2009 FBISD Tax Hearing (On YouTube)

CLICK HERE FOR THE 2009 FBISD CONTROVERSIAL TAX HEARING (YES THEY ARE RAISING THEM AGAIN--see petition of over 500 district taxpayers asking for board accountability) --In case anyone missed it they raised the property tax rate again (4th time) in 2010 and more than likely will do so again in 2011 facing another projected 15-20 million dollar budget deficit, according to some media reports. ***NEW*** ..Petition TO STOP THE GSTC (Global Science Museum being planned at the district central office--near $30 million dollar project that superintendent Jenney is pushing): http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/stopthegcst/ (see update below on this apparently ending this project after 2 years)

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Visit Other School District Watch Sites!

See other area school watch network links:

http://www.katycitizens.org/ (Katy)

http://www.cyfaircitizens.org/content/home/default1.asp (Cy Fair)

http://gisdwatch.com/ (Galveston)

http://www.keepeanesinformed.com/ (Eanes)

Monday, December 24, 2007

Thursday, December 20, 2007

FBW Guest Column: Politics, Family, Taxes & Justice in Fort Bend County--

Published on 12/20/07 - 05:54:11 by MCCNewsUpdates

From MCC:

Recently MCC/CRD had the opportunity to speak with Prescott Small on his views of the coming elections and politics in general. Mr. Small is currently serving as a precinct chair in Stafford, TX, is a successful family man and businessman and ran for a county commissioner seat in 2006 pledging off all special interest funding (a rare move these days).


I think there are several key issues that need to be addressed in politics regardless of party and on all levels of government whether it is local, county, state or federal elections.

The Voters:

There are two major players in what is wrong with elections, the “middle of the roader” and the person that refuses to vote. While the middle of the roader tends to be balanced in their opinions they are very seldom moved to take action and are just willing to “go with the flow” while the non voter doesn’t care about the flow at all. The only people that are typically active with elections and causes are the far right and the far left and combined we are a minority in this country, yet we get to decide how things will be.

Americans operate under a delusion where this is a majority rules country. This is not true at all. For example; let’s say we have a 60% voter turn out and the election is won by a 51/49 split. That means that roughly 30% of America just decided what is best for the country.

Being legal don’t make it right:

Then there are the Americans that are of a mind set that just because something is not illegal it is still just.

We all remember a certain representative from Sugar Land and how he took truckloads of money and gifts to pass legislation and that it was “legal at the time he did it.” That did not make it right.

The system is rigged:

Then there is the system, which is rigged. The real problem is how much it cost to get elected. You and I all want the best candidates and people that have a sense of responsibility and are willing to protect the real working men women in our country. The average person like you and I will find the campaign process a burden that is most difficult the bear. The average person can’t quit his or her job to run for office. Campaigning is essentially a full time job with a hell of a lot of overtime these days. The average person doesn’t have a spare quarter of a million dollars lying around. The average person is not willing to sacrifice their personal lives and their privacy not to bear the burden of the stress it takes to run for office.

Candidates still have bills to pay and families to feed. So the only people that are really able to run are those that can raise a ton of cash or have a ton of cash.

The candidates have to be willing to sacrifice any personal life they have or had. They also have to make the greatest sacrifice of all; that is to sacrifice time with their families.

In my opinion the effort to run for office and the sacrifice that it demands should be enough of an incentive to keep people honest and re-enforce their spine. However, when we are presented with the evidence this appears to not be the case.


Based on all that we have seen of the corruption of both parties, one would have to assume the burden of maintaining that status of “Elected Official” must be too great to bear for too long; for that re-enforced spine appears to collapse with time.

I believe that people that do business with the county. When companies that make millions in revenue from government contracts while contributing money to elected officials that grant the contracts is just questionable at best. In my gut I would feel wrong accepting such monies because I would perceive it as a conflict of interest. My personal integrity would make me feel uncomfortable.

Lobbyist making contributions and “sponsoring” fund raisers for elected officials is also a huge conflict of interest. When you seek specific legislation passed that benefits your organization and those you represent directly, it is immoral to give money to those same people.

Both parties are plagued by these corrupting influences. All parties have got to take a stand and change these practices.

Religion, meet State:

Religion and politics need to stay separated. Many of the candidates we see today are wearing their religion on their sleeves. They are in essence flying in the face of the constitution by endorsing a non-formalized process in which a politician not only has to have a profound sense of faith, but also be of a particular faith. For Example: Although I would never endorse Mitt Romney as a candidate I find it despicable that there are people in his party that refuse to vote for him solely because they believe his brand of faith is a cult.

The United States Constitution states in Article VI, section 3 that“ ...no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States. ”

What has happened is a minority of Americans, about 23%, have hijacked one party and made faith a requirement to hold political office. They are very clear in this goal and their influence has spread so that no candidate in any party has a chance of getting elected unless they talk about their faith and express a profound belief in God.

This requirement is un-American as can clearly be seen by taking the time to read your constitution. And yes, I am aware that the Texas State Constitution has a religious requirement for a belief in a higher being to hold office; however that is trumped by the U.S. Constitution.

Religion and Government are a poisonous combination; one need only read a history book to know this. And if you want more proof, just turn on any news station and what is happening in the Middle East and around world where people live in theocracies today. Our founding fathers had a pretty damn good idea and they were well aware of the dangers of mixing religion and politics. That is why they have the No Religion test and the 1st Amendment.

Ok, it’s time to leave:

All elected offices should have term limits. While the people that get elected most often have a sense of civic duty and purpose, far too many fall to the dark side of campaign contributions and the trap of getting re-elected. They stop taking chances and aren’t will to stick out their political necks to do what really needs to be done for fear of loosing their chances at re-election. Many of them consider a large part of their job to be getting re-elected. So much of their time is spent campaigning that they are no longer able to perform the jobs they were sent there to do.

To summarize what is wrong with elections:

1) Apathy

2) Corruption

3) Religion

4) Term Limits

Prescott Small
Stafford, TX

Get more on the context of this OP/ED at http://www.fortbendnow.com/opinion/3624/fort-bend-desparate-for-new-blood-in-office#c021929



Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Families In HISD Sue Over Disparity In Bond Usage (Should FBISD Be Concerned?)--

HISD bonds under fire again
Families sue district, saying the package is discriminatory

Houston Chronicle

Three families have filed a federal lawsuit against the Houston school district, alleging discrimination against poor and minority children and asking a judge to stop the sale of bonds for new school construction.

The lawsuit caps months of opposition, mostly from the city's black community, to the school district's $805 million bond package. The bond won approval in November with 51 percent of the vote.

At a north Houston church on Monday, two mothers, joined by several pastors and politicians who vigorously opposed the bond, announced the lawsuit they filed late Friday against the Houston Independent School District.

"I believe Dr. King once said, 'Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere,' " Ann Tillis, one of the parents, said of the slain civil rights leader. "And so today I come to serve notice to HISD that no longer will my child, or any child in HISD, be treated with such educational injustice."...(get the full story following the link below)


FBW comment--Is this a pattern in bond use that should be examined here in FBISD?

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Why IS FBISD With-holding This Report From The Public?

Attorney General Ruling Means FBISD Investigation Probably Will Remain Secret
by Bob Dunn, Dec 15, 2007

Results of an investigation of Fort Bend Independent School District business operations, conducted in 2005 at the request of the district’s board of trustees, probably never will be made public.

Prepared by Houston attorney Lloyd Kelley and forensic auditor Mir Fox & Rodriguez, the so-called Kelley Report was commissioned by the FBISD board as the result of findings in an August 2005 audit report of the district’s risk management department.

Investigators in Fort Bend County District Attorney John Healey’s office had been given much of the report two years ago, but on Nov. 30, Healey said he has concluded “there are not provable criminal charges contained in Kelley’s report.”

On Friday, FBISD outside legal counsel David Feldman, acting on behalf of the district, declined to provide a copy of the Kelley Report, requested by FortBendNow in a Texas Public Information Act request made on Nov. 30.

In doing so, Feldman revealed that a TPIA request for the Kelley report also was made in 2006, and Assistant Texas Attorney General Anne Prentice ruled in March of that year that the document may be withheld from the public. . . (get the full story and comment at http://www.fortbendnow.com/news/3625/attorney-general-ruling-means-fbisd-investigation-remains-secret?commented=0#txpCommentInputForm)

FBW comment:

This is the same law firm that was involved with the GISD SLAPP-suit just a month or so ago. Why are they trying to keep this report from the public? This seems very much like recent votes on access to public committees and the recent restrictions on speakers at the last BOT meeting regarding the academies.

What happened to the more open access promised during the build-up on the last bond election (must have been window dressing and PR as usual)...

Thursday, December 13, 2007

FBN Reports: Poor TAKs Scores At 10 FB County Schools Means Students Can Transfer...

Poor TAKS Performance At 10 Fort Bend Schools Means Students Can Transfer Out

Ten Fort Bend County schools performed so poorly on Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills tests over the past three years that students there can, according to state law, apply to go to school elsewhere.

The schools were identified Wednesday in a list released to Texas school superintendents by the Texas Education Agency. To make the list, 50% or more of each school’s students had to have failed all reading, writing, math, social studies and science TAKS tests in two of the past three years, including 2007, 2006 and 2005...

FBW comment: The majority of these schools are located on the under-represented east end of FBISD.

See: http://www.fortbendnow.com/news/3621/poor-taks-performance-at-10-fort-bend-schools-means-students-can-transfer-out to get the full story

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

From FBN: District re-labels some classes

Fort Bend ISD Board Approves Changes To 20 High School Courses
by FortBendNow Staff, Dec 11, 2007, 07 12 AM

Changes to 20 high school courses were approved Tuesday night by the Fort Bend Independent School District Board of Trustees.

Approved earlier by high school principals and reviewed by teachers and the district’s Academic Advisory Council, the changes mostly involved adjusting course titles of foreign language, math and science courses. . .

Follow this link for more: http://www.fortbendnow.com/news/3614/fbisd-board-approves-changes-to-20-high-school-courses

FBW BOT Monday Meeting Report (We appreciate the FBISDWatch members who attended and provided this report):

Academies Controversy Emerges Over Block Scheduling (see related chronicle piece at http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/nb/fortbend/news/5368243.html):

Numerous studies will easily refute the above administrative claim on block scheduling. The incremental improvement in student outcomes based on motivational theory, block scheduling, grade improvement and actual increased performance (as well as better job and career prep) isn't questioned in most mainstream educational debate. See these studies and links for more:





(many, many more are available)

The primary issue, as reported above is the response given by Dr. Jenney stating that it is a cost factor. Basically, in our opinion, he wants the PR impact of more academies but without the subsequent investment. Without block scheduling the academies become nothing more than additional pre-AP type classes. If you can't support them then don't claim to implement them across the district.

Additionally, FBISDWatch was in attendance at the session and does not support the manner in which the current board president limits public speakers. More involvement by the public was promised during the recent bond elections, but in praxis we are seeing just the inverse by an administration and some BOT members that are being heavily influenced by special interests.

Advice to the BOT/admin:

Keep your word to the taxpayers/families/children or the public will remember when and how often you have not!

TIRZ Participation Requested By Developers of FBISD

In another interesting FBISDWatch report, several watchdog members were concerned about the possibility of a reversal on earlier board practice with regard to the diversion of school district taxpayer dollars to commercial and residential development through a new taxing zone (known as a TIRZ). A large development interest requested on Monday night that FBISD participate in the new Sugar Land TIRZ in the old Imperial Sugar development going in off hwy 90.

Traditionally, TIRZs have been very controversial because they redirect ad valorem and sometimes other taxes to private corporations. School districts in this area have long refused to participate in this process because, they argue, the immediate need for our students outweigh the private corporate developer interests involved in long-term growth. This may have changed recently with the new administration (see recent bond endorsements by the development industry).

We will continue to track this growing and very controversial issue...

Check back at intervals for updates.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Ad valorem Taxation (Appraisals) Process May be Hurting School System (See this chron piece)--

. . ."It's not just Alamo Heights and Spring Branch and Highland Park in Dallas. It's every school district," Bettencourt said.

Local governments typically use increased property values to cover inflation "so they can at least stay even, but for school districts, if their values go up, they don't get the benefit of that," Hochberg said. "That benefit accrues to the state. Instead of putting that money into local school district budgets, we send that directly back to tax relief, which means the districts then have to turn around and raise the tax rate, and there goes the savings.

"The governor takes credit for tax relief while pushing the true costs back into the hands of the local school board members, who now have to take the blame for raising taxes just to stay even," Hochberg said.

School funding likely will be a vexing issue in the future.". . .

Get the full chronicle story at: http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/headline/metro/5363168.html

"Homeowners still waiting for tax relief from Perry"

Friday, December 7, 2007

FBISD Next Board Meeting Is December 10th!

All meetings are held in the FBISD Administration Building, 16431 Lexington Blvd, Sugar Land, at 7 p.m.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Check your schools report card (follow the link provided below)--

Ck this out:


Monday, December 3, 2007

12 FBISD Schools Make Texas Monthly Top List

FBN Reports:

30 Area Campuses Land On Texas Monthly List Of Top Texas Schools
by FortBendNow Staff, Dec 03, 2007, 02 51 PM

Thirty public schools in the Fort Bend County area were among 859 identified by Texas Monthly in its recent ranking of the state’s best-performing public schools.

Among local schools making the Texas Monthly list were 14 from Katy Independent School District, 12 from Fort Bend ISD and four from Lamar Consolidated ISD.

Texas Monthly based its list on research by the National Center for Educational Accountability, which looked at the last three years of results from student Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills tests as a partial basis for the list.

Katy ISD schools that landed on the Texas Monthly list include:

→ Cinco Ranch and Taylor high schools;

→ Backendorff, Cinco Ranch, McMeans and Beck junior high schools;

→ Winborn, Fielder, Pattison, Williams, Hayes, Katy, Alexander and Creech elementary schools.

Fort Bend ISD schools that made the Texas Monthly list were:

→ Austin, Clements and Dulles high schools;

→ First Colony, Fort Settlement and Sartartia middle schools;

→ Brazos Bend, Colony Meadows, Commonwealth, Highlands, Sienna Crossing and Walker Station elementary schools.

Lamar CISD had four elementary schools that made the Texas Monthly list: Austin, Bowell, Campbell and Dickinson.

“To be named as one of the top public middle schools in the state of Texas is a tremendous honor,” Dr. Sara Thurman, principal at Sartartia Middle School, said in a statement. “Our staff, students and parents are to be commended for their efforts in helping create a place of excellence at Sartartia Middle School.” . . .

(get the full report of the top 859 schools listed directly from Texas Monthly at: http://www.texasmonthly.com/2007-12-01/feature6.php and the full local report at: http://www.fortbendnow.com/news/3586/30-area-campuses-land-on-texas-monthly-list-of-top-texas-schools)

Friday, November 30, 2007

FBN: Investigation Of FBISD Operations Reveals Nothing Criminal, DA Concludes

Investigation Of FBISD Operations Reveals Nothing Criminal, DA Concludes
by Bob Dunn, Nov 30, 2007, 11 38 AM

Nearly two years after receiving material from an investigation into business operations at Fort Bend Independent School District, county District Attorney John Healey’s office has concluded that probe revealed nothing criminal.

“My office feels that there are not provable criminal charges contained in Kelley’s report,” Healey said Thursday.

He referred to Houston attorney Lloyd Kelley, who was hired in September 2005 by the Fort Bend ISD Board of Trustees along with forensic auditing firm Mir Fox & Rodriguez, to investigate findings in an August 2005 audit report of the district’s risk management department.

“The ruling of no prosecutable events by John Healey, the Fort Bend district attorney, ends my concerns with the Lloyd Kelley report,” FBISD Board President Cynthia Knox said on Friday. “Now all parties can focus on their responsibilities and continue serving FBISD to the best of their abilities, and create the best educational opportunity for all children.”

See these links for the full background and story:


http://www.fortbendnow.com/article/507 (earlier investigative report based on the audit)

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Delays In State Steroid Testing Program Impact UIL

From the Star-Telgram

UIL releases steroids testing details


There is still no timetable for the start of the state’s steroids testing program for high school athletes, but details about the program were released by the University Interscholastic League on Wednesday morning.

The program will require every student athlete and his or her parents or legal guardians to sign a consent form to be tested. Approximately 20,000-25,000 student athletes in grades 9-12 will be tested during the 2007-08 and 2008-09 school years.

Anyone testing positive for a banned substance for the first time or refusing to be tested will be suspended from competition for 30 days and must pass an exit test for banned substances before being reinstated.

A second positive test or refusal to be tested after a prior positive test would result in a suspension for one calendar year. A third positive test would cause the student athlete to lose eligibility for the remainder of his or her high school career. . .(full story linked below).


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

FortBendNow Announces Expansion!--follow the link provided--

Follow this link to get the full story and to comment:


News Of Our Demise Was Greatly Exaggerated; FortBendNow To Expand
Nov 27, 2007, 02 42 PM

The discerning reader may have noticed that, despite my having used this space some five weeks ago to announce its imminent demise, FortBendNow somehow refuses to go away.

Fort Bend Politics

By Bob Dunn
I understand an explanation is in order. For the moment, the best one I can offer is this: The Hand of Providence apparently had other ideas.

While details still are being worked out, and that process for the moment prevents the sort of full disclosure to which you are accustomed and deserve, I can now say this:

FortBendNow is going to stay open for a long time to come. . .

Monday, November 26, 2007

EducationNews.org A Great Source For The Public-

If you are looking for additional links and good sources to educational issues and news on a regional and national scale we would like to suggest this site: http://www.educationnews.org/

Several current issues of interest may be worth looking at for comparisons here locally:

Language Immersion Prototype Stumbling

Many immigrants face problems, find feeling of belonging in gangs

Computers transform classrooms

Please take a few minutes to review this resource and bookmark it...

Thursday, November 22, 2007

FBISDWatch Wishes Everyone A Safe & Wonderful Thanksgiving!

Chronicle: Community Upset At Recent FBISD Board Vote To Reduce Public Input On Zoning!

Fort Bend ISD parents want greater role in rezoning
School board trims procedure, forms committee
Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

Some parents, community activists and a school board trustee are upset with a Fort Bend Independent School District decision to reduce the number of public meetings from three to one on annual plans to redraw attendance zones.

"It's extremely disappointing. They're taking away the taxpayers' right to participate in the process. That shows the district doesn't want to foster good will with the community," said Rosalia Guerrero, a member of the Concerned Citizens Group, a district watchdog organization formed in 2006 during rezoning that stirred strong public protest.

Stan Magee, the lone board trustee against the new policy proposed by the administration, also questioned the administration's practice of crafting a policy for the board to adopt.

Guerrero, a Sugar Land resident, said she was disappointed by the rest of the board.

"They were elected to represent the community and supposed to work for the community more and not less. But they were doing just the opposite," she said. . . (follow the link for more)



See additional comments from FBISD taxpayers discussing this in the community on different blogs:






FBW comment/opinion:

This decision by all but 1 of the BOT members would seem to defy the promises made for more open forums and public input during the recent bond campaign. Is this what our new superintendent and board has in store?

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Appreciation Letter From GISDWatch Regarding Feldman SLAPP-suit--

Hi Everyone! I just wanted to give you an update of the eventful week I’ve had! After GISD got hammered on the fact that they couldn’t sue as a unit/governmental entity, Feldman comes out and says, Oh, no, we weren’t suing as a district; we’re suing as individuals! Using taxpayer’s money of course. Well I had been contacted by 2 firms and spoke to Anthony Griffin who is a civil rights attorney in town and is handling the plaintiffs on the DOJ we’re involved in with the district. But he wanted a $10K retainer should it go to court.

After Feldman pulled out the individual suits, Liberty Legal said they couldn’t help if suits were brought by individuals. But when I went to talk to Tony Buzbee, he had no problem defending me regardless of how they came at me and would do it pro bono. He felt the publicity alone would make up for monetary issues. He is the biggest, baddest attorney in Galveston County and possibly the state. Talk about politics makes strange bed fellows! But I knew if I was going to fight, I needed a big dog. He issued a wonderful letter to the district Thursday morning and it was in the paper Friday morning. By Friday afternoon, our superintendent issued a statement saying that she’d had enough of the attention being taken away from the children and she recommended to the board that the matter be dropped. (Isn’t she caring?) When I pressed the reporter if she’d spoken to any board members, she hadn’t – “Cleveland hadn’t spoken to any board members.” Well, please… so the reporter called the board president who didn’t know a thing but said the matter would need to go to the board. That’s correct of course! So the matter is not on the board agenda for Wednesday but I’m going to ensure that it is on the December Board meeting!! They are going to do this in public!!

I just want to thank everyone who helped encourage me, support me, educate me, speak out for me – it means a lot to me. It kept me strong throughout. And I believe that by working together, we’ve all achieved a great success that we can build upon! The school districts in Texas and the nation have been put on notice that we will not back down! I am compiling a list of the people who contacted me from other states with similar issues. We will go nationwide with this! It is a shame what these districts are doing and are not doing! But together in a united way, we will be a force to reckoned with!



FBISDWatch comment:

Lawyer David Feldman is one of FBISD's legal vendors...

Monday, November 19, 2007

Houston Chronicle Covers FBISD Vote To Decrease Public Zoning Forums--

November, 2007

Fort Bend ISD decreases public forums on zoning
Zen Zheng

Strong emotion may still be a vivid memory of many who went through the massive school attendance zone changes in 2006. Parents and teachers stood in long lines during those numerous community forums waiting for their turn to exercise their freedom of speech.

With a new round of rezoning on the horizon, district officials have decided to cut the number of community forums down to one.

School board last week approved a proposal made by the district administration to change the board policy that had previously required at least three community forums during attendance zone redrawing.

Superintendent Tim Jenney described the change as "streamlining the process."

Trustees voted 6-1 for the reduction in the number of public meetings. They also gave nods to a district plan to form a facility utilization committee made of district administrators and three principals from the elementary, middle and high school levels of campuses to be affected by rezoning. The committee is responsible for making recommendations for rezoning.

Stan Magee was the lone trustee who voted against the board policy change that included the creation of the committee.

Magee called the board policy change a move aimed at reducing public input to the minimum.

He was also upset with the fact that the facility use committee includes no community member. . . (follow the link below for the full story)


FB & Sugar Land Sun: FBISDWatch committee members harassed during recent campaigning activity

Missouri City residents Noel Pinnock and Kevin Tunstall have quite a bit in common.

They live in the same neighborhood. They both ran for public office - Pinnock for the Fort Bend Independent School District Board of Trustees, Tunstall for the Missouri City council. Both are known vocal critics of the recently passed FBISD bond proposal. And at the end of last month, they were both victims of ATM theft totaling close to $1,000 each. Both are convinced they were specifically targeted because of their political stance.

The thefts occurred in Austin, and according to Tunstall, all withdrawals happened within a 3-square-mile radius. The amounts were the same, although Pinnock lost less because he realized the thefts were occurring before Tunstall. According to authorities, the withdrawals were made using bank cards and PIN codes - bank cards the victims say never left their wallets.

"I find it more than strange, more of a strategic attempt, if you will," said Pinnock. "That's just my opinion. My speculation is someone has access to the bank database. Someone, or some people, or some group."

"If it just happened to one of us, I could chalk it up to coincidence," said Tunstall. "Once it happened to two, it smacks of collusion." . . .

Follow these threads for more:




Comment: Several other pro-bond accountability & improved representation (through SMD) committee members where also being harassed during this same 3 week campaign period. Hopefully Travis County authorities will get to the bottom of these criminal activities...

Thursday, November 15, 2007

ABC13 Covers Growing Controversy At Sienna Crossing

Follow the link for the full story:


Stay tuned...we will update this at intervals.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

FBN: BOT Member Calls For More Transparency, Not Less

From FBN --

Magee: FBISD Community Input On Attendance Zoning Loses Out
Nov, 2007

In an effort to “streamline” the process of deciding school attendance zones, the Fort Bend Independent School District Board voted Monday night to approve the administration’s new proposal, which effectively eliminates the revised Board Policy FC-R, which was amended two years ago to provide three community meetings with the school board.

The plan approved Monday night sets up a building utilization committee made up of nine administrators and NOT ONE PERSON FROM THE COMMUNITY, to meet together, decide what to propose to the board, and without even one parent from the affected zones, will then make a recommendation to the board.

After the committee makes the recommendation to the school board, the administration will then conduct ONLY ONE PUBLIC HEARING, to receive input from affected individuals.

Does this sound familiar to what was done three years ago and farther back? You bet it does....(see link below for more)

Follow this link for more: http://www.fortbendnow.com/opinion/3534/magee-fort-bend-isd-community-input-on-attendance-zoning-loses-out

FBISDWatch comment: Why would the upper administration team even suggest this to the BOT?

From The Fort Bend/Sugar Land Sun: Pinnock calls for input from the public on bond accountability!

In a recent front-page article in the Fort Bend Sun Noel Pinnock, considering a run for a Missouri City council seat in '08, was quoted by sources as stating " Over one third of the voters voted against the FBISD bond, which is an indication that there is some concern with the way FBISD handles their business with how it relates to previous bonds, that being said, it is incumbent upon the entire district to continue their involvement throughout the life cycle of the current bond to ensure they are held accountable to the taxpayers and, most importantly, our children."

Mr. Pinnock, earlier in the year, called for improved representation through the institution of single-member school districts, which he continues to support along with other community leaders and numerous elected officials. FBISDWatch has strongly endorsed this position too.

--Get the full story at: http://www.fortbendsouthwestsun.com

-- http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/nb/fortbend/news/5296451.html (related chron piece)

Stay tuned as we follow these ongoing district issues impacting our classrooms and children!

Monday, November 12, 2007

From FBN: $20.5 Million In No-bid Contracts Being Reviewed By BOT

Fort Bend ISD Will Spend More than $20.5M With Non-bid Vendors
by Bob Dunn, Nov 12, 2007, 03 55 PM

Fort Bend Independent School District likely will spend more than $20.5 million with vendors whose goods and services won’t be subject to competitive bidding.

At the request of Fort Bend ISD board trustees, Chief Financial Officer Mike Seale and Director of Purchasing Tim Ford submitted a list of so-called non-bid vendors expected to contract with the district in the 2007-‘08 school year in contracts worth more than $25,000 apiece.

The list, expected to be reviewed during Monday night’s Board of Trustees meeting, includes 96 vendors with whom Fort Bend ISD anticipates spending $20,663,000. . .

Follow the link below for the full story:


FBISD Board Mtg. Tonight (At admin building)

All meetings are held in the FBISD Administration Building, 16431 Lexington Blvd, Sugar Land, at 7 p.m.

The Galveston Daily News Is Reporting A Victory For State Tax Watch Groups (GISDWatch SLAPP-suit Update)--

District may drop legal action

By Rhiannon Meyers
The Daily News
Published November, 2007

GALVESTON — It appeared late Friday that the district was backing down from its threat to sue a parent for defamation.

In a statement issued late Friday afternoon, Superintendent Lynne Cleveland recommended that the district drop all legal action against a Web site it has accused of defamation.

Cleveland said she’s recommending backing off the legal action because she did not want to pull the focus away from the education of children any longer.

“I think I’ve made it very, very clear the reason I’m here is for the students,” she said. “The students have already suffered enough because of other issues out there that don’t pertain to their education, and I’m not going to let that happen to them anymore.”

Tetley said though she’s glad Cleveland has “come to her senses,” the district’s abuse of power is not acceptable.

“They have tried to crush the voice of the parents of this district, and it is inexcusable and illustrates the lack of leadership at the top,” she wrote in a statement. “They have wasted tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayers’ money trying to silence honest concerns by the parents of the district. If we felt like the district truly listened to us, we would not have created this Web site.” . . .

FBISDWatch comment: David Feldman sent a demand letter threatening a SLAPP-suit about two weeks ago against GISDWatch (a taxpayer watch group). He also does work for HISD and FBISD. We congratulate GISDWatch for standing up to the bullying tactics that are so common and allowed in Texas courtrooms (but not in 24 other states with anti-SLAPP legislation on the books)...

Sunday, November 11, 2007


With only two recognized middle school campuses and one exemplary (Fort Settlement), all in Sugar Land, when will the FBISD school board begin to take seriously an emphasis on equity of resources in the district?

Get the 2007 campus accountability ratings at: http://www.fortbend.k12.tx.us/cmf/var/tidbits/Tidbits_parentlinks_20070808_1626.pdf

During the recent record bond election, central office district officials repeatedly emphasized the fact that bond monies would be targeted at numerous campuses throughout the district. This though seems to have contradicted the actual distribution of funding in the proposal with nearly two-thirds of the funding going to new schools, to the chagrin of older neighborhoods.

One area that would help alter this perception is the improvement of board representation across the district. During the recent election numerous representatives and community leaders endorsed the use of single-member districts for the increasing urbanization of FBISD. Currently, according to the recent bond rhetoric coming from the central office, the district is undergoing rapid growth and has become a minority - majority school district, which is not reflected through diversity on the Board of Trustees. As a matter of fact, the board has traditionally been controlled by one area of the community. If readers take a closer look at long-term spending over the last decade they would find the dollars following the board members home areas (mostly large Houston development projects). Is the current BOT or administration capable of addressing these needs as they change?

Stay tuned as we update these and other concerns impacting our schools. If you wish to get more involved then please contact us at fbisdwatch@yahoo.com.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

GISD SLAPP-suit Opposition Growing: See this KISDWatchDogs Letter To The GISD Board & Media!

October, 2007

Galveston Independent School District
P.O. Box 660
Galveston, TX 77553-0660

Attention: The GISD Board Of Trustees & GISD School Superintendent

RE: An Open Letter To The GISD Board Of Trustees & GISD School Superintendent

Dear GISD Board of Trustees & GISD School Superintendent:

Let me begin by introducing myself. My name is Christopher E. Cottrell and I am the Co-Founder of a taxpayer watchdog group in Katy, Texas known as “The Katy Citizen Watchdog$”. Ms. Sandra J. Tetley, with GISD Watch, has been sharing with me some recent developments in your school district. Specifically, I am referring to the apparent threat of legal action against GISD Watch by your school district in what the district perceives as statements of a slanderous nature. As a fellow citizen watchdog I felt compelled to comment on the current flap.

I guess I should preface my remarks/opinions by saying that I am not a lawyer, nor do I profess to be an expert on anything, but I will say, as a fellow concerned taxpayer, that I am appalled that your school district considers anything on the GISD site as slander. I have looked at the site, and while I haven’t studied the site in detail, I personally do not see anything that could be considered slanderous. There is certainly a great deal of critical commentary on the site, but I do believe that commentary and slander are not one in the same. In addition, I saw district news and district facts but once again I am having trouble as a layperson understanding how any of that could be considered slanderous. What am I missing? The folks at GISD Watch want the same thing that the Katy Dogs want; that being a board, superintendent and school district that are both transparent and accountable to those of us that are paying the freight. Believe me, I didn’t come up with this theme; there were some very smart men several hundred years ago that believed so strongly in that concept that they fought a revolution over it.

Please try and not take this the wrong way when I say, is it possible that all of you should get a thicker skin? How is it that the word “dissent” has become a four-letter word? Why have some of us lost our natural distrust of government? When did school districts and elected official become exempt from public criticism? Are school districts and trustees always right in everything they do?

When did having a differing view warrant legal action? When did school board trustees and superintendents forget that they report to the voters? When did school districts decide that they have some divine right to rule an area as a fiefdom? Do you believe that tax dollars represent some kind of entitlement program? When did government become supreme in this nation? When did it become ok for government to believe that they don’t need to be accountable or transparent to taxpayers? What happened to taxation with representation? How did the term “grassroots activist” get twisted to mean “educational terrorist”?

Like it or not Texas has become “ground zero” of a taxpayer revolt that is catching on nationwide. The Watchdog movement in Texas has been leading this effort. Watchdogs have found the internet to be a very powerful tool for those of us that have become very, very concerned about the state of public education and the way in which our hard-earned tax dollars are being managed and spent by those school trustees and superintendents that have been entrusted with the oversight of those dollars. The Katy Dog web sites have received both statewide and national attention. I have personally spoken to folks in California, Florida, Missouri, Nevada, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and earlier this year I went to Boulder, Colorado where I addressed a new watchdog group and their board of trustees. I have also had the opportunity to visit with people in various districts in Houston. We are also very proud to say that the folks over at GISD Watch had been monitoring our site for some time before contacting us. We have also visited with concerned taxpayers in Columbus ISD and just last summer we helped the Cy-Fair Citizens kick-off their fight against taxpayer waste and abuse in their district. With the help of Americans For Prosperity in Austin, the Katy Watchdog$ organized the first-ever Texas Watchdog Summit this past April. This was the first meeting of citizen watchdog groups from around the state; a chance for all of us to figure out how we can become more powerful in Austin and how we can all help each other in our individual battles with our local school districts.

I dare say that the folks over at GISD Watch share many of the same beliefs and goals as we do. Those being:

· We are people who want the very best education for our children, but at the same time we don’t believe that you have to break the bank doing it.

· We believe in putting more money in the classroom and less into administration and “Taj Mahal” school construction projects. In other words, we believe that teachers should come FIRST, not administrators, superintendents, school trustees, building contractors or architects. After all it won’t be any of those individuals that secure our children’s college admissions. It will be the teachers that accomplish that task.

· We believe that an education will be the only thing we will ever give our kids that will ever be worth anything in their lives.

· We are concerned that that education is not the first priority of school districts.

Let me clue all of you into something; taxpayers in this state are angry and they are getting angrier every single day. Our ranks are growing daily as more and more taxpayers begin to come out of their apathetic stupor and begin to realize what is REALLY going on in their school districts. We are tired of wasteful, irresponsible and sometimes fraudulent school district spending. We are sick of “blank check” bond initiatives that only encourage wasteful, irresponsible and sometimes fraudulent school spending. We’re tired of school districts operating deficit budgets. But most of all we are really weary of school districts “passing the hat” before they have made absolutely sure that their own economic house is in order.

Folks, it’s really quite simple. We have got to begin changing our ways. All school districts need to realize that we cannot continue down the path that we have been on. We cannot continue spending money like it’s going out of style. We need to learn how to build smarter and cheaper. We need to understand that we can’t have it all and realize what is really important in providing a quality education and what is not important to that effort. Priorities need to be shifted so that education becomes the first and only priority.

Face it, test scores are down all over this state and nation. Public education in Texas and in the U.S. is in trouble and it has been in trouble for quite awhile. We all need to work together to try and find answers. Suing grassroots activists isn’t going to accomplish anything other than wasting additional tax dollars that could be spent more constructively on education.

I am urging you all to take the lead and immediately open a dialogue with GISD Watch. Listen to what their concerns are and try and set aside any personal bias and work with them in trying to find common ground on issues facing your district. Please, and I can’t emphasis this enough, don’t take the adversarial approach our Board took when we announced our formation in August of 2005. Sandra and her group are taxpayers just like all of you. What they want is hopefully you want; that being a quality education at a reasonable and fair price.


Christopher E. Cottrell
Co-Founder/Katy Citizen Watchdog$


P.S. I also want to let each of you know that my letter will be forwarded to the press and will be posted on the Katy Watchdog web sites and on the GISD Watch web site.

cc: GISD Watch
Members of the Press

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

FBN Reports: Record FBISD Bond Proposal Approved By Voters!

FBISD Bond Issue Wins With Ease
by FortBendNow Staff, Nov 06

Voters passed Fort Bend Independent School District’s $428 million bond referendum easily on Tuesday, with just over 65% favoring the measure...

...Final results from the Fort Bend County Election Administration show 10,587 people – 65.07% – voted in favor of the Fort Bend ISD bond measure, while 5,683 – or 34.93% – voted against it.

The school district has said money from the bonds would be used to build four elementary schools, two middle schools and a high school within the next three years or so, in addition to making more than $138 million in repairs, refurbishments and maintenance to existing campuses...

Follow the link for more: http://www.fortbendnow.com/news/3514/fort-bend-isd-bond-favored-2-1-in-early-voting#cpreview

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Update On GISDWatch Lawsuit By GISD lawyer David Feldman (Also handles FBISD & HISD cases): Is suing taxpayers the new norm in silencing opposition?

SEE this recent news release from our sister site in GISD on the recently threatened SLAPP-suit: http://news.galvestondailynews.com/story.lasso?ewcd=ca5de54a31ed2eb0

"In a case that Galveston school district’s attorney argued is different, Port Arthur’s public school district in 2001 tried to sue a blogger for defamation. The Texas Ninth Court of Appeals tossed out the lawsuit based on black-letter law: New York Times v. Sullivan clearly prohibits such lawsuits.

“The question presented is whether a governmental unit may sue for defamation,” the opinion states. “The answer is no.” Daily News

SLAPP-suits are about silencing opponents and not about damages (Canen & Pring, 1996). --We will update these at intervals! We have notified the TexasWatch network and forwarded the case to the ACLU - Houston for advice. Stay tuned...

Monday, November 5, 2007

FBN Reports: Special Interest Very Much Involved With Pushing This Bond (According to FBN it could be a close race)-

Follow the title link for the full piece...http://www.fortbendnow.com/news/3507/heavily-supported-by-developers-fbisd-bond-vote-could-be-close?commented=0#txpCommentInputForm

Get out and vote!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Last Chance To Vote NO On RECORD FBISD Bond/Tax Increase Today (Tues.)!

See these releases as FBW has formally endorsed support for single-member school district representation & improved bond accountability thus opposing this controversial '07 RECORD bond proposal (SMD makes it harder for special interests to manipulate district seats giving more control to local voters and representation they can hold accountable to their area). With improved representation, that limits the special interest influence, a reasonable bond can be crafted with built in checks to assure it gets used as proposed (this can not happen, in our opinion, under the current process, policies and state law):










We will update this at intervals. Check the county election site at: http://www.co.fort-bend.tx.us/getSitePage.asp?sitePage=5660 for your polling station.

Feldman & Rogers Lawfirm In Houston Initiates Potential SLAPP-suit Against GISD Taxpayer (A GISDWatch Member)-

This just came in from a sister site GISDWatchDogs. Ms. Tetley, a taxpayer/voter, runs the website for the GISDWatch group and is being threatened by attorneys for the GISD school system with a classic SLAPP-suit to pressure her into removing numerous posts/opinions from the GISDWatch website.

Read this article for more: http://blogs.galvnews.com/story109087.html

See the site for yourself: http://gisdwatch.com/

"One legal expert said the district’s move to sue Tetley is rare and unlawful. Under the 1964 Supreme Court case New York Times v. Sullivan, government entities cannot sue for libel — any court would toss out the “threatening” suit as being inconsistent with U.S. law, said Sandra Baron, executive director of New-York based Media Law Resource Center. She called the district’s potential lawsuit an intimidation tactic and a waste of taxpayer dollars."

We wish our sister site well and would be happy to testify, at no charge, in a SLAPP-suit on her behalf. Additionally we can recommend some wonderful anti-SLAPP lawyers if needed and would suggest contacting Houston media and the ACLU or Public Cause for more help.

Question: I wonder how much taxpayer money will go into this "frivolous" lawsuit?

Get more on this from KISDWatchDogs & the Houston Press at:


UPDATE: FBISDWatch has taken the liberty of contacting Houston media sources over this and fully supports and endorses the first amendment rights of all taxpayers/citizens! We will update this as it continues...

SLAPP-suit definition (currently legal in TX but outlawed in 24 other states and most legal experts claim these violate the constitution and are an abuse of process) -- see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Strategic_lawsuit_against_public_participation

Feldman & Rogers, a large Houston law firm, have handled many cases over the years for Fort Bend ISD as well as many other large school district clients with several Texas offices.

Thursday, November 1, 2007

From FBN:Vocal FBISD Bond Critics Hit In Bank Scam They Say Was Meant To Send A Message

Follow the link below for more on this evolving story impacting FBISDWatch committee members...


-We will update this as the news warrants!

Chronicle Reports on FBISD Bond: Renovation cost concerns some critics

Follow this link for more:


OP/Ed a FBISDWatch Exclusive: Bond Promotion Presents Potential Conflicts For FBISD Superintendent!

This just into FBISDWatch:

Until last week it appeared the public relations efforts of the FBISD communication office (and their local affiliates) were keeping the bond promotions within the existing TEC (Texas Education Code) through standard mail-outs with information of what the bond proposal contained. Of course these communications do not mention that state law does not require the proposal, once approved by voters, to be followed. In our opinion a BOT policy could easily address this by requiring all changes to bonds go through public scrutiny via hearings or referendum. This currently is not the case as has been pointed out in recent news and media releases.

This lack of accountability and poor representation can lead to potential bond conflicts as may be the case with the recent signage showing up in east Fort Bend ISD areas. The signs state simply VOTE YES on the FBISD 2007 bond. Several sources looked into this for FBISDWatch, because this simple sign may be in violation of the Texas Education Code (TEC) if employees of the district are involved. FBISDWatch affiliates have traced the signage to a committee which includes members of the Fort Bend County Economic Development Council (GFBEDC) and the Fort Bend ISD Education Foundation (FBEF). These organizations have district vendor members, which may present a potential conflict in and of itself. The FBEF is housed in offices paid for by the school district.

The superintendent of FBISD, Dr. Jenney, has a membership on the GFBEDC. Further, one of the managers of the FBEF is a spouse of a FBISD board of trustee member. The committee with this membership promoting the 2007 FBISD record bond may appear to be a conflict of interest and could present a possible violation of the TEC laws prohibiting such activity.

We will update this story as more information comes in...

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Houston Chronicle Blog: Opposition to FBISD bond mounts as district refutes "accusations"

Follow the link provided for the latest chronicle piece:


Opposition to FBISD bond mounts as district refutes "accusations"

As the Nov. 6 Fort Bend school district $429 million bond election nears, a group of opponents of the bond is stepping up its fight.

One of its undertakings has been a computer-generated telephone call to 2,200 homes in the district urging voters to vote against the proposal, according to Carlos Cain, a resident who helped organize the effort.

Cain, whose daughter is a Lakeview Elementary first-grader, has been serving as an unofficial spokesman for what he described as a "loosely organized group" of opponents.

Through the Freedom of Information Act, Cain also obtained financial documents pertaining to past bond referendums from the school district. He said he discovered that $176 million bond proceeds from the 2003 bond issue has not been used for the bond projects and a review of the documents gave rise to his suspicion that the fund was transferred to a trust for purposes other than what was initially approved by voters.

Cain said he also has personally met with Superintendent Tim Jenney and spoken with school board trustee Laurie Caldwell on the phone about his concerns on a range of issues such as the size of the current bond, projects from past bonds allegedly repeated in the current package, and the completion status of past bond projects.

Several other opponents said they shared the same concerns. One of them said there is no legal guarantee that the district must spend the bond money in a way approved by voters. Another critic said until the school board becomes a single-member district board, there will not be equal representation of communities of different parts of the district nor equitable bond proposals....(follow link above for more).

FBISDWatch Formally Endorses Improved Representation & Accountability and Thus Opposes The '07 Record FBISD Bond!

With recent endorsements from the EDC, Chamber of Commerce and some local newspapers supporting the record FBISD bond, we here at FBISDWatch after investigating extensively the proposal and attending the bond sales meetings have decided not enough accountability currently exist in the bond process to support a measure of this magnitude that will increase Fort Bend County residents taxes, on an average home, by about 11 cents per 100k valuation.

This week in the FB Sun article supporting the bond the paper was quoted as reporting that our county is already one of the most highly taxed areas of the state. The second largest city in FBC recently voted in an estimated 5.4% tax increase and mobility bonds and other county bonds were added to the tax rolls too in '06-'07 (with our commissioners giving themselves nearly a 15% raise just last year). Many families are already living check to check and further increases by our elected officials could have detrimental effect on hundreds of home and property owners, perhaps more, in our community.

Until the school district and other taxing entities seek authentic bond accountability with improved voter/taxpayer representation (for FBISD through single-member districts and BOT policies) FBISDWatch will continue to vigorously oppose this bond. We have recently sought and gained support from numerous community leaders and a recent area blog endorsement from MissouriCityChatter.blogspot.com.

Please e-mail us for more if these issues concern you at fbisdwatch@yahoo.com!

Visit The FBISDWatchDogs Virtual Store (See link to the right and get your FBISD Watch Buttons Today)-

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Denials Being Made By District Officials In Growing FBISD Bond Controversy!

From FBN: Denials Being Made By District Officials In Growing FBISD Bond Controversy

Concerns Raised By Resident Over FBISD Bond Issues Not Valid, Jenney Tells Board
by Bob Dunn, Oct 30, 2007

Top administrators have refuted allegations – raised by a local resident opposed to the 2007 bond referendum being voted on in the Nov. 6 election – that Fort Bend Independent School District improperly handled money from a 2003 bond referendum.

District resident Carlos Cain has said he believes the district put some money from the 2003 bonds into a trust fund to pay off debt from past bond issues, instead of using it to complete buildings and other projects.

At least one Fort Bend ISD board trustee questioned the district administration about the trust fund, and about allegations Cain raised that the district is seeking money through the 2007 bond referendum to pay for projects that were listed under the 2003 bond, but weren’t completed.

In an email message sent to board members on his behalf, district Superintendent Timothy Jenney responded to those questions and denied Cain’s allegations are true. On Tuesday, Cain said he still isn’t satisfied with the answers the district has provided. . . (click the link below for more).



Saturday, October 27, 2007

From FBN: Fort Bend ISD Watch Site Recommended

Fort Bend ISD Watch Site Recommended
Oct, 2007

We have a new FBISDWATCH site (http://fbisdwatch.blogspot.com/) that is active and reporting issues related to FBISD. Many of the constituents in the Fort Bend area need to have their fingertips on the pulse of our schools and the welfare of our educational system.

I know first hand that education can become very political and smog the main reason why the system exists and that is to provide a formidable and free education to all children (*despite socioeconomic factors, color, race, creed, religion, or disability*) enabling them to be prepared for college, career, and/or trade, but most importantly…*LIFE and FAMILY*.

For this reason, I support sites such as the FBISDWATCH site and I am recommending it to anyone that is interested in having a source of unadulterated information with a consumer, taxpayer, and concerned citizen perspective in mind.

Log in today: http://fbisdwatch.blogspot.com/

Noel Pinnock
Fort Bend County

From: http://www.fortbendnow.com/opinion/3490/fort-bend-isd-watch-site-recommended#c019264

Mr. Pinnock is an author, former board of trustee candidate, community activist and long-time educator living in Missouri City.

Just Say No To More Taxes!


As in every other public school district in America, Ft. Bend ISD voters are being asked to vote for yet another bond to “support the children and their schools.”

Taxpayers, parents and supporters of education should not be fooled, again. There’s an agenda afoot that everyone may not realize.

Take note of the fact that public school districts went for ten or more years between bond initiatives in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Districts were able to do that because honest superintendents who spent their lives in the same district and who had loyalty to the district and its patrons, used money wisely.

But then “restructured education” came along, and all of a sudden, almost on the same day, newspapers and TV spots were clamoring for new school buildings and other facilities. That event was not a coincidence; it was part of a national agenda to change public schools as we know them.

The newly designed “restructured” curriculum called for new “spaces.” It was a paradigm shift, don’t you know?

Actually, the concept of “reforming” education was a bunch of hooey, designed to dumb down our kids and part all of us from our hard earned cash.

School districts have refined the bond scheme to the point that they now recruit and hire superintendents merely because they have been successful elsewhere at floating a bond—and the bigger the bond, the better.

Ft. Bend ISD is such a school district. Your superintendent has been on the scene creating good will for a couple of years. He apparently was pretty much retired but was coaxed in to coming your way for the purpose of passing a large bond. He had recently passed a big one where he was in Virginia Beach.

Who benefits from such a scheme? Well, first of all the superintendent does. If he can pass a monster bond, he can write his own ticket for a bigger and better job in a public school system elsewhere (and his own board will get in a bidding war to keep him), or he can easily go into school related private enterprise like the Cy Fair and Katy ISD superintendents have done whether he has the real expertise to perform or not. And when he retires, some of the vendors, who have made all the bucks from the big bonds, building overpriced, over designed, flashy schools, will contribute handsomely to the superintendent’s retirement gift. (http://www.katyisd.org/files/community_information/Conflict%20Disclosure/Dr.%20Merrell_Retirement%20Gift.pdf)

Secondly, the vendors, which include the architects, the developers who sell their land to the school district at inflated prices, the lawyers who set it all up, the builders and all the contractors who build the monuments, all stand to benefit from the largesse of a free wheeling school board that wants to create “good will” in the community so they can get re-elected.

Do the students benefit from a big bond? Maybe, but in most cases they are the last entity to be considered in the big picture. And if one considers what all these overpriced ventures will do for students’ academic gain, please know that the answer is “nothing.” “Just for the kids” is a disingenuous slogan.

The process for floating a bond issue is quite orchestrated at this point. Bond committees are selected—some are more fairly chosen groups than others, but the average citizen is usually left out. And even if they are included, a process called the Delphi Technique is utilized with the aid of pre-selected facilitators who are spread through the bond meetings to make certain of the pre-conceived outcome. (Read http://www.katycitizens.org/index_files/Page6680.htm on the Delphi Technique and the following article on School Board committees.)

School boards are prone to utilize committees to arrive at decisions which they themselves were elected to make. Foisting off the responsibility of sitting in endless meetings to learn about bond matters appears to be terribly boring for them if not totally incomprehensible—thus their willingness to let others make decisions for them.

As has been clearly pointed out elsewhere, school districts and their rubber stamp school boards are more likely than not to spend hard earned tax dollars for anything BUT what they said they would when they were trying to get voters hooked on the bond.

In MY school district, Katy ISD, the district asked for bond funding for one school (James E. Williams Elementary on Peak Road) three times before they ever built it!

They’ve also asked for money for duplicate computers and telephone systems and bus barns. Somehow buildings don’t ever get built or they need just a couple of hundred thousand more to build that swimming pool, or the equipment never is what we were told it would be. Roofing systems are replaced before they should be; carpeting and air-conditioning systems, high school tracks, and Astroturfed football fields require replacement before the warranties have expired; parking lots that no one knew we needed go up overnight, and amazingly, the warranties on replacement items are never quite what they seemed when the administration was making the original pitch for the projects to the school board.

The public has a short memory if they have one at all, and after all who has time to keep track of all the things that do and don’t happen with bond money? But someone should be paying attention, because, in my opinion, the use of bond money by school districts is one of the biggest rip offs in America.

The first thing citizens need to understand is that schools today aren’t the same as they were when you went to school. That’s supposed to be a “good” thing, but it’s not. When you went to school, you had probably a principal, an assistant principal who took care of discipline, two counselors (one for the boys and one for the girls), a nurse, and that was it for administrators. You had one teacher all day in elementary school and you had about six teachers (one for each subject) when you were in junior high and high school. That’s really all that was needed.

In today’s world (for example at Cinco Ranch High School in the Katy ISD) there is a principal, seven assistant principals, eight counselors, twenty instructional aides, four security guards, twenty-three secretaries, two nurses, and two librarians. Do we really need that many people to teach kids English, history, math, science, a foreign language and fine arts?

My point is that it’s not the academic education that we all want for our kids that is being currently addressed with a bond issue. It’s all the stuff that is NOT academic that is eating up tax dollars. Look around the next time you’re in a public school, and you will see what I mean. All that other “stuff” has to be housed, and so you get to pay for it.

Can’t have a winning baseball team playing on a field without an elevator in the press box or a place to sell high priced hot dogs or a bathroom that Queen Elizabeth can’t use.

Can’t have the girls’ gym looking better than the boys’.

Can’t have the principal residing in an office that doesn’t equate to her station in life.

Can’t have a school that doesn’t cost at least three times as much per square foot to build as it does for the homes that surround it.

Can’t have students walk to school, or Heaven forbid, ride in a bus without air-conditioning.

Can’t allow all the students with cars to not have a place to park close to the front door.

You get my point.

Taxpayers have to decide when they’ve had enough. Taxpayers have to decide what’s important—is it paying teachers a decent wage or building Taj Mahals so that parents can “feel good” about that education that may or may not be transpiring inside? And don’t buy into the argument that the M&O part of the tax rate isn’t affected by capital improvements. As long as there is a cap on the tax rate, the M&O can be affected. Your school district is making an arbitrary decision to spend money on buildings OR to spend it on students and their teachers.

Top school administrators are behind this scam on the public, and they have used their “professional” associations to lobby the state legislature to give them all the power they now enjoy. While no one was watching, they in essence stole our public schools.

You can let them have some more of your money or you can tell them no. The bottom line is, this bond is NOT for the kids, and your kids will not suffer one minute if you vote to keep your hard earned money.

Mary McGarr
Mother, former Texas public school teacher
Katy ISD School Board Trustee 1991-1996

Thursday, October 25, 2007

From FBN: Vote NO On Record FBISD Bond (See this FBN piece)

Integrity, Improved Representation & The FBISD Bond Election
Oct, 2007

Recently in the mail arrived a series of fliers from the school district presenting the new character education program that our children will be receiving this year. One which focuses on integrity and was apparently signed by Tim Jenney, our superintendent. It arrived just in time for the upcoming record district bond election push and a Chamber of Commerce endorsement. So far nothing unusual for a bond campaign that is being touted as needed to curb the over-development in our community. But let’s first
take a closer look at the definition for INTEGRITY.

In the unabridged version (v.1.1) of the Random House Dictionary C 2006 several definitions are provided:
1. adherence to moral and ethical principles; soundness of moral character; honesty.
2. the state of being whole, entire, or undiminished: to preserve the integrity of the empire.

Although I applaud the district on their efforts to reintroduce character building to the schools, I would have to question their timing and delivery, right before the record bond vote. More importantly I would urge district officials and board members and many of their supporting vendors (via campaign gifts) to attempt to set a good example for our children of the district by living publicly to these principles.

Case in point, while attending several of the recent bond marketing meetings at our local high schools I had the opportunity to meet a fellow district taxpayer and one of his neighbors, a Mr. Carlos Cain. He has been attending nearly all the district public relations/marketing meetings in the Sugar Land area and asking some very pointed (but excellent) questions. Mr. Cain’s group even went beyond asking questions to requesting, through FOIA supporting documents, deeper answers to our concerns. What he showed us was very eye opening and goes to the heart of the problem with many of our Texas bond elections, lack of accountability, which is maintained by some pretty powerful PACs, lobbies and special interest groups who are directly funded by large corporate networks that feed on these public gifts.

Mr. Cain, through his queries and research, has exposed the weak under-belly of these multi-million dollar debts taken on by us average taxpayers in the name of the children. For example he found multiple listings (repeat lists) from the 2003 bond election on the current proposal funded for nearly the same amounts. He also found many items that should not be on a bond like non-fixed use items (like computers). You see funding short-term items that
will no longer be in use when paid for is not advised. Bonds are usually strictly for buildings and such, not items that have been moved off the regular budget.

Why is this so important? Because this bond is a new record in spending and financing a debt that may not be real. For instance, it appears that in the 2003 bond, district officials moved close to half of the amount, approved by taxpayers, into a trust account basically to finance the debt without public notification or review.
So in essence they not only redirected the monies from what taxpayers directed, but used debt to finance more debt and not on a small scale. You ask how did they get away with this? Easy, in Texas it isn’t illegal to not use the bonds as they were sold to the public (although I personally think it should be).

I for one believe Mr. Cain is a man of integrity, honesty and has a deeper faith and understanding of what is really wrong in our society (especially here in TX). I wish our kids had more GREAT examples like him getting involved in the community even with the threat of ridicule and alienation tactics. Willing to stand up and speak out for the truth and to seek it out even when officials, and their backers, are deliberately misleading, marginalizing, misinforming to protect the hundreds of millions they covet.

Instead of running off taxpayers/voters at these public bond sales pitches shouldn’t our district officials be reading their own curriculum materials that they require our teachers to distribute. I would prefer to see our elected officials and tax supported administrators modeling definition 1 from above rather than definition 2 (“to preserve the integrity of the empire.”)?

Thank you Carlos for doing what’s right and acting with INTEGRITY! Please vote NO on this record bond and call your school district officials and ask them to support direct representation through single-member districts so we can begin to clean up the mess and restore public accountability (and integrity). . . (see the entire thread at http://www.fortbendnow.com/opinion/3464/integrity-improved-representation-the-fbisd-bond-election#c019169)

Chris Calvin, Ph.D.
Committee for Responsible Development--FBC
Fort Bend County

Houston Chronicle: State Bond Fund In Trouble

TEA's guarantee on school bonds in peril
If approved items on the Nov. 6 ballot would bust cap

Copyright 2007 Houston Chronicle

Bond projects

HISD will ask voters to approve an $805 million bond in a Nov. 6 election. Here are documents showing how some of the money is being spent.

Documents are included for all high school renovations, as well as Middle school renovations worth $10 million or more:

A state program that allows school districts to sell bonds at lower interest rates could be tapped out if voters approve the slew of school bonds on the Nov. 6 ballot — meaning districts may need to spend millions more to finance construction.

The Texas Education Agency's bond guarantee program, which can accommodate roughly $53 billion in bonds, was only $4.7 billion shy of capacity as of Aug. 31. While that's a substantial amount, two of the state's heavy hitters, the Cypress-Fairbanks and Houston school districts, will be asking voters for a total of more than a billion and a half dollars in next month's election.

All told, about 60 Texas districts are seeking $7.6 billion, which would bust the cap by nearly $3 billion.... (get the entire piece at http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/front/5236349.html)

FBISD Record Bond Election

This OP/ED piece from one of our members stirred quite a series of responses (see full thread at: http://www.fortbendnow.com/opinion/3400/if-we-build-it-they-will-come)

"If We Build It, They Will Come"
Oct 01, 2007, 01 06 PM

What if they don’t come?

As a concerned parent and voter I have been reviewing the FBISD bond issue on the November ballot. I believe they are overstating the future needs of Fort Bend ISD and the cost of this “potential” growth. Who will pay for this? WE WILL! Every tax payer in FBISD. If passed, the new bond issue would push FBISD debt to approximately 1.5 Billion dollars. That is ($1,500,000,000.00). Think about it, and call 832-859-5783 for more information.

Carlos Cain
Sugar Land

Commissioner Prestage Adds Voice In Call For Single Member Districts

Prestage Adds Voice In Call For Single Member Districts
Jul, 2007

Fort Bend Politics

Bob Dunn

Local educator Noel Pinnock stirred a still-simmering debate in these pages last month when he called on the Fort Bend Independent School District Board of Trustees to convert from its current at-large system to single-member districts.

Now Fort Bend County Precinct 2 Commissioner Grady Prestage has also strongly endorsed the idea, although he and Pinnock would take different approaches to achieving the same ends.

“I’ve been very vocal about this ever since the ’80s,” Prestage said recently. “I think it’s time for single-member districts. It has been for a long time.”

“History supports this case,” Pinnock said. “The argument is in terms of voter dilution and in terms of lack of representation.”

The crux of his argument is his contention the majority of schools in the district’s east end are “failing and are struggling to bridge/close achievement gaps and provide a formidable education experience for all students.”

“Hunters Bend, Mission Bend and all of these bands on the outskirts of the city need representation” on the FBISD Board, he said. His belief is that those neighborhoods are not able to obtain proper representation under the current at-large system.

Pinnock has written or spoken to the U.S. Justice Department, the American Civil Liberties Union, Fort Bend County District Attorney John Healey, the NAACP and local members of Congress about the issue, and has suggested a lawsuit may be necessary to force a change. . .(follow this link for the full story http://www.fortbendnow.com/opinion/3086/prestage-adds-voice-in-call-for-fbisd-single-member-districts)

Fort Bend ISD Should Convert To Single-Member Districts

From FBN: Fort Bend ISD Should Convert To Single-Member Districts
Jun 2007,

Noel Pinnock
Missouri City

I am deeply concerned about the lack of equitable representation the schools, parents, taxpayers, and students are receiving in Fort Bend Independent School District. I am requesting some support and would greatly appreciate any assistance you can provide me in reconfiguring FBSID’s electoral voting system to a single-member district to promote diversity, equity, and equality in this fast-growing county in our great nation.

Historically and currently, FBISD trustees are voted in a seat on the dais by residents who pay FBISD school taxes (largest tax item on our annual tax bill). The voting canvass includes Missouri City, Fresno, Vicksburg, and Sugar Land proper as well as parts of Houston, Katy, and Alief. Additionally, several other ETJ areas such as Teal Run, Sienna Plantation, New Territory, Shadow Creek Rank, Mission Bend, Hodges Bend, etc. are aggregated in FBISD’s electoral process.

With such a large and diverse voting pool, FBSID residents rely on a seven-member board to represent over 60 schools. This number will increase by approximately by a third in the next 5 years due to projected growth and the construction of much needed schools.

In accordance with the Texas Elections Code, Fort Bend ISD calls board elections for the first Saturday in May of each year. Vacancies occurring after the election are filled by appointment until the next election is conducted. Trustees are elected to three-year terms on a rotating basis. Two are elected each year, one from each side of the district (Position 1, 2 and 3 on the West, and Positions 5, 6 and 7 on the East). Also, every third year, the “at large” Position 4, is elected.

Many of the surrounding school districts of smaller, larger, or equal size have historically or recently adopted the single-member district electoral system; whereby, taxpayers in a geographical area can vote for 1 person who will best represent their schools, parents, and children needs. In the absence of single-member districts, it is very difficulty to hold an elected trustee accountable, thus thousands of citizens and students are disenfranchised and the FBISD electoral process is diluted and malapportioned. . . (read the full story at http://www.fortbendnow.com/opinion/3006/fort-bend-isd-should-convert-to-single-member-district-system)

Hello & Welcome To FBISDWatchDogs

Hello & Welcome,

FBISD watchdogs are here to serve the public and to keep them informed on how their tax dollars are being spent in the local school system. Quality education is no accident and through keeping a closer eye on how your money is spent we feel education in FBISD schools can not only be improved, but better managed.

This organization will seek to engage local district officials on ways to enhance the quality delivery and efficiency of resources and services supported by your property taxes and bond/debt elections. The primary goal is to engage the district on and offline in the further discussion that can help improve what is and isn't happening with our district.

Stay tuned as we provide information resources and alternative opinion from the community at large here at http://fbisdwatch.blogspot.com/.