Bus Road-e-o showcases CFISD drivers in family-friendly event

For many in the CFISD community, their view of the district’s transportation department are the school buses transporting students to and from campuses and extracurricular activities.

The department, which transports more students to schools than any other district in the state, is more than that. And the School Bus Safety Road-e-o, held this year on April 7 at the Eldridge Transportation Center, is one way for the community to get that first-hand view.

The Road-e-o is a competition among participating drivers and attendants in two separate divisions (regular and special needs). The competition includes 12 events encompassing different aspects of driving and a written exam.

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In total, 42 bus drivers participated in the competition in addition to five special needs teams. This year’s event also drew participants from Conroe and Alvin ISDs.

But the day is also an open house for the hosting transportation center. Music, games and food were available to visitors, family and guests who attended to watch the competition or get a peek at how the transportation center operates.

Staff from the community programs department served as DJs and game organizers. Students and student groups volunteered, while the Cy-Fair Volunteer Fire Department showcased a fire engine as well.

“There are so many facets that are involved with our transportation department that the community really doesn’t get to see,” said Bill Powell, CFISD director of transportation. “So, this is that opportunity for them to get to see behind the scenes of what we’re all about.”

The events included parallel parking, offset alley and diminishing clearance and straight line – a challenging event where the bus must be aligned to allow front and rear dual wheels to travel between a row of tennis balls without disturbing them.

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The top four finishers advanced to the Gulf Coast Chapter of the Texas Association for Pupil Transportation (TAPT) School Bus Safety Road-e-o on April 21, where CFISD participants also excelled. Helen Nixon of the Eldridge Center got first place in the regular competition after taking second at the district level. Jessica Otwell of the Westgreen Transportation Center claimed second at regionals after she won her second consecutive district title.

Pam Bokemyer and Linda Hair (Eldridge) placed third in the special needs competition.

They all advanced to the statewide competition, which will be held during the 45th annual Texas Association for Pupil Transportation Conference and Trade Show on June 22 in Corpus Christi. Top competitors will then have a chance to advance to the national level.

With the day being filled with friendly competition and fun activities, the CFISD School Bus Safety Road-e-o not only gives community a chance to see the inside of the transportation department but also showcases the talented and skilled drivers within the district.

“The Road-e-o’s an awesome event where our drivers and attendants are able to come in and showcase their skills,” Powell said. “They hone their skills practicing throughout the year and it’s just a great time for the community to come together.”


TAP Camp blends teamwork, ambition and perseverance for students

The week of spring break was an opportunity for some to get time away, but for others, it offered the chance for many CFISD students to come together for a fun, motivational and educational experience. It came together for approximately 100 students at the annual TAP (Teamwork – Ambition – Perseverance) Camp, held March 13-15 at Anthony Middle School.

Funded by the Texas Support for Homeless Education Program (TEXSHEP) grant, TAP Camp is a multi-department, collaborative effort in its seventh year that offers a fun and learning environment, while at the same time helping students pick up tips to help with STAAR and end-of-course exams.

“The goal for TAP Camp is to bring these select students together, give them fun-filled academic support over spring break in preparation for the upcoming STAAR test and EOC,” said Ify Ogwumike, assistant superintendent for student services. “And we have wonderful, wonderful math teachers, we have community programs (and) they work together to provide these students with some educational experiences and some strategies that they can then take back to their campuses.”

Added Bambi Robinson, community programs support staff member: “I love the fact that when they come, they’re a little down in the dumps because it’s spring break. Everybody wants to have fun and they have to go to ‘math camp.’ But after the first hour of TAP Camp, they are so excited and ready to come back the next day.”

Helping this year’s camp be even more of a success was more one-on-one instructional support from staff and volunteers.

Students were transported by bus to Anthony, beginning their day on campus with breakfast and a pep rally in the arena. Daily agendas included team-building activities, objectives for both large and small groups, and math instruction from CFISD teachers. Following a lunch provided by the nutrition services department, participating students went back into rotation activities before everyone came together for a session and prize giveaways in the cafeteria.

“It’s fun mixed with learning,” said Joshua Phong, a camp attendee and Cook Middle School sixth-grade student. “They show you so many things I didn’t realize.”

Every attending student had the opportunity to not only have fun and learning math and team-building skills, but also return home with a prize.

The camp even involved parents, as a workshop was offered. Melanie Dobney, assistant director of community programs presented to nearly 40 parents, offering mentoring opportunities and leading giveaways of free books provided by First Book and a number of prizes as well.

TAP Camp ends with a grand finale, as students perform skits to help celebrate. Dr. Mark Henry, superintendent of schools, visited attendees and helped provide support.

“They get their math,” Robinson said. “But they also get leadership skills (and) tools to help them succeed not just in school but in life. And I get the opportunity to see the kids at their schools throughout the semester and watch some of the seeds that we plant grow.”

TSA regional competition helps students bring CTE curriculum to life

To Steve Britt, a teacher at Cypress Woods High School, the Career and Technical Education (CTE) curriculum offered in CFISD and its partnering extracurricular activities is more than just teaching and learning inside a classroom.

It’s his genuine interests and likes.

“I have the best job on the planet,” said Britt, whose course load includes Robotics I and II, Principles of Manufacturing and Precision Metals Manufacturing, while he also serves as Cypress Woods’ sponsor for High Schools United with NASA to Create Hardware program and on the Texas Technology Student Association (TSA) board of directors.

“I get to do my hobbies and take kids out and teach them how to make them their hobbies too.”

DSC_9119Cy-Fair High School students compete in VEX Robotics at the Brazos Valley TSA regional competition on March 8 at the CFISD Exhibit Center.

One event that helps CFISD offer this outlet to secondary students is the Brazos Valley TSA Regional Leadership Conference and Competition, which the district hosted March 8 at the CFISD Exhibit center. It was attended by 12 CFISD high schools and middle school, in addition to students from five visiting campuses.

Students enrolled in CTE courses showcased projects they designed and built, while the event also included a number of competitions including VEX Robotics, Rocket Launch and Carbon Dioxide Cars.

“Some of these kids do have experience coming from the home, whether their parents taught them,” said Mark Williams, CTE curriculum coordinator. “But, a lot of them, this is the first time they’ve ever picked up a handtool – a drill, a hammer – so they’re learning from my teachers.”

Regional competitions across Texas are held throughout February and March. Winners and qualifiers from the 16 regions advance to the TSA state competition, which will be April 15-17 in Fort Worth.

Cypress Woods has the largest TSA chapter in Texas, with students preparing and looking forward to competition from the beginning the school year, Britt said.

DSC_9132Cypress Woods HS CTE students prepare for the Rocket Launch competition at the BVTSA regional on March 8 at the CFISD Exhibit Center.

“It’s definitely helped me think in different ways, trying to figure out problems,” said Cypress Woods senior Ryan Johnson, the school’s TSA chapter president.

But even more so, Britt said regional competitions allow students to take the learning their doing in core classes and applying those lessons in real-life applications. The curriculum and competitions help prepare students for opportunities either entering those industries or higher education.

“I discovered a long time ago – don’t tell a kid that he can’t (because) he will,” Britt said. “I know that sounds cliché in a way but you encourage the kids in just a little bit, point them in the right direction, give them a little gentle shove and step out of the way, they will do astounding and amazing things.”

Cosmetology offers opportunities for high school students

CFISD’s career and technical education curriculum options are just another way the district offers traditional and non-traditional opportunities for every student. That includes a program like cosmetology, where classes not only educate students on a possible career in the field, but open doors to it upon graduation.

More than 1,200 students are enrolled in cosmetology across CFISD’s 12 comprehensive high schools. With some programs still growing at newer schools, the demand and enrollment is so large at others that some campuses require two teachers to meet the need.

CFISD even established, coordinated and operated its first-ever districtwide cosmetology competition, holding the contest Feb. 10 at Langham Creek High School.

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Langham Creek High School sophomore Anayah Dunbar stands beside her braiding project that won Best in Category at the inaugural CFISD Cosmetology Competition on Feb. 10 at Langham Creek.

“It’s growing and the interest in cosmetology just seems to keep increasing,” said Dr. Sharon Hogue, coordinator for career and technical education.

Freshmen, sophomores and juniors can take Introduction to Cosmetology and Cosmetology I, where they explore areas such as hair styling, manicuring, sterilization and sanitation, the principles of hair cutting, coloring, facial makeup, requirements and expectations, and career opportunities.

Upon completion, juniors and seniors can take Cosmetology II and Principles of Cosmetology Design and Color Theory. The curriculum combines to allow a student to earn the 1,000 clock hours of supervised classroom instruction and demonstration needed to meet the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation requirement. A student is also qualified to take the state board test and earn a Texas Cosmetology Operator License following the advanced training upon passing the exam.

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Cypress Ranch High School senior Arianna Foster won Best of Show in fantasy braiding at the SkillsUSA Texas District 8 Leadership Conference and qualified for state competition.

That not only gives each student the opportunity to move right into the workforce following graduation, but does so at a fraction of the cost. The only fees associated with the curriculum are the cost of a $25 permit, the student’s kit and his or her test fee.

“People are blown away to know that instead of spending $27,000 someplace else, they can get it essentially free – or close to free – and come out ready to work as soon as they exit high school,” Hogue said.

CFISD added the cosmetology competition to give students a more cost-effective opportunity to showcase their work and compete. Almost all schools were represented among the 85 projects that were entered.

The event also served as a precursor to regional and statewide competitions held through SkillsUSA, a career and technical student organization which serves nearly 400,000 students and professional members enrolled in training programs in trade, technical and skilled service occupations. The state competition is April 5-8 in Corpus Christi.

Plans are in place for the districtwide competition to grow, just as cosmetology continues to in CFISD.

“Teachers here are trained (and) they’re competing with any school that’s out there,” said Lynette Mosby, a Langham Creek cosmetology instructor. “So, if your student is thinking about doing something like this, Cy-Fair is an awesome place for them to get started.”