approximately $9 million for 2011-2012. An additional $12 million will be cut from state funding to Allen ISD in 2012-2013.
"The school district reduced 80 positions this year saving approximately $3 million and made an additional $1.5 million in cuts to non-instructional areas such as administration, maintenance and energy expenses.
The local anti-taxes groups and the Tea Parties argue that there is no tax. The information by the Allen Patriots point out that, "AISD could curb non-essential spending and focus more on education"., and that the new tax would, "Move Allen ISD from 19th highest tax rate to the max rate of $1.67, joining 3 other Texas districts out of 1024 with the highest allowed."
The AISD argued that the taxes ($10 million) would be used to "help hire additional teachers to meet student growth and reduce class size[s]".
But the Allen Patriots complain that the district has used bonds more for "non-essential spending...than on education". They point to the $60 million HS stadium and the "$23 million for a Performing/Fine Arts Center, including a $70 thousand grand piano."
The AISD voters gave a 60-40 percent decision to give their money to their schools, and a loud setback for the anti-tax groups.
Yesterday, the Texas Eduction Agency (TEA) released it's 2011 Accountability Reports.
Last year, six ISDs were rated "Exemplary", but this year only Frisco ISD and Lovejoy ISD were able to maintain their top-ranked rating.
Allen ISD, Celina ISD, Melissa ISD and Prosper had their status lowered from Exemplary to "Recognized". Six other districts were rated Recognized two years in a row, including, Anna ISD, Blue Ridge ISD, Farmersville ISD, McKinney ISD, Plano ISD and Princeton ISD.
The Community ISD and Wylie ISD were lowered from Recognized to "Academically Acceptable".
|ISD||2011 Rating||2010 Rating||Tax Rate|
(Data from The TEA and tax rates from the Collin County Appraisal District.)
Every two years, the legislature plays a ping pong game of education with complaints from public critics and school districts.
Two years ago the school districts were upset with their low 2008 rankings. In the past several years, many school principles and administrators have lost their jobs over the state's published performance statistics. Cities and chambers of commerce are acutely aware of the effects of low school ratings and property values.
For the 2009 ratings, the TEA used a method called the "Texas Projection Measure" (TPM). Using this model, in many cases while the students failed the TAKS tests at a greater rate, the schools gained higher ratings. By giving less weight to the tests, the TPM used predictions that the students would do better in the future.
In April this year, TEA Commissioner Robert Scott ended the TPM and instituted the "Accountability" system, resulting in the 2011 ratings. The 2011 ratings on average were lower than the 2008 average, before TPM was used.
The criticism leveled against the TEA as a result of the 2009 ratings inspired the creation of the TPM to inflate the schools ratings. Critics then demanded that the TEA change the rating system so it grades the actual current performance of all schools.
Now many Texas school districts are complaining that they are being punished with lower ratings. They say the new system gives greater weight to improvement in the lowest groups that are performing the worst.
The Accountability System identifies groups, such as ethnic groups and economically-disadvantaged students. The report then gives a score on how each of the groups improved in performance in each subject.
The Dallas Morning News reported that Commissioner Robert Scott said, “There will no longer be any allegations that we are pumping up the numbers...the numbers are real this year.”
The Wylie ISD has the lowest rating of the Collin County school districts. The Grady Burnett Junior High School in the Wylie ISD was the only public school in Collin County rated as "Academically Unacceptable", the lowest given rank.
A close look at Grady Burnett Junior High School shows that minorities and poorer students are doing much worse than white, middle-class kids. But all students, including whites, had worse scores than last year. The school's student performance scores in all groups declined in Reading and Writing. All students improved in Social Studies.
But African Americans and economically disadvantage students dramatically declined in performance of Math and Science. Because of those declines in scores Grady Burnett was rated Academically Unacceptable.
The Wylie ISD had 9 schools rated Exemplary, 8 Recognized, and one rated Academically Acceptable in 2010.
In 2011, the Wylie ISD only had 2 schools rated Exemplary, 15 Recognized, 1 Academically Acceptable, and 1 rated Academically Unacceptable.
Schools throughout Texas have been impacted by lower revenues. In 2006, the legislature passed a major rollback of property taxes and limited a school districts' ability to raise higher taxes. Since then, the legislature has provided less and less state tax money for schools. All school districts are in a financial pinch, and they claim that the Accountability Method requires the districts to spend more on the most expensive student groups who need the most improvement.
Property in high valuation districts like Frisco and Lovejoy have been able to maintain an Exemplary rating while keeping property tax rates below the county's average.
However even most of Collin County's districts with more modest property values have been able to provide their citizens' a school rated recognized. For example, Farmersville, not a wealthy community, has been been able to keep a Recognized district and also keep the districts' tax rate ($1.31/$100 valuation) as the lowest in the county.
Plano ISD, which has the second lowest property tax rate in Collin County, has kept the Recognized rating the same as in the previous year. The Dallas Morning News' Plano Blog, reports that although the district is rated Recognized, it has lost from 28 to less than 10 campuses rated Exemplary to Recognized, and that 18 schools have been lower rated as Academically Acceptable from Recognized. "There doesn't appear to be any huge cause of concern," Jim Hirsch, Plano ISD's associate superintendent for academic and technology services said. "We're pleased in general our students continue to perform well."
But in districts with the highest tax rates, three of four have had their Accountability Rates lowered.
Even these highest tax rate districts seem to be giving their children less than the best educational performance. Blue Ridge ISD, which has the county's highest tax rates, has only been able to maintain a Recognized rating. Melissa, Prosper and Celina are high tax districts which have been lowered from Exemplary to Recognized. And Wylie ISD, with the second highest tax rate in Collin County, was reduced to Academically Acceptable, the lowest education rating in the county.
TEA 2011 report on Burnett JR, HS in Wylie
The TEA Accounting Manual, 2010
TEA 2011 Accountability Reports
Collin County Appraisal District table of Tax 2010 rates, and exemptions
Ratings for Texas schools plunge with elimination of controversial rule , The Dallas Morning News, July 29, 2011
Texas earns a D for charter schools as Frisco group plans its first
Dallas Morning News, Frisco Blog
4:30 PM Tue, Nov 30, 2010
Jessica Meyers/Reporter, Dallas Morning News
Should the principals be held liable for enforcing the Plano ISD's policy on religious expression?
The 5th Circuit will decide.
Appellate court will weigh Plano principals' role in banning religious candy canes
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
By JESSICA MEYERS / The Dallas Morning News
Plano's long-running "religious candy cane case" resurfaced today, when a federal appellate court heard arguments surrounding the responsibility of two school principals named as defendants in a religious-freedom suit.
Three judges from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals met to hear the arguments in a packed courtroom at Southern Methodist University, where the court is based this week.
The candy cane controversy arose in 2003, when administrators at Plano’s Thomas Elementary School stopped an 8-year-old boy from distributing candy cane pens with religious messages at a winter holiday party. A year later, with assistance from the Plano-based Liberty Institute, the boy's family and three other families sued the district on free speech grounds.
The Plano school district later revised its policies to allow students to pass out religious materials at designated times and locations.
Last December, the appeals court ruled that the district’s new policy was constitutional. But it allowed a district court to determine the liability of two school principals. The district court ruled against the principals; today's session was their appeal.
The principals named in the case are Lynn Swanson from Thomas Elementary and Jackie Bomchill, the former principal of Rasor Elementary School.
Lawyers for the principals argued that a free speech violation was not “clearly established,” especially in the case of school administrators, who have jurisdiction to regulate children’s activities in schools.
“It’s like in baseball when the tie goes to the runner,” said Thomas Brandt, a lawyer for the principals. “It’s a close call. And when the law is not quite clear, qualified immunity protects officials.”
But Liberty Institute attorneys said the principals showed “viewpoint discrimination” by banning items with a religious message from events like holiday parties, while permitting other, nonreligious items.
“We are very encouraged,” Kelly Shackelford, president of Liberty Institute, said as everyone filtered out of the small, carpeted courtroom. “We finally got a day in court to get to the real issues - that elementary school kids do have First Amendment rights.”
The judges will issue a ruling in the coming months. The U.S. Supreme Court, meanwhile, will decide this summer whether to hear arguments on the constitutionality of the Plano school policy. Another aspect of the case is still being adjudicated in district court in Sherman.
Yikes! Another special election?
Plano legislator McCall is lone finalist for Texas State University chancellor job
Monday, March 29, 2010
By THEODORE KIM / The Dallas Morning News
State Rep. Brian McCall, who has been Plano's face in the Texas House of Representatives for nearly two decades, plans to resign to become chancellor of the Texas State University system.
The Board of Regents on Monday named the 51-year-old Republican legislator as its sole finalist for the job. Law requires the institution to post McCall's name for three weeks before taking final action.
Board of Regents Chairman Ron Blatchley said the system is "honored by Dr. McCall's interest in leading the Texas State University System as it enters its centennial year."
McCall said, "My interest in higher education has been long standing."
He said he decided in November not to seek re-election to his District 66 seat, which includes most of western Plano, so that he could pursue the Texas State chancellorship. His resignation could compel Gov. Rick Perry to call a special election to fill the remaining term, which concludes in January.
McCall said he plans to meet with Perry today to discuss election options. Republicans Mabrie Jackson and Van Taylor are in a runoff for the House 66 seat.
McCall, who was once a candidate to be House speaker and is chairman of the powerful Calendars Committee, said he plans to move to Austin soon for his new job.
He called his legislative tenure, which began in 1991, a "humbling experience."
"I showed up every day, I voted when I had to, I returned every phone call, I read every piece of mail," he said. "I served in the House without a hint of scandal. I'm grateful to have had the opportunity to serve my home."
He stands poised to take over a system of nearly 70,000 students and seven institutions, including Texas State University at San Marcos and Sam Houston State University.
McCall received a bachelor's degree from Baylor University, a master's from Southern Methodist University and a doctorate from the University of Texas at Dallas.
Collin County's first charter school moves a step closer to opening
Tuesday, March 16, 2010
By MATTHEW HAAG / The Dallas Morning News
Collin County's long-discussed first charter school has moved closer to opening despite concerns raised by the state over its proposed contract with an education management company.
In an apparent about-face, the State Board of Education approved a charter last week for the Imagine International Academy of North Texas even with concerns over the management contract apparently still unresolved. Board members granted the education commissioner authority to approve a revised contract between the McKinney school and Virginia-based Imagine Schools Inc., one of the country's largest for-profit charter operators. Once it's approved, the state-funded school would be permitted to open.
The education commissioner could sign off on it in the next few weeks, said DeEtta Culbertson, a Texas Education Agency spokeswoman. She said that the agency couldn't disclose possible revisions to the contract until they're finalized because they involve "negotiations and lawyers."
Officials with Imagine and the McKinney school couldn't be reached for comment.
The McKinney school's future had been uncertain for some time, and its opening delayed because of state scrutiny and turnover on the charter school's governing board. TEA's attorneys raised concerns over the initial contract because they said it appeared to grant the company power over the school's governing board. Education officials in other states where Imagine operates have also questioned the fees the company charges its schools and the complex real estate agreements into which some schools are required to enter.
Imagine International Academy of North Texas and a sister school outside Austin have faced challenges since the state awarded them two of its last charter spots in November 2008. Like many Texas charters, they were required to satisfy several contingencies, or concerns, the state raised before they would be approved to open.
One of them: Both schools lacked their own nonprofit statuses – usually a requirement for a charter to open. The state signed off on an unusual relationship with the Texas schools sharing the status of an Indiana nonprofit connected to Imagine Schools.
In recent months, the McKinney school has dropped its association with the Fort Wayne entity and has become its own nonprofit organization, the TEA said. Meanwhile, the Imagine charter school outside Austin has cut ties with Imagine Schools over issues regarding the proposed management contract. (Last week, state board members also voted to allow that charter to open without the company.)
Officials with that Austin-area charter weren't alone in their concerns. Last summer, four of the McKinney school's five original board members quit, saying in their resignation letter that they weren't comfortable with the Imagine Schools contract. The board's president has also changed twice since then.
Three of the nine members on the Board of Trustees are up for re-election in May. Two of them have decided not to run. The third faces a challenger.
The Board of Trustees normally has little turnover. The Chairman, Dr. Robert Collins and Trustee Tino Trujillo are "founding members", meaning they have been on the Board since the inception of the Community College District in 1985.
In Place 1, the incumbent, Dr. David Hammel, first elected to the Board in 2004, is being challenged by a local attorney, Nancy Wurzman.
The incumbent in Place 2, Cindy Bauge was elected to the Board in 1998, and currently serves as Board Secretary. Ms. Bauge has decided not to run for re-election. Plano's Jenny McCall is unopposed for the Place 2 position.
The incumbent in Place 3, Dr. E T Boon, who has served on the Board since 1990 also chose not to seek another term. Vying for the Place 3 slot are Earnest Burke and Larry Wainwright.
Members of the College's Board of directors serve a six year term.
New and current board members will face significant challenges over the next few years:
Probably the greatest issue will be funding. The State off Texas will likely reduce state funding to all colleges by 5% during the next biennium. Local tax revenue is expected to fall this year with the anemic economy and lower property valuations. This combination will force the College to squeeze every cent out of their revenue in order to keep services intact and tuition low.
Last years $164 million budget allowed the district to both balance its accounts and grant taxpayers a slight tax rate decrease, but with burgeoning growth, and anticipated State cuts, future tax cuts may give way to tuition and/or tax increases.
Currently tuition is stable. The college had successfully bucked the trend by other public institutions in not raising tuition rates. Instead the college has relied on its growing enrollment (up 15% last year), and frugal management to keep to its mission of affordability.
Collin College now offers the lowest total tuition and fee scale in the State of Texas - and it wants to keep it that way.
The district's strategic plan calls for new campuses in under-served but growing parts of the county.
The College District has already purchased land in Celina and Farmersville, and needs to acquire property in the Wylie/Sachse area to fulfill the master plan for new campuses.
When it opened its doors in 1986, the College enrolled about 5,000 students. This year it will educate over 46,000, becoming the 6th largest employer in the county.
To maintain its growth rate and to fully serve all parts of the county, the college will very soon need to begin to plan the bonds and construction for both the Farmersville and Celina campuses.
With over 760,000 residents, Collin County is the largest county (in population) in Texas without a 4 year university. While the county boasts one of the most educated workforces in the nation, and its economy is driven in large part by high tech companies, until very recently our residents had to travel to Richardson, Denton or Commerce to earn a degree from a public university.
This year, Collin College opened its "Collin Higher Education Center" at a new facility in McKinney. At the Higher Education Center, five university partners offer a variety of bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degrees.
Even though it opened in mid-year, the Higher Education Center has attracted many more students than anticipated. Only 350 students were projected to enroll in the first semester of the Center, but in a vivid demonstration of the need for higher education options in the county, over 600 signed up.
The College's trustees will need to take a hard look at its mission. It needs to answer the question, "What do we become?"
Should it evolve into a 4 year college?
Should it plan to expand to become a university, offering research and advanced degrees?
Both options are very expensive, and will require obtaining substantial financial support from the community and the State.
Right now the school is leaning towards a rather unique alternative where its Higher Education Center 'diffuses', rather than grants advanced degrees. By partnering with nearby universities, the college can offer local student access to almost 30 different degree plans, without hiring professors or building expensive infrastructure. Perhaps this model can guide the future response by the college to the demand for a higher education by county residents.
This year marks the silver anniversary of Collin College. Its Board of Trustees, both older and new members, will be tasked to maintain the sterling reputation of the district in a period of rapid growth -- by both sticking to tried and true formulas, and pushing to "boldly go where no one has gone before".
Recognizing the importance of the college to our community, The Collin County Observer will attempt to offer our readers insights into the campaigns of and interviews with the Collin College Board of Trustee candidates.
Many in Collin County jumping at chance to serve on city councils, school boards
Sunday, March 14, 2010
By MATTHEW HAAG / The Dallas Morning News
Dallas Morning News Staff writers Valerie Wigglesworth, Jessica Meyers and Sam Hodges contributed to this report.
Collin County voters this spring will find more candidates on the ballot for some city council and school board races than in previous years.
In the Plano school district, eight candidates are vying for three seats on the school board. Seven people filed to run for two seats on the Frisco City Council. And in Allen, three of the four incumbents drew challengers.
The robust election of mostly political newcomers represents a small shift for Collin County politics, where incumbents often run unopposed. Part of the increased interest comes from a rare opportunity: There won't be any incumbents from the McKinney and Plano school boards on the May 8 ballot.
"They see their opportunity and are jumping," said Mike McConachie, a Collin College political-science professor. "It is so hard to beat an incumbent despite all you hear about the anti-incumbency."
That's playing out in Frisco ISD, where all three trustees up for re-election are running unopposed.
Board president Dan Mossakowski said the school district doesn't have the turnover of other local offices or the slew of political opponents because the trustees avoid drama.
"It has a lot to do with how the community views how the school board is doing," Mossakowski said. "And there's a lot more stuff going on in the city government level that really doesn't happen in the school district."
The increased interest in some races, especially for the Plano school board and the Frisco City Council, stems in part from past controversial decisions.
In Plano ISD, trustees unanimously approved a divisive school boundary realignment plan in November without explaining their vote.
"I would really imagine after that redistricting debacle that more parents would put their hat into the ring," said Place 2 candidate Paul P. Kaminksy, a retired Army warrant officer, who faces two opponents.
One of those parents is Nancy Humphrey. She said she decided to run for Place 3 because she thought board decisions have too often occurred unanimously and without discussion.
"I just feel like the communication hasn't been there," said Humphrey, who lives in a part of Richardson that is in the Plano school district's boundaries.
Contested races for the Frisco City Council have been common the past decade and don't seem to faze anyone now.
"The days of council races being unopposed are over," said Mayor Pro Tem Jeff Cheney, who's running for a second term. "A lot of exciting things are happening in Frisco. It's hard not to want to be a part of it."
Cheney faces two challengers for his Place 2 seat, while incumbent David Prince is in a four-way race for Place 4. Most challengers are political novices. In fact, only Jim Joyner, who served on the council for two terms and has been on numerous city boards and commissions, has previous political experience.
Joyner said he filed for the Place 4 seat after the high-profile debate over support for the Collin County arts hall. He said he wants to focus on the city's vision that has made it so successful in the past. Other candidates mentioned that arts hall debate and opposition to the city's support for two proposed multi-housing projects that would include Section 8 voucher-holders.
Those issues served as a wake-up call for Tony Walsh, who's running for the Place 2 slot.
"A lot of people in Frisco have their head in the sand, and I used to be one of them," said Walsh, a mortgage broker and youth sports coach. "I just want to vote for the people."
Allen is seeing competitive races both for school board and city council, but the candidates says they've not been drawn in by single issues or frustration with an incumbent.
Paul Sundar-Singh was among residents of an Allen neighborhood upset by school zone changes that shifted where their children attended middle schools. But he says that's a "closed chapter" and not why he's running against incumbent Gary Stocker for Place 5 on the Allen school board.
Sundar-Singh says he has ideas to lift school ratings and academic performance, particularly in science.
Kevin Livesey is another first-time Allen candidate, running for Place 6 on the city council. Livesey said he's pleased with how Allen is run and has no quarrels with incumbent Jeff McGregor.
"This is just a matter of me wanting to contribute to my community," Livesey said.
McKinney has competitive races for two school board seats, but in both cases the incumbent chose not to run again. So far, the rhetoric has been high-minded, with candidates such as Curtis Rippee arguing that they have expertise that the district needs in a recession.
Editorial: We recommend Ratliff for SBOE District 9
Tuesday, February 2, 2010
The Dallas Morning News Editorial Board
We recommend Thomas Ratliff over incumbent Don McLeroy in the Republican primary for the State Board of Education's District 9 for several reasons. Most important is the fact that the Mount Pleasant resident could move this board beyond its culture-war conflicts.
Unfortunately, since being appointed as chairman in 2007, the 63-year-old McLeroy has helped lead the board into skirmishes involving evolution, reading standards and social studies content. The panel even got bogged down debating hip-hop versus country music. The rancor grew so routine that the Texas Senate last year refused to confirm the Bryan dentist as chairman.
McLeroy, a board member since 1999, undoubtedly cares about education. But this panel could use Ratliff's more practical approach to keep its work focused on essential issues. He's not an ideological brawler and could develop consensus.
Ratliff has had experience doing just that while serving on boards at his children's public schools in East Texas. And he says he would listen to teachers and superintendents in determining what students should know. Setting standards is a key function of this board, and Ratliff, 42, would be more in touch with educators than McLeroy. While Ratliff shouldn't become their captive, Texans are better served by someone who takes teachers' points of view seriously in crafting curriculum.
We also prefer Ratliff's emphasis on depoliticizing appointments of outside advisers, including those who handle the state's sizable education funds. The board has run into problems in selecting investment advisers.
A lobbyist himself, Ratliff swears he will disassociate himself from decisions that could involve a client. He certainly kept his lobbying business at arm's length from his father, Bill Ratliff, when the Republican served as lieutenant governor in 2001.
The winner of this primary will be unopposed in the November election. Voters in this district, which runs through parts of East Texas and Collin County, would benefit from Ratliff's sensible style and approach.
Collin Higher Education Center in McKinney keeps students at five schools closer to home
Wednesday, January 13, 2010
By SAM HODGES / The Dallas Morning News
During peak traffic, Nathan Bearden would give himself a full hour to get from his McKinney driveway to his classroom seat at the University of Texas at Dallas.
This week, that commute dropped to 10 minutes. He's taking a juvenile-law course at Collin College's new Collin Higher Education Center, where UTD and other four-year colleges offer classes.
"It's like three streets away. I'm very happy," said Bearden, a senior in his last semester. "Plus, it's a really neat building."
The $30 million facility, at State Highway 121 and Central Expressway in McKinney, opened this week with a few, mostly small, classes. But Collin College officials say it represents a major effort to give residents of the fast-growing county a chance to pursue four-year and graduate degrees.
"We're hoping that we can at least keep people close to home, and have them spend less time on the highways," said college President Cary Israel.
Collin College, a public, two-year school, built the 125,000-square-foot center on land provided by the McKinney? Economic Development Corp. The four-story building, featuring Texas red granite framed by blue-tint windows and a soaring glass atrium, will house the Collin College administration as well as classes from other colleges.
While some community colleges have expanded to offer their own upper-level undergraduate courses, Israel said he and the Collin College trustees felt a more efficient approach would be to bring in established four-year schools.
When the current term is fully under way, the center will see about 450 students taking classes offered by UTD, Dallas Baptist University, Texas A&M University-Commerce, Texas Woman's University and the University of North Texas.
The number should triple by next fall, when a new school year begins and the center is better known, Israel said.
UTD has 210 students enrolled at the center. Given that 4,000 UTD students live in Collin County, the school's enrollment at the center will probably grow dramatically, said Sheila Amin Gutiérrez de Piñeres, associate provost.
Students enrolled at the center follow the procedures and pay the fees set by the college teaching the course. Each school has its focus areas, with UTD offering business and criminology courses at the undergraduate level, as well as graduate courses in accounting and business administration.
Plano ISD: Revised Option 3 receives harsh criticism, further divides east
By Kim Nguyen / Plano Star-Courier
December 16, 2009
With two boys at Miller Elementary School and one son at Murphy Middle School, Carolyn Alvey said she is blessed that the recently approved feeder plan keeps her children attending their neighborhood schools.
But despite how her family benefited from the plan, Alvey is still actively criticizing the Plano Independent School District board of trustees for their decision Tuesday evening.
Alvey is just one voice in the debate, but she speaks for many who live on the east side of town who were dismayed to learn the district’s plan calls for drawing the lines on the east side in such a way that many children won’t attend the elementary or middle school that is closest to home. Shuffling students in east-side neighborhoods in this way is expected to create more diverse student populations.
“It’s purely socio-economic engineering,” Alvey said. “Socio-economic engineering disguised as an attempt to keep neighborhood schools. The board never anticipated what the challenges were in the east side. As a result, they showed a great lack of leadership.”
In the East Cluster under the approved plan, the new Otto Middle School will include students from Mendenhall, Schell and Stinson elementary schools. McMillen High School will include students from Armstrong and Murphy middle schools once it opens for the 2011-12 school year.
Alvey said in speaking with district officials prior to the Tuesday meeting, they indicated using FM-544 as the natural boundary to create feeder patterns, allowing Miller, Stinson and Schell elementary schools to feed into Otto Middle School.
“Schell students living less than 1 mile from McMillen will now be bused 7 miles to Williams to satisfy socio-economic engineering,” she said. “There’s no basis to send Otto students to Williams other than that.”
Before the vote, Alvey and other northeast Richardson parents had met with various officials in the Plano ISD administrative office to discuss the pros and cons of different feeder patterns and the roles of the board’s guiding principles in redrawing boundaries.
“Plano ISD lawyers told the trustees that they can’t apply socio-economics to any part of town unless applied district-wide,” she said. “What we want to know is how did they get away with socio-economic engineering without having to apply it to the rest of the district?”
Alvey said she and the other Stinson and Schell parents were shocked when the board announced the revised feeder pattern, saying it was completely unexpected and unfair.
“If the west side gets a choice, the east side should, too. Otto parents were given absolutely no choice,” she said.
Additionally, Mendenhall parents have also joined in on the debate, voicing their dislike of the new feeder plan.
“Mendenhall should continue to feed into their neighborhood school, which is Bowman,” Alvey said. “Students can walk to school and bike to and from their extracurricular activities. Everybody asked to stay in their neighborhood, but the board missed that.”
Alvey said she thinks eastside parents are very upset about the board’s decision and parent groups have already begun talking with representatives from all levels of education agencies, including the Texas Education Agency and the Department of Education, as well as reaching out to the Plano ISD school board trustees.
“It’s demeaning to us to have gone through the public input sessions and not have our voices heard for no reason other than ‘satisfying the formalities,’” Alvey said. “How are the board members satisfying and listening to their constituents when not everyone is being heard?”
read the rest of the article at the Plano Star-Courier....
Bill comments -
WFAA has a video and print story, Parents considering suit over Plano ISD boundary plan
The Dallas Morning News posted an excellent article, Quick approval of Plano schools boundary changes baffles parents today. The article asks, "The events of Tuesday night's meeting appear to be within the law. But was the public served? And how much debate is owed the public before such a controversial decision?" A good question.
The article then goes on to say, "Government experts and former elected officials say Tuesday's meeting highlights the differences between what elected officials are required to disclose and the expectations of the public.
"We're not talking about what's legal, but what's ethical and good government," said Charles Davis, executive director of the National Freedom of Information Coalition at the Missouri School of Journalism.
"Everybody in the room knows that some pre-debate occurred behind closed doors," he said. "Essentially, public policy was hashed out privately and then it was promulgated publicly. That, to me, is a minimal approach to government transparency."
After months of contentious debate and divisive public hearings on proposed school boundary changes in Plano, the school board unanimously approved new attendance zones without debate or comment.
The district presented the boundary proposal publicly for the first time before the board voted, leaving little time for the hundreds of parents in attendance to see the final version. After the 7-0 vote, school board members immediately went into executive session to discuss the rest of the night's agenda.
"We didn't know about the changes before tonight," said Kelly McBrayer, who lives in east Plano.
The plan shelves an idea to create Plano ISD's first magnet school. The finalized boundary model represents a less-ambitious proposal that merely re-draws attendance zone lines based on locality, population and other factors.
Under the plan, enrollment numbers at the district's senior high schools would become more evenly distributed, students would generally attend their neighborhood campuses and parents at one central Plano middle school would have school choice.
The changes, which are required to balance student enrollment across the district because of two new schools on the east side, would go into effect for the 2012-13 school year.
District officials said they would revisit the idea of creating a magnet school this spring.
The proposal also aligns two high schools with each of Plano ISD's three senior high schools. The latest plan eliminates so-called split-feeder arrangements, which send students at a high school to two different senior high schools for 11th and 12th grades.
But it would give parents whose children attend Schimelpfenig Middle School the option of attending Plano Senior High School or Plano West Senior High School. Parents would have to decide by the time their children attend eighth grade.
No other part of Plano ISD would have that type of arrangement.
The approved boundary changes come with additional costs. District officials said they probably would need to spend $5 million from a previous bond package to build more classrooms at Plano West Senior High School.
The school board's 7-0 vote at the Sockwell Center in West Plano capped a chaotic three months during which officials redrew the district's original attendance zone changes after several fiery public hearings that attracted thousands of parents.
Dozens of residents told school leaders before the vote Tuesday that they supported the proposal, saying it would guarantee their children attended nearby schools.
"There is not a perfect solution," said David Johnson of Parker. "But this is the best solution."
Yet scores of parents, mostly parents from the district's eastern side, urged trustees to wait on approving new boundaries for that side of Plano ISD. They said they didn't like that the plan sends some students from East Plano neighborhoods miles away to Williams High School near the city's downtown.
Collin ISDs find redrawing attendance zones is thankless task
Monday, December 7, 2009
By MATTHEW HAAG / The Dallas Morning News
Efforts to redraw school attendance zones in Plano have fueled a furor that has shifted with the prevailing wind.
First, some parents blasted district officials for drawing lines they said segregated rich from poor. Others complained their children wouldn't be able to attend their neighborhood school. When administrators responded by redrawing the lines, a new set of perturbed parents emerged and assailed school leaders.
While the debate in Plano this fall has been especially contentious, these high-drama episodes play out almost every year. And one thing is inevitable: When the boundaries are finalized, someone goes home unhappy.
"No matter the district, it's a challenging process," said Richard Wilkinson, the Frisco ISD's assistant superintendent for facilities and finance. "We do know that as hard as we try, we can't please everyone all the time."
For evidence, look no farther than Collin County, where the population has skyrocketed and districts such as Frisco have opened up to six new schools a year to keep up with a steady surge in enrollment.
Each new school needs students, and those students have to come from the existing schools.
Last year in Allen, the opening of two new elementary schools brought an angry response from parents who didn't want their children to move. Doing so could mean longer bus rides, or separation from friends.
"People like the schools they are in," said Tim Carroll, spokesman for the Allen school district. "It's a personal issue, and they don't like change."
Usually it's the parents – not the children – who are most upset about possible boundary adjustments, said McKinney ISD Superintendent Tom Crowe.
"The parents, they just get real nervous about it," he said. "But the kids adjust so quickly."
In McKinney, school boundaries controversy is constant, seemingly by design. The district places such a high value on balancing the socioeconomic levels of secondary students that it uses busing to achieve it.
An online petition against that policy has hundreds of signatures but, so far, has been to no avail. However, McKinney school leaders will soon try to decide whether the policy should remain in place as enrollment climbs.
"That will be the question to answer in the future," said Crowe, who is retiring at the end of the month. "But I think diversity in schools is good for many reasons."
The proposed boundary changes in Plano have sparked vitriolic debate that has divided neighborhoods. The district presented a first set of district wide adjustments in October to account for students moving into the district's eastern side and two new schools there.
During the three-month saga, the most vocal opponents of Plano's plans might have played a role in district leaders' decision to alter them.
Meanwhile, a large group of central Plano parents rallied against boundary models that would have made their children change high schools. Last month, the district presented a new attendance zone option that kept those children in the same schools.
Dora Potluri, who has two sons at Mathews Elementary School, said he voiced concern over the earlier models because his sons had already had to change schools once before.
"Enough is enough, and sometimes we feel that we were rezoned way too many times," Potluri said. "I wanted to bring stability to my kids that I didn't have."
Plano ISD's new attendance zones have brought relief to Potluri and his neighbors. But they have attracted animosity from hundreds of east Plano parents who say their children now would be shortchanged.
"I know that some people are frustrated," said Superintendent Doug Otto. "It saps the strength out of all the parents and teachers and all of us. It's something that we are really going to have to find a resolution for."
Plano ISD parents blast new attendance zone proposals
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
By MATTHEW HAAG / The Dallas Morning News
Scores of parents Tuesday night criticized the latest attendance zone proposals for Plano schools and the school district's idea of creating a magnet high school.
Dozens of parents implored Plano school trustees to delay the vote on the changes. They said they worried about the cost of implementing a magnet school and had concerns that the suggested boundary changes would create unbalanced student enrollment at the district's senior high schools.
District leaders weren't allowed to respond to the comments.
However, officials previously have voiced their support for the changes, which were first presented a few weeks ago in response to negative reactions to the district's earlier suggested boundary changes.
Only a handful of parents at Tuesday night's meeting said they favored the latest boundary plans.
"I feel like you are about to destroy the east side of Plano," Sharon Davis told district trustees. "We want enrollment numbers to be equal."
Plano ISD has said new districtwide boundaries are needed for the 2012-13 school year to balance student enrollment across the district after an influx of families in the district's eastern side.
The latest attendance zone plan generally would send students to their neighborhood schools. It also would repurpose Williams High School, a ninth- and 10th-grade campus, into the district's first four-year magnet school.
Hundreds of people attended the meeting, and the majority of criticism came from East Plano parents. They said the boundary proposals could decimate extracurricular activities and reduce high-level courses offered at Plano East Senior High School.
The proposed changes would send students at some East Plano schools to Plano Senior High School and would leave Plano East with 1,000 fewer students than the other two senior high schools.
Plano East football coach Johnny Ringo told district leaders that if the proposal were implemented today, 60 percent of his 124-player squad would attend Plano Senior High.
Yesterday, the US Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower court ruling -- declaring the Plano ISD's policy on distributing religious literature constitutional.
The appeal was filed by the Liberty Legal Institute of Plano, a Christian organization founded, according to its web site, "to protect religious freedoms and First Amendment rights for individuals, groups and churches".
The Liberty Institute filed the original lawsuit in the Federal district court in Sherman, alleging religious discrimination after Jonathan Morgan, then 8-years-old, wanted to distribute candy canes with an attached religious message to fellow classmates at his third grade winter party. School administrators would not allow it.
The Liberty Institute states that, "This is an ongoing case that has the potential of cementing many of the religious freedoms for our children that have taken decades to restore.
Writing for the 3 judge panel, Judge Patrick Higginbotham wrote the majority opinion in the case styled Morgan, et al v. Plano Independent School District:
- 30 minutes before and after school;
- three annual parties;
- recess; and
- school hours, but only passively at designated tables.
In upholding the policy, Higginbotham noted that:
After analyzing the arguments, the court stated:
There are more appeals pending in this complexly litigated case.
From Matthew Haag on the Dallas Morning News' Plano Blog -- PISD calls a public hearing that will mostly cover east side issues. Where is the meeting?
Far West Plano!
You got to love those pedagogues.
Plano ISD has announced that parents can voice their opinions about the latest school boundary proposal at a Dec. 1 meeting. The meeting will be at the district's Sockwell Center in West Plano.
Plano ISD lists that meeting as the only chance people can public voice their thoughts before the day the school board votes, Dec. 15. Plano ISD hosted three public input sessions in late September and early October. Each of those meetings attracted hundreds of parents, who shared their opinions about the several boundary proposals for the east and central-west school clusters.
The Dec. 1 meeting is a chance for Plano ISD officials to hear opinions about the newest boundary model, "Option 3," which includes converting Williams High School into a four-year magnet school.
Dr. McKenzie teaches sociology at the college's Frisco campus. In her statement to the selection committee, she wrote:
The highly-coveted award is considered the pinnacle of collegiate teaching, and Dr. McKenzie’s honor marks an unprecedented third national winner at Collin College in nine years.
Two years ago, developmental math professor Dr. Rosemary Karr was, like McKenzie, named U.S. Professor of the Year, and theatre professor Brad Baker secured the honor in 2000. The CASE/Carnegie competition also spotlighted Collin College psychology instructor Jennifer O'Loughlin Brooks in 2006 as Texas’ top college or university professor.
Along with the award, Dr. McKenzie won a $5,000 cash prize and a trip to the Washington D.C. awards ceremony.
Erica Johnson has something to say about the redistricting battle going on in the eastern part of the Plano Independent School District.
Although she lives in Parker, which is in the affluent portion of the area, she has been active in trying to drum up support for a school zone plan that will balance the Middle and High School student demographics in the East Plano area. "It's about doing the right thing", she says.
Monday, she took her campaign to the county commissioners' court. While admitting that the court had no jurisdiction in school rezoning, she told the commissioners that she wanted them to understand the importance of the issues. I heard her presentation, and thought it worth posting on the Collin County Observer.
With her permission, below is the text of Erica Johnson's comments to the Collin County Commissioners' Court.
What is going on with PISD?
The district is building two schools in the east cluster, a middle school (Otto) that opens fall 2010 and a high school (McMillen) that opens 2011. Conflicts will always arise whenever there is discussion of new school boundaries, but it's a little different this time. Plano is now an aging city, and the areas that used to be small pockets of poverty that were easily absorbed into a school are now widespread serious depressions of poverty.
When the new middle school opens, we will have four on the east side. Two will go to the older high school (Williams) and two will go to the new high school (McMillen). The district planned all along to put the two affluent schools together at the new school and the two older lower income schools at the old high school. This was the plan even before the bond was passed. Promises were made to the more affluent neighborhoods that if they supported this bond, they would get the new schools. This group of parents has been anxiously awaiting these promised schools, many because they can't wait to get out of Williams High School with its perceived bad reputation and older less desirable neighborhood.
Here's the problem. If you put the two poor high schools together, you have in effect segregated 90% of the east side Hispanic population. You will also have segregated 92% of the economically disadvantaged into one school. The district would like us to believe that they must do this in order to maintain a "neighborhood school" philosophy, but there are many problems with that argument. One of the two middle schools slated to go to the new high school is equidistant between the old and the new high school. There are many neighborhoods that do NOT attend the middle or high schools closer to their home. Everyone can agree that the elementary school is what serves as a "neighborhood school", but because of the way Plano is laid out, most leave their immediate neighborhoods to attend middle, high and senior high schools.
Here's a few more glaring examples of the district applying the "neighborhood school" philosophy when it suits them, and affecting segregation when it does not.
- 6 years ago, when the new Murphy Middle School opened, a large and vocal group of parents fought their way out of their neighborhood school (Armstrong) and into Murphy Middle. They had been feeding into Armstrong Middle, but the district allowed the Stinson elementary to feed into the further Murphy Middle, which opened at over capacity with portables and left Armstrong Middle way under. Today, Murphy has 1492 (capacity 1312) students and Armstrong has 773 (capacity 1177) and is currently rated academically unacceptable. When Stinson was still at Armstrong, it was rated recognized, by the way.
- Mendenhall Elementary. There are two buses, paid for by the district, that leave from the neighborhood zoned for Mendenhall. One bus full of white children goes to Aldridge Elementary, not even an east cluster school. Another bus full of Hispanic children goes to Mendenhall, which according to this year's free and reduced lunch figures is at 82% economically disadvantaged. Aldridge is at 16%.
- Children in a trailer park almost within sight of Hunt elementary in Murphy are bussed all the way across Parker to Hickey elementary.
- There is a trailer park that is literally across the field from the new middle school (Otto), yet they will be bussed all the way to Armstrong Middle School.
If one was a conspiracy theorist, one might see a pattern of removing the poor Hispanic children out of the Murphy and East Richardson schools and putting them anywhere else.
The district appointed a committee to look at the realignment and issue a recommendation. When it became apparent that the committee was not going to recommend the way they had intended, the school board disbanded the committee and is now conducting "research" to determine the best solution. There is no longer any oversight, accountability or public input. This decision is going to be made by a group of elected officials, only two of them who have children in the district, and at least one of whom has been quite vocal about telling the Murphy/East Richardson contingent that they have nothing to worry about, because the decision to keep them all together in the new schools has already been made.
The future of our children, communities and even the city of Plano is at stake, and no one is listening to us.
The Dallas Morning News writes that some parents in North Texas are questioning their local schools' policies of teaching only abstinence in sex ed.
In the article, titled "Texas sex educators take tentative steps beyond abstinence" the DMN's Jessica Meyers wrote that one parent at a recent McKinney school district's curriculum information night was frustrated that she couldn't even find the word 'condom' in the glossary of the district's health ed textbook.
New state laws require now that local school districts include parents and community members in the decision making process of setting up sex education curricula. The News article notes that, "A newly amended law requires that districts spell out their human sexuality curriculum to parents. It also stipulates that school health advisory councils meet four times a year and consist of at least five members, a majority of whom are parents."
As far as I know, all Collin County school districts teach a draconian brand of abstinence that research proves doesn't work.
The article notes that, "Texas is regularly singled out for its clashing statistics. More government money is spent on abstinence education here than any other state, but Texas leads the country in the percentage of teen mothers who've given birth more than once. It has the country's third-highest teen birth rate.", and then goes on to quote a Frisco High School junior as saying, "They just kind of say, 'Don't do it,'... "And then before prom, they say, 'Don't go to Motel 6.' "
# # #
Don McLeroy has been on the Texas State Board of Education (SBOE) since he was first elected to the Board in 1998. He has been a staunch opponent of teaching evolution and has led many of the SBOE's more far right efforts to restate science, english language and social studies curricula to a more fundamentalist christian cant. He represents District 9 which includes a large part of Collin County.
McLeroy, a dentist from Bryan, does not have a campaign website that I can find. He does, however, maintain a site titled "A Little Clear Thinking About Texas Public Schools" where he explains his philosophy of education.
Last year, Gov. Perry nominated McLeroy to be the chair of the SBOE, but the nomination was defeated in the Texas Senate.
The Plano Star Courier article quotes Ratliff saying, “My opponent has shown time and again that he wants to work for public education by telling teachers and education professionals that he knows better than they do what public education needs,” he said. “I simply do not agree with this approach or belief.”
“I want to work with the folks that have been there and know what they need from the State Board of Education,” he said. “I believe in public schools and trust those involved in our public schools to know what is best for our children’s education.”
On his campaign website, Ratliff explains why he is running against McLeroy, "I am running for the SBOE because I want to work for public education by asking what I can do that will help. My opponent has shown time and again that he wants to work for public education by telling teachers and education professionals that he knows better than they do what public education needs. I simply do not agree with this approach or belief."
The race for SBOE, District 9 will mirror many of our local races in Collin County that highlight the schisms within the local GOP between moderate conservatives and the new far-right conservative movement.
# # #
The Plano Downtown Development Fund is flush with cash, reports Theodore Kim, Matthew Haag, and Valerie Wigglesworth in today's Dallas Morning News.
The fund is fueled with property taxes from the downtown businesses and was expected to bring in about $25 million, according to the article. However, because of rising property values, the fund could find itself with $43 million at the end of its life in 2014.
What to do with all that money?
Some $16 million has already been spent on downtown development projects, like the "Courtyard Theater and a multiuse school facility known as the Cox Building".
Now the city want to spend the remainder in consolidating property for development, and the PISD wants some of it to fund an $11.5 million reconstruction of Mendenhall Elementary School, which is just north of downtown and is the city's oldest elementary school.
Aging older schools in east Plano that primarily serve low income, minority students is a major issue in PISD and is a main driver in the district's attempts at redrawing attendance zones in east Plano.
# # #
This afternoon, Collin College and 5 area universities signed an agreement to open the Collin Higher Education Center.
The Center will be located in the new Collin College Administrative Campus being built at the intersection of SH121 and central Expressway. The Center is scheduled to open in January of 2010.
At the Center, students will be able to complete junior- and senior-level college classes and master and doctoral programs offered by Dallas Baptist University, Texas A&M University-Commerce, Texas Woman’s University, The University of Texas at Dallas, and the University of North Texas. The CHEC fills a major gap in Collin County which has no 4 year university.
Dr. Cary Israel, the president of Collin College pointed out that the CHEC will offer convenience to area students and will "save thousands and thousands of gallons of gasoline" with students able to pursue their studies locally.
And speaking of Collin College, last Friday night, the College hosted its "Living Legends" award ceremony at the new library on the Central Park Campus. The Living Legends program honors citizens whose dedication to education have made an extraordinary difference in the county.
The College honored 4 new Legends. for the first time, the College honored a company and a group of citizens. The 2009 Living Legends are, The Baylor Regional Medical Center at Plano, the Citizens of McKinney, Texas, Plano attorney David McCall, and Frisco ISD superintendent Dr. Rick Reedy.
Collin College is celebrating its Silver Anniversary this year. It also is celebrating the naming of its 25th Living Legend. As part of ensuring a lasting legacy of the Living Legends, a naming opportunity has been established with a goal of raising $250,000 to name a room that recognizes the Legends on one of the campuses. More than $100,000 has been raised to date. Photographs and profiles will be displayed near the naming site so their legacy will be a lasting memory.
The Dallas Morning News' Plano Blog has been covering the continuing debate over drawing school boundary lines in east Plano. The trustees are faced with difficult decisions, and they know the parents are watching.
Presently, McKinney ISD buses middle school students in order to balance the demographic makeup of its schools. Plano trustees are trying to balance the socio-economic disparity that exists between older schools in inner East Plano and the newer schools in more affluent suburban neighborhoods.
The DMN's Matthew Haag wrote a very nice piece in the Plano Blog yesterday describing the latest idea for achieving balance while still maintaining the concept of neighborhood schools.
Plano ISD trustees weighing whether socioeconomic factors should be used in drawing school boundaries spent more time this morning on another topic: magnet schools.
Trustee Missy Bender said Plano ISD is at a crossroads. Student enrollment has mostly plateaued, she said, but pockets of Plano have seen aging housing and an influx of ethnic and socioeconomic diversity. At schools in those areas, Plano ISD has focused on putting the right set of principals, while also adding needed resources.
That system has worked so far, but Bender and other trustees wondered if Plano ISD could reach a point where doing only that isn't enough to address students' academic needs. So, Bender told fellow trustees John Muns and Duncan Webb, she thinks Plano ISD has three options in drawing the school boundaries.
"This is a defining moment for the district," she said. "I don't think there is a silver-bullet answer."
She said that the district can stay the course, where Plano ISD has tried to assign students to nearby schools. But the overall goal has always been to make sure enrollment figures across Plano's schools are balanced, she said.
The second option, she told the trustees, is to keep the current system but add a magnet school that parents could choose to send their children to. This model has been used at Richardson High School. Students who live nearby go to Richardson High School, but it also offers magnet courses that attract students from across Richardson ISD.
Under that system, such a hybrid magnet school would attract high-achieving students and blend them with students who live in the neighborhood. But trustees wondered if that type of magnet school could work in Plano ISD. Richardson High School has four grade levels, while Plano, of course, has high schools and senior high schools.
"Our system isn't setup like that," Webb said.
But Bender said that Plano ISD could try to perfect this magnet model. If it's done right, she said, it could become an example of what other districts should follow.
"We always talk about doing less traditional things," Bender said. "We have a chance to take that further."
Muns added that Plano would have to make sure there's a demand for this type of school. Attendance would likely be voluntary, so would children show up to specialize in automotive repair, engineering or music, Muns asked.
A third option for drawing the boundaries is to do them based on socioeconomic factors. Mari McGowan, an attorney for Plano ISD, told trustees that the district shouldn't draw such a boundary in just one part of town.
McGowan? said those boundaries would have apply across the district.
"A uniform process is always advisable," McGowan? said.
Webb said he thought those boundaries could cause excess transportation costs and additional busing to ensure diverse students are spread among the district's schools.
The board members then explained three magnet school options they had researched. In Coppell, the district started New Tech High, a school where student learning is driven by projects. (The DMN's Katherine Leal Unmuth wrote about the school last April.)
"It was incredibly exciting," Muns said.
Trustees and deputy superintendent Danny Modisette said the New Tech High model is based on only having 400 to 500 students. Plano high schools, however, enroll thousands of students. But Modisette said that the company that provides the curriculum, training of teachers and model for New Tech High is looking to bring the concept to a bigger schools.
The next magnet opportunity discussed was the one at Richardson High School, where students can specialize in anything from communications to science. As I wrote earlier, the school is also attended by children who live nearby.
The last magnet model discussed was one recently implemented in Spring ISD near Houston. The district started Wunsche High, a school focused on providing numerous career paths students can follow. The school doesn't look like one from outside. It looks much more like a professional office building, and that's on purpose.
At Wunsche, for example, a student would take medical courses there but go back to his/her home school for extracurricular activities or math and English. Bender said the school has generated a lot of energy in that district and has been full since it started three years ago.
The trustees seemed excited about at least looking into the possibility of adding a magnet school in Plano ISD, so I would expect them to further discuss the idea in future meetings.
"There is no one best way to do it," Bender said.
The trustees then closed the open portion of the meeting to discuss the boundary changes with McGown?, the attorney. Trustees aren't expected to vote on the boundary changes until December.
Election results - November 3, 2009
In another stunning repudiation of the leadership of the Wylie ISD, Wylie voters defeated 2 of the 3 bond propositions the School Board had deemed as essential.
The $77 million dollar issue was a trimmed down version of the bond propositions that voters have turned down twice in the last year. The failure of this, the third attempt by the Board to pass needed bonds, calls into serious doubt the ability of the present Board of Trustees to lead the WISD into the 21st century.
Turnout was 4,414 or 16.5%, which was over twice the 7.5% turnout in the rest of the county that was only voting on 11 constitutional amendments.
Proposition 1 - "THE ISSUANCE OF $7,775,000 OF BONDS FOR INFRASTRUCTURE FOR FIBER OPTIC AND SECURITY UPGRADES AT ALL CAMPUSES AND IMPROVEMENTS TO THE WYLIE STADIUMS".
1,912 (43.66%) For
2,467 (56.34%) Against
Proposition 2 - "THE ISSUANCE OF $24,940,000 OF BONDS FOR ADDITIONS AND RENOVATIONS TO BURNETT JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL, HARRISON INTERMEDIATE SCHOOL, HARTMAN, BIRMINGHAM AND AKIN ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS AND THE CONSTRUCTION OF ACHIEVE ACADEMY"
2,258 (51.53%) For
2,124 (48.47%) Against
Proposition 3 - "THE ISSUANCE OF $44,250,000 OF BONDS FOR ADDITIONS, CONVERSIONS AND ATHLETIC IMPROVEMENTS TO WYLIE EAST HIGH SCHOOL AND ADDITIONS, RENOVATIONS, INFRASTRUCTURE UPGRADES AND ATHLETIC IMPROVEMENTS AT WYLIE HIGH SCHOOL"
1,843 (42.08%) For
2,537 (57.92%) Against
In Farmersville, the local option for off-premise beer and wine passed. With a 27% turnout, the result was:
245 (54.57%) For
204 (45.43%) Against
All 11 constitutional amendments passed.
Early voting for the Texas Constitutional Amendments Election begins today.
Voters will have the opportunity to approve (or not) 11 amendments. Residents of the Wylie Independent School District will get their third chance to approve 3 bond issues, and there's a local options election in Farmersville for "off premise sale of beer and wine".
Early voting runs through October 30. Election day is Tuesday, November 3.
Turnout is expected to be very light.
You can't fault the Wylie ISD trustees for lacking in perseverance. So far, they've tried twice in less than a year to get the voters to approve their bond package, only to be turned down.
On November 3 they will try one more time.
It was back in November, 2008 when the voters faced two propositions from the Wylie ISD. One asked voters to approve $98.3 million in bonds, the second asked the voters to approve raising their taxes so that teachers and staff could get salary increases.
The results were interesting. 52% of the voters supported the tax hike, while 52% of the voters rejected the bonds. (Political analysts I've talked to say such a vote split indicates that voters support the idea of good schools, but don't trust their elected school board.)
In May, the school board tried again. This time, they tried harder.
First, they trimmed the bond request by $13.8 million - down to a total of $84.5 million.
They also pulled an old trick out of their hat. Knowing that May elections have very low turnouts, the board tried to make it very easy to get all district employees to vote. What they did was to designate every school in the district as an early voting location for one day. These early voting polls were manned by WISD staff, but were still expensive, costing the taxpayers an additional $13,403.32 in voting machine rentals and county tabulation expense. The total out-of-pocket cost to WISD taxpayers for the May election was a whopping $21,287.74 for an election that should have cost about $7 thousand.
But still the voters refused to approve the bonds. The proposition failed in a 51% - 49% vote. Only 69 votes seperated the 'ayes' from the 'nays'.
On the first Tuesday in November, Wylie voters will once again choose whether to accept or reject a WISD bond issue. This time, responding to voter demands that the board break up the bond package into several propositions, the trustees are asking for approval of 3 different bond packages - totaling almost $77 million.
The 3 propositions on the ballot are:
"THE ISSUANCE OF $7,775,000 OF BONDS FOR INFRASTRUCTURE FOR FIBER OPTIC AND SECURITY UPGRADES AT ALL CAMPUSES AND IMPROVEMENTS TO THE WYLIE STADIUMS AND LEVYING THE TAX IN PAYMENT THEREOF, INCLUDING THE COSTS OF ANY CREDIT AGREEMENTS EXECUTED IN CONNECTION WITH THE BONDS."
|Fiber Optic Ring/Security Upgrades for all campuses||$ 2,681,300|
|Wylie Pirate Stadium (Constructed in 2003)||$ 3,612,100|
|Shaffer Stadium (Constructed in 1975)||$ 1,481,600|
"THE ISSUANCE OF $24,940,000 OF BONDS FOR ADDITIONS AND RENOVATIONS TO BURNETT JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL, HARRISON INTERMEDIATE SCHOOL, HARTMAN, BIRMINGHAM AND AKIN ELEMENTARY SCHOOLS AND THE CONSTRUCTION OF ACHIEVE ACADEMY AND LEVYING THE TAX IN PAYMENT THEREOF, INCLUDING THE COSTS OF ANY CREDIT AGREEMENTS EXECUTED IN CONNECTION WITH THE BONDS."
|Burnett Junior High School Additions and Renovations (Constructed in 1975)||$ 8,477,700|
|Harrison Intermediate School Infrastructure and Renovations (Constructed in 1967)||$ 2,586,100|
|Hartman Elementary School Additions, Renovations and Infrastructure (Constructed in 1963)||$ 4,800,300|
|Birmingham Elementary School Additions, Renovations and Infrastructure (Constructed in 1985)||$ 4,009,300|
|Akin Elementary School Kitchen Additions and Renovations (Constructed in 1988)||$ 1,023,000|
|Achieve Academy*||$ 4,043,600|
"THE ISSUANCE OF $44,250,000 OF BONDS FOR ADDITIONS, CONVERSIONS AND ATHLETIC IMPROVEMENTS TO WYLIE EAST HIGH SCHOOL AND ADDITIONS, RENOVATIONS, INFRASTRUCTURE UPGRADES AND ATHLETIC IMPROVEMENTS AT WYLIE HIGH SCHOOL AND LEVYING THE TAX IN PAYMENT THEREOF, INCLUDING THE COSTS OF ANY CREDIT AGREEMENTS EXECUTED IN CONNECTION WITH THE BONDS"
Wylie High School (Constructed in 1996)
Wylie East High School (Core facility was constructed in 2006)
The trustees say that the bonds are needed to ensure equitability between schools on the east side of town and schools on the west side of town. They point out that the voters wanted the bond issues split up and they were. Most of the campuses slated for renovation are 20 to 40 years old and sorely need modernization. The additions to the new Wylie East High School should not come as a surprise, they argue, since the school was purposely financed and built in phases in order to spread out the expenses.
The WISD bonds page FAQ states that, "The Wylie ISD Board of Trustees has listened to the community and responded with a reduced bond proposal that is presented in three propositions. In this referendum, many of the projects included in the two unsuccessful bonds have been moderated and or postponed until a later bond to respond to the Wylie community while still meeting the educational needs of Wylie students."
However, putting the stadiums in with IT improvements may cause Prop 1 to fail. While of the $44.2 million in Prop 3, over $15.5 is for athletic facility improvements and bound to stir up cost conscious taxpayers.
It's not too surprising that opposition has already mobilized. Driving around Wylie, one sees many "Vote NO" yard signs, but few pro bond signs.
The only other items on the November ballot are constitutional amendments. So far these amendments ave been non-controversial, so a very light voter turnout is expected. Predicting the outcome of very low turnout election elections is dangerous. The general rule is, "he who turns out his voters, wins". If the school district can mobilize its own employees and parent organizations, it can get the bonds to pass. Otherwise, the weak economy will make it easy for cash-strapped voters to view the bonds as 'just another tax increase'.
The Wylie ISD will hold a public forum on the bond propositions, Monday, October 12, 7 p.m. at Wylie East High School. All community members are invited to attend.
ACLU report accuses Frisco ISD of thwarting learning in Gideons incident
Oct 08, 2009
Jessica Meyers/The Dallas Morning News, Frisco Blog
The organization, which released the report on Wednesday, has been investigating activities by Gideons International evangelical group since May.
The report says that Gideons Bibles were "used to physically and verbally harass Jewish students in both Frisco and Plano ISDs."
It also says Gideons convinced Frisco ISD Director of Communications, Shana Wortham, to keep the distribution plan from principals until a day before to minimize complaints.
That action resulted in increased disruption and negative media attention, said the ACLU report. Nine other districts were investigated, including Plano and Wichita Falls.
District officials explained in May that they had approved Gideons displays as part of a standard procedure that allows local groups to leave community information for student pick up. Gideons violated that agreement when they passed out material on school property, Wortham said in May.
The report recommends that districts revise their non-school literature distribution policies or better enforce current ones.
Distribution of Gideons Bibles in Texas Public Schools: Impact on Students’ Religious Liberty, ACLU of Texas, October 8, 2009
Lovejoy ISD voters have approved a $0.02 tax increase by a wide margin.
The final tally was:
FOR: 382 (60.25%)
AGAINST: 252 (39.75%)
The new tax rate will be $1.535 per $100 valuation. The school district had promised to use the increased revenue to purchase 2 new school buses and classroom technology.
It was a low turnout election - only 634 voters (7.37% of those registered to vote) bothered to go to the polls. Two-thirds of those who voted, voted during the early voting period. About 200 turned out on election day.
The Lovejoy Independent School District encompasses an area of approximately 19 square miles, bound by Plano ISD on the south, Allen ISD on the west, and McKinney? ISD on the north. Lovejoy ISD is currently responsible for the education for over 2,000 students. Since 1917 Lovejoy has served the residents of Fairview, Lucas, and other surrounding neighborhoods.
Today is election day for voters in the Lovejoy ISD.
The polls are open from 7:00 A.M. to 7:00 P.M. at Lovejoy Elementary School Gymnasium, 259 Country Club Road, Allen, Texas.
Lovejoy taxpayers are being asked to approve a $0.02 tax increase. The ballot will read as follows:
APPROVING THE AD VALOREM TAX RATE OF $1.535 PER $100 VALUATION IN THE LOVEJOY INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT FOR THE CURRENT YEAR, A RATE THAT IS $0.01995 HIGHER PER $100 VALUATION THAN THE LOVEJOY INDEPENDENT SCHOOL DISTRICT’S ROLLBACK TAX RATE.
According to a fact sheet put out by the school district, the increased revenue from the tax hike will be used to buy 2 new buses and additional classroom technology.
Since this IS Lovejoy ISD, the election could not proceed without its share of drama.
A group of citizens sent out an email that stated:
Prompting this retort from Mr. Moore:
Oh boy, some things never change.
* This event is not a component of the Plano ISD curriculum and is therefore not a mandatory activity.
* Viewing the broadcast is not a planned classroom activity for September 8.
* Like many historical events, the address will be made available for students and teachers via the digital video library.
* The video will also be posted on this home page.
"As a district we believe that the best approach is to record the message rather than showing it live and then determine how it can best be used. At the elementary level, since this historic message is intended to help students get focused and begin the school year strong, this may mean honing in on important aspects or portions of the message and using at one of the good morning assemblies or on Patriot Day, Constitution Day or during Celebrate Freedom Week. At the secondary level, it may mean utilizing in a speech/journalism class to discuss the power of public speaking or the use of different types of media to communicate a message. In a history or government class it could be used to discuss the office of the Presidency and the example of government in action, etc. At any level it could be part of a civics/social studies/current events lesson or a goal-setting activity."
"As long as the president is not talking about his agenda or policies, we all need to encourage our kids to do better.”
Fred Moses, Chair Collin County Republican Party
Ted Moore, Superintendent, Lovejoy ISD in an email to parents
"So, let’s call it what it is: an attempt to wrap some legitimacy around our school officials’ unwillingness to stand up to the ridiculous pressures being placed by the ultra-right wing blog-o-radio personalities and the local parents that have been whipped into a froth. Even worse, they compound the problem with a collection of wishy-washy language that basically amounts to the establishment of the fictional “Office of Presidential Filtering” described above. In their grand wisdom, unidentified “school officials” have reserved for themselves the duty of editing President Obama’s presentation for use in specific classes such as “speech or journalism,” “history or government” or even the more unwieldy “civics/social studies/current events.”
"I’ve got a better idea. Why don’t we set aside partisan bickering and show some respect for the elected leader of our nation? This is not just some political hack pushing an agenda. It’s the President of the United States of America. If you don’t agree with his politics, that’s fine. You have every right to speak out against his policies and, even more grand, vote for someone else during the next election. You can certainly – and I highly encourage this – have an open and genuine conversation with your children about the message and the messenger, if you like. In the meantime, perhaps we can try and teach our children to respect the office and just shut up and listen. No editing. No repurposing. No “determining how it can best be used.” More importantly, no prejudging that somehow this President deserves to be censored based on the ranting of a bunch of media hot heads and the over-reaction of a few parents in the school district."
Alan Biehl, writing on The Frisco Line
"The Allen ISD Learner Services Department has reviewed a summary of the address and feels it is appropriate as part of the school district’s social studies curriculum for grades 4-12.
"In order for parents and staff members to view the address first, the program will not be aired live. Instead, it may be used by social studies and government classes beginning Wednesday, September 9."
Postings on the Wylie View, a local discussion board:
"We cannot afford to pull our kids out of school, nor can we afford to turn our backs on our president. For better or for worse, he was popularly elected, and we are obligated to listen and respect the citizen who now leads us. Accusing the president of indoctrinating children and questioning his motives just undermines us all."
Deborah Mitchell writing in The Dallas Morning News
Postings on Allen Talk, a local discussion board:
- "Marxist garbage is what it is. I did pull my child out and public schools ain't happening. You can step back and take a deep breath, but I want my country back. Sensibility has been thrown out the window. Check out Saul Alinsky and Rules for Radicals. The Community organiser was developed by an extreme left intellectual called Saul Alinsky. Read up on him and how Obama's agenda is in step with his. Then you'll want that step you took back and the deep breath."
- "How can you fairly label this as "conservative hysteria" when some of the most consistently conservative voices on this board are defending the idea?
I personally am fine with it - the President wants to talk to school kids about staying in school - go for it. "
Postings on Lovejoy Schools Opinion Forum, a local discussion board:
- "I believe LISD's superintendent decision is disrespectful of a sitting President and a form of censorship; moreover, denial of a learning opportunity; and may provide an opportunity to stimulate thought among young people, educators and parents."
"We must ask if a sitting President decided to exercise a common practice of personably visiting any one of LISD's campuses, would the LISD Superintendent deny that sitting President access to the entire student body of that campus or the District; moreover pre-approval of the content of the sitting President’s materials. If yes; the current decision would be consistently applied. If no, than the current decision appears politically convenient and the easy way out; the only differences are delivery, the technologies and the mediums; and the lack of the public pressures or embarrassments, of not being accommodating to a sitting President."
- "Has anyone noticed there has been 168 hits on this one topic in the last 45 minutes, and who says this site zero traffic.
"We need to protect our children from all of this, our sitting president is leaning towards socialism!!!! We need to focus on teaching, by doing the right things for our students every single day and that will keep them in school. It's what is said to them on a daily basis from the teachers they trust and have respect for.
"Not one day of listening to a political speech.
"Prayer is needed right now for our Nation and our children."
This week the papers have been full of stories of local cities and school districts facing anguished choices of cutting staff and services or raising taxes. Dallas, Plano, Frisco and their school districts may have to do both - raise taxes and cut staff.
The tone of the budget deliberations the Collin County Community College District Board of Trustees held this evening was a breath of fresh air in these troubled times.
The district voted to cut the tax rate - for the ninth consecutive year. It approved a 3% raise for all faculty, staff and administrators and it cut in-county tuition and fees by 8%. Collin College now offers the lowest total tuition and fee scale in the State of Texas.
The college district has done this and is still able to maintain a AAA bond rating.
The budget approved tonight balanced revenues to expenses. The total expenditures for all funds equaled $164.4 million of which $5.7 million is for debt service. The budget keeps $3.8 million in contingency and reserve.
The college's enrollment continues to climb - up an anticipated 15% this year. Because of this growth, Collin College will add 31 new staff positions next year to keep its fastest growing programs available. (The rest of the district has been on a hiring freeze.)
The tax rate was set at $.086300/$100 which was a slight decline from last year's $.086493. About 52% of the district's revenue is from property taxes. Tuition adds about $22 million. Grants, state and federal funding make up the remainder of the college's revenue.
The Board of Trustees also extended the 3 year contract of its president, Dr. Carey Israel, an additional year and granted Dr. Israel a 3% salary increase.
Military recruiting rises among middle-class, suburban youths in Dallas-Fort Worth area
Collin County is seeing the area's only sustained boost in Army enlistment.
Saturday, August 8, 2009
By JESSICA MEYERS / The Dallas Morning News
Suburban areas like Collin County are being invaded by the armed forces, which are seeing a new kind of recruit – middle-class kids with high school and even college educations.
Matt Lawson, a 17 year old Frisco recruit
Cody Barron, a 17 year old Frisco recruit
Donald Moreland, a 24 year old Plano recruit
Edwin Dorn, professor at UT's LBJ School of Public Affairs
Steady income, college funding and heightened recruiting efforts during an economic downturn are attracting more affluent youth in Texas and across the country to the military.
"It just seems right," said Matt Lawson, a 17-year-old who graduated in June from Wakeland High School in Frisco. He and his 22-year-old brother, Zack, enlisted together last month.
"It's about service to the country, respect, honor, but also better opportunities," Matt Lawson said. "There aren't any jobs."
Armed-forces recruitment is up nationally, with the Pentagon reporting that all active branches met or exceeded their target recruitment goals in June. About three-quarters of new recruits now come from neighborhoods at or above the median household income. And 96 percent have a high school diploma, up from 90 percent two years ago.
The numbers don't surprise Edwin Dorn, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin's LBJ School of Public Affairs and a former undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.
"A bad economy is always good news for recruiting," he said.
"If the economy goes down enough, middle-class suburban kids begin to find the military attractive. They expected to go to college and are finding their parents can no longer afford to send them."
Collin County recruiters say they're seeing the results – filled stations and new centers sprouting up to meet demand. The Army just opened a recruiting station in Allen. The Navy has plans to open a Frisco center in a few months, and the Air Force hopes to establish one there next year.
The chairs in Frisco's Army recruiting office were all claimed on a recent morning – not an unusual sight, said Army Staff Sgt. Steve Blais, who transferred from rural Wise County several months ago to head Frisco's recruiting station.
"When I pulled the list and saw all the high school and college graduates here, I couldn't believe it," he said.
"Everything has gone up with the economy the way it is and the opportunity for steady income and paid student loans," he said. "People want nothing more than to be marketable."
Growth in Collin
Collin County is seeing the area's only sustained boost in Army enlistment.
Last year it had 2.4 active-duty recruits for every 1,000 people 15 to 24, according to the National Priorities Project, which analyzes Army data. That's up from 1.6 in 2004, with an increase each year.
Rockwall County's numbers are slightly higher than Collin's but have slipped recently. Dallas County, whose enrollment has also dropped in recent years, reached only 1.5 recruits per thousand in 2008. That puts it under the national average of 1.6.
One of the biggest appeals, Dorn said, is the revamped GI Bill, which begins this month and significantly increases education benefits. Service members who spend at least three years on active duty receive free tuition at any public college or can apply the payment toward tuition at a private university.
Dorn also credits the spike to efforts to expand the military and the withdrawal of troops from Iraq.
Defense Secretary Robert Gates vowed this year to increase the size of the Army by 22,000 troops, a move Dorn said led to "reaching into the areas such as the suburbs that have not traditionally been as lucrative targets as inner cities and poor rural areas."
Friday, the Texas Education Agency released the 2009 academic ratings for all schools and school districts in Texas.
How did Collin County's districts fair?
Of the 14 school districts in Collin County, only one, Lovejoy ISD was given the highest rating - 'exemplary'.
Ten received an 'recognized' rating, which is the next highest. The Dallas Morning News reports that Allen ISD, which was scored as 'recognized', narrowly missed earning the coveted 'exemplary' rating.
Three school districts, including the 2 largest (Plano and McKinney) were rated as only 'acceptable'. Also scored as 'acceptable' was the Anna ISD. All three school districts have managed to stay in the lower rated 'acceptable' class for the last three years, despite the fact that McKinney and Anna citizens pay some of the highest school property taxes in the county.
Solid gains were realized by the Blue Ridge, Community, Farmersville, and Wylie school districts. These three improved their grades - earning 'recognized' ratings in 2009, while having been rated as only 'acceptable' in 2007 and 2008.
While no districts in the county were given an 'unacceptable' score, two schools were. Plano's Armstrong Middle School and McKinney High School both earned 'unacceptable' grades.
According to an article in the Dallas Morning News' McKinney Blog, McKinney High lost its 'acceptable' rating due to the poor graduation rates for Hispanic and economically disadvantaged students.
McKinney ISD officials have said that the low rating given to MHS would be appealed. They blamed the low scores on clerical mistakes by school officials. An MISD press release quoted Superintendent Tom Crowe as saying, "The teachers and administrators of MHS have worked very hard to maintain high academic standards and have seen the fruits of their labors through the improved academic performance campus-wide... It is a real shame that one indicator has caused this rating."
In explaining that MISD would appeal to the TEA, Crowe said, "As a district and campus we bear the responsibility for improving the process of coding students properly when they transfer out of the district, move out of state, pursue a GED, or begin home-schooling. But it is imperative that when judging the quality of education at a school the other factors are considered. In this case, they are close to achieving `recognized' status, but will be labeled `unacceptable' until we have the opportunity to appeal the designation."
Crowe's protests sound suspiciously similar to the complaints MISD made in 2007 when the AP and Johns Hopkins University listed McKinney North High School as on of the nation's "dropout factories". Once again, MISD blamed transfer student statistics for the dubious distinction. In 2007, MISD called the university's methodology a 'joke'. At least this time, they blamed themselves.
Anna ISD is a rural district without the high property valuations of most other school districts in the county. Anna ISD taxpayers pay one of the highest tax rates in the county, but they still can not seem to advance past an 'acceptable' rating. The same can not be said for the Plano school district. Plano's taxpayers pay one of the lowest tax rates in Collin County. Perhaps if the citizens of Plano want to return to the days when people actually moved to Plano for the excellent schools, they will consider investing in those schools.
Lovejoy ISD is the polar opposite of Anna. Although their taxpayers pay a similar rate as Ann's do, the Lovejoy ISD contains some of the per capita highest valued residential property in the region. The citizens investment in Lovejoy has paid off. Although it is the smallest district, it is the only one to consistently be rated 'exemplary', the state's highest rating.
The most tax efficient district in the county has to be Farmersville ISD. Like Anna, Farmersville is mostly rural farm land. Yet their children are educated in a district rated as 'recognized', while their parents pay the lowest school taxes in the county.
The highest school taxes are paid by the citizens of Prosper ISD. A few years ago, PISD invested heavily in building for future growth. While some of that growth has been realized, the economic downturn does not bode well for any immediate tax relief for Prosper ISD.
Collin County ISD Ratings 2007-2009
|District||2008 Tax Rate||2009 Dist. Rating||2008 Dist. Rating||2007 Dist. Rating|
|Blue Ridge ISD||1.54||Recognized||Acceptable||Acceptable|
2009 Campus ratings by district
|District||# Exemplary||# Recognized||# Acceptable||# Unaceptable||# Not Rated|
|Blue Ridge ISD||1||2||1||0||1|
|McKinney ISD||12||9||8||1 (McKinney HS)||1|
|Plano ISD||32||24||6||1 (Armstrong MS)||5|
Plano ISD candidates: Latest campaign filings
Thu, May 07, 2009
Matthew Haag/Reporter, Dallas Morning News
Here's a rundown of the latest campaign filings from candidates for Place 6 and Place 7 on PISD school board. The reports were filed May 1 and list both contributions and expenses from early April.
Here is where the candidates stand:
Balance: $1.885.30 (includes contributions/expenses before April)
Outstanding loans: $5,308.75
Outstanding loans: $1,500
Hasn't filed any reports this year. In fact, he didn't file reports in his previous school board campaigns, as well.
Plano ISD candidate files complaint against district officials
Saturday, April 11, 2009
By MATTHEW HAAG / The Dallas Morning News
A Plano ISD school board candidate is alleging that district officials have tried to intimidate him, restrict his free speech and deny him access to staff and teachers.
Steve Navarre filed a complaint to the school board on Friday against the district's administration, alleging that officials violated several district policies and a state election rule.
In the complaint, Navarre claims that administrators showed favoritism by letting former Plano ISD teacher Marilyn Hinton, who is running against him, visit numerous schools and talk to principals despite a district official telling him he couldn't do so.
"They cannot play double standards," Navarre said. "It shows an extreme bias in the campaign."
Multiple phone calls and e-mails sent to Plano ISD officials for response about the complaint weren't answered Friday or Saturday.
Hinton, Navarre and two other candidates are vying for Place 6 on the school board. The race is among the most contested of the local school board elections on May 9.
Hinton said that Navarre's complaint is unwarranted because schools are public buildings, and Plano ISD gave her permission to visit them and talk to principals. She said she's never handed out campaign materials, visited with teachers or mentioned the election on the campuses.
"In their minds, I know they think I'm shaking hands and passing out literature," said Hinton, who taught in Plano for three years. "But that's not the case."Hinton said she received permission to visit the schools from Karla Oliver, the district's communication director. But Navarre said that Oliver told him last month he, as a school board candidate, couldn't visit schools that his sons didn't attend.
"There needs to be fairness," he said. "I think if it's open for her, it should be open to anybody."
Navarre said he would pull his complaint from the school board and would not file another with the Texas Ethics Commission if administrators let all candidates visit the schools and talk to principals.
Navarre's complaint is the second salvo he has fired at the district in the past week. He previously claimed that district officials tried to bully him and restrict his free speech rights when they told him to cease sending e-mails to teachers at work.
2008's Top Ten reasons why there is a Collin County Observer. Most of these stories were first covered here, a few were only covered here.
10. Commissioners forcing the resignation of the Teen Court Coordinator because he was gay.
9. Commissioners refuse to enact an Equal Employment Opportunity Policy, shortly before they force the gay guy out.
8. Lovejoy ISD fighting Open Records requests, banning a parent and firing a teacher.
7. District Judge Charles Sandoval pushing experimental drugs on probationers.
6. Commissioners sitting quietly while Commissioner Hoagland rants against A-rabs and Indians.
5. Judge Mark Rusch issuing search warrants against the defense attorney in a capital case, and then refusing to recuse himself.
4. Commissioners awarding, without competitive bid, over a million dollars in federal grant money to the son of Sam Johnson for Fusion Center software.
3. DA Roach fighting against new trial of defendant sentenced to death in a trial conducted by a judge and DA who are playing coochie-coochie in secret.
2. Commissioners spending $300,000 to sue the Auditor, loosing the suit twice, and still appealing.
1. County pushing for SH 121 tolling only to have the Attorney General refuse to allow the county to get any of the $2 billion in toll funds it was promised.
Last month I wrote of the controversy in the Lovejoy ISD (see Lovejoy ISD: Tales from the dark side, CCO Sept. 9, 2008)
Earlier this month the Texas Education Agency issued an "administrative closure" ending the investigation of Lovejoy Superintendent Ted Moore.
In a letter to Moore, TEA instigator Michael Franks wrote, "The circumstances surrounding the investigation were deemed not to warrant further action by this agency and the case is being administratively closed with no additional action required at this time. If additional information becomes available the case will be reevaluated."
In a emailed newsletter to parents earlier this month, Ted Moore wrote:
October 14, 2008
Dear Lovejoy Community:
News from the Texas Education Agency
As I told you in my communication of July 16, 2008, someone filed a complaint against me with the Texas Education Agency. The TEA has completed their official inquiry. I received a letter dated October 6, 2008, with the following finding: “The circumstances surrounding the investigation were deemed not to warrant further action by this agency and the case is being administratively closed with no additional action required at this time.” If you are new to the district or would like to refresh your memory regarding the July 16th Email Express, you can find it at: July 16, 2008 . Our Lovejoy ISD Board of Trustees reached the same conclusions after they thoroughly reviewed the facts.
What Positives Can Be Drawn from this Situation?
The overwhelming support that I have received from so many in this community has been very gratifying and sincerely appreciated. The support from the board, my administrative team, faculty, and the community has proven once again why Lovejoy is an amazing district with unlimited potential.
Now that I have been cleared by both the Lovejoy ISD Board of Trustees and the Texas Education Agency, I plan to return 100% of my focus to the business of the District. As you will recall, I have always been open with the community, having held a meeting of the leaders of all parent groups in the district. I had 75 people in attendance at this meeting where I laid out the information honestly with supporting documentation. Now that my professional record and reputation have been formally affirmed, I do not intend to take further time addressing the false accusations and rumors; impartial third parties have done that for me....
What Actions Will be Taken Regarding the Defamation Issues?
As a public official, I accept the public’s right to be critical of me and my work. In our society, you have the right and responsibility to question and complain about any issue in your public school. You have the right to criticize me for using my weight loss as a model for community wellness just as you have the right to question high academic standards for each child. You have the right to complain about what I choose to order for dinner when I am traveling at district expense or to object to my choice to stay in the conference hotel when attending training. However, it crosses the line of acceptable behavior when I or anyone else is wrongly accused of committing a felony or of committing an act of moral turpitude. I am evaluating my options regarding filing a lawsuit. I have attended several sessions of late regarding this whole issue of cyber bullying. The attached was a recent article involving a school related issue regarding defamation: USATODAY.com - Jury awards $11.3M over defamatory Internet posts*
I guarantee you that should I pursue litigation it will in no way deter or alter my focus on providing the best education to every child in our district.....
In the three years that I have been in the district, I have learned that when I stand up for the district or for myself, a small group of district critics accuse me of being covert or retaliatory. I am a public official and they are within their rights to voice that objection. However, it is appropriate for me to share the facts as I see them or as the LISD Board of Trustees sees them. I believe passionately in transparency of all government business as well as participative decision making when appropriate. I believe in the Lovejoy Way and especially the Lovejoy Graduate Profile. I will continue to do everything within my power to ‘Be Fair and Respectful of Others’, and I expect to receive the same professional courtesy.
I hope to see you next Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. in the Lecture Room at Lovejoy High School.
[Bill notes: I have excerpted portions of Moore's letter. The complete text is posted here.]
I wrote Lovejoy ISD: Tales from the dark side because I saw a pattern at Lovejoy of intimidation, and of building walls to prevent public inquiry.
While I understand that Ted Moore has been the subject of intense, longstanding criticism and horrendous accusations, I still believe that as a public official, he had a duty to respond promptly to legitimate Open Records requests.
Firing teachers, banning parents, stonewalling public information requests and filing intimidation law suits is not the way a school district or a school superintendent should protect its reputation. Mr. Moore's family problems are exactly that - his problems. Attacking constituents is not a solution to a dysfunctional family situation.
I note that in his letter, Moore is still threatening parents. That's to his detriment.
Being an educator does not preclude being educateable. There are lessons to be learned from this debacle. All the parties involved in this sad tale from the dark side would do well to contemplate that.
Two community forums are planned regarding the upcoming November 4 elections in the Wylie ISD.
During the meetings Assistant Superintendent of Business Operations Brian Miller will discuss the tax ratification option and Superintendent H. John Fuller will discuss the $98.3 million bond proposal.
Forums are set for 7 p.m. Monday, September 29 in the auditorium of Wylie East High School and for 7 p.m. Thursday, October 16 in the auditorium of Wylie High School. A time for questions and answers will follow the presentations.
This year, Election Day will be on Tuesday, November 4. Early Voting begins on Monday October 20.
While the Presidential race has garnered the most attention in the media, there are many other contested races on the ballot.
The Collin County Observer will be publishing a series of articles detailing all the local races as well as voting locations and voter information.
In addition to the contested races for public office, depending on where you live, the November ballot may contain one or more local propositions:
Allen ISD - To issue $219 million in bonds for school buildings, equipment and school buses.
Anna - Six City Charter amendments:
1. To provide for 3 year terms for the mayor and city council.
2. To prohibit council members from remaining in office after their term expires.
3. To allow city council members to remain in office if they file for election for another office.
4. To allow the presence of the mayor to count towards achieving a quorum.
5. To allow the P&Z commission to cancel a meeting if there is no scheduled business.
6. To allow the City Council to over rule the P&Z by a simple majority vote.
Celina ISD - To issue $34.31 million in bonds for school buildings.
Melissa - Local option for sale of all alcoholic beverages for off premise consumption.
Murphy - Three bond propositions:
1. $2.5 million to renovate the community center.
2. $7.5 million for parks and recreation facilities.
3. $6 million for street improvements.
Princeton - To approve a Home Rule charter
Wylie ISD - Two propositions
1. To raise the tax rate to $1.51 per hundred dollar valuation.
2. To issue $98.3 million in bonds for various projects.
Young read the following statement at last week's Wylie City Council meeting:
|“The Wylie Independent School District has been informed by the Texas Education Agency that my teaching certificate will no longer be valid due to accreditation questions about the university that awarded my diploma. I began the school year in a non-teaching role, and I plan to continue working through a university that is recognized as accredited by the Texas Education Agency to re-establish my teaching credentials.”|
According to the Wylie News, Young claimed to have graduated from Concordia College in 1972. The Wylie News reported that, "According to the Washington State attorney general, Young paid $100 to Concordia College and University for a bachelor of business administration degree in business."
Concordia College is a "diploma mill" offering degrees with no classwork or tests.
According to the Wylie News article, Young began teaching at WISD in 2003 with a probationary teaching certificate, He was certified as a P.E. teacher in 2004 and as a science teacher in 2005. While he has resigned his teaching position, Young remains employed by WISD as an instructional special education aide at Cooper Junior High School.
Texas law calls using a fraudulent degree to obtain a certificate fraud and classifies it as a class B misdemeanor.
According to the Wylie News, Young stated that he has no intention of stepping down from his council seat and that he is planning a run for a 5th term in 2009.
Several citizens are expected to speak at the next city council meeting to demand his resignation.
Lovejoy ISD is also one of the richest in the state. According to the Collin County Central Appraisal District, the average home value in LISD is over $327,000. Even with the high property values, the taxpayers in the district pay one of the highest rates in the region at $1.4763.
In 2007, the TEA rated only one school district in Collin County "Exemplary" - Lovejoy ISD. Ted Moore (picture below), the LISD superintendent has been named as one of 5 finalists for Texas School Administrator of the year.
Yet there is a dark side to the Lovejoy success story.
For several years now, one of Collin County's oldest community bulletin boards, lovejoyschools.com, has been sharply critical of the LISD board and policies.
Recently, lovejoyschools.com, which styles itself as the " unofficial Lovejoy Independent School District information site", has leveled allegations of nepotism, official oppression, and other "unnamed, serious allegations" made against the LISD superintendent, Ted Moore.
While the mainstream press has refrained from covering the scandal, a teacher, recently voted as "Teacher of the Year" was fired and then paid off in a $50,000 settlement. The superintendent held an "invitation only" closed meeting with selected citizens to defend himself, and a parent was served with "Cease and Desist" orders, banned from the schools and then cleared of all wrongdoing.
Last November, Laura Goodson, who is one of the members of lovejoyschools.com and a parent of a LISD student, posted a response she had received from the McKinney ISD on an Open Records Request. Goodson asked MISD for any records concerning misappropriation of funds in regards to Ted Moore, Dennis Muizers and Mark Slavin during their employment of MISD in 2004-2005.
Dennis Muizers had worked under the supervision of Ted Moore when Moore was at MISD, and Moore had recently hired Muizers as the Assistant Superintendent at Lovejoy.
After protracted 4 month legal battle, allegedly paid for in part by the Lovejoy ISD, that resulted in the Texas Attorney General ordering the release of the documents, MISD released documents detailing allegations that Muizers had left MISD after being placed on administrative leave during an investigation on his falsifying time records for one of his employees, Mark Slavin.
Mark Slavin is Ted Moore's stepson.
After being hired by LISD, Muizers then hired Slavin to run the newly created preschool for LISD employee's children. Research by members of lovejoyschools.com revealed that Slavin had no college degree yet was placed in administrative authority over certified teachers and was paid a salary larger than experienced teachers in the district.
On March 11, 2008, while the Open Records battle was happening, Ms. Goodson attended an open house at her child's school. Goodson stopped to talk with Laura Hendrix, a sixth grade teacher about getting her child transferred to Hendrix's class.
Another teacher overheard the conversation and reported it to the school's administrators, alleging that Ms. Goodson 'defamed' Ted Moore by spreading rumors about Moore's family issues. It seems LISD has a rule forbidding anyone from disparaging the district or its administrators on school property.
Then on April 10, 2008, Ms. Goodson met with Gavan Goodrich, the principle of Lovejoy Middle School regarding her child, towards the end of the meeting, Gavin Goodrich said he had to check on something – left the room and returned with Mari McGowan of the law firm of Abernathy Roeder Boyd & Joplin. McGowan handed Goodson a Cease and Desist letter from Abernathy representing the LISD board and another one from Ted Moore’s personal attorney. Goodson was banned from all LISD campuses.
Laura Hendrix, the teacher in the conversation, was no longer seen at LMS. She had been suspended. Now the parent, Ms. Goodson, was banned from the campus.
Attempts by Ms. Goodson to ascertain the reasons for Hendrix' suspension and her own banning using the Texas Open Records Act were stymied by LISD. At one point the district demanded $871 to fulfill her open records request. For the second time, the Texas Attorney General had to intervene to require that the district comply with Goodson's request.
On May 6, Tonya Vining, the Executive director of Personnel, send Ms. Goodson a letter stating, "Based on the findings of the investigation, the District has determined that you did not make the specific statement alleged. Therefore, the directive previously issued regarding your access to Lovejoy ISD campuses has been revoked."
But while Goodson was cleared, on June 17, Laura Hendrix's contract was terminated by the school board for the same incident.
On July 16 Ted Moore invited "selected parents" to a closed meeting where he showed a power point presentation comparing lovejoyschools.com to the National Enquirer. A public meeting that he had previously called for July 22 was abruptly canceled with no real explanation.
And on August 19 the LISD board approved a settlement agreement ending Ms. Hendrix's contract and paying her $50,000.
One effect of the settlement was to end all litigation. Earlier, lovejoyschools.com founder, Brenda Rizos was served with a subpoena in a lawsuit styled Lovejoy Independent School District vs. Laura Hendrix. That subpoena duces tecum required Ms. Rizos to produce the servers and all computers used in her email and for the lovejoyschools.com website. It also required Ms. Rizos to furnish the real names of all subscribers to her website, all communications to the press and all emails to Hendrix, Goodson and others.
The battle, which started over an Open Records request back in November of 2007, had ended On August 19.
To date, the Texas Attorney General had to intervene twice against the school districts, a parent was served with a Cease and Desist writ, and then exonerated, and an award winning teacher was fired, and then paid off. A subpoena has been served on the founder of lovejoyschools.com, and the school district paid unknown sums in legal fees for itself, Moore and Muizers.
No apologies or admissions of wrongdoing were ever issued by Moore or the LISD.
It is still a violation of LISD policy to defame or disparage Ted Moore, or any administrator at Lovejoy ISD.
There's two kinds of southern hospitality.
There's the friendly neighbors who greet the new folks on the block, no matter who they are, bringing food baskets and trying to make them feel welcome.
Then there's the white sheet and hood hospitality that can be unleashed to protect a community from any threat to its cherished beliefs.
Wylie has a history of both.
Some of the good old fashioned southern "get along with the neighbors" hospitality is sorely needed these days in the south-eastern Collin County town of Wylie.
The issue is over prayer, specifically prayers to Jesus Christ at school board and school bond committee meetings.
It all came to a head last month when a Jewish member of a school bond committee objected and stopped a recitation of the Lord's Prayer before a committee meeting. While the protest shocked the members of the committee, they had the good grace to complete their devotions with a moment of silence.
Over the next few weeks, public statements and emails flew back and forth.
Mikki Lewis, who was the board member objecting to the prayer wrote letters to the school board and superintendent, accusing the district of, "making us sit through invocations involving one's faith and/or choice of god."
Taking the argument one step further, Ms. Lewis also wrote, "I would like to know what we the parents... need to do to stop these invocations at all school-related functions".
Trustee Sue Nicklas was perhaps the most outspoken, writing in response, that there is, "no such thing" as separation of church and state in the Bill of Rights, and that the intent of the founding fathers was to "keep government out of religion".
With that take on American History, the battle lines were drawn.
Ms. Nicklas also wrote, "in ten years as a trustee, you're.... the first person that has ever had the audacity to interrupt God and one of his children in prayer."
Lewis then responded, "I did not interrupt God... He was not speaking!... but you can not start the meeting and then make our only choice to leave or listen to a prayer to your god."
Trustee Ralph James wrote to Ms. Lewis, "We have the right to pray in meetings, and I will fight to keep that right with whatever it takes."
Superintendent Dr. John Fuller offered to discuss the concept of separation of church and state with Ms. Lewis, but so far no meeting has taken place. Later he said, "Wylie ISD is a faith-based community.", adding, "I believe the public schools should neither inoculate nor inhibit religion."
At a later meeting of the school board, it was reported that members of the audience loudly repeated, like a football cheer, "in Jesus name we pray" after the invocation.
This seems to this Wylie resident a great time for a liberal dose of the welcoming brand of southern hospitality.
As our communities become more diverse, our governments need to become more welcoming and accepting. Collin County is no longer in the 19th century - our taxpayers come from all cultures and beliefs. Can we not ask for divine guidance in a manner not calculated to exclude anyone not Christian?
It would seem a simple matter to craft a prayer to heaven asking for wisdom and compassion.
In her last email to Dr. Fuller, Ms. Lewis wrote, "I think there are a few ways we can negotiate a common ground where we offend no one."
I hope the majority can find it in their hearts to express the same sentiments.
Prayer clash continues in Wylie school district - Dallas Morning News August 19, 2008
Prayer, interrupted - The Wylie News, August 13, 2008
According to the Dallas Morning News, WISD trustees will be floating a proposal for a large tax hike they say is needed to cover rising expenses, and slower than expected tax base growth.
The proposal would raise WISD taxes 10% - from $1.29 to $1.52. If passed by the trustees, the tax hike would have to be approved by voters in November
Wylie school board will discuss asking voters to OK higher taxes
Friday, May 30, 2008
By EMILY POWELL / The Dallas Morning News
Wylie school board members will discuss Monday whether they should ask voters to approve higher school taxes to cover teacher raises and balance the district's budget.
Superintendent H. John Fuller is expected to recommend a 13-cent tax increase and $3 million in expenditures from the district's $13 million reserve fund at the special meeting.
"We'd been living on growth," Dr. Fuller said. He said changes in state funding laws and rising fuel costs – combined with a greater slowdown in student growth than anticipated – make the district dependent on local taxes as a significant source of revenue.
Taxes would go from $1.39 per $100 of assessed property value to $1.52 per $100 of assessed value. Under the proposal, the homeowner of a $163,905 home – the average value of a single-family home in Wylie – would pay $2,491 in taxes, an increase of $213.
Anyone notice that the Plano ISD suddenly comes to the conclusion that taxes will increase a week AFTER the bond election?
I don't doubt the bonds were needed. I don't doubt that PISD is cash strapped. However, I get real angry when officials, whose salaries are paid by the taxpayers, feed those same taxpayers spin.
I want all elected officials to hear us. Damn it! Tell us the truth, and tell us in a timely manner. Or forget about getting re-elected.
Plano ISD expects to raise tax rate, run a deficit
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
By STELLA M. CHÁVEZ / The Dallas Morning News
Plano school officials said this week that they expect to raise taxes again and that they'll have to use reserve funds to balance the budget for the second year in a row.
School officials said they project a $14.6 million deficit unless they cut something from the $492 million now planned for the 2008-09 school year. Last year, school trustees approved a $485 million budget and had a $14.7 million deficit, which was also covered by reserve funds.
The budget includes a 3 percent pay hike for teachers, librarians and nurses. Administrators would get a 2.5 percent salary increase. Both groups got a raise last year.
District officials say that this year's increase will cost about $9 million but that it's worth it to retain good teachers who are being courted by other districts.
"We try to keep them moving forward. There aren't too many districts that freeze salaries," said Richard Matkin, associate superintendent for business services.
"It's a very competitive market out there."
School officials also blame changes in state funding formulas and rising fuel costs for much of the spending strain.
The board is scheduled to vote on the budget June 17. A public hearing is scheduled the same day for residents to give trustees their views.
Under the plan, the district is planning to raise its total tax rate by 3.5 cents. The tax rate would go from $1.2684 per $100 of assessed property value to $1.3034 per $100 of assessed property value. Under that proposal, the homeowner of a $262,500 home – the district's market average based on preliminary tax rolls – would pay $3,421 in taxes, up from $3,330.
For the last several years, Newsweek Magazine has published a list of the top ranked public high schools in the nation.
This year 36 North Texas schools made it to the top 1,355. Seven of those are in Collin County. Of the Collin County High Schools, Plano West was rated the highest at #217.
This year's Newsweek list showed a substantial decline in the rankings of our local schools. Plano West slipped in the rankings compared to last year - from #187 to #217, Plano H.S. was ranked almost 100 places lower than last year - from #364 to #463 and Plano East lost 250 places - from #452 to #702.
McKinney North H.S. found its rating lowered 500 places - from #245 in 2007 to #749 in 2008, McKinney H.S. was lowered by 430 rows - from #196 to #627, and Centennial H.S. in Frisco slipped 360 ranks from #901 to #1260.
Allen H.S. was the lone local gainer. It moved up in the rankings almost 40 rows - from #986 to #944.
Two Dallas schools, the Talented & Gifted Magnet (#2), and the Science/Engineering Magnet (#4) scored in the top 5 schools nationwide.
Highland Park came in at #15.
According to Newsweek, "Public schools are ranked according to a ratio... the number of Advanced Placement, Intl. Baccalaureate and/or Cambridge tests taken by all students at a school in 2007 divided by the number of graduating seniors. All of the schools on the list have an index of at least 1.000; they are in the top 5 percent of public schools measured this way."
Below are listed the 36 Metroplex schools.
|2||Talented and Gifted||Dallas|
|18||North Hills Prep||Irving|
|53||Diamond Hill-Jarvis||Fort Worth|
|295||Lawrence D Bell||Hurst|
|758||Flower Mound||Flower Mound|
|991||The Colony||The Colony|
It's understandable that Collin County doesn't brag that its phenomenal growth starting in the late 60's was in large part due to "white flight".
White flight, for those too young to remember, was a reaction to the integration of inner city schools - mainly by court ordered busing. Middle class whites fled the cities in droves, landing in all-white suburbs where integration was no longer an issue.
It is ironic therefore that McKinney, one of the largest towns in Collin County, now finds itself embroiled in controversy over, you guessed it - busing.
This time busing of students is not forced on the school district by a federal judge, but is a deliberate policy of the McKinney ISD to create equal opportunity in its middle schools.
McKinney can be divided geographically, and economically into 2 sectors - east and west. East McKinney is the older part of town and has a much lower average income and home value than the new subdivisions west of Central Expressway. To over simplify - west McKinney is rich, and east McKinney is not. There are large areas east of SH 5 that are very poor, and there are areas west of Central Expressway that are very rich.
The McKinney ISD has long pursued a policy of busing middle students in order to avoid concentrating economically disadvantaged students into one or two schools. By doing so, the school district has been able to keep all its campuses at a high performing level and avoiding the old "separate but equal" policies that historically led to low-performing ghetto schools which had to be remedied by the forced busing of the 60's and 70's.
However, some parents are not impressed. I should restate that as "some west McKinney parents are not impressed."
Last week, Ed Housewright, of the Dallas Morning News wrote of the tension being caused by busing middle schoolers. His column, titled "Time for McKinney ISD to listen to parents on busing" was a strongly worded condemnation of MISD policy. His accusation was that, "McKinney is conducting a social experiment no one can prove works"
Sunday's Morning News published two letters from MISD parents.
In the first,a parent (I assume from the east side of town) wrote, "The biggest proponents of neighborhood secondary schools have been those who believe their schools would either stay the same or improve if lower income students were not allowed to attend. But because this would not be socially correct, they wrap the argument in terms of being close to the school."
The second parent (I assume from west McKinney) countered with a letter that stated, "The main purpose of public schools is not to promote social mobility, racial integration or job security but to sow, fertilize and cultivate our greatest resource (our children), so they may have the opportunity to create a world superior to those who came before them."
Ed Housewright accuses the MISD board of not, "carrying out the will of people who elected them". It would seem to me that there is more than one opinion here.
The MISD has been busing students since 1995. The school board is an elected body, and has been so long before then. If the situation was as clearly wrong as Mr. Housewright contends, I suspect the voters would have had their way quite some time ago.
David Hall, who lost the Plano ISD, Place 5 race, asked me to post the following:
Based on my review, I believe that the Plano ISD is better than any other Independent School District in Texas, and that is the key to taking care of next year's $14 million shortfall. First, although I think that 2.5% of students not graduating is unacceptable, I think that a 3% revenue shortfall is almost nothing (every person is INFINITELY valuable whereas money is only a medium of exchange that represents people's HARD work). In case anyone is wondering if I know anything about finances large organizations, I worked for Price Waterhouse for many years advising Fortune 50 clients, had my own business for many more years, and have worked in places like Russia and South America for American and foreign companies so I KNOW business and only started working as a Math Teacher 4 years ago and an Administrator 3 years ago because I want my Grandchildren to live in the BEST society possible of well educated people of good character.
The proposed plan to take care to the shortfall has three steps as follows:
1. Allow ALL Plano ISD parents to enroll their students in any school they wish at no cost as long as they are willing to take care of the transportation, there is room available, and after the assigned students have been enrolled.
2. Publicize that Plano ISD is willing to allow students from other school districts to enroll as long as their is room at a facility, they will handle transportation, the student would not be allowed to play varsity sports the first FULL school year, AND the parents and student sign an agreement covering things like attendance / work ethic / behavior.
3. For the students that wish to enroll that cannot be accommodated in the current facilities, begin adding temporary buildings / renting open retail space (there is too much around Plano) / find other ways to accommodate the demand, begin a hiring program for the teachers needed, and begin more non-traditional approaches to education.
Simultaneously, we should begin lobbying the Legislature, State Board of Education, and TEA to help us get back more of the money they are taking from us. One approach would be for them to pay us a premium on the students that enroll from other school districts. Last but not least I am willing to volunteer to help make all of this happen using capabilities, approaches, and templates that Responsive Education Solutions has been developing over the last 10 years (we get far less money per student than the ISD's but we are in very sound financial position which the TEA will confirm).
David Lee Hall
Florence Shapiro weighs run for U.S. Senate
Thursday, May 8, 2008
By WAYNE SLATER / The Dallas Morning News
AUSTIN -- State Sen. Florence Shapiro of Dallas is considering setting up an exploratory committee to run for the U.S. Senate in anticipation of Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison running for governor.
Mrs. Shapiro was not available for comment but her political consultant, Bryan Eppstein, said people around the state are urging the Dallas Republican to seek the Senate if Mrs. Hutchison resigns or retires. “Right now, she’s strongly considering it,” said Mr. Eppstein.
He noted that a year ago, former Dallas Cowboy quarterback Roger Staubach was among those touting the idea and volunteered to help if Mrs. Shapiro ran for an open Senate seat.
Mrs. Hutchison, the state’s senior senator, has said she does not intend to run again. She has indicated she might challenge Gov. Rick Perry for reelection in 2010.
Mrs. Hutchison could either resign early or remain in the Senate while running for governor.
Should Mrs. Shapiro declare her intention to establish a federal campaign exploratory committee, it would allow her to start raising money and put her atop speculation about a possible successor to Mrs. Hutchison.
Mrs. Shapiro has been in the state Senate since 1993 and was a Plano City Council member and mayor before seeking state office. She is chairman of the Senate Education Committee.
Local election season is in full swing with early voting beginning on Monday.
There are close to 100 candidates in Collin County vying for positions on city councils, school boards and a utility district. The Plano and Princeton school districts have school construction bond propositions on the ballot, and Princeton's voters also get a re-do of a hotly debated ballot measure to grant themselves a home rule charter.
While many races are opposed, a few have garnered widespread interest, and turnout is expected to be low.
Probably the most publicized race features a contest in east Plano between Pat Minor, recently the Plano Homeowners Council President and long-time community activist, and Justin Nichols, the young Collin County Teen Court manager. Nichols has received a lot of press in recent weeks after a Dallas paper ran a story about a young, gay man running for Plano city council. After the news story was published, Nichols had to fight to protect his county job. This race could be a close one.
Plano citizens will see the largest slate of election races. There are 4 City Council seats up for grabs, three of them held by incumbents. The Plano ISD races feature two contested positions and a $490 million bond proposition. Economic issues will be at the forefront - in a down-turn economy, the city is battling a projected budget shortfall, while the school district needs new school construction funding.
The most bizarre race has to be in Murphy. There, Mayor Brett Baldwin is running for re-election opposed by Craig Sherwood, the city's former City Manager. Sherwood resigned last year (most believe under pressure from the newly elected City Council) in the wake of widespread criticism over his inviting NBC Nightline's "To Catch a Predator" show to Murphy. The last episode should have been titled, "The fiasco in Murphy".
Mr. Sherwood was paid over $300,000 in severance pay to go away quietly, but he's back - and it's a grudge match.
Murphy politics has been volatile for several years. In the last election, supporters of Mayor Baldwin ousted the "old guard" and for the first time, gained a majority vote on the council. It's no surprise that this year every council race is opposed, and that every incumbent up for re-election has to campaign to keep their job.
Wylie citizens will have the opportunity to choose in every City Council and School Board position, up for re-election. All three incumbent council members, and all three incumbent school board trustees drew opponents. Mayor John Mondy faces stiff opposition from former councilman Eric Hogue.
The Wylie school board trustees drew criticism this year when they voted to fill a vacancy on the board with an ex-trustee, D. Baron Cook, who came under fire a few years ago for conflicts of interest allegations regarding land deals with the school district. Mr. Cook now is running for the unexpired term against Lance Goff who failed in a bid for a trustee's seat in the last election. Confusion and implementation issues over new school regulations of "standard dress code" has also caused the board to have to fight for re-election.
Allen voters will be able to choose between candidates in three contested City council slots and 2 Allen ISD trustee positions. Frisco citizens will also choose three council members and two school board trustees, while voters in the Seis Lagos Utility district will choose two "directors" in a round robin contest between 6 candidates.
All of the county's city and school board incumbents and candidates are campaigning to gain your trust in them so that they can serve their communities. All these positions are largely unpaid, and those who win face 2 to 4 years of generally thankless volunteer service. I applaud them, and urge you to respect their commitment by voting.
Early voting begins Monday and runs through Tuesday, May 6; early voting locations and sample ballots are here.
Election day is Saturday, May 10. Election day voting locations are here.
A complete list (I hope) of contested races is displayed below.
|Allen City||Allen ISD|
|Mayor||Mark Pacheco||Place 6||John Stephens|
|Steve Terrell (I)||Thomas F. Buchanan|
|Place 2||Louise Master (I)|
|Tearod L. Robertson||Place 7||Mark Jones (I)|
|Ross Obermeyer (I)||Sally B Bonham|
|Place 3 (unexpired term)||Richard Buchanan||Anna ISD|
|Ben Ferguson||Place 5||Ty Chapman (I)|
|Joey Herald||Becky Woodward|
|Anna City||Place 7||Mark Jones|
|Place 4||Darren R. Driskell||Larissa Thornburg|
|Jon K. Hendricks|
|Celina City||Frisco ISD|
|Mayor||Jim Lewis||Place 4||Brenda J. Polk (I)|
|G.L. Bud Phillips||Janet MacCubbin|
|Place 6||Gene W. Christensen||Place 5||Jeremy Starritt|
|Sean Terry||Richard A Beaver (I)|
|Mayor||Matt Lafata||Lovejoy ISD|
|Maher Maso||Position 4||Kerry Leath|
|Place 5||Tim H. Nelson||Julie James|
|John C. Newsome||Position 5||Brad Northcutt|
|Antonio Lueano||Rich Hickman (I)|
|Place 6||Jim Tupper||McKinney ISD|
|Scott Johnson||Place 4||Jim Pikl|
|Buddy Clark||Dick Stevens|
|La Della Levy||Mark P. Yablon|
|Ref. 1||Late hours alcohol consumption|
|McKinney City||Melissa ISD|
|At-Large||Marta Gore||Place 2||Leland Dysart (I)|
|Sherry Tucker David||Tina Helmberger|
|Pete Huff||Plano ISD|
|Murphy City||Place 4||Brad Shanklin|
|Mayor||Bret Baldwin (I)||Robert Canright|
|David Scarborough||Place 5||Lloyd "Skip" Jenkins (I)|
|Craig W. Sherwood||Michael Mariano|
|Place 3||Jerry Lington||David Hall|
|John Daugherty||Prop 1||$490 million for school buildings|
|Place 5||Mike Daniel (I)||Princeton ISD|
|Terry Lynn Stallcup||Vote for 1, 2 or none||Angela Dooley (I)|
|Parker City||Donnie Campbell|
|Mayor||Joe Cordina||John Murray|
|Jim Threadgill||Rebecca Henery|
|At-Large||Scott Levine||Prop 1||$46.6 million for school buildings|
|Eleanor Evans (I)||Seis Lagos Utility Dist.|
|James Clay||Director (vote for 1,2 or none)||Rolando Ramon|
|Plano City||Rick Collins|
|Place 1, Dist. 1||Pat Minor||Frank Jurotich|
|Justin P. Nichols||Diane Lydick|
|Place 3, Dist. 3||Loretta Ellerbe (I)||Gary Bowland (I)|
|Mabrie Jackson||Scott Wilkinson|
|Place 5||Harry LaRosiliere? (I)||Jennifer Hart|
|Russel Head||Wylie ISD|
|Place 7||Jean Callison (I)||Place 1||Barbara Goss|
|Danny Morris||Ronnie Fetzer (I)|
|Princeton City||Place 2||Ralph James (I)|
|Place 5||Ken Bowers||James. R. Griffin|
|Rocky Lemley (I)||Place 4 (unexpired term)||D. Baron Cook (I)|
|Prop 1||Adopt Home Rule||Lance Goff|
|Place 5||David F. Bristol (I)|
|Mayor||John Mondy (I)|
|Place 5||Rick White (I)|
|Place 6||Carter Porter (I)|
The Dallas Morning News published an article yesterday on local High School dropout rates. Headlined "Dallas-Fort Worth suburbs struggle with dropouts", the reporters compared local dropout rates to the shockingly high 50% rates in large US cities.
Noting that, "Arlington, Duncanville and Grand Prairie all reported graduation rates below 80 percent for the class of 2006.", the News story then quoted Gary Godsey, president and CEO of the Dallas United Way, "Most people think Collin County is insulated from issues like this. It isn't insulated by any means."
Intrigued, I took some of the data from the Morning News article, and expanded it to all Collin County ISDs with data from the TEA and data from the Editorial Projects in Education Research Center. The results of the survey paint a picture only a little rosier than the DMN article suggested.
According to the TEA statistics, in 2006 5 of 13 Collin County school districts failed to graduate 90% or more of their students. The EPE statistics from 2004 showed 11 failed the 90% marker, and 6 failing to graduate 80%.
I have also included the TEA Accountability Rating and the Tax rate for all 15 Collin ISDs. I find it interesting that the tax rate really does not directly correlate to the ratings or student retention. An example is Richardson ISD, which has the high rating of "Recognized" one of the lowest tax rates, and yet one of the county's highest dropout rates.
|District||Graduation rates from the Editorial Projects in Education
Research Center, 2003-04 school year
|Graduation rates from the TEA, 2003-04 school year||Graduation rates from the TEA, 2005-06 school year||2007 TEA Accountability Rating||Tax Rate|
|Blue Ridge||72.3||98.4||97.1||Academically Acceptable||$1.5560000|
It appears many of our school administrators need to rethink and maybe re-prioritize their strategies for graduating all their students. Taxpayers can and should hold their trustees responsible for the performance and graduation rates of the students in their care.
With school board elections coming up in May, voters should be asking the candidates what they would do to help see that 90 - 95% of high school kids get to graduate.
Prosper ISD OK's Tax hike, while Royce City's voters said "no".
92 Texas Districts voted to raise taxes after the Legislature mandates cuts.
Austin should know better! The State should let local voters set policy for local issues. If the State of Texas wants to give the citizens a tax cut, let them cut State taxes, not local school, city and county taxes.
Texas voters favored school funds to property tax cut
More districts likely to seek increases after 92 see voters give back part of reductions
Thursday, November 8, 2007
By TERRENCE STUTZ / The Dallas Morning News
AUSTIN – More than three-fourths of Texas school districts that sought voter approval to hike their property tax rates were successful this week, paving the way for other districts across the state to consider their own tax elections next year.
A total of 92 school districts – including several small districts in North Texas – convinced voters that their schools' financial needs outweighed a big chunk of the property tax relief approved by the Legislature and Gov. Rick Perry last year.
In most of those districts, voters gave up about 40 percent of the property tax reduction they would have received this year under the school finance reform law. The legislation – passed in response to an order from the Texas Supreme Court – traded lower school property taxes for higher taxes on businesses and smokers.
Voters in 26 other districts rejected a higher property tax rate, including the largest in the state to hold a tax rate election – the San Antonio school district, according to TexasISD.com.
Also saying no were voters in the Lake Worth district in Tarrant County and the Royse City district in Rockwall County.
Anna approves continued sale of liquor
Anna voters overwhelmingly endorsed the continued sales of liquor. With a 48% turnout, and a 77% "yes" vote, voters have hopefully ended the see-saw series of referendums on the off-premises sale of liquor, beer and wine.
From the McKinney Courier-Gazette -
Voters were kind to area school districts on Tuesday, approving bond packages in the Prosper and Lovejoy ISDs, and granting permission for the Prosper and Blue Ridge ISDs to raise their tax rates 13 cents per $100 valuation above the state maximum.
Prosper ISD voters passed the district’s $710 million bond package with an 879-221 vote, and the 13-cent tax hike by an 879-223 margin. The bond package will pay for a flurry of school construction through 2015, when the district could have two Class 4A high schools.
The package will also pay for construction of four new elementary schools, a new middle school, phases 2 and 3 of the new high school and a second high school. The additional tax money will fund the staff and operations of the new school.
“Obviously, I’m excited,” Superintendent Drew Watkins said. “I was hopeful for this kind of turnout.”
Watkins said the passing of the bond package and tax hike was an example of how much Prosper residents support the district.
“This is my sixth year here and my experience so far is they want a quality education for their children,” Watkins said. “Everybody takes a lot of pride in our community.” Meanwhile, Blue Ridge ISD voters passed their 13-cent raise, 115-83. The money will be used in the maintenance and operations budget to help fund growth.
“I’m just tickled to death,” Blue Ridge ISD school board president Greg Douglas said. “That is probably one of the best things that could happen for our district at this point in time.”
Douglas said the tax hike would bring in about $440,000 more to Blue Ridge ISD. He said the additional funds would be used in different capacities.
“What we got the money earmarked for, we’re going to improve our technology department,” Douglas said. “We’re going to give teachers a raise. We’ve been losing quite a few teachers to other districts because they pay more.”
Overall, Douglas said most people he talked to were in favor of passing the tax hike.
“I really think they like what they see at our schools and our grades are starting to come up and they want to support us in every way that they can,” Douglas said. “I’m really proud of the people in our district who did get out and vote. This will help every student in our district.”
Tuesday evening also saw the passage of a $78.5 million bond proposal for Lovejoy ISD.
According to Lovejoy ISD Superintendent Ted Moore, the package passed, 1,545-420 (78.63 percent to 21.37 percent). In all, 1,965 ballots were cast, of which 1,278 were cast as early ballots. Moore said almost 25 percent of the registered voters for the district turned out.
The citizens of Princeton voted against a proposal to give their city home-rule status, while Melissa voters approved a bond package that will provide millions to road construction and renovation projects.
The city of Melissa approved a $19.1 million road and streets bond package by a vote of 283 to 155, while the city of Princeton turned down a home-rule proposition by a vote of 149-117, according to Collin County election results.
Princeton Mayor Steve Deffibaugh said he was pleased with the overall voter turnout, but disappointed with the results. About 12 percent of Princeton voters cast ballots.
“I am disappointed but not upset,” Deffibaugh said. “People got out and voted, and I asked lot of people to get out and vote and vote their conscience and vote the way they wanted to vote, whether it was for or against ... I am glad we had this many people come out and vote.”
Deffibaugh said he believes the home-rule proposal faced heavy opposition from outside citizens who feared the city would incorporate their property into it.
“They were so afraid we would run out and start annexing everyone,” Deffibaugh said. “That’s not the case. As the city grows, we’re going to annex naturally.” He also said he hoped the city would be able to establish a charter that would expand its city council and separate the seats into precincts or places instead of at-large seats in the hopes it would give citizens centralized representation across the city limits and increase citizen participation.
Deffibaugh said he hopes the city council will put the home-rule proposal on a future ballot.
“We’ll try again,” Deffibaugh said. “We can do it again as early as May. Whether or not we’ll do it is up to the council.”
Meanwhile in Melissa, voters approved a bond package that will be used to construct, repair or extend roads within Melissa city limits.
In response to: One Dropout Factory in Collin County
Comment from: Codu Cunningham
The methodology is a joke. That should be the headline. Makes for good headlines but this is simply not accurate. We reviewed the methodology. They looked at enrollment in 2000-01, 2001-02, and 2002-2003 and compared it to the graduation numbers in 2004, 2005, and 2006. They refer to it as "promoting power" which is the school's ability to have a student from their 9th grade year through senior year. In other words, they look at the enrollment in 12th grade and divide by the number of students in 9th grade four years earlier. They state that to be eligible to be considered a "dropout factory" the senior class must be "made up of 60 percent or fewer of the kids who entered as freshman." No consideration is given to transfers (i.e. REZONING), students that move to other schools, students that graduate early, students that take online courses and graduate early, etc.
Now, let's think about how all of these could impact McKinney? North High School since it was newly opened in 2000. McKinney? North High School housed 9th graders from McKinney? North High School AND McKinney? High School in 2000-2001, or a total of 820 students. In 2002-2003 the number of 10th graders was 283. Did 537 9th graders drop out? Of course not, they returned to McKinney? High School, their home campus. The methodology used in this study divides the number of students graduating four years later. Of course the number is going to be way off, that's because they were assuming all of these students should have stayed at MNHS. Absolutely ridiculous. They didn't ask though, they used raw numbers so they wouldn't have known. In addition, they don't factor students that may have moved, been rezoned, graduated early, etc.
Our dropout rates in grades 9-12, as reported by the Texas Education Agency:
The truth is that their study is testing student mobility, not dropouts, and they didn't even get that right. Thanks for the opportunity to set the record straight.
Asst. to the Superintendent for Communications
Bill responds: "You're welcome."
The Associated Press and Johns Hopkins have published a report that labels 12% of American schools as "dropout factories". They describe a dropout factory as a "a high school where no more than 60 percent of the students who start as freshmen make it to their senior year."
Texas ranked 9th highest in the country, with almost 18% of high schools failing to graduate more than 60%. While many of the 179 failing Texas schools were in the Houston or Dallas ISDs, one is in Collin County.
According to the AP study, McKinney North High School only graduated 51% of its incoming freshmen.
"If you're born in a neighborhood or town where the only high school is one where graduation is not the norm, how is this living in the land of equal opportunity?" asks Bob Balfanz, the researcher at Johns Hopkins University who defines such a school as a "dropout factory."
The AP reports: "There are about 1,700 regular or vocational high schools nationwide that fit that description, according to an analysis of Education Department data conducted by Johns Hopkins for The Associated Press. That's 12 percent of all such schools, no more than a decade ago but no less, either.
While some of the missing students transferred, most dropped out, Balfanz says. The data tracked senior classes for three years in a row to make sure local events like plant closures weren't to blame for the low retention rates."
Beginning in January, out-of-district and out-of-state students will pay slightly more to attend Collin College.
The new tuition rate jumps from $37 to $41 per semester hour for students who live outside of Collin County. Students who are not Texas residents will pay $96 per semester hour, up from $90.
In county residents will continue to pay $27 per hour. All students will pay the $9 building use fee and the $1 student activity fee for every hour they take.
This means that a three-credit hour class will cost out-of-district residents $153. The same course will cost out-of-state and out-of-country students $318, while it will cost residents students only $111.
Dr. Cary Israel, Collin College president said that the hike puts the community college district more aligned with the rates neighboring schools charge its non-resident students.
“We feel we’re a little bit out of line for our out-of-district charges,” he said. We’re going to continue to raise the out-of-district rate and try to get a little bit more in line with the statewide average.” Despite the increase, Collin College is still a “bargain” because it remains the lowest out-of-district rate in the state, he said.