Houstonian Corner (V13-I5)

Office Bearers of National Honor Society with the Houston Consul General of Pakistan

American Students Raised Funds for Pakistani Flood Victims – Sent Via Helping Hand

The Office bearers of National Honor Society of Westchester Academy for International Studies of Houston visited the Consulate of Pakistan in Houston to receive certificates of appreciation for their work in collecting relief items for the flood victims in Pakistan. These items were given to Helping Hand For Relief & Development In-Kind Donation Center located along Bissonnet at South Kirkwood in the Royal Center, Houston.

The National Honor Society had adopted the Pakistan Flood Relief Drive to assist the Pakistani flood victims. The students collected a huge amount of canned goods, blankets and clothes which were dispatched to Pakistan through the help of a local charity. The Consul General thanked the office bearers for their help in alleviating the suffering of the flood victims and noted that such help would strengthen the bonds between the peoples of Pakistan and the United States. The Consul General also presented Certificate of Appreciation to all office bearers.

They included: Jaclyn Nguyen-President; Juan Avalos-Vice President; Emily Bauer-Secretary; Tzitziki Robles-Treasurer; Ana Laura Gonzalez-Public Relations Officer; Iman Kassir-Historian; Jarred Gillie-Parliamentarian; Ellen Prescott-Community Service Officer; Alberto Halos-Sponsor; and Dr. Natalie Blasingame-Director.

They can be reached at: Alberto Halos, Phone: 713-251-1800 Ext 1966, E-Mail: alberto.halos@springbranchisd.com

‘Gut Them Like a Trout and Hope They Die’

Dr. Rey Garcia doesn’t mince words when you ask him about a House budget recommendation that calls for closing four Texas community colleges.

He calls the recommendation “the height of irresponsibility,” saying it was met with “uniform outrage” among community college students, officials and supporters.

With the state facing a multi-billion-dollar budget deficit, Garcia – president and CEO of the Texas Association of Community Colleges (TACC) – knew that community colleges would suffer cuts in their state funding, just like most other entities receiving state funding. But the recommendation to close Brazosport College in Lake Jackson, Frank Philips College in Borger, Odessa College in Odessa and Ranger College west of Fort Worth came as a complete surprise. “We had no warning,” he said.

In a letter hand-delivered Wednesday to House Speaker Joe Straus and State Rep. Jim Pitts, who chairs the House Appropriations Committee and who explained the bill in the House this week, Garcia said TACC was making an “extraordinary request” that the two leaders “renounce and retract” the recommendation to shutter the four schools. He pointed out in the letter the immediate problems the recommendation is causing – from possible lawsuits if current construction projects are halted, to the impact the recommendation would have on fundraising efforts and the effects closings would have on faculty. “It takes years to build a quality faculty,” wrote Garcia. “It will take moments to destroy it.”

While the House budget proposal would slash $145 million in funding for all Texas community and junior colleges, closing the four colleges was expected to save $39 million over the biennium.
And the reaction from officials of the four colleges recommended for closure? “Complete disbelief,” said Garcia.

The TACC executive said his association began getting calls Monday. Pitts apparently warned the state representatives in whose districts the four colleges lie.

Garcia said Pitts gave the representatives 24 hours notice before the bill was released. Those House members called the respective presidents of the four colleges.

“They were thinking it had to be a joke. Surely it was some kind of misunderstanding. And then when it settled in that there really was something to what they were hearing, it was then a matter of ‘Why me?’”

Two of the colleges are smaller colleges, said Garcia, and the other two are mid-sized. He said as best TACC could tell, the recommendations resulted from a combination of Legislative Budget Board and Appropriations Committee staff performing an enrollment trends analysis that covered a nearly 20-year period and determining that the four community colleges recommended for closure had not grown.

Garcia explained that the four colleges are in very different communities. He said Ranger College does not have the local resources to sustain a college on its own. They would have to have significant increases in tuition rates to stay afloat without state assistance. Brazosport and Odessa colleges, he said, would have to triple or quadruple their tax rates to make up the loss of state revenues. He also noted that Brazosport College is the primary training facility for numerous industries in the area, including BASF and Conoco Phillips. Why would someone want to close a college that is contributing to ensuring that workers are trained and keeping those major companies in Texas, asked Garcia.

“So they gut them like a trout and hope they die.”


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