For a short time this summer, neighborhood resident Dean Ferguson was worried that the 24-year-old Lake Highlands Youth Football organization was in jeopardy.

Ferguson has headed the community program for the past nine years. He has seen the cost of the program steadily increase as RISD has hiked the price for renting Lake Highlands High School’s “B” football field, where youth football games are held.

This year, the district informed Ferguson that all groups would be charged a standard rate of $150 per hour to rent the “B” field, not realizing how it would affect neighborhood groups such as the youth football program, Ferguson says.

Youth football needs the field five days per year for about eight hours daily, Ferguson says. The hourly rate would have cost the program about $1,200 a day, which could have killed youth football in Lake Highlands, Ferguson says. The current fee of $225 per child would have been increased to $450 per child to cover expenses.

When Ferguson found out about the new rate, he faxed letters to RISD Superintendent Vernon Johnson, Lake Highlands Area Superintendent Ted Moulton, school board President Bettye Stripling and other district officials.

Shortly thereafter, Ferguson says, the district altered its policy to accommodate the program: Instead of the hourly rate, RISD decided to charge the program about $280 per day, which covers basic custodial expenses, says Jim Languell, who is in charge of leasing facilities for RISD.

Last year, Ferguson says he paid $600 per day.

“We compromised to accommodate the Pop Warner league because all Lake Highlands children are in the league,” Languell says. “The students are all RISD students.”

The program is a neighborhood staple, Ferguson says. It gives Lake Highlands children ages 5-13 a chance to play football. Many athletes who have played football for Lake Highlands High School, including 27 members of this year’s team, started with the youth football organization, Ferguson says.

Ferguson organized the 1995/96 season, but Glynne Mildren will run the program when the season starts.

The price reduction will provide the program with extra money to replace old equipment and uniforms, Ferguson says.

“I’m very appreciative of Vernon Johnson,” Ferguson says. “I just don’t think the district was aware of the situation (of the youth football program). Once it was, it did a very good job.”

RISD Garners Top Rating from TEA

The Texas Education Agency recently rated RISD schools in the top quarter in the state based on 1995 spring scores on the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills test, attendance and dropout rates.

Schools were rated on four levels: exemplary, recognized, acceptable and low performing. Eleven RISD schools were rated exemplary, but none were in our neighborhood.

Lake Highlands Elementary was one of nine RISD schools to receive recognized status, and all other neighborhood schools, including Lake Highlands High School, were among the 28 RISD schools rated acceptable.

No RISD schools were rated low performing.

Recognized schools have an attendance rate of at least 94 percent and a dropout rate of 3.5 percent or less. At least 70 percent of the students not in special education must pass each section of the TAAS. In each grade level, at least 70 percent of the students must also pass.

Acceptable schools also have an attendance rate of at least 94 percent and a dropout rate of 6 percent or less. At least 25 percent of total students must pass each section of the TAAS, as well as 25 percent of students at each grade level.

Overall in RISD, TAAS passing rates ranged from 78.8 percent to 91.5 percent at each grade level in reading, math and writing. These scores are above state levels. Attendance for total student population is also high – 95.8 percent.