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Bev's Burner
Some's Hot, Some's Not 

By B.K. Carter

"Bev Carter is the owner/publisher of the Fort Bend Star, winner of numerous state and national awards. She has been a voice of Fort Bend's largest circulated newspaper for 28 years."


 

The good old summertime.....Many Fort Bend ISD parents are concerned about school not starting this year until Aug. 21. This is the result of Fort Bend ISD school board fiddling around and not applying for a waiver (more about that in just a minute) until it was too late to re-apply when the TEA turned the board down.

Here’s the background on that: Several years ago, the legislature passed a law (Senate Bill 108) that school districts could NOT start student instruction prior to the week of August 18 UNLESS they applied for a waiver to do so.

And to apply for a waiver, the school district had to meet certain requirements such as at least 60 days prior to the waiver application being submitted to the agency, the district must publish a notice in a newspaper having general circulation in the district.

The published notice must state that the district intends to apply for a waiver about the August 18 first day of instruction and specify the date on which the district intends to begin instruction for students.

Then the district must hold a public hearing concerning the date of the first day of instruction for students. The waiver application that is submitted to the agency must include a summary of the opinions expressed at the public hearing, including any consensus of opinion expressed concerning the proposed first day of instruction.

This is what tripped up Fort Bend ISD because board president Lisa Rickert closed down a meeting in the middle of the meeting, then at the next meeting, the date had miraculously changed and when Rickert was asked about why the date was suddenly changed, she had no satisfactory answer, causing several board members to vote against the new date.

I guess the Texas Education Agency has had about enough of Fort Bend ISD feuding so they took the opportunity to deny the waiver, citing a “lack of consensus.” Then there wasn’t enough time to re-apply so they are stuck with the “after August 18” start date.

Something as simple as planning a school calendar shows the disarray the district has degenerated into with its current “leadership” (or lack thereof).

But some more words about the school calendar. I have maintained for years that the district started school so early and took so many days of vacation in the middle of the school year for the convenience of the teachers, not necessarily the parents who are the taxpayers (although most of our teachers are probably also Fort Bend ISD taxpayers, I imagine).

In any event, when my employees had small children at the age when it was hard to get a baby-sitter all day because they had 10-12 year old children who were too young to stay at home alone and too old to go to child care, they either had to take vacation days and stay home with the kids or bring them to the office with them.

Over the years, my employees and their children have gotten older and it hasn’t been as much of a problem. Plus, we’ve always been pretty understanding about bringing the kiddos to work and have even kept them busy making their own newspapers.

But, I’ve always wondered about the parents who work downtown or in a much stricter environment. What do these parents do when the schools are dismissed for a week at Thanksgiving, and another week at Spring Break, not to mention several days at Easter? Couldn’t these last two holidays at least be combined?

My complaints have fallen on mostly deaf ears as the teachers are certainly ready for a break and wealthier parents can either afford to take their children skiing or one parent doesn’t work outside the home so they are not inconvenienced.

Of course, a later start date means those mean little kids are home longer in the summertime, but it also means there is less disruption during the school year with parents scrambling to find temporary child care. I say starting school after August 18 is preferable to starting when the swimming pools are still open, and I hope the district does it permanently.

I have serious doubts about which parents were surveyed about the early start date in the first place.

I tried, Lord knows I tried......I took my bad hairdo to a Fort Bend ISD candidate forum Monday night in an effort to become achingly familiar with the eight people running for the school board. There were more students there (getting extra credit?) than parents. Two candidates didn’t show-- Rodrigo Carreon and James Walker, but the rest were there.

The election is May 13 and there are four candidates for the two places, eight candidates in all. No matter where you live in FBISD, you can vote on one candidate in each place. So you as a voter get two bites of the educational apple.

I listened as all six candidates give their four minute spiel, asked my question, listened to a couple of other questions. Then I had to leave. I was tired of being lectured by Liz Mitton.

I asked each of the candidates to answer my question either “yes” of “no” with no expounding or explanation. My question was “If the opportunity arose, would you vote to hire Dr. Betty Baitland as superintendent?”

I don’t imagine Dr. Baitland would even want the job with the board we now have, but I figured that one simple question would separate the candidates who believed in a professional educator who received excellent marks from all who knew or worked with her from those who were interested in continuing the weak leadership that exists today.

The following three candidates said yes they would hire her: Steve Smelley, Hal Jay, and Sonal Bhuchar.

Interestingly enough, Hal Jay certainly didn't act like he wanted to keep her as super-intendent when the "new" board (cabal)was in the process of "retiring" her. Then Jay was vocal about getting rid of her. I guess he has noticed the winds of change and that those "new" board members are generally ostracized at current social events. One well-known candidate sidled up to me and implored me not to run his picture with them.

The following three candidates said no they would not: Liz Mitton, Wayne Howard, and Steve Dieu.

Because I am so angry about what the current board has done (excepting Cynthia Knox, Sue Hauenstein, and Bruce Bain), that I don’t trust myself to give an objective write-up about those running.

However, I am going to ask all the candidates a series of questions and I will pass their answers on to you in the near future. Of course, I can editorialize by choosing what questions to ask, can’t I? And the candidates can refuse to answer, which I will also pass on to you.

Happy birthday to me.... Here is a picture of me taken Sunday with my grandson Carter Fredrickson on the occasion of my 65th birthday and my announcement in Michael Fredrickson’s back yard that I will not be retiring. SAY CHEESE!

 

Contact bkcstar@earthlink.net, if you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column. Write a SIGNED letter to the editor with valid day time phone number--name can be withheld by request.

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   Last Update:  September 07, 2006