Under a Different Name, HISD Trustee's Daughter Talks About "Bully" Principal

Categories: Education

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Screen grab from Facebook.com
Houston ISD trustee Manuel Rodriguez told us yesterday he wasn't going to take a public position on the much-debated-question in recent months of whether the principal at Patterson Elementary is any good or not.

"It's not a board member position to handle administrative or personnel positions," he said taking the high road in response to our question about principal Jeannie Castano.

But in the past few months a lot of teachers, parents and concerned citizens have registered as public speakers to address trustees at their board meetings about Patterson. On February 13 a woman named Esmeralda Sanchez was among them.

Except that isn't her real name. She's actually Angelina Rodriguez, Manuel Rodriguez's daughter.

And even though her father was sitting right there at the trustee table as the video shows, neither he nor his daughter corrected the mistake when Angelina came to the speaker's mike after board president Juliet Stipeche called out "Esmeralda Sanchez."

Which also begs the question: Why did Angelina Rodriguez answer to another name, clearly spoken by attorney Stipeche?

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Screen grab from houstonisd.org

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AG's Action on Diploma Mill May Just Be the Beginning

Categories: Education

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Iowapolitics.com
Online home schooling industry is a circus.
Last week, Attorney General Greg Abbott announced that the assets of Houston-based Lincoln Academy and its affiliate, Brownstone Academy, would be frozen and a restraining order was issued to prevent them from doing business. Both claimed to be accredited by the National Home School Accreditation of America. The only problem is that the NHSA is not an accrediting body. It's merely a website. Many consumers confused the NHSA with the legitimate organization, the Texas Home School Coalition.

Efforts by the Consumer Protection Division of the AG's office were prompted by over 100 complaints against the two academies. A simple search on the Internet reveals poor reviews of the diploma mill for well over a two year period.

School choice in Texas is a hot topic right now, and it's more difficult than ever for parents and students to choose wisely. The choices include public schools, magnet schools, charter schools (both public and private), home-rule charter schools, private schools, homeschooling and online cyber-schools; within each one of the confusing categories are hundreds of schools, all with different missions and student populations. Opportunists are perfectly aware of the confusion and it provides them with plenty of prospects to deceive and mislead.

This is precisely the reason that Lincoln and Brownstone fell through the cracks of Texas' oversight; in addition to the fact that the number of TEA personnel who monitor such schools is limited since the agency's staff purge a decade ago.

In the Houston area alone, there are nearly 100 charter schools. And horror stories abound locally.

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Affordable College Textbook Act Would Help Students, But Publishers Aren't Hearing It

Categories: Education

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Photo by nika217
Carla Medrano, University of Houston broadcast journalism major, just paid $220 for a new TV Production textbook, no small amount just for one class. Every year students have to worry about how they will pay for their college textbooks. Some students receive scholarships and other financial assistance, while others are placed in a bind trying to figure out how to get their hands on cheap books. That soon may change because of the Affordable College Textbook Act.

Had this bill already passed Medrano would have extra money in her pocket. She said this bill could save her at least $100 each semester.

The Affordable College Textbook Act is a bill that would create grants for colleges and universities to provide free textbooks online in collaboration with professors and other organizations. The books would be licensed to the public where they would be able to customize and distribute the material as they please.

"Imagine all the money I could save," said Medrano. "Instead of buying books I could invest in more classes." Now, you're talking. But, book publishers argue that it's money out of their pockets.



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Audience Erupts in "Fire Terry Grier" Chant as HISD School Board Closes Dodson, Saves Jones (Sort Of)

Categories: Education

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Photo by Margaret Downing
Houston ISD's police force got to go into full alert at last night's meeting
Amid chants of "Fire Terry Grier," Houston ISD school board members and their superintendent retreated into a back room Thursday night while HISD police officers formed a protective barrier in the front of the room after audience members began shouting in protest about two proposed school closings.

After reconvening their monthly board meeting, trustees voted 5-4 (voting against were Wanda Adams, Paula Harris, Rhonda Skillern-Jones and Anna Eastman) to shut down Dodson Elementary and 6-3 (voting against were Harris, Skillern-Jones and Eastman) and to make over Jesse Jones High School into a magnet school where students from throughout HISD would take vocational courses and be able to get associate degrees.

The role of peacemaker fell to new trustee and former city councilwoman Jones. In her initial remarks, she told the room that they did not have the votes they wanted on the board to keep Jones open as a comprehensive high school. If they didn't accept the compromise plan to turn Jones into a magnet, the alternative -- and the initial proposal from Grier's administration -- would have been to shut down the comprehensive school at the end of this school year and use it as a swing facility in which to house students whose home schools were being renovated.

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HISD Won't Close Three Schools Thanks to a Presidential Pardon

Categories: Education

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Photo courtesy HISD
Juliet Stipeche saves the day for three schools
Just like the turkey who gets a presidential pardon right before Thanksgiving, three Houston ISD schools have been taken off the chopping block by executive privilege.

Flexing her new HISD board president powers, Juliet Stipeche removed Nathaniel Q. Henderson Elementary, Port Houston Elementary and Fleming Middle School from consideration for the closure that was proposed by Superintendent Terry Grier's administration.

However, trustees will still be voting on whether to close Jones High School and Dodson Elementary at their board meeting on March 13.

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HISD School Closings: Would You Feel Better If They Called Them Repurposings?

Categories: Education

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A superintendent who knows his message isn't a happy one
Today's 9th, 10th and 11th grade students at Jones High School could be allowed to finish out their high school careers at the school targeted for closure, if trustees adopt one of several options tossed around in a lengthy Houston ISD board workshop Thursday.

Houston ISD Superintendent Terry Grier proposed the idea in passing about halfway through the meeting and then with more detail at the end of the long meeting in which trustees and audience members were presented with 39 pages of PowerPoint and accompanying staff and superintendent explanation -- while trustees asked a lot of questions.

Yes, Grier still wants to close Jones (supporters of this shutdown in the administration, and on the board say they've thrown millions of dollars at the school, replaced all of the staff, put in new programs and still the desired academic progress isn't there and most kids don't want to go there), but said there might be an avenue for the present 9th, 10th and 11th graders to stay.

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Supt. Terry Grier in State of the Schools Speech Says Something in Arabic That We Couldn't Quite Catch, But E For Effort

Categories: Education

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Photos by Margaret Downing
HISD Superintendent Terry Grier states his case on the big screen
More dual language programs in schools, increased diversity efforts including school staffing so that schools better reflect Houston as a whole, and a pilot program that would allow students whose parents move around a lot to name their home school and continue to attend it no matter what their new address is were some of the main initiatives announced at Houston ISD's State of the Schools event Wednesday.

With 2,000 guests in attendance in the fourth floor ballroom of the Hilton Americas Hotel, Superintendent Terry Grier in his fifth annual State of the Schools address continued to make his case that as head of Houston ISD he is charting a course of determination and innovation.

The Apollo 20 program that targeted - critics said stigmatized - certain low-performing schools was mentioned only in passing by Grier when he acknowledged that while they'd been able to narrow the academic equity gap in math using tutoring techniques at these schools, the same results weren't seen in reading scores (where there was no extra tutoring). This was a far cry from past years when Apollo was held up as a shining beacon for future success and millions of dollars were poured into its programs.

Now with the district contemplating closing at least one Apollo school - Jones High School - it seems the curtain is about to be drawn on that great experiment, although Grier did say in a brief post-lunch news conference that the lessons HISD learned (among other things:tutoring works) will be applied throughout the district.

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HISD Superintendent Terry Grier in Paris, Superintendent Who Knows When to Travel

Categories: Education

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Grier not here, but in Paris.
At last week's school board meeting as parents, children, teachers and politicians lined up to protest the Houston ISD administration's plan to shutter five schools, Superintendent Terry Grier was not at his usual place at the podium -- instead he was at the annual conference of the American Association of School Administrators. In Nashville.

As the protests continue to build -- no surprise here; school closings however necessary they might be are never a popular item with the public -- Grier has left town again.

In the tweet sent out yesterday, Grier mentions the district's new program to put laptop computers in the hands of thousands of kids. He's doing this from Paris (not the town in Texas, either).

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HISD Board Votes to Continue Eliminating Teacher Jobs Through RIFs While HFT President Says Process Is Being Abused

Categories: Education

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It used to be that RIF had a good connotation - standing for the much appreciated nationwide program Reading is Fundamental.

But starting in 2011, RIF has meant nothing but a pink slip to Houston ISD teachers. That's the year the district started its Reduction in Force process that unlike the more traditional form of dismissal - as in you are a lousy teacher - didn't have to be for cause. Instead, if principals found themselves unable to make budget or if they wanted to concentrate on another area of expertise, they could tell a staffer that he or she (and his or her skill set) was no longer needed.

At last night's HISD school board meeting the issue came up again when two items came up before the board to allow the RIF process to continue for employees with both continuing and term contracts. New trustee Wanda Adams, saying she was alarmed by the literacy crisis in the district (yes, it's now important again and if you'd like to know what we wrote about it last year check this out) wanted to exempt librarians from any RIFs.


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Teacher Accused of Molesting 10-Year-Old Student

Categories: Crime, Education

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Disturbing allegations.
Police arrested Roman Zalasar, 54, a first- and second-grade teacher at Tijerina Elementary School, for allegedly molesting a ten-year-old boy who was a student in his class.

The boy told police the abuse occurred between mid-October and late November of last year. According to reports, the boy said his teacher fondled him twice and kissed him several times.

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