Wednesday, December 16, 2009

On Secrets and Public Education

Yesterday’s article in FortBendNow shows an interesting development in a local school district’s project to build a district science center, staff it, and use it to teach its K through 8 students aspects of science that cannot be taught in a typical middle or elementary school classroom.

And teach their teachers about science.

It seems that a local group of activists have asked the Fort Bend County district attorney’s office to look into the possibility that recent actions, or shall I say inactions, by the Fort Bend ISD administration are violations of the Texas Open Meetings Act.

The group has petitioned the school district to present records on specific details in regard to its feasibility study and other actions taken to promote the construction of the center, thought to be costing somewhere in the $23 to $25 million range.

Things like (from FortBendNow):

  1. All documents under review by a committee the district set up to study the proposal’s feasibility
  2. All comments made about the project publicly on an FBISD website
  3. A list of “current committed companies and the amounts they have already donated to this project
  4. All communication between members of the feasibility committee, PBK architects, FBISD Superintendent Timothy Jenney, and former Sugar Land mayor and developer David Wallace, who headed the feasibility committee
  5. Any available financial disclosure statements since 2007 for Jenney.

The group claims that they have yet to receive any of these documents despite the fact that the records-release deadline has long since expired. So DA John Healey, truly a man of action, asked the Fort Bend Sheriff’s Department to look into the matter.

So that should do it. Now we’ll see some action, right?

Can anyone say “dead man in a truck in Needville?”

Now all of this took place earlier this year, but since these events, filings, and inactions the Houston Museum of Natural Science has opened its Sugar Land branch in a restored prison barracks building 3 miles from where Fort Bend ISD wants to build its science center.

It even has its own web page.

But my main point is here. They are going to be offering a wide variety of educational opportunities for the local student and teacher community.

Daytime classes ($10 per student)

Field Trips ($2.50 per student to “varies”)

Professional Development (Free - that is, sponsored - to $1250/person)

Because this makes me ask three questions:

  1. If the district wants to build its own science center, what are the chances that it will want to send a single student to the museum to take advantage of their offerings?
  2. In the absence of building the center, and in light of the same arguments that the district cannot afford a center, how much does anyone think that the district will have funds budgeted to take care of financing these field trips?
  3. And finally, if those who oppose building the science center get their way, are these self-same people willing to kick in, say, $100 per student per year to take care of the museum fees?

Because “public education,” despite its appellation, isn’t free.


Anonymous said...

I remember reading that it is going to cost nearly a million a year to operate this thing. Is that true?

Anonymous said...

They are only going to hire 2 teachers, they say, to man this facility.

Anonymous said...

One would hope that during these tough times the public would see this project as wasteful and frivolous.

Anonymous said...

Well, whether you agree or oppose, my bet is that FBISD will proceed as planned.

Moreover, often what is looks like cooperation on the surface, ends up not being so.
As you say so aptly, Hal: “dead man in a truck in Needville?”

Anonymous said...

It's too bad we don't have any oversight of the superintendent.

Anonymous said...

I've heard many rumors that Jenney never had any intention of staying here very long and may be leaving soon. Let's hope they don't hire another big spender like him from the TASB employment agency.

Anonymous said...

My guess is that the GSTC will cost faarrr more than $100. per student. I am in favor of the HMNS because it is a well-run private museum, does not raise my taxes, and provides excellent services at a reasonable price to all individuals, families, the school district.

Anonymous said...

I am opposed to this center and I suspect Dr. Jenney is starting to spend money on it's development. I am trying to reignite discussion and have started a petition drive to ask the BOT to revote and reject this project. The petition is hosted at There is also a forum where the community can discuss alternate means of improving science education.