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.

 

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Brian Schuss, FBISD Business Manager and Lone Finalist Addresses FBBA

Business, Education, Flour Bluff, Front Page

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     Brian Schuss, now in his 8th year as the business manager for the Flour Bluff Independent School District and recently named the lone finalist for the superintendency, addressed the members of the Flour Business Association on August 10, 2016.  Prior to coming to the District, he was the Business Manager in Port Aransas ISD. Mr. Schuss also served in the New Mexico State Legislature Finance Committee and worked closely with the state’s Public Education Department. His education career began in the classroom as an Economics and Secondary Mathematics teacher.  Schuss began with expressing how much he loves being a part of FBISD.  He went on to talk about certain topics that he feels all people who live and/or work in the district ( See map below) should know.

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     “Summer is a very busy time for school districts.  We have to prepare for the upcoming school year by setting the tax rate and approving a budget,” said Schuss.  “School district budgets are extremely tight. Fortunately, Flour Bluff’s budget is not as tight as many others.  Districts that are located near oilfields are in really tough shape right now.”  Schuss explained that the state’s school finance plan has not been adjusted in over ten years and that he and other school leaders will be addressing members of the State legislature, especially Todd Hunter, before the next session starts up in January.  “I think everyone can understand what happens when you get the same amount of money each year even though you get more students and expenses continue to go up.”

     Schuss went on to say that he has worked it into the budget to give Flour Bluff teachers a 2.5% raise, which he expects the Board to approve at the next meeting.  “Our teachers do an amazing job.  If you’ve taught, you know it can be tough.  If you haven’t, we all should respect what they do teaching the smallest child all the way up to the high school student.  I taught high school and had about 150 kids a day.  They all have different situations; they’re all interested in a lot of different things; and you have to bring them together in about 40 minutes to learn what you need them to learn before you send them on to the next teacher.  It is a tough job, and we need to give our teachers all we can afford to give them.”  Later in the meeting, Schuss said, “Our teachers are already back at work.  They really need their summers to decompress and get energized so that they’ll be ready for the next school year.”

     The tax rate was the next topic covered by Schuss.  “I hear a lot about tax rates and that tax rates are very high.  School tax is about 50% of your total property tax bill, and that is a large number.  As far as school districts in our area, FBISD has the lowest rate,” said Schuss.  He went on to explain that the tax rate is made up of two different parts:  maintenance and operations (day-to-day expenditures in running the district) and debt service.  As you know, a couple of years ago we had a successful bond election, and we’re about half way through it.  We’ve had a ton of construction going on this summer, and I am really excited about it.  We should finish up in about a year or year and a half.  The biggest project we have going on right now is the natatorium.  It’s a little over $10 million project that should be completed in March.  You should start seeing the metal building going up around that.  It’s going to be really impressive and great for the community.”

     Schuss explained that the community will be able to use the pool, but not like Parker Pool is used.  “It’s not the kind of pool where we pay a dollar and jump in yelling ‘Cannonball!’ It’s not that kind of facility.”  He told the group that the pool would be open to the public for lessons, lap swimming, and other very structured activities.

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Flour Bluff has lowest tax rate in area, with Aransas County coming is second lowest by about a penny.

       “On the M&O side, Flour Bluff ISD’s tax rate is about $1.04 per $100 valuation of your home.  With voter approval, we have the ability to go all the way up to $1.17, but we are not going to do that.  You have to pay those bills, and we respect the community.  We want to give as much for your money as we can, and we would never ask for any increase unless we absolutely have to,” Schuss said.

     He discussed the effective tax rate and the importance of staying under what is allowed.  “Technically, as long as a taxing entity stays under that number, it is not technically raising taxes.  Our effective tax rate is $1.18, and we’re coming in at $1.154350.  I don’t mean to bore you with all this, but I want the community to understand that we’re doing everything we can to keep the tax rate down and do what’s best for our community.  We do know that property values increase, so we have to do our part on the tax rate.”

     Schuss ended his talk with information about registration for the school year, which is online.  Everyone has until August 18 to register, but those who still have not been able to sign their children up will be able to do so in person at Central Office on August 22, the first day of school.  Follow this link for information on registration and all other areas interest concerning the school.

     “Right now we have registered a little over 4000 kids, and we need at least 2000 more,” said Schuss.  He is hopeful that all of the new residential construction will result in an increase in the number of students at the school.

     An audience member asked about the Glenoak apartments that were recently demolished.  “The apartments are going to be completely re-built.  All of the families who were displaced will still be allowed to attend Flour Bluff schools.  They are supposed to relocate the families within the district, but if that can’t happen, they have to go outside the district.  These families will be allowed to use the 711 Glenoak address as their permanent address, which allows them to legally attend Flour Bluff.  By the next school year, the families should be back in the apartments.”

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A Message from Jeff Rank, FBISD School Board Candidate

Education, Flour Bluff, Front Page, Government and Politics, Personal History

     The August morning heat bounced off the pavement as I stood in our carport, thirty-six years ago.  I was five years old.  It was my first day of kindergarten at Flour Bluff.  Yarn held a laminated, yellow, construction-paper cutout of a bus around my neck.  It read, “Jeff Rank / Mrs. Cook’s class / Bus #3.”  Little did I know then that was to be the start of a long journey that would shape me into the man I have become today.

     With great pride, I recently filed to run for election to the Flour Bluff I.S.D. School Board.  It felt like things were coming full circle.

     My father’s career in the U.S. Navy brought us to Flour Bluff in 1980.  He retired here, and I stayed in Flour Bluff I.S.D. from kindergarten all the way through my graduation from FBHS in 1993.  I felt the impact of great teachers like Mr. Bartling, Mr. Krnavek, Mrs. Chapman, and Mrs. Thornton (to name only a few).  They, quite literally, changed my life.

     When I graduated and went to Texas A&M, I felt I had a leg up on most of the other students because of the things I learned at Flour Bluff.  College chemistry was a piece of cake after what I learned in Mr. Schwierzke’s class.  Trigonometry was no sweat after Mr. Warren.

     I went on to earn a Bachelor of Science degree in Marine Sciences, a Master of Science degree in Oceanography, and finally my law degree.  When I became a father, and it was time to choose where my children would go to school, there was never any doubt; it had to be Flour Bluff.

     It is with great pride that I now serve my community as “The Bluff Attorney.”  I have done my time at a think-tank in Washington D.C. and at a big law firm in Houston, and it only served to underscore how happy I am to be here now.

     I am running for Flour Bluff I.S.D. School Board, Seat 3, to give back to the school and the community that has given me so much.  I am deeply proud of being a Hornet.  Every day I use the education that started twenty-six years ago when I stepped onto Bus #3.

     I want to know that my children – and all Flour Bluff students – will continue to feel that they have a leg up when they graduate and move on to whatever the next phase of life brings for them.  I want to keep great teachers in Flour Bluff, enable education for our kids that goes beyond passing standardized tests, and ensure that Flour Bluff remains the top school district in South Texas.

     I humbly ask for your support in the upcoming Flour Bluff I.S.D. School Board election.

Jeff Rank

 

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Flour Bluff ISD Superintendent Announces Retirement: Board Names Lone Finalist

Education, Flour Bluff, Front Page

The Flour Bluff ISD Public Information Officer Kim Sneed released the following on Friday, July 29, 2016:

 

     During the Regular Board Meeting of the Flour Bluff ISD Board of Trustees on Thursday, July 28, the Board accepted the retirement of Superintendent Joe Kelley. His retirement will be effective September 30, 2016.

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Joe Kelley addressing FBBA in 2015

     In a letter provided to the Board of Trustees, Mr. Kelley thanked the members of the Board for their support during his three years as Superintendent.  His decision to retire is to be closer to family and spend more time with his four grandchildren. Mr. Kelley was named Superintendent of Schools in 2013 and is retiring after 35 years of service in education.

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From left: Cannon, Theresa, Brian, and Kaia Schuss

     Additionally, the Board of Trustees voted unanimously to name Brian Schuss as the lone finalist for the top position at Flour Bluff ISD. Mr. Schuss is in his 8th year as the Flour Bluff ISD Assistant Superintendent for Business Services. Prior to coming to the District, he was the Business Manager in Port Aransas ISD. Mr. Schuss also served in the New Mexico State Legislature Finance Committee and worked closely with the state’s Public Education Department. His education career began in the classroom as an Economics and Secondary Mathematics teacher.

     Mr. Schuss and his wife, Theresa, have two children, Cannon and Kaia.

    Under state law, the Board of Trustees must wait 21 days before officially naming the superintendent of schools. The Flour Bluff ISD Board of Trustees anticipates voting on a contract and naming a superintendent before the 2016-2017 school year begins on August 22.

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Getting Past the Past: Police Shootings Are a Moral Issue

Education, Front Page, Government and Politics, Opinion/Editorial, Religion

Stealing cookies

    A child sneaks a cookie from a cookie jar.  A teenager slips out of the house to attend a party.  A worker fudges on his time card.  A driver texts while in a school zone.  A hometown football star uses steroids.  A man cheats on his spouse while out of town.  A government official uses her office to get contracts for her husband’s company.  School teachers conspire to change test scores. An employee absconds with the company birthday-party fund.   A 12-year-old boy steals guns from a pawn shop that will help others kill police officers.  A presidential candidate lies to the FBI.  When people consciously make immoral or unethical choices, it creates imbalance in the society in which they live, and the other members of that society are forced to deal with the behavior in some manner.  Most rational people understand that ignoring the problem won’t make it go away.

    On Fox’s “The Kelly File” last week,  Jessica Disu, a Chicago Black Lives Matter activist and proponent of transformative justice, said that American police forces should be abolished.  “Here are the solutions. We need to abolish the police, period. Demilitarize the police, disarm the police, and we need to come up with community solutions for transformative justice,” said Disu.   Abolishing the police will most assuredly stop the killing of cops since there won’t be any to target, but will that solve the real problem, the problem of immorality?

     Combating immorality does indeed require teaching and guidance so that all humans can become perfect just as we are called to be in Matthew 5:48:  “Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.”  E. Stanley Jones, a 20th-century Methodist Christian missionary and theologian, suggests in his book The Christ of the Mount: A Working Philosophy of Life that we think of the “perfect” life as a “complete” life.  In so doing, it seems more attainable. Those who consciously work toward inner perfection choose to do what is right, which means they are choosing a good life, a heaven on earth, regardless of past experiences, historical events, or physiological circumstances.  People of all kinds choose immoral behavior; they create their own hell every day, which unfortunately bleeds all over the rest of us.  It is as simple as that. When groups of people join others in creating hell, chaos rules.  In order to bring order out of chaos, God’s laws must reign supreme, especially the law that commands:  “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you” (Matthew 7:12).

     Do kids who are taught this law and understand the difference between right from wrong perform immoral or unethical acts?  Sometimes they do.  Because all humans have free will,  no one is exempt, not even a priest or a preacher’s kid.  Do kids who grow up in households where God’s laws are not taught turn out to be good people making moral decisions?  Of course, they do.   Those who choose to have complete lives come from all backgrounds.  God’s grace is for everyone; it is the great equalizer.

     So, if a child steals a cookie and is not reprimanded for doing so, he may get the idea that taking what he wants when he wants is acceptable.  If the adults in his life laugh about the minor infraction in front of the child and lead him to believe that his behavior is funny or cute, it then becomes a way to get everyone’s attention.  Soon, this “cute” behavior left unchecked creates a demanding child no one can stand or a spoiled child who who steals a gun – or worse – uses one to kill a cop or a neighbor or a schoolmate to get what he wants.  Jumping from stealing cookies to stealing guns may seem like a giant leap, but failure to teach a child right from wrong in the early years sets him on a path to self-destruction, a path that is guaranteed to be filled with misery for everyone involved – not just the child.

     People must get past the past and make a personal commitment to living a perfect life by following God’s laws because no law of man will ever fix the real problem of a fallen world.  For now, we must pray for protection of those who are in harm’s way.  We must pray that those who wish to do them harm will surrender to God and seek His ways instead of the ways of a vengeful people.  Finally, we must thank God for the people in our midst who are called to defend us against the forces of evil.  They are brave men and women who show up to work each day understanding that they may not return to their families that night, but they show up anyway.  God bless them!

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Living la Vida Bluff Style!

Arts, Business, Education, Flour Bluff, Food and Drink, Front Page, Opinion/Editorial, Outdoors, Religion, Sports, Travel
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Sunset on Cayo del Oso in Flour Bluff

     I guess taking part in my 40th class reunion made me a bit nostalgic concerning my hometown, Flour Bluff.  It is a little community of about 20,000 fiercely independent people that sits on the Encinal Peninsula between Cayo del Oso and Laguna Madre.  On Aug. 5, 1961, the City of Corpus Christi, Texas, voted to annex Flour Bluff while Flour Bluff voted to incorporate as a separate city.  The Corpus Christi City Council passed an annexation ordinance, and city police began patrolling in Flour Bluff.  Suits filed by Flour Bluff residents to block annexation were appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled that it did not have jurisdiction in the matter.  Even though Flour Bluff officially became part of Corpus Christi, the people don’t really seem to know it.  That’s why most Flour Bluffians say they are “going to town,” when in actuality they are simply crossing one of the two Oso bridges into Corpus Christi proper.

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     Once known as the “Gateway to Padre Island,” Flour Bluff is home to the award-winning Flour Bluff Independent School District and Naval Air Station Corpus Christi, the two largest employers in the community.  These two entities have supported each other since World War II when the Navy commissioned the base in 1941.  Flour Bluff, like many Texas towns, was influenced by ranching and oil and gas.  Add to that tourism, highlighted by fishing, boating, birding, and water sports, the diverse nature of the community starts to take shape.

An aerial view of Naval Air Station (NAS) Corpus Christi, Texas, as it appeared on January 27, 1941, seventy-two years ago today. The air station was commissioned in March 1941.
An aerial view of Naval Air Station (NAS) Corpus Christi, Texas, as it appeared on January 27, 1941. The air station was commissioned in March 1941.
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The first school was opened in 1892 in the community of Brighton, later to become Flour Bluff.
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Kite surfing, boating, fishing, and great meals at Laguna Reef in Flour Bluff
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Flour Bluff is home to countless species of birds.

    It is possible to live and work in Flour Bluff and never leave except to visit a major hospital, which is just five minutes away.  Flour Bluff has its very own HEB Plus and Super Walmart along with a host of unique shops and businesses that meet the everyday needs of the people.  It has an active business association, three fire stations (federal, county, and city), a police substation, various banking institutions, eateries of all types, and even a brewery!  Add to this three quick-care clinics, local dentists, a vet clinic serving large animals and small pets, accommodations for out-of-town guests, a twenty-four hour gym, multiple auto mechanic shops, storage facilities, car washes, insurance companies, attorneys-at-law, and a host of other businesses that offer the citizens of Flour Bluff basic amenities of life. Of course, churches of all denominations and community organizations enrich the lives of the people, too. If a person wants something more, indoor and outdoor malls are within a ten-minute drive east while the Gulf of Mexico is ten minutes the other direction. Padre Island sports the longest stretch of undeveloped, drivable beach in America (60 miles).  Del Mar College, Texas A&M Corpus Christi, and the Craft Training Center provide educational opportunities beyond high school and are all under a 20-minute drive from Flour Bluff.

    

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     Living in Flour Bluff comes in all shapes and sizes.  The community offers many housing choices – including affordable housing, and multiple realtors in the area are available to assist newcomers in finding the perfect home.  Some residents in Flour Bluff enjoy the rancher’s life and own large pieces of property with room for horses and cows.  Others love living on the water.  Waterfront properties are available along Oso Bay, Laguna Madre, and parts in between where ponds and canals exist.  Many people prefer little or no yard maintenance and live in single or multi-level apartments or condominiums.  Flour Bluff welcomes its friends from the colder parts of the country in the many RV parks in the community.  Most residents, however, live in quiet neighborhoods filled with the whir of lawnmowers and the laughter of children.  Yes, there is indeed something for everyone!

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     Flour Bluff offers many outlets for family fun.  The community has a public and school pool, little league softball, baseball, and kickball fields, youth football organizations, activities at Flour Bluff Schools (i.e. basketball, football, volleyball, softball, academics, arts, music, NJROTC), a skateboard park, a disc golf park, multiple playgrounds, and other facilities for activities such as martial arts, soccer, tennis, rugby, and horseback riding.

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          Seasonal events give everyone something to anticipate.  Whether it’s the Navy hosting the Blue Angels, the Flour Bluff Homecoming Parade, the Flour Bluff Business Association Community Christmas, the Flour Bluff Fire Department Santa float, or the Flour Bluff 8th-Grade trip to HEB Camp in the Hill Country, those who know Flour Bluff, know it has a host of unique offerings for the community.  Maybe it’s a school that’s excels in everything.  Maybe it’s the year-round great weather conducive to outdoor activities like fishing, boating, swimming, and surfing.  Maybe it’s the tight-knit community that welcomes people from all over the world to be a part of what is happening here.  Maybe it’s the rich history or unique geographical location. Maybe it’s the class reunions, Friday-night football, or visiting with old friends in the grocery line. Whatever it is, Flour Bluff is a great place to live, visit, play, raise a family, and take part in a community that is like no other.

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Santa float

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     Spending the weekend with childhood friends (Flour Bluff Class of ’76), driving the Bluff in search of what is new or changed, writing this article, and gathering pictures for it takes me to the heart of a place I have called home for nearly 50 years.  Even those who have moved away still feel her tugging at their heartstrings. She definitely leaves an impression.  Flour Bluff, like every little “town”, has its problems, but that which is good outweighs them all.  I just wish more people could experience living la vida Bluff style!

 

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Father’s Day: Reflecting on Dad Is Reflecting on You

Around the State, Corpus Christi, Education, Flour Bluff, Front Page, National Scene, Opinion/Editorial, Personal History

Robert and Matthew Alike

     Roughly a billion dollars is spent each year on Father’s Day. It isn’t surprising, however, that when the holiday began in 1910 it was not widely celebrated. My dad always said holidays had gotten out of control and that, more than anything else, they best served to line the pockets of greeting card companies. I tend to agree with him. A family newspaper, however, is not the place to attack the gray areas of capitalism that surround celebrating holidays such as that of Father’s Day. Instead, I’d like to address that which I imagine to have been the more altruistic platform upon which such a day was invented.

     When sons and daughters reflect on their mothers and fathers they are forced to either face a mirror image of themselves, a bundle of flaws they hope never to possess, or the plain and simple fear that the person they see is one whose high water mark is seemingly unreachable. When I look at my dad and consider the most important things he tried to put in me, I sometimes find myself withholding a bit of fear that I may never level up to the mark. If I had to narrow the intangible principles that were stressed throughout my upbringing to a Top Five, they would rank as follows:

Number 5:  Flexibility: “Don’t be too particular about every little thing you do. Nobody likes being around somebody who always has to have their way.”

Number 4:  Toughness: “Whatever ails you may hurt right now, but it won’t last forever. Suck it up and keep moving forward. It’s the only way.”

Number 3:  Big-Picture Thinking: “Don’t get so hung up on little things that you find yourself incapable of zooming out and seeing the big-picture. And don’t get so hung up on yourself that you forget to tend to the little things.”

Number 2:   Humility: “If you’re ever good enough at anything that it is worth talking about, you won’t need to speak a word of it yourself. Everyone else will do it for you.”

Number 1:  Counting back from five, the first four could be easily summarized with quotes I heard time and again throughout my entire life. But number one isn’t so much a quotable phrase or sentence. My dad wasn’t necessarily big on gushy words about how much he loved my sisters and me. He tells us he loves us, sure, but more than anything else he constantly shows us a greater affection of unconditional love than any son or daughter need expect. Take, for example, the time he made an 8-hour roundtrip to Austin just to install a garden fence while my wife and I were at work because he heard her complain once that the chicken-wire she installed was falling down. By the time we got home, we didn’t find him, just a sturdy new wooden fence bordering the garden. Or, there was the time he heard me mention that I wanted to build a table top to set on a tree stump from a tree that “fell” down in our yard. A month later I drove into my parents’ driveway for the Christmas holiday, and the topper was leaning against the garage, built solid and to perfection by my father’s own hands.

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     The examples are endless, much like that of Dad’s watchful and caring disposition. And when I consider who he is, I find – that more than anything – I am forced to consider who I am. Do I add up? Would he be proud? Should I be proud? These are the questions that pass through my head.

     How about you? Your dad? What can thinking about him teach you about you?

     Happy Father’s Day to all of you dads out there. May your weekend be relaxing and your children be thoughtful.

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Flour Bluff Schools: A Winning Formula

Education, Flour Bluff, Front Page

Hornet Country

     Why do families flock to Flour Bluff and Padre Island?  Many, it turns out, want their children to attend Flour Bluff Schools, a place with a rich history and a commitment to educating the whole child.  In the beginning, ranching, oil and gas, and the Navy grew this little community nestled between the Cayo del Oso and the Laguna Madre, which in turn grew the school for many years.  Now, the school is returning the favor by continuing to draw people into this unique and strongly independent community that offers a hometown environment for raising kids, one complete with Friday night lights, homecoming parades, a Santa float at Christmastime, and an eclectic group of small businesses co-existing among the giants, such as Walmart, Whataburger, and HEB.

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     The pre-K through early-college school is not like any other. All the campuses and school facilities are within walking distance of each other and are surrounded by quiet neighborhoods, something that has helped keep the kids close in proximity and in spirit.  Students who live within the boundaries of the district but not within walking distance find it easy to be part of the school community since FBISD provides bus service to and from school.  Parents who choose to drop their children at school map out their route and move from campus to campus without having to drive in and out of multiple neighborhoods.

     Flour Bluff students have a reputation for success in academics and extra-curricular activities.  The following is a list of awards received by students and faculty just in the 2015-2016 school year:

  • Accountability Awards

    ECC, Primary, Elementary, Intermediate, Junior High and High School Campuses – Recognized
    District – Recognized

  • High School Academics 

    National Hispanic Scholars – 2 students
    National Merit Commended Scholars – 5 students
    AP Scholars – 12 students
    AP Scholars with Honors – 1 student; with Distinction – 2 students
    Student Congress Team – 3 students advanced to State
    Caller Times/Citgo South Texas Distinguished Scholars – 2 students
    BPA (Business Professionals of America) – 31 students advanced to State; 2 students received Torch Awards
    KEDT Challenge Team – 1 student selected to All Star Team
    Robotics Team – 2 Teams qualified for the Alamo Regional Championships; 2 Pink Lady Robotics students received the
    National Center for Women & Informational Technology (NCWIT) Aspirations Award
    Science Fair – Student placed at Regional and State – Regional: 1st Place in Microbiology and recipient of Valero Energy
    Award; State: 3rd Place in Microbiology and attending Intel International Science and Engineering Fair
    La Posada Art – 7 students recognized – 1 student won overall
    Visionarios Art Competition – 1 student– 1st place
    VASE (Visual Arts Scholastic Event) 1 State medal
    Art Center for the Island – 17 students recognized: 1 Best of Show, 5 students – 1st place; 2 students – 2nd place; 3 students –
    3rd place; 3 Honorable Mention
    South Texas Journalism Conference – Waldron Street Journal Newspaper 2nd place overall; Publication Team Sweepstakes
    Award
    Craft Training Center – 4 students won Top Dog awards in welding


    NJROTC – Received perfect score on their annual inspection
    NJROTC – Placed 2nd in State Competition
    NJROTC – Advanced to the National Academic Bowl in Washington, D.C.
    NJROTC – Unarmed Team 3rd Place Overall and Armed Team 9th Place Overall at High School Grand National
    Championship
    UIL Calculator Team– 1st place in District; 2 Individual Regional qualifiers
    UIL Current Issues Team – 1st in District; Individual Regional qualifier
    UIL Lincoln Douglas Debate – Individual Regional qualifier
    UIL Literary Criticism Team – 1st in District; 1st at Regional; State qualifiers
    UIL Mathematics Team – 1st in District; Regional qualifiers
    UIL Number Sense Team – 2nd in District; Regional qualifier
    UIL One-Act Play 4th place in District
    UIL Poetry Interpretation – 1st at Regional; State qualifier
    UIL Press Conference Team – 2nd Place Feature Photo, 2nd Place Sports Action Photo, 3rd Place Tribute Ad
    UIL Science Team – 1st place in District; Regional qualifier
    UIL Speech – 2nd in District
    UIL Spelling & Vocabulary Team – 1st place in District; 2 Regional qualifiers
    Honorable Mention Sports Feature, Honorable Mention Academic Photo
    HS Cheerleaders – 2nd place Southwest Regional Championship

  • Junior High Academics

    https://i1.wp.com/www.flourbluffschools.net/assets/photos/campus_photos/jrhigh.jpg?resize=337%2C125

    MathCounts Team – 1st place in Region (31st consecutive year) #10 out of 80 teams in state
    TMSCA (Texas Math Science Coaches Association) – 1st place in State (31st consecutive year)
    TMSCA – 2 students were State champions
    TMSCA – 7th grade – 1st Place Sweepstakes (Team); 1st Place Number Sense (Team); 1st Place Calculator Application
    (Team); 1st place Number Sense (Student); 8th grade – 1st Place General Math (Team); 1st Place Science (Team); 1st Place
    Number Sense (Student); 1st Place Calculator Application (Student)
    UIL Academic Meet – 7th Grade: 1st Overall; 1st Calculator Applications; 1st Number Sense; 1st General Math
    UIL Academic Meet – 8th Grade: 1st Overall; 1st Calculator Applications; 1st Number Sense; 1st General Math; 1st Science;
    1st Spelling; 1st Listening
    UIL Academic One-Act Play – 3rd Place
    Texas A&M Kingsville Javelina Cup Scholarship winners – 7 students
    Regional Science Fair: 2nd place Physics and Astronomy and 3rd place in Plant Sciences
    Science Olympiad – 2nd place at regional meet
    Science Fair – 2 students advanced to the Coastal Bend Science Fair
    Scripps Regional Spelling Bee Winner; Advanced to Regional Bee
    Voted Reader’s Choice 2015 by the Corpus Christi Caller Times

  • Performing Arts

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    HS TMEA (Texas Music Educators Association) All District Band – 28 students
    HS TMEA (Texas Music Educators Association) All Region Band – 21 students
    HS TMEA (Texas Music Educators Association) All Area Band – 7 students
    HS TMEA (Texas Music Educators Association) Region Orchestra – 4 students
    HS UIL – Region Marching Band Division 1 rating; qualified for Area Marching Contest
    HS UIL – 27 Division 1 rating for Solo and Ensemble
    HS UIL – 12 Instrumentalists and 2 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
    TMEA All-State Choir auditions – 23 District members / 9 Region members / 3 Area members / 1 alternate to State
    HS UIL Solo/Ensemble – 17 students and 1 Madrigal Ensemble received 1 ratings / 5 soloists and 1 Madrigal Ensemble
    advanced to State
    HS UIL CHOIR Concert/Sight-reading:
    Varsity Treble Choir – Division 2 on stage and Division 2 in sight-reading
    Varsity Tenor-Bass Choir – Division 3 on stage and Division 4 in sight-reading
    Varsity Mixed Choir – Division 3 on stage and Division 2 in sight-reading
    JH UIL Band Concert/Sight-reading –
    Honors Band received 1 on stage and 1 in sight-reading (9th consecutive Sweepstakes)
    Symphonic Band received 1 on stage and 1 in sight-reading;
    Concert Band received 2 on stage and 3 in sight-reading
    JH UIL Band Solo/Ensemble – 37 students received 1 solo ratings
    JH All-Region Band – 28 students qualified
    HS All-Region Band – 1 JH student qualified
    HS All-District Band – 2 JH students qualified
    JH All Regional Junior High/Middle School Choir – 22 students
    JH Mixed Choir received a ‘2’ in Concert and a ‘2’ in Sightreading
    JH Treble Choir received a ‘1’ in Concert and a ‘2’ in Sightreading

  • Athletics

    Image result for Flour Bluff athletics

    HS Football – 3 way tie for 3rd place in District
    Shriner’s All-Star Football Game – 5 athletes selected to participate
    All-Star Coastal Bend Coaches Association Basketball Game – 1 boy athlete; 2 girl athletes participated
    HS Volleyball – Area Champions, Regional Quarterfinalist; Freshman District Champions
    HS Volleyball – All State Academic Team – 11 students
    HS Volleyball – Max Preps Player of the Year – 2 students
    HS Team Tennis – Undefeated District Champions 9 years in a row; Area Champions; Regional Qualifiers
    HS Spring Tennis – District Boys & Girls Champions; Regional Qualifiers; State Qualifier
    HS Cross Country –1 Girl Regional Qualifier
    HS Boys Basketball –District Champions; Area Finalists
    HS Girls Basketball – Bi-District Champions; Area Champions; Regional Semifinalists
    HS Girls Basketball – All-Region and All-State Teams for Texas Girls Coaches Association – 1 student
    HS Golf – Academic All District – 7 students
    HS Girls Track – 2nd in District, 3rd in Area; & State Qualifier
    HS Boys Track – 2nd in District; 2nd in Area; Regional Finalist & State Qualifier
    HS Girls Swimming – District Champions; Regional Qualifiers; 6 State Qualifiers
    HS Girls Swimming – 1 student Academic All American; 5 students Academic All-State
    HS Boys Swimming – 2nd in District; 4th at Regionals; 6 State Qualifiers
    HS Boys Swimming – 2 students Academic All-State
    HS Girls Soccer – 1st place in District; Bi-District Champions; Area Finalists; 5 students Academic All-State
    HS Boys Soccer – District Champions; Bi-District Champions; Area Finalists; 5 students Academic All-State
    HS Baseball – 2nd in District; Bi-District Champions; Area Champions; Regional Quarter Finalists
    HS Softball – 2nd in District; Bi-District Champions; Area Champions; Quarter Finalists; Regional Semi-Finalists
    JH 7th & 8th Grade Girls & Boys Swimming – District Champions
    JH Volleyball – 8th Grade “A” District Runner-up; 8th Grade “B” Undefeated District Champions; 7th “A” District Co-
    Champions; 7th “B” finished 3rd in District
    JH Football – 8th “A” Undefeated District Champions; 8th “B “ Undefeated District Champions; 7th “B” District Co-
    Champions
    JH Boys Basketball – 8th Grade “A” Undefeated District Champions; 8th Grade “B” Undefeated District Champions; 7th
    Grade “A” Undefeated District Champs; 7th Grade “B” District Champions
    JH Girls Basketball – 8th Grade “A” Undefeated District Champions; 8th Grade “B” Undefeated District Champions; 7th
    Grade “A” 2nd in District; 7th Grade “B” 2nd in District
    JH Girls Track – 8th grade 1st in District; 7th grade 2nd in District
    Athletic Signings: 1 student in Volleyball @ University of Georgia; 1 student in Softball @ University of Houston at
    Victoria; 1 student in Football @ Texas A&M Kingsville, 1 student in Football @ Sam Houston State University; 1 student
    in Football @Texas Lutheran University; 1 student in Baseball @New Mexico Junior College; 3 students in Baseball
    @Schreiner University; 1 student in Baseball @Howard Payne University; 1 girl student in Basketball @Simpson College; 1
    girl student in Basketball @Coastal Bend College; 1 boy student in Soccer @University of North Georgia; 1 boy student in
    Soccer @Texas A&M University-Texarkana; 1 girl student in Swimming @Centenary College of Louisiana; 1 boy student in
    Track @Naval Academy Preparatory School

  • Early Childhood Center

    Science Fair – 6 students advanced to the Coastal Bend Science Fair
    Science Fair – 1 Regional Science Fair Winner

  • Primary School

    Science Fair – 6 students advanced to the Coastal Bend Science Fair
    Science Fair – 1 Regional Science Fair Winner

  • Elementary School

    Science Fair – 6 students advanced to the Coastal Bend Science Fair
    Science Fair – 1 Regional Science Fair Winner
    UIL Academics – 3rd grade: 1st place Music Memory and 1st Place Sweepstakes; 4th grade – 1st place Music Memory, 1st Place
    Art (Student); 1st place Art (Team); 1st Place Sweepstakes

  • Intermediate School

    Image result for Flour Bluff Junior High

    Science Fair – 13 students advanced to the Coastal Bend Science Fair
    Science Fair 4 Regional Science Fair Winners
    UIL District – 5th grade: 1st place Maps, Charts & Graphs; 1st place Science; 1st place Number Sense; 1st place Listening; 3rd
    place Sweepstakes Trophy
    6th grade: 1st place Sweepstakes Trophy; 1st place in Maps, Charts and Graphs, 1st place Listening, 1st place Chess Puzzle,
    Calculator and Art; 2nd place Spelling, Number Sense, Dictionary and Math; 3rd place Science
    TMSCA (Texas Math and Science Coaches Association) – 1st place at State
    Staff Awards
    James McMinn – Region 30-5A Basketball Coach of the Year
    Catherine Graham – ESC, Region 2 Elementary Teacher of the Year
    District Awards
    Schools FIRST (Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas) – Superior Rating

 

Flour Bluff ISD is in the middle of a $48 million facilities bond project approved by voters in 2012 and started in 2013.  In addition to some much needed upgrades to the existing facilities, a field house (complete) and natatorium (under construction) are part of the big picture.

Capture

  Go Hornets!

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Cursive Writing, an Important Skill for All

Corpus Christi, Education, Front Page, Opinion/Editorial

https://i1.wp.com/www.monticello.org/sites/default/files/uploaded-content-images/Declaration_Engrav_Pg1of1_doctored_0.jpg?resize=434%2C515&ssl=1

 

 

     On May 18, 2016, and maybe even earlier, parents of students in Corpus Christi Independent School District learned that their children are not being taught to read or write cursive because of “lack of time” to teach the subject. Whatever happened to integrating the learning of one subject area into each and every other subject area? This is rubbish! Learning to read and write in cursive must be integrated into each district’s curriculum in order to produce students who can meet and exceed the expectations they will face in life. Making excuses NOT to do so is wrong-headed.

     The practice of learning cursive is very good for the brain, and the earlier in life it is learned, the better it is. Even as recently as a week ago there was a study which proved that students who take notes by hand have better recall than students who type notes into a computer. The standards in Common Core, which are found in other states, do not require elementary students to learn cursive. Why would that be? Texas used to have CSCOPE, and perhaps this “throwing out of the cursive teaching” was begun with CSCOPE in this state. CCISD stated this is an “ancient skill” and it no longer needed to be taught. But hand-eye coordination is important. Psychology Today has an article by William R. Klemm touting the importance of learning cursive in which he says it helps the brain learn “functional specialization”, integrates sensation, movement control, and thinking. Cursive activates areas of the brain that are not activated during typing or visually seeing print. Fine motor skills are aided because one must pay attention to and think about what one is doing. To say that the STAAR test takes too much time and there is not enough time left for teaching cursive is like putting the cart before the horse. Cursive is a foundation for other learning.

     The practice of learning to write in cursive along with printing the alphabet is possibly an indicator of future success in life. Everyone can point to some people who have done just fine in life without good penmanship. But how can a person sign his or her name to a document, a marriage certificate, or a contract if he or she doesn’t know how to do anything but print? As a grandchild, how would it feel to become an adult, run across a letter from your grandfather to your grandmother, and have to ask for someone to explain it to you? What about the oldest family document in your family’s possession? Do you want to have an interpreter read it to you? This doesn’t even take into account the loss of income of people who today earn their money by being handwriting analysts, but I digress.

     Students of today who fail to learn cursive doom themselves to trust that printed books and computer sites are correct examples of America’s founding documents. After the week Facebook has had trying to explain that they do not “lean” to the left, when it is perfectly obvious that they do, who would trust others when he or she has the perfect opportunity to study history from founding documents? The Declaration of Independence, The Constitution of the United States of America, the letter William Barrett Travis wrote asking for reinforcements at the Alamo which was being besieged by the troops of Santa Anna were all written in cursive. Teachers of today do not need to put the STAAR test as a priority when an entire generation of Americans need the ability to read history from first-hand primary accounts. Websites and computer geeks surely can type whatever they wish to type and change a word here and a thought there to make the statements say whatever they wish them to say. The idea of NOT being able to read documents which are written in cursive puts too much power in hands that may not need that power.

cursive alphabet chart

     What can parents do? Go to local school board meetings and ask for cursive to be taught as early as is possible. It CAN be done if it is integrated into other subjects and not taught just as a “stand alone” topic. It needs to be done throughout the week and not just an hour or so when time allows. It needs to be started in the earliest of grades when learning is easier. When all else fails, begin this summer to set aside at least one day of each week as a parent to gather pens, pencils, and paper and teach cursive yourself. Parents, or older siblings, will be doing a great service to the children in the family. Online and in stores one can easily find print copies of correctly written capital and lower case letters. Make it a game. Practice signing autographs as if famous. Write letters to grandparents, aunts, and uncles. Thank you notes for birthday gifts are always welcomed. If schools will not teach cursive, make sure the children in your own family know and can write well. English teachers who assign essays, if those are still required, will thank you. But more importantly, you will have helped your own children. Summer is almost here. Do what is necessary to help a child succeed.

A note from the editor:  Many elementary teachers today use a program called Handwriting without Tears because it is easy to learn, easy to read, and easy to write.  Third graders in Texas, as per the TEKS, are required to learn cursive.  After that, they are allowed to choose cursive or print, whichever is “more appropriate.”

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STAAR Test Gets Failing Grade from Educators

Around the State, Education, Front Page

     On May 10, 2016, several members of TASA (Texas Association of School Administrators) sent a letter to Commissioner of Education Mike Morath relating the many concerns they have over several problems experienced across the state in all areas of testing.  They sent the letter after Morath responded to news reports about the testing irregularities saying that this was “unacceptable.” Before ETS (Educational Testing Services), the New Jersey-based nonprofit, received the $280 million contract for STAAR, testing in Texas had been handled by Pearson Education.  Pearson, ETS, and TEA worked together this year as the testing administration moved to the new vendor.

     “All three parties agreed to the plan and reviewed milestones together as it was carried out. Pearson met every commitment laid out in this plan,” Pearson spokeswoman Laura Howe said.

     “The high-stakes nature of standardized testing requires that the state ensure, at a minimum, that assessments are valid and reliable, that appropriate testing procedures are in place and testing materials are secure, that those grading the assessments are qualified and available, and that student data is secure,” states the TASA letter.

     Some of the problems addressed in the letter concerning data validity and security include:

  • Some districts received test results for students not enrolled in their districts and did not receive results for students in their own districts.
  • There were too many scores of “0” for short answer questions, and the justifications for those scores were not acceptable.
  • ETS staff was unaware that some districts received extra answer booklets — an indication that appropriate inventory control measures were lacking.
  • Demographic information and names were incorrect on the pre-coded answer documents.
  • Students’ STAAR-A Algebra I end-of-course (EOC) exams were scored as STAAR EOCs.
  • Scores had not been corrected weeks later.
  • Student results were missing from the December and March campus reports. Many of the students with missing results from the December administration had to retest in March as it was still unknown if they had passed the previous test.
  • District personnel were told by ETS to plan on retesting when grades 5 and 8 results were missing and ETS could not guarantee the student results would be found before the retest.
  • Students were concerned with online testing glitches so they took extra time to complete their answers. Students marked answers and wrote essays and then had to resubmit lost work.
  • Responses show concern that the data might not be valid. For example, did the system record the first essay a student wrote that was lost? Or, was the second essay the student wrote the essay of record? Neither ETS nor TEA could confirm.
  • Student data files and scores were missing or incorrect. Some districts received multiple scoring documents for the same student with different scores.

Other problems were outlined in the areas of online testing, communications, and shipping of materials.  Some of the problems were:

  • STAAR-A, STAAR-L, and STAAR student responses were lost, erased, or disappeared.
  • Often the system indicated that a student was still “actively” taking the test even after the student had completed the test and submitted his/her responses. Students were logged out of the test and unable to regain access.
  • Individual student test scores were missing altogether from roster.
  • STAAR-A online accommodations did not work well or did not work at all (e.g., text-to-speech tool, pencil tool, highlighter tool, and graphing tool). In addition, the oral administration feature was “too fast, would fade in and out, mispronounced words, and had speech boxes that disappeared.” Or, as another response indicated, “the computerized voice reads the wrong words (e.g., will substitute a or the etc.).”
  • Districts received conflicting information. ETS would advise one way, and TEA would advise another.
  • Tier 1 responders were unable to answer many questions after district staff was placed on hold for extended time periods. Then they would be forwarded to Tier 2 and sometimes Tier 3 responders.
  • ETS would say they would call back with answers and never did.
  • Test booklets were shipped to the incorrect address, and in many cases, to the wrong school district or campus. Campus testing materials in some cases were mixed with materials for another campus, and materials were not properly labeled for campus distribution.
  • Grave concerns were expressed that high school students who are dependent on the test results to graduate were completely let down by the system due to scoring errors. Some were failed that actually passed, and the May results will not arrive until after graduation.

     The concerns outlined in the letter are added to the recent move by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to contract with Human Resources Research Organization (HumRRO) to provide an independent evaluation of the validity and reliability of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) scores, including grades 3-8 reading and mathematics, grades 4 and 7 writing, grades 5 and 8 science, and grade 8 social studies. The independent evaluation is required as per HB 743, which states that before an assessment may be administered, “the assessment instrument must, on the basis of empirical evidence, be determined to be valid and reliable by an entity that is independent of the agency and of any other entity that developed the assessment instrument.”

     The HumRRO report concluded that their “independent evaluation finds support for the validity and reliability of the 2016 STAAR scores.” Following are the findings as to the percent of test items that are fully aligned to the expectations for the grade and subject listed:

  • Grade 5 Mathematics:  98.5%
  • Grade 8 Mathematics:  97.8%
  • Grade 5 Reading:  88.6%
  • Grade 8 Reading:  96.6%
  • Grade 4 Writing:  93.4%
  • Grade 7 Writing:  88.7%
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