Founder and publisher of the South Belt-Ellington Leader, Marie Flickinger, has been selected to receive the Pasadena ISD 2015 Distinguished Citizen award. She will be honored by the district and the Board of Trustees at a reception on January 28, 2016 at the Lewis Career and Technical High School.
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Each year, the award is given to a community member whose leadership and committed efforts enhanced the educational experience of Pasadena ISD students and improved the quality of life for residents.
“Marie genuinely cares about the welfare of students and residents in the community and it reflects through her work at the newspaper, her selfless acts of kindness and her leadership,” Superintendent of Schools Dr. Kirk Lewis said. “She is vocal and well-respected in this community and builds relationships that promote the common good. This is a tribute that is well deserved.”
Flickinger found her niche in the newspaper business when she co-founded what was then the South Belt Press in 1976 with Bobby Griffin. The name was later changed to the South Belt-Ellington Newspaper.
The duo was heavily involved in Little League Baseball and initially published news about the games. As the only newspaper that generated highlights about Little League Baseball, she captured the attention and support of numerous community members and leaders. Now on the eve of the 40-year anniversary, the South Belt-Ellington Leader continues to grow, featuring stories and photos about school district achievements, academics and athletics.
As a passionate supporter of education, Flickinger has been an active and visual presence in Pasadena ISD and its partner, San Jacinto College. She has served on numerous superintendent advisory boards and search committees in the district. Through editorials, personal communication with area community members and by serving on the bond steering committee, Flickinger was instrumental in the passing of the 2014 School Bond measure.
Flickinger has supported district initiatives that helped increase graduation rates. These include the expansion of dual credit options, particularly College Now, which is available on all high school campuses; and career and technical initiatives, such as the Lewis Career and Technical High School project.
“I believe in the dual credit options and the Lewis CTHS because those are going to make the biggest difference for students, and ultimately, the community,” she said.
Flickinger has cultivated many positive relationships with local businesses and organizations that continuously support educational initiatives. She encouraged San Jacinto College to explore the “school within a school” model for four high schools in Pasadena ISD. Due to her efforts, the college components of this program will be part of the upcoming San Jacinto College bond package.
In addition, she has championed efforts to create the Early College High School Pilot program, which now boasts 20 first generation college graduates.
“We had some Pasadena High students show up at our board meeting who made the dean’s list,” Flickinger said. “There was a student, her mother and a child at the meeting. The mother did not speak English, and yet, here was her high school daughter, an Early College High School student, being recognized for being on the dean’s list. How can you top that.”
Flickinger has taken part in career day activities, various campus fund raising initiatives and the Education Foundation. Through her leadership, the South Belt Ellington Chamber of Commerce backs the work of the school district in many ways, including sponsoring a banquet to honor the top 10 graduates of Dobie High School for their outstanding achievement.
Flickinger’s involvement in the community is not only limited to Pasadena ISD. In 1995, she became the first woman elected as a member of the San Jacinto College Board of Trustees and later served as the board president. Nearly 30 years ago, she became the chief organizer and founding president of the South Belt-Ellington Chamber of Commerce, and has often served as the organization’s president.
She has coordinated Christmas drives for needy families and taken the lead in organizing annual Fourth of July activities, including an annual parade and fireworks display.
Flickinger’s efforts have helped the South Belt area flourish. Through the newspaper, she raised awareness about the Brio Superfund Site which had disposed toxic materials into the neighborhood. Even though she had no formal background in science, she attended conferences throughout the country to gather research to present to the EPA. Ultimately, her investigation and coverage led to a method of containment making the community safe again.
“We were able to overturn a federal judgment between approximately 200 chemical companies and the EPA – a battle that lasted about 10 years. Today, I am chair of the EPA for this area,” Flickinger said.
She has served in several prestigious community positions including membership on two mayoral transition committees for the City of Houston, chairman of the leadership group for the State Education Leadership Board of Trustees and chair of the Community College Association of Texas Trustees.
Flickinger has been recognized for her leadership and humanitarian efforts locally and statewide. For her noted service to the school district, she was inducted into the Hall of Honor at Dobie High School and the Marie Spence Flickinger Fine Arts building on South Campus is named in her honor. In 2013, Flickinger earned the prestigious Association of Community College Trustees M. Dale Ensign Leadership Award as the national community college trustee of the year.
She can now add the Pasadena ISD Distinguished Citizen award to her list of accolades.“When I learned that I was selected distinguished citizen, I was shocked,” Flickinger said. “I know my ideas have not always been widely accepted, but I believe in being vocal because I believe in the community. I believe in this district and I want the very best for the residents living in this area. I am thankful to Dr. Kirk Lewis for always putting students first and for working with me all these years to provide the students of Pasadena ISD with a quality education.”