in Houston, Texas
Proposed school closures, consolidations in works for Houston school system
Monday, Apr 11, 2011, 02:23PM CST
By Lynn Walsh
Wrecking ball

Houston school system trustees are preparing to consider closing or consolidating 15 schools this week -- and several of them are slated to be replaced by new schools funded by a 2007 voter-approved bond issue, the school system says.

In recent weeks, the Houston Independent School District has been receiving feedback from parents and community members about the possible closure of four elementary schools: Love, McDade, Grimes and Rhoads.

Eleven more schools are on the agenda for this week’s school board meeting to be considered for possible closure or consolidation.

The proposed consolidation of Sherman and Crawford elementaries will result in a new school at Sherman, and Crawford being closed, part of the 2007 voter-approved bond, Mark Smith, HISD’s assistant superintendent for academics, said in an e-mail.

Also part of the 2007 bond is the closing of Scott Elementary and the creation of new school buildings for Dogan and Atherton elementaries, which are currently both in temporary buildings. Scott students would be sent to Dogan.

Under the proposals, E.O. Smith Elementary would be “repurposed into an all-boys school,” Smith said. E.O. Smith Elementary students who aren’t in the new all-boys school would be sent to the newly built Atherton elementary. (HISD trustees approved the creation of an all-boys academy in December.)

Meanwhile, E.O. Smith Middle would also be closed, and its students would be sent to Lamar Fleming, Thomas Jackson or McReynolds Middle, or Gregory Lincoln Education Center.  

Consolidating Sharpstown Middle and the International High School at Sharpstown will create one school that would be located at the Sharpstown Middle school location, Smith says. That proposal was not part of the 2007 bond-funded construction program.

The newly built schools may not necessarily have the same name as the schools they are replacing, Smith said.

If trustees vote to close Love, McDade, Rhoads and Grimes, neighboring schools would absorb those students beginning next school year.

Woodson, a pre-kindergarten-through-eighth grade school, would absorb students from Grimes and Rhoads.

Students from McDade would go to one of three elementaries: Paige, Ross or Kashmere Gardens. Students from Love would be sent to Field or Sinclair elementaries.

Previously HISD had said some students from Love would also be sent to Harvard Elementary, but that is no longer a possibility, HISD spokesman Jason Spencer said, because Harvard can’t hold more students.

HISD will be seeking input from parents once again 5:30-7:30 p.m. Wednesday at Grimes Elementary.

***
Contact Lynn Walsh at 713-228-2850 or lynn@texaswatchdog.org or on Twitter at @lwalsh.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Join our network on de.licio.us, and put our RSS feeds in your newsreader. We're also on MySpaceDiggFriendFeedand tumblr.

Photo of wrecking ball by flickr user Rhys Asplundh, used via a Creative Commons license.

Houston ISD makes good on promise to post school construction budgets online
Tuesday, Feb 08, 2011, 03:40PM CST
By Lynn Walsh
Construction tunnel

The Houston school system has followed through with its promise of greater transparency and online access to details about its $1 billion building program.

The Houston Independent School District’s building program -- which will build more than 20 new schools and renovate 130 others -- has been beset by financial errors and budget planning problems. In October, HISD’s general manager of construction and facilities, Issa Dadoush, told Texas Watchdog the district planned by the end of fall to post online budgets for all the construction projects associated with the voter-approved bond program.

Those worksheets are now all online and can be viewed on a new HISD website here.

The projects are organized alphabetically by school campus name and can be viewed by “project type” (new schools, renovated schools) “school type” (elementary, middle, high) HISD regions, HISD districts and construction company involved.

Project details listed include the approved project budget and an estimate of how much of the project is complete. The information on the site will be updated quarterly, Dadoush said, and for more recent approved funding information, Dadoush points people to the minutes from the bond oversight committee posted here.

Texas Watchdog obtained copies of the construction worksheets through state public information laws and published all of the worksheets online here before HISD’s website was ready so the public could view them.

Contact Lynn Walsh, Lynn@TexasWatchdog.org, 713-228-2850 or on Twitter @LWalsh.

Keep up with all the latest news from Texas Watchdog. Fan our page on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and Scribd, and fan us on YouTube. Put our RSS feeds in your newsreader

Construction tunnel photo by flickr user spatulated, used under a Creative Commons license.

Houston school system looks for volunteers to oversee $800M bond-backed building program
Tuesday, Oct 12, 2010, 02:32PM CST
By Lynn Walsh

Want a say in how the Houston Independent School District manages its $1 billion construction program?

Cake

HISD is taking applications for three openings on a board responsible for overseeing the $800 million in bond money that is funding the bulk of the building program.

The nine-person HISD Bond Program Oversight Committee has vacancies after some members chose not to re-apply for their positions.

In late August, HISD Chief Operating Officer Leo Bobadilla required members of the committee to re-apply, even if their terms weren’t up yet. They also had to agree to a new committee charter -- one including a prohibition on conflicts of interest.

Five existing members and one new member have been approved -- Chris Hudson, Mary Nesbit, Ber Pieper, Carroll Robinson and Gary White are returning, while Sonny Flores is the new appointee.

Flores replaces Manuel Barrera Jr., who stepped down earlier this year. Barrera was recommended to the committee by former HISD trustee Diana Davila.

Two outgoing committee members, Terrence Cheng and Edmond Gor, chose not to re-apply.

According to the new charter, at least one member must have experience in engineering or building design. However, in a break from past practice, no seats are reserved for specific community groups like the Houston Citizens Chamber of Commerce or the Greater Houston Partnership.

In July, the Houston Chronicle reported that Dávila attempted to get her husband, Abel Dávila, on the bond committee last November. According to the story, HISD Superintendent Terry Grier ultimately denied the request, but approved Barrera.

Abel Dávila is the former chairman of the Houston Community College Board of Trustees and is at the center of a conflict of interest investigation there.

According to an HISD spokesman, an online application will be available for those interested in serving on the oversight committee. An internal group will then make recommendations to Grier and, ultimately, HISD trustees will have the final say.

The deadline for applications was unclear at press time. Calls and e-mails to district spokesmen and Bobadilla were not returned -- but Texas Watchdog will update this post if we find out more.

Contact Lynn Walsh at Lynn@TexasWatchdog.org, 713-228-2850 or on Twitter: @LWalsh.

Picture of cake thanking volunteers from flickr user San Jose Library, used via a Creative Commons license.

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