Technology: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

The Good:  Our district took a critically necessary step this summer when we began securing Dell Tablets and iPads for all of our students.  While we have long wished to provide that 1:1 student/computer ratio, the pandemic moved that desire from a wish to a fiscal requirement.  As you know, last school year ended with 3 months of remote learning when Texas shuttered all public school campuses.  Without the necessary technical support for remote learning during that time, virtually all of the children in Texas were adversely affected – and lost critical learning time.   And then this 20/21 school year began with a required mixture of on-campus and remote learners requiring us to improve such services almost overnight – as we began receiving the new devices from our vendors.

There are of course many advantages to these new capabilities.  Foremost is the opportunities for students to be better prepared for the technological world that awaits them before and after graduation.  Virtually all spheres of society, including higher education learning, are now largely dependent on the various on-line learning tools and capabilities.  Thus, it is important for our students to be familiar with accessing and using these learning modalities.  And in some areas, technology brings new and innovative ways to learn that were not available even a few years ago. 

The Bad:  I also want to point to the problems inherent in the pervasive technology around us and particularly to everything available on the Internet.  The downside to universal access to information is that students can be exposed to all kinds of objectionable and downright evil content.  Unfortunately, there is no “magic” solution. For example, teachers have both developed and accessed extremely valuable content on Youtube.  But Youtube has both excellent and highly objectionable content side by side.   Unfortunately the filtering software available cannot adequately screen content.  As a result, there is a constant need for both our educators and our parents to independently monitor the content their children are exposed to.  This is no easy task.  Our society has tools ranging from cell phones to desktops and TVs that deliver content 24 hours a day, making educator and parental vigilance extremely challenging.  One visit to any restaurant illustrates the pervasiveness of technology around us.  Just try counting the number of people on their cell phones in that restaurant – and the number of TVs blasting content on large screens strategically placed throughout. 

We can work this problem and find partial solutions.  We collectively benefit when parents or educators identify inappropriate content to one another or to the schools.  In some cases, we can prevent access.  In other cases, we can find workarounds for those parents who want alternatives.  But in some cases, we cannot “throw the baby out with the bath water” by entirely eliminating an on-line service at the expense of losing access to appropriate content.  

The Ugly:  The complexity of these issues are exacerbated by the current polarization in our society.  What some parents or educators find objectionable, others see as necessary, beneficial, and even mandatory.   This includes content on topics in politics, sexuality, social issues, violence, history, and many others.  

Attempting to restrict content available to students – to only that which is universally acknowledged as “good” is no longer possible. The very definition of what is “good” is now highly contested.  For example, the Bible and its teachings are considered the loftiest heights of morality to some, by others as content that should be prohibited, and by still others as material for which access should be granted under restrictions they would impose.  No easy answers in the public square. 

Compounding this, I find that people who loudly proclaim “tolerance” as the ultimate virtue are often the first to urge the prohibition of content with which they disagree. My plea to parents and educators alike is to realize differences abound among us and that teachers are often in the crosshairs when finding appropriate content for their students.   So when one objects to what a teacher or internet site allows, I ask them to address the issue without animosity or self-righteousness.  Otherwise people are shouting so loud no one can really hear…

May God bless Pearland ISD in the midst of these challenging times.


Just how good are our student achievement results in Pearland ISD – and how well do they predict the success of the very diverse population we serve?

It is legitimate to state that student/community economic circumstances and demographics are often primary predictors of student success in public and private schools.  Some studies state that “out-of-school factors account for 70% or more of variation in tested achievement.” *

We are proud to be a highly diverse community and student body in Pearland.  At present, our student body consists of 35% Hispanic students, 35% white, 15% African American, 11% Asian, and 4% Other.   Approximately 30% of our student body is “economically disadvantaged” as defined by federal statute.

It is important for Pearland ISD to ask how we measure up – in terms of an “apples to apples” look at the academic performance of each sub-population within our schools – as compared to those same sub-populations statewide.  TEA tracks our district’s performance data for the following relevant sub-populations:   Economically disadvantaged, Hispanic, White, African American, Asian, Special Education, and English Language learners.

The latest available data for comparison purposes are from the results of the 2017/18 school year – as recorded on the Texas Education Agency website.  There are literally hundreds of data points that measure results.  But the most comprehensive summary measure is the percentage of students who are approaching grade level or above on all subjects and all grades tested on the required STAAR exams.

Amazingly, Pearland ISD outscores ALL of the equivalent statewide sub-populations on these tests.  Our African American students score a whopping 17% higher than Texas-wide African American students.  Hispanic students score 10% higher; economically disadvantaged students score 8% higher, White students are 5% higher; Asian students are 3% higher.and our English Language students score 11%  higher.  Also our English Language learners score 11% higher and our Special education students score 8% higher.

There are other valid comparisons:  Our graduation rate (99%), drop-out rate (less than .1%), college ready graduates (60%), Advanced Placement scores, etc. are WAY higher, per sub-population than statewide results.

One important measure for college admissions is the SAT test.  How do our sub-populations measure up?  Under the “all students” category, we are an astronomical 100 points higher than the state average (1119 vs. 1019).  With regard to each sub-population mentioned above, we also soar above statewide results once again.  For example, our African Americans score 84 points above their African American peers statewide.   Our Hispanic students score a whopping 120 points higher than their peers.  And our economically disadvantaged students score 91 points higher than their statewide peers.

Our educators continue to set new records.  They are not complacent.  These results above are certainly encouraging.

One important way to measure the success of diversity efforts in any school district just might be the actual educational results.  This bodes bright promise for Pearland ISD students.




Over the past six months, the legislature promised school funding “reform” consisting of property tax relief and more state dollars for school districts.

The outcome for individual districts across the state varied greatly. How did Pearland ISD fare?

On a positive note, the state’s action reduces our tax rate for the 19/20 school year by 5.5 cents. That amount essentially wipes out the rate increase we would have otherwise employed to pay for the voter approved 2016 bond election. Thus the state’s shifting some of the burden for school funding from property taxes to state revenues is both overdue and much appreciated. (For Texas as a whole, the state’s burden for funding public schools increased from 38% to approximately 45%.)

On a negative note, Pearland ISD is ranked near the very bottom for additional school funding for the next two years. Districts that received better funding are those with higher number of students in poverty and somewhat contradictorily, others with the wealthiest tax bases. Thus the “Robin Hood” districts including Houston, Austin, Dallas, and wealthier smaller districts get to keep more of their own tax dollars – creating a giant windfall for them.

A campaign flyer from Lt. Governor Patrick promised his intention to raise statewide teacher salaries by $10,000.00. Subsequent to the elections, the Senate then touted a reduced $5,000 raise. The House was more realistic, essentially promising some salary/benefits funding – combined with local discretion as to how additional dollars are spent.

The ultimate legislative outcome (in June 2019) varies widely among school districts.  Urban “Robin Hood” districts and at least a few fortunate others are flush with cash and initiating pay raises up to 8% or higher.  Other districts less fortunate are planning 2% raises.

Here in Pearland ISD, the Board just passed a 3.25% raise for teachers/counselors/nurses/librarians with 6 or more years of experience, a 3% raise for others in those same roles, and a 2.5% raise for all other employees. Unfortunately, those raises use up ALL additional funding for the 19/20 school year. So the district must delve into its saving account to help mitigate rising costs for non-salary items in the coming year.

Realizing the legislature also passed a host of new state mandates on school safety, security, and student mental health, the district must continue to make every dollar count in both 19/20 and 20/21.  The Board’s plan is to remain as competitive as possible with regard to educator salaries – and to remain extremely vigilant about all other necessary expenditures.

We have long maintained a Maintenance and Operations (M&O) portion of the tax rate at a level lower than most districts in the area. On the other hand our Interest and Sinking (I&S) rate is higher than average because of rapid student growth over the past decade requiring renovation/expansion of our 23 campuses – through bond funds.

Ironically, the 2019 legislature’s intention was/is to lower M&O property taxes; yet Pearland ISD may have to ask voters to approve an M&O  tax increase in Fall 2020 – to make up for the inadequate state funding formulas applied to our district.

We continue to earn a 5 Star rating from TxSmartSchools for our combination of high student performance and high financial efficiency. In fact, we are one of less than a dozen school districts (out of more than 1,000) that continue to earn that distinction each year. But frankly, I’d exchange at least one of those stars for some extra dollars in the coming two years.

School funding is also tied to student enrollment.  Our enrollment has been essentially flat, for various reasons, since Hurricane Harvey. Yet within that same enrollment total, we now have a significantly higher percentage of economically disadvantaged students, special education students, bilingual/ESL students, and others who require additional attention/funding. And the  prevalence of increased mental health issues among our nation’s youth must take greater priority. Such services can’t happen without increased resources.

It is only the extraordinary efforts of our teachers and staff, supplemented by many conscientious parents,  that have placed the academic results for Pearland ISD in the top tier of Texas (as noted by the Commissioner in August 2018). Maintaining those results in the wake of ever increasing demands for student services – and without the accompanying state dollars – remains a looming challenge for our community.





We have African Americans making Pearland ISD history EVERY month. Their works are indelibly printed on the minds and hearts of thousands.

MLK had a dream in which future generations will be judged “by the content of their character” rather than “the color of their skin.” So the reader can judge, I’ll share some information on just two of our school district’s distinguished African American leaders:

Dana Miles grew up in California and Mississippi. She was the valedictorian of her high school. Before her distinguished tenure as an educator, she spent 13 years in the U.S. Army and is a veteran of Desert Storm where she was a flight coordinator for a medical evacuation unit. Her loving husband is also a U.S. Army Veteran. She began her teaching career in Louisiana before coming to Pearland ISD in 2005 as a middle school teacher. She advanced to Assistant Principal, then Principal at Rogers Middle School. As but one measure of historical success, she was selected as Pearland ISD Principal of the Year in 2013.  Now she is the outstanding Principal of Junior High West.    In 2018, she became Doctor Dana Miles. And in the midst of all these things she is raising three children attending Pearland ISD. Her school’s latest accolades include a phenomenal string of state distinctions for campus performance in reading, math, science, academic growth, and the academic (test) performance of different sub-populations within her school.

Yet a mini-biography fails to capture her spirit. She is full of a love for ALL God’s children. She preaches and exemplifies grit and a growth mindset. She has the energy and passion of five people. When her students win acclamation she is leading the parade. (We just witnessed this again at a Board meeting last week!) And neither her personal nor her school’s history are yet fully written…

Another star among us grew up in New Orleans. Tanya Dawson graduated from Emory University in Atlanta with a BA in Psychology. She went on to get her J.D. degree. Both she and her husband are attorneys.   She is the proud Mom of five boys – with two of them near graduation from college and another born just a short time ago. In the midst of her personal “history” she taught a year of 7th grade Math before serving as an Attorney for the United Educators Association and then for Fort Worth ISD. Fortunately, we hired her in 2012 as our in-house attorney. She proactively guides and represents us in everything from business contracts to personnel matters.   Her work has been amazing and uniformly appreciated. And each year she has saved the district tens of thousands of dollars.

As with Dr. Miles, a mini-biography fails to capture Tanya Dawson’s spirit. Granted that when I’m in a meeting with her, she is definitely the smartest person in the room.  But it is her faith and the obligations she places on herself that set her apart. She has the rare ability to understand, appreciate, and defend the views of all sides in many disputes. (Just don’t say anything against the New Orleans Saints or Drew Brees!)

The Pearland ISD family is so proud of these two distinguished leaders, the others they typify, and the staff and students they serve. Personal biography and collective history is in the making here – and in EVERY month of the year!


Recent school shootings in America gravely alter the balance between campus security and desired accessibility for the students and parents served. While Pearland school boards, administrators, and architects worked together for decades to create campuses that are spacious, inviting, and open to the public, the acts of deranged individuals throughout our country, like a python, is slowly constricting  freedom within and around our nation’s schools.

Even the finest moments occurring on our campuses, both during the school day and into the nights – now mix invitation and anxiety – as our people both serve and protect. Campuses remain vulnerable to predators. Among the many heroes of Hurricane Harvey, Pearland High School served as a shelter for the displaced, a headquarters for the police, a meeting ground for community volunteers, and a food distribution center for miles around. Yet even in the midst of such Herculean efforts, risk remained.

Increasingly, 21st century architectural plans for campuses (and the people who manage them) borrow more heavily the designs of prisons: Fences/walls erected to keep the outside world away; armed guards; cameras; monitors. Student movements are restricted, the role of “snitch” is necessary, and the Assistant Principal may sometimes walk the beat like a warden. The balance has shifted.

While anxious Moms and Dads want some sense of certainty that it “can’t happen here”, we can realistically respond that there are concrete ways to lower vulnerabilities throughout Pearland ISD:

  • Perhaps most importantly, we are trying to find ways to efficiently use limited dollars available to school districts for detecting and serving the growing mental health needs of students. Counselors across America (and Pearland ISD is no exception) are overwhelmed.  In the 21st century, the role of educator has expanded to part-time parent, mentor, day care provider, social services broker, and weekday/weekend food distributor.
  • Students are regularly encouraged and helped (anonymously or otherwise) to report potential threats or bullying  – realizing that in most school shootings, there were those who saw warning signs – but failed to understand their significance.
  • In November 2016, voters approved over $200 million for renovating and expanding our current facilities. Many features include enhanced security and safety designs, providing pre-determined and monitored pathways for visitors.
  • In addition, $12 million dollars are specifically designated for safety, security, and entrance upgrades now being planned and installed. These include  security vestibule entrances for every campus, electronic monitoring of all exterior doors, hundreds of additional cameras, perimeter fences, etc.
  • We continue to train our people on various safety/security issues. For example, with the help of law enforcement, we rehearse campus “active shooter drills” designed to thwart an unwelcome campus intrusion.
  • Our visitors and volunteers (along with our entire faculty/staff) undergo criminal records checks – and are issued photograph IDs.
  • We deploy 11 Pearland Police officers full time on our campuses. We also use the much more limited capabilities of unarmed security guards, whose job is to serve as eyes and ears, under the guidance of each Principal. They can provide earlier warnings – and identify vulnerabilities not seen by engaged educators inside their classrooms.
  • There are of course confidential security measures in place, with only police, myself and “need to know” personnel aware.
  • At all times including as I write this, the city and school officials work very well together to meet the myriad of design, safety, security, appearance, and accessibility requirements of every campus we renovate or expand. For example, it may seem trivial, but working with fire/police, we’ve almost eliminated technology related “false” alarms over the past several months. This means a quicker, more intelligent response to any real emergency.

Space (and confidentiality needs) prohibits a more lengthy list of our emergency operations, our K-12 counseling approach, and other relevant considerations. But we appreciate the many members of our community (including those in government, law enforcement, social agencies, volunteers, mentors, and voters) who do more than issue political pronouncements.

May God, in His mercy, spare our community from the campus tragedies others have experienced. And may He inspire us to know and do our part.


Two tragic events involving Pearland ISD students occurred within the past two weeks, both of which have been widely covered on social and traditional media. In addition, a TV station reported incredibly inaccurately on still another unrelated matter at an elementary campus. While the school district was able to give out limited information, there was much that could not be said in all three events – for reasons I will explain.

All the events sparked an avalanche of social media among students, parents, and in some cases, comments from far flung places across the nation, eager to join in.

Some social media comments are accurate and supportive. But there are many other comments/critiques that run the gamut from criticism to gossip to blatantly false portrayals of what has happened in each case.

Obviously this causes confusion – and people naturally want the school district to comment on what is true and what is not. It’s not that simple. For example, a question many might think can be answered accurately is: “Was this an attempted suicide by a student?”

Sometimes the police make that determination; other times it remains uncertain; and in most cases, the family of the student involved requests privacy. Thus, the school district’s primary obligation is to respect their privacy in accordance with law by avoiding the release of confidential or unconfirmed information.

Unfortunately, most TV and print journalists have a different standard. We can predict with 100% certainty that the minute any tragedy occurs, they will arrive on our campuses, try to get permission to interview individual students and staff – and when told to respect our boundaries, will go looking for any passer-by to comment. The media will generally dress up their report as expressing the grief of students or the concern for those affected. But most folks realize that it is primarily done to attract eyeballs to their media content. Concern for others is NOT paramount.

So while the media defends its “journalism” as the “people’s right to know,” the school district must obey the law, good conscience, and the privacy of those affected.

Unfortunately from that one sided beginning, the initial TV/print stories then mushroom on social media – with the school district still unable to correct or comment. Some of the comments made on social media are absolutely outrageous and inaccurate. For example,  a parent in our district recently repeated and reinforced teenage social media speculation containing horrific and untrue depictions of one of these events. The parent ended by saying that “heads should roll,” presumably meaning campus personnel. While others were alerted to the post and it was removed by those governing it, the damage had already circulated among many.

Unrelated to the incidents mentioned above, I’m being briefed today on a media story repeating a required health department warning sent out to the parents at one of our schools regarding an unconfirmed measles case. As usual, only AFTER the media sensationalized it, we’re told that there is NOT a confirmed measles case at that school!  But as usual, we have social media critics telling the Principal what she should have done, asking about the name of the student, etc.

There is one saving grace I should mention. When school personnel are educated on social media perils, they are told that “Parents are often our best defense.”  We have noticed that when outrageous, inaccurate or premature things are said, there is usually a response from parents that is more accurate, reasonable and supportive. Thank God!

Tragedy brings out both the best and worst in human nature. I’d like to finish this posting by dwelling on the best. A teacher praised the Principal of one of our schools, who recently dealt with one of the tragedies:

“I know you are aware how blessed we are to have [her]as our principal, but I felt compelled to just reach out to each of you to let you know just how appreciative our entire campus is for her leadership.  This past week was incredibly difficult on top of an already emotionally tough year. Her strength and wisdom truly lead us through. When we needed a plan, she developed one. When we needed each other, she brought us together. When we needed to be honest with our students, she found the words.  Most importantly when we needed hope, she led us back to our faith. I know this all took a toll on her as well but she made sure her staff and our students were cared for first. I know she doesn’t like public praise, but [she] epitomizes the strength and compassion that every leader should encompass and we feel she deserves a moment of praise. My deepest appreciation for all of the support that was sent to our campus from all over the district. We are Pearland ISD Strong and a strong [campus] Family!”

Though the district has limitations on information that can be shared, our teachers, administrators, staff, and the vast majority of parents perform heroically in the midst of tragedies. They deserve our praise.



My last blog entry chronicled some of the many people who did extraordinary work here in Pearland during and after the most devastating flood in U.S. history.  Now, I’ll share the personal perspective of just one family.  The father is a Technology Technician in our school district.  The Mom is an elementary teacher in our district.  She just wrote me the following email:

Dr. Kelly,

 I just want to take a short minute of your time and let you know what the Dawson students and staff did for my family’s neighborhood.

 Last Friday a group of students and staff from Dawson came to our house to help. My husband, Tim, works at Dawson in technology. He had received a call Thursday saying that they were coming. Tim told them that we already had a crew from our church coming, but he was told the Dawson crew was coming anyway. 🙂  One of the coaches arrived around 8:00 am and did not leave until my husband left around 7:00 pm. I think there were around 6 or 7 others from Dawson who came to help, including students. Tim said one student came in, walked over to him, said, “Thank you for being a teacher,” picked up a trash bag and started working. There are no words to describe what either of us were feeling at that moment. Absolutely no words. As I am typing this, I am still getting teary eyed thinking about it.

 Later that morning, as we were walking in and out of the house carrying things, I saw a school bus pull up and out came a bus load of students. I didn’t know who they were, but Tim knew as he looked at them that they were Dawson students. The students walked toward our house and asked if they could help. At that point in time there was no more room for any more help in our house, so I asked if they wouldn’t mind helping others down our street. They all shook their heads and started walking, stopping as they came to a house. Small group by small group these students disappeared into houses and were seen carrying trash bags out, carrying possessions and furniture out. They were seen honestly working up a sweat. And not a single one of them looked like they minded a little sweat. 🙂

 I wish I had been able to take pictures of the faces of the house owner’s. It is hard to explain their expressions. A few words that I can think of are amazed, grateful, overwhelmed and astonished. To see their smiles made my heart sing.

 Later that afternoon as I was driving to run an errand, I passed a church parking lot and saw not only the school bus that dropped the students off on my street, but THREE school buses parked in that parking lot. THREE buses! I was late told that there were about 150 students and staff that came out to help.

 I wish I could tell you in words what I feel when I think about those kids and adults from Dawson. To know that, yes, a few of them knew Tim, but the majority of the kids were there because they knew that their community needed help is indescribable. To know that these students took time away from their families to help total strangers because they were in need, there are no words.

 As an employee of this district, it makes me so very proud to be a part of this school community. To see, in action, what these students are being brought up to be and to do. Not only to be academically successful, but to be a successful citizen and member of their own community. To be a caring and compassionate adult and human being. To see that if there is a need that they can act on it. As a member of this community, on the receiving end of this help, it makes me cry with gratitude. It makes me want to take pictures and videos and post them on all the social media that I can to show that THIS is what the world should be.  To show that THESE students are making a difference in the world. To let everyone know that there is hope and faith in the younger generations and that what we need to do is to support them and tell them how much we appreciate them and how proud of them we are!

 Thank you letting me share with you this amazing experience we had with the students from Dawson High School. Thank you for letting me take a minute to give them a huge shout out and let you know just how awesome the staff and students from Dawson are!!

 DruEllen Duncan, Fourth Grade Teacher, Massey Ranch Elementary School

From Dr. Kelly:  In the midst and in the aftermath of the storm, stories like this abound in Pearland.  For example, the same outreach efforts were made by the PHS students, led by teachers and coaches, who helped man the shelter at that school in addition to work in the community.  We are blessed to live here in Pearland!


In the wake of flood devastation described as the worst in U.S. history, I join many others in expressing gratitude for the sacrificial work of so many right here in Pearland.  Specifically:

  • Our teachers, administrators and staff:  We re-opened our schools to our children on Tuesday (which was earlier than all surrounding districts). Believe it or not, we had a higher attendance rate for our employees than on the same post-Labor Day in 2016! As I visited with teachers and staff, their “can do”, sacrificial approach shines. If early tabulations are correct, about 10% of our staff were at least temporarily displaced during the storm. About 4% remain displaced now. 14% are themselves hosting displaced folks from Pearland and elsewhere. Yet, as I asked them about these things, the almost universal response was to focus instead on the needs of the children and their co-workers. Over the past two weeks, I’ve heard story after story of those who were flooded – and then went out to help their neighbors!
  • Our maintenance, custodial, bus drivers, and food service personnel: In the midst of the storm, those critical personnel were inside our schools cleaning, removing any water, transporting evacuees, and feeding city critical personnel workers and needy flood victims. Some of our people came from flooded homes and streets and yet were feeding/cleaning the massive areas of the PHS shelter on a daily basis.
  • Our local churches and civic organizations:  Everywhere one went, there were folks helping our families dig out, find food, etc.  Pearland’s faith in God and love for neighbor was made manifest.  For example, Crosspoint Church operated a shelter until the very hour when flood waters prevented access.  And now they will welcome Samaritan’s Purse to headquarter local work here.  Another example:  Crossroads Church set up a massive food and materials distribution voluntarily manned by a small army of their congregation.  They were in force after church on Sunday.  There are too many other churches and civic organizations (like the Lion’s Club, Neighborhood Center, etc.) to mention.
  • Local businesses: Again, the list is too long. For example, Grazia Restaurant delivered tons of food to those in shelters, to our police, and to others. As I write this, HEB is delivering a massive amount of supplies to our Board Room for distribution to students, families, and staff. Special thanks also goes to the “Pearland Recovery Assistance Team” organized by Buck Stevens and Rick Torrison.
  • Our students:  Hundreds of students volunteered in the midst of the storm.  They manned the shelter at Pearland High School.  They removed sheet rock and possessions from flooded houses.  They took care of pets displaced by the storm.  The list goes on and on.  I also appreciate the coaches and teachers who led them.
  • Our parents:  Countless numbers of parents contributed by manning our shelter (or at other locations), collecting clothes and food, removing sheet rock, and many other things.  This week, our combined PTAs operated their “swap shop” to hand out clothing to those in need.
  • Our city/county/government: Whole areas of Pearland avoided the worst because of years of planning with regard to roads, water detention areas, utilities, etc.  While no man made system can ever overcome the worst flooding in U.S. history, Pearland did better than the areas north, south, east, and west of us.  On top of that our first responders were everywhere.  When their original Recreation Center emergency location was compromised by flooding, the Pearland police set up operations in a part of our high school – and SLEPT there between shifts!  In turn, grateful people brought them food, supplies, and even underwear!  Later I had the opportunity to attend a city council meeting during this crisis.  Among others who spoke was our great City Manager Clay Pearson. As he described the work of others, he was overcome with emotion and thankfulness.
  • Pearland ISD Leaders:  There were many.  But I’d like to single out those who were just about everywhere every day during and after the storm.  They included Keith Ordeneaux (who both oversees our facilities and is a city council member), Larry Berger (Our Maintenance Director – AKA Captain America), Matt Cline (AKA Iron Man, who did a little of just about everything), Kim Hocott (our Executive Director of Communications), Raul Cruz (our Transportation Director) and Dorothy Simpson (Food Services Director).  We also witnessed our School Board members setting the example by manning our shelter, delivering food, etc.
  • What is the net result of all these relief efforts?    No one can adequately quantify what’s been done and what remains to be done.  But one key statistic relevant to school operations is this:  On our first day back (Tuesday, September 5) we had a student attendance rate of 97%.  This is slightly above the annual average attendance rate for our school district.  Amazing.  Uplifting.
  • I’ll share just one story that illustrates many things: Last Friday night, the number of evacuees in our PHS shelter began to dwindle as folks made their way home, or to relatives or elsewhere. At perhaps 7 p.m., a young woman approached the registration table. She was deaf and only able to communicate through typing messages on her phone. Mrs. Polly Breaux Gandy, a Pearland ISD parent, was manning the registration area. She began exchanging messages with the woman. It turned out she lived with two other disabled adults and two children. They were very hungry. The folks manning the food service area gave her a big plate and she devoured it in about 5 minutes. As she got up from the table, Mrs. Gandy noticed the woman winced and limped. After more text exchanges, she revealed she had hurt her leg. In turn, that prompted notification of the volunteer medical staff located a hallway away. They came to her with a wheelchair, took her to the medical area, and examined her at length, exchanging messages on a notepad. Meanwhile the volunteers in the food area piled up boxes of food and other items for placement in the woman’s car. Mrs. Gandy then followed the woman home and determined further needs. About an hour later, she reported the situation to another volunteer (Tanya Dawson – our Pearland ISD attorney – performing various duties night after night in the shelter). The next day, Tanya visited the house and delivered a mountain of more food. The children were particularly delighted – and all were most grateful. School personnel, parents, community members, volunteer medical staff, our school attorney, those who donated food/clothing/paper plates, etc. ALL contributed to what would have otherwise been a terrible situation for nearby flood victims. This is one of a thousand stories in Pearland, Texas.

I am filled with profound GRATITUDE to God and to those who acted in the midst of the storm – and in its wake thereafter. Truly, it is a blessing to live in Pearland!


Current state requirements for published tax notices force public school boards to make misleading pronouncements about available revenue. What’s left out of those notices is the state’s continuing “tax” on our local taxes!

Last week, when adopting our tax rate for 2017-18, the state’s required language for that adoption pronounces that our 2017-18 effective tax rate is effectively an 8.83 percent increase over the previous year.

But here are the facts:

  • The 8.83 percent referred to in the required language represents the growth of our local tax base, not a change in the actual tax rate.
  • Our actual tax rate is exactly the same as it was last year. In fact, that tax rate has not increased over the past decade. Thus, if a residence or business does not increase in value/appraisal, the same amount will be assessed this year as last.
  • Here’s the main point: As the local tax base grows, the state lowers the amount of school funding it provides. Required tax notices omit that extremely important fact! 
  • Pearland ISD will receive an estimated $3 million less in state funding this year as compared to last year.
  • Thus portraying our district as wallowing in 8 percent more revenue is highly misleading. That tax notice language comes from the same legislature using the increase in our local revenue to pay school funding bills!

This is less like Robin Hood and more like the Sheriff of Nottingham: Taxing  the locals to build the king’s coffers!

What is the net effect on these developments for Pearland ISD?

  • We predict a 2 percent increase in our expenditures for 2017-18. This is only possible because we get to “keep” about 5/8 of the revenue generated by the growth in our tax base. (The rest is offset by the drop in state revenue.)
  • We will also continue to earn revenue credit for increases in student enrollment.  We predict we’ll gain 300 to 400 students this coming year.
  • About 60 percent of our employees are enrolled in the TRS Health Care plan.  Premium spikes for those who have their families on that plan are greater than our forecasted 2 percent pay raise for 2017-18.
  • That 2 percent raise to employees will require us to dip into our carefully guarded savings for about half of it. Obviously, it is not wise to dip into savings for recurring costs over the long haul. This must be a temporary fix.
  • With yearly enrollment growth we need additional personnel. This is only partially compensated by the state revenue owed for such students.
  • Even though we just passed (November 2016) a $220 million bond election, the tax rate for 2017-18 will NOT be raised.  However, 2 years from now we do expect an increase geared toward  meeting those debt payments.
  • Meanwhile, in May of this year Texas Smart Schools again pronounces us a 5 Star District for financial efficiency and student performance.
  • A special session is now slated for July in which the legislature will consider an unfunded teacher raise mandate – and a cap on school property taxes.  Thus, the state appears poised to increase our expenses while hampering our ability to pay for mandates.

Blood out of a turnip. Bricks without straw.

Will Rogers said, “Be grateful we’re not getting all the government we’re paying for.”

Well, we’re getting all the regulatory government we can handle. But the money to pay for it is flowing in the wrong direction!



On Sunday, June 26, this year, Rebecca Decker (board president) called me in tears to tell me that Virgil Gant, our longest-serving board member and my friend, had died earlier that day. On vacation with his wife and grandson, high winds buffeted the trailer he was hauling, flipped his vehicle, and instantly caused his death.

Annually, our Communications Department places a large group photo of our trustees here at the Education Support Center. This year, that photograph is extraordinary. Our trustees decided to gather around a framed photo portrait of Virgil.

This beloved man, age 68, served as a school board member here for 16 years. He graduated from Texas A&M and served his country for 28 years, rising to the rank of a Navy captain, including two tours of active duty in Vietnam. Here in Pearland he was known as a financial planner, prominent in the Boy Scouts, and a member of the Rotary Club. He was the school board president when I was hired. He and I always saw eye-to-eye. He had my back and told me so.

He was very proud of having influenced Rebecca to run for the school board — and even prouder when she was named president in May of this year.

The thing I always told others about Virgil was that he did so many acts of kindness and benevolence without telling anyone except those who needed to know. Boy Scout leadership can tell you about that. Pearland Rotary can tell you about that. Kids in Africa can tell you about that. St. Helen’s Church can tell you about that. Others I don’t even know can tell you about that.

I remember how excited he was about completing the famous Camino de Santiago de Compostela walk/pilgrimage in Spain. When he came back, he told me all about that arduous journey — and urged me to watch the Martin Sheen movie made about that same trek. Virgil was a man of faith.

On the night of his death, I prayed that God would somehow let me know that Virgil was fine. While I’m certainly no mystic, I had a dream that night that Virgil was climbing a beautiful evergreen tree way up in the air. If you saw Virgil’s physique, that paints an unusual picture. But it gave me reassurance.

I was leaving for a solo trip down I-10 to Arizona shortly thereafter. I had read newspaper reports about exactly where the accident occurred on that long lonely road near Ozona. One article said it happened at mile marker 343. I was listening to music on my car stereo. Just then, the song “Rise Up” by Andra Day began to play. This was of considerable comfort to me. If Jesus told the thief on the cross that he would be in paradise with him that very day, I should have no doubt about Virgil Gant, a strong man of faith.

One postscript: At the large funeral service for Virgil, his wife (Dr. Debbie Gant, well-known pediatrician in Pearland) came up to me and told me she wanted to do what she could to help the school bond pass — because it was what Virgil wanted and worked on. Yesterday (Tuesday, Nov. 8) I visited the polling site at Tom Reid Library. There sat Debbie under a “Back the Bond” tent, holding up a sign and urging folks to vote for our schools. Maybe Virgil is smiling up there. We sure miss him down here. . . .