Guest writers

By guest writer Cynthia Lusignolo

As superintendent of Texas City independent school district, I would like to address three misperceptions regarding the district’s 2015-2016 budget and its upcoming tax ratification election. I will address them in a myth-versus-fact format to provide clarification.
Myth 1: The annual tax bills for TCISD homeowners will increase by 13 percent.
Fact: If approved by the voters, the tax rate would increase but the tax bill for many homeowners will actually decrease. This is due to the new $10,000 exemption that is to be applied to all homestead properties.
As an example, on a $100,000 home, the tax bill will decrease by approximately $34. Additionally, seniors age 65-plus and disabled citizens will receive a decrease in their tax bills.  In fact, the higher the tax rate, the higher their savings will be. This, too, is due to the new $10,000 homestead exemption.
Myth 2: The district’s enrollment increase of 403 students in the past three years is due to its limited open enrollment program.
Fact: Of the 403 students who have been added to TCISD rolls over the past three years, only 70 are LOE students and they include children of district employees who reside outside the district.
All of the other new students live within our attendance boundaries and we have not allowed any new LOE students in first through sixth grades for the 2015-16 school year.  The only new elementary-level LOE students that we have approved are 13 kindergarten students whose parents work for the district or whose siblings already attend school here.
Myth 3: LOE students need additional resources and support in order to be successful and that diminishes the resources available for students residing in the district.
Fact: In order to qualify initially and re-qualify annually for the TCISD LOE program, students must have passed all of their state exams, demonstrated good behavior and maintained high attendance rates. They do not take remedial or supplemental resources from students who reside within our attendance boundaries.
I greatly appreciate the opportunity to share these facts with readers of The Post. Please feel free to submit to the district any other questions you might have via e-mail at tcisdinfo@tcisd.org and we will respond via e-mail or through another media announcement.
If you would like to meet and discuss these or any other issues with me, please feel free to contact me via e-mail at clusignolo@tcisd.org or by phone at 409-916-0101.

Cynthia Lusignolo is superintendent of Texas City independent school district.

By guest writer George P Bush

Four years after the Hurricane of 1900 killed more than 6,000 people, city, county and state leaders completed work on the Galveston seawall. Within 10 years, they had raised the entire city as much as 16 feet above its previous grade.
Today – seven years after hurricanes Ike and Dolly – the Texas coast is just as vulnerable as it was before those storms caused more than $29 billion in direct damages and left thousands homeless.
Little has changed. The initial work done to study our vulnerability led by the Gulf Coast community protection and recovery district is a step in the right direction, but there is still no unified vision driving what we should do to protect the Texas coast. This
is unacceptable.
More than 7.1 million Texans live along the Gulf Coast. More than one quarter of our nation’s refining capacity resides there too, not to mention tens of thousands of jobs created by this dynamic industry. Protecting that alone should be considered a national security issue.
If we don’t act now, the potential environmental consequences could be astounding.
Storm-surge modeling completed by Rice University shows that Ike would have delivered a 20-foot storm surge up the Houston ship channel had it made landfall just west of where it did. There are more than 4,000 petrochemical storage tanks on land alongside the ship channel that would begin to flood if just a 15-foot storm surge struck.
It is time to take action and move forward – the cost of delaying longer is too high. That’s why I have worked with brigadier general David Hill, commander of the Army Corps Of Engineers southwestern division in Dallas, to strike an agreement with the federal government to develop a plan to protect our coast from storms and to speed its recovery afterward.
The agreement between the Texas general land office and the corps begins the process of developing the study that will investigate the feasibility of projects for flood reduction, ecosystem restoration and hurricane- and storm-damage mitigation along the entire Texas coast.
Because Texas doesn’t have a unified plan approved by the corps, we have not only lost out on billions in federal funding with respect to recovery from previous natural disasters but we’re also positioned in a vulnerable situation for future events. It’s time to bring those tax dollars back to Texas and put them to work protecting the trade, logistics, tourism and fishing industries that are the economic engines of our Texas success story.
The Texas coast powers the nation and we are responsible for protecting it. Working together as a region – combining and coordinating local, state and federal resources – enables us to directly address ongoing threats to the Texas coast for future generations.

George P Bush is Texas’ land commissioner.

 

Gephart, Karolyn 2015             Karolyn Gephart

Does your child qualify for free school meals?

by guest writer Karolyn Gephart

THERE ARE new income-eligibility guidelines for free and reduced-price meals for children attending public schools. Each school and site in Friendswood independent school district and the district’s central office has a copy of the policy, which may be reviewed by anyone on request.
On Monday, we began distributing letters to the households of the children in the district about eligibility benefits and any actions households need to take to apply for the benefits. Applications also are available at our food service office, at 402 Laurel Drive, Friendswood.
Four criteria will be used to determine a child’s eligibility for free or reduced-price meal benefits:
1. Household income that is at or below the income eligibility levels;
2. Household participation in the supplemental nutrition assistance program, temporary assistance for needy families or food distribution program on Indian reservations;
3. Child’s status as a foster child, homeless person, runaway, migrant, or someone displaced by a declared disaster; and
4. Child’s enrollment in Head Start or Even Start.
For households that qualify for free or reduced-price meals based on income, an adult in the household must fill out a free and reduced-price meal application and return it to the food service office or to their child’s school office.
The adult completing the form will need to provide the names of all household members, the amount, frequency and source of current income for each household member, the last four digits of his or her own social-security number and his or her signature attesting that the information provided is correct. (A box stating “I do not have a Social Security number” is included for an applying adult who does not have a social-security number to check.)
Friendswood ISD is working with local agencies to identify all children who are categorically and program eligible under criterion 2 above. Our food service office will notify the households of those children that they do not need to complete an application. Any household that does not receive a letter and feels it should have been sent one should call the food service office at 281-996-2596.
Any household that wishes to decline benefits should also call the food service office.
Families may submit applications for free and reduced-price meals at any time during the school year. The information households provide on the application will be used to determine eligibility.
School officials may verify applications at any time during the school year.
Under the provisions of Friendswood’s free and reduced-price meal policy, the district’s food service office will review applications and determine eligibility. Households or guardians dissatisfied with the reviewing official’s eligibility determination may wish to discuss the decision with the official on an informal basis. Households wishing to make a formal appeal for a hearing on the decision may make a request either orally or in writing to deputy superintendent Thad Roher at 302 Laurel Drive.
If unemployment strikes a member of a household whose children receive free or reduced-price school meals, or if the household’s size increases, the household should contact the schools providing the meals. Such changes might make the children eligible for benefits if the household’s income falls to or below the income-eligibility guidelines shown in the table below.

Free school meal eligibilty guidelines

 

Tortorici, Melissa            Melissa Tortorici

A last-minute checklist

by guest writer Melissa Tortorici

SCHOOL SUPPLIES are prominent in the stores so that means it’s time to gear up for back to school. Many students are already registered for the new school year. Some are already shopping for new clothes and backpacks. Others can’t wait to meet their teachers or get their schedule.
Here are a few details on back-to-school information that parents of Texas City independent school district’s students might not know about.
Registration
Most of our returning students took advantage of the easy online registration process during July and, at the time of writing, we were expecting more to follow them yesterday, Tuesday.
If you did not take advantage of either opportunity, there will be a final onsite centralized registration for the entire district today, Wednesday, from 8:00am to 4:00pm in the Texas City high-school cafeteria at 1431 Ninth Avenue North.
Current students who have not completed registration online should register as well as students new to TCISD and students who have withdrawn but are now returning.
Two current proofs of residency are required.
Any students not registered by August 21 will have to register at the district-wide centralized registration on August 24 or 25 before admission to a classroom. Such students must register at the former Blocker library, which now houses the district’s nutrition service’s offices at 1408 6th Street North.
Changes for 2015-16
Calvin Vincent early childhood center will be enforcing its tardy-arrival policy heavily this year. Student drop-off begins at 7:45am and school begins at 8:15am. Students will be considered tardy if they arrive after the 8:15 tardy bell rings. In the past, students were considered tardy if they arrived after 8:30.
Levi Fry intermediate school will no longer require clear or mesh backpacks. In addition, the school has changed a few of its discipline processes with a step system and attendance will be taken in every period.
Blocker middle school also has changes. For student safety, school hours have changed to run from 7:25am to 2:40pm.
The school’s dress code can be found online in the handbook. There are changes for jeans, pants, skirts, shorts and dresses. No garments should be tight fitting or cling to the body; all garments should be no higher than two inches above the knee and contain no holes, tears or frays.
Finally, Blocker will be on a 5×5 block schedule, with students having five classes per day and a total of 10 subjects. Each class is 70 minutes in length. All students will have math daily, English and reading, science and social studies. The remainder of their classes will be the elective subjects they selected this spring.
Students will beable to pick up their fall schedule during our the school’s student orientation on the evening of August 18.
We anticipate a great year! Check out tcisd.org for more information on orientations and our meet-the-teacher events.

Your first lesson – don’t pay tax

WITH the kids’ summer vacation about to end, it’s time for back-to-school shopping – and this weekend is the time to do it.
That’s because the annual Texas sales-tax holiday weekend begins on Friday, August 7, and runs until Sunday.
Continuing this statewide tradition since 1999, the holiday exempts sales tax on certain items costing less than $100.
Most clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks are exempted by law, which could save shoppers around $8 on every $100 they spend.
That could prove to be a significant gift from the state as shoppers this year are predicted to save roughly $87 million in state and local sales taxes. If the prediction is correct, it’s the equivalent of charging no tax on some $1.1 billion of sales throughout the three-day period.
Announcing the holiday, Texas public-accounts comptroller Glenn Hegar said: “As the father of three young children, I know back-to-school expenses can really put a strain on family budgets this time of year. This is an opportunity for families to save some money and prepare for the start of the school year.”
Lists of apparel and school supplies that shoppers may purchase tax-free can be found on the comptroller’s website at TexasTaxHoliday.org.

 

Doc Amey 33         Edward ‘Doc’ Amey

I  was born in Galveston on February 9, 1980. Before my father was killed six months and nine days after I was born, he nicknamed me Doc and I’ve been known by that name ever since. Until my life changed recently, it had no particular meaning but now I believe it stands for “Disciple of Christ”.
I’d like to share with you how that came to be.
As my mother was on drugs, I had it rough as a small child, living in Galveston’s Cedar Terrace projects. By age six I had moved to my grandmother’s house in Texas City. Even though a lot of us lived with my granny, those were some of the happiest days of my life.
By the time I was 10, my mom had gotten off the drugs for a while and we moved to the Chelsea district next door to the Rawls family who got me to go with them to their church, Christ Temple on 29th Street. That church made an impression on me that became a compass point in my life; no matter how far I went, I knew I could return to God, who loved me.
By age 12, I had become a product of my neighborhood environment, dropping off drugs for my cousin’s dad, drinking, gang banging and just being a bad kid all around.
I started using really heavy drugs and smoking weed to go along with it. By the time I was 17, I had made two girls pregnant. At 22, I had three kids with another on the way. There were numerous criminal charges and, eventually, I was on my way to prison for the first time. At least three attempted-murder charges were never filed because the victims never called the police.
My third stay in prison, in 2008, was a five-year sentence for possession of a gun. I was working in the prison’s hog barn and I remember praying: “God, if you are real like everybody says you are, then will you get me out of this place?” He did exactly that! I got out of prison for the third time on November 23, 2009, by parole and for good behavior.
I was on fire for God but, by 2011, I had fallen back into selling drugs when trying to help a family member out of a tight spot. However, God wasn’t about to let me go back to that life. He spoke to me and asked: “What are you doing? You told me if I got you out of the pigpen, you’d never do those things again and I wouldn’t have to worry about you!”
I retraced my steps and, in August 2012, I got back into church at the Fellowship of Texas City, where I still attend.
I found a new strength and identity in Christ and started driving for the church’s bus ministry, picking up kids to take them to Sunday service, just like someone had picked me up in Chelsea when I was a boy. It is my desire to help them know the right direction for their lives so they will never go where I did.
I graduated from Fellowship Bible College with perfect attendance and almost all A’s! I have also been a camp counselor and chaperone at the church’s summer camp for three years in a row – and I owe it all to God!
I’ve been inspired to write my story in a book that I hope to publish soon. I’ve set up an online fundraiser page and hope you will check it out at Doc Amey My Testimony Book Project on gofundme.com. I would appreciate any contribution and apply it all to my project.
God bless you all! I pray that my story will touch your life and encourage you to take God’s path, not your own – Yours, Doc (Disciple of Christ) Amey.
Edward Amey is a resident of Texas City.