School & County Updates

Harris County The 2015-16 Harris County Commissioners Court, from left to right: Jack Morman, Judge Ed Emmett, Gene Locke, Steve Radack and Jack Cagle[/caption]

Harris County

Big decisions made in 2016

  • Increased law enforcement
    The county added 24 constable’s deputies in county parks and trails. The new deputies are also on call for incidents outside the parks.

  • Trails and parks
    Commissioners Court created a Trails as Parks program in 2016 to make outdoor recreation, such as hiking and canoeing, more accessible to residents and it also added four miles to trails in Precinct 4 parks.

  • Road improvements
    The county used funds from a successful $700 million road bond referendum in 2015 to begin work on roadways such as Gosling Road that pass under the Grand Parkway.

Top issues for 2017

  • Funding law enforcement
    The county will fund body cameras for officers and plans to put additional law enforcement officers in areas where they are most needed.

  • 2017 legislative session
    County commissioners plan to monitor the 2017 legislative session in Austin to maintain funding for county services and projects.

  • Cypress Creek Greenway
    Work on connecting county trails and parks will continue in 2017 with the opening of Kickerillo-Mischer Preserve this spring near Louetta Road and Hwy. 249.

Klein ISD The 2016-17 board of trustees, from left to right: Ronnie Anderson, Rick Mann, Cathy Arellano, Stephen Szymczak, Georgan Reitmeier, Steve Smith, Superintendent Bret Champion and Bill Pilkington[/caption]

Klein ISD

Big decisions made in 2016

  • New superintendent
    Klein ISD Superintendent Jim Cain retired in June, and Bret Champion became the new district leader July 1. Champion had previously served as superintendent in Leander ISD.

  • Attendance zones set
    In February, the district changed elementary and high school boundaries to accommodate the district’s two new schools. Mahaffey Elementary School opened in 2016 and Klein Cain High School will open in 2017. The rezoned districts will help to funnel enrollment to the new campuses.

  • Academic focus
    The district established coalitions to improve performance among English language learners and special education students. It has expanded its Transform Academy and Future Ready 21 programs, which offer students flexibility in learning and help to provide computers for students.

Top issues for 2017

  • New school buildings
    Klein Cain High School is set to open in August, and construction on the district’s 10th intermediate school will begin this year.

  • Become District of Innovation
    KISD aims to receive designation from the state as a District of Innovation, which would give it more flexibility in planning, establishing class sizes and attendance policies, and other practices.

  • Budget and unfunded mandates
    KISD continues to balance enrollment growth against a reduction in state aid when formulating its annual budget. It also must address unfunded state mandates, such as the state’s requirement to provide monitoring cameras in special education classrooms where parents request the cameras, which began in the 2016-17 academic year. The cameras could cost as much as $1.6 million.

A question for Bret Champion, superintendent

  • What are the top priorities for Klein ISD in 2017?
    “We will continue working to build a shared vision in Klein ISD that every student will enter with a promise and exit with a purpose.”

Spring ISD The 2016-17 board of trustees, from left to right: Chris Bell, Justine Durant, Jana Gonzales, Superintendent Rodney Watson, Deborah Jensen, Rhonda Faust, Rhonda Newhouse and Donald Davis[/caption]

Spring ISD

Big decisions made in 2016

  • Bond referendum
    Voters approved a $330 million bond referendum in November focusing on district facility, technological infrastructure and safety needs.

  • Early College Academy
    A three-story building acquired by the district on TC Jester Blvd. was renovated to accommodate the district’s Early College Academy, which allows students to earn associate degrees through Lone Star College System at the same time that they earn high school diplomas.

  • Early childhood education
    Full-day pre-K programs were introduced at five SISD schools in 2016, and through bond referendum money the programs will be expanded throughout the district. The district has also increased its avenues of communication for parents of young children through tools such as the web-based program Elevate and ReadyRosie.

Top issues for 2017

  • Address mobility
    The district faces a high rate of mobility among students moving in and out of the district as well as high teacher turnover. SISD will implement a new plan to recruit and retain teachers and support professional development among its staff.

  • Begin bond projects
    The district will begin working on infrastructure projects to improve technological capability and speed. The design phase of the first construction projects, including new ninth-grade and middle school buildings, may go out to bid in early 2017.

  • Improve scores
    SISD performance on state tests have improved and only one district school failed to meet Texas Education Agency standards in the past year. The district aims to continue to improve academically and focus on literacy as part of its five-year Every Child 2020 strategic plan.

A question for Rodney Watson, superintendent

  • What are the top priorities for Spring ISD in 2017?
    “We were encouraged by the community’s support of the district’s referendum, and our top priority is to proceed as quickly as possible with the [bond] projects.”

By Vanessa Holt
A resident of the Houston area since 2011, Vanessa began working in community journalism in her home state of New Jersey in 1996. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2016 as a reporter for the Spring/Klein edition and became editor of that paper in March 2017 and editor of The Woodlands edition in January 2019.