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Charlotte Aguilar – InstantNewsWestU.com http://www.instantnewswestu.com Constantly Updated Neighborhood News for West University, TX Wed, 18 Apr 2018 21:50:16 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.5 Taking care of business: Rep. Davis moves district office as primary looms http://www.instantnewswestu.com/taking-care-of-business-rep-davis-moves-district-office-as-primary-looms/ Tue, 05 Dec 2017 21:09:48 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=52030 State Rep. Sarah Davis, a West University Place resident representing District 134, has relocated her district office to an accessible West Loop location, keeping an eye on constituent services as she faces a GOP primary where conservative forces outside her historically moderate district are seeking to unseat her.

The four-term legislator’s staff — no changes there — is now operating out of 6300 West Loop South, Suite 140, Bellaire. And the phone number is unchanged — 713-664-7095.

“This location will provide increased accessibility to my constituents for any potential needs they may have,” said Davis in a statement. “It has been an honor to serve those in House District 134, and I look forward to the opportunity to continue to do so from our new location.”

State Representative Sarah Davis

Davis was first elected to the legislature in 2010 and is seeking a fifth term in the district that covers West U, Bellaire, Southside Place, River Oaks and a section of Montrose, Braeswood Place, and the Texas Medical Center.

Davis has risen to several key leadership positions, chairing the General Investigating and Ethics Committee, Health and Human Services Appropriations Subcommitee, and serving on the Select Committee To Study Economic Competitiveness and the Committee on Hurricane Harvey Resources and Recovery.

Her efforts for ethics reform — and her open disappointment in Republican Gov. Greg Abbott’s failure to make that a priority in the last legislative session — was a major factor in him endorsing Davis’ opponent, Susanna Dokupil, in the Republican primary, to be held March 6, 2018.

Davis fought back in a statement, saying she has “always voted my uniquely independent district.”

“When it comes to campaign season I have always stood on my own, which is why I outperformed Republicans up and down the ballot in the last mid-term election. Republican voters in HD 134 will not be told for whom to vote, and will not nominate a candidate who will be so easily defeated in the fall because they are a wholly-owned subsidiary of the extremist fringe group, Empower Texans.”

West U police release suspects’ photos in brazen robbery of woman http://www.instantnewswestu.com/west-u-police-release-suspects-photos-in-brazen-robbery-of-woman/ Tue, 17 Oct 2017 14:53:14 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=51989 West University police are asking for help from the public in locating one assailant and two accomplices responsible for robbing and injuring a woman Saturday (Oct. 14) and have released surveillance images of two of the suspects in the daylight attack.

The robbery occurred around 6:30 p.m. in the 3000 block of Sunset. The victim told officers a black male got out of a white Pontiac Grand Prix and grabbed the purse that was on her shoulder, causing her minor injuries in the process.

The suspect then ran back to the vehicle where two other suspects were waiting, according to the victim.

Anyone with information on the suspects should contact the West University Place Police Department at 713-668-0330 or email crime@westutx.gov. Callers can remain anonymous.


West U police released these surveillance images of two of the three suspects wanted in the robbery of a woman on Sunset Saturday. (West U Police)

Principal confirms Pershing MS won’t open Monday http://www.instantnewswestu.com/principal-confirms-pershing-ms-wont-open-monday/ Fri, 08 Sep 2017 11:15:09 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=51943 Pershing Middle School will not open Monday, but its principal is hopeful that students will be able to start classes in the middle of the week.

Steve Shetzer sent a message to the Pershing community late Thursday, after Houston ISD announced it would be phasing in the opening of its nearly 300 schools — all impacted to some degree by Hurricane Harvey — and unveiled an online search engine for families to monitor school start dates. Pershing is listed as “to be determined.”

Here is Shetzer’s message:

Pershing Middle School students, parents, and staff:
As you know, much of our city is still recovering from storm and flood damage left in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. Unfortunately, our campus is among the HISD schools that were impacted. Repairs must be made to our facility before we are able to safely open our doors to students and staff. For this reason, the first day of school for Pershing Middle School will not be Monday September 11th. We are working hard on a few repairs and hope that they are done over this weekend so that we can start mid-next week. I should know more this weekend. In the meantime, please know that I am working closely with HISD administration to ensure that our students’ needs are met and that teaching and learning gets underway as quickly as possible. For more information, please check our school website.
I want to thank you for your patience and flexibility during this time. Rest assured, our school community is strong, and we will get through this together. We are Pershing proud! I am looking forward to seeing all of the students soon!
Thank you.
Steven Shetzer, Principal

West U ES PTO says ignore HISD: school will start Monday http://www.instantnewswestu.com/wues-start-date-uncertain-as-200-hisd-schools-get-go-ahead-for-monday-opening/ Fri, 08 Sep 2017 00:50:37 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=51938 By Charlotte Aguilar

With great fanfare, Houston ISD officials unveiled a new online tool Thursday to help families monitor start dates that will be staggered throughout September — but the West University Elementary School PTO said it’s wrong.

WUES’ start is listed as “to be determined,” but the PTO said the opening has been confirmed for Monday — two weeks after the scheduled opening day — along with 200-plus other district campuses.

First bell will be at 7:35 a.m., with a back to school breakfast and Red Apple Sale following dropoff.

All 306 Houston ISD facilities were affected by Hurricane Harvey, officials said Thursday, requiring the district to stagger its start dates throughout September and to relocate students from nine campuses which won’t open at all this school year.

Twain elementary schools, Pershing Middle School, and Horn ES and Bellaire High Schools in Bellaire are all listed as “to be determined” on the new online tool.

Kolter ES in Meyerland is one of nine schools that can’t be reopened, and its students will be relocated to the former Gordon/Mandarin Chinese campus on Avenue B in Bellaire, said Superintendent Richard Carranza.

Start dates for schools popular with local families are:

Next Monday, Sept. 11: Carnegie Vanguard HS, Challenge Early College HS, Condit ES, DeBakey HS, High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, Lamar HS, Lanier MS, Lovett ES, Pin Oak MS, River Oaks ES, T.H. Rogers ES and MS, West University ES.

To be determined: Bellaire HS, Horn ES, Pershing MS, Twain ES.

Sept. 25: Kolter ES, relocating at the former Gordon/MCLIMS campus on Avenue B in Bellaire

Teachers from the schools opening next Monday will report to campuses Friday. All other teachers are expected to report to trauma training and will be able to return if their campuses open with short notice.

“Although all campuses were impacted, some campuses were fortunate to have limited damage, while others need so much work they will not reopen this year,” said Superintendent Richard Carranza at a Thursday afternoon news conference where he was flanked by trustees. “We will not compromise the safety of either staff or students.”

Carranza said air quality has been tested in each flooded campus, and that the testing will continue throughout the school year to make sure there are no hidden problems.

Superintendent Richard Carranza said students at more than 200 campuses will be able to start classes next Monday. (ABC-13 image)

HISD start date pushed back again to Sept. 11 — but conditionally http://www.instantnewswestu.com/hisd-start-date-pushed-back-again-to-sept-11-but-conditionally/ Thu, 31 Aug 2017 20:18:39 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=51886 By Charlotte Aguilar

Houston ISD pushed back the start date for students at its 280 schools Thursday (Aug. 31) to Monday, Sept. 11, although administrators will report to duty Sept. 5 and teachers and other staff on Sept. 8. A come-as-you-are clothing policy will be in effect through January, showing sensitivity to the fact that families may have fled stormwaters with only the clothing on their backs.

There’s one big caveat, though. Teams from the district are still assessing damages on the campuses, and unlike its news release, the district’s tweet on the opening qualified the date with “weather and facility conditions permitting.”

Earlier, Superintendent Richard Carranza told ABC-13 that the 45 facilities inspected to that point had issues with roofs, water and power. He said evaluations are being based on the overall condition of the area’s infrastructure including roads, if the individual campuses are safe, and if the staff is ready to return.

District personnel were going to be visiting shelters to assess the needs of and plan transportation for students.

“We are eager to get our students back into the classroom and learning,” said Carranza. “We want to provide the stability of a routine…”

The HISD school year had been scheduled to start last Monday, right when Houston was in the most desperate flooding and evacuation conditions. It was first delayed until after Labor Day, set for Sept. 5.

Updates on the return to school are available on the district’s Inclement Weather Hotline at 713-556-9595, by text message alerts available by texting YES to 68453 on cell phones, or via the Houston ISD Twitter and Facebook accounts.


Harvey extends the summer: HISD announces it won’t open until Sept. 5 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/harvey-extends-the-summer-hisd-announces-it-wont-open-until-sept-5/ Sun, 27 Aug 2017 16:43:43 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=51882 Houston ISD had already announced it would delay Monday’s start of the school year, but Sunday district officials said that schools and offices would be closed all week.

With the Labor Day holiday on Monday, Sept. 4, that means classes would start Sept. 5 at the earliest.

HISD said the rains and ongoing flooding from Hurricane Harvey “make for conditions too dangerous for school to begin any sooner.”

Follow updates at the district’s inclement weather hotline at 713-556-9595, by signing up for text alerts by testing YES to 68453, or on HISD’s HoustonISD Twitter and Facebook social media accounts.

Nice job! WUES lands on Texas Honor Roll along with Pershing, Lanier, Pin Oak MS http://www.instantnewswestu.com/nice-job-wues-lands-on-texas-honor-roll-along-with-pershing-lanier-pin-oak-ms/ Fri, 28 Apr 2017 15:48:30 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=51704 West University Elementary School has once again made the Texas Honor Roll of schools displaying high academic achievement, one of 48 Houston ISD schools to do so.

Pershing, Lanier and Pin Oak middle schools were also named to the 2016 list compiled annually by the Educational Results Partnership, based on student performance on the STAAR standardized test — the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness.

WUES, Pin Oak and Lanier were ranked as Scholar Schools because they are high performing while having fewer than 33 percent of students considered economically disadvantaged. Pershing was recognized as a Star School because of a higher percentage of economically disadvantaged students.

Among the other schools on the list in the Star category are Bellaire HS, DeBakey HS for the Health Professions, Challenge Early College HS; and in the Scholar Schools category, Roberts, River Oaks, Mandarin Immersion Magnet School, Horn and Twain elementaries; T.H. Rogers K-8, and Carnegie Vanguard HS and the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts.

Sexist mudslinging, chapter 2: This time it’s surrogate making charges in West U mayor’s race http://www.instantnewswestu.com/sexist-mudslinging-chapter-2-this-time-its-surrogate-making-charges-in-west-u-mayors-race/ http://www.instantnewswestu.com/sexist-mudslinging-chapter-2-this-time-its-surrogate-making-charges-in-west-u-mayors-race/#comments Mon, 24 Apr 2017 18:47:24 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=51643 By Charlotte Aguilar
As early voting begins in West University municipal elections Monday, a controversy involving reportedly sexist remarks by mayoral candidate Sonny Brandtner, aimed at incumbent Mayor Susan Sample, refused to die down.

Social media lit up last week when accounts were posted of Brandtner — a retiree — claiming that Sample had “too much on her plate” as a mother of two young children in a high-powered career to devote time to being mayor and bragging that he “gets things done.”

Although the event was not recorded, several independent accounts of the forum last Tuesday at West University United Methodist Church corroborated his quote. Reactions ranged from incredulity to disgust.

Following his appearance at the West University Essentials and InstantNewsWestU.com candidates’ forum Sunday night, Brandtner was asked to clarify his remarks. He refused and walked away, saying he had been “very much taken out of context.”

But Monday, there was credence given to speculation that Brandtner’s strategy to question Sample’s commitment was the brainchild of her political adversary, Councilmember Brennan Reilly, who chose not to seek re-election after his single, two-year term saw him go from member of a slate to a lone wolf abandoned by his former political colleagues.

In an email, Reilly endorsed Brandtner, praising his business acumen and saying, as a retiree, he “has the time to devote to the job, which is not the case for his main opponent.”

Although the matter was not addressed directly in questions at the Essentials/InstantNews forum Sunday, Sample got the biggest reaction of the evening when she alluded to it in response to a question about her legacy and in her closing remarks, when she described herself as the “hardest working mayor in modern times.”

In response to another question, Sample estimated that she devotes up to 80 hours each month to city business and pointed out her perfect attendance record at scheduled meetings during her two-year term.

An 11-year resident of West U, she is a CPA and tax attorney with Shell and holds five degrees, including those in accounting and law. She is the mother to 5-year-old twins.

Sample often receives high marks from her constituents for her responsiveness. She regularly monitors, contributes and responds to the city’s and to the West University Information Exchange Facebook pages.

Businessman Greg Micek is the third candidate in the race and has stuck to the issues, including offering unique proposals on reducing crime and eliminating property taxes by adopting a “Smart Cities” model outlined by the Wall Street Journal.

Two of the candidates for mayor at the West University Essentials/InstantNewsWestU.com forum Sunday. Retiree Sonny Brandtner has drawn ire by claiming incumbent Susan Sample has "too much on her plate" as a mother and corporate tax attorney to serve as mayor. (Photo by Charlotte Aguilar)

All three of the candidates for mayor at the West University Essentials and InstantNewsWestU.com forum Sunday. Retiree Sonny Brandtner (center) has drawn ire by claiming incumbent Susan Sample has “too much on her plate” as a mother and corporate tax attorney to serve as mayor. (Photo by Charlotte Aguilar)

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Lamar HS groundbreaking ceremony to celebrate history, future http://www.instantnewswestu.com/lamar-hs-groundbreaking-ceremony-to-celebrate-history-future/ Thu, 30 Mar 2017 13:22:24 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=51553 Representatives from all 80 of Lamar High School’s graduating classes, a former Texas governor, a host of officials and students, staff and faculty are scheduled to attend the groundbreaking ceremony for the school’s new campus at 10:30 a.m. today (Thursday, March 30).

The $108 million project is part of the 2012 bond package approved by Houston ISD voters and will construct a state-of-the-art campus for 2,800-3,100 students while preserving historic architectural features of the Art Deco 1937 main building that faces Westheimer Road.

Design plans call for a new four-story addition featuring four flexible academic areas, a large covered transit center for bus and parent drop-off, a black box theater and band instruction area, a large banquet and food preparation space for the school’s culinary program, and other career and technical education spaces. The existing main building, with its well-known art deco façade, will continue to serve as the main entrance. It also will house the existing auditorium, an alumni center, an employee child care facility, and a performing arts area.

For more on the project, click here.

Based in part on a news release from Houston ISD

Design sketch of the new main building at Lamar HS, on the east side of the campus. (HISD)

Design sketch of the new main building at Lamar HS, on the east side of the campus. (HISD)

Hurry to register: Constable’s rape defense course will be offered in West U http://www.instantnewswestu.com/hurry-to-register-constables-rape-defense-course-will-be-offered-in-west-u/ Fri, 03 Mar 2017 20:47:36 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=51473 Slots are expected to be filled quickly for the Precinct 1 Constable’s 12-hour Rape Aggression Defense Course, which will be offered across four nights in West University.

The class will be conducted from 5:30-8:30 p.m. March 27-28 and April 3-4 at the West University Senior Services facility, 6104 Auden St.

There is no cost, but participants must commit to attend all 12 hours. Participants under 18 must attend with a parent or guardian. There is no maximum age limit. Athletic-type clothing and clothing must be worn — no cut-off shorts, flip-flops or sandals, and no jewelry, including watches or bracelets.

Our next extremely popular, 4-night Rape Aggression Defense course will be conducted 5:30-8:30 p.m. March 27-28 and April 3-4 at the West University Senior Services facility at 6104 Auden St., 77005.

Participants must attend every class, meaning a total of 12 hours of instruction, at no cost.

To enroll, click here.


Reaching a crescendo? WUES parents take on principal over lack of music, art education http://www.instantnewswestu.com/reaching-a-crescendo-wues-parents-take-on-principal-over-lack-of-music-art-education/ Tue, 10 Jan 2017 20:07:01 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=51357  

Story and photos by Carlos Aguilar

Arts are usually the gracious part of student life, balancing the pressures of growing academic demands and high stakes tests even in grade school.

At West University Elementary School, arts education — or rather the lack of it — has become a point of contention as parents struggle to bring music and visual arts to the regular curriculum.

Parents say the highly ranked school hasn’t had full-time art classes since its certified art teacher was let go after budget cuts six years ago.  Despite their pleas, they say, no replacement has been hired by Principal John Threet.

Emily Smith, who has three children at WUES, tried to make an arts education presentation at the November PTO meeting. “The meeting was adjourned, and I wasn’t sure what parliamentary procedure permitted that,” she said.

When she announced that she was going to try again at the December meeting and Essentials asked to come along with a group of parent supporters, we were encouraged to do so.

But although Smith was finally heard — although photos showed PTO leaders and Threet ignoring her — Essentials was not allowed in, told by school staff that media was not permitted.

When we said we would wait to talk to Threet after the meeting about arts at the school, we were told he would not be available. We left a note requesting an interview but never heard back.

Parents were more than willing to talk, though.

Smith worries that the focus at West U should be on development of the whole child. “I’m concerned that there is an imbalance in our school,” she said. “When our children don’t get art and music education, they don’t learn about meaningful self-expression.”

In the meantime, the only arts and music available for all students at WUES is the “Hands-on Arts” program organized by parent volunteers who can only provide arts appreciation projects five to six times a year, they explained.

Hands-on Art director Judy Cheng says the volunteer parents are limited in what kind of instruction they can provide.  “We don’t teach them technique.  We try to give a little bit of art history.  We’re not art teachers, but we have to prepare 45-minute lesson plans to do something engaging with the students. We need a certified art teacher.”

Cheng says the children’s lack of knowledge about such basics as colors is disturbing.  “They don’t know about primary colors and how to mix them to get the color they want,” she said.

Cheng’s daughter, Laura, who graduated from West University Elementary School and is now attending Pin Oak Middle School, is happy to say that at Pin Oak she is now taking dance and choir during regular class periods.  “It would have helped if I had had regular art at West U,” she said.

The second opportunity for student involvement in the arts at West U Elementary is the school’s choir.  But parents point out that it’s an after school activity for a relatively small number of only fourth- and fifth-graders in the 1,200-pupil school. That program is also parent-led.

Parent Beth Lane explained that the big picture for West University students and the school itself is disturbing as parents are forced to go outside the school to provide piecemeal arts education.

“We’re surrounded by schools that are just as competitive as we are — Roberts, Mark Twain, Condit and River Oaks — (have) art and music programs, and we don’t.  They have good test scores, too.  WUES is zoned to Pershing, and that’s an arts magnet.  (Students are) faced with not knowing how to do art, and they walk in into an art class and do not know what to do.”

And Lane has an even broader concern: “Anything that makes the school look bad, such as not having a real fine arts program — if more people knew, (that) could bring down real estate values, which should be of concern to every resident in West U whether they go to school or not.”

Beth’s daughter, Susie, who is in the fourth grade at West U, says she would like to have regular art classes at her school:  “I like doing Hands On Art, but I wish there was more art.”

Cheng said the time has long passed to restore arts education. “Originally, we thought this would be temporary after budget cuts were resolved,” she said.

As for Threet, he never responded to Essentials’ request for an interview.

Feeling thwarted so far in their efforts to deal with their administration, the pro-arts parents may appeal to a higher authority. Houston ISD’s new superintendent, Richard Carranza, is a professional mariachi musician and vocal advocate of arts programming in every district school.

Judy Cheng is in charge of the parent-led Hands-on Art program at WUES. She and daughter Laura, now a Pin Oak MS student, are both concerned about the lack of a formal arts program at West U.

Judy Cheng is in charge of the parent-led Hands-on Art program at WUES. She and daughter Laura, now a Pin Oak MS student, are both concerned about the lack of a formal arts program at West U.

Beth Lane, with daughter Susie, worried how lack of arts programming at WUES will impact the school's competitive standing and, eventually, real estate values.

Beth Lane, with daughter Susie, worried how lack of arts programming at WUES will impact the school’s competitive standing and, eventually, real estate values.

Cheng says many WUES pupils don't know their primary colors nor how to blend them to create new colors. (Submitted photo)

Cheng says many WUES pupils don’t know their primary colors nor how to blend them to create new colors. (Submitted photo)


Love them, hate them, you can’t ignore them: 5 completely compelling West U homes http://www.instantnewswestu.com/love-them-hate-them-you-cant-ignore-them-5-completely-compelling-west-u-homes/ http://www.instantnewswestu.com/love-them-hate-them-you-cant-ignore-them-5-completely-compelling-west-u-homes/#comments Mon, 12 Dec 2016 16:09:26 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=51310 Story and photos by George Boehme

In 1910, the former governor of Tennessee, Ben Hooper, formed the West End Realty Company to build “country homes” on property now known as West University Place.

These new homes were three miles out in the country. In the early 1920s, a 100’ x 200’ lot sold for $1,000. The homes were marketed to middle-class homebuyers and were mostly one-story, two-bedroom bungalows with one bathroom.

How things have changed.

Heidi Dugan, a realtor with Greenwood-King Properties who specializes in West University Place real estate, says that same 100’ x 200’ lot would sell for about $2.5 million in today’s market.

Each year, the supply of those original homes dwindles, with most being replaced by a combination of comfortingly traditional and an eclectic architectural mix of large residential boxes.

Here are — arguably — five of the most interesting.

The selection process was not flawless, but I did drive down every street in West U. That took about six hours. I learned a lot. (And don’t cluck about it, but we do have some chickens in West University Place. Sssh.)

I photographed 69 homes, and asked six people to pick the five they thought were most interesting. Four of the selectors live in West U, one in Boston, the other in Houston.

Some are old, others new. All five venture outside the norm.


Hunting season

This 1,252 square foot cabin looks like the functional cabin at a deer lease, complete with the deer rack. This rustic 1940s home, located in the 4100 block of Milton Street is a perfectly delightful addition to West U’s architectural diversity.






Beach front house — but no beach

This beautiful 4,148 square foot. home is located in the 6300 block of Vanderbilt Street. The second floor entrance is more often associated with beachfront architecture with an eye toward protection from high water. Constructed in 1984, this lovely home makes you want to relax. Put on your bathing suit and sip on a mai tai.




Where did this come from?

The most controversial of our selections — you either love it or hate it. Is it from Sun City, Arizona? Or is it a new Jiffy Lube? Our selectors were divided on this question. This streamlined 1,849 square foot. home was constructed in 2008 and offers visitors an eclectic vision while driving down the otherwise mostly traditional 4000 block of Swarthmore Street.




New Orleans menagerie

How else can we say it? This home does not fit in West U. But we absolutely love it. This 7,516 square foot house was built in 1984 and is located in the 3200 block of Pittsburg Street. (And yes, that’s the way West U spells Pittsburg.) This home is downright quirky. You expect to see a toucan in one tree, and a bald eagle in the other while you are shaking your leg to some Louis Armstrong.



A classic blast from the past

Nothing short of classic beauty here. Built in 1940 on a gracefully treed site in the 5400 block of Fairmont, this 1,733 square foot farmhouse really was a farmhouse. There were chickens, pigs, and probably a few horses back in the day. In 2016, 76 years later, it retains all of its 1940s charm — without the livestock.



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He has re-thought it: Mike Lunceford is staying on HISD board, but another trustee is leaving http://www.instantnewswestu.com/he-has-re-thought-it-mike-lunceford-is-staying-on-hisd-board/ Fri, 11 Nov 2016 00:51:53 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=51265 Mike Lunceford, the veteran trustee who represents West University on the Houston ISD Board of Education, said Thursday night he has reconsidered his intention to resign and will stay until his term ends a year from now.

Lunceford, who was not present at the monthly board meeting, had President Manuel Rodriguez make the announcement. Lunceford had shocked many when he announced at the last board meeting that he was resigning because of the challenges of commuting between a job in west Texas and his home and trustee duties here.

In what’s looking like musical chairs, though, west side trustee Greg Meyers announced his resignation because he is moving outside the district he represents.

Lunceford provided the statement he had sent to Rodriguez to Instant News:

“At the regular Board meeting on October 13, 2016, I announced in public my intention to resign from the Board, effective December 31, 2017. I have not submitted a written resignation in accordance with Texas law and Board policy, which would create a vacancy. After much thought and discussion with my family and constituents, I have decided not to resign from the Board, but to complete my current term; my position will be up for election in November 2017. Given the HISD community’s vote on November 8, 2016, not to pay recapture to the State, I believe and hope that my continued service will be valuable as we work with the Texas Legislature in 2017 to address our financial concerns. Over the last month I have also come to realize that the new Superintendent and Board can benefit from my institutional knowledge and skill set during his first budget cycle, even if at a distance sometimes. Because of a work commitment, I am not able to attend the regular Board meeting today, November 10, 2016, so I would appreciate you sharing my decision not to resign with the rest of the Board and please read this letter in public under Board comments. I look forward to continuing to serve with you and my fellow Board members.”



New contractor for Bissonnet roadwork aims to get project on track http://www.instantnewswestu.com/new-contractor-for-bissonnet-roadwork-aims-to-get-project-on-track/ Tue, 08 Nov 2016 17:55:14 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=51262
After roadwork on Bissonnet Street between Kirby Drive and Buffalo Speedway was halted for more than a month due to a dispute with the contractor, the Upper Kirby District has brought in a new contractor, and work has resumed.
Work resumed last week to restore the impacted westbound lanes and driveways along the north side of the road and complete the southern half of the Kirby/Bissonnet intersection. One manhole was set, and demolition was started to prepare for placement of pavement. The goal, says the district, is to get all lanes and driveways open and unobstructed in December.
Work completing the southern half of the Kirby intersection will take place over weekends only after the north side is finished.
To date, the north side of Bissonnet running from just east of Kirby to just east of Dincans has new storm sewer improvements and partial concrete replacement.
Based on a news release from the Upper Kirby District
Construction work has resumed on the north side of Bissonnet Street. (Photo from Upper Kirby District)

Construction work has resumed on the north side of Bissonnet Street. (Photo from Upper Kirby District)

West U Garden Club sprouts anew: Organizers look to history for inspiration http://www.instantnewswestu.com/west-u-garden-club-sprouts-anew-organizers-look-to-history-for-inspiration/ Tue, 08 Nov 2016 17:24:24 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=51255  

Story and photos by Carlos Aguilar

“West University was not always a city with large houses.  It was a very middle class city.  And what we’re trying to do — it’s like reviving a living history of the city.” 

Longtime West University resident Sarah Ballanfant is talking about the city’s beginnings with its single-story bungalows with ample yards and residents maintaining home gardens.

Back then, she says, it was common for homeowners to keep gardens to grow some of their own food.  Others nurtured plants for floral beauty to enhance their yards.

That interest led to the formation of the West University Garden Club. Participation was high, and there were even social events to help support its efforts.

When World War II came, the club was a strong force in the community, to help answer the call to sacrifice. West U Garden Club members grew Victory Gardens to help with the war effort.

The club flourished for years, but over time — as larger houses were built and new families moved in with more time spent outside the home, the West U Garden Club all but died on the vine.

Two decades later, though, Ballanfant said seeds have been planted to revitalize the dormant organization: “We were surprised recently that 13 people showed up at a meeting to begin the reformation of the historic West U Garden Club.”

Sarah adds that although most members in the past have been women, organizers want to make sure that men know they are welcome, too.  “We’d like to catch the interest of some of the men.  It’s a very relaxing thing.  It’s a retirement possibility and even for men with high pressure careers.”

Her fellow West University gardener, Michelle Moore — whose husband grows antique roses — says reviving the garden club could be seen as bringing the West University community together again in an historic way and sharing the bounty.

“I do herb gardening,” she explains. “I have lemon and lime trees, with the surplus crop going to two local restaurants.”

Michelle sees gardening today as complementing the recent trend and popularity of sustainability and shopping at local farmers’ markets.  “Restarting the WU Garden Club is just one other facet of ‘know your food’ and where it comes from.  If you want to get appropriate nutrition and minimize the amount of pesticides getting into your body, you”d better know where your food comes from.  The freshest food is within a certain radius of your home.  How better to know where your food comes from when you get it from your own back yard?”

Where and when

Meetings are set from 11 a.m. to 12 noon on the fourth Wednesday of each month at the West University Community Building, 6104 Auden St.

Because of the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays, the November and December meetings are being combined on Dec. 14, with helpful tips on pruning and ideas for spring planting.

For more information, contact 713-662-5826.

For gardening tips, visit PickYourOwn.org


Michelle Moore is one of those nurturing the revival of the West University Garden Club.

Michelle Moore is one of those nurturing the revival of the West University Garden Club.

West University Garden Club organizer Sarah Ballanfant supports a lifestyle of healthy eating from yard...

West University Garden Club organizer Sarah Ballanfant supports a lifestyle of healthy eating from yard…


…to kitchen.

Ballanfant and Moore peruse the scrapbooks chronicling 83 years of West U Garden Club History.

Ballanfant and Moore peruse the scrapbooks chronicling 83 years of West U Garden Club History.

In early days, the Garden Club was a cornerstone of West University social life and community.

In early days, the Garden Club was a cornerstone of West University social life and community.

Starting gardeners early at WUES

Recipe4Success cultivates healthy eating habits

 Community gardening — and good nutrition — are growing on the campus of West University Elementary School.

Thanks to the initiative of parent Kristen Berger, students participate in Recipe4Success Seed-to-Plate program, which connects gardening to health eating.

The school maintains a garden club as an afterschool activity and rotates pupils through an educational program, led by trained parents, once each year.

URGENT: Crews working on ‘major’ West U gas leak http://www.instantnewswestu.com/urgent-crews-working-on-major-west-u-gas-leak/ Fri, 28 Oct 2016 17:03:00 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=51194 West University officials are reporting a “major” gas leak at Community and Villanova streets. You should avoid Community from Villanova to Marquette until further notice.


Mike Tenney’s Friday Night report: Episcopal’s juggernaut rolls over St. John’s http://www.instantnewswestu.com/mike-tenneys-friday-night-report-episcopals-juggernaut-rolls-over-st-johns/ Sat, 15 Oct 2016 06:06:15 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=51119 By Mike Tenney

Episcopal took another step toward an undefeated season Friday night, upending archrival St. John’s 52-10 at Skip Lee Field to highlight another evening of local football.
Episcopal 52, St. John’s 10
For the first time this year, the Knights, who are now 8-0 this autumn, were actually tied 7-7 with an opponent, but from there, they scored the next 21 points to roll to another one-sided victory.
With Jaylen Waddle catching a touchdown pass and scoring on an 85-yard punt return and the defense scoring twice, the Knights also went to 3-0 in Southwest Preparatory Conference play with just two weeks left in the regular season.
Tayjon Martin had two touchdowns for Episcopal — catching a 32-yard pass from quarterback Gavin Geib and returning an interception 30 yards — with both coming in the second period.
Genson Hooper Price accounted for the Mavericks’ only touchdown, returning a kickoff 100 yards in the first quarter to tie the game at seven after Matthew Garnett‘s PAT kick..
The Mavericks are 2-5 on the year.
Lamar 44, Heights 13
Senior quarterback Owen Holt threw two touchdown passes and caught one as well, leading Lamar to a convincing triumph over Heights (formerly Reagan) in a District 18-6A ballgame.
The Texas are now 4-0 in district and have pretty much clinched at least a playoff berth with that win.
Holt caught a four-yard pass from Carlton Smith to put Lamar on the board first and then hooked up with wide receiver Al’Vonte Woodard on a 69-yard score as the Texans raced to a 21-0 lead before Heights got on the board.
Ta’Zhawn Henry rushed for 101 yards and one touchdown on just 12 carries to aid the offense.
The Lamar defense picked off three passes on the night, taking one back for a touchdown.
Strake Jesuit 31, Tompkins 7
The Crusaders remained in contention for a playoff spot in District 19-6A, defeating Katy Tompkins in a road game at Rhodes Stadium in Katy.
The Crusaders scored 17 points in the second period to take command after a scoreless first period and improved their record to 2-2 in the 19-6A.
Running back Sean Mowatt-Larsen caught one touchdown pass and also scored on a 23-yard run to highlight a night that saw Jesuit accumulate more than 400 yards in total offense.
Quarterback Felix Read threw touchdown passes and running back Michael Purvey ran for 113 yards and one score on 23 carries for the Crusaders.
Kinkaid 35, Episcopal School of Dallas 15
Notching a touchdown on the first play of the second period to break a scoreless tie, the Falcons remained in playoff contention with a solid win over ESD in north Texas.
A Josh Williams run got Kinkaid on the board, and they pulled away for an important SPC win with just two weeks remaining in the regular season for everyone in the conference.
The Falcons took a 28-8 lead into the third period before each team added a touchdown in the final 12 minutes.
Second Baptist 70, Lutheran South 24
Scoring on seven first-half possessions, Second Baptist broke away from a 14-14 tie by scoring 28 points in the first and 28 more in the second to belt Lutheran South Friday night on Woodway Drive.
Running back John Hildreth ran for three touchdowns and 135 yards on just eight carries and caught a touchdown pass from quarterback Zach Heaton as the Eagles took a 28-14 lead after the first period and stretched that to 56-17 at halftime.
Fellow running back Deion Smith rushed for three more scores and 202 yards on just eight carries himself as the Eagles closed with nearly 500 yards in total offense and over 300 of that on the ground.
Second Baptist is now 6-1 on the year.

Episcopal rolled over St. John's on the Mavericks' home field Friday night to keep their unblemished record (Episcopal photo)

Episcopal rolled over St. John’s on the Mavericks’ home field Friday night to keep their unblemished record (Episcopal photo)

Surprise announcement: HISD Trustee Mike Lunceford is resigning http://www.instantnewswestu.com/surprise-announcement-hisd-trustee-mike-lunceford-is-resigning/ Fri, 14 Oct 2016 01:50:30 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=51105 By Charlotte Aguilar

Mike Lunceford — who has represented West University Place on the Houston ISD Board of Education for seven years — made a surprise announcement at Thursday night’s board meeting that he is resigning, effective immediately. (UPDATE: Lunceford clarified Friday that his resignation will take place “at the end of the year.”)

He had just assumed blame for some trustees’ concerns over communication about a proposed $7.5 million gift to the district’s High School for the Performing and Visual Arts from the Kinder Foundation, in exchange for naming rights.

The donation was approved by a vote of 7-2, with Trustees Jolanda Jones and Diana Davila voting nay.

Lunceford wasn’t immediately available for comment about his resignation. Although he lives in the trustee district, he has commuted to West Texas for his job as vice president of Stanolind Oil and Gas in recent months. He was also frequently in the minority in board votes with the seating of new members in January, and the confrontational, name-calling personalities that have emerged in board debates are antithetical to Lunceford’s quiet but firm, reasoned style.

An alumnus, former parent and longtime volunteer in HISD, he was elected to the board in 2009 and served as president in 2012.

Although he frequently locked horns with former Superintendent Terry Grier, Grier — who retired to North Carolina earlier this year — was quick to praise Lunceford on Twitter. “While I did not always agree with him, he is someone I admired, respected, and enjoyed working with,” Grier tweeted. “Good man!”



The rush is on: HISD magnet school applications now open for 2017-’18 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/the-rush-is-on-hisd-magnet-school-applications-now-open-for-2017-18/ Fri, 30 Sep 2016 15:48:02 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=51060 By Charlotte Aguilar

The window to apply to 119 Houston ISD magnet programs opened today (Friday, Sept. 30) and will close Dec. 9.

Applications are available at HISDChoice.com, HoustonISD.org/Magnet or in person at the magnet school of choice or the district’s Office of School Choice at the Hattie Mae White Education Center, 4400 W. 18th St. from 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Each student may apply to five choices and rank them in order of preference in this first phase of the program. But with more than 60,000 applications for 2016-’17 slots and the most desired schools statistically considered more difficult to get into than Ivy League campuses, the pickings are slim in Phase Two.

Additional information on the Vanguard programs for gifted-and-talented students is available at HoustonISD.org/Vanguard. If a student submits applications to five Vanguard programs and is not ultimately identified as gifted-and-talented, none of those applications will be considered.

In addition to the Vanguard programs popular with West U families at campuses such as River Oaks Elementary and Lanier Middle School, there are International Baccalaureate schools, such as Twain Elementary and Lamar High School, and magnets emphasizing arts, college and career readiness, dual language instruction, literature, Montessori, STEM and technology.

School Choice and magnets are both among HISD’s strongest lures and its most controversial topics. Magnet programs offer alternatives to private and charter schools, but critics say they weaken neighborhood school programs and that they’ve suffered from inequities in funding — problems that trustees and administration have tried to correct through a series of reforms in recent years.

Families may learn more about the options through open houses at the schools and  a series of School Choice Fairs.

School Choice Thursdays will be held at 9 a.m. for elementary and K-8 schools and at 1 p.m. for secondary schools on Oct. 6, 13, 20 and 27; Nov. 3, 10, 17; and Dec. 1 and 8. The School Choice Fair schedule is:



Oct. 1: 9 a.m.-12 p.m. at Chavez High School, 8501 Howard St.
Oct. 22: 9 a.m.-12 p.m. at Heights High School, 413 E. 13th St.
Nov. 5: 9 a.m.-12 p.m. at Austin High School, 1700 Dumble St.
Dec. 3: 9 a.m.-12 p.m. at Sterling High School, 11625 Martindale St.




HISD’s new chief brings ‘Listen and Learn Tour’ to area tonight for input http://www.instantnewswestu.com/hisds-new-chief-brings-listen-and-learn-tour-to-area-tonight-for-input/ http://www.instantnewswestu.com/hisds-new-chief-brings-listen-and-learn-tour-to-area-tonight-for-input/#comments Wed, 28 Sep 2016 12:26:14 +0000 http://www.instantnewswestu.com/?p=51016 Houston ISD’s new superintendent, Richard Carranza, is bringing his “Listen and Learn Tour” to the district that encompasses West University-area schools this evening (Wednesday, Sept. 28).

District V Trustee Mike Lunceford will host a town hall-style gathering beginning at 6 p.m. at Bellaire High School, 5100 Maple St. It is the superintendent’s only meeting scheduled in this area.

Carranza, newly appointed by trustees after serving as San Francisco’s superintendent, “will be available to listen to input from the community about the district’s future and learn about key issues that are important to stakeholders,” according to HISD’s description of the meeting. He is holding such gatherings in each trustee’s district as he prepares to unveil his administration’s plans.




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