Learners are earners

What I hope to achieve

I am campaigning on the need to improve reading, financial transparency and communication between the school board and community. These topics seem to be quite controversial for the incumbent. Fortunately, almost all teachers and parents – Democrats and Republicans alike – agree on the need for these things!

My hope is that greater financial transparency will help the community identify money in the budget that could produce greater returns when focused on early childhood intervention programs for reading. Sadly, almost a quarter (23%) of all students in the Humble ISD seventh grade can’t read at grade level. Fixing this problem must be our highest priority. Yet my opponent has yet to acknowledge it. Perhaps that’s because he’s been on the board almost seven years.

Learners are earners

Kids learn to read from grades K-3. After that, they read to learn. Reading is the key to acquisition of knowledge in ALL other subjects. If students don’t learn to read well, they continually fall behind. They don’t learn to think critically or creatively. And that’s a tremendous waste of human capital. Learners are earners. Learners grow up to be productive members of the community and contributors to society.

A businessman who cares

Who am I? I am a retired businessman, educator, author, community activist, husband and father who has lived in the Humble ISD since 1985.  Now I am volunteering for service on the school board. I can’t think of a better way to give back to the community I love so much. Early voting starts Monday, April 24 at 8 a.m. Please vote for Bob Rehak in Position One. I need your vote. So do the children of the Humble ISD.

Learn how to help where help is needed

Many parents have been asking for ways to help schools that need help. Not all are blessed with enough volunteers. Here’s a way to get involved. This event is for any living and breathing soul in Humble ISD who would like to learn how to help mentor and/or provide food assistance to students in the Humble ISD. All you need is a willing heart and time to help students.

There will be four workshops on Literacy, Hunger, Mentoring Tips, and the Great 8 skills. This is for anyone who wants to make a difference or who currently volunteers at one of our schools.

Date: Tuesday, April 25
Time: Free breakfast starts at 8:30
Workshops: Run from 9 to 11a.m.
Place: The Overlook in Atascocita
Register at: http://lovinghouston.net/event/humbleisdpartners2

Please come and see what Loving Houston is all about and how the group is trying to coordinate partnerships. Attendees will also learn how Humble ISD Community Development is trying to find a church for every school.

If nothing else ….. it promises to be a great networking event.

The workshop will also highlight the wonderful handmade gifts that the students of MOSAIC make and sell to the community. So bring some small change. They sell notebooks decorated with fabric; wind chimes made from glass bottles, candles, and so many other items.

After you attend the event, consider voting early. See http://rehakforschoolboard.com/vote-by-mail-and-early-voting-instructions/. Please consider voting for me, Bob Rehak, in Position 1. I am fighting for early childhood intervention to help improve reading scores throughout the District. I am also fighting to improve financial transparency and communication between the board and the community. Thank you for considering me.

Success Starts with Teachers

Every success in life, no matter how big or small, starts with at least one great teacher. All of us remember a selfless, dedicated teacher who affected the trajectory of our lives in some way.

An English  teacher encouraged me to pursue a career as a writer. Ultimately, that helped me create a successful business, which employed dozens of people.

A reading teacher inspired my wife to a lifelong love of learning that led her to a career in medicine.

For my son, it was a Bear Branch Elementary teacher who, during a competition in El Paso, organized a side trip to Juarez. The poverty he saw there led him to join the Peace Corps years later. In Africa, he learned to organize people – with few or no resources – to produce results that made lasting improvements in their lives.

Who was it for you? A coach who taught you how to overcome defeat with persistence and patience? A teacher who stood up to gang members trying to recruit you? Someone who took money out of her own pocket to buy you school supplies your mother couldn’t afford?

Was it a special-ed teacher who taught you how to overcome a disability? A Spanish teacher who enabled you to do business around the world? A science teacher who inspired your search for new sources of energy? Or someone who taught you to cope with bullies?

Teachers don’t teach for the money or because they love to give tests. They teach in spite of those things – in spite of long hours, stress, overwhelming class sizes, and endless paperwork.

Teachers teach for the chance to improve someone else’s life and, through their students, to improve all of our lives. Yet they seldom receive the thanks or support they deserve. If elected, I will work tirelessly to ensure our teachers have the time, tools, training and freedom to inspire your child to become the best she or he can be.

This post will appear in the Tribune newspapers as a print ad the week of 4/16/17. Please clip it out and send it with a note of appreciation to your child’s teacher or, perhaps, a teacher of your own. To download and email it, click below.

Rehak_Teachers_Ad

Dismantling the Cradle to Prison Pipeline™

Early intervention for children saves lives and it saves money. Preventing problems from developing is always better than correcting them after the fact. So why is it that 23% of the kids in the Humble ISD seventh grade can’t read at grade level?

TexAcademicPerformanceRptPg12015_16

Why did the District eliminate popular and effective programs like Reading Recovery that targeted kids in the first grade who were falling behind – before they lost years of learning? Why has the number of social workers assigned to Title One schools been reduced?

The Value of Early Intervention

My beliefs about the value of early intervention were formed through work I did with the the Children’s Defense Fund (CDF) and American Leadership Forum (ALF) on a project called Dismantling the Cradle to Prison Pipeline™ illustrated below.

 

Prevention Better than Correction

The basic premise: prenatal problems; drug and alcohol abuse by parents; child neglect and abuse; poor schooling; and the lack of positive role models ultimately lead to unemployment, violence and prison. Children can be funneled into this pipeline at any age. The sooner we get them out, the lower the costs in both human and financial terms. How? With prenatal health care, postnatal health care, parenting classes, education, mentoring, building skills, and internships before their problems escalate into the need for mental health care, juvenile justice diversion programs, and prison.

The PDFs below, which I helped write and photograph, explain the concept in greater detail. They show dozens of examples and document the cost/benefit ratios. The first is the original report created around 2010. It describes the concepts in greater detail. The second contains statistics that were updated in 2014.

Original CDF/ALF Report

CDF_ALF_Statistical_Update

Did you know that:

  • Many states determine how many prison cells they will need years down the road by looking at third grade reading scores?
  • In 2014, it cost approximately $8300 per year to educate a child, but more than $76,000 per year to incarcerate someone?

More Coordination with Other Groups Needed

There are dozens of organizations in the Houston area that already help to address the root causes of poverty effectively and cost-efficiently. They include our own PTAs and PTOs plus local charities, such as the Humble Area Assistance Ministeries (HAAM), Family Time, and Baylor College of Medicine Teen Clinics, to name just a few.

I believe we need to reach out to more such organizations, develop partnerships with them and provide better coordination. The problems extend far beyond the school system. But the school system can play a major role in solving such problems. The goal: provide help that keeps children out of the Cradle to Prison Pipeline. It will save lives and money in the long run.

My Pledge

Within the District, we especially need to focus on early childhood reading intervention programs that keep students from falling behind. If kids can’t learn to read by the third grade, they can’t read to learn thereafter. They just keep falling farther and father behind and their career choices narrow. If elected, I will do everything in my power to improve early childhood reading intervention and improve coordination with other groups that can help our at-risk children in other ways.

People: Fight the Stone Wall

At the April 11, 2017, School Board Meeting, I asked a series of financial-transparency questions about a multi-million dollar bid, expensive outside consultants, and mysterious increases in estimates.

The board and staff members tried to create the appearance of responding, but failed to address simple questions with direct answers. In most cases, they provided no answers at all. And in one case, a staff member would not take the microphone or face the camera during his attempted explanation. The Board then voted unanimously to adopt all three items.

This created bigger questions than I first had. I now worry about the Board’s commitment to financial transparency, how they spend $350 million tax dollars each year, and why the school district does not follow financial-transparency guidelines recommended by the Texas State Comptroller.

Shifting Funds Away from Instruction

My first question: Why is money being taken away from instruction, guidance counseling and health services and put into maintenance, staff development and leadership. Answer: In general, it has to do with coding, end of year adjustments, and a desire not to overestimate. While not directly answering the question, it was the best attempt of the night.

Hiring Expensive Outside Consultants

Next, I asked about the recommendation to hire a consultant for one month’s work at the rate of $34,950 (an annualized rate of more than $400,000!). I asked, “Why is she being hired? Why is she worth so much? And is there no one else in the District who can perform her services?” Answer: In essence, she worked for us once before and we liked her.

Mysterious Estimate Revisions

I also asked about two estimate revisions. One increased 336% from $25,000 to $114,000. Another, from the same vendor increased 37% from $1.9 to $2.6 million, an increase of $700,000. Then I asked, “Why are these increases necessary? What are they for? Why were the original estimates so far off?” Answer: The question was not answered except to say that one of these items was discussed at “Breakfast with the Board.” However, the District’s website makes no mention of a Breakfast with the Board.  [Note: Special board meetings are held on campuses at 7AM occasionally, but no public records exist of them on the District’s web site, and I can find no mention of intent to discuss these estimates at such a breakfast.]

Not Revealing Competitive Bids

Finally, I asked about a project to renovate the roof on Kingwood Park High School for $2,034,000. I pointed out that the school had been renovated less than ten years ago and asked, “Why is another renovation necessary if roofs are supposed to last 20 to 30 years? Why wasn’t it listed in the items need for Kingwood Park in the 2008 bond fund?” There were seven bidders on the project. The winner was awarded on “best value,” not lowest price. So I also asked, “What were the other bids? Why can’t we see them on the District’s website? Why was the winner deemed the best value? How much did the consultant who oversaw the bidding cost? And why was it necessary to hire the consultant?” Answer: Part of the roof was 24 years old.

Holy cow! I thought $2 million sounded expensive for the entire roof. Now I find out it’s only for part of the roof! Worse, not one of the other questions about the project was answered.

See for Yourself

Witness the meeting for yourself and draw your own conclusions. My questions start at 1:02:00 into the meeting. Responses start at 1:28:35. See http://www.texanlive.com/2017/04/humble-isd-school-board-meeting-live-7pm-4-11-2017/

I went into this meeting seeking simple explanations about how my taxes were spent. I came away deeply suspicious with more questions than ever.

Consistent Patterns

In the minutes from previous board meetings, I have noticed huge unexplained increases in estimates. For instance, look at the minutes for the District’s August 16 board meeting. On Page 480, at the bottom of the page you will find $1.52 million of estimate increases without any explanation.

They include increases of:
• 119% for instructional materials
• 31% for unspecified technology
• 300% for more instructional materials (from another vendor)
• 633% for ice cream (listed as child nutrition)
• 338% for waste management and other unspecified services

Last month, the District spent more than $2 million to replace two chillers and one cooling tower at three schools. Again, none of the lower bids were revealed. And again, the basis of the “best value” bid was not explained.

Not Following Recommendations of Texas Comptroller

Review the contract and procurement checklist for transparency recommended by the Texas Comptroller.

Then try to find this information on the District’s website in one easy-to-find place. You won’t. Period. End of story. You have to wade through volumes of documents just to figure out what questions to ask, then make expensive and time-consuming public information requests to get the answers.

This information should be freely and readily available on the District’s website. It requires only a few keystrokes to show competing bids on multi-million projects, explain why one was chosen over another, and why estimates mysteriously increase for millions of dollars.

Raising Bigger Questions

It makes you wonder whether they’re hiding something. The more they resist simple explanations, the more excuses they make, the more evasive their responses become, the more they fight full disclosure, the more convinced I become that we need radical change in this election. If you vote for me, I promise to fight for compliance with the Texas Comptroller’s guidelines for financial transparency and fight to explain how your money is spent.

Rehak Campaign Finance Disclosure Report

This is my campaign finance disclosure report for the period ending March 28. Note that I received $0 in contributions because I urged people to donate their money to the Humble Area Assistance Ministries instead of me; they need it more.  The total on the cover sheet looks twice as high as the amount I actually spent because the state requires you to list all the expenses you made in form F-4 and then repeat them again in form G if you used a credit card to pay for them.

RehakDisclosureThru3.28.17

Vote By Mail and Early Voting Instructions

Vote By Mail Instructions

The first two links below open PDFs that contain vote-by-mail and early voting instructions. I included two vote-by-mail PDFs. One is in English only and the other includes multiple languages. People eligible to vote my mail include those over 65, in jail, or absent from the county.

BallotByMailEng

BallotByMailMulti

NOTE: Your application to vote my mail must be received by the early voting clerk of the local entity conducting the election not later than the 11th day before election day. If the 11th day is a weekend or holiday, the deadline is the first preceding business day. You may submit an application throughout the calendar year, beginning January 1. Please remember that the application must be received not later than the 11th day before the first election in which you seek to vote by mail. That means April 25, 2017.

Early Voting Locations and Times

The following PDF contains early voting locations and hours.

EarlyVotingLocationsNonIE(1)

Early voting for the Humble ISD Board of Trustee elections begins:

April 24 – April 28: 8:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

April 29: 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

April 30: 1:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m.

May 1 – May 2: 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.

You can vote at any one of three locations in the Humble ISD:

Location #22 in Downtown Humble:
Humble: Humble City Hall/Council Chamber
114 W. Higgins Street, Humble, 77338

Location #23 northeast of FM 1960 and US 59 near Home Depot:
Humble ISD: Humble ISD Administration Building
20200 Eastway Village Drive, Humble, 77338

Location #24 in Kingwood in Kings Harbor just north of the lake and east of West Lake Houston Parkway:
Humble ISD Instructional Support Center
4810 Magnolia Cove Drive, Kingwood, 77345

Your Final Chance to Vote

Remember, your final chance to vote in this school board election is May 6, election day.

Why Not Have Report Cards for School Board Members?

People often ask me why I got in the race for School Board. Frankly, I saw things that disturbed me. First, the current Board spent close to a quarter of a billion dollars of your tax money without publishing construction bids, naming bid winners, or itemizing expenses.

Second, while bragging about a two-year-old award from a grocery store naming the Humble ISD “the best large district in Texas,” the board somehow overlooked the fact that almost a quarter of our seventh graders can’t read at grade level.

Then when the State’s new A-F rankings showed half of the high schools in the District failing on “career readiness,” the Board lobbied Austin to change the grading system instead of fixing the problem.

Oh, and don’t forget that the current board is waiting until after the school board election to spring the need for more bonds on you. They could total more than a third of a billion dollars at a time when interest rates are headed up and one of our middle schools is more than 40% over capacity!

The School Board currently only gets graded once every four years – at election time. So when the Lake Houston Chamber Magazine asked me, “What factors do you believe the state should consider in their accountability rankings of school districts,” I replied, in part, that Districts should be compared on “Customer-service ratings for school-board members.”

Here is a first solo attempt at creating a “report card” for board members.

Grade School Board Members

Member name:_____________   Grading period:_____________

Financial Transparency     A          B         C         D         F

Champions Reading           A          B         C         D         F

Leadership                           A          B         C         D         F

Listens                                  A          B         C         D         F

Timely response                 A          B         C         D         F

Straight talk                        A          B         C         D         F

Visits campuses                  A          B         C         D         F

Communication                  A          B         C         D         F

Grading Guidelines

Financial Transparency

A = Fights to publish itemized details on construction bids, bid winners, overruns and delays

B = Itemizes architectural and engineering fees, where bond money is being spent, and who land is purchased from

C = Keeps you in the dark while rumors and suspicion grow

D = Charges you to make “open records requests” to see how your money was spent

F = Spends a quarter of a billion dollars of your tax money without publishing details

 

Champions Reading

A = Fights to improve reading scores in early childhood so kids don’t fall behind in other subjects

B = Works to build partnerships with charities, volunteers and other governmental organizations to facilitate early reading intervention

C = Brags about exceeding region and state averages when almost a quarter of Humble ISD seventh graders can’t read at grade level,* and Texas education ranks in bottom quintile of states**

D = Ignores problem

F = Hides failure in “averaged” reading scores for entire District

 

Leadership

A = Fights publicly to improve education for ALL students

B = Makes sure teachers have the time, training and support to do their jobs

C = Goes along to get along; follows the herd

D = “Let’s just give people vouchers and let someone else worry about the problems.”

F = “When does cocktail hour start?”

 

Listens:

A = Listens attentively; accurately understands your concern(s)

B = Appears to listen

C = Looks at watch, yawns or answers emails while you’re addressing the Board

D = Sends you a form letter that never acknowledges your concern, but tells you what a great job s/he is doing

F = Never even bothers to send you a form letter

 

Timely Response:

Replies to your questions, concerns, or inquiries:

A = Within same or next business day

B = A week

C = A month

D = A blue moon

F = When pigs fly

 

Straight Talk:

A = Always gives you straight answers – even when disagreeing with you

B = Answers with a maybe or a “guess so” thrown in

C = Gives “wishy-washy” answers that never tell you where s/he stands

D = Mostly evasive – answers a different question or spouts half-truths

F = Gives inaccurate, or totally false and untruthful answers

 

Visits Campuses to Learn Their Needs:

A = All campuses

B = Half or more

C = A handful

D = Makes symbolic attempt to see one or two

F = Why bother with symbolism?

 

Communication

A = Builds a good case for the way s/he votes, even if you don’t agree

B = Explains pros and cons of possible solutions to controversial issues

C = Discusses issues in private and rubber stamps them in public

D = Avoids discussing expensive bond issues during board election

F = Master of hidden agendas

 

What would you include on such a report card? What grading guidelines would you use? Please share your ideas at: http://rehakforschoolboard.com/your-thoughts/


*TexAcademicPerformanceRptPg12015_16

** http://www.edweek.org/ew/qc/2017/2017-state-education-grades-map.html

In Praise of PTAs and PTOs

The unsung heroes of the Humble ISD are the parent volunteers who donated more than 300,000 hours of their time last year. That’s the equivalent of more than 150 full time District employees – for free! Learn more about what the Council of PTAs, and the PTAs and PTOs themselves do to enhance the quality of education for every student in the District in my latest advertorial.

Rehak_PTA_Ad

How to Rebuild Trust Between the School Board and Community

Last week I talked about the need for more openness on the school board. Here are some things I feel the Board and School District could do to restore trust. They might also help save tax dollars while improving education.

RehakRebuildTrustAd