Column: Enrollment changes at Prairie have major impact

The doors of Prairie Elementary opened in 2001 with a design capacity of 1,150 students. At that time, we housed 934 kindergarten through fifth-grade students, along with an Early Childhood Special Education program. In our available space we filled 44 general education classrooms (original design of 48 regular classrooms). Our special education students and English Language Learners also had classroom space. There were two art rooms. There was a Teacher Planning Center and Computer Lab in all three wings. In 2010, our growing enrollment prompted us to move our fifth-graders into an addition at our current Middle School.

Currently, Prairie houses 1,216 kindergarten through fourth-grade students. That’s 282 more students here with one less grade level than when the school opened.  To accommodate 54 general education classrooms, we have converted three special education classrooms, two computer labs and two art rooms into general education classroom space. We continue to house the Early Childhood Special Education program, though their space has been decreased by half. The Teacher Planning Centers now serve as space for specialized services for EL and Special Education students. Our conference rooms that were once used for testing, small groups and meetings are now housing teacher office space for support staff. Many of our storage spaces have been condensed and converted to student or teacher work space.  The commons areas, which were initially designed for small group learning, are now additionally used for specialized programming. Because of our storage woes, our commons areas now house many various storage cupboards, text kits, free play supplies, paper rolls and other equipment that should be stored elsewhere.  

Transitions in Prairie hallways, especially over the lunch period, can be an adventure. With potentially two grade levels traveling at any given time, there can be close to 500 students moving through our hallways. Our restrooms are crowded; at high-use times of day classes can be backed up for longer periods. Our cooks and support staff move 1,216 students through the cafeteria in roughly 2 hours and 15 minutes. This doesn’t leave our students much time to eat. To start earlier in the day is not feasible, as we serve between 600-800 student breakfasts every day; once breakfast clean-up is complete, our cooks move to lunch preparation.

We love our school and are proud of the work we do here! Every day, we do our very best to provide quality educational experiences to our students under crowded conditions. If you weren’t able to attend the open house but would still like to come out and visit us, we welcome you to stop in the office and ask for a tour. We encourage you to come and see Prairie in action!

Welcome to Antonio Guterres, the next UN Secretary-General

“If one looks at the investment in education in emergency situations compared with the global expenditure in those situations,” he told the leadership gathering, “we are still talking [about] a very small percentage [for education].” He added that “this shows, really, how neglected education has been in fund raising and fund mobilization in humanitarian aid.”

Opportunities to Learn about General Education Redesign



P: 865-974-2225
F: 865-974-6435

Hot Jobs: Oct. 18, 2016

CORPUS CHRISTI (KIII NEWS) – This week’s Hot Jobs report is courtesy of Workforce Solutions of the Coastal Bend.

Location Corpus Christi, Texas
Job Number 2958621
Title Hydrovac Operator
Salary $20.00 – $22.00 Hour +Benefits
Qualifications One (1) Year prior Experience and a High School Diploma or General Education Development (GED) required. Will operate the on-board hydro-vacuum system outside the truck performing non-destructive excavation around sensitive underground piping and cables. Will perform all job related duties as assigned or directed.  Background screening will be conducted. Valid Class B – Commercial Driver’s License with Tanker Endorsement required.

Location Corpus Christi, Texas
Job Number 6502867
Title Utility Tech IV
Salary $14.78 – $24.23 Hour +Benefits
Qualifications Three (3) years prior Experience and a High School Diploma or General Education Development (GED) required. Will perform welding duties involved in construction of gas distribution facilities, including pipe fitting, welding and/or fusion of Poly pipe, installing any fitting or valves, filling and threading pipe and building meter loops.  Valid Texas Class C – Standard Driver’s License required.

Location Corpus Christi, Texas
Job Number 5180371
Title Heavy Equipment Mechanic
Salary $24.00 Hour +Benefits
Qualifications Three (3) years prior Experience and a High School Diploma or General Education Development (GED) required. Will diagnose, adjust, repair, or overhaul mobile CAT mechanical, hydraulic, and pneumatic equipment, such as backhoes, trackhoes, front end loaders used in underground utility construction. Valid Class C – Standard Driver’s License required.

Location Tilden, Texas
Job Number 3436380
Title Security Officer
Salary $15.00 Hour +Benefits
Qualifications High School Diploma or General Education Development (GED) required. Will guard, patrol, or monitor premises to prevent theft, violence, or infractions of rules.  Will write reports of daily activities and irregularities, such as equipment or property damage, theft, presence of unauthorized persons, or unusual occurrences. . Valid Class C – Standard Driver’s License required.

Location Aransas Pass, Texas
Job Number 5176400
Title Shift Store Leader
Salary $12.50 Hour +Benefits
Qualifications Six (6) months prior Experience and a High School Diploma or General Education Development (GED) required. Responsible for holding store keys to open and close without management as necessary. Assists with and coaches other team members to work with warehouse and vendor ordering process.  Will perform all job related duties as assigned or directed.   Background check will be conducted.

To learn more about these jobs, call Workforce Solutions of the Coastal Bend at 888-860-JOBS.

Hot Jobs is a segment that is found every Tuesday, on 3News at 5 p.m.

4 ways ESSA will change how schools serve ELL students

The Elementary and Secondary Education Act, first passed in 1965, is at its heart a piece of civil rights legislation. Its whole purpose is to provide federal funds to states and districts to overcome disadvantages faced by students who have traditionally fallen through the cracks or been intentionally ignored.

In the latest rewrite of the law, which turned No Child Left Behind into Every Student Succeeds, there are some key provisions that shift the way schools will have to identify, serve, test and report information about students who do not speak English.

In four categories in particular, schools will have to make significant changes.

Classifying English learners

The Every Student Succeeds Act requires states to create a uniform process for identifying English learners, assigning them services, and, later, moving them out of EL classes and into general education. Under No Child Left Behind, districts made their own processes, which resulted in a wide variety of criteria for entering and exiting English learner services across districts. The new law creates a level of consistency  at least at the state level, if not nationally.

This is one of the many areas in which state education departments will have to create new systems. School and district officials should be participating in comment periods and listening tours to impact their final state regulations.

Standardized testing

A major victory of No Child Left Behind for the civil rights community was its requirement for every student to be tested every year from third grade through eighth grade and once more in high school. Because NCLB said 95% of students must take the test for the results to be valid, schools could not ignore disadvantaged student populations to focus on easier-to-teach or higher-achieving students.

When it comes to English learners, the testing provisions are controversial. Civil rights groups do not want these students to be ignored, but they also do not want them or their schools to be punished when these students do poorly on a test in English if they don’t speak the language.

Delia Pompa, senior fellow for education policy at the Migration Policy Institute, says ESSA frees districts from counting the pass rates of newly arrived immigrant students who don’t speak English in their accountability frameworks. Instead, districts can use growth as a measure of academic progress for accountability purposes for students’ first two years in the country. By year three, however, immigrant students must be assessed the same way as their peers.

No Child Left Behind-era regulations allowed schools to exempt some students, but ESSA codified that ability into law. And offering the option of measuring growth gives schools an incentive to assess students their first year and at least collect data that provides a basis for measuring future progress.

English proficiency

A major change in ESSA comes with its expectations for English proficiency among the English learner population. While this piece didn’t get much attention during negotiations for ESSA, it could require significantly better services for students who do not speak English.

Under No Child Left Behind, schools were held accountable for helping their students improve English proficiency under Title III, which provides money to better support English learner students specifically. Under ESSA, schools must build English proficiency rates into their accountability framework for Title I, which provides money to support low-income students more broadly.

“Title I means English proficiency will get a higher profile and it’s also tied to a bigger pot of funding,” said Brenda Calderón, an education policy analyst for the National Council of La Raza. “We hope this drives an incentive to make sure English learners are making progress.”

Current English learners will be grouped together with former ELs who are as many as four years out of their programs under new ESSA reporting requirements. But while this concerns advocates for its potential to mask the actual performance of current English learners, the English proficiency requirements will clearly show how this smaller population is doing.


ESSA brings with it a raft of reporting changes for schools, districts and states, some of them extreme. One area that could impact services for English learners comes with a reinforced emphasis on subgroup accountability. The idea of subgroup accountability means schools and districts are responsible for helping every student succeed, whether they are white, black, brown, rich, poor or disabled.

Under ESSA, a school cannot get a high rating if one of its subgroups is failing across the board. In fact, if English learners are consistently not doing well in a school, that school will be flagged for targeted improvement and administrators will have to outline a plan for improving outcomes, even if the rest of the school is high-performing.

“That’s a huge civil rights priority that made it into the law,” Calderón said. Still, each state will set its own bar for what consistently underperforming means for a given subgroup.

Pompa, from the Migration Policy Institute, points to two other wins.

First, the English learner subgroup will be further disaggregated so the outcomes of English learner students with disabilities are separated from the English learner population as a whole.

And second, schools will be required to report the number of long-term English learners who continue to receive services for more than five years. Pompa says this could help educators understand the effectiveness of different instructional models for English learners, and other advocates have called it a “name and shame” provision that will incentivize schools to serve these students rather than letting them languish in programs that limit their access to high-level academic content.

Katy ISD gives info on special education student whose mom says …

  • Food, multiple stages of Indian classical and Bollywood entertainment drew crowds to the Diwali Mela in Sugar Land on Saturday. The celebration, a festival of lights, also featured fire dancers, a fashion show, fireworks, rides and spicy Indian street food. This year's festival took place at Constellation Stadium in Sugar Land, which is home to the independent minor league baseball team the Sugar Land Skeeters.The celebration is the largest Diwali in Houston and is one of the major festivals of Hinduism, it spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair.Masala Radio's Sunil and Sandhya Thakkar and the Masala Crew hosted the thousands of attendees at the Houston Diwali Mela, joining fellow Hindus throughout the world celebrating. Photo: Craig Moseley, Staff / 2016 Houston Chronicle



Food, multiple stages of Indian classical and Bollywood entertainment drew crowds to the Diwali Mela in Sugar Land on Saturday. The celebration, a festival of lights, also featured fire dancers, a fashion show, fireworks, rides and spicy Indian street food. This year’s festival took place at Constellation Stadium in Sugar Land, which is home to the independent minor league baseball team the Sugar Land Skeeters. The celebration is the largest Diwali in Houston and is one of the major festivals of Hinduism, it spiritually signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair. Masala Radio’s Sunil and Sandhya Thakkar and the Masala Crew hosted the thousands of attendees at the Houston Diwali Mela, joining fellow Hindus throughout the world celebrating. less

Photo: Craig Moseley, Staff

After a recent Houston Chronicle report detailed a former Katy ISD student’s apparent lack of special education services received while at the school district, Katy ISD gave few details when it released information regarding the student.

In the report, Connie Dever, the mother of a now 17-year-old boy who she asked to not be identified, said her son did not receive the proper special education services while he attended the district from kindergarten through sixth grade.

Dever’s story was revealed weeks after a Chronicle investigation found that unelected state officials in 2004 arbitrarily set a statewide benchmark of 8.5 percent for the number of students per school district that should receive special education services.

The investigation said that the Texas Education Agency, the governing body for the state’s public school districts, saved billions of dollars by implementing the benchmark. In doing so, thousands of students since have been denied special education services for diagnoses such as autism, epilepsy and mental illness.

School districts not meeting the benchmark could face consequences such as fines or the implementation of “Corrective Action Plans.”

Dever’s son was diagnosed as a toddler with oppositional defiant disorder, attention-deficit disorder and as bipolar.

Dever said he entered the Preschool Program for Children with Disabilities, a special education program, at Katy ISD for his preschool year more than a decade ago. In kindergarten, however, he was placed in a general education class and only given services under “Section 504” from then until he refused to return to public schools in his sixth grade year, according to Dever.

Section 504 refers to a segment in the Rehabilitation act of 1973. School districts use the designation statewide to give certain students accommodations such as extra time on tests, but it does not provide typical special education services such as one-on-one time with teachers or counseling. The investigation revealed that many school districts could have used Section 504 to lower the number of students receiving special education.

The Katy ISD public information office said after last week’s report published that Dever’s son was in “early childhood special education PPCD” at some point in 2004. After that, the district said he entered mainstream classes with “resource class support” and remained with that same service for years.

Before officially withdrawing from Katy ISD in 2012, the district said Dever’s son was in a “self-contained setting” for a year. Katy ISD gave no further details on the types of services he received because it needed consent from Dever to do so, according to the district’s public information office.

The average percentage of students in Texas who received special education services before 2004 remained around the national average of 13.5 percent. By 2015, it had dropped to 8.5 percent.

In Katy ISD, the eighth-largest district in the state, the rate of special education students served has dropped by more than 10 percent of what it was in 2004, according to the Performance-Based Monitoring Analysis System at the TEA. Katy ISD would serve about 900 more students in its special education programs today if its rate of service was still at its 2004 mark.

In the report last week, Brian Malechuck, executive director of Katy ISD’s special education programs, said in a statement that the district serves every student who meets eligibility for special education services and provides “intense interventions” for students before testing them for special education.

Dever said she did not know she could ask for services beyond Section 504. She continues to believe her son represents one of many students who have been underserved as a result of the state benchmark.

“Those officials in the state need to be fired,” Dever said in last week’s report. “It’s not fair. These kids could be successful if the resources were available. They need our help.”

To read last week’s report, visit

PRINCETON: Special Education PTO hosts candidate forum Oct. 27 …

A school board candidate’s forum hosted by the Princeton Special Education PTO will be held from 7 to 8:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 27, at the ACC room, John Witherspoon Middle School, 217 Walnut Lane.

The forum will focus on special education in the Princeton Public Schools.

The Special Education PTO is a districtwide organization serving all classified students from preschool through high school. Its goals are to build community, enhance communication and bolster collaboration among families of children with special educational needs, other district parent organizations, teachers, the Princeton school board, Princeton school leadership, and the Princeton Special Services team.

The organization focuses on the needs of parents, students and community members who have an interest in advocating for and supporting differently abled, creative student learners who attend a Princeton Public School. All families of students receiving special education services are automatically members of the Special Education PTO, as well as the General Education PTO of their student’s school.

For more information send email to or visit #.

Family Fights Tomball ISD To Include Special-Needs Daughter In …

Cable TV star Megan Bomgaars will testify on behalf of Miranda Pichardo, 6, so that she can attend more general education classes in Tomball ISD.Laura Isensee | Houston Public Media

Cable TV star Megan Bomgaars, 23, will testify on behalf of Miranda Pichardo, 6, so that she can attend more general education classes in Tomball ISD. That’s how Bomgaars learned in Colorado.

When children have disabilities, federal law recommends that they attend mainstream education classes with other non-disabled students as much as possible.

But in The Woodlands, one family is fighting for their daughter to be included more in the first grade – and not segregated in special ed.

“We feel that by not being there, she’s missing opportunities to learn what they’re learning and also learn from her peers,” said Jaime Pichardo.

At home, her mom Karina Pichardo said that their daughter Miranda acts like a lot of 6-year-old girls. For example, she loves the Disney movie “Frozen.”

“She’s in love in Elsa and she likes to dress up like Elsa. Pretty much Disney movies, she’s a fan of that,” she said.

She loves to sing like Elsa, too.

“Miranda also has Down Syndrome, but that doesn’t stop her,” said Karina Pichardo.

What Pichardo fears is holding Miranda back is how the Tomball Independent School District treats her. Miranda spends more than half her time separated from the general first grade class. Instead, Miranda is isolated with other children with disabilities. She has to work on life skills, instead of socializing and learning to read with non-disabled students.

The Pichardo family will argue their case against Tomball ISD at a hearing this week. They want Miranda to attend more general education classes, in line with federal guidelines.

The Pichardo’s attorney, Dustin Rynders with Disability Rights Texas, said that case centers on the idea of inclusion, which is decades old.

“It’s everything from including them in class to including them in a regular lunch room and in extra-curricular activities. And the idea is to prepare them for a life where they’re included in our communities,”  Rynders said.

They will have a special expert witness: “I’m Megan Bomgaars and I’m here to testify for Miranda.”

Bomgaars, 23, is part of the cast in the cable documentary series, “Born this Way.” In high school, she competed with the cheer-leading squad. Now, she’s attending college in Colorado. She’s accomplished all this with Down Syndrome. Her message to Tomball ISD: Don’t limit people.

“I don’t know why they did this. I can tell this girl loves to read and writing. I can tell she can do something for herself and she’s going to do it,” Bomgaars said.

Tomball ISD declined to comment on the case. In an email, the district’s spokeswoman Staci Stanfield said that they’re committed to educating all students fairly, according to state and federal law.

What it takes to include all children in PSD classrooms

SONIC gives Bossier Parish teachers nearly $6K for classroom projects

Eleven Bossier Parish teachers have more money for classroom projects thanks to a unique giving campaign by a fast food chain and its customers.

Limeades for Learning Is a charitable giving campaign by Sonic Drive-In. September began the eighth year for the program.

Teachers submitted grants for classroom projects, ranging from circuit programming to wobble chairs, for consideration in September.  While some teachers have been notified they will receive grants, others are still waiting to see if they will be funded.

In the unique campaign, SONIC Drive-In customers vote online for their favorite teacher or project by using a code found on orders from the restaurant. Teachers who have submitted project proposals and have the most votes at the end of each week are winners. The remaining projects get a chance for funding the next week.

Elm Grove Middle School STEM teacher, Spencer Kiper, has received funding for 31 classroom projects related to Science Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) since October 2013. His most recent project involves turning his classroom closet into a simulations lab so flight simulators and devices can be stored. He plans to add gaming chairs and a game system too, so students can use the equipment when the class studies aerospace.

“I have had 7 projects funded this calendar year,” he said. “The great thing about DonorsChoose is that we never have to handle money. We just receive the equipment.” DonorsChoose is an online crowdfunding resource.

Kiper said students’ parents are very supportive.

“I’m very proud of it,” he said. “During the summer time I work at NASA and spend a lot of time working with teachers in the United States, and internationally. A lot of the projects I find out about I gleaned from other teachers in different places. When I collaborate with teachers from Finland, Kenya, South Africa or England, I come back and want to bring those experiences to kids here.”

The Limeades for Learning campaign allows the public to allocate $1 million to public school teachers’ classrooms nationwide. It was created to provide teachers with essential materials and supplies to inspire students through creativity and innovation.

“2016 is a milestone year for Limeades for Learning,” Sonic CEO Cliff Hudson said in a news release. “This May we announced our $15 million commitment over the next five years to making a difference in public school classrooms across the country.”

Since the campaign’s implementation in 2009, Sonic has donated more than $6 million to public school teachers, helping 11,500 teachers and 349,920 students, according to Founder and CEO Charles Best.

“Our team’s mission is to make sure students in every community are receiving the materials and experiences they need to learn and thrive inside the classroom,” Best said in a news release. “It’s our passion to make a change in the future of education and this program makes it easy for anyone in every community to vote and join the movement of enhancing a student’s learning experience one classroom at a time.”

Kiper said more teachers are starting to look into classroom funding.

“It’s gained a lot of traction over the past five years as far as crowd funding for your classroom,” Kiper said. “The classroom version of it has really appealed to the general education community and has been a fantastic outlet to receive donations not only from the general public, but also from corporations who are looking to give a charitable donation as well.”

“Around 15 to 20 percent of the teachers at my school have used it and been able to receive projects funded through that. It’s money that isn’t coming out of the school or district fund or the taxpayer pockets,” Kiper said.

Voting concludes Oct. 23.