Texas Government Insider
Volume 10, Issue 35 - Friday, Sept. 7, 2012

More than 60 Texas schools, education agencies seek RTTT funds


To compete with 900 others nationwide for 15-20 grants totaling only $383 million

School ClassIn 2010, the U.S. Department of Education announced its "Race to the Top" (RTTT) funding competition, which provided $4.35 billion in monetary incentives to states in exchange for the states adopting sweeping reforms in their elementary and secondary education programs. Forty-six states applied for these grants. Texas was not among them. Gov. Rick Perry said "no" to the funding, saying there were too many federal strings attached to the funds, denying Texas schools approximately $700 million in RTTT funds.


Arnie DuncanSince then, another round of competition for Race to the Top funds was announced. And this time, the Department of Education went straight to the horse's mouth - the individual school districts - inviting the schools, rather than the states, to apply individually for the approximately $383 million that would be allocated through 15-25 grants ranging from $5 million to $40 million. "I believe the best ideas come from leaders at the local level," said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan (right).


The Department of Education recently announced that nearly 900 school districts throughout the nation - close to 50 of them in Texas - indicated they intended to apply for the 2012 RTTT funding. More than a dozen charter schools and regional service centers in Texas also said they would apply. School districts and other education agencies have until Oct. 30 to apply. The awards are to be announced no later than Dec. 31.




Williams, TEA to seek waiver of parts of No Child Left Behind law

Michael WilliamsNew Texas Education Commissioner Michael Williams (pictured) jumped feet-first into his first major initiative this week by announcing that the Texas Education Agency will submit a request to the U.S. Department of Education seeking a waiver of some provisions of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, also known as the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) law.


Williams and the TEA sent a letter to public school superintendents statewide Thursday regarding the request. "The state has long emphasized college and career readiness standards, high-quality assessments, differentiated accountability and improving teacher quality," wrote Williams in the letter. "However, the state recognizes that the lack of NCLB's reauthorization in a timely manner has created an obsolete system that does not adequately reflect the accomplishments of the state's schools. This, combined with LEAs (local education agencies) being required to meet and function within two different assessment and accountability systems, takes valuable resources and time away from the intent and focus of improving student achievement and school accountability."


TEA officials are seeking to eliminate the rating of schools under both federal and state ratings, which are often conflicting, and also seeks changes in the federal standards regarding annual school progress and the implementation of sanctions for low performance schools.


"TEA believes these waivers will increase the academic achievement of students by improving and aligning the quality of instruction with the state's college and career readiness standards," said Williams in his letter.


Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars


Diana NatalicioDr. Diana Natalicio, president, The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) 


Career highlights and education:  Began teaching linguistics at UTEP in 1971. Felt an immediate affinity to this U.S.-Mexico border region and to UTEP's mission to serve the region's historically underserved population. Was invited to serve in a series of administrative positions, including department chair, dean of Liberal Arts and Vice President for Academic Affairs, culminating in my appointment by the U.T. System Board of Regents as UTEP's president in 1988. Received a B.S. degree in Spanish from St. Louis University, M.A. in Portuguese and Ph.D. in linguistics from UT Austin. Studied in Brazil as a Fulbright student and in Portugal as a Gulbenkian Fellow.
What I like best about my job is:  It's deeply gratifying to me to be able to foster for UTEP's highly talented, hard-working and mostly first-generation students opportunities like those that were offered to me as a first-generation undergraduate in St. Louis. Having access to those opportunities transformed my life, and transforming lives is what UTEP's highly committed faculty and staff team seeks to do every day on our campus. Very exciting work!
The best advice I've received for my current job is: Go Miners!
Advice you would give a new hire in your office: Remember that students are the reason all of us are employed at UTEP.  They have every right to expect that we will provide them the same enhanced educational opportunities offered to their peers in more affluent settings. Their success is our success.
If I ever snuck out of work early, I could probably be found: walking in the mountains.

People would be surprised to know that: My dream was to be a star pitcher for the St. Louis Cardinals...
One thing I wish more people knew about my university: That UTEP ranks first among all U.S. research universities in affordability (net price) and first in the annual ranking by Washington Monthly of how well universities perform as "engines of social mobility" for their students. This is strong evidence that we have been highly successful in fulfilling UTEP's access and excellence mission. 

Weizenbaum serving as interim commissioner at DADS

Jon WeisenbaumJon Weizenbaum (pictured), deputy commissioner of the Department of Aging and Disability Services (DADS), has been named interim commissioner of the agency while a search is conducted for a replacement for former Commissioner Chris Traylor. Traylor stepped down from his post at DADS to assume the charge of chief deputy commissioner of the Texas Health and Human Services Commission. Weizenbaum will manage the day-to-day operations at DADS until a new commissioner is named.


Weizenbaum has served as DADS deputy commissioner since May 2006. He also previously served as DADS interim commissioner from September 2009 until Traylor was named commissioner in January 2010.


Weizenbaum also is the former director for the Center for Policy and Innovation at DADS, where he was responsible for overseeing policy development and oversight, analysis and support and quality assurance and improvement. He also is a former legislative policy director for the Texas Senate Committee on Health and Human Services, specializing in aging and disability services, and has experience as a clinical social worker. Weizenbaum holds master's degrees from The University of Texas at Austin School of Social Work and the LBJ School of Public Affairs.


Texas Forest Service now to be called Texas A&M Forest Service

Tom BoggusThe Texas Forest Service, the agency responsible for conserving and protecting trees and forests in Texas, recently became the Texas A&M Forest Service.


The name change became effective on Sept. 1, but will not affect how the 97-year-old agency operates, said Tom Boggus (pictured), director of the Texas A&M Forest Service.


Regents for the Texas A&M University System approved the name change for all seven state agencies operating under the umbrella of the System following a recommendation by Chancellor John Sharp. The new names will help improve marketing and branding efforts of the A&M System that also oversees 11 universities and a health science center, Sharp said.


State Employee Charitable Campaign kicks off 19th year

The 2012 State Employee Charitable Campaign (SECC) kicked off this week for its 19th consecutive year. The SECC was passed by legislation in 1993, giving state and university employees the chance to donate to charities through cash, check or payroll deduction pledges. Last year, the SECC brought in over $9.3 million in donations to nonprofit organizations from tens of thousands of donors. 


The SECC consists of more than 500 local, national and international charities that must apply annually to participate in the campaign. Charity applications are screened each year by committees of state employees to ensure that the organizations meet the requirements set forth by the Texas Legislature. From Sept. 1 to Oct. 31 each year, state employees are given the opportunity to learn about the charities in the campaign, choose which ones they want to help and fill out a pledge form to indicate how much they wish to donate. The SECC makes it easy for state employees to give a little and make a big difference. For more information about the campaign, visit www.secctexas.org.


Kelly Kistner selected as assistant to State Fire Marshal

Kelly KistnerKelly Kistner (pictured) recently resigned as fire marshal for Guadalupe County to become an assistant to the state fire marshal. His resignation is effective on Sept.14.


Kistner is set to begin his new job on September 18 at the State Fire Marshal's Office at the Texas Department of Insurance. His duties include overseeing fire investigators, fire inspectors and addressing several forensic issues raised by the Texas Forensic Commission.


Guadalupe County officials said they plan to begin a search to find a new county fire marshal when Kistner leaves his post.


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Two state agencies awarded for innovative transportation system

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the Texas Department of Motor Vehicles (TxDMV) have been awarded the Intelligent Transportation Society of America Smart Solution Spotlight award. The award acknowledges the two agencies' Web-based tool that allows motor carriers the ability to self-issue permits and routes for carrying oversize and overweight loads on Texas highways. The award honors the use of innovative technology to create a safer, more efficient and sustainable transportation system.


The Texas tool is called the Texas Permitting and Routing Optimization System (TxPROS) and both TxDOT Executive Director Phil Wilson and TxDMV Executive Director Whitney Brewster note that the system not only shows their commitment to customer service and safety, but also to a collaborative effort between state agencies and the motor carrier industry.


Truckers with oversized or overweight loads can apply online for permits, pay their fees and find the best routes for their vehicle's size and weight. The system generates a route with turn-by-turn driving instructions that use GIS. The system is the first of its kind in the nation. To date, more than half of all permits issued since the program previewed in August of last year were generated by the $1.6 million program. The system also tracks these vehicles by the roadways they travel, helping TxDOT forecast maintenance, design and funding needs.


Five finalists named for TASB Superintendent of Year

Rene GutierrezGreg SmithCharles DupreFive finalists have been named for the annual Superintendent of the Year award sponsored annually since 1984 by the Texas Association of School Boards. The award recognizes superintendents for excellence and achievement in educational leadership. This year's finalists include: Rene Gutierrez (top left), Edinburg CISD; Greg Smith (top center), Clear Creek ISD; Charles Dupre (top right), Pflugerville ISD; Dennis McEntire (bottom right), Presidio ISD; and Michael Zolkoski (bottom left), Ysleta ISD. The selection committee focused on such issues as the demands for America's workforce, public education funding and the pending school finance lawsuit, successful board relationships, technology integration and academic excellence.


Gutierrez has led Edinburg Consolidated ISD for three years and has 16 years in education administration. He holds an associate degree at Texas Southmost College at Brownsville, a bachelor's degree from Pan American at Brownsville and The University of Texas Pan American (UTPA) and master's and doctorate degrees from UTPA. Smith has been superintendent of Clear Creek ISD for four years and has 27 years of administrative experience. He holds a bachelor's degree from Oakland University, a master's from the University of Houston-Clear Lake and a doctorate from Texas A&M University.


Dennis McEntireMichael ZolkoskiSuperintendent at Pflugerville ISD for six years, Dupre has a total of 16 years in education administration. Dupre earned his bachelor's degree at Harding University, his master's at the University of Houston and is pursuing his doctorate at Texas A&M University. McEntire has six years of experience in education administration and has been superintendent of Presidio ISD for six years. He earned a bachelor's degree at Austin College, a master's at the University of North Texas and master's in education administration at Lubbock Christian University. Zolkoski boasts 34 years in public education administration and has been the Ysleta ISD superintendent for three years. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees at Southwest Texas State University and earned doctorate degrees at California Coast University and The University of Texas at Austin.


The 2012 Superintendent of the Year will be announced Sept. 28 at the Texas Association of School Administrators/TASB Convention in Austin. The finalists were chosen for their dedication to improving educational quality, board/superintendent relations, student achievement and commitment to public support and involvement in education.


State's TETF, TEF cite awards, investments in two companies

Awards and investments from the state's Texas Emerging Technology Fund (TETF) and the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF) were announced this week. Cirasys Inc. was awarded $250,000 from the TETF for commercialization of its digital power converters. The company is licensing the patented technology from The University of Texas at Dallas, and will be working with the university to commercialize the technology. Cirasys' technology is expected to provide greater performance, faster response and additional capabilities that are currently unavailable in traditional DC power converters. The technology uses advanced algorithms in the design of intelligent DC-DC power converters used in products such as battery power management, LED lighting and solar generation.


An investment of $1.9 million from the TEF was made in HID Global Corp. The investment is expected to create 239 jobs and more than $35 million in capital investment in a new manufacturing and distribution center in Austin. HID Global is a producer of secure identity solutions. The new facility will be the company's future operations center for North America that will produce and distribute a variety of identity and access management products.


Texas Silver-Haired Legislature plans September session

Walter GrahamThe 14th session of the Texas Silver-Haired Legislature will convene for its 14th Legislative Session on Sept. 10-14. The members will meet in the House Chamber of the State Capitol. There they will consider 96 resolutions to be submitted to the upcoming 83rd Texas Legislature, which convenes in January.


Members of the Silver-Haired Legislature are elected statewide by their peers who are 60 years old and older. Authorized by the 69th Texas Legislature, the group gathers to identify aging issues, propose solutions and submit a written report to the governor, members of the Texas Legislature and other state officials. They file resolutions during their five-day session.


The upcoming session will be presided over by Walter C. Graham (pictured) of Cisco, the group's Speaker. He was elected Speaker in 2008 and re-elected in 2011 to a term that will expire in 2013. The Silver-Haired Legislature address issues that include criminal justice, education, health and human resources, human services, insurance, retirement and aging, rural-urban affairs, state affairs and utilities and natural resources. The Silver-Haired Legislature has been successfully advocating policy issues since its first session in 1986. For more information, visit www.tshl.org.


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Harvey selected new CEO for Greater Houston Partnership

Bob HarveyThe Greater Houston Partnership recently selected Bob Harvey (pictured) as the new chief executive officer and president of the organization that promotes the Houston area, represents financial interests of businesses and takes political positions of issues impacting the business community. He replaces Jeff Moseley, who left that post in June.


Harvey currently is a director of an engineering firm and previously served as the vice chairman and executive vice president of Reliant Energy and worked for a consulting firm. He has a bachelor's degree from Texas A&M University and a master's degree from Harvard Business School.


Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority eyeing desalination plant

Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA) officials recently began preparations to seek proposals from engineering firms to conduct a feasibility study for a proposed desalination plant on the Gulf Coast.


At a meeting in Seguin with engineering firms interested in performing the study, GBRA officials described the River Annex desalination plant project as providing an initial water supply capacity of 25 million gallons per day with an ultimate capacity of up to 250 million gallons a day after the proposed facility is completed in about 10 years.


The additional water and power from the desalination plant will be needed to meet demand for water if population in the south central region of Texas increases from its current 2.5 million to 4.3 million in 2060 as predicted, said Jim Murphy, manager of water resources and utility operations for GBRA. Of the 4.3 million residents in the region, about 70 percent are expected to live within the Guadalupe and San Antonio river basins, Murphy said. The study on the feasibility of the desalination plant should be completed before the Texas Legislature convenes in January 2015, he said. The Texas Sustainable Energy Research Institute and the Center for Water Research at the University of Texas at San Antonio will serve as project managers for the feasibility study.


Texas A&M Corpus Christi to use temporary buildings for labs

Flaviius KillebrewOfficials of Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi recently decided to place two modular buildings on campus to serve as research labs until legislators approve funding for a new life sciences building.


The temporary lab space is needed for eight new faculty members who were added to teach life sciences this fall, said Flavius Killebrew (pictured), president of Texas A&M-Corpus Christi. While classroom space is available, the campus is short on laboratory space, causing life science department officials to create makeshift laboratories out of storage rooms, a machine shop and even the loading dock, he said. University officials were unsuccessful last year in winning funding for a new life sciences building, but plan to try again this session, he added.


Dallas toll authority to ease congestion on Dallas N. Tollway

North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA) officials recently began planning on a $200 million to $250 million project to ease congestion for motorists on the Dallas North Tollway attempting to enter the Bush Turnpike.

Plans call for adding lanes to the Dallas North Tollway between the Bush Turnpike and the Sam Rayburn Tollway, adding a lane to ramps between the toll road and turnpike to increase traffic flow, and building new entrance and exit ramps, NTTA officials said. Design and development of the project should begin in 2013 and be completed by 2016.


While most of the funding will be raised from toll revenue, NTTA officials also expect Plano to pay about $5 million of the cost of the project to increase traffic flow within that city. They are negotiating with Collin County officials to contribute some funding to the project needed to meet population growth in northeast Dallas and Collin County.


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Texas Education Agency reaches 1 million users for Project Share

Anita GivensProject Share officials at the Texas Education Agency (TEA) recently disclosed that more than 1 million users have subscribed for the online program that provides professional development courses, academic networking, professional learning communities and student resources to educators and students in Texas.


Wimberley Independent School District helped TEA reach that goal when district officials subscribed to Project Share on Aug. 15, said Anita Givens (pictured), associate commissioner for standards and programs. The online programs permit school districts to import and manage OnTRACK lessons to supplement instruction in English, math, science and social studies.


The program also has more than 60 online professional development courses provided free to all public educators from kindergarten to grade 12. TEA partnered with the 20 education service centers to provide training to local educators on the use of Project Share to local educators.


Oct. 2 National Night Out to unite neighborhoods, law enforcement

Austin will celebrate National Night Out - called "America's Night Out Against Crime" - with a kickoff party on Tuesday, Oct. 2, from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Domain, 11410 Century Oaks Terrace in Austin. The free party will include food, games and crime prevention information, according to Rosie Salinas, National Night Out coordinator for the Austin Police Department. Official National Night Out activities in local neighborhoods and communities will be from 7 to 9 p.m. that same day.


National Night Out is designed as an opportunity for local citizens and law enforcement to partner against crime. Last year, more than 37 million people in 15,325 communities from all 50 states, U.S. territories, Canadian cities and military bases worldwide participated in National Night Out activities. National Night Out 2012 is expected to be the largest ever. In Texas, neighborhood events are held throughout the state with a goal of uniting neighborhoods and neighbors to commit to helping law enforcement reduce crime in those areas. Organizers say the activities are designed to heighten crime and drug prevention awareness, generate support and participation in crime efforts, strengthen neighborhood spirit and police community relations and let criminals know that neighborhoods are organized and fighting back.


On Oct. 2, citizens are encouraged to turn on their porch lights in observance of National Night Out and organize a block party or neighborhood event such as a cookout, block party or neighborhood walk. To register to receive organizational material and updates and to inquire about having a member of the Austin police, firefighters or EMS paramedics attend a local event, click here. Deadline for registering is Friday, Sept. 14. Questions may be directed to Salinas at 512- 974-4900.


Santa Fe eyeing public-private partnership to build police station

Joe DicksonAfter voters in Santa Fe rejected three bond proposals to pay for building a new public safety building, City Manager Joe Dickson (pictured) recently began urging council members to form a public-private partnership (P3). The P3 would include a developer that would construct a $4 million to $6 million public safety building that the city would lease to house its police department and municipal court.


The new public safety center most likely would need to be paid for by approving a tax increase that would generate about $1.8 million in additional revenue, Dickson said. While the majority of the new revenue, $1.69 million, would go for day-to-day operations of the city, about $110,000 would be allotted for a building fund that could pay for a long-term lease of the facility, Dickson said. The proposed tax increase would be lower than any of the tax rate increases proposed during the bond issues rejected by voters, he added.


Dickson also offered another alternative to council that calls for the city to adopt a higher tax rate to buy and renovate the Alta Loma Volunteer Fire Station once Santa Fe Fire and Rescue moves into its new building.


Austin wins approval for $200 million toll project on MoPac

The Central Texas Regional Mobility Authority in Austin recently won approval to begin work on a $200 million project to add a toll lane to each side of MoPac Boulevard, also known as Loop 1, from Lady Bird Lake to Parmer Lane.


The Federal Highway Administration approved an environmental study in August and the Texas Transportation Commission approved an additional $130 million to the $70 million already approved for the MoPac toll lane project.


Mobility authority officials plan to complete bidding for the project in early 2013, begin construction before the year ends and be completed in about two and one-half years. The contractor will be required to maintain three lanes open on MoPac in each direction throughout the project and will perform much of the construction at night. 

Private investors eyeing Fort Worth-to-Plano commuter rail project

A group of private investors recently formed a consortium with an interest in financing the Cotton Belt Corridor project. The project is a proposed 62-mile, $2 billion commuter rail line to connect Fort Worth, Dallas and Plano, according to the Dallas Morning News.


Michael Morris, transportation director for the North Central Texas Council of Governments, notified officials of three transit authorities in August of the consortium's interest in financing the rail line. The consortium plans to submit an unsolicited proposal for the project by the end of this year, he said. Council of government officials said consortium members asked to remain unnamed and declined to identify how the project will be funded. However, all the investors are well known in the region and have done extensive research on the project already, he said.


The North Central Texas Council of Governments has led efforts to explore funding options such as a public-private partnership to pay for the commuter rail line that officials of the three transit authorities have said they cannot afford to develop.


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UT-San Antonio taps Izbrand as chief communications officer

Joe IzbrandUniversity of Texas at San Antonio officials recently tapped Joseph Izbrand (pictured) as the chief communications officer for the university, effective on Sept. 4.


Izbrand has 30 years of experience in communications and previously was employed at a high-tech company, a communications consulting firm, a radio station and a television station. He earned a bachelor's degree at UT-San Antonio.


Izbrand began his career in 1981 as a news reporter at KTRH NewsRadio in Houston. He was promoted to managing editor and then news director in 1989, managing a team of 35 reporters, editors and news anchors. During his tenure as news director, KTRH earned six Edward R. Murrow awards for excellence in broadcast journalism.


Brownsville airport wins $175,000 grant to study need for terminal

The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) recently awarded a $175,000 grant to the Brownsville South Padre Island International Airport to pay for a second phase of a study to determine the feasibility of expanding or replacing the terminal built in 1970. This grant is part of a $718,000 grant the FAA previously approved for the airport.


Phase 2 of the terminal study will include final engineering work on the terminal project. It will allow airport officials to seek bids for the terminal project that is roughly estimated to cost about $15 million. Only one airline with three daily flights served the airport when the terminal was remodeled in 2000, said Larry Brown, director of aviation. Three airlines with as many as 12 daily flights now serve the airport and increased general aviation traffic from Mexico has brought many more passengers to the overcrowded facility, he said.


Airport officials also plan to use an even larger share of the $718,000 FAA grant to pay for designing and preparation of construction documents for a $9 million reconstruction project of a taxiway and ramp. That funding should be available in March, Brown said.


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Arlington weighing options for underpass on Stadium Drive

Keith MeltonAt a recent meeting of the Arlington City Council, Public Works Director Keith Melton (pictured) urged the city to work hard to find an additional $15 million to build an underpass on Stadium Drive to avoid train tracks. Another option is to spend $13 million to widen Stadium Drive, but eliminate the underpass, Melton said.


Arlington voters approved about $15 million in a 2008 bond election to widen Stadium Drive to six lanes between Division and Abram streets and build an underpass beneath two railroad tracks. To help with the project, Tarrant County agreed to contribute $4.6 million for the project. However, Union Pacific requested a wider bridge for future rail lines that added an additional $15 million to the overall cost of the project, Melton said.


To generate additional funding for the underpass, Melton said the city should consider using the $7 million to $10 million remaining from construction projects that appear to be costing less than anticipated. He also suggested the city could use gas well revenue, seek grants, issue debt and have Union Pacific contribute more than $1 million to help pay for the increased cost of the proposed underpass. Council took no action on the recommendations.


Sherman approves $43 million for capital improvement projects

Sherman City Council members recently approved a $43 million capital improvements program to fund projects until 2017. City officials plan to use the $43 million to repair municipal buildings, upgrade two fire stations and build a new water line along SH 289. The city expects the water line project to be completed by the end of 2012, city officials said.


Two promoted to assistant city managers in Denton reorganization

John CabralesBryan LangleyTwo new assistant city managers have been named for the city of Denton. Following the retirement of former Assistant City Manager Fred Greene, the number of assistant city managers has been increased from three to four with the promotions of Bryan Langley (left) and John Cabrales (right). The other two assistant city managers, Jon Fortune and Howard Martin, will see their responsibilities reconfigured. Fortune will take over some operations previously supervised by Greene, including the police and fire departments, and Martin continues to supervise city utilities.


Langley will continue his role as chief financial officer, but will also be responsible for some administrative service that Fortune oversaw. Cabrales will supervise neighborhood and community services previously under Greene, including parks and recreation and economic development.


Langley, a city employee since 2007, holds bachelor's and master's degrees from the University of North Texas and a master's from The University of Texas at Dallas. Cabrales began his career with the city in 1990 as a police officer. He later became city spokesperson and was given intergovernmental relations duties in 2007. He holds a bachelor's degree from Texas Tech University and a master's in public administration from the University of North Texas.


CATEE 2012 Conference set Oct. 9-11 in Galveston

CATEE (Clean Air Through Energy Efficiency) 2012, set for Oct. 9-11 in Galveston at the Hotel Galvez, will feature speakers bringing information on timely topics, workshops on financing energy efficiency, energy management for schools and choosing the correct green rating system. The event is an educational conference and business expo connecting public and private decision-makers and thought leaders. Guest speakers in the plenary session will address issues from sustainability leadership to energy efficiency issues and the 83rd Texas Legislature. There will also be a number of breakout sessions on topics such as success in school energy management, new technologies that work and sustainable commercial buildings, to name a few. Attendees will include state leaders, government officials and staff, business owners, development professionals, facility managers, utility and energy services resources, industry experts, researchers, policy makers, and clean energy and air quality advocates. Registration is now open. For more information, click here.


TARC Conference exhibitor, sponsorship opportunities available

The Texas Conference on Regionalism is set for Sept. 19-21 at the Westin Oaks Galleria in Houston. The Texas Association of Regional Councils 2012 Conference: Building Texas Together is the annual conference of Texas' regional planning councils. The councils operate programs across subject areas ranging from public safety and emergency preparedness to human and social services and are instrumental in the planning and expenditure of funds derived from local, state and federal resources. Exhibitor and sponsorship opportunities are available for the conference. Those exhibiting will have an opportunity to interact with staff, leaders and decision-makers from Texas' councils of government, cities, counties and special districts. The conference agenda includes dedicated time for those attending to visit with exhibitors. Conference sponsors are recognized throughout the conference with premium booth space and signage as well as name recognition in the conference program and on the TARC Web site. Various sponsorship levels are available for businesses of all sizes. To view the draft agenda for the conference and for more information about the remaining exhibitor and sponsor opportunities click here or email tarc@txregionalcouncil.org.


Texas Municipal League 100th Annual Conference, Exhibition set

A century in the making, the Texas Municipal League will hold its 100th Annual Conference and Exhibition on Nov. 13-16 in Grapevine. Hear from the experts, such as the Opening General Session keynote speaker Jim Carroll, a futurist who will discuss trends affecting public service and how to turn challenge into opportunity. Dive into concurrent sessions on leadership, smartphone apps, health care, youth, retail development, parliamentary procedure, legislation, water management and community meetings...just to name a few. And not to be missed is a walk through the exhibit hall, where delegates will find more than 300 vendors equipped with services and products to help public servants serve better. With an agenda so full, we also carved some time to celebrate 100 years of municipal excellence - join us on Nov. 14 for the TML Centennial Gala. A conference like this only comes around once every 100 years. So what are you waiting for? Register now at www.tmlconference.org.


Institute of Internal Auditors cites Austin conference in September

The Institute of Internal Auditors (IIA) will host its 2012 Southern Regional Conference Sept. 16-19 in Austin. The event, to be held at the Hilton Austin, will feature a world-class professional development conference with an "Audit Roundup: Lasso the Possibilities" theme. Audit executives, directors, managers and staff will benefit from regional speakers in tracks on governance, IT auditing, fraud, waste and abuse and emerging issues. CPE credits are available. Among the speakers for the general session are industry experts such as Ann Bishop, executive director of the Employees Retirement System of Texas, and Mike Jacksa, senior audit manager for Farmers Insurance. IIA's Chairman Phil Tarling and the North American Board Chairman, Mike Peppers, will both be keynote speakers as well. There also will be a variety of concurrent sessions in tracks led by subject matter experts on issues from IT auditing to governmental issues to fraud, waste and abuse. For more information, click here. To view the conference brochure with the complete agenda, click here.


Executive Women in Texas Government set November conference

The Executive Women in Texas Government will sponsor its 2012 Annual Professional Development Conference on Monday, Nov. 5, from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. The event will be held at the Embassy Suites San Marcos Hotel-Spa and Conference Center located at 1001 East McCarty Lane, San Marcos, TX 78666. This full-day event features prominent keynote speakers as well as more than 35 workshops to provide participants with opportunities for hands-on learning and development of leadership skills for multiple career levels. The conference is open to all interested professionals and is designed for those working in government and for organizations that collaborate with government agencies. Members and non-members are encouraged to view the EWTG Web site for conference details. 


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Mary Scott NabersBy Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.


Ever wonder which segment of the American population cares most about the environment? The answer is obvious - it's our youth. College campuses have become sustainability laboratories.


A recent Princeton Review study revealed that 69 percent of college applicants said a college's commitment to the environment significantly impacted their decisions about whether to apply there or not. As a result, higher education officials are making highly visible commitments to sustainability.

The Sierra Club recently released its annual listing of the greenest college campuses. The University of California, Davis was named number one on the list. The university diverts approximately 70 percent of its trash from landfills and its West Village is considered to be the largest planned net-zero energy residential community in the United States, meaning it generates as much energy as it uses.


Many campuses are committing to LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) designations for their buildings, based on green building design, construction, operation and maintenance. Texas Tech University recently held a ribbon cutting for its new $83 million LEED-certified residence hall. The landscaping at the dorm includes plants that require less water. Exterior building materials are organic in nature - concrete, brick and masonry. Officials say the energy cost to operate the building will be 30 percent less than older, traditional residence halls. Four campus buildings at The University of Texas at Austin are also LEED certified.


Other college campuses throughout the country are working on LEED certifications. Yale University has 14 LEED buildings. The University of South Carolina is building its new School of Business to platinum level LEED, with a goal of creating the world's largest net-zero building. The University of Colorado-Boulder campus features five LEED Gold buildings, with 10 more being planned.



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Collaboration Nation

UTMB Victory Lakes facilities expansion added to CIP

An $82 million expansion of The University of Texas Medical Branch Victory Lakes facilities has been approved by the UT System Board of Regents for inclusion in the 2013-18 capital improvement program. The facilities would include an emergency department and beds for patients who stay overnight. The expansion is expected to include 142,000 square feet to add 39 inpatient beds, 17 emergency/urgent care beds, additional operating rooms, endoscopy rooms and 25,000 square feet of shell space for future development.


The UT Regents could approve design development for the project as early as their November meeting. The $82 million expansion would be paid for by revenue financing system bonds, to be repaid from revenues generated by the development, according to UT officials.


Valenzuela to serve as new

city manager in San Angelo

Daniel ValenzuelaDaniel Valenzuela (pictured) recently accepted the offer to serve as city manager for San Angelo.


Currently the city manager in Eagle Pass, Valenzuela replaces Harold Dominguez, who resigned in March to serve as city manager in Longmont, Colorado.


Birdville ISD looking at May bond election to upgrade facilities

Birdville Independent School District board members recently appointed a committee to begin determining which capital projects to include in a bond election being considered in May 2013.


District officials have discussed upgrading and renovating three elementary schools and two middle schools with a focus on upgrading security at several of the schools that were built in the 1960s. Members of the bond committee are set to begin meeting this week to prioritize projects to be included in a bond election and make a recommendation on the bond proposal to board members late this year.


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San Marcos airport hub in line

for funds for improvements

Improvements to the hub at the San Marcos Municipal Airport will be made with $100,000 in funding from the Texas Department of Transportation through its aviation and facilities grant program. The funding is part of $60 million that will be awarded statewide for planning, constructing and maintaining community airports.


Kilgore ISD selects Williams

as interim superintendent

Dennis WilliamsKilgore Independent School District board members recently selected Dennis Williams (pictured) as the new interim superintendent. Williams, who was deputy superintendent for the district, will replace Jody Clements, who resigned to serve as superintendent at Longview ISD.


Williams previously served as a teacher and principal at school districts in New London, Marshall and Nacogdoches prior to joining Kilgore ISD.


Hunt County may seek bids

to repair courthouse steps

Hunt County Commissioners recently began considering a recommendation by the maintenance director to seek bid proposals as soon as possible to repair or replace steps leading to the entrance to the county courthouse.


A preliminary estimate indicated that the cost of the project could be $500,000 or more, the maintenance director said. Repairing or replacing the steps is critical, he advised.


Travis County selects Riley

as new county auditor

District judges in Travis County recently tapped Nicki Riley as the county auditor to replace Susan Spataro. Riley was a certified public accountant in private business until 2002, when she joined the county as the chief assistant auditor.


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Sweet selected by commissioners as Rockwall County tax assessor

Kim Sweet, Republican candidate for tax assessor of Rockwall County, has been appointed to that post by the Rockwall County Commissioners Court. She will fill the unexpired term of Tax Assessor Barbara Barber, whose term would have expired Dec. 31 had she not resigned. Her resignation was effective Aug. 31. Sweet will serve until a candidate is declared winner in the Nov. 6 general election and that person will then take office.


Victoria ISD taps sheriff office

to provide school security

Robert JaklichVictoria Independent School District board members recently agreed to spend more than $500,000 to provide security at two high schools, four middle schools and the Mitchell Guidance Center. Victoria police previously had provided security at the schools, but can no longer perform that task.


The district will reimburse the county for the expense of providing seven officers, a supervisor and any additional patrol cars needed to provide security for the seven campuses, said Superintendent Robert Jaklich (pictured).


TxDOT announces funding

for Rockwall Municipal Airport

A consultant is expected to be chosen in the fall for improvement projects at the Rockwall Municipal Airport. Funding of $165,000 is being made available through the Texas Department of Transportation for engineering and construction for drainage improvements. The funds are part of $60 million statewide for community airport projects.


Sugar Land picks Powell

as new city attorney

Sugar Land city officials recently selected Mary Ann Powell as the new city attorney, beginning Oct. 1. She will replace Joe Morris, who resigned earlier this year.


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Dallas taps Finch as new

chief information officer

Dallas city officials recently selected Bill Finch as the new chief information officer for the city. He replaces Worris Levine, who resigned from the position.


Finch, who has served as interim director of the technology department since Levine resigned, previously was an assistant director for the department. With 30 years experience in technology, Finch also worked as a manager of technology for a retail chain and as a consultant for the legal industry, banking and financial services.


Sealy selects new city secretary, 

alternate municipal judge

Sealy City Council members recently selected Dayl Cooksey as the new city secretary and Cheryl Kollatschny as the alternate municipal judge.


Cooksey, who has 35 years of municipal experience, served as an assistant to the city manager before she was appointed as interim city secretary when Krisha Lanagton retired.


Kollatschny is retaining her position as justice of peace for precinct 3 while serving as alternate municipal judge. She replaces John Campos, who was promoted as presiding judge.


Gilmer to upgrade airport

with $741,200 TxDOT grant

Gilmer recently won a $741,200 grant from the Aviation Facilities Grant Program of the Texas Department of Transportation. City officials plan to begin acquiring land and planning for airport improvements in the next two months.


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$6 million grant awarded to Workforce Solutions to grow jobs

The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded a $6 million grant to the Workforce Solutions Upper Rio Grande that will be used to help ensure job opportunities for borderland residents. The Border Workforce Alliance will use the funding for its Growing Regional Opportunity for the Workforce (GROW) initiative.


"This GROW grant will help us to continue our mission of providing education and employment opportunities to residents along the borderland, who often lack basic education attainment and English proficiency to access workforce training that leads to not only good jobs, but real careers," said Lorenzo Reyes, Jr., CEO of Workforce Solutions Upper Rio Grande.


Peggy Ledbetter retiring as treasurer for DeWitt County

Peggy LedbetterPeggy Ledbetter (pictured), who has served as treasurer for DeWitt County since July 1989, recently announced plans to retire from that job on Oct. 26. In her almost 40 years of service with the county, Ledbetter also worked as a secretary to the county attorney and for the county judge.


Longview's Fox Stephens Field receives grant from TxDOT

Fox Stephens Field in Longview has been awarded grant funds of $741,200 by the Texas Department of Transportation. The funds will be used for airport improvements, including land acquisition. The project is expected to begin within 60 days.


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Funding means improvements

for Eagle Lake airport

The Texas Transportation Commission recently approved a grant of $1.050 million for the Eagle Lake Municipal Airport. The funds will be used for improvements that include design and construction of hangars and pavement. A consultant for the project is expected to be chosen in the fall. The funds are from the Texas Department of Transportation's Aviation Facilities Grant Program. 


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TxDOT awards $331,000 grant

to Dimmit to improve airport

The Texas Department of Transportation recently awarded a $331,000 grant from the Aviation Facilities Grant Program to Dimmitt to upgrade pavement at the Dimmitt Municipal Airport. City officials plan to award a contract for the airport upgrade project this fall.


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Volume 1-10 Archives - 11/7/03 - 8/31/12

Corpus Christi assistant city manager finalist for safety post

Troy RiggsTroy Riggs (pictured), an assistant city manager in Corpus Christi, recently was named as one of four finalists for director of public safety in Indianapolis.


A decision on the final selection for the post should be made in the next two weeks, said Riggs, who was named as assistant city manager over public safety in Corpus Christi last year. Riggs previously was the police chief in Corpus Christi and a police officer and administrator in Louisville.


Governor's appointments
Governor Rick Perry has announced the following appointments:
  • Christopher DeCluitt of Waco, Texas Emerging Technology Advisory Committee;

  • Sha-Chelle Manning of Fairview, Texas Emerging Technology Advisory Committee;

  • J. Mark McWatters of Dallas, Texas Emerging Technology Advisory Committee;

  • David L. Miller of Lubbock, Texas Emerging Technology Advisory Committee;

  • Ofer Molad of Bellaire, Texas Emerging Technology Advisory Committee;

  • Jaye Thompson of The Woodlands, Texas Emerging Technology Advisory Committee.

Cameron Municipal Airport plans eight new T-hangars, tarmac

Thanks to a grant from the Texas Department of Transportation' Aviation Facilities Grant Program, the city of Cameron will make improvements to the Cameron Municipal Airport. The $855,000 grant will be used to build eight additional T-hangars and an adjoining tarmac. The grant will fund the majority of the cost of the project, which includes both design and construction of the hangars.


Brownwood ISD wins $100,000 technology grant to buy laptops

Reece BlincoeThe Brownwood Independent School District recently won a $100,000 technology grant to buy laptop computers to loan or check out to students entering into the freshman class for the 2012-2013 school year.


District officials plan to use additional revenue generated from other sources, including a student laptop activity fund, to ensure that the district can purchase more laptops for students to use in future years, said Superintendent Reece Blincoe (pictured). 


South Texas school districts will

upgrade cooling, heating systems

Five school districts in South Texas recently won grants of up to $1.9 million from the federal stimulus package to replace old heating and air conditioning systems with more energy-efficient equipment.


The largest grant of almost $1.9 million from the Texas Cool Schools program went to Robstown Independent School District where trustees plan to use the new funding to upgrade cooling, heating and ventilation systems at all schools. District officials expect to save up to $400,000 a year on the district's annual $1.8 million electricity bill.


School districts in Kingsville, Ricardo, Sinton and Woodsboro also received grants from the state comptroller's State Energy Conservation Office. The grants must be used to replace heating and air conditioning equipment more than 10 years old located only in academic buildings.


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Poth ISD name Caloss as lone finalist for superintendent

Trustees for the Poth Independent School District recently named Scott Caloss as the lone finalist for superintendent. He has served as interim superintendent following the resignation of Andy Peters, who was named as the lone finalist for superintendent by Marfa ISD. Caloss previously served as a principal for the school district.


Plainview wins $476,000

grant to upgrade airport

The Aviation Facilities Grant Program of the Texas Department of Transportation recently awarded a $476,000 grant to the Plainview/Hale County Airport to upgrade runways, taxiways, improve lighting as well as for engineering and design work for the projects.


Hale County and the city of Plainview each will contribute 5 percent in matching funds for the airport project and expect to select a consultant this fall for the engineering and design plans.


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