Missing 316 Solved

I can go where I want.

I can go where I want.

Zoning is probably one of the most difficult tasks undertaken by a school board. You’re just not going to make everyone happy. But in FBISD, balancing the student populations in 11 high schools is a particularly monumental challenge. First consideration is school locations. Second consideration is porous school boundaries due to the academies and student transfer policy. The third, and arguably the most significant, consideration is enrollment projections for each campus. The High School Zoning Plan approved at the March 7, 2011 board meeting is a good example of why the properties of projection methodologies, which depend on the validity of many assumptions, can lead to wrong decisions—especially when there are alternative school choices.

For example, at the Zoning Meetings last year, administration stated that 316 students would be affected by zoning Heritage Colony, Lake Colony, and Riverstone neighborhoods zoned to Austin Parkway Elementary from Clements High School (CHS) to Elkins High School (EHS). You may recall that administration student enrollment projections for EHS in the 2011/2012 school year would be 2,251. But the actual enrollment as of September 9, 2011 was 2,008 students—a decrease of 10%. What happened? Wasn’t the zoning supposed to increase the student population at EHS even when accounting for grandfathering of juniors and seniors at CHS?

To answer this question, I started with the 316 students zoned from CHS to EHS. Where did they go? After multiple rounds of Open Records Requests, administration eventually completed my request and I came to my own conclusions.

Regarding grandfathering, it’s important to note that administration’s projections assumed that all incoming 11th and 12th graders took that option. They were almost right—of the 152 eligible students, 136 of them stayed at CHS while the remaining 16 students went to EHS.

Regarding changes in the resident population, shown below is a table provided by the administration.

Naturally you will have student migration in and out of a zoned area as indicated in the table above. However, in this case note how many of the affected students either moved into another FBISD area (26 students, with 24 of them to CHS) or withdrew from the district (23 students). In my opinion this disparity is a direct result of the High School Zoning Plan approved at the March 7 board meeting. Also, note that none of the 26 students that moved out of the area attend academies.

Now let’s look at how many students in the resident population enrolled in academies based on information provided by the administration.

Out of the incoming 9th and 10th graders, 31 students enrolled in academies. Of course I’m assuming these students would’ve stayed at CHS if they had not been rezoned. Moreover, apparently the six 11th and 12th grade students that enrolled at Hightower elected to go there rather than go to EHS.

Out of the 316 students, 136 were grandfathered, 49 students withdrew or moved into another FBISD area, and 37 enrolled in academies. Only 94 students chose to go to EHS, about half of the 180 students that administration assumed would go to EHS. These outcomes are the traps that static analysis lays for those who use it. In this case, the miscalculation is so obvious that it’s questionable whether we should blame static analysis at all, or just the bureaucratic indifference of people who have no familiarity of how parents and students will react to rezoning when given other options. In their analysis the administration may view students simply as pawns on a chess board, but these pawns (and their parents) have brains and legs.

Yet, the reaction to rezoning still does not account for why EHS’s population is decreasing. This paradox is where the academies and student transfer policy play a role on high school enrollment. I therefore made a second Open Records Request and asked how many students zoned to EHS attend academies, and how many students transferred to another school. The answer confirmed why it’s difficult to project high school enrollment given the existence of academies and the student transfer policy currently in place —211 students zoned to EHS enrolled in academies outside of EHS (57 of them enrolled in the GLA academy at CHS) while 73 students transferred to another high school. I also asked what high schools the students transferred to, and received the following response:

“The information is not readily available and will have to be accessed from different programs and then formatted in the way you requested. Please stop in to make the payment so we may proceed with your request, or if you feel that the cost exceeds your allowable expense you may email me and amend or cancel your request.”

Total estimate–$223.20. No thank you. I see no reason why such information should not already be readily available.

Zoning is a difficult task. Attendance boundaries must be properly established, and subsequently adhered to for projections to be reasonably accurate, and for achieving the best use of building resources. Otherwise, options like academies and liberal transfer policies will enable parents to send students to schools other than their zoned school, thus undermining the entire process.

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Dr. Jenney’s Contract is Renewed — Again (Seriously)

Their True Colors Show

Last year the Board of Trustees of FBISD granted the superintendent, Dr. Timothy Jenney, a new five-year contract. His contract renewal was approved despite vocal opposition from parents, teachers, and even one board member, Jim Babb, who voted no. You might think that this controversial action was the end of it, and consideration of another contract renewal would not surface again for, well, at least a few more years. Well, think again. On January 9, 2012, one year after the new five-year contract renewal was approved, five current school board members voted to extend Dr. Jenney’s contract for another year. Seriously, I am not making it up. Now, you may ask why would any school board extend a superintendent’s contract at the end of the first year of a five year contract that was just renewed just one year ago? Good Question.

First, I have no idea who proposed consideration of a one-year extension for Dr. Jenney, but would like to know. Second, I am not surprised that Susan Hohnbaum, Jim Rice, Marilyn Glover and Sonal Bhuchar voted to extend Dr. Jenney’s contract, as they were among the six board members who voted for his contract renewal last year. To vote otherwise would have been a public acknowledgement of remorse, which apparently is not the case among these four board members. (Daniel Menendez, who was not re-elected to the board last May, and Laurie Caldwell, who chose not to see a third term, were the other two trustees to vote for the contract renewal in 2011.)

I am surprised, however, that the fifth vote of approval came from Cynthia Gary. As you may recall, she was appointed on August 8, 2011, to fill the remaining one-year unexpired term of Jim Babb. Rest assured, Mr. Babb would have never voted FOR the contract extension. Unelected and serving less than six months as a trustee, how could Mrs. Gary have any idea about the performance of Dr. Jenny during his tenure as a superintendent? Yet, oddly before the vote even occurred, Mrs. Gary was defending Dr. Jenney. Citing from the 2010/2011 TASB/TASA Superintendent Report, she stated that of the superintendents with a student enrollment of 50,000 or more,

“Dr. Jenney is #12 on the salary, but has more experience than 15 of those superintendents. And out of those, he is #12 and makes less money than superintendents who have only been in the position of a superintendent for two or three years.”

Is this a valid reason to extend Dr. Jenney’s contract? Just because Dr. Jenney has 26 years of experience as a superintendent – in six different school districts – is a very weak reason to extend his contract. Shouldn’t performance as superintendent of FBISD be a more relevant measure?

This comment by Mrs. Gary is why it is so important to elect (or, in the case of Mrs. Gary, appoint) school board members who know how to read and interpret this type of data. In this case, Mrs. Gary should have considered the following factors in the 2010/2011 Superintendent Report when considering Dr. Jenney’s contract extension.

Total school enrollment. Of the 16 (not 15 as cited by Mrs. Gary) school districts in Texas with an enrollment of 50,000 or more students that reported the annual salary for their superintendents, three of the districts have over 100,000 students [Houston ISD, Dallas ISD, and Cypress-Fairbanks ISD], while one district has over 94,000 students [Northside ISD-Bexar County]. I excluded those four school districts in my analysis, resulting in 12 districts with student enrollment ranging from 50,700 to 85,770, including FBISD with an enrollment of 69,687 students. I made this exclusion to create a more comparable expectation of superintendent responsibilities as measured by student enrollment.

Average salary for superintendents. The average salary of superintendents for the 16 school districts in Texas with an enrollment of over 50,000 is $276,545. However, for the 12 districts with enrollments more comparable to FBISD, the average salary is $269,657. Dr. Jenney’s salary is $260,339 which places him 8th, or in the middle third, of the 12 superintendents. Not at the top – but certainly not at the bottom – of the range.

Number of years as the local school district superintendent. The average number of years as a current superintendent in Texas is about six years. Dr. Jenney was hired in 2006, serving six years as superintendent of FBISD. Nothing extraordinary regarding his years of service. That he served for a total of 20 years as a superintendent in five other school districts, an average of four years per stint, prior to accepting the position at FBISD appears to be closer to his normal term.

Bonuses. Excluded from the data are other forms of compensation. Dr. Jenney is also eligible to receive a Performance Bonus up to $36,000 in a deferred compensation plan for 2012. Indeed, perhaps you were unaware, but the 5 to 2 vote in favor of extending Dr. Jenney’s contract for one-year included approval of $36,000 in deferred compensation for accomplishing his goals for 2011 (more on that matter in another post).

The table below shows that Dr. Jenney’s salary is very close (within 4%) to the average salary of the 12 school districts with comparable enrollment. The salary reported does not include bonuses and other cash benefits.

Regarding performance, provided below is another excerpt from Mrs. Gary’s comments at the January 9th meeting.

“I think that the community and the board should appreciate the direction we are going in as a district because I think Dr. Jenney is on the right track in making the necessary changes that are needed to be made to take our district forward. As Sonal stated, we do have four campuses that are Academically Unacceptable, but a plan has been put in place and I appreciate him for that and I just think as we continue to work together like we have been doing as a board then we can see those campuses status change to Academically Acceptable, Recognized, or it can improve bottom line.”

Huh??

Note the school ratings for the 12 districts in the table. Pasadena ISD went from Acceptable to Recognized with a student population that is 80 percent Hispanic, yet their superintendent makes $250,000. His years as superintendent at Pasadena ISD is five years. Meanwhile, FBISD’s rating fell from Recognized to Acceptable, but the board rewarded Dr. Jenney with a contract extension and a $36,000 bonus. Given the proper interpretation of the salary and performance information cited by Mrs. Gary, was it really necessary to extend Dr. Jenney’s contract? For that matter, why was a contract extension even considered?

The FBISD community is clearly upset about the contract extension. Fortunately, two of the newly elected Board of Trustees – Bruce Albright and Patsy Taylor – were aware of their constituents concerns and as a result voted against Dr. Jenney’s contract extension. We need more board members like Bruce and Patsy. Clearly Cynthia Gary is not one of them. Seriously.

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PCs Then, iPads Now

I used to think that technology could help education. I’ve probably spearheaded giving away more computer equipment to schools than anybody else on the planet. But I’ve had to come to the inevitable conclusion that the problem is not one that technology can hope to solve. What’s wrong with education cannot be fixed with technology. No amount of technology will make a dent.” Steve Jobs, Wired, February 1996

At the December 12, 2011 board meeting, administration made a presentation to the school board proposing to implement a teaching and learning e-curriculum platform using iPads. The objective of the program is to increase student academic achievement in science for grades 2nd to 8th at all elementary and middle school campuses (59 schools). The program will be implemented in two waves. The first wave will be piloted in the 2012/2013 school year and will consist of 10 to 12 campuses (approximately nine elementary schools and three middle schools). Dr. Olwen Herron, Chief Academic Officer, stated “the schools selected will include a cross section representing a variety of achievement levels and SES groups.”

The estimated cost for the project is $18.2 million – $16.5 million of that amount from existing bond money and state grants. Below is the expenditure breakdown of the program (a link to the presentation is provided at the end of this post).

•The pilot program will require $8M to be spent under the current budget (2011-2012), and will be rolled-out in the 2012/2013 school year at 10 to 12 schools. About $4M on iPads, $3M on network infrastructure, and the remaining $1M between software development, curriculum development, training, project management, and mobile device management software.

•Assuming the pilot program is successful; an additional $10M will be spent in the budget for next year (2012-2013), and will be rolled-out in the 2013/2014 school year at the remaining 47 schools. About $9M is for iPads, and the remaining $1M spread between software developments, curriculum development, training, project management, and mobile device management software.

I’m in favor of using technology to engage and motivate children to learn. The iPad is a very appealing tool for educators and students in the classroom. But I do have a few concerns with the program. Does the pilot program need to include 10-12 schools? Why not 5-6 schools? How will the success of the pilot be determined? Will there be a control group that will use the same curriculum, but taught using current tools such as videos, teacher instruction, and PowerPoint presentations? There are no specifics as to the breakdown of the $16.5 million. What amount is bond money? What is the source of the grants? How will future repairs and updates for the iPads be funded? Who will be responsible for maintenance costs?

It will take 2.5 years to implement the program district-wide for just one subject – science. Our school board has deemed interactive e-curriculum as an important way to improve learning. Is this project a sound strategy for accomplishing this goal? Why can’t we wait for the results of pilot programs in schools nationwide that have already started using iPads in the classroom? Indeed, for those of us wondering whether iPads can increase academic achievement, these pilot programs will bring the first of many answers to us in 2012.

Steve Jobs was asked if technology could improve education. “Lincoln did not have a Web site at the log cabin where his parents home-schooled him, and he turned out pretty interesting. Historical precedent shows that we can turn out amazing human beings without technology. Precedent also shows that we can turn out very uninteresting human beings with technology.”

FBISD School Board Presentation
ipad pilot program

Pilot Programs Nationwide
clark-county-ipads

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Where Did the 316 Students Go?

Where did the 316 students go?

Through my experience as a market analyst for a large financial company, I know the importance of working with correct data. I always verified data provided to me by outside and inside sources before using it for analysis and projections.

At the February 2011 Public Hearings on Zoning, numerous citizens questioned the validity of Mr. Copeland’s (FBISD Chief Auxiliary Services Officer) claim that 316 students would be affected by rezoning Lake Colony, Heritage Colony, and portions of Riverstone from Clements High School to Elkins High School. The number seemed too high. Yet those questions were never addressed. But as we now know, Elkins enrollment is 10% lower than Copeland’s projections. So where did the 316 students go? I made an Open Records Request to find out the answer. Below is my request:

Of last year’s 8th and 9th grade students who lived in Lake Colony, Heritage Colony, and Riverstone (Crossing Cove, The Crossing, The Reserve, Waters Cove, The Pointe, The Manors, and Parkside) that were zoned from Clements to Elkins, where did they enroll this year as 9th and 10th graders?

Of last year’s 10th and 11th grade students who lived in Lake Colony, Heritage Colony, and Riverstone (Crossing Cove, The Crossing, The Reserve, Waters Cove, The Pointe, The Manors, and Parkside) that were zoned from Clements to Elkins, where did they enroll this year as 11th and 12th graders?This is the response I received:

The records of 8th and 9th grade students from last year that live in the area that was rezoned from Clements to Elkins were transferred to Elkins High School.

The records of 10th and 11th grade students from last year that live in the area that was rezoned from Clements to Elkins were transferred to Elkins High School, unless they chose to be grandfathered to stay at Clements. Those that chose to remain at Clements do not have bus service.

Seriously—did I ask for the records? I sent a follow-up email asking for the same information above, but added the following:

At the public hearings on zoning last February, Mr. Copeland stated that 316 students were affected by the zone change. I want to know where those 316 students went.

Guess what? I received the exact same response as the first one. Given the futility of this approach, I asked to meet in person with the Open Records Department to explain my request. They kindly agreed to meet with me. This time I even brought an example of a worksheet with me. Now remember, the Open Records Department just forwards requests to the appropriate department for answers. In this case, it was the Information and Technology (IT) Department. Following our meeting, provided below is their THIRD response to my original inquiry:

We have yet to compare the data from last year to new data this year. This usually occurs in mid- to late October. Once we actually attain the new student data, we will have to match students to a geographic location, create data tables for our projections, and compare it to historical data. This process does not happen without having to analyze housing data and other variables before working with this data. In short, we will not have neighborhood comparison tables calculated until the end of the year at the earliest. We do apologize that this work schedule does not coincide with the needs of the person making the request.

Does it not trouble you that administration apparently is not willing to tell me where the 316 students are today? Surely they know where they are given the fact that parents signed a form at the beginning of the school year verifying the school their child/children attend and their primary address. Perhaps the 316 is just a result of a fancy algorithm and Administration never really knew how many students were impacted. The Open Records Department suggested I make a new request again in mid-January—which I will do. Anybody want to place odds that administration will still not be forthcoming about where the 316 students went?

P.S. I know where at least one of the 316 went—the GLA at Clements High School.

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Friday Night Lights

Which team do I cheer for?

It was a hectic and exciting evening for the bands from First Colony Middle School and Fort Settlement Middle School. Almost 200 students hauled their instruments and equipment into Mercer Stadium to perform under the Friday Night Lights, alongside the award-winning Clements High School Marching Band. This occasion was their first taste of what it’s like to be in a marching band. Both bands participated with the Clements Band to pump up the crowd with the “Tomahawk Chant.” The home team fans yelled as the Clements Rangers scored a touchdown. But the Clements Band and Fort Settlement Band had puzzled looks on their faces when a third of First Colony’s Band cheered for Elkins—the visiting team.

One thing school boards don’t think about when they rezone is that students are still developing their identities—especially in middle school and high school. From family pressure to peer pressure, and to the pressures of performing well academically, students can’t always find their niche. They are trying to find out who they are and how they fit in. And anywhere teens spend a large percentage of their time can have an impact on the development of their identity. A good example is band. Students in band spend a lot of time together—master classes, rehearsals, and performances. They socialize with peers that have similar interests and abilities, and feel they belong somewhere or to something in society. But when you separate students from their peer groups—you jeopardize their identities-which includes social, religion, ethnicity, and cultural background.

My son enjoyed playing with the Clements Band and even learned how to play the “Tomahawk Chant.” Only he won’t be able to play that song if he chooses to be in high school marching band. A shortsighted decision by the FBISD School Board resulted in him and a small percentage of other middle school students in First Colony (Heritage Colony and Lake Colony) being zoned to Elkins. He’ll unfortunately have to leave behind friends while facing the uncertainty of finding new ones.

When four board members approved the zoning option at the March 7th meeting, they took the “C” out of Community, Character, and Continuity (see note below). Such poor decisions have real effects on students and parents. Little wonder that the Clements High School band members casted strange looks at some of their middle school guests. Imagine how those kids being stared at must have felt, too.

NOTE: Of the four board members that voted for high school rezoning at the March 7 meeting, none of them had children in middle school that were affected by the changes.

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Copeland and School Board Misjudge Human Behavior

Just as people find legitimate ways to avoid paying taxes, parents find legitimate ways to avoid sending their kids to less desirable schools in their attendance zones. The high school zoning option passed at the March 7, 2011, FBISD school board meeting provides an excellent example of this type of behavior.

The administration apparently used Static Analysis to project the net change in high school enrollments affected by the zoning change (see footnote below). However, this type of simplified analysis fails to take into consideration the response of the affected parties to that change. FBISD administrators, along with four of the seven board members, ostensibly supported High School Option 3 in the belief that it would reduce the student population in over capacity campuses. But in reality, the actual attendance of the affected schools went in the opposite direction. How can this be? Simple – it turns out that parents and students have a legitimate way to resist the proposed changes, and they quite naturally responded accordingly (more on that matter later).

The table below shows the projected enrollments presented by FBISD at the public hearings on zoning last February. Next to these numbers are the actual enrollments as of September 2011 for four high schools predominately affected by the passage of High School Option 3.

What jumps out at me is the difference between projected and actual enrollment at Elkins and Clements. You may recall that the stated purpose of High School Option 3 was to provide immediate relief at Clements by shifting students from there to Elkins. Oops, what happened? Not only is Clements above its projected enrollment (albeit by 2%), but more important Elkins is way below its projected enrollment (by 11%). Where did the 243 students go? Did parents find a legitimate way to transfer their children to an academy? Move? Enroll in private schools? It’s important to note that the total projected high school enrollment for the 2011/2012 school year is 22,234. The actual enrollment is 22,262 — a difference of 28 students. So FBISD was spot on in its estimation of total high school enrollment. The kids are there, they just didn’t end up where Mr. Copeland estimated they would be. So where did these students go, and why?

Stay tuned to my next post to find out the answer.

Footnote: The administration was asked on several occasions during public hearings on school rezoning to release the data they relied upon in support of their projections; they declined.

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School Ratings Matter

Location, Location, Location!

The front page of the HOMES section in Sunday’s Houston Chronicle (Sept. 3-4, 2011), had a big advertisement for the Lakes of Bella Terra Community boasting of LAMAR CISD’s TAKS school ratings to entice home buyers. The opening paragraph of the article states:

When searching for a new home, one of the most important factors to consider is the schools that serve the community. Those considering Lakes of Bella Terra can put their minds at ease: The master-planned community is served by exemplary schools according to recent 2011 TAKS tests.

I wonder if FBISD’s school ratings are hurting home sales in Aliana, a community only a few miles away from Lakes of Bella Terra. As a potential home buyer, which community would you choose to live in? Lakes of Bella Terra is located in a Recognized school district. Aliana is located in an Acceptable school district. All four schools zoned to Lakes of Bella Terra are rated Exemplary or Recognized. Only two of the four schools zoned to Aliana are rated Exemplary, Jordan Elementary and Oakland Elementary. Both Travis High School and Holly Elementary are rated Acceptable. Finally, there is only a two cent difference between the school tax rates—$1.36 for Lamar and $1.34 for FBISD. More than likely, both districts will raise the tax rate for 2011.

In 2007, Aliana’s developer projected 2,000 homes would be built within five years. But by the end of 2010, only 160 homes were built. This slower rate of development is evident when FBISD’s newest school—Bowie Middle School—designed to serve Aliana, opened way below capacity in August (at a cost of $24 million). Do we really need to build a new elementary school in Aliana? I don’t think so, as there are enough surrounding schools to ease the overcrowded elementary schools serving Aliana. Instead of spending money on new schools, we need to focus on improving the quality of our existing schools.

Whether you have children in the local school system or not, your property value and price for re-sale is affected by the ratings your local schools receive. Unlike the Lakes of Bella Terra, it’s too bad Aliana can no longer use FBISD school ratings to attract buyers.

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Where’s the Bus?

Teamwork is essential – it allows you to blame someone else. ~Author Unknown

It’s been over a year since the BP oil well explosion and I can’t help but notice some similarities between that incident and the district’s failure to implement the new bus routing software program. First, BP was counting on the well to generate a lot of money. FBISD was counting on the new software to save a lot of money. Second, BP was in a hurry to complete the well. The transportation department was in a hurry to implement the software program. Lastly, neither BP’s nor FBISD’s operational implementation team envisioned a debacle. Thankfully, there have been no injuries or deaths—like BP.

After the Gulf Coast oil spill occurred, The New York Times reported that Tony Hayward, former BP chief executive, told his fellow BP executives, “What the hell did we do to deserve this?” I bet bus drivers, bus monitors, students, parents, and teachers were asking the same question due to administration’s failure to effectively implement the new bus routing software program.

But parents can’t drag administration before a congressional hearing for a harsh drilling on the transportation fiasco that is still ongoing in the district. We haven’t even received any type of communication from administration regarding the transportation fiasco. All we’ve heard is the squeaking brakes of buses. I get to hear two buses—the regular bus and the “overflow” bus and both buses pass my house two times on the same route.

Today, BP, TransOcean, and Halliburton are still blaming one another for the Gulf oil spill. So who will be blamed for the transportation debacle? My guess is the bottom of the pecking order—supervisors and bus drivers. But drivers do not assign bus stops; the routing office decides where the bus stops are located. I wonder if the Transportation Director or the Assistant Director ever walked in the shoes of a school bus driver. Do they even know how to drive a bus? At least Tony Hayward worked on an offshore oil rig.

Of course, we know who’s really to blame—the district’s administrators who ultimately promoted the program without providing ample time to effectively implement it. But I doubt they or the Directors will be the scapegoat. Someone lower in the pecking order will bear the blame. It took BP five months to permanently close the leaking well. Let’s hope it doesn’t take that long to fix the transportation problems.

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Who You Gonna Call? Transportation Director!

Do they look like FBISD's Transportation and Operations Directors?

Remember the movie “Ghost Busters” when Dr. Peter Venkman (played by Bill Murray) told the Mayor, “Human sacrifice, dogs and cats living together… mass hysteria!” And the mayor replied “All right, all right! I get the point!” Well clearly, the Transportation Department didn’t get the point on the first day of school when the phones were jammed with calls from frantic parents asking why their children were waiting over an hour for the bus to take them to school, or why their kids weren’t home from school yet, or why their kids had to stand in the aisles because there wasn’t a seat.

If you didn’t already know, the school board approved to replace the district’s current bus routing software with a more modern/improved version at a cost of $125,000 at the April 11, 2011 board meeting. Per the board minutes, “This purchase will increase the information for all campuses and the public by providing advanced technology above our existing system, and is estimated to realize a savings of $850,000.” In addition to the upfront cost of this software, there is an annual maintenance fee of $16,500.

This software supposedly integrates easily with Skyward (student information system) so the Transportation Department can generate the optimal routes using less buses. Now, I’m all for cost savings, but not at the COST of the safe and timely transport of our children. When you only have five months to implement a new software program, you better have competent management and staff to learn it and use it. If not, then mass hysteria.

When past Board member Daniel Menendez questioned Robert Calvert, Chief Information Officer, of the cost savings, Mr. Calvert replied that there was a significant learning curve to overcome first before savings would be realized. This response reminded me of another great line from Ghostbusters when Dr. Ray Stantz (played by Dan Aykroyd) said about their new “ghost busting” equipment, “You know, it just occurred to me that we really haven’t had a successful test of this equipment.” To which Dr. Spengler replied, “I blame myself.”

But don’t waste your breath on the district accepting blame on the implementation of this new software or depend on a giant marshmallow man to save the day. Instead, depend on our kids to tell the bus drivers the most optimal route, and expect a few more weeks, or months, of transportation nightmares.

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Dr. Jenney’s Email of 8/16/2011

Dear FBISD Parent/Guardian,

I hope that you and your family have been enjoying your summer despite the record-breaking heat. It is hard to believe that school begins in just a week. In preparation, I encourage you to visit the FBISD website for important information regarding the start of school, including any changes in bus routes and stops, school breakfast and lunch menus, school supplies, attendance zones, registration information, etc. As the year begins, I want to make you aware of two items.

First, as part of our preparations for the new school year, the district has been conducting scheduled installations, maintenance, and repairs to all air conditioning systems across the district. However, the constant heat and extremely high temperatures have placed tremendous stress on our air conditioning systems, and we have experienced higher than normal outages and interruptions. It is important for you to know that we are doing everything possible to avoid disruptions in service as long as this heat continues, from continuous around-the-clock monitoring of overall system performance to daily inspections of older units. In preparation for the first day of school, all campus HVAC systems will be energized at 10 a.m. on Sunday, August 21st and remain operational throughout the day and night. Teams of technicians from FBISD and Fort Bend Mechanical will be on standby Sunday to respond to any A/C issues, with a goal of resolving the issues before Monday morning.

Second, I want to make you aware that your child may have to begin some classes this school year without the newest version of textbooks, most likely those in the area of English Language Arts. Due to the Texas Legislature’s failure to finish the budget during its regular session and coupled with changes being made to the Texas Education Agency’s online ordering system, some of the new books will not arrive in the district until a few weeks after school begins. This delay is unfortunate since schools need to prepare students for new and more rigorous state accountability tests, the STAAR, that will be administered for the first time in the spring. Hopefully, the delay will not be more than three weeks or so. In the meantime, instructional staff will provide support to the old series of books while awaiting the arrival of the new textbooks.

In closing, I want to take this opportunity to let you know of our collective efforts to provide a quality education for your children. In spite of the fact that in the past two years our budget has dropped by $50 million, and we have 1,000 fewer employees, we will continue to do our best to deliver a superior product for all. Enjoy the remainder of your summer and please know that we are ready to welcome your child and all of our students on August 22nd for the new school year.

Sincerely,
Tim Jenney, FBISD superintendent

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