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AISD Candidates - Position 1
Blue Water Lakes
AISD Authorizes Dress Code Changes for Next School Year
Council Explores Options to Slowing Traffic
Water Supply In Question - Part 1
Candidates - Position 1
May 2, 2012
Three candidates are vying for the Position 1 seat on the
Alvin ISD Board of Trustees election to be held on May 12. Current
incumbent Pete Vincent is seeking re-election against Westside homemaker
Nicole Tonini and Alvin Insurance Agent Mike Lunsford.
Pete Vincent has been a member of the Board for
twelve years. He has lived in Alvin since 1963, has been married for 51
years and has three children, all graduates from AISD schools, and five
grandchildren. He retired from NASA after a 38-year career and currently
works with Conway & Robinson LLC as an auditor of wood products used for
shipping and transporting internationally.
Vincent believes his time with NASA prepared him well for
the Trustee position. He explains that his experience taught him how to
work together as a team to develop objectives for a project and then develop
the required budgets and schedules. He also learned that the Golden Rule
“(Do unto others as you would have them do to you) was alive and well in the
work place”. He says he will bring an honest and straight forward work
ethic to the position and that he will look at each issue in light of what
is best for the students of AISD. He claims to have “no agenda other than
being an advocate for all students within Alvin ISD”.
In the twelve years he has been on the Board, Vincent
recalls missing only three or four meetings. In addition to his service as
a Board member, he has been involved with district activities for many
years. He has cooked for numerous banquet and dinner functions until his
wife retired in the early 90’s and he routinely attends school functions.
He is involved with the AISD Education Foundation where annual fund raisers
support the students of AISD. He has also served on the Alvin-Manvel
Chamber of Commerce Youth Round Table for several years.
Vincent thinks the Board has done extremely well in
representing the interest of students and taxpayers and feels AISD has
always been fiscally responsible and good stewards of the taxpayer’s funds.
If granted another term, he hopes to continue the “rise in student
achievement seen in recent years”. He is proud that the district has been
able to maintain a rating of Recognized “even though the state has raised
the bar several times”. He acknowledges that there is still work to do
related to improving SAT/ACT scores, increasing the number of Merit
Scholars, and improving completion rates and he would “like to be a part of
Vincent describes AISD as a diverse district, “ranging
from the very affluent to very economically disadvantaged, from English as
the primary language to English as the second language (sixty plus languages
spoken in AISD!)”.
He says he will “strive to bring the constituents on the
west side into Board activities while increasing efforts to upgrade/replace
some of the aging facilities on the east side”. He also feels the Board
“should try to hold some functions at locations more convenient for citizens
across the district”.
Vincent says he wants to prepare district “students for
the next level of life, whether it is entrance into college, trade school,
military, or the work-a-day world”. He goes on to say, “I think we should
push our students to achieve at the highest level possible academically,
vocationally, athletically, etc. and provide them with the technology and
other resources to accomplish their goals”.
Nicole Tonini has lived in Shadow Creek Ranch
since 2004. She is married with five children ranging in age from 4 to 15
years “who are active in sports, dance, band, Boy Scouts, church and school
activities”. Her children currently attend four different AISD schools.
Tonini is active in the community, participating in
PTO/school volunteering, Eagle project for the VA hospital, Hurricane Ike
relief for Brazoria and Galveston counties, numerous scouting service
projects and committees, the West Side library development, serving on the
Pearland City Library board and various fundraising efforts.
Prior to the birth of her first child, she worked as an
oral surgeon’s assistant. Since becoming a mother she has dedicated her
time and energy to her family and to the community. As a full time mother,
Tonini feels she is able to understand the trials that are facing our youth
today. She explains her “daily interaction with my children and their
friends, classmates, teammates and even competitors, my perspective is
unique and much needed on the Board of Trustees”.
She goes on to describe her work as a volunteer, giving
over 1,500 hours of service in multiple schools throughout the district.
She claims to have developed relationships of trust with families, teachers
and administrators. She has served on the “front line” as a room mom and
chaperone, as well as a PTO president and board member. She believes each
of these experiences have given her an appreciation of the issues at various
Tonini says her main goal will be to improve the quality
of education in the district. Having children at all three levels of
schools for the next six years will give her a “unique insight to the
district”. She feels “a parent’s perspective is critical to the workings of
the district”. She also would like to increase the focus on post-graduation
success, explaining that “we should not focus solely on getting the students
“out the door”, but we need to guide and educate them about the many
opportunities they will have after graduation”. She feels improved backing
of teachers is necessary, explaining that they “are on the front lines and
need better support”.
According to Tonini, AISD currently is “ranked 43rd out
of 45 Houston area ISDs in the number of graduates who go on to attend a
four-year college or university”. She believes students need to be made
aware of every opportunity to acquire scholarships and grants. She goes on
to say that “many students need help in understanding how to apply for these
financial opportunities. With improved awareness, the number of graduates
going on to four-year colleges will increase”.
Tonini feels communication needs to improve between the
Board and its constituents. She claims a common complaint “is that when the
district seeks input from the community, they have already determined the
solution”. She wants to see increased involvement of parents who are
non-voting tax payers, explaining that “40% of the west side is not Black,
White, or Hispanic (vs. 7% in Alvin High School), meaning there is a high
percentage of parents who are not eligible to vote, yet who are concerned
about the education of their children. Their frustration has become very
obvious to me as I have campaigned and worked with these individuals. We
need to do a better job communicating with and engaging them.”
If elected, she will work with the Board to increase its
visibility throughout the district and would like to pursue an occasional
Board meeting on the west side. She considers that “a simple but effective
Tonini says she will bring a perspective that is unique
from any other candidate on the ballot. “I have had the opportunity for the
past seven years not only to engage in some of the district’s best programs,
such as dual language, but also to have children attend schools on both the
East and West sides of the district. With this involvement, I have gained a
better understanding of the individual, as well as the mutual interests of
both sides of the district.” She claims to have developed strong support
from teachers, administrators, parents, and taxpayers which, she says, “has
enabled me to be more accessible to the entire district”.
If elected she “will make each decision placed before me
as a member of the AISD Board of Trustees by carefully and thoughtfully
judging what is best for the students, the district, and the community”.
Mike Lansford has resided in AISD his entire life
of 53 years. In 1955 both his parents accepted teaching positions in the
district. He met his wife while attending Alvin HS from where they both
graduated. They have two grown children, also both graduates of Alvin HS.
After graduating from Texas A&M University at Galveston,
Lansford joined his father’s insurance agency, Independent Insurance
Counselors. For thirty years he has provided insurance products and
knowledge to clients with a specialty in business insurance.
Lansford previously served on the AISD Board in
1997-2000. During that period, he claims to have had a 100% attendance rate
at meetings and workshops. He and his wife were very involved in their
children’s education and he explains that both graduated in the top ten of
the 2008 and 2009 graduating classes. He feels he “understands the issues
from kindergarten through graduation”. “The Lansford family has continued
to support school activities”, he says.
Lansford explains the duties of a school board member as
related to business management. “Those duties include establishing
performance goals & objectives, adopting a budget, adopting a tax rate,
monitoring the school district’s finances and evaluating the
superintendent.” As a business owner, he says he has performed similar
duties for twenty-three years. He claims to “know how hard it is to make a
dollar and how easy it is to spend two dollars”. He elaborates that “the
ability to prioritize and budget properly has been essential components to
my business success”. He believes “if Alvin ISD would focus on good
business practices, there would be more funds to improve student performance
and reduce the taxpayers’ burden”. He says he will bring “common sense,
business sense, integrity and expectations” to the position.
If elected, he would like to develop a plan for the
future of Alvin ISD. He wants to see improved student achievement, a
replacement of the current minimum-skills curriculum with a complete
curriculum, and an expansion of vocational programs.
As he explains it, he would strive for “the minimum
skills curriculum replaced with a strong successful academic curriculum.
Lower the dropout rate. Reduce the number of students in a classroom in the
primary through junior high grades. Develop the vocational programs. Stop
spending taxpayers’ money on elaborate buildings. Build more efficient and
less expensive schools. Reverse the trend of hiring a higher percentage of
administrators vs. teachers. Pay down the school district’s debt with the
left over bond money after a project is completed.”
In addressing the east-west issue that has some west side
voters feeling underrepresented, Lansford explains “the values and desires
of the people within Alvin ISD do not differ due to location. Everyone
wants our students to acquire a good education and be safe. Residents of
the Alvin ISD are “in the same boat”. While I was on the board, I served
every member of the school district equally and with respect. Continuing to
treat people fairly is how I would deal with the perception.”
He goes on to say that “when I support school board
candidates, location within the school district never was a factor. I
supported the individuals who I knew to be the better leaders. A few years
ago, I supported a candidate from Shadow Creek. I encourage everyone to
study the candidates closely. Please, make your decision based on who will
better serve the district.”
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Blue Water Lakes Development
May 9, 2012
Manvel city council heard a presentation from the
originators of the Blue Water Lakes development. The goal of the
development is to establish a high quality residential and commercial
neighborhood in the heart of Manvel that could serve as a new gateway to the
The project will consist of 27 acres of commercial and
112 acres of residential development and is located just off state highway 6
behind the Manvel Seafood Restaurant. Developers project the development
will add about $123 million to the city’s tax rolls and generate $1.5
million in tax revenue. The MUD agreement and the developer agreement with
the city are in place with current efforts ongoing to secure necessary state
The project will be a gated community and will be built
in three phases. Phase 1 will be the highlight of the development as it
will be anchored by a currently existing lake on the property. Lots will
generally be 70 feet in width though if the market dictates, widths up to 80
feet could be incorporated. Lot depth will range in length from 120 to 170
feet. The first phase will include a community center with a boat launch
and various other amenities.
The second and third phases are preliminarily planned for
60 foot lots with a 120 foot depth. The developer explained that lot widths
in the subsequent phases could change if the market warrants larger lots but
in no event will a lot be less than 6,300 square feet. It is expected that
the number of homes built will be between 260 and 315 homes depending on the
eventual lot sizes selected.
The commercial tracts that are part of the plan provide
sufficient room for a grocery store or other large “big box” store as well
as other related shopping venues. There also is room for strip center
development. The developer claims the market will determine the timing and
type of commercial development, but they point out that there is sufficient
room to do something significant for the community.
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Authorizes Dress Code Changes for Next School Year
May 16, 2012
The Board of Trustees for the Alvin Independent School
District (AISD) were informed of changes to the school’s dress code
effective with the 2012-2013 school year. Superintendent Dr. Fred Brent
explained that the changes include the wearing of jeans, either blue or
black, that must be appropriately sized and fitting at the waist, with no
holes or frays. Shirts may be worn un-tucked and must be appropriately
sized as well. All other requirements of the dress code remain unchanged.
Dr. Brent went on to say that enforcement of student
dress is always a challenge and that discussions among school principals are
on-going on how best to monitor student dress to make sure the guidelines
are adhered to. The dress code “is something we will be reviewing every few
years so that we stay on top of the issue.”
A committee was formed to study revisions to the code and
consisted of members from select high school students, parents from all
grade levels, campus administrators, and central administration personnel.
The committee compared AISD’s policy to 14 other districts in the area and
learned that AISD was the only one not allowing jeans and was one of just
two districts that required shirts be tucked in. AISD was found to be one
of seven districts that require a solid color shirt.
Additionally, the committee administered surveys and
collected responses from campus administrators, parents, students, and
teachers. Reports to the Board from its findings showed the majority among
all four survey respondents considered the current dress code as outdated,
seen as irrelevant, required families to spend more on clothing, produced a
negative impact on student/teacher relationships, and was not easily
Survey respondents overwhelmingly supported allowing
jeans with students voting yes 97%, parents 93%, teachers 88% and campus
administrators 81%. Allowing un-tucked shirts was also favorably agreed to
with students at 95%, parents at 73%, campus administrators at 81%, and
teachers at 66%.
The committee unanimously agreed to allowing jeans while
18 of 19 members agreed to allowing un-tucked shirts. Other changes
considered but not adopted include the wearing of any style collared shirt
(currently only solid colors are allowed) and additional pant colors.
The changes will be put in the 2012-2013 student handbook
for distribution this summer.
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Options to Slowing Traffic
May 16, 2012
Manvel City Council member Larry Akery requested council
explore options on slowing traffic on city streets. The primary area of
concern was the three east-west thoroughfares running from the High School
to FM 1128. A recent hit-and-run incident on April 1 involving a child
pedestrian at Wilson and Lewis spurred citizens into demanding a greater
police presence in the area, particularly around the school start and end
times. Police Chief Ralph Garcia explained the incident is still under
investigation and that “fortunately the child was not seriously injured.”
The speeding issue was raised last January and resulted
in another STOP sign being installed. Akery claims while it may have helped
somewhat, there are still a lot of speeders going through the area and many
drivers just ignore the signs altogether.
Garcia explained that he has asked the Texas DPS for
assistance during the most needed times to help curb racing drivers down Hwy
6 toward 288. He claims their presence has helped the situation but
described how concentrating in one area just leaves other areas vulnerable.
The chief went on to clarify that it is not just the students doing the
speeding; he says teachers and parents are just as guilty. Mayor Martin
told council that she has received a complaint on the “audacity of the
Police giving four teachers speeding tickets going through a school zone.”
Akery explained that residents on Charlotte are concerned
as adults ride bikes, school kids walk, and joggers run and there is a lot
of activity along the road. Speed humps were discussed with Public Works
Director Jay White demonstrating one option of a material made from recycled
rubber that can be easily installed and removed at a later date if desired.
White said the humps would slow a driver down to 5 mph. He estimated a
purchase of 21 units at a cost of $2,300.
The city’s consulting civil engineer Dan Johnson told
council that if speed humps are to be installed a policy stating clearly
where the humps would go should be adopted. As soon as they are installed
on one road many others will come forward demanding them on their roads as
well. “There needs to be some empirical data to support where they go,” he
said. Some type of speed counter should be incorporated that would compile
data showing how many cars travel a particular stretch of roadway and what
the speeds of the vehicles are.
Chief Garcia presented to council a device that would do
just that. He explained that the device would be placed on an existing pole
and would record data that shows a true picture of what is actually
happening on the road. He claims a benefit to the Police Department in that
it would first clarify if there is indeed a speed issue or if it is more a
perception issue. He explained that often it may appear that a driver is
speeding when in reality they are not. The device also would allow his
officers to attack the problem at the times it occurs as the device will
generate reports showing that information. The chief told council that the
device would cost $4,000.
Chief Garcia informed council on the potential liability
that could be borne by the city should one of these “traffic calming
devices” be the cause of an accident. He further told council that many
users are on the streets and that there are no sidewalks to accommodate
pedestrians, bicyclists, and mobile devices such as scooters. The Chief
explained that he has tried to lower speed limits on past occasions and
suffered strong opposition from citizens. “Many speed limits around town
should be lowered,” he said.
Charlotte resident Frank Hagdorn addressed council on the
issue. His contention is that there are already too many signs along the
once peaceful and attractive street. He feels installing speed humps and
other types of devices will deteriorate property values as it tells any
potential buyer that there is a problem on the street. He advocates
reducing the speed limit to 20 mph at all times and upgrading enforcement.
He would appeal to the students directly that speeding will not be tolerated
and suggests all traffic coming and going from the high school be restricted
to McCoy and hwy 6 only, effectively preventing school traffic driving
through the east-west streets.
Another area resident on Lewis Lane, Debbie Carrillo,
says the bottom line should be the kid’s safety. Her son is forced to walk
through the side ditches to and from school out of concern of the fast
moving traffic. She says the child involved in the hit-and-run incident
could have just as easily been her child. She hopes it won’t take a child’s
death to spur “somebody to park at the back end of the high school parking
lot” to control students entering and exiting. She claims it is “insane
what happens back there.” She would like to see the local police work with
AISD Police to serve as a presence to deter the reckless driving.
Member Bob Long suggested that the city look to add one
or two patrol officers to help with enforcing traffic laws. Staffing issues
have been a concern at the police department for years with Chief Garcia
requesting a new patrol officer each year. Budget constraints have
prevented staffing level increases that currently require six patrol
officers to handle patrol and traffic services 24 hours every 7 days.
Newly elected council member Adrian Gaspar was able to
address council and stated his belief, as a long time City of Houston Police
Officer, that “police presence is the best deterrence you can have.” But
with just six policemen to handle three 8-hour shifts every day there is
insufficient manpower, he claims. He feels the city should double its
police force so that at least three officers are available to patrol the
streets at any one time. That would also help with coverage for vacation
and sick days and such.
Chief Garcia raised the issue of additional vehicles
being required if new police officers are added to the force. The city is
already projecting a budget shortfall this year of approximately $60,000
leaving any solution requiring additional expenditures as problematic.
motion put forth by member Akery to fund the purchase of a traffic counter
was not voted on by council and the matter has been left with City Manager
Kyle Jung and Police Chief Garcia to investigate potential patrol staffing
increases. In the interim, Chief Garcia indicated that he would maintain as
much presence as conditions allow during the remaining few weeks that school
is in session.
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Rodeo Palms Water Supply In Question
May 30, 2012
This is part 1 of a 2 part news story.
Outgoing Manvel council member Mack Ivy requested
discussion at a recent city council meeting regarding water service issues
affecting the Rodeo Palms subdivision. The matter was brought to a more
public light after recent water tests at the new Junior High School failed
to produce sufficient water volume in order to earn an occupancy certificate
from the city. The city’s code enforcement officer, Aaron Bell, responded
to a question on whether or not the school would be issued a permit if the
necessary capacity is not available with an emphatic “no.”
Manvel city manager Kyle Jung explained that the internal
sprinkler system at the school has passed inspection but the concern is
whether or not “there is enough volume of water at the right pressure at the
fire hydrants outside the school building.” Inadequate pressure at the
hydrants would not allow an insurance carrier to cover the building.
According to the current fire code, the pressure must be 1,500 gallons per
minute (gpm) at 20 pounds per square inch (psi). The school district
conducted two flow tests earlier this year that produced flow rates of no
more than 1,000 gpm. Another test was conducted by the MUD on May 9 which
produced a flow rate of around 1,350 gpm.
The city’s consulting civil engineer, Dan Johnson, said
the recent test showed big improvement in the pressure achieved. He
explained that there is a “static pressure of almost 70 psi which is
phenomenal.” He also explained that the dynamic pressure remained high when
other sources of water were tapped into while conducting the test. Johnson
expressed optimism that the newly hired operator of the system will be able
to make the necessary modifications to meet the flow rate requirement.
Johnson explained that just a few years ago the code called for 1,000 gpm
and that the 1,300 gpm attained in the recent test is “still a phenomenal
amount of water.” He admits it is an issue, but points out that “it is not
as bad as it could be.”
AISD is scheduled to accept students beginning this
August while the current Manvel JH is shuttered until a future use can be
determined for that facility. AISD’s Director of Business Programs, Jeff
Couvillion, is confident that an occupancy permit will be timely issued
saying “MUD 29 has informed AISD and the City of Manvel of recent
adjustments that have been made to their water plant by a newly hired
service operator.” He also recalls comments from the city’s fire marshal
indicating “that if the sprinkler system and all other life safety systems
pass the necessary requirements, he would have no problem recommending a
temporary certificate of occupancy being issued for the campus. If the
final fire flow test also passes all requirements, then the permanent
Certificate of Occupancy could be issued.”
Municipal Utility District (MUD) 29 is the water provider
for Rodeo Palms. According to City Manager Kyle Jung, the city does not
regulate or oversee the activities of the MUD as it is governed by a board
of directors and is regulated by the Texas Commission on Environmental
Quality (TCEQ). Because it is within the city limits, the city does issue
permits and conducts inspections in the subdivision, including those related
to the newly constructed AISD Junior High campus.
Jung says the MUD believes they will be able to achieve
the required flow rate. The MUD’s engineer stated to city officials at a
recent meeting that plans call for the installation of additional booster
pumps to increase water pressure. The pumps are expected to be on-line by
mid-June. Jung indicated that the city has not received a request nor has
it issued any permits for a well upgrade. He did say that the city has
received and reviewed plans for an emergency interconnect water line that
could provide additional water from neighboring MUD 21. The location of the
proposed interconnect would be on CR 48 from the intersection of CR 58 to
Palm Desert Lane. According to MUD representatives the interconnect would
not be accessed except for emergency situations where the additional volume
of water would be required. MUD 29 would be obligated to pay for whatever
water is transported through the interconnect.
Dan Johnson clarified a “fallback position” should
current efforts fail to meet code standards. He said the city would require
a comprehensive water model, as is required today on all new developments,
which would explain, among other things, the sizing of pipes. Johnson feels
that the distribution could be limited due to inadequate pipe diameters not
able to provide the needed water volume. He said if the piping diameter is
found to be deficient, segment improvements would need to be made.
“Obviously that is an expense that nobody is prepared for so hopefully that
is not going to be the case; hopefully the changes that they are going to
make are going to do it.” He pointed out that presently there is no demand
from the school so the issue would need to be dealt with even if the school
were not there.
Council member Ivy is a resident of Rodeo Palms whose
inhabitants have been subject to water rationing since last summer,
initially attributed to the statewide drought conditions. A local news
station aired a story last August of threatened fines to Rodeo Palms
homeowners of up to $10,000 for violating its water restriction rules. But
rain has been plentiful of late and while most Manvel residents can water as
they wish, Rodeo Palms is still subject to rationing. Ivy believes “because
the residents of Rodeo Palms pay well over a thousand dollars (some two)
before we use even one gallon of water, it is reasonable to expect that we
would have better access to water than those in Manvel who do not pay a MUD
MUD 29’s legal representative, Alia Vinson, described
current rationing requirements as having been downgraded at their April
Board meeting. She claims current rationing after the downgrade is set at
Stage 1 which requests the “voluntary reduction of water consumption.” The
prior restriction, Stage 2, requires mandatory restrictions. Vinson
explained that “notification signs have been placed in the district and that
a notification letter is being prepared to send to all residents.”
Ivy was not aware of the rationing condition being
downgraded to “voluntary” at the time of this writing. He feels concern
beyond the obvious reason of deficient water supplies to his home. Property
values will likely suffer and there is a good possibility that additional
bonds will be issued to fund a new water well. That would leave residents
with a still higher tax rate that already is at .80 cents per $100
valuation. A rate of as much as .95 cents was floated as a possibility at
the council meeting. Meanwhile, citizens on the Manvel water supply pay
just .58 cents.
Ivy went on to relay a comment from one of the MUD Boards
officers that "we need to notify Manvel Fire Department that if they hook a
fire truck up to a fire hydrant in Rodeo Palms to put out a fire, it could
collapse the system and pull the pipes right out of the ground."
Next week, Part 2 of this story will report on comments
made by the MUD’s attorney that current water supply is sufficient to meet
present needs and modest future growth. It will also explain AISD’s “tap
fee” and an agreement with the MUD that essentially guarantees the school a
certain amount of water.
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