alief shadowThe 2013-14 school year got off to a great start this week as we welcomed approximately 46,000 students through our doors on the first day of school. Each new school year brings its own set of challenges and this school year is no exception.

One positive challenge I welcome is the transition to the new test reduction and graduation flexibility plan that was passed by the Texas Legislature in May and signed by Governor Perry in June (House Bill 5). As I have mentioned previously, the graduation flexibility plan will allow students to take meaningful courses within various content areas that are aligned with student interests, preparation for post-secondary education (technical school, two or four-year college) and the workforce. In other words, we need to be preparing students for a variety of possible futures instead of relying on the single assumption that every student will and must go to a four-year university. Students are now able to pursue endorsements in meaningful areas of study such as science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), health sciences, public services and business and industry to name a few. I am excited that, finally, our students have options in their education and that the state is doing away with the “one size fits all” approach that has been used for years.

I also wanted to let you know a little about how our students performed during the 2012-13 school year under the STAAR testing system. Our students outperformed the state in many academic areas across all grade levels. For example, 70 percent of all Alief campuses earned at least one of the three possible state Distinction Designations for 2012-13. Based on student performance, Texas schools may earn a distinction in the following three areas: Student Growth, Math Performance and English Performance. To earn the distinction, a campus must perform in the top 25 percent of all campuses within their peer group. We are proud that 22 percent of our campuses earned a distinction in all three academic areas.

Lastly, the Alief ISD Board of Trustees passed the budget and tax rate for 2013-14 during the Aug. 27 Board meeting. The total budget is $428.2 million with the majority of that budget going directly towards instruction and the education of our students. The Board also approved a tax rate that reduces the total tax rate by three pennies to $1.29 per $100 of valuation. This represents an overall decrease of five pennies over the past four years. For the average homeowner in Alief ISD, this represents a savings of $16.72 a year on school taxes. This savings occurs even though the average market value of a home in Alief increased by $866 over last year. I am not aware of any school district in the greater Houston area that has reduced their tax rate like this. In a recent survey of Greater Houston area school district tax rates, Alief ISD had the second lowest tax rate. I am extremely proud of the district’s financial standing as well as wise financial planning throughout the years.

I will close this communication with an invitation to all of you to join us at Crump Stadium at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Sept. 5. The Alief Taylor Lions will host the Katy Tigers in what promises to be an exciting contest. The atmosphere will be even more electric that evening as ESPNU will broadcast the game live to football fans across the nation. Come on out, wear your red and support the Taylor Lions.

See you there!

HD Chambers

Alief ISD Superintendent