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LA-JOYA-LOGOLA JOYA — The La Joya Independent School District’s Jimmy Carter College Transition Academy received a provisional approval by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) to be an Early College High School (ECHS).

Last year, the district had 105 freshmen begin their dual enrollment classes at Jimmy Carter. This coming school year, Jimmy Carter ECHS will enroll 120 ninth-graders; administrators said over 200 students applied.

The program is similar to dual enrollment, where a student can earn high school and college credit at the same time, but it will be a four-year program instead of two. Upon graduation, those attending the ECHS will have earned their high school diploma and an associate’s degree or up to two years of credit toward a bachelor’s degree.

Previously, only juniors could enroll in dual enrollment classes.

In three years, the school will have its first graduating class from the campus, as long as the campus keeps the distinction as an ECHS. The district will have to reapply every year to keep that distinction. There are currently 95 campuses throughout Texas that have the designation.

Prospective students go through an application process. Requirements include being first-time freshmen and the first in their family to attend college. Preferred requirements for applicants include students who demonstrate academic commitment as reflected in classroom participation, grades and exams; students who have good attendance and behavior record; and students who have good work ethics and study habits.

To apply, a student also must be a resident of LJISD boundary and attended a LJISD middle school for the entire eighth-grade year, provide proof of residency, provide a copy of up-to-date immunization record, provide a copy of birth certificate and Social Security card, and complete the application and take it their counselor.

The school will be partnering with South Texas College (STC). All teachers at the campus must have a master’s degree in the field they are teaching or the district will ask for an instructor from STC to teach the class.

In other business at this week’s meeting, LJISD has improved its tax collections by nearly two percent.

David Franz gave a delinquent tax collection report to the board during the past nine months. The law firm Purdue, Brandon, Fielder, Collins & Mott LLP has made over 18,000 phone calls, 250 personal visits and mailed over 20,000 notices of delinquency letters to residents and businesses that have delinquent taxes.

Through these actions, 162 delinquent taxpayers were located and entered into payment agreements.

When all other contact means failed, the firm filed 229 original petitions or interventions totaling more than $1,439,964 in base taxes.

The firm was able to increase their base tax collection from the previous year by 2.21 percent.

Construction projects were also discussed with Prodigy Construction Management LLC.

Board members questioned the company on the reasons why the Nellie Schunior project might take an additional three months.

LJISD Board Vice President Arnoldo Ochoa told Alex Palacios with Prodigy to make sure construction projects stay on schedule and are completed to agreement.

“If you do a timeline, the board is very aggressive on it,” Ochoa said.

Previously, projects were completed too fast or not on time. Either way, there are usually problems that have come up or things were not completed or done right, said Ochoa.

“This warehouse is to prove a point that things can get done correctly and on time and plenty of information given to the board,” said Ochoa of the kitchen and facilities warehouse that Prodigy is also handling.

A contractor not agreeing to terms and addendums in the contract and rebidding caused the delay.

The board was given a preliminary construction schedule showing the project going through July and possibly August 2012.

Superintendent Dr. Alda T. Benavides said the company must keep the promise that was made to the board to have the project done by May.

“We had originally said it would be 12 months, and it would be from May to May. And we have extended it already three additional months? And we had agreed May to May. So I hope we do not have to go through to August,” said Benavides to Palacios. “We committed to this board that we would be done in 12 months.”

Palacios said negotiations were still being made with the contractor and should be completed by the end of the month.

Daniel Garza, facilities director, said he was confident the project could be completed by May 2012, explaining the ground has already been broken for the project.

The plans for the kitchen and facilities warehouse are on schedule with staff and contractors getting together to make floor plans.

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