Kim Sneed Updates FBBA on FBISD News

Business, Community Organizations, Education, Flour Bluff, Front Page

FBBA president, Jennifer Welp, and FBISD Public Information Officer, Kim Sneed (Photo by SevenTwelve Photography)

     Kim Sneed, FBISD Public Information Officer, addressed the Flour Bluff Business Association at its regular monthly meeting held at noon on September 13, 2017, at Funtrackers in Flour Bluff.  Sneed, who took Lynn Kaylor’s place nearly two years ago, has over a decade of experience in public information.  Sneed spent the first part of her career with Corpus Christi ISD.  Sneed introduced Tracy Dennis, the new Director of Instruction, who joined the district from Judson ISD before speaking to the group about what has been happening at Flour Bluff ISD.

     Sneed said, “Just before Hurricane Harvey came to visit us, the Flour Bluff Board of Trustees adopted the 2017-18 budget of about $52 million, which included a 3% raise for all employees, something a lot of districts have not been able to do.  The board, finance department, and superintendent worked hard to make this possible while keeping the effective tax rate a little below last year’s rate.”

     Sneed went on to give an accounting of the 2013 Bond projects.  “A lot of our bond projects have been completed.  We just finished up at the end of the year the Primary and Elementary library, and it is a beautiful facility.”  She described the library as a place that houses books and study tables in the main area, while providing separate classroom and meeting spaces for the two campuses.

     “The junior high is still experiencing construction on the expansion of the cafeteria.  This campus is also in the process of getting an additional gym.  The bids were just accepted, and the work will be starting soon,” said Sneed.  “Over the summer, the swimmers were able to get into the new natatorium and test the waters.  That gave Coach Hutchinson, who is also the natatorium supervisor, an opportunity to learn the facility and learn to use the state-of-the-art equipment.  They have been having practice in there.  Brian wanted me to let everybody know that the district is working on a plan to allow swim lessons and lap swimming for the public.  The first step to that is to make sure we have lifeguards.”  Sneed went on to explain that more information regarding public use of the pool would be forthcoming in the next few weeks.  She ended the update on bond projects by telling the audience that the bus wash would soon be under construction now that the board has accepted the bids.

    “Hurricane Harvey has created some new challenges for the district.  The district experienced minimal damage, consisting of a few uprooted trees, some water seeping in, and debris on the grounds, but nothing that would impede our work or operations,” said Sneed.  “After taking a drive to Port Aransas, we realized that many kids would be displaced and would need a place to call ‘home.’  We put a plan in place pretty quickly and started school up one week after the original start date.  We held a special registration at the high school for these kids.  It was awesome, and it was emotional.  Many of the Port Aransas folks hadn’t seen each other since before the storm.  They were hugging each other and were so overwhelmed by the support from this entire community.  To date, we have enrolled close to 250 kids mostly from Port Aransas, but also from Aransas Pass, Rockport, Woodsboro, and Houston.”

     Sneed went on to tell of a conversation she had with a close counterpart in Gregory-Portland ISD.  “As of today, they have enrolled 1300 kids.  They were able to accept all of them because they just opened a new elementary school, and they have a sixth-grade campus – that had been a junior high campus – that they were able to reopen.  It has been an entire Coastal Bend area effort to ensure that these kids have some sense of normalcy.”  She went on to thank the City of Corpus Christi, AEP, and out-of-state utility companies that helped get the school back on line.  Sneed thanked the joint efforts of Walmart and the Corpus Christi Police Department for donating school supplies and other groups who made certain the displaced children had appropriate clothing for school by donating spirit shirts to help them feel like part of the Flour Bluff family.

     The Port A ISD faculty and staff have been working hand-in-hand with Flour Bluff to look out for the children from Port Aransas and help them feel more at ease in their new environment.  “We really appreciate their efforts,” said Sneed.

    Attendees were encouraged to take part in H.O.S.T.S. (Helping Our Students To Succeed).  It is a mentor program established in September 2014 to be a partnership of FBISD and dedicated community member serving the needs of our students in grades 3 – 12.  For anyone interested in being a mentor, Sneed encouraged those in the audience to contact Dr. Linda Barganski at Central Office.  “The volunteers usually meet with the kids once a week for 30 minutes to an hour and just be that positive role model for them.”

     “Football season has started!  We only have three home games this year, and one of those is Homecoming on Friday, October 13.  The Homecoming Parade will begin at 6:00 p.m. on Monday, October 9, and will travel along Waldron from Compton to Hornet Stadium where we will have the Swarm and the burning of the FB.  There will be many activities for the students throughout the week, so look for that,” Sneed informed the group.

     “Mr. Schuss and Dr. Alvarado will be in Austin on Friday with intermediate math teacher Jack Marley as he receives recognition as the ESC Region II Teacher of the Year.  Because of Harvey, the actual service center announcement and celebration was postponed but will take place on Thursday, September 21, at ESC II downtown,” added Sneed.

     Several people in attendance asked about the traffic issues.  “We have had a few issues with new bus routes and just getting in sync the first days of school.  We’ve also had changes in start and release times that have added to the traffic problems,” replied Sneed.  She explained that many of the displaced students must be driven to school, which adds to the traffic problems.  “To help alleviate some of this, the displaced students are going to be picked up at Schlitterbahn.  We just ask for your patience,” said Sneed.  Everyone was encouraged to check out flourbluffschools.net for more information.

More FBBA News and Community Announcements

  • Flour Fest is October 28 at Parker Park. Volunteers are needed.  Please contact Jonathan Vela, Special Events Coordinator.
  • High school Homecoming Mums will be customized by the PTA for the displaced students.
  • Add info@flourbluffbusinessassociation.com to your address book so that you can receive emails from FBBA.
  • Javier Wiley from HEB told the group that the new Hornet football helmets are part of a donation from HEB. Curbside is now open as another shopping option.  Shipt is also still available.  Visit hebtoyou.com.  HEB put in an official request to public affairs for disaster relief in Port A (i.e. mobile showers, mobile kitchens, mobile pharmacies).  Wiley handed out $2000 in gift cards to Port A citizens and $1000 to Flour Bluff.  Welp thanked HEB for always being the last to close and the first to open when disaster strikes.
  • The FBBA is partnering with Nueces County and and organization called DeGoLa (Dewitt, Goliad, and Lavaca Counties), a Resource, Conservation, and Development District, to hold a tire recycling program event in Flour Bluff on Saturday, November 4, 2017, and again in March of 2018.
  • Next FBBA General Meeting: October 10, 2017, at noon, at Funtrackers

Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.

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A Message from FBISD Superintendent Brian Schuss

Education, Flour Bluff, Front Page
Image result for brian schuss
Brian Schuss, Superintendent of Flour Bluff Schools, Photo courtesy of FBISD

     Last Thursday, I had a great visit with State Representative Todd Hunter in his Austin office during the special legislative session.  This was a continuation of our meetings during the regular session.  Representative Hunter, a staunch supporter of our community and especially Flour Bluff ISD, and I mainly discussed school finance.  This topic has dominated the special session, just as it did in the regular session. Unfortunately, in the last ten to twelve years, school finance has been addressed with band-aid after band-aid, which has complicated it to the point that it desperately needs an overhaul.  I have made this message very clear, and Representative Hunter agrees.

     Although school finance will not get the overhaul it needs this session, HB 21 by Chairman Huberty, is a start.  HB 21 removes several allotments that the state has passed down over the years and puts this money into our general allotment from the state.  This does reduce some of the complication, but it only provides a small amount of new funding for our school district.  The House passed HB21 the day following my meeting with Representative Hunter. Now, the Senate must pass it before it becomes law.  There seems to be some concern over whether or not it will make it through the Senate.  I fear that the discussion will become more political in nature and the bargaining will begin. When the discussion gets political, it hurts the children of our great state.

     Local taxpayers are increasingly funding more of our school district each and every year.  Property values go up; the local taxpayer pays more; and the state figures that we do not need as much from them to survive.  Yet, we still have all of the mandates from the state that go along with that decreasing pot of money.  The current special session is almost over, and we may not get any improvement in the way of school finance reform.  If this happens, I pray that over the next two years the House and Senate can work together on reforming school finance.  Representative Hunter agrees that this needs to be done, and I greatly appreciate all of his help this session.  I have offered my assistance if there is any way I can help.  Our children, staff, and community deserve it.

Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.

Please follow and like us:

Flour Bluff Schools: 125 Years of Educating Children

Education, Flour Bluff, Local history
Flour Bluff School No. 1, pictured in 1916, first known as Brighton School, was located near the present Junior High School, at the corner of Duncan Cemetery.

     In 1890, when the first families of Flour Bluff settled the area, a school did not exist on the Encinal Peninsula.  In 1931, Mrs. Erich George Ritter (Myrtle Mae Watson Ritter) provided the following information about Flour Bluff Common School District No. 22:

“Back in 1890 there were few families living in Flour Bluff, and it was not until about 1892, during what is known as the ‘Ropes Boom’ that enough families moved in to justify the establishment of a public school.  About this time, however, the enterprising settler of this community began to give serious consideration to the education of their children and established a small, one-room school building in the autumn of 1892.  Mrs. Carter was engaged as the first teacher and took up her work with 25 pupils enrolled.  The term was six months and the salary $25.00 per month.  The school continued, but in 1900 the enrollment decreased to 12 pupils with Miss Florence Secoy as teacher.  The term was cut to four months, and the teacher received as her salary $3.00 per pupil.  Board and lodging was provided by the patrons free to the teacher, and she stayed in first one home, then another, as the guest of the family.  The school continued in this manner until 1908, but from 1903 to 1908 was closed due to the small number of children and the only instruction carried on in the settlement was of a private tutelage, where such could be secured.

“But in 1908, the doors of the public school were again thrown open.  New families had moved in.  New trustees Mr. G. H. Ritter, Mr. Joseph Watson, and Mr. Edward Sidney Duncan were elected, and Mr. Owens was elected principal to take charge of the school at a salary of about $25.00 per month and a seven-month term.  There were at this time some 20 pupils.

“For the next eight years, the school prospered under the leadership of good teachers, among whom was Miss Inez Emory, who taught three years of the eight.  The school had grown during this period to the point where the building and equipment seemed inadequate, and new two-room school was planned and construction started.  The framework of this building was completely demolished by the storm August 18, 1916, but was rebuilt, and school opened in November following with two teachers, Mrs. Walton Clark and Miss Anna Ritter.

Anna Ritter is fourth from the left, c. 1938 in Flour Bluff

“In 1919, a three-room teacherage was erected and other improvements made.  A few years later, the school was divided and another building erected for the purpose of accommodating those children who were living too far from the first school.

“The present teachers are Mr. Frank Kadanka, principal of School No. 2, and Miss Opal Wynn, principal, and Miss Melba Buford assistant, at School No. 1.  The trustees are Mr. E. C. Ritter, secretary; Mr. J. I. Gate, president; and Mr. J. H. Roberson, member.  Harmony prevails in the district and some very fine work is being accomplished.  The schools are very well equipped and the teachers well trained.  The trustees are to be commended for their fine spirit of cooperation and progressiveness.  They are interested in providing the best school possible for all the children of the district.

“The assessed valuation of the district is $296,470.00 and a local maintenance tax of $1.00 is levied.  For the 1931-32 term, Mrs. Sam Jeletich was elected to succeed Mr. Gates on the board, and Miss Lucille Wynn succeeds Miss Melba Buford as assistant at school No. 1.”

Flour Bluff School, 1939, Waldron Road site

Boys of Flour Bluff School, c. 1925

          In an article written by Opal Roscher Marston for the Flour Bluff Sun on the 100th anniversary of the school, additional information was provided about the early years of the school:

“In 1928 both auxiliary schools (2 & 3) were dissolved and all students went to the #1 school on the present site on what is now Waldron Road.

“In 1936 the first graduation was held with one graduate, Opal Roscher.  She had been a teacher’s aid in her senior year, teaching 5th grade history.

“In 1937 on the same site as the #1 school, a new brick school was built with multiple rooms and courses offered at high school level, such as bookkeeping, typing and commercial law.  They were taught by Sam L. Chandler who was also the basketball coach.  Teaching English was Julia Kaminka, who was also the senior class sponsor.  The principal was Mr. Hill.  Mrs. Hill taught elementary school. The school system furnished a 1932 Ford sedan for transportation of students on the west side of Flour Bluff bordering the King Ranch.

“Opal Roscher drove the car; this and the fact that Opal’s sister refused to attend school led to Opal returning to school.  Opal’s sister Ruth (12 years younger and a first grader) was bitten by a rattlesnake the second week of school.  Feeling embarrassed about it, Ruth refused to return


To school.  So every day Opal sat outside her school room until s

he felt comfortable to stay.  Opal decided to return to school and take business courses.

“In 1938 there were six graduates: Thelma Johnson, Valedictorian; Betty Barnes, Salutatorian; Edward ‘Pete’ Graham; Clifford Adams; Willie Mae Roper; and Joe ‘J.B.’ Duncan, Class President.  There was one post graduate, Opal Roscher.”

          In the years that followed, Karen Howden, local historian and former U. S. History teacher at Flour Bluff I.S.D., writes in “Flour Bluff Schools: A Notable History” what and who changed the school historically.

“The Flour Bluff Independent School District was created by the convergence of three very divergent entities: oil and gas, ranching, and the Naval Air Station Corpus Christi. Through the use of student labor, frugality, and a visionary superintendent, it became a unique campus catering to a community with strong bonds.”

Ernest J. Wranosky, Superintendent of Flour Bluff Schools, 1948 – 1976

“The residents of Flour Bluff voted to become an independent school in April 1948. Superintendent Ernest J. Wranosky expanded the boundaries of the district to 56 square miles of land surface and 100 square miles of water surface. Every year, the district committed to a construction project which utilized government surplus along with local and student labor. One such project consisted of dismantling a hangar at Fort Point at Point Bolivar, Galveston, Texas, by using district equipment acquired from the Texas Surplus Property Agency and manual labor provided by the Flour Bluff students. The surplus hangar was trucked and then floated to Flour Bluff where it became the new gymnasium for the school district.

“Flour Bluff’s purpose of all instruction and activities can be summed up with Wranosky’s philosophy which was to ‘advance and equalize, as far as possible, the opportunities of all students regardless of their mental abilities and social economic status.’ This meant lots of student participation, which even included supervising and managing activities of the school. The philosophy also included an appreciation of all creeds and institutions and a desire for students to earn status in society, industry, politics, and professions ‘through fair and honest dealings, hard work and persistence.’ Patriotism was ever present in this philosophy as Wranosky wanted students to acquire ‘a knowledge of and an appreciation for the great size and value of this great country, its resources, its surface features, and the relative opportunities of its sections.’ The ideas also included an appreciation for the Creator, new fields in science, industry, and social progress.”

     Flour Bluff I.S.D. has changed a bit over the years.  Its valuation has certainly increased as it now encompasses an area of 156 square miles, including the Flour Bluff community, Naval Air Station, Corpus Christi Army Depot, and a developing resort and residential area on North Padre Island.  According to the FBISD website, “Six campuses and athletic facilities are located on a single 170 acre site which supports 5,600 students in prekindergarten through 12th grades. The District is extremely competitive in academic and athletic programs and has competed at the district, regional, and/or state competitions for many years. The University Preparatory High School Program was launched in 2006 as part of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to establish a program for high school freshman to complete two years of college credit upon completion of their high school diploma.”

Hornet Country: All who live within the boundaries indicated on the map are eligible to attend Flour Bluff ISD free of charge. Those outside the boundaries may pay tuition to attend.

     Flour Bluff continues to make history, as is evidenced by the string of accomplishments over the years.  The following list does not include the awards received locally by students, faculty, and staff.  To be a Hornet is to be a part of a rich history steeped in hard work and a pursuit of perfection.  As in the Flour Bluff Alma Mater,  “All hail to those that came before us and made us so strong.  We will never falter or do you wrong!”  Happy 125th Anniversary, Flour Bluff I.S.D.  You continue to make us proud.

Students, Staff and District Accomplishments 2016 – 2017

Accountability Achievements

  • Junior High – Met Standard with 5 Distinction Designations
  • Intermediate – Met Standard with 2 Distinction Designations
  • ECC, Primary, Elementary and High School Campuses – Met Standard
  • District – Met Standard

High School Academics

  • U.S. Presidential Scholar Candidate – 1 student · National Merit Semifinalists – 2 students · National Merit Commended Scholars – 8 students
  • National Advanced Placement Scholar – 1 student
  • Advanced Placement Scholars – 15 students
  • Advanced Placement Scholars with Honors – 4 students; with Distinction – 5 students
  • National Hispanic Scholars – 12 students
  • Caller Times/Citgo South Texas Distinguished Scholars – 2 students
  • TAFE (Texas Association of Future Educators) – 2 students qualified for state
  • TFA (Texas Forensics Association) – 5 students qualified for state
  • KEDT Challenge Team – 1 student selected to All Star Team
  • Science Fair – 4 Students placed at Regional Science Fair – Regional: 1st Place Biomedical Engineering and Best of Show; 1st Place Biomedical & Health Science; 2nd Place Earth & Environmental Sciences; 2nd Place Behavioral & Social Sciences · VASE (Visual Arts Scholastic Event) 10 Students Superior Rating Regional Competition
  • Art Center–Port Aransas Middle and High School Student Art Show – 1 Best of Show, 3 students – 1st place; 3 students – 2nd place; 2 students – 3rd place; 1 Award of Merit
  • Del Mar College South Texas Press Day – Waldron Street Journal Newspaper Website, waldronstreetjournal.net 1st place
  • Craft Training Center – 1 student won Top Dog award in welding
  • NJROTC – Placed 1st in State Competition; 1st Place – Unarmed Exhibition Drill; 1st Place – Color Guard; 1st Place – Academics Overall
  • NJROTC – Advanced to the National Academic Bowl in Washington, D.C.
  • NJROTC – Unarmed Team and SeaHawks 3rd Place Overall in Nation; Unarmed Drill Team and SeaHawks placed 2nd in Inspection, 2nd Place in Element Exhibition Drill and 4th place in Color Guard at High School Grand National Championship
  • TAJE (Texas Association of Journalism Educators) – 1st Place Photography Scavenger Hunt Contest; Excellent Rating for Feature Writing
  • UIL Calculator Team – Team State qualifier; 4 Individual State qualifiers · UIL Current Issues Team – 1st in District; Individual Regional qualifier
  • UIL Mathematics – State qualifier
  • UIL Number Sense Team – 1st in District; 2 Regional qualifiers
  • UIL One-Act Play, 4th place in District
  • UIL Press Conference Team – 1st Place Newspaper Sports New Writing; 1st Place in Division 5A-2 News Story; 2nd Place Newspaper Feature Writing; 2nd Place Yearbook Tribute Ad Design; 3rd Place Newspaper Feature Photography; 3rd Place Yearbook Sports Feature Photography
  • UIL Science – State qualifier
  • UIL Spelling & Vocabulary Team – 1st place in District; 1 Regional qualifier
  • Cheer America Cheerleading Competition – HS Cheerleaders 1st in Division; Grand Champions in the School’s Division

Junior High Academics

  • TMSCA (Texas Math Science Coaches Association) – Math Science Team 1st place in State (32nd consecutive year)
  • TMSCA – 1 student was State champion in all three math events
  • TMSCA Results–1st Place Sweepstakes (Team); 1st Place Number Sense (Team); 1st Place Calculator Application (Team); 3rd Place General Math (Team); 4th Place Science (Team); 1st Place Number Sense (Student); 1st Place Calculator Application (Student); 1st Place General Math (Student)
  • Science Fair – 4 students advanced to the Coastal Bend Science Fair
  • Science Fair – 1 Regional Science Fair Winner; 1 student placed 2nd and 1 student placed 3rd
  • Art Center–Port Aransas Middle and High School Student Art Show – 2 students – 1st place; 2 students – 2nd place; 1 student- 3rd place
  • Anthem Essay Worldwide Contest Student Semifinalist
  • Voted Reader’s Choice 2016 by the Corpus Christi Caller-Times

Performing Arts

  • HS TMEA (Texas Music Educators Association) All District Band – 29 students
  • HS TMEA (Texas Music Educators Association) All Region Band – 11 students
  • HS TMEA (Texas Music Educators Association) All Area Band – 3 students
  • HS TMEA (Texas Music Educators Association) Region Orchestra – 3 students
  • HS UIL – Region Marching Band Division 1 rating; qualified for Area Marching Contest
  • HS UIL – 20 Division 1 Rating for Solo and Ensemble
  • HS UIL – 8 instrumentalists and 4 Twirlers advanced to State Solo and Ensemble
  • HS UIL – High School Symphonic Band UIL contest Division 2
  • HS UIL – High School Honors Band UIL Contest Division 1
  • HS UIL – High School Wind Ensemble UIL Contest Division 1
  • HS TMEA (Texas Music Educators Association) All District Choir – 22 students
  • HS TMEA (Texas Music Educators Association) All Region Choir – 16 students
  • HS TMEA (Texas Music Educators Association) All Area Choir – 4 students
  • HS TMEA (Texas Music Educators Association) All Region Treble Choir – 3 students
  • HS UIL – 16 Division 1 Rating for Solo and Ensemble
  • HS UIL – Show Choir and Madrigal ensemble received 1 rating
  • HS UIL – 13 singers and 1 Madrigal of 8 singers advanced to State Solo and Ensemble
  • HS UIL – High School Varsity Treble Choir Contest 1 Concert/1 Sightreading (Sweepstakes)
  • HS UIL – High School Varsity Mixed Choir Contest 1 Concert / 2 Sightreading (performed a Grade 6 selection)
  • HS Region 2 Film Festival – Group won Best Actor, Best Supporting Actress, Best Film and Audience Favorite Film
  • JH UIL Band Concert/Sight-reading –Honors Band received ‘1’ in Concert/Sightreading (10th consecutive Sweepstakes) Symphonic Band received ‘1’ in Concert/Sight-reading; (4th consecutive Sweepstakes)
  • JH All-Region Band – 23 students qualified
  • JH Band – 44 students First Division ratings on solos; 2 First Division ratings on small ensembles
  • JH All Regional Junior High/Middle School Choir – 22 students
  • JH Mixed Choir received a ‘1’ in Concert and a ‘1’ in Sightreading; Sweepstakes
  • JH Treble Choir received a ‘1’ in Concert and a ‘1’ in Sightreading; Sweepstakes
  • JH Mixed Choir received a Superior Performance and Best In Class at the Schlitterbahn Sound Waves Music Festival
  • JH Choir – Texas Choral Director’s MS/JH Honors Choir Member, 1 student

Athletics

  • HS Football – Area Finalists
  • HS Football – 25 students Academic All District
  • Shriner’s All-Star Football Game – 2 athletes selected to participate
  • HS Volleyball – District 30-5A First Team – 3 students
  • HS Volleyball – District 30-5A Second Team – 2 students
  • HS Volleyball – District 30-5A Honorable Mention – 3 students
  • HS Volleyball – Academic All-District – 13 students
  • HS Volleyball – Max Preps Player of the Year – 2 students
  • HS Team Tennis –District Champions 10 years in a row; Area Finalists; Regional Quarterfinalists; 1 State Qualifier
  • HS Spring Tennis – Girls District Champions; State Qualifier
  • HS Cross Country –2 students Regional Qualifiers
  • HS Boys Basketball –9 students Academic All District; 4 students Texas Association of Basketball Coaches (TABC) Academic All-State;
  • HS Girls Basketball – Bi-District Champions; Area Champions; Regional Champions; State Semi-Finalists
  • HS Girls Basketball – 13 students Academic All-District; 4 students Texas Girls Coaches Association (TGCA) Academic All-State; 2 students 30-5A MVPs; 2 students TABC All-State; 2 students TGCA All-State
  • HS Golf – Academic All District – 4 students
  • HS Girls Track – 2nd in District, 10 Area Qualifiers; 9 Regional Qualifier & State Winner in 300 Hurdles
  • HS Girls Track – 15 students Academic All District
  • HS Boys Track – 2nd in District; Area Finalist; Regional Finalist
  • HS Boys Track – 12 students Academic All District
  • HS Girls Swimming – District Champions; Regional Champions; 8 State Qualifiers
  • HS Girls Swimming – 13 students Academic All American; 4 students Academic All-State
  • HS Boys Swimming – 1st in District; Regional Champions; 8 State Qualifiers
  • HS Boys Swimming – 9 students Academic All-District
  • Diving – 1 student State Champion
  • HS Girls Soccer – District 3rd Place; Bi-District Champions; Area Champions; Regional Quarter-Finals Champions; Regional Semi-Finalists
  • HS Boys Soccer – District Champions; Bi-District Champions; Area Finalists
  • Boys Soccer – 11 students Academic All-District
  • HS Girls Soccer – 14 students received Academic All-District Honors; 4 students received Academic All-State Honors
  • HS Boys Soccer – District 2nd Place; Bi-District Champions; Area Finalists
  • HS Boys Soccer – 9 students Academic All-District; 4 students TASCO All-State; 1 student TASCO Academic All-State
  • HS Baseball – 6 students Academic All-District
  • HS Softball – 2nd in District; Bi-District Finalists
  • HS Softball – 9 students Academic All-District
  • JH 7th & 8th Grade Girls & Boys Swimming – Completed season Undefeated
  • JH Volleyball – 8th Grade “A” Undefeated
  • JH Football –8th Grade “A” Team 2nd in District; 8th “B” Team District Champions; 7th Grade “B” Team District Champions
  • JH Boys Basketball – 8th Grade “A” Team District Champions; 8th Grade “B” Team Co-District Champions; 7th Grade “A” Team 2nd in District
  • JH Girls Basketball – 8th Grade “A” Undefeated District Champions; 8th Grade “B” Undefeated District Champions; 7th Grade “A” Undefeated District Champions; 7th Grade “B” Undefeated District Champions
  • JH Boys Track – 8th Grade District Champions; 1 student broke school record; 7th Grade District Champions
  • JH Cross Country – 7th Grade Boys 2nd in District; 7th Grade Girls 2nd in District
  • Athletic Signings: 1 student in Baseball @Clarendon College; 1 student in Football @Rice University; 1 student in Football@Texas Lutheran University, 1 student in Football @ Texas A&M University-Kingsville; 1 student in Softball @NavarroCollege; 1 student in Softball @Texas Lutheran University; 1 student in Swimming @Valparaiso University

Intermediate School

  • Science Fair – 6 advanced to the Coastal Bend Science Fair
  • Science Fair – 1 Regional Science Fair Winner; 1 2nd Place and 2 3rd place winners at Regional Science Fair
  • UIL District – 5th grade: 1st place Ready Writing 1st place Spelling; 1st place Number Sense; Number Sense awarded gold medals in category; 2nd Place Sweepstakes
  • UIL District – 6th grade: 1st place in Sweepstakes Trophy; 1st place in Ready Writing; 1st place in Mathematics, 1st place in

Art; 1st Place in Calculator Applications; 1st Place in Science; 2nd place in Spelling, Number Sense, Art and Calculator

Applications; 3rd place in Science, Chess Puzzle and Listening

  • TMSCA (Texas Math and Science Coaches Association) – 6th Grade Math Science Team 1st place at State Tournament

Elementary School

  • Science Fair – 8 students advanced to the Coastal Bend Science Fair
  • Science Fair – 1 Regional Science Fair Winner; 1 student placed 2nd at Regional Science Fair
  • Paralyzed Veterans’ Art Contest – 2 students placed; 1 student national winner
  • Voted Reader’s Choice 2016 by the Corpus Christi Caller-Times

Primary School

  • Science Fair – 6 students advanced to the Coastal Bend Science Fair
  • Science Fair – 2 students Regional Science Fair Winners; 1 student placed 2nd

Early Childhood Center

  • Science Fair – 6 students advanced to the Coastal Bend Science Fair
  • Science Fair – 2 students placed 2nd at Regional Science Fair

Staff Recognitions

  • Teena Jones – National Society of High School Scholars Educator of Distinction Award

District Recognitions

  • Schools FIRST (Financial Accountability Rating System) Superior Rating
  • Students of Character – 14 students recognized during community-wide event

Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.

Please follow and like us:

The Ultimate Pillar of Success: Be an Existential DJ

Arts, Education, Front Page, Human Interest, Opinion/Editorial, Science

       Imagine the sheer astonishment of Leonardo Da Vinci if he were suddenly alive and flying in a 747 at 35,000 feet above the ground. Can you see his mind-body – all his senses – become arrested in a state of complete Nirvana? Can you see him gasping at the recognition and acknowledgment of the fact that one of his wildest luminary visions is now a reality. The nature of humanity, however, suggests that the sublime bliss of this experience is likely to dissipate by more than half by the time he sets foot on his return flight. The emotional return on the experience will continue to diminish with each passing flight until one day he will get on the airplane, shut his window, shut his eyes, and hope for a new dream to entertain him during the hours that follow.

         What happened to his awe? What happened to the ecstasy? This diminished return on experience is known as, hedonic adaptation (def. the tendency of humans to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative life events or changes). It so happens that being awestruck is the key to being our best selves, the key to our inspiration, and the key to liberating our inner genius. When in a state of utter surprise, we are attentive, we learn more, we think and perform better. These behaviors define what it means to be in an ecstatic state of mind (aka – a “flow state” or “the zone”). Unfortunately, the more exposed we become to the goings-on of the world around us, the less surprised or compelled we are by anything that happens, and the less affected we are by the sheer magnificence that engulfs being a living, breathing human being.

          So how do we transcend the been-theres and done-thats of our adult minds – the banality of our everyday lives? Can we reverse-engineer the experiences that allow us to use our minds in the most optimal way and tap into our highest potential? Legendary observationist, Charles Darwin, said: “Attention, if sudden and close, graduates to surprise; and this into astonishment; and this into stupefied amazement.”

Charles Darwin resting against pillar covered with vines.

           But how many of us today have the attention span of Charles Darwin? And how, in a world where the patience to pay attention to any one thing is so rapidly in decline, can we mindfully slow down and focus for long enough to become interested? Might this not explain why children seem less and less likely to sit through a full-length movie, but prefer instead to watch YouTube?

 

       We know that our minds and moods are dictated by neurochemistry. After years of examination, science seems to have become fairly accurate in identifying scenarios that trigger the chemicals which cause us to feel, think, and act in the various ways that we do. So, if scientists can predict which chemical will be released during a given situation, then we should be able to – using a variety of methods – author our own neurochemical Nirvana. Timothy Leery obviously believed so. And his “trippy” method, though highly controversial and ultimately unsuccessful, is still very much in use today. MDMA, for instance, is being prescribed to PTSD and OCD patients on a regular basis, and in many of these cases is being reported to have, in one afternoon, the same effect of 10 years of psychotherapy. (And yes, I did just use 3 acronyms in one sentence.) Using drugs as tools or loopholes to alter our state of consciousness in search of ecstasy is no doubt a controversial topic. But perhaps, through a delicate and mindful combination of psychology, technology, and pharmacology, the future will allow us to engineer our own paradise, offering us the proverbial “red pill”, a super-drug that has managed to dispense the bathwater and reprieve only the baby.

      Pharmaceuticals, however, are nowhere near our only hope. Neurochemicals, after all, are stimulated naturally and require no drug whatsoever if the human in question is disciplined enough to seek the proper experience and dedicate himself to the time and patience necessary to become submerged in said experience. For some, such ecstasy may be rendered through a specific artistic endeavor, or by spanning time in some natural or designed heterotopia; outer vastness reflects inner vastness, after all. Others might meet their hedonistic needs through meditation or Yoga, or maybe through an extreme sport where the risk of danger or injury is present. Personally, I haven’t found a high quite so exhilarating as that of leaping from the top of a tall cliff into a deep, glassy body of water. Though it is a very short rush, facing the fear of what I perceive in the moment (accurately or not) as falling to my death leaves me feeling completely alive.

 

       No matter the method, bliss and sublime well-being are consciously achievable and are not limited to fleeting moments which lie outside of our control. The final frontier has been said to be outer space, but I would contend that perhaps there is a final-final frontier, one which consists of our own inner space. You don’t need to be a “flow-junky” or a philosophical hedonist to aspire to have the key to your own happiness and your own gift of genius. As Brain Games host, Jason Silva, puts it, “Ask yourself: What makes me feel alive? What gives me the goosebumps? What makes me well up?” When you have the answer to these questions, make note of the surroundings – both those which lie without as well as those which lie within. Nail down the formula, and then, like a DJ with all the tools at your fingertips, tweak and tailor each component. Mix, match, and harmonize your own Nirvana.

Matthew Thornton is an Austin-based artist and a history teacher. Originally from Corpus Christi, his wide-sweeping artistic interests range from writing and film-making to photography and painting. His work and studies explore patterns within the endless nuance of life as he remains constantly in search of the so-called, “big picture”.

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“The Napoleon of the West”: A Political Cat with 9 Lives

Corpus Christi, Education, Flour Bluff, Front Page, Government and Politics, Human Interest, International Issues, Local history

     Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna served 11 terms (6 official and 5 unofficial) as president of Mexico between the years of 1833-1855. For his many efforts, the cunning and self-proclaimed, “Napoleon of the West”, proved to be as charming as he was inept, cycling in and out of favor (and exile) with the Mexican people throughout his career in Mexican politics.

The War for Mexican Independence: 1821

     During the Mexican War for Independence, a young Santa Anna fought in the Spanish Royalist Army where he learned the merciless atrocities of war during battles such as that which occurred in Medina, Texas in 1813, where an estimated 1300 rebels were slaughtered and executed in what is known to be the bloodiest battle ever fought on Texas soil. During the final year of the Mexican Revolution (1821), Santa Anna saw the tides turning in favor of the rebels and he opted to switch sides to support an independent Mexico. Such antics, when coupled with his highly touted charming demeanor, won him influence among citizens and politicians in Mexico City. In 1833, Santa Anna was elected president of the young Mexican Republic, marking the beginning of what became a roller-coaster career characterized by intense peaks and valleys.

The Texas Revolution: 1836

     Two years into his presidency, he faced another rebellion in the Anglo colonies, one which was eventually led by Lone Star Legend, Sam Houston, and which culminated in the loss of Texas for Mexico. With intent to quell the rebellion and punish the Texian rebels, Santa Anna marched north with an army of thousands during the dead of winter in 1835, a rare season in Mexican history that saw record low temperatures and 15-16 inches of snow. His infamous victory at the Alamo might actually be viewed as a loss had the Mexican Army not killed the entirety of some 200 Texans who gave their lives holding the mission. For his efforts over the 13-day battle, Santa Anna lost 3 times the number of troops he defeated in the Alamo before splitting his army in a blundering effort to surround Sam Houston and 900 more rebels who were on the march near San Jacinto. At the most inopportune of times, the Napoleon of the West decided to take a siesta in an open field near a small lake, and opted not to post guards, a move that set the stage for his first big fall and his own Waterloo. Under surprise attack, Mexico lost the war in 18 minutes to the Texans at San Jacinto. In the heat of the strike, Santa Anna fled the scene on horseback and was found the following morning hiding in a thicket of brush. After his capture, the Mexican president attempted to conceal his identity after having swapped his general’s uniform for that of a common soldier. Once identified, he famously traded Texas to Sam Houston in exchange for his own life, triggering the first of many falls from favor within the public eye of Mexico. In proper fashion, Austin, Texas, was originally named Waterloo as a poke at Santa Anna’s self-proclaimed Napoleonic likeness.

The Pastry Wars: 1838

     In 1838, Santa Anna seized an opportunity for redemption while fending off a French invasion of Mexico. He once again led Mexican troops in what became another major Mexican military loss, but negotiations between France and the Mexican government eventually settled the dispute and brought end to the invasion. Though he had notched his belt with another difficult loss on the battlefield, Santa Anna was met with renewed support from the Mexican people for his will and ability to quickly rally troops and come to the defense of the country. For his troubles during the conflict, Santa Anna managed to lose his leg to cannon fire, an incident for which he chose to hold a formal burial with full military honors for his sacrificed limb. He famously donned a wooden prosthetic after the leg was successfully amputated.

The Mexican-American War: 1846-1848

     During the early 1840’s, Santa Anna once again lost the support of his people and had been exiled to Cuba around the same time Manifest Destiny had begun to cause friction between America and Mexico. By 1846, the U.S. declared war on Mexico after 11 American soldiers were killed by the Mexican Army along the Rio Grande. The war itself was one of high political controversy on the part of the United States, but once again, Santa Anna would get his chance to revive a career destined not to die. He booked passage on a boat from Cuba to Mexico, a voyage which was intercepted by the U.S. Military. Upon inspection, Santa Anna assured the U.S. government that he would go to Mexico and negotiate peace agreements to bring the war to end. Though his cunning nature preceded him, the Americans took the bait and Santa Anna returned to Mexico only to be given full command of 20,000 troops with the hope that he might be able to prevent the loss of the northern half of the Mexican national territory to the Americans. No such defense was in order, however. Santa Anna’s army was defeated at Cerro Gordo, a battle which ended somewhat satirically when the Mexican general’s chariot was raided by the 4th Regiment of the Illinois Volunteer Infantry. In yet another effort to flee from capture, Santa Anna jumped on his horse and rode away. In his frantic hurry, however, he managed to leave behind his peg-leg, which was confiscated by the Americans and became a prized war trophy for the American victory. The leg, to this day, remains on display at the Illinois State Military Museum in Springfield.

The Gadsden Purchase: 1853

     After losing the northern half of its nation, Mexico once again retracted its support for their on-again-off-again leader. He was again sent into exile – this time to Jamaica – and as had been seen before would again return and become the president of Mexico. In 1853, a resurgence of conservative efforts brought Santa Anna back into power. Upon his arrival back into office, he found that the government was in dire need of cash if it hoped to maintain a military. After much negotiation and in the interest of raising federal funds, Santa Anna accepted a $10 million dollar offer from the U.S. in exchange for a nearly 30,000 square mile tract of land which served as the final puzzle piece in completing the expansion of the American southwest.

From Staten Island to Chewing Gum: 1855

     In 1855, after falling from grace in the Mexican public for his last time, Santa Anna was exiled to Staten Island where, in a roundabout way, he became acquainted with an inventor by the name of Thomas Adams. At the time, Santa Anna had been importing a chewy, rubbery substance harvested from Mexican sapodilla trees. Adams was intrigued and hoped to use the substance in order to find a way to produce a rubber substitute. Santa Anna, still holding onto dreams of a return to power, saw an opportunity to finance his return to Mexico. The project, however, failed after a $30,000 effort. Adams did, somewhat ironically, manage to find a way to add a combination of flavor and sweeteners to the plant, which led him to produce what he referred to as, “rubber chewing gum.” Adams went on to brand a chewing gum company that would become the largest in the country, later eclipsed only by Wrigley’s and Chiclets. Santa Anna, though he would eventually return to Mexico City, never reclaimed his power in politics, and lived to be 82 years old before dying of natural causes.

        The life and career of Antonio Lopez de Santa Anna is nothing shy of a story worth telling, but moreover, might be better used as a didactic tale serving to warn citizens of the potential folly which can result from pouring public trust, support, and votes into leaders who simply look and speak in manners that are attractive.

Related article:  “Sand, Smugglers, and Santa Anna Helped Name Flour Bluff”

Matthew Thornton is an Austin-based artist and a history teacher. Originally from Corpus Christi, his wide-sweeping artistic interests range from writing and film-making to photography and painting. His work and studies explore patterns within the endless nuance of life as he remains constantly in search of the so-called, “big picture”.

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Critical Thinking Skills and “Little Red Riding Hood”

Education, Front Page, Government and Politics, Teachers' Corner

 

     With a new year beginning, teachers’ thoughts turn to statewide exams. In some courses, math as an example, most questions have but one correct answer. But in other courses, such as reading, history, or English, students need to have knowledge of the three basic kinds of questions so that they can understand what is being asked of them. This knowledge can help them in the classroom, on the ever-present exams, and even in later life. One way to learn about the three basic kinds of questions, which seems to stick with students, is to discuss FACTUAL, INTERPRETIVE, and EVALUATIVE questions as they relate to one little story almost everyone has read, “Little Red Riding Hood.”  When I taught seventh and then eighth-graders from the Junior Great Books shared inquiry method, the first thing to do is to have students know which kind of question is being asked. Teachers and parents may need to help with these critical thinking skills.

     A FACTUAL question has only one answer. If students have read the story or the piece of literature assigned, they could just place their hands over their mouths and POINT to the ONE answer. Using “Little Red Riding Hood” as an example, pretend the question after the story asks, “What color is the little girl’s hood in the story?” Only one color is correct. It is not purple, mauve, orange, green, blue, or rainbow-colored. The one answer is red. Any student could just point to the answer in the title, but all students agree that only one answer is correct. So, factual questions, as seen on many standardized tests, can only have one correct answer. There is no discussion or disagreement.

     An INTERPRETIVE question about a short story, a poem, or longer piece of literature is a question where there could be more than one correct answer, but the person answering the question must go into the story for proof and explanation about the answer chosen. There is no way a student can just point to the answer. These questions are sometimes dreaded by students, because they KNOW they must prove their answer with evidence. These are the sometimes dreaded discussion questions. Using “Little Red Riding Hood” as the story, an example of an interpretive question is this: “What kind of mother was the little girl’s mother?” Some students may say the mother was very nice and use as evidence that she had baked cookies for her own mother and was teaching her daughter to be a giving and benevolent person. Or they might mention that her clothing in the picture looked well-kept and clean, and therefore she must have been a considerate and neat mother, not a neglectful one. Other students may say she was a particularly bad mother and use as evidence that the mom had sent her young, innocent daughter into the woods known to be roamed by wolves. Or they may mention that the mother SHOULD have gone with the little girl in order to be sure she was protected. But these interpretive questions cannot be answered with just “the mom was good” or “the mom was awful.” Explanations from the story are needed as proof. It’s harder to answer these questions and bluff one’s answer without having read the story assigned.

     EVALUATIVE questions are easy to answer, and the answers may come from one’s own experiences. A student can answer an evaluative question without even having read the assigned story. An example is this: “Should parents make their children learn by experience?” Now the students go into their own backgrounds to answer the question. One student might mention that parents do not have to stand their children on a railroad track with a train bearing down at sixty miles per hour to teach the dangers of standing on railroad tracks. After all, there would be no way to use this lesson later if the child were killed…at least not for THAT child. Another student might answer that he was warned to stay off his older brother’s skateboard since he might break an ankle. And then he DID break his ankle when he secretly got onto the skateboard as a toddler. These are fine answers, but they do not relate to the story in any way. In fact, the story does not even have to be mentioned in the answer. Evaluative questions are where some students who have never read the assignment may shine, but that does not mean they learned anything from the reading assignment.

     In math, most answers are either right or wrong, so one could say that many, if not most, math questions are factual. After all, two plus two equals FOUR, not twelve or nearly four. In history, the date of a certain battle has but one answer. In science, there is one symbol for oxygen, and one alone. But in literature, all three kinds of questions are found, as they are in life itself. When teaching students or one’s own children about answering questions, it is really great to then make them look at today’s news stories or political happenings and ask some factual, interpretive, and evaluative questions. Ask them, “Who won the electoral college vote in 2016?” There is only one answer. This is how critical thinking is ingrained. Be careful of what children watch on television and read online. Much of it comes from people with their own ideas, their own evaluative answers to OUR well-being, and these people’s ideas may not promote critical thinking or our well-being. Discuss what is being put out there as factual. Even many people who are on television as “commentators” and “journalists” might not be as smart as seventh- and eighth-grade students who know about the three kinds of questions.

Margaret Lynn (Margie) Dodson Lambert, lifetime resident of Nueces County. Graduate Corpus Christi State University (Now TAMUCC) , BA summa cum laude. Secondary education with certificates in English and History. MS Texas A & I in CC (now TAMUCC). Curriculum and instruction with all-level Reading Specialist Certificate. Taught one year in CCISD and 21 years at FBISD. Now retired.

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Peace, Love, and Play: Our Future Generations

Education, Front Page, Human Interest, Science, Teachers' Corner

Peace. Love. Play.

This motto perfectly describes the Mamma Mel’s Learning Center, a bilingual, progressive early childhood program in Rincón, Puerto Rico. The school offers a full immersion model, exposing the students, ages 3-8, to English and Spanish every day, all day. Melanie Smith, the program director, believes that children learn through play, and she has created a beautiful, eco-friendly space for the kids, including an art studio, organic vegetable garden, yoga classes, and music.

The Mamma Mel’s curriculum emphasizes respect and love for the environment and our small community… which is where I come in. Since August, my Tuesday afternoons have been filled with the laughter of K-2 students during our weekly oceanography workshops. As a marine scientist, who spent nearly 10 years in academic research, I have discovered my true passion involves ocean education and outreach. Teaching my community, and especially its children, about the sea, a crucial resource that we are inextricably linked to, provides an incredible opportunity to “give back”, after having the privilege of living my dream of becoming an oceanographer.

A firm believer in hands-on education, I have an amazing opportunity to teach these students outside, at the beach. They take a stroll to the ocean for lunch and play;  then we begin our lessons about the deep blue sea. Their eagerness to learn, week after week, astounds me, and they can hardly wait for the topic of the day to be announced. We have covered everything from biology to geology, from the ocean zones to how beaches are formed. The children have created their own marine food chains, learned about sea turtles, built a coral reef, and imagined life as the tiny, microscopic plankton that support the entire ocean food web.

My favorite workshop focused on marine pollution and debris, which is a huge threat to the health of our oceans. Plastics are, by far, the worst offender. Did you know that ~74 million pounds of plastic are spread throughout the world’s ocean gyres (circular currents)? Over 50% of all marine mammal species on the threatened list have been observed entangled in or ingesting plastic. Tiny, toxic micro-plastics have increased 100 times in the North Pacific Gyre over the past 40 years and are eaten by marine life, which then are consumed by us.

After discussing the problems with ocean trash and how long it takes to biodegrade, the students happily (and quite enthusiastically) helped with a beach cleanup, filling an entire garbage bag in less than 15 minutes. They were so proud of every piece of trash, and my heart filled with joy while observing their precious hands tidying Mother Earth. To wrap up our lesson, we made a pact to reduce the amount of trash we created, pick up litter during every beach visit, and share what we learned with friends and family.

As I watched the kids walking, with lunch boxes in hand, back to school, I realized the importance and impact of spending time with our future generations. It truly makes a difference. We are leaving this planet to these brilliant and passionate children, who deserve a beautiful Earth to enjoy and care for.

What can you do to help minimize marine debris? Use less plastic. Recycle. Opt for reusable bags. Cut apart plastic 6-pack rings before disposal. Avoid single use plastics (straws, utensils, plates, to-go cups, water bottles, etc.). Bring your own to-go containers.

I dedicate this piece to my mom, Cindy Schwierzke, a beloved Flour Bluff ISD kindergarten teacher, who passed in 2012. Her legacy shines bright.

Source: One World, One Ocean. The Plastics Breakdown: An Infographic. http://www.oneworldoneocean.com/blog/entry/plastics-breakdown-an-infographic

Leslie is the creator of Mindful Dine, a community dedicated to inspiring nutritious eating and healthy living. She is a self-taught cook, writer, marine scientist, ocean lover and wellness advocate. Leslie is passionate about wholesome, healing food and enjoys inspiring others to be active participants in their health. A native Texan, she now lives in Puerto Rico with her husband.

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Sorry I Forgot I Am Here

Education, Front Page, Opinion/Editorial, Science, Teachers' Corner

Courtesy of scontent-a-sea.xx.fbcdn.net

 

     If the title of this article seems a bit ambiguous, it is.  I did not write it; my 8th-grade granddaughter did.  When I dropped her at school just as morning was breaking, I asked her to send me a text when she got inside the building so that I would know that she arrived safely.  She agreed, then promptly forgot.  When I finally received her text, I laughed out loud.  Had she arrived safely, or was she distraught at not knowing the status of her existence?  Texting, tweeting, and other modes of short, fast communication are ruining the fine art of writing.  Add to that a general lack of practice in the modern English classroom, and we find that we have a generation of kids who are not adept at producing good writing.  Let’s face it.  They text and tweet more than they write formal compositions, which means they are practicing bad writing all day long.  But wait, there’s more!

text

     In the August edition of the Texas Lone Star, a publication of the Texas Association of School Boards, writer Ellie Hanlon addresses this topic in Texas.  She refers to an article in the Education Post that describes the “angst of employers who have to manage far too many employees who cannot produce comprehensible written material.”  She further notes that writing assessment results in Texas have been poor, with only 72 percent of seventh-grade students meeting even the very basic standards in 2015.  As a teacher who taught writing successfully for nearly thirty years, I will add one more reason for the lack of writing skills in Texas: ten years of over 80% of Texas schools using a heavily criticized, error-riddled, “teach-to-the-test”, scripted, K-12 online educational curriculum (CSCOPE).  Teachers are struggling to recover from its adverse effects in many areas, only one of which is writing.  Because it was in existence for so long, even many graduating college students are unable to write a decent sentence or paragraph these days.

     Prior to CSCOPE, teachers who asked their students to write regularly, deducted points for style and mechanical errors, and insisted on complete sentences for all responses created good writers. Writing is one of those subjects that only has so much to learn in terms of the mechanics of the skill. Once students learn the rules, that’s it.  No one is inventing new ones.  However, as the saying goes, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.”  In Frans Johansson’s book, The Click Momentthe author contends that “deliberate practice is a predictor of success in fields that have super stable structures.” For example, in tennis, chess, classical music, and writing, the rules never change, so you can study up to get better and even become a master.   One of the many weaknesses in CSCOPE was its lack of direct writing instruction coupled with lots of independent – not group – practice.  When teachers and parents fail to insist that their children use the skills they have acquired – well and often – they will lose them.  Students must practice good writing at least as much as they are practicing bad writing.  So, how can the teacher and the parent help the child become a better writer?

     Hanlon’s article offers up a few valid questions for all educators to ponder as they attempt to overcome the deficiencies in reading, writing, and speaking:

  • Are students reading, writing, and discussing ideas every day in all classes?
  • Are students reading and writing a variety of text types?
  • Are students revising and editing written work by incorporating feedback from teachers and peers?
  • Are students learning how to use reading, writing, and thinking skills to learn new material and develop ideas in ALL content areas?

     Reading, writing, and speaking skills may be taught in the English class, but they must be practiced in all classes and – yes –  even at home.  Here’s a list of questions I devised for parents of these little destroyers of the language:

  • Are parents discussing matters of importance with their children and asking them questions that promote thoughtful responses?
  • Are parents asking their children to tell about their daily experiences using rich detail and good story order?
  • Are parents taking the time to read articles from newspapers, magazines, and books with their children to prompt such discussions?
  • Are parents insisting that their children speak clearly and explain or defend their thoughts?
  • Are parents checking homework for legibility, clarity, and logical thinking and asking their children to re-write the responses when even one of these elements is missing?
  • Are parents asking questions that encourage the children to be more specific in their responses?  That is, are they teaching them to elaborate?

     Even pre-school children can carry on intelligent conversations, think logically, articulate their positions on a wide variety of topics, and turn those thoughts into elaborate, coherent stories. Texas kids and teachers are recovering from the Dark Ages in Texas education, (aka, the CSCOPE era), a time when a one-size-fits-all curriculum traded creative thought and lively discourse in the classroom for mindless group work and repetitive lessons that were geared toward a test score instead of an education.  If our children are to become adept at writing, we must ask them to read the master writers.  When Arnold Samuelson interviewed Ernest Hemingway and picked his brain on how to become a master writer, Hemingway handed him a piece of paper and said, “Here’s a list of books any writer should have read as a part of his education… If you haven’t read these, you just aren’t educated. They represent different types of writing. Some may bore you, others might inspire you, and others are so beautifully written they’ll make you feel it’s hopeless for you to try to write.”  When students read great writing regularly, their brains are exposed to the patterns of language in a meaningful way.  The titles are below:

  1. The Blue Hotel (public library) by Stephen Crane
  2. The Open Boat (public library) by Stephen Crane
  3. Madame Bovary (free ebook | public library) by Gustave Flaubert
  4. Dubliners (public library) by James Joyce
  5. The Red and the Black (public library) by Stendhal
  6. Of Human Bondage (free ebook | public library) by W. Somerset Maugham
  7. Anna Karenina (free ebook | public library) by Leo Tolstoy
  8. War and Peace (free ebook | public library) by Leo Tolstoy
  9. Buddenbrooks (public library) by Thomas Mann
  10. Hail and Farewell (public library) by George Moore
  11. The Brothers Karamazov (public library) by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  12. The Oxford Book of English Verse (public library)
  13. The Enormous Room (public library) by E.E. Cummings
  14. Wuthering Heights (free ebook | public library) by Emily Brontë
  15. Far Away and Long Ago (free ebook | public library) by W.H. Hudson
  16. The American (free ebook | public library) by Henry James
  17. Not on the handwritten list but offered in the conversation surrounding the exchange is what Hemingway considered “the best book an American ever wrote,” the one that “marks the beginning of American literature” — Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (public library)

     Long before Hemingway’s advice to Samuelson, Benjamin Franklin knew the importance of emulating the masters.  He was so embarrassed of his writing skills that he sat for hours copying the writings of the literary greats.  He knew something then that many have forgotten or just ignore:  Practice makes perfect.  Even the latest brain research supports what ol’ Ben was doing; he was learning the patterns of writing by practicing what good writers do. If we want to get better at anything, we must put ourselves in situations where we can hone the skill by learning the simple patterns of language that lay the foundation for understanding and producing more complex patterns through regular practice.  Leslie Hart wrote in a scholarly article about how the brain is a pattern-seeking device.

The brain is not logical or sequential in the ways it takes in and makes meaning of input from the world outside. Instead, it is constantly searching for patterns to understand in the surrounding environment. In their instruction, teachers should allow students to identify, understand, and apply patterns. We cannot predict what any one particular child will perceive as a pattern because so much depends upon prior knowledge, the existing neural networking of the brain used to process the input, and the context in which the learning takes place.

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       To be clear, my granddaughter knew what was wrong with her text, and she chuckled about it, too, but we had “the talk” anyway. She is not offended when her granny points out or corrects her errors. After all, everyone makes a mistake now and then, even Granny. (She really enjoys catching me out, as do most of my friends and family.)  Her cousin got a similar talk from me when he was doing his math homework last week.  He tried to use a sentence fragment to answer a math question that required that he give the reason behind a wrong answer from a make-believe student. He wrote: “Because she multiplied by 2 instead of 3.” I made him erase and write a complete thought with proper punctuation: “Because the girl multiplied by 2 instead of 3, she got the wrong answer.”  I learned this from my seventh-grade English teacher, Miss Waterman.  Thanks goodness she set me on the proper path of using complete thoughts because my senior English teacher, Mrs. Lawson, required that we stand and address her in proper English, which meant using good grammar, good sentence structure, and clear speech.  It was good training. (She would be proud that I don’t allow children, mine or anyone else’s, to mumble an answer.  Clear speech is as important as legible handwriting if the message is to be conveyed.)  We must serve as the examples for proper speech and writing, planting language patterns in the brains of our children if we want to help them get better at such an important skill, a skill that is in danger of destroying our ability to express our thoughts.

For more information on how the brain works, visit:  http://nationalgeographic.org/education/brain-games/

Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.

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A Letter from Jeff Rank, Candidate for FBISD School Board, Place 3

Education, Flour Bluff, Front Page, Government and Politics

All candidates for office are invited to send letters explaining their positions to the voters of Nueces County via The Paper Trail News. It is our policy to publish all such letters. Please keep your letters under 1000 words. NOTE: All letters will be published as submitted. The Paper Trail will not proofread or otherwise edit candidate letters. If you would like to attach a picture, please submit it with the letter.

     Jeff Rank came to Flour Bluff when his father, John Rank (USMC, USN ret), was stationed at NAS Corpus Christi, serving as the Staff Judge Advocate for the Chief of Naval Air Training and retiring at the rank of Commander.  Jeff’s mother, Grace (RN, BSN), made a home for the family in Flour Bluff, where Jeff attended K-12 at FBISD.  After graduating in 1993, Jeff attended law school at the University of Houston where he was the recipient of the Marvin D. Nathan Fellowship.  Before practicing law, Jeff earned his BS and MS and became an oceanographer, and his research included computer modeling techniques and exploration of submarine cave systems.  He is married to Nicole Rank, who has earned her BS and LMSW.  They have two children, Abigaile and Theodore, and a dog named Fred. The Ranks make their home on the Island.  Jeff owns and runs a small business in Flour Bluff, Rank Law Firm, PLLC.  Jeff is an active member of Rotary International, the Texas Bar Association, and the Corpus Christi Bar Association.  He is  Past President of the Flour Bluff Business Association, Past President of Padre Island Rotary Club, serves on the Board of Directors of the Flour Bluff Foundation for Educational Excellence, is an active member of the Flour Bluff Citizens Council, and has served on the Civil Rights Committee of the Anti-Defamation League (Southwest Region).

The following is a letter from Jeff to the voters in the Flour Bluff Independent School District:

I Believe

 

            I believe in Flour Bluff ISD.  In 1980 I was lucky enough to start kindergarten there.  Flour Bluff teachers changed my life and continued to make a difference for me even after I graduated from FBHS.  I now have a 2nd grader and a 5th grader in Flour Bluff, and we chose to move back to Flour Bluff from Houston specifically so that our children could attend Flour Bluff schools.  So, when I say that I believe in Flour Bluff ISD, I mean it.

            Now I am running for the Flour Bluff ISD School Board because I want to ensure that Flour Bluff schools stay strong.  School board members are referred to as “Trustees” and are entrusted with a very important objective: making sure our children receive the outstanding education they deserve.  Therefore, it is important for those of us seeking that office to be absolutely clear about what we believe.

            I believe in academics.  Continued focus on academics is essential to every aspect of success.  People choose to move to Flour Bluff because of the outstanding education Flour Bluff schools offer students.  We need to refocus attention on basics like writing, where performance both in Flour Bluff and around the state has lagged recently.  It is imperative that we give all students a strong foundation.

            I believe we need to reinvigorate and expand our vocational programs.  Not everyone wants to go to college, and not everyone should go to college.  We need to offer vocational classes on campus to give our students the ability to get good paying, career level jobs right out of high school.  Currently, we outsource vocational training to the Craft Training Center and Del Mar.  Those programs are excellent, but they leave gaps.  Flour Bluff should offer its students on-campus vocational training in areas like auto shop, welding, and cosmetology.

            I believe in independence.  We are Flour Bluff Independent School District.  When we constrain our teachers by forcing them to adhere to a rigid curriculum (as was the case when the district adopted CSCOPE, an inferior curriculum program championed by my opponent), we limit their ability to teach, and ultimately our students suffer.  I believe in teacher autonomy.  Every class and every child is different.  We have outstanding teachers who can create curriculum and adapt lessons to get all students to where they need to be, but we must continue to give our teachers the freedom to do so.  We must let our teachers teach.

            I believe in accountability.  “Trust, but verify.”  Giving our teachers the autonomy they need to teach does not mean abolishing standards.  Testing is an important tool to evaluate a student’s progress.  High-stakes testing creates perverse incentives and results in a decrease in the quality of education for our children.  We should evaluate progress without forcing teachers to “teach to the test.”

            Finally, I believe in well-rounded students.  At the school-board level, this means strong support for all extracurricular activities.  We have a new field house and soon will have a new natatorium.  Both are outstanding, and both are things of which we, as Hornets, should be very proud.  However, extracurricular support does not end with sports.  We need to ensure district level support for music programs (like our Hustlin’ Hornet Marching Band!), arts programs, UIL scholastic competitions, and all of the programs that are necessary facets in the education of a well-rounded person.

            We, as Hornets, are strong.  We have much to be proud of, and I believe our children have a bright future.  I ask for your vote so that I can help steer Flour Bluff schools toward that bright future.  Together, I believe – no, I KNOW – we can take Flour Bluff schools to an even higher level of excellence.

-Jeff Rank

Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.

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What Training a Horse Is Really About

By Kids for Kids, Flour Bluff, Front Page, Personal History

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     When I lost my horse Daisy a few months ago, I was devastated.  I loved her dearly.  Plus, she was my friend, and we needed each other.  Daisy came to me fully trained and very ridable, but she began to lose her eyesight, a forerunner of what would eventually take her life.  As she slowly lost her vision, I had to re-train her so that she would rely more on sound and touch than sight.  I had no idea what this was doing for me as a trainer.  I learned so much of what I now need to know to train my little filly, BB, an orphan who probably shouldn’t have made it from the very start.  Though both of these beautiful animals learned a lot from me, my mom, and everyone else who helped with their training, in the end they have taught me so much.

     I have learned to appreciate the small things.  When Daisy would cock her ears and make a move to avoid hitting a tree, I was so happy!  With BB, I smile each time she listens and remembers to turn left or right or simply stop.  I don’t think about what a great riding horse she will become; I just enjoy the little lessons she is learning right now.

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     I have learned to have patience.  With a blind horse and with a young horse, the lessons are not learned easily.  Day after day we go through the same routines until the lesson is learned.  I really believe that good things come to those who wait.  Only when we look back do we understand how far we’ve come.

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     I have learned that trust is a very important part of teaching and learning.  I need to know that they won’t pitch me or bolt, and they need to know that I won’t do anything that will hurt them or make them fearful.  Trust is built through kindness, consistency, and nurturing.

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     I have learned to have hope.  When I found out Daisy was blind, I couldn’t believe it.  Some people told us put her down.  Others shook their heads.  A few, like my mom, said that she could be re-trained.  Mom was right.  With BB, her mother’s death could have easily been her death, but so many people stepped in to take turns tending to her and making sure she had what she needed physically and emotionally.  Hand-raising a horse is not easy, but it helps you see that God works miracles through people – all the time.

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     The greatest of these is love.  The bond based on trust, patience, appreciation, and hope between a human and a horse can result in nothing except love.  I miss Daisy every day, but her memory lives on in BB as I use what Daisy taught me to train my little orphaned filly.  God gave us horses to help us be better people.

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About the Author:  Taylor Zamora is an 8th-grade student at Flour Bluff Junior High.  She loves animals of all kinds, especially horses.

 

Retired from education after serving 30 years (twenty-eight as an English teacher and two years as a new-teacher mentor), Shirley enjoys her life with family and friends while serving her community, church, and school in Corpus Christi, Texas. She is the creator and managing editor of The Paper Trail, an online news/blog site that serves to offer new, in-depth, and insightful responses to the events of the day.

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