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The 7 biggest Lake Houston area stories to follow into 2019

December 31, 2018

Crosby ISD faces severe financial crisis, lays off employees

On Monday, Oct. 8, Crosby Independent School District’s Board of Trustees approved a resolution declaring financial exigency.

The Texas Education Agency’s website explains that, “Financial exigency means that the financial position of a school district as a whole is such that its financial resources are insufficient to support the school district’s instructional programs or the school district is unable to finance the full compensation of staff for the current or next fiscal year.”

Declaring such a state allowed Crosby ISD to make the drastic move of laying off personnel mid-year.

Crosby ISD laid off more than 100 people in an effort to help balance its budget.

“We’re going to have to develop a new normal for what we’re going to do as a school district,” Crosby ISD superintendent Scott Davis told reporter Shelby Webb after a board meeting on Oct. 15 during which the first group of laid off employees was announced. “But we’re still going to have school - we had it today, we’re going to have it tomorrow.”

While the complete causes of Crosby ISD’s financial crisis are unknown, Webb reported that accounting mistakes led to the district over-estimating revenue by millions of dollars and spending beyond its budget by millions of dollars, which led to the district spending about 15 million more dollars that it took in during the fiscal years encompassing 2015-2017

She cited the fact that “about 88 percent of last year’s general fund expenditures came from payroll expenses, much higher than the 80 percent state average.”

The layoffs were part of an effort to cut 5.5 million dollars in payroll expenses from Crosby ISD’s budget.

“I can tell you with resounding conviction that the sacrifices made by so many will not be in vain. It is up to all of us to be certain that this district survives and thrives again,” Davis told Webb.

Davis also asked campuses and district departments to cut costs by up to 60 percent.

One of the casualties was the Crosby ISD Pre-Kindergarten program, which will switch from all-day to half-day in 2019.

Harris County Flood Bond Update

Toward the end of 2018, Huffman residents have already seen some of the money from the $2.5 billion bond being put to use in Luce Bayou.

The Harris County Commissioners Court approved in November a drainage analysis in the amount of $400,000 for water bodies that drain into the San Jacinto River, Luce Bayou and Cedar Bayou.

Harris County Flood Control District officials said the analysis could take months depending on the outcome or if a more in-depth analysis is needed.

Huffman ISD institutes Guardian Plan

Huffman Independent School District took quick action in the wake of the Santa Fe school shooting on May 18 that left 10 people dead and 13 injured.

On May 24, Huffman ISD administration posted a statement on the district’s Facebook page announcing the implementation of a Guardian Plan starting in the 2018-2019 school year.

That statement read in part, “We feel strongly that a Guardian Plan in addition to our existing security plans will give us the greatest chance of protecting our children in the event of a tragedy such as a school shooting.”

The Guardian Plan involves arming certain anonymous district employees.

“The primary purpose of the Guardian Plan is to protect students from an active shooter prior to the arrival of law enforcement,” the statement goes on to read. “The plan will provide hand-picked, highly-trained, armed employees the ability to defend students and themselves in the unfortunate event of an active shooter on a campus.”

Possible qualifications mentioned included having a Concealed Handgun License, passing a psychological exam, and meeting annual training and qualification standards.

The decision also came after a Hargrave High School student brought a weapon to school.

In that case, a fellow student submitted a tip that the student in question had a weapon in his backpack and intended to harm himself, according to district officials.

The school went on lockdown and nobody was harmed during that incident.

Reaction to the announcement was swift and aplenty.

The majority of the comments were in support of the plan.

JoAnn Mitchell posted, “Great way to begin next school year. Safety must be top priority.”

Many other comments praised the school district for its decision, and several implored their own local school district to make a similar decision.

Yet some Facebook comments were more critical of the plan.

Mellissa Stanfield posted, “If I had a child in school I would be homeschooling next year.”

Crosby ISD gets new superintendent

Crosby Independent School District received 74 applications to be the district’s next superintendent.

Applications closed on April 24 On May 22, the district released a statement saying that Scott Davis was chosen as the lone finalist.

“When we went through the (hiring) process, we looked at individuals who really thought about the fit for Crosby, the community pride, the community spirit, the relationships, and Dr. Davis answered the call,” Crosby ISD Board of Trustees President Carla Windfont told reporter Kaila Contrares.

Davis, who has worked in education for 25 years, comes most recently from being the superintendent of Rusk ISD, just northwest of Nacogdoches.

During a special called meeting, after the legally mandated 21-day waiting period, Davis was unanimously approved by the Crosby ISD Board for the position of superintendent.

He accepted the position.

“I wouldn’t say weight, but there’s the knowledge of the true gravity of what that means when I say yes, I will lead your district, and I will take care of your children,” Davis said after accepting the position. “There’s no other way to explain it; you just have to wear that responsibility, and it’s one thing that I know I’m equipped to handle with the help of God.”

Davis replaced Keith Moore, who had served as Crosby ISD superintendent since 2011, submitted his resignation to the Board in January, stating only that he was leaving the position for personal reasons.

Huffman ISD opens new elementary school campus

During a special meeting on Oct. 17, 2016 , the Huffman ISD Board of Trustees approved the purchase of 24 acres of land at the corner of FM 2100 and Wolf Road on which a new elementary school campus would be built.

After the district sought suggestions for what to name the new school and narrowed the list down, a group of Hargrave High School students made the final decision, Falcon Ridge.

“It is a beautiful, wooded parcel of land that we’re excited to bring an elementary campus that is focused on student engagement,” Huffman ISD superintendent Benny Soileau told reporter Jennifer Summer during the meeting when the land purchase was approved. “One of the keywords is flexibility with the building; we want to build something we can grow into, especially with the impending growth.”

29.51 million dollars of the 44.1 million dollar bond that residents of Huffman passed in May 2016 went to buying the land and building the new building.

Falcon Ridge Elementary School opened for the 2018-2019 school year.

Amy Turner, who was the principal of Copeland Elementary School, at the time of the bond election, had run out of classrooms and was using closets as study areas.

“You walk in every morning, and you’re amazed at how blessed you are to work in a building like this and to see students arrive to school,” Turner, the new school’s principal said in early September, weeks into the school year. “They’re happy and they’re excited. I think the environment plays into that a great deal.

The 110,000-square foot building features a large common area in the middle of the first floor, a full-size gym, and a 280-student cafeteria.

Other unique aspects of the building include smart touch screens in every room, classroom walls and tables that can be written on, and flexible furniture.

“I’m excited to see what the year’s going to bring and see what else kids are going to teach us about this model,” Turner said. “It’s been a wild ride, but it’s been wonderful.”

The building has a capacity of 850 students. There are currently about 750 Falcon Ridge Elementary students.

Longtime area benefactor and community leader passes away at 104

The official name of the May Community Center in Huffman is the Vera Brummett May Community Center.

“Vera has generously given her time and energy and resources,” Charlotte Mangum, then the director or community centers and senior services, said at a ceremony on July 26, 2003 at the May Community Center, honoring May on her 90th birthday. “Her appreciation for children is widely known. Vera has worked diligently to improve quality of life for Huffman area families.”

On January 9, at the age of 104, Vera May passed away at a retirement home in Kingwood.

Vera May and her husband Irby Taft “I.T.” May donated the land that is now I.T. May Park. In 1968, they donated ten acres to Harris County Precinct 4 for a baseball field for children to play on. In 1977, the couple donated an adjacent five acres for a football field. In 1985, donated three more acres upon which the community center now stands.

Vera and I.T. met in 1929, married in 1933, and moved to Huffman in 1945.

I.T. passed away in 1978.

Vera served as the co-chairman of Huffman Bank, which she and I.T. helped found, from 1978 until she retired in 1990.

She spent a lot of time and money supporting the causes she cared about, such as area schools, Churches United in Caring, the Huffman Lions Club, and Lake Houston United Methodist Church, where she was a member.

New County leadership

Harris County witnessed a blue wave this past election in November removing many republican officials from office including the county judge seat.

Starting Jan. 1, 27-year-old Democrat Lina Hidalgo will serve as the new Harris County Judge ousting Republican Ed Emmett who has served in this position for 11 years.

Hidalgo received 595,211 and Emmett received 575,944 votes.

The day after the election results came in Hidalgo told many reporters that day that her becoming the new county judge was no accident.

“We saw it coming, and it took a lot of hard work,” Hidalgo said in November.

Another republican that was voted out of office and replaced with a democrat is Harris County Precinct 2 Commissioner Jack Morman.

Morman was voted out of office and Democrat Adrian Garcia will serve as the new precinct 2 commissioner also starting on Jan.1.

Garcia received 114,814 votes and Morman received 112,737 votes.

elliott.lapin@hearst.com

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