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  • Corrigan approves $375,000 grant

                                   CASEY SIZEMORE Corrigan City Council Member Irene Thomson (right) presents City Secretary Paloma Carbajal (center) and Mayor Johnna Lowe Gibson with a donation check from Alvin Freeman to be applied toward the Corrigan Volunteer Fire Department.

    By Casey Sizemore

    CORRIGAN – During its regular scheduled meeting Tuesday, the Corrigan City Council approved beginning the procurement procedures to accept the Texas Department of Agriculture Community Development block grant for 2021-22.

    City Manager Darrian Hudman said the $375,000 grant, which is more than previous years, could be applied toward water and sewer projects. The council did not discuss what projects the grant would be applied to.

    Mayor Johnna Lowe Gibson said the city is in talks with Corrigan OSB “to see if they can help” with some of the water or sewer projects.

    The council also approved three appointments to a committee to seek who is most qualified to complete some of the jobs. Mayor Gibson described the committee as a “formality.”

    The council also approved a declination toward “Entergy’s backup generation product.” Hudman said Entergy intends to install a generator for the city to use during power outages. He said Energy requested the council decline the initial submission so they could resubmit under a multi-city or municipality project.

    The board also approved the general city election for May 1, 2021.

    After a lengthy discussion, the council tabled a motion to reduce the speed limit from 30 mph to 20 mph on Martin Luther King, Jr. Street until the council members have an opportunity to hear pros and cons from the citizens.

    Chief Gerald Gibson requested the council take up the matter out of concern for children playing in the area.

    “My only concern is the children, that’s all I care about,” he said.

    Chief Gibson said children walk along the street, play basketball in and near the street and play in the park, so he is concerned an accident is going to occur.

    Hudman recommended the council consider an ordinance stating all residential streets in the city limits be reduced to 20 mph. He also recommended the city mail out information to citizens and make callouts.

    During the council forum portion of the meeting, the council members discussed a recent article in the Enterprise concerning Georgia Pacific donating funds toward constructing a new fire department building for the Corrigan Volunteer Fire Department.

    “The Corrigan Volunteer Fire Department could use donations for that building,” Mayor Gibson said.

    Chief Gibson said CFVD is also in need of volunteer firefighters.

    Council member Irene Thomson presented the city with a donation check toward the fire department on behalf of Alvin Freeman.

  • Corrigan-Camden ISD swears in new board members

    C CISD Pic 1 CASEY SIZEMORE Newly elected school board members took the oath of office during the Corrigan-Camden ISD board meeting Monday. Pictured above are board members Thomas Robert; left, Lawrence Jolly Jr.; center, and Peter Burks; right.

    By Casey Sizemore

    CORRIGAN – Newly elected school board members took the oath of office during the Corrigan-Camden ISD regular scheduled board meeting Monday.

    The new board members include Lawrence Jolly Jr. for Position 3, Thomas Robert for Position 2 and Peter Burks for Position 1. The outgoing incumbents include former vice president Lync Cavanaugh for Position 1, former President Sean Burks and a vacated seat.

    Sean Burks and Cavanaugh were presented with “tokens of appreciation” for 13 and seven years, respectively, of service made by the C-CISD Ag. Science and Mechanics classes.

    “I’m the outgoing president and I would like to thank everyone out here in this crowd for everything y’all have done for this school,” Sean Burks said. “Each one of y’all have been a pivotal point in how we’ve led the school in the direction we have went. That being said, I want to challenge each of you young men, as y’all assume y’all’s duties here as part of the school board, to lead with your hearts. Do what’s best for the kids. No personal agendas are really needed. You have a team of eight: we have operated with a team of seven — we’ve had a board member that has decided not to be here for quite some time… Just keep every kid in mind.”

    The board also voted Michael Woodard as vice president, Anthony Carroll as board president and Angela Conaroe as secretary.

    In other business, the board accepted a donation of more than $25,000 from Roy O’ Martin for the installment of new playground equipment for Pre-k and Kindergarten students. Hughes Trucking is donating the mulch required to finish the project, according to Roy O Martin representative Sherry Hughes, who gave a brief presentation to the board.

    The board accepted a $15,000 NOGA grant to be applied toward after school programs and approved Harrell and Woodard for authority to sign bank checks.

    Superintendent Richard Cooper’s district reports indicate there are currently 780 students enrolled in the district with an average attendance rate of 96.92%.

  • Council set on cleaning up the town

    coldspringcityFILE PHOTO Coldspring town hall sign

    By Tony Farkas

    COLDSPRING — The Coldspring City Council is making bold moves to clean up the city.

    At its regular meeting on May 3, council members approved starting the process to have the property owners of three properties within the city remedy the violations of the city’s nuisance law.

    According to Mayor Pat Eversole, one property is an abandoned home on Slade Street, and the city has received complaints from neighbors about it being an eyesore and dangerous.

    The remaining two, both on Highway 150, are vacant and full of parked cars and litter, Eversole said.

    The properties and complaints have been turned over to the city’s attorney to start the process for remediation, and the for the attorney to contact the landowners.

    In other business, the council:

    • discussed a draft ordinance to ban private and civil helicopters landing within the city limits, which will come up for approval at the next council meeting;
    • discussed a planned ballpark expansion, and the council’s hope to find some additional property to expand the Dixie Youth Park fields and construct another entrance. Also, portable toilets with handicapped access were ordered for placement at the park;
    • approved the repair of a sewer line that had been damaged by a vehicle; and
    • tabled a discussion about removing an ADA-compliant handrail section on the town square at the intersection of Highway 150 at Church Street for further discussion.

    The Coldspring City Council meets the first Monday of every month, beginning at 7 p.m. at Coldspring City Hall.

  • County offices relocating during courthouse construction

                                   JASON CHLAPEK I PCE Matt March of Texas AgriLife discusses surface lease agreements with Polk County commissioners Tuesday morning.

    By Jason Chlapek

    Polk County employees who have offices in the courthouse will have to relocate for two years soon.

    That’s because the courthouse will undergo a renovation project after the county received a $3 million grant from the Texas Historical Commission earlier this month. During the projected two-year project, courthouse offices will be relocated to the vacant building of the former Regional Health Center and to the Polk County Annex building.

    “We’re scheduled to complete in mid-2023,” Polk County grants and contracts administrator Jessica Hutchins said. “But with construction, that could always change. The project is expected to begin within six months of our contract. We don’t receive contract until March, so we should be going out for bids within six months of that agreement. It’s roughly a two-year project.”

    The relocation measure was approved during commissioners court Tuesday morning. During the two-year period, commissioners court will take place in the former Regional Health Center building.

    “When we originally applied for the grant, we didn’t qualify,” Hutchins said. “But when THC had an additional $3 million left over, they awarded that to us. We’re not receiving the official award until THC meets on Feb. 3. Then we’ll know more and have an accurate date on contracts and construction.”

    Speaking of grants, the county is working on finding a project for the Texas Department of Agriculture Community Development Block Grant. Once an administrator and engineer have been selected, the project selection can begin.

    “TDA every year opens up grants for their CDBG program,” Hutchins said. “It’s basically to improve water districts, sewage and basic necessities for the community. Last year we received $250,000 for Dallardsville-Segno Water Corporation. Now we’re opening up a new grant period. We’re getting an administrator and an engineer to select a project in the county.”

    A similar process will take place for the Hurricane Harvey Regional Mitigation Program. Hutchins elaborated on that as well.

    “For Hurricane Harvey, there’s a mitigation program and that’s set where any flooding for Harvey was done we want to mitigate that for the future so those same areas are not flooded,” she said. “There are certain zip codes within the county that flooded so they are eligible to apply for the program. There’s two rounds of mitigation. The first round is competitive. We already applied and submitted that application. There’s allocated mitigation funding that’s given to each of the counties that DETCOG is receiving in allocated amounts that are set for us and they help the general land office come up with a way to disburse it among our community. The general land office will be allocating set funds to each of the counties that DETCOG services. Each county that was impacted by Harvey will be receiving funds that are not competitive that we are set to receive.”

    Matt March of Texas AgriLife discussed surface lease agreements. The lease agreements, which are set to expire June 30, are for land in Baylor and Throckmorton counties that Polk County has designated for its six school districts – Big Sandy, Corrigan-Camden, Goodrich, Leggett, Livingston and Onalaska.

    “A long time ago, the legislature set up some land in West Texas and designated it as property for the school districts in our county to be managed by the court,” Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy said. “The lease money gets split up with the schools in the county and the county benefits as well. The majority of counties sold their land a long time ago. Polk County is one of the few that did not. We are responsible for managing it and maintaining the quality of the property, and making sure the money is going where it’s supposed to go.”

    The next commissioners court takes place at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9.

  • County sets speed limit near Apple Springs

    110520 countyGoogle Maps

    TCNS Staff

    GROVETON — The Trinity County Commissioners’ Court on Oct. 27 put its foot down on drivers putting the accelerator down.

    Commissioners approved setting a 25-mph speed limit on Graham Road between FM 357 and State Highway 94, which was done without debate. It was approved unanimously.

    In other business, the county:

    •approve the county’s investment policy, an annual undertaking, and reappointed County Treasurer B.L. Dockens as investment officer;

    • approved budget amendments of $1,500;

    • appointed Tom Hester as reserve deputy constable for Precinct 3;

    • approved the purchase of a 2012 HAMM 3410 cab roller for Road and Bridge Precinct 3; and

    • declined to discuss or act on a burn ban for the county.

  • County to investigate insurance options

    CountysealFILE PHOTO Trinity County seal

    TCNS staff

    GROVETON — The Trinity County Commissioners’ Court delayed action on renewing its health benefits with the Texas Association of Counties to allow questions about plan availability are answered.

    County Attorney Colton Hay had asked if there was a second option that could be offered that had a higher deductible but lower premiums, to be offered to people who would prefer that type of plan.

    County Treasurer Bob Dockens said there was, but there also was a danger of the county losing its grandfathered position on health care plans, which will mean much higher premium costs.

    Dockens will schedule a discussion with the county’s TAC representative to get clarification on options and county’s grandfathered status.

    In other business, the county:

    • approved a hiring recommendation from the county’s Internship Committee;
    • approved the purchase of a new recording system for 911;
    • approved the countywide transition to Microsoft 365 for the county’s email needs;
    • approved the purchase of several vehicles for Precinct 4 from the Texas Forest Service;
    • approved the hiring of a structural engineer to evaluate the needs for a new maintenance building;
    • approved a resolution regarding 1115 Medicaid waivers.
  • County to receive $3 million restoration grant

                                   JASON CHLAPEK I PCE From left, Polk County Commissioners Guylene Robertson and Tommy Overstreet listen to Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy during the first commissioners court of the 2021 calendar year Tuesday morning at the Polk County Courthouse.

    By Jason Chlapek

    Polk County will receive a $3 million restoration grant from the Texas Historical Commission soon.

    The grant was approved at the first commissioners court of the new year Tuesday morning at the Polk County Courthouse. The approval was music to Polk County Judge Sydney Murphy’s ears.

    “Thank goodness it was approved,” Murphy said. “It was a long time coming. It’s nice to receive $3 million.”

    The grant will be used to restore the court room located on the second floor of the courthouse. Murphy said county grants and contracts administrator Jessica Hutchins was instrumental in achieving this grant.

    “Jessica took the bull by the horns and submitted a beautiful grant request,” Murphy said. “She’s been in contact with the Texas Historical Commission throughout and it’s pretty exciting to be able to get the courthouse up to par.”

    Murphy does not have a timetable on when the project will begin. However, she said the news about receiving the grant was “pretty exciting.”

    “You have to go through planning and the THC has to approve everything before receiving the grant,” Murphy said. “One of the requirements is that the district courtroom has to be restored. We will have to remove some modifications that were made by the previous administration. It has to go back to its original look.”

    Commissioners also approved the purchase of nine foreclosed properties. Eight of the nine properties are located in Lake Livingston Village and the other is in Indian Springs Lake Estates.

    Tuesday’s commissioners court was the first for newly-elected Precinct 1 commissioner Guylene Robertson. More on her can be seen in Sunday’s Enterprise.

    The next commissioners court will take place at 10 a.m. Tuesday, Jan. 26.

  • Ellis back on board

    20201116 180424BRIAN BESCH I PCE Livingston ISD Superintendent Dr. Brent Hawkins swears in Bea Ellis during the November meeting of the LISD Board of Trustees.

    By Brian Besch

    LIVINGSTON - The Livingston ISD school board reshuffled some of its positions after accepting a “new” member Monday at Creekside Elementary.

    The November LISD Board meeting opened with the swearing-in of Bea Ellis. Ellis spent 26 years on the board, also serving as its president, and returns after just two years away.

    After, Ben Ogletree was named president for two more years, Scott Paske will serve as vice-president and Krissa Bass will be the board secretary.

    Livingston ISD Chief Financial Officer Ben Davidson presented the annual Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST) report during the public hearing portion of the meeting. 

    The state's school financial accountability rating system ensures that Texas public schools are held accountable for the quality of their financial management practices and that they improve those practices.

    The system is designed to encourage Texas public schools to better manage their financial resources to provide the maximum allocation possible for direct instructional purposes. The FIRST report consists of 15 different indicators. The district scored the maximum allowed points of 100.  

    Board president Ben Ogletree noted during the review of the principal reports that the district is holding an attendance rate in the mid-90 percentile, which he attributed to the janitorial staff and the diligence of the teaching staff with efforts in fogging, cleaning, and handwashing.

    An action item approved by the board was the reconsideration of the board student outcome goals.

  • ESD2 members elect new, continuing leaders

    IMG 7735ALTON PORTER | HCC Above, members of Houston County Emergency Services District No. 2, which supports and provides assistance to fire departments throughout the county, attended a monthly meeting in Crockett Thursday, Feb. 25, at which they elected officers to lead the district and its board of commissioners and at which they addressed other matters.

    By Alton Porter

    Members of Houston County Emergency Services District No. 2 (ESD2) have elected new and continuing leaders for the district’s board of commissioners following the reappointment and appointment last month of two ESD2 commissioners by members of the county’s commissioners court.

    The ESD2 members elected the board’s officers at a meeting Thursday, Feb. 25.

    Promoted to the position of ESD2 president is William Money, who had been serving as an ESD2 commissioner and who replaces former president George Crowson Jr., who was not reappointed to the ESD2 board by the commissioners court members last month.

    Elected to serve as ESD2 vice president is Steve Hawkins, who was appointed by the members of the commissioners court last month to replace Crowson as a commissioner on the ESD2 board. Hawkins was welcomed aboard ESD2 by the district’s members who were present. As vice president, he replaces former VP Bobby Hutcherson, who was reappointed by the members of the county commissioners court last month to continue serving on the ESD2 board but who stepped down from the VP position at the Feb. 25 meeting.

    Peggy Patrick, who had been serving as secretary-treasurer was reelected as treasurer only upon her request, and board member Roy Langford was elected to replace her as secretary.

    During public comments, Crowson, the ESD2 previous president, addressed the emergency services district members who were present.

    “In my recollection, as far as I can recall, this is my 224 meeting with the ESD of a 14-year period,” Crowson said. “To the fire departments, I want to tell you it’s been a pleasure, a privilege and an honor to serve on your behalf. What you guys do—not only what you do, but the passion with which you do it—it leaves me in awe. It truly, truly does.”

    Crowson noted that county Precinct 3 Commissioner Gene Stokes, of the commissioners court, was present at the meeting and that “out of those 224 meetings which we spoke of, this is only the second time that we’ve had a commissioner at one of our meetings in 14 years. And I think I can speak for the whole organization and say, ‘Thank you for being here’.”

    Stokes responded to Crowson saying, “We appreciate your service.”

    The former ESD2 president continued, “I’m assuming I’m not on the board. No one has shown me the courtesy to tell me that I was not, but I kind of picked it up on the airwaves there.

    “To the board, what I want to remind you of, and I hope you will think about this in every decision you make, is you are an independent political subdivision of the state of Texas. You cannot be beholden or subservient to any individual, any special interest group, any group of people of any kind, including the commissioners court. If you are, all taxing democracies will fail.”

    Crowson added, “The only people you are beholden to are the people that pay this ESD tax. It has served me well. If you will remind yourself of that in every decision that you make, I think you will continue to be successful.

    “This ESD is tremendously successful, at least in my opinion—not because of me, but because of the involvement of people and the (county’s fire) departments themselves. I know it is financially in good shape. And I know that through Mr. Stokes and all you other board members, it will continue to do that.

    IMG 7725ALTON PORTER | HCC Former President George Crowson Jr., of the Houston County Emergency Services District No. 2 (ESD2) Board of Commissioners, who was not reappointed to the ESD2 board earlier last month, addressed ESD2 members as he departed from the entity during a meeting in Crockett Thursday, Feb. 25.

    “It has been an honor and a privilege; I served at the pleasure of the commissioners court and it was no longer their pleasure. That’s perfectly fine; it is their option to do whichever they want to do.

    “I’ve enjoyed almost every moment of it. It’s been some moments that haven’t been so enjoyable, but that comes with the territory. But anyway, thank each of you for what you do.”

    After Crowson left the meeting, Money, the new ESD2 president, said, “He’s not here, but in my opinion from being on the other side of the table—he was on this side of the table—George has guided this board efficiently and diligently through a lot of stuff over the years, from helping get it started to getting it where it’s at.

    “And in my opinion, our directive change is none. We’re here to serve two priorities: the firefighters (of Houston County) and the taxpayers. And that is it. I may be the next one that goes after George, but that is how I look at it. … I will do my best to continue the direction of this board and keep it solid.”

    Among items requiring action, the ESD2 members voted to receive a $100 bid from Brijesh Patel, a member of the Kennard Independent School District Board of Trustees, to buy and remove, within 30 days, a building on the site on which they’re planning to have a fire station built in Ratcliff.

    The board members also had advertised via the Courier for bids for the laying of a six-inch-thick concrete slab for $16,000 for the planned fire station building, but none had been received. So, the ESD2 members decided to seek out a construction company to perform this project.

    In other business, they tabled action regarding a contract between ESD2 and the city of Crockett. “The city of Crockett wanted to redo their contract with the ESD…,” Patrick said.

    Money explained, “When we formed ESD2, Crockett opted out of the vote. Kennard voted to not be in the ESD because they didn’t want (to pay) the extra tax. So, we’ve got Crockett and Kennard that are not members of the ESD….

    “Crockett has basically the biggest fire department in the county—covers the most area, covers everybody else’s back. We call it the gray area. So, we contract with Crockett. We pay them $70,000 a year to cover that area. We provide some trucks for Crockett and provide them service and help.

    “So, Crockett covers the gray area and that works to try to keep the ISO, which is the insurance rate, in those areas down. So, we contract with Crockett to cover that area. Crockett FD’s budget is $500,000-plus a year and we add them an additional $70,000 plus trucks or whatever we can afford to help them with to cover that area. We upped the rate and renegotiated with them. And so, we’re getting a new contract set up with them.”

    Chief Jason Frizzell, of the Crockett Fire Department, said he had emailed the city’s attorney, who is reviewing and possibly making adjustments to the contract, and he was waiting to hear back from the lawyer.

  • FFA presents for Onalaska’s board

    FFAPHOTO BY EMILY KUBISCH-SABRSULA Onalaska’s FFA team gave their agricultural issues presentation over wild horse management to the board before they take it to contests.

    By Emily Kubisch-Sabrsula


    ONALASKA — Onalaska’s board met earlier this month to go over their formal agenda, as well as receive a presentation from the ag issues team as they prepare to complete in upcoming contests.

    Agricultural issues team
    Onalaksa’s FFA team unveiled their agricultural issues presentation over wild horse management. Two students on each side of the argument presented on the pros and cons of the regulation of these animals.
    The presentation included the history of how the horses were introduced to the United States, how Native Americans used them, their contemporary existence in the western U.S., and laws introduced to protect them. Pros included seed distribution and historical significance, while cons included hard packing of soil and over-population.

    Elementary report
    Elementary principal David Murphy informed the board that elementary UIL started meeting last week in the afternoons, but with after-school tutorials also starting soon, they are working to find ways to meet with both groups on campus in a safe manor.

    Sixth grade currently holds the highest attendance with 95%, earning them a pizza party later this month. On Nov. 3, the district will hold its first Title I meeting virtually.

    The presentation will go over what Title I is, requirements the school needs to meet, and what parents need to know. Questions and comments can be added to a chat box during the meeting to be addressed.

    Junior and high school report
    Robyn Thornton gave the junior and senior high school report.

    Administration will start teacher observations soon with plans to be finished before Thanksgiving. With the first nine-weeks over, Math and English Language Arts teachers will start determining which students need educational interventions, including after-school tutoring.

    The NHS and NJHS classes of last spring were inducted earlier this month, unable to do so last year due to Covid. Since the program started in 2006, 206 members have been initiated.

    Student council will hold a Trunks and Treats event on Oct. 31. This drive-thru event will take place at the junior and high school campus with a drive-in movie being shown afterwards.

    A copy of the school’s events calendar can be found at https://www.onalaskaisd.net/ under the “Events Calendar” tag at the bottom of the page.

    Superintendent Report
    Superintendent Anthony Roberts gave the enrollment report, stating the district had gained 37 more students since last year. Attendance has remained stable despite Covid, but the district is still held harmless for average daily attendance.

    A bid from Goodwin-Lasiter-Strong out of Lufkin to repair roofs on the junior and senior high campus, ag and transportation barns, weight room, softball pavilion and a modified roof for the administration building for just under $300,000 was approved.

    Sam Houston Electric Co-Op will lease a radio tower behind the high school to the district to improve communications around the district with the help of a safety and security grant. A tower in Livingston is currently used, but the more local tower will cost around $140 a month, less than half of what they currently pay.

    District to add cyber security clause
    With Senate Bill 820 passed, the district is required to adopt a cybersecurity framework and designate a coordinator to report all incidences should a breach occur. Technical support has already done so and has begun to establish procedures.

    The board voted to amend the emergency operations plan.

    For a calendar of future Onalaska ISD board meetings, visit https://www.onalaskaisd.net/, click on the “Superintendent’s Office” tab at the top, scroll to the bottom and click “School Board Agendas.”

  • Fisher declared re-elected as mayor

    2 Mayor Fisher 031621ALTON PORTER | HCC Crockett’s re-elected mayor Dr. Ianthia Fisher presides over Monday’s council meeting.

    By Alton Porter

    CROCKETT – Dr. Ianthia Fisher has been declared re-elected as Crockett’s mayor in a city council resolution. She was unopposed in her bid to continue serving as the city’s elected leader, a position to which she was initially elected in 2019.

    Fisher is one of two candidates who originally filed to run for mayor in the city’s Saturday, May 1, election. However, the other candidate, James Jellum, withdrew from the race before ballots were printed, according to City Secretary Mitzi Thompson. Therefore, members of the city council voted to approve a document of certification of Fisher as an unopposed candidate for mayor, an at-large position, at a meeting on Monday, March 15.

    After approving the city certification of unopposed candidate for mayor, the councilmembers, in a related action, voted to approve a resolution authorizing cancelling the election of mayor in the scheduled May 1 election.

    The resolution also states that only one eligible candidate, Fisher, had filed to run for mayor and had not withdrawn by the Feb. 12 deadline “and hereby declares the unopposed candidate (Fisher) elected to office and shall be issued Certificate of Election following the time the election will be canvassed.”

    In another election-related matter, the councilmembers voted to approve a resolution, appointing election officials for the regular general election, setting the rate of pay for the election officials and the maximum number of election clerks for the polling places, and designating the early voting ballot board.

    Also, in preparation for the municipal election, the councilmembers approved designation of two deputy early voting clerks, who are “authorized to perform any duties which are assigned by me in the performance of conducting early voting,” wrote Thompson, who also is the early voting clerk, in the designation document.

    Council seats up for election in the May 1 election are those for City Precincts 1 and 2. Candidates for the Precinct 1 position are incumbent Butch Calvert, Gene Caldwell and Samantha Wiley. Precinct 2 seat candidates are incumbent Darrell Jones, Charles Clawson and Vicki Cox.

    On election day, polls for the councilmember elections will be open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. Election day polling places are: Precinct 1, All Saints Episcopal Church Annex, 1301 E. Houston Ave.; and Precinct 2, Crockett Fire Station, 201 N. 6th St.

    Early voting by in-person appearance will be conducted at Crockett City Hall, 200 N. 5th St., April 19-23, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., and April 26-27, 7 a.m.-7 p.m.

    Applications for ballots by mail should be mailed to Mitzi Thompson, City Secretary, 200 N. 5th St., Crockett, Texas, 75835, and must be received in the secretary’s office no later than by the close of business Tuesday, April 20.

    In other business, the councilmembers voted to approve an ordinance, temporarily reducing the speed limit from 55 mph to 45 mph for motor vehicles being driven in either direction on State Loop 304 between State Highway 19 and SH 7, while much of that section of the loop is under construction.

    The councilmembers also discussed city facility operations and current COVID-19 measures. “Basically, what the city is doing is there are certain facilities that we do have control over,” said Fisher.

    “And as far as the city facilities, they’re going to remain pretty much stable, recognizing the CDC guidelines that they already have,” she added.

    There’s no limit on the size of gatherings “unless we run into a problem and they (users of city facilities) can’t ensure their safety,” Fisher said. “If it presents a problem where people were saying it was so congested, then we will have to readdress it and set a cap on it.

    “But right now, everyone that has basically used the facility—even for concerts—have been so mindful of being able to respect the safety of others. So, we haven’t had that problem; we don’t anticipate having that problem. But in case we do, we will be able to readdress it and be willing to put a cap (on gatherings at the facilities) if it has to be.”

    The mayor added, “But we are asking that you (users of the facilities) maintain the safety guidelines. Whatever your percentage should be, it should be in accordance with what you can do—staying within the guidelines.

    “And then the other part of it (the mayor and councilmembers approach) is that we did ask the city (staffers) to take into consideration the CDC guidelines. And even though the (former) mask mandate isn’t in effect anymore it is important that we still continue to protect ourselves to the best of our ability. And that’s a simple way with the basic guidelines: washing our hands, wearing masks, social distancing and those kinds of things.”

    Summer Fun Day planned

    During Police Chief Clayton Smith’s regular report, he said the police department is planning a Summer Fun Day event to be held Saturday, June 5, if allowed by COVID protocols and depending on what is going on at that time. “We haven’t been able to have a community event in a while because of Covid and everything going on,” said Smith.

    He noted, June 5 is during “the first weekend that the kids are out of school,” and added, plans are to have the event in Davy Crockett Memorial Park with waterslides, possibly around the splash pad, and event planners are “just trying to get all the kids out to have fun.”

  • Groveton continues mask policy

    Groveton ISD logoFILE PHOTO Groveton ISD logo

    By Tony Farkas

    GROVETON — the Groveton ISD School Board intends to leave well enough alone by keeping masking requirements in place through the end of the school year.

    At the board’s regular meeting on March 22, the board took no action regarding Gov. Greg Abbott’s order removing any restrictions connected with the coronavirus pandemic.

    Superintendent Don Hamilton said the state gave schools an option regarding masks only, making it a school board decision.

    “(A handout from the state) shows that as boards consider their mask policies, one thing to be aware of is the risk for litigation and grievances for COVID-19-related claims,” Hamilton said. “This is a hot topic — half the people want to do away with it, half the people want to keep it.”

    Hamilton said he spoke with School Nurse Virginia Redden, who pointed out the district was nine weeks away from school being out, and that the students and teachers have done too well to change.

    Board President Mark Folds said he could go either way, but since the district has been doing so well, he did not see a reason to change, and the board could take up the matter at a later date.

    In other business, the board:

    • •approved the purchase of a new school bus from Longhorn Bus Sales;
    • •approved changes to school policy based on recommendations from the Texas Association of School Boards;
    • •approved the school calendar for the 2021-22 school year;
    • •approved keeping the District of Innovation description, and appointed a planning committee; and
    • •discussed contracts for teachers.
  • Groveton ISD a safe place to be

    Groveton ISD logoGroveton ISD file photo

    TCNS Staff

    GROVETON — Students in Groveton Independent School District are in pretty safe hands

    At its Oct. 26 meeting, the Groveton School Board approved a safety audit which Superintendent Don Hamilton said was overall very good.

    “We have a few things we know we need to deal with, but overall it’s good,” he said.

    Hamilton said the layout of the building is of a concern, because its age means it does not meet current safety and fire codes, but for the most part, the kids are going to school in a safe environment.

    In other business, the board:

    •approved the ESL program;

    •approved changes of names from the signature card on the school’s account;

    •changed meeting dates for next two meetings because of upcoming holidays. The November meeting will be held Nov. 16, and the December meeting will be held Dec. 17;

    •discussed new goals for the future;

    •approved purchase of 20 interactive boards to replace older models at a cost of $40,000; and

    •approved an annual pay stipend, to be paid to non-professional employees only.

  • Groveton school board OKs improvement plan

    Groveton ISD logoFILE PHOTO - Groveton ISD logo

    TCNS Staff

    GROVETON — The Board of Trustees for Groveton ISD again approved an improvement plan for the elementary school.

    The need for the approval was because the submission form had changed; the state requires a three-year plan be in place.

    One part of the plan includes using test scores to drive instruction. Also, items were adjusted because of the affect of COVID-19.

    In a separate matter, the council denied a request for appeal from a resident of the district over a decision made regarding a student.

    No details about the incident, including the student’s name, were revealed because of privacy laws.

    The appeal was rejected because it was not filed in a timely manner, according to Board President Mark Folds.

    The decision was first appealed to the High School principal, who upheld the decision; then to Superintendent Don Hamilton, who also denied it.

    In other business, the board:

    • approved a missed school days waiver, as the district missed more days than were allowed for on the previous calendar; and
    • approved the Dec. 17 board meeting to be the date for the superintendent’s evaluation.
  • Groveton selects top superintendent candidate

    021821 hamiltonTCNS FILE PHOTO Groveton ISD Superintendent Don Hamilton (right) will be retiring effective Aug. 31, and Board President Mark Folds (left) and fellow board members selected Assistant Superintendent Jim Dillard as his replacement at a special meeting on Feb. 8.

    By Tony Farkas

    GROVETON — The Groveton ISD School Board settled on a finalist for the upcoming superintendent vacancy at a special meeting on Feb. 8.

    Jim Dillard, who currently serves as the district’s assistant superintendent, will assume the top spot in September, after the retirement of current Superintendent Don Hamilton.

    Board President Mark Folds said Hamilton had some challenges and tough calls, but he had the backbone to make them.

    Folds cited the improvements to the baseball fields, the cafeteria and other items as proof of Hamilton’s dedication and service.

    “We are pleased with his work,” Folds said.

    Don Hamilton is retiring Aug. 31 after eight years as superintendent and 34 years as an educator, 31 of which were in the Groveton district.

    “I told them 2 years ago (when my contract was renewed) that this would be my last year,” he said.

    Hamilton said he was looking for a little time off, mostly to spend working on his ranch and spending time with grandsons.

    “We have done a lot of construction on the facilities, and we were named one of the top schools in America by U.S. News and World Report,” Hamilton said of his accomplishments. “We’ve had FCCLA students who have advanced to nationals, and won, we’ve had ag students excel at Houston Rodeo and Livestock Show, and Beta Club has advanced to nationals several times.

    “I hope I left the place better than when I got here,” he said.

    Folds said that aside from Dillard being the lone finalist, he also was the lone applicant, but has the board’s full support.

    Dillard has been in education since 2014, and started in the Groveton district as assistant principal for the junior/senior high school.

  • Hearing scheduled for Woodville motel

    Willis MotelCHRIS EDWARDS | TCB Willis Motel in Woodville, Texas

    By Chris Edwards

    WOODVILLE – A motel that is said to be more than 75 years old is the subject of concerns by the city of Woodville.

    The Willis Motel, which was the location of a fire in late 2019, is the topic of a hearing set for Monday, April 26. The City Council will meet in the capacity as the city’s Building Standards Commission and give consideration to the condition of the facility and what action(s) should be taken.

    The city has compelled the owner to attend the upcoming hearing to “show cause why [the motel] should not be ordered vacated, secured, repaired or demolished.”

    The Willis Motel, known to many locals simply as “The Willis,” or “The W,” has long been in operation in Woodville. City Administrator Mandy Risinger said the motel’s owner said at a previous hearing that it was more than 75 years old. A file on the motel from the Better Business Bureau indicates that it has been in operation as the Willis Motel since at least Jan. 1, 1978.

    Risinger said that the fire marshal investigated the Willis after the fire and requested that the city’s building inspector come and assess things.

    The pandemic hampered the city’s ability to work on cases of dilapidated structures last year, and also, Risinger said, the fire marshal, Chuck Marshall, died last year and there was no documentation that the Willis’s owner had resolved any of the issues.

    Risinger said that at a recent hearing, held on March 29, the owner was under the impression that all of the issues had been resolved.

    The Jasper fire marshal, whom the city is contracting, re-inspected the property, Risinger said, and found issues to be addressed, which the owner began working on. Additionally, the fire marshal requested the city’s building inspector and health inspector look into the facility.

    Risinger said the city has also received a number of complaints from residents of the motel as well as charitable organizations who have used the facility to put people up. She said the owner is compiling a list of livable rooms to present to the Building Standards Commission and has to provide a plan for addressing all of the existing issues and a timeline.

    Public records show an LLC, Vaishvi, as owning the Willis Motel. The Secretary of State’s office lists a Dipesh Lad as the principal with Vaishvi.

    For the coming hearing, the council is sitting as the Building Standards Commission. Under the city’s by-laws, they can either appoint one or serve as the commission themselves. They will choose how to move forward with the owner and the facility, and can give the owner 30 days to address the issues. If they give him more than 90 days, Risinger said, a detailed timeline is required.

    Progress reports on the work will also be required. At present, Risinger said the owner is supposed to be getting estimates on how to bring the problem parts of the property up to code.

    Risinger said it stands to reason that the property would need continual maintenance and upgrades over time, and that typically in the motel industry, as well as with most commercial property, major overhauls usually take place.

  • Houston County commissioners oppose being silenced

    IMG 7952ALTON PORTER | HCC Houston County Judge Jim Lovell and county commissioners court members met in person and remotely via Zoom Tuesday, March 23. Above, from left to right, are Gary Lovell, Willie Kitchen, Judge Lovell, Gene Stokes and Jimmy Henderson.

    By Alton Porter

    Houston County’s commissioners, like other local government officials across the state, have taken a stand opposing being silenced by state officials.

    The county officials adopted a resolution in opposition to Texas Senate Bills 10 and 234 and Texas House Bill 749, which they say introduce efforts to silence county officials. They took the action at a Houston County Commissioners Court meeting Tuesday morning, March 23.

    “SB 10 is a bill that’s being introduced (in the Texas Senate),” said County Judge Jim Lovell in presenting the resolution to the commissioners—as are SB 234 and HB 749. “They (state lawmakers) word it as taxpayer-funded lobbying.

    “But what it really is is we can’t join an association, such as Texas Association of Counties or County Judges and Commissioners Association of Texas, if they hire on their staff a lobbyist.”

    Judge Lovell added, “Not only that. We can’t go to Austin as commissioners court or sheriff or any other elected official to (voice our positions) if a bill comes up that concerns county government and we want to go and testify before a committee or talk to our legislator and the county pay for it.

    “So, this resolution is just a resolution saying that we oppose that bill.”

    County Auditor Melissa Jeter pointed out that SB 234 and HB 749 are Senate and House bills related to SB 10.

    The bills would “take your voice away from any unfunded mandates…,” Precinct 3 Commissioner Gene Stokes said.

    “They forgot about the First Amendment, didn’t they,” added Sheriff Randy Hargrove.

    Jeter noted, the Senate’s Local Government Committee, chaired by Sen. Paul Bettencourt, is to hold a hearing on SB 10 Thursday morning, March 25. Persons who want to comment on the bill should contact the committee before the hearing.

    It is “a community censorship bill that would prohibit a city or county from spending public funds to influence the outcome of legislation,” according to an interpretation released by the Texas Municipal League (TML).

    “At the most basic level, S.B. 10 would prevent a city from hiring staff, contracting with lobbyists or other professional advocates, or joining associations like TML that engage in advocacy at the state capitol.

    “Specifically, the bill would provide: ‘The governing body of a county or municipality may not spend public money or provide compensation in any manner to directly or indirectly influence or attempt to influence the outcome of any legislation pending before the legislature.’”

    HB 749, also dubbed community censorship legislation by TML, “would: (1) prohibit a political subdivision from spending public funds to: (a) hire an individual required to register as a lobbyist for the purpose of lobbying a member of the Texas legislature; or (b) pay a nonprofit state association or organization that: (i) primarily represents political subdivisions; and (ii) hires or contracts with an individual required to register as a lobbyist.”

    In addition, TML representatives note, HB 749 would: “(2) provide that if a political subdivision engages in activity prohibited by (1), above, a taxpayer or resident of the political subdivision is entitled to injunctive relief to prevent any further prohibited activity or any further payments of public funds; and (3) provide that a taxpayer or resident who prevails in an action under (2), above, is entitled to recover reasonable attorney’s fees and costs from the political subdivision.”

    SB 234 is a companion bill to HB 749.

    In other business, the commissioners voted to accept as information the resignation of Bobby Hutcherson from the Houston County Emergency Services District No. 2 Board of Commissioners and to appoint Greg Brooks, of Belott, to replace Hutcherson on the ESD2 board. Hutcherson had served as vice president on the board.

    In another action, the commissioners approved the holding of a county event and display permit for a Houston County Welfare Board and Kalin’s Center program and the adoption of a proclamation designating April as Child Abuse Prevention Month in Houston County.

    The program, promoting awareness of child abuse, will be held on the county courthouse steps April 9, beginning at 11 a.m., and the annual display of pinwheels and related items, intended to focus attention on such abuse, will remain on the courthouse grounds throughout the month.

    The commissioners approved participation in a right-of-way/utility project on State Highway 7 at the Trinity River with the Texas department of highways, by passing a motion authorizing the signing of an affidavit, an agreement to contribute right-of-way funds and a resolution authorizing Judge Lovell to execute an agreement to contribute funds to the state for proper development and construction of the state highway system.

    They voted to pass a motion on a request to approve a $1,000 donation from an anonymous donor to the Sheriff’s Office for Drug Awareness Resistance Education (DARE) expenses.

    The commissioners approved acceptance of a donation of $9,284 in road materials from an anonymous donor for Precinct 2.

    In another action related to the Sheriff’s Office, the commissioners approved a budget amendment request from the office for a vehicle replacement not to exceed $17,000.

    They voted to approve selecting which vehicles or departments are to be included to determine costs for a possible lease program with Enterprise Fleet Management.

    A motion to grant Piney Woods Fine Arts Association $1,000 from the county’s Hotel Occupancy Tax fund to help cover expenses for a Texas Tenors Concert scheduled Saturday, April 16, at the Crockett Civic Center carried on a vote taken by the commissioners.

    A proclamation, designating April as County Government Month in Houston County and setting April 29 as the date for a county employees picnic was adopted by the commissioners.

    Similarly, the commissioners adopted a proclamation designating April as Fair Housing Month.

    A motion declaring a 2005 Precinct 2 pickup truck as surplus and authorizing advertising for the sale of the vehicle passed on a vote by the commissioners.

    They approved District Clerk Carolyn Rains’ request for $100 for a change fund.

    The county’s former office of courthouse security was designated by the commissioners as additional space for Precinct 2 Constable Kenneth “Red” Smith, and they authorized the making of necessary budget amendments related to the matter.

    A motion to approve a contract with a company to haul and deliver road materials for Precincts 1 and 3 carried on a vote of the commissioners.

    They discussed a completed renovation project at the Precinct 2 road and bridge office building, located at 601 Cedar St., half of it which is being offered by Precinct 2 Commissioner Willie Kitchen to be used for other county purposes. The commissioners voted to reimburse the Precinct 2 road and bridge budget with $24,210 from the county’s general fund for expenses incurred by the renovation project so that they can be used to fund road and bridge projects. The commissioners approved making necessary budget amendments for this matter.

    They received as information a preservation/environmental testing report on the county courthouse presented by County Clerk Terri Meadows from G&H Environmental Consulting, LLC, and approved authorizing Judge Lovell to act on presented recommendations to make repairs to the courthouse.

    The commissioners voted to authorize Judge Lovell to negotiate a possible real estate purchase.

    And renewal of an insurance policy with Texas Association of Counties for property and mobile equipment was approved by the commissioners.

  • Kennard ISD election results canvassed, accepted

    NEWS KISD TrusteesALTON PORTER | HCC Kennard ISD trustees being sworn-in at Thursday’s meeting, pictured from left-to-right, are continuing Board President Rebecca Parker, Jo Smith and Kenneth Dowdy.

    By Alton Porter

    KENNARD – Members of the Kennard ISD board of trustees canvassed the district’s May 1 election results and approved and accepted them at a regular meeting of the board Thursday, May 6.

    After the canvass was completed, the board’s reelected and newly elected trustees were administered the oath of office and the six trustees present elected officers to lead the board during the next 12 months. Trustee Brijesh Patel was absent.

    Board President Rebecca Parker, who received 67 votes, was reelected to continue serving on the board, and Kenneth Dowdy, who received 66 votes, and Jo Smith, who received 58 votes, were newly elected. All three were administered the oath by Carolyn Harrison, administrative assistant to Kennard Independent School District Superintendent Malinda Lindsey.

    Harrison also administered the district’s statement of office to the electees and passed out certificates of election to them.

    The two unsuccessful candidates in the election were Austin Gladden, who received 56 votes, and Tracy Sowell, who received 15 votes.

    “There were 102 people that came up to the school and casted votes,” Board Vice President Keith Cole said.

    Kennard ISD trustees serve in at-large positions on the board.

    The trustees reelected Parker to continue serving as board president, Cole to continue serving as board vice president and Brittani Womack to continue serving as board secretary.

    During the recognition part of the meeting, Lindsey congratulated and welcomed new trustees Dowdy and Smith to the board and commended the district’s softball and baseball teams’ coaches and student athletes who “are doing very well,” she said.

    “We had all-district honors for softball,” winning offensive player of the year; defensive player of the year, pitcher of the year, coach of the year, and first and second team awards.

    All-district baseball awards won by district athletes were most valuable player, offensive player of the year, defensive player of the year, first and second team honors, and coach of the year, Lindsey said. “So, we were well represented in softball and baseball.”

    On an agenda item requiring other action, the trustees approved an ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) III funds and plan proposal. Concerning ESSER III, Lindsey said, “Last week, the governor finally released that $11.8 million from the federal government to the school districts. There’s two phases. Right now, we’ll get two-thirds of our money. Our allocation is $1.2 million.”

    “This plan will utilize $835,000 of it, which is what our two-thirds is. There are specific program guidelines. The purpose of it is really to overcome the money loss of our kids from Covid. So, our plan here is to hire two interventionists—math and reading interventionists—for grades K (kindergarten) through five to support those kids with evidence-based and research interventions to help close those gaps.

    Under the ESSER Fund, established as part of the Education Stabilization Fund in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, state educational agencies will award subgrants to local educational agencies to address the impact that the novel coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools across the nation, according to the US Department of Education’s Office of Elementary & Secondary Education website.

    According to the National Conference of State Legislatures website, the CARES Act, which passed March 27, 2020, provided $13.5 billion to the ESSER Fund. The Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2021 (CRRSA), which passed Dec. 27, 2020, provided $54.3 billion in supplemental ESSER funding, known as the ESSER II fund.

    The American Rescue Plan Act, which passed March 11 this year, provided $122.7 billion in supplemental ESSER funding, which is known as the ESSER III fund.

    State educational agencies are required to reserve their allocations to carry out activities: 5% to address learning loss, 1% for afterschool activities, and 1% for summer learning programs. Local educational agencies must reserve at least 20% of the funding they receive to address learning loss. Two-thirds of ESSER funds are immediately available to states, while remaining funds will be made available after states submit ESSER implementation plans.

    Concerning communications received by district officials, Parker said, “Some of the boys (in the district’s schools) provided a request” in a letter sent to the officials. “They would like to have a policy change, stating (in the letter), ‘We believe that boys should be allowed to wear earrings. Why should girls be able to and boys not? There should be no difference. Please consider this policy change (request).’”

    No item was on the agenda to address the matter at the meeting, so it will be placed on an agenda and considered at a future meeting, the board president said.

    In a discussion about district facilities, Lindsey and Parker noted that a house the district owns and is located on its property is dilapidated and needs to be gotten rid of.

    “Last month, we discussed several facility items,” Lindsey said. “One of the things we did talk about was the state of the house on our property.” Lindsey said officials requested that a potential contractor “come and give us a quote on demolition of the house and the tree; so, we’re just bringing that to you. The cost to demo the house and clean up and haul off would be $16,800. If we include all the … trees south of the power lines—this would not include the trees between the power lines and the highway—that would be an additional $4,200,” Lindsey said.

    “It’s just not really serving us any purpose, but we don’t want to lose the property because we don’t have a lot of land to work with,” Parker said. “We’ve discussed the possibility of just tearing it down and opening that up to have more space for something for the future or more parking … or whatever.”

    The trustees deferred taking action on the matter and will address it at a future meeting.

    Among other items requiring that action be taken, the trustees appointed Parker to be the district’s delegate and board member Terry Pilkington to be its alternate delegate at the Texas Association of School Administrators and Texas Association of School Boards 2021 convention which will be held in Dallas Sept. 24-26.

    In other business, the trustees approved the district’s students’ insurance policy with Health Special Risk, Inc. for the 2021-2022 school year and its 2021-2022 Allotment and TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) certification form. TEKS are the state standards for what students should know and be able to do in each subject and grade level.

    In another action, the trustees approved an amendment to the District of Innovation program. “We are a District of Innovation; and currently, the only thing we use District of Innovation for is to start school earlier than the fourth Monday in August that the law requires,” said Lindsey.

    “However, it’s time for us to redo our depository contract. This provides us because we only have a depository here and we need to do it every two years. By gaining this exemption, we’d be able to choose our existing bank here as our contract and we don’t have to … use it for six or more years instead of having to come to you every year.

    “One of the reasons also is because it is very costly to the district. If we go out every two years, we have to do an RFP—request for proposal—put it in the newspaper, and our current commercial bank gives us the best rates. Our people would have to go somewhere else. If we chose something in Crockett, they’d have to go to Crockett every day or every other day to deposit our money. So, we feel like this amendment is in the best fiscal responsibility to our district.”

  • Latexo ISD trustees cancel May 1 election

    IMG 7903ALTON PORTER | HCC Director Chris Cravens, of Latexo High Schools Career and Technical Education program spoke to Latexo ISD trustees about activities CTE students currently are engaged in and plans that are being made to provide more opportunities for them in the future at a meeting Thursday, May 18.

    By Alton Porter

    Members of the Latexo Independent School District Board of Trustees have cancelled the district’s May 1 election as the two incumbent candidates who were seeking reelection in the scheduled election were unopposed in their bids to continue serving as trustees.

    The Latexo ISD trustees took the action during a board meeting Thursday, March 18, following a discussion in a closed, executive session.

    The two board positions up for election are Position 3, held by Vice President Bobbie Jo Frizzell, and Position 4, which is filled by Secretary Jeffrey Catoe.

    “In the school board election, nobody signed up (to run against Frizzell and Catoe), so we don’t need to have that,” Superintendent Michael Woodard told the trustees. “So, Ms. Bobbie Jo and Mr. Catoe are good for another three years—nothing to worry about. I just ask you guys to cancel that (election) because we don’t need it.”

    In other business in the open, public part of the meeting following the executive session, the trustees voted to approve a 2020-2021 Public Health Planning Guidance policy for face coverings for staff members and students in the district to be recommended as presented.

    Woodard said, the district’s recommended policy regarding the wearing of masks is being typed up and will soon be released. “We haven’t had anything in our district since Jan. 27,” the superintendent said. “So, we’re going to look at it (the district’s mask policy) and if anything happens, we’ll come back and … look at recommending it. We came back from spring break; we had no issues. Nobody’s sick….”

    Also, following the closed session, the trustees addressed personnel matters, approving 2021-2022 teachers contracts as presented, administrators’ contracts and acceptance of the resignation of a Chapter 21 employee who was a pre-kindergarten teacher.

    Woodard reminded the trustees of the second reading of the Texas Association of School Boards Policy Update 116 and that it will be placed before them for adoption at their next meeting.

    During district administrators’ reports, Director Chris Cravens, of Latexo High School’s Career and Technical Education (CTE) program, let the trustees “know what’s going on in the CTE world.”

    Cravens spoke to the trustees about agriculture and technology departments activities, the district’s health science program in which a clinical practicum program was implemented in December in partnership with Crockett Medical Center (CMC), and opportunities school staff members are planning for students.

    Ag students are building trailers, one of which they plan to be enter in competition at the Houston Livestock Show, Cravens said, adding, some of the students have their National Center for Construction Education and Research core certificates and others are ongoing with a “floral buddies” project, where they sell floral designs to faculty and staff members.

    Cravens said all plants in the school’s greenhouse were killed by the freezing temperatures, snow and ice of last month’s severe winter storms. He said efforts will be made to purchase some plants for the greenhouse if there are any available.

    “We were all set, before the snow hit, to sell plants to the community,” said Cravens. “And that was going to be another way to raise money with the community. Unfortunately, now that’s not going to happen. The only damage that I remember that was done in the greenhouse was one of the pipes burst. But, other than that, there was no real damage to the greenhouse, so we’re happy about that.”

    In the technology department, a student in the robotics class built a robot’s arm and other students have been engaged in other projects, Cravens said.

    Through the health science program’s clinical practicum program, three selected Latexo ISD senior students spend two days a week at CMC making clinical rounds and job shadowing licensed professionals in the medical center’s rural health clinic, specialty care clinic, emergency room, laboratory, pharmacy, radiology department, and cardio-respiratory and physical therapy departments.

    In addition, two of the students have had the opportunity to observe two surgeries that Dr. Clifton O’Meara, an orthopedic surgery specialist, have done, Cravens said.

    “Our time at the hospital ends at the end of this month because they’ve (the three students) done all of the rotations. Then, in April, we’re set up to go to Aurora Clinic, Crockett Clinic with (Dr. Christopher) Haeckler (a family medicine specialist) and (Dr. Richard J.) Kelly (also a family medicine specialist).

    “We’re already in Davy Crockett Drug. We’re going to be in (seven medical facilities, also including) Stovall & Holcomb (Group, LLP, the dental office of Dr. John M. Stovall and Dr. Joseph H. Holcomb). We’re going to be in the Crockett Eye Clinic (of Dr. John McCall and Dr. Colin Castleberry).”

    Cravens said 10 LHS junior students have said they are interested in participating in the program next year, when it might be expanded to last all year.

    CTE opportunities that are being planned for students include expanding the practicum/clinical program, possibly hooking up senior students who are receiving advanced welding training with Vulcraft and floral design students with a local florist, Cravens said.

    In the works is a heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) program to be implemented in partnership with Grapeland Independent School District officials and under the auspices and direction of Angelina College staffers, who have expressed an interest in developing a HVAC program in Houston County, the Latexo ISD CTE director said.

    Latexo ISD would provide the facility for the HVAC program and Angelina College would provide up to $200,000 worth of equipment free of charge to the school district and would pay for the instructor. The program would require that 10 to 12 students be enrolled in it each year, Cravens said, adding, at the end of the program, the students would receive residential HVAC certificates.

    In addition, Cravens said he is hoping to implement a program that would provide basic electricity training for students interested in becoming electricians, provide climbing training for those who want to be linemen and instruct those who want to obtain commercial driver’s licenses.

    Also, efforts are being made to offer assistance to technology-minded students who want to obtain employee certification by Dell Computer company, Cravens said.

  • Latexo ISD trustees select initial bond construction scheme

    IMG 7762ALTON PORTER | HCC Board President Kelly Nicol, left, of the Latexo ISD Board of Trustees, and District Superintendent Michael Woodard spoke and heard comments from other board members about the district’s $5 million bond construction project and other matters at a special meeting of the trustees Thursday, March 4.

    By Alton Porter

    Latexo school trustees gathered for a special meeting at which they discussed plans for the construction of facilities as part of the school district’s $5 million bond construction project and addressed other matters.

    The Latexo Independent School District Board of Trustees called meeting was held Thursday, March 4.

    “We’re really excited moving forward with the bond construction,” Board President Kelly Nicol said in a statement summarizing that discussion after the meeting was adjourned. “We’ve settled on our placement of the buildings (on the district’s elementary and secondary school campuses). And I think we’re moving forward and looking forward to getting the architectural drawings to be able to start bidding out through the bidding process.”

    The bond project includes the planned construction of a multi-use, multi-faceted facility that will be used as a gymnasium and for the holding of community events, as well as other additions and upgrades to district buildings, including a new career and technical education (CTE) building and an elementary school cafeteria.

    Nicol said, so far, the district officials have not run into any problems or major issues in their construction planning process, adding, “I think we’ve pretty much decided on the location of the gym and CTE building, and also the cafeteria down in elementary. And things are just moving forward.

    “We will be using this 9.2 scheme (a version of a drawing prepared by Goodwin-Lasiter-Strong architects and delegated for the project), and we’ve decided where this building (the multi-purpose facility) is going to go and the CTE classrooms and locker rooms.”

    “And down here (on the elementary school campus), this will be the cafeteria,” the board president said, referring to portrait of the scheme. “And those are what we decided on tonight. Everything else is kind of down the road.

    “These (the gym and CTE facilities) are the main two buildings we needed to approve tonight.” He said the planned cafeteria will be attached to the back of the current gym on the elementary school campus.

    “This (construction of all the facilities in the bond project) has been something that our community’s needed for a long time,” Nicol said. “We’re moving forward—looking forward to it. I’m happy to be a part of getting it for them. The whole board is looking forward for the community to get what they’ve been wanting for a while.”

    The trustees voted to pass a motion to “approve scheme 9.2, with the location of the multi-purpose center,” along with the elementary cafeteria and CTE building, as presented.

    In related actions, the trustees approved payment of $4,900 for geotechnical engineering services and voted to authorize Superintendent Michael Woodard to look into another situation and possibly negotiate the cost in a contract with Goodwin-Lasiter-Strong and get the best price he can for a survey to be conducted on the district’s land, buildings and attached properties on both of the district’s campuses before designing the planned bond facilities. Goodwin-Lasiter-Strong representatives had offered to conduct the survey for $7,200.

    In other business, the trustees approved a missed school days waiver for 2020-2021, authorizing Woodard to go online to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) website and request approval of the waiver by the state so that the district doesn’t lose any state funding for employees for the days missed due to “the bad weather that we had” last month, the superintendent said.

    In a similar action, the trustees voted to approve a resolution “authorizing all employee pay for bad weather days.” This is to “make sure all employees get paid for the same days that they missed work,” Woodard said. “That’s for all employees to make sure they don’t miss any paycheck.”

    Woodard noted that the board’s regular meeting for this month is being moved to Thursday, March 18, beginning at 6 p.m. The meeting was originally scheduled for March 11, but “that’s our spring break,” Woodard said.

    Concerning “the mask situation across the state,” Woodard said, “As you all know, the governor came out (Tuesday, March 2) about no more masks and (opening the state) 100%, starting Wednesday (March 10).

    IMG 7758ALTON PORTER | HCC Members of the Latexo ISD board of trustees, above, discussed and approved a scheme for the location and plans for buildings to be constructed as part of the district’s $5 million bond project and acted on other matters at a March 4 special meeting.

    “We were waiting on TEA and UIL (University Interscholastic League) to say anything. So, what TEA did say: ‘The governing body, which is the school board, may modify or eliminate by formal action the above mask-related requirements.’

    “UIL came out and said pretty much the same thing. That, ‘Consistent with TEA guidance, School systems’ governing bodies may modify or eliminate mask-related requirements. Schools may determine spectator capacity and seating arrangements for UIL events.’ So, the mask can go away.”

    Woodard added, “The only thing that’s still in play is the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) guidelines with conract tracing…. We haven’t had any cases here in a month. I was the last one that got sick here.

    “So, say, if something happens now, if we do away with the masks, think about the sports or any kind of activity. If little Johnny gets Covid, we still got to do the quarantine until CDC changes their guidelines—still got to do quarantines, still got to do the tracing, all of that. And the shut-it-down could still happen if it went that far.

    “I have talked to the principals and they’re okay with doing away with the masks and putting it back on who wants to wear it can wear it. I talked to, of course, the coaches—Coach (Greg) Horn. He said, if that’s what does happen, then he’ll probably make his players still wear masks. That way, they’re covered in case something does happen.

    “If something does happen, then you’ve got to quarantine. They’re going to be out 10 or 14 days, until CDC changes what they have to do.

    “I think the governor caught everybody off guard when he made his announcement” lifting the statewide facemask mandate.

    Woodard said he recommends that those who want to wear a masks do so. He said the school district has no need to change anything it is currently doing, including continuing remote learning, an option being utilized by some students.