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  • 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.

  • 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.

  • Livingston recognizes promoted officers and approves holiday schedule

                                   JASON CHLAPEK I PCE Livingston Police officers Marty Drake (left) and Kaleb Barker were recently promoted to new positions within the department. Drake was promoted from detective to lieutenant, and Barker was promoted from patrol to detective.

    By Jason Chlapek

    LIVINGSTON — Livingston Police Chief Matt Parrish recognized a pair of longtime officers in his department Tuesday evening at the City of Livingston’s monthly council meeting at Livingston City Hall.

    Marty Drake was recently promoted from detective to lieutenant, and Kaleb Barker was promoted from patrol to detective. Drake has been with the LPD for 20 years, while Barker has been with the department for 16.

    “We’re fortunate enough to have most of our department with master peace officers,” Drake said. “We make sure the cases are followed up in a timely manner. The detectives do a great job and it makes my job a lot easier. We have sergeants and patrol officers who are fair and make good decisions.”

    Drake joined LPD in August 2001. He started out as a reserve deputy with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office in 1996 before joining the Onalaska Police Department as a patrol officer and school officer, then moved on to Livingston.

    “Livingston earned a Cops in Schools grant in 2001 and that’s when I went to Livingston,” Drake said.

    Drake spent the first 12 years with the LPD as an officer at Livingston Junior High. In 2013, he became a detective before earning his promotion to lieutenant three weeks ago.

    “It’s different policing in school and policing on the street,” Drake said. “The detective is on the investigative side of things where a patrol officer on the street works the case as far up as it will go. They go case after case after case. The detective does follow-up interviews and picks up evidence. The detectives file complaints, deal with the DA’s office, go to the judges to get the warrants and continue the investigation all the way through. As a lieutenant, we oversee patrol and detectives.”

    Barker joined the LPD in September 2005. He spent the first six years in dispatch before becoming a patrol officer in 2011, where he served until earning his promotion to detective two weeks ago.

    “It’s a totally different world (detective and patrol),” Barker said. “I’m going to miss the camaraderie with the patrol guys. When you’re a detective, you typically go by yourself. You don’t have a partner coming with you, but you’re not in too many dangerous situations. A lot of times, it’s me going to a business to look at the camera system and request copies of a surveillance video. I’ll be doing more investigation.”

    In other items of business, the city approved the holiday compensation for employees and council aldermen, the holiday observances for 2021, and a resolution for a public hearing at the Dec. 8 meeting and dues for Brazos Transit. Also approved was a payment of $56,430 to Maguire Iron for the elevated water tanks project.

    “The employees get turkeys or hams for Thanksgiving, employees who has been with the city at least a year gets a week’s salary, employees who have been with us less than a year get $50, and the council members get turkey and ham for Thanksgiving and Christmas,” City Manager Bill Wiggins said. “The holidays are going to be New Year’s Day, Martin Luther King Jr., two days for Thanksgiving, two days for Christmas, Veterans Day, Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Good Friday and Labor Day. The Bauers have the tract of land just east of Peters Tractor & Equipment. We’ll have the hearing on annexing that tract on Dec. 8. Aideney Reeves will be the Lower Trinity Groundwater Conservation District board member. The city’s portion is $4,200 and it’s an annual contribution. We help the county with their portion.”

    Livingston city council will meet again at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Dec. 8.

  • New businesses breaking ground in Livingston

                                   JASON CHLAPEK | PCE From left, Livingston city aldermen Clarke Evans, Elgin Davis and Raymond Luna listen to city manager Bill Wiggins’ report Tuesday evening.

    By Jason Chlapek

    The future is bright for the city of Livingston.

    City manager Bill Wiggins announced at Tuesday’s monthly city council meeting during his report that several new businesses, including some popular chain restaurants, are breaking ground in Livingston. Among these are Chick-fil-A, Panda Express and Starbucks.

    “The new year is very exciting as far as new projects getting started,” Wiggins said. “Chick-fil-A broke ground just west of town last week, an 80-unit apartment complex broke ground, and Starbucks started Monday. We’re very excited with some of the new projects that have been going on.”

    Regas Contractors is building Chick-fil-A, which city officials hope will be open by May. A permit has been given and dirt work has begun on the restaurant, which will have an address of 1821 US Highway 190 West.

    Panda Express and Starbucks will both be located in the Walmart parking lot. The building permit for Starbucks was given on Friday and ground broke on the project Monday.

    Panda Express has not set a construction date yet. Other projects in Livingston include Blue Wave Car Wash, Country Place Senior Living, Health Center of East Texas, House of Mary, Livingston Memorial United Methodist Church, Livingston Pioneer Crossing Apartments and T-Mobile.

    “We’re very optimistic that we can somehow get a hold on Covid,” Wiggins said. “We need to.”

    Council aldermen also approved a pair of public hearings that will take place at next month’s meeting on Feb. 9. One is for the demolition process of a former hotel located on 1200 N. Washington and the other for a dilapidated residence located on 1958 S. Washington.

    “They’ve (the former hotel owners) got the asbestos work done and the next step will be getting a contractor to do the demolition,” Wiggins said. “They should be starting on the demolition by Feb. 9. If not, they have to come to the hearing and let us know what the hold-up is. The demolition process needs to be started by Feb. 9.”

    Next month’s city council meeting starts at 5 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 9.

  • Onalaska City recognizes local election results

    SwearinChoateEMILY KUBISCH-SABRSULA I PCE David Johnson swears in newly re-elected Mayor Chip Choate before being sworn in himself as Municipal judge.

    By Emily Kubisch-Sabrsula

    ONALASKA - Re-elected Mayor Chip Choate opened the monthly Onalaska city meeting with news of an agreement made with TXDOT to allow the city to place flags on the Kickapoo Creek bridge, outside of the guardrails. Traditionally, the city has put flags along Highway 190 on Memorial Day, Fourth of July, and Veterans Day, but has been unable to along the bridge due to TXDOT regulations.

    During his announcements, the mayor also encouraged meeting-goers to reach out to their representatives, James White and Robert Nichols, citing their inaction on legislation to assist the Alabama-Coushatta reservation in retaining their gaming activities. With hundreds of bills already filed for the 87th legislation, which will start at noon on Jan. 21, 2021, there is still time to reach out to representatives to better help the tribe, which helps bring millions of dollars to East Texas and Polk County.

    For a list of representatives by zip code, visit www.house.gov/representatives/find-your-representative.

    The city approved several hires and appointments, including Onalaska-raised Simon Prince, who will serve as a full-time officer with a standard probationary period. Chief Jessica Stanton said his prior experience includes working in Cleveland and in San Jacinto County before deciding to move back.

    Other positions include the re-appointment of David Johnson for Municipal Judge, Associate Judge Greg Magee, city council member Paul Laverty, and newly appointed Attorney and Prosecutor for Onalaska, Chris Thompson. Thompson will replace David Mormon, who earlier resigned after 17 years with the city to take on a judgeship for Walker County.

    Shirley Gilmore was also continue serving as Mayor Pro-tem.

    City Events

    On Nov. 21, the Onalaska Volunteer Fire Department will hold a blood drive from 2:30-7 p.m. Those wishing to participate must sign up online prior to giving blood.

    Sign-up forms can be found at tinyurl.com/y56z8mkp.All. Successful donations will include a free Covid-19 anti-body test.

    The Second Annual Onalaska Reindeer Dash will be on the afternoon of Dec. 5, which the Christmas Parade immediately following. Parade participants will toss candy and parade-goers are encouraged to practice social distancing to prevent the spread of the Coronavirus.

    For more information on the race or parade, contact Tammy Seader at 936-646-5000 or visit the city’s Facebook Page. Parade forms are also available online at cityofonalaska.us.

    The City of Onalaska meets every second Tuesday of the month at 5 p.m. at City Hall. Public comments can be made at beginning of the meeting.

  • Polk County approves land for solar plant

                                   JASON CHLAPEK I PCE Bob Bass of the Allison, Bass & Magee, LLP law firm talks to Polk County commissioners Tuesday morning.

    By Jason Chlapek

    Polk County could be getting solar power in the next few years.

    Commissioners approved a measure to establish a reinvestment zone for the purpose of tax abatement to provide economic development within the county Tuesday morning. The reinvestment zone consists of a total of 5,939.349 acres in the eastern portion of the county.

    “Solar power will bring jobs and new industry.,” George Riggs of Long Road Energy said. “It builds the tax base and it’s more revenue for the landowners. The more projects you have like this, the more opportunities you have for storage of equipment, warehousing and repair facilities. It brings a whole new dynamic to the area. In addition to timber, you have a whole new industry.”

    The county has been in talks with solar companies for nearly four years. The project is expected to break ground during the first quarter of 2021 and completion is projected for the fourth quarter of 2022.

    “This process has taken about four years,” Riggs said. “Normally it takes about 3-4 years to get it approved. Once we break ground, it’ll take a year to a year and a half to complete. This is our first East Texas project. We chose Polk County because the close proximity to the transmission lines that service this area.”

    Riggs is a former commissioner in Pecos County. Most of his company’s work is done in West Texas.

    Bob Bass of the Allison, Bass and Magee, LLP represents the county through this agreement. He talked about the process to get these projects approved and ultimately finished.

    “(Long Road Energy) came to us with the proposal,” Bass said. “These projects are built in a reinvestment zone. There’s several layers of this process. First, the developer goes out and leases ground from the landowner so they have a place to build. Next they go to the taxing entities to tie down their tax burdens. Then they have to essentially find a buyer for the power and go to a lender to borrow the money to fund the project. This is basically the second step toward that. We hope it will develop and I expect that this project will go on through.”

    In other items, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office decided to stay with its current resident banking and commissary service, a community development block grant from the Texas Department of Agriculture in support of Dallardsville-Segno water improvements was approved, and a resolution adopting civil rights plans and procedures was approved. Commissioners court meets again at 9 a.m. Nov. 24.

  • Resolutions, library funding discussed by Tyler County commissioners

    NEWS TyCoCourthouse graphicCOURTESY OF OFFICIAL COUNTY WEBSITE The Tyler County courthouse

    By Chris Edwards

    WOODVILLE – The Tyler County Commissioners Court approved a resolution in opposition to two pieces of legislation they say would, if passed, “silence county officials.”

    The officials adopted several resolutions and proclamations during its regular monthly meeting on Monday morning. The first resolution the officials approved was to voice opposition to Senate Bill 234 and House Bill 749, of which County Judge Jacques Blanchette said “is of a concern to all of us who hold public office.”

    The bill in the Senate (by Sen. Bob Hall) and the House bill (by Rep. Mayes Middleton) would prohibit the usage of county funds to support any non-profit organization engaging in legislative communication.

    Blanchette said information is going around about the bills, which are among the thousands of pieces of legislation up for examination in the current legislative session, and other counties across the state are voicing similar opposition.

    “It is just simply our way of enjoining ourselves to the other counties who are expressing themselves and their voices to the legislature in the opposition to any of our efforts to speak out to the legislature regarding laws they pass that place burdens upon us that are in turn passed on to the taxpayer,” Blanchette said.

    The second item under the heading “Resolutions/Proclamations” was to proclaim the month of April as “Child Abuse Prevention Month” in Tyler County.

    CASA board member Donnie Wayne Gulley spoke to the issue before the officials on Monday morning. Gulley, who was a foster child himself, said he has striven to be an advocate for abused and/or neglected children who are in the foster care system.

    Gulley said that through the last year there were 188 confirmed victims of child abuse and/or neglect in the county last year, which he said was “188 confirmed victims too many,” along with 87 total children in the child welfare system.

    He outlined the process of the Court Appointed Special Advocates and what they do. “The difference that CASA makes for children who have experience abuse or neglect is definitely life-changing,” he said, and spoke of his own experience and memories of abuse at 18 months old when he was removed from his first home.

    “We can stop the cycle of abuse by being a much-needed voice of support,” Gulley said.

    Library funding discussed

    Pct. 2 Commissioner Stevan Sturrock brought an agenda item up for discussion concerning funds allocated to the Allan Shivers Library in Woodville. Sturrock said that he has researched commissioners court minutes from the 1950s or 60s and could not find anything that specified how county funds to the library were to be applied.

    Sturrock wanted to bring the item up so that the court could have, in writing, a way for the facility to use county funds in whatever ways its governing board sees fit.

    Blanchette and Pct. 3 Commissioner Mike Marshall are both on the library’s board, and former county employee Kay Timme was recently appointed. “The concept is certainly laudable and has a lot of merit,” Blanchette said of Sturrock’s agenda item. He recommended suspending any action until more information comes from the governing board for the library. He also described its funding structure, which comes from three different entities: Woodville ISD, the City of Woodville and Tyler County, and is supplemented further by grants, fundraisers and donations.

    Timme read the deed for the library, which states that if there is a failure to keep the facility going on the part of the three contributing entities, the funding would revert back to a foundation associated with the Shivers family.

    Other documents that Timme uncovered spelled out what particulars the county is responsible for funding, which include the staff along with books and professional supplies.

    Library board member Josh McClure also spoke on the topic, specifically to the inclusion of the word “may” within Sturrock’s agenda item, as in “Tyler County may support the Allan Shivers Library in the amount agreed upon by the Commissioners’ Court…,” which McClure said could be problematic in the future, with regard to whomever might be elected to serve in the future and their desire to fund or not to fund.

    “I do think that wording needs to be visited,” McClure said. “If the policy said ‘may,’ and then one day someone who doesn’t support the library is voted in…and says ‘Hey, we don’t have to do this,’…it would put more of a burden on the county.”

    Other Business

    During Monday’s meeting, the commissioners also approved the following items:

    • A proclamation recognizing March as Red Cross Awareness Month in Tyler County

    • A resolution for an indigent defense grant program

    • A proclamation to proclaim March 1 through April 3 as “It’s Dogwood Time in Tyler County”

    • Billie Read and Walter McAlpin were re-appointed to the Tyler County Hospital Board of Managers to begin serving new two-year terms.

    • The starting of procurement services for engineering and administrative services for the fiscal year 2021-22 TDA CDBG grant cycle, along with the appointment of a rating committee were both approved.

  • School Board to look at itself

    031121 trinity schools TONY FARKAS | TCNS Trinity ISD administration officials congratulate the Employees of the Month for February — Martha Farnsworth for professionals, Michelle Medlock for paraprofessionals and Craig Troutman for support.

    TCNS staff

    TRINITY — The Trinity ISD School Board will take a look in the mirror to help itself improve.

    At the regular meeting on March 1, which was moved from Feb. 22 because of winter weather, the board received evaluation forms to fill out over the coming weeks.

    Superintendent John Kaufman said that the board will fill out the forms to be turned in by March 23, which he will then compile and present at the next board meeting.

    The idea behind the evaluation is to use it as a training tool, Kaufman said.

    In other business, the board:

    • approved the filing for a waiver from the state for missed school days due to inclement weather;
    • approved a certification of unopposed candidates for the 2021 school board election, as well as an order cancelling the election;
    • approved moving the March School Board meeting to March 29; and
    • approved paying employees for the days the district was closed during the weather disaster.
  • School to change weekly attendance

    050621 apple springsFILE PHOTO Apple springs calendar

    By Tony Farkas

    APPLE SPRINGS — The Apple Springs school district is going to four-day week.

    Beginning with the 2021-22 school year, students will attend Tuesdays through Fridays, with Monday now being off. The measure was approved at the April 12 School Board meeting.

    Superintendent Cody Moree said the move was something he had proposed the year before COVID hit, but for various reasons, it didn’t gain momentum; however, since then, several districts — Latexo, Corrigan-Camden, Oakwood, Calvert — have made the move, with good results.

    Interest then picked back up, Moree said, and with other districts doing it and the rumors of more, Apple Springs began to move in that direction.

    “I guess the word got around that those districts that have done so are glad; I talked to a board member in Corrigan who said it’s the best thing they’ve ever done,” he said.

    Moree said the district first surveyed the parents electronically, through email and Facebook, which came back with 85 percent of respondents in favor of it. A paper survey came back at more than 90 percent in favor.

    “We felt like we had community support,” he said. “We’re going to try it and hopefully it will turn out good.”

    Moree said the immediate benefit will be teacher recruitment and retention, because small school districts can’t offer the same pay scale as larger ones.

    “We have to compete with that, but we hope by offering this it will help recruiting good people and keep the people we have,” he said.

    Additionally, Moree said there is an academic benefit with teachers and students spending longer, concentrated time on subjects, and students will be in the same room with a teacher.

    “In the long run, the 20 percent rule kicks in; there will be better attendance because appointments can be made on off-days, teachers can make appointments during the week; we’re running the buses 20 percent less so transportations costs should drop,” he said. “With all those things, we think we’ll improve what we’re doing.”

    With students being home an additional day, child care requirements and the effect on the district was discussed, and Moree said the change will be an adjustment for parents and families. However, one of the unintended consequences of the district dealing with the shutdown and changes because of COVID was parents making such arrangements, so the effect should be minimal, he said.

    “We appreciate the support,” Moree said. “We’re trying to be innovative and look for better ways to teach the kids.”

  • Schools discuss robbery arrests

    020421 trinity isd 1TONY FARKAS | TCNS Trinity ISD Superintendent John Kaufman and other administration officials present December employee of the month plaques to Magaly Zamora, professional; Ibeth Caceres, paraprofessional; and Crista Caceres, support, at the monthly School Board meeting on Jan. 26.

    By Tony Farkas

    TRINITY — The Trinity ISD School Board heard a presentation regarding two students who were arrested in November for allegedly breaking into the high school and destroying school property.

    Isaac Debose, pastor of Lone Star Missionary Baptist Church, said that while the events of December were tragic, he believes the two teens are being falsely accused.

    The two teens were arrested Dec. 3 and face charges of criminal mischief greater than $30,000 but less that $150,000 and burglary of a building, both felony charges.

    “The accusation doesn’t bother me, as I understand that someone needs to pay,” Debose said. “What really bothers me is the way this process is being handled.”

    Debose said the system has been unfair to certain types of people, but said that because of the open investigation, he declined to offer specifics.

    020421 trinity isd 2TONY FARKAS |TCNS Trinity ISD Superintendent John Kaufman and other administration officials present a January employee of the month plaque to Karen Shelton, professional, and the School Board meeting on Jan. 26. Other January honorees (not pictured) are Bridget Ladnier, paraprofessional, and Cassie Thompson, support.

    He said that the students have been publicly humiliated by this ordeal.

    “At what point does this go beyond hearsay or sub-par investigative work,” he said. “We need answers and we need results. The officers need to do their due diligence, and if there is no evidence, they need to be released.

    “These children need to … salvage what’s left of their senior year,” Debose said. “This is so wrong on so many levels. The people will not stand for it. We, as a people, will talk to whoever we need to talk to and take whatever measures we need to take to seek justice.”

    In other business, the board:

    •extended full pay for staff who are out with COVID through the end of the school year. The program ended Dec. 31;

    •approved 300 pages worth of changes to the school policy manual, based on recommendations by the Texas Association of School Boards. Local changes include additional cybersecurity training, adding a grievance process for terminated at-will employees, and setting parameters for the administration of non-prescription drugs;

    •discussed the system’s academic performance perform, which is done annually. However, since there was no testing done last year, and no testing will be done this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the numbers that were provided were from 2018;

    •approved a change to the school calendar regarding COVID-related days;

    •approved the adoption of a food service procurement manual; and

    •called May 1 as an election day. Board positions held by Elizabeth King and Judy Bishop are up for election this year.

  • Schools to have students help students

    050621 trinity isd copyCOURTESY PHOTO The Trinity ISD Board of Education recognized employees of the month at the regular board meeting on April 26. Pictured are (from left) Keavin Searcy, board president; Gillian Campbell, director; Matt Curtis, Support Employee of the Month; Marci Loesch, Professional of the Month; Melissa Allbright, Paraprofessional of the Month; and Kelli Robinson, principal of Lansberry Elementary.

    By Tony Farkas

    TRINITY — Trinity ISD is looking at a new program to allow athletes to become mentors to other students.

    Susan Green, counselor for Lansberry Elementary, said that the main objective of the mentor program is to support and improve the well-being of our students by providing a role model that can help support them academically, socially, and emotionally.

    “Relationship building is a major theme of the program,” she said. “Students need to be able to make connections with people they can trust and feel comfortable talking to.”

    The high school mentors gain experiences with listening and learning, working together for a common goal, flexibility, and leading by example. This year was a piloting program year to make sure the program will be sustainable and that it will benefit students and the community.

    “I am looking forward to seeing the program grow and having a great impact on our students,” she said.

    In other business, the board:

    •approved the district’s BETA teams travel as they advance to national competition in Orlando, Fla. The district will pay for transportation and meals;

    •approved updated operating procedures for the board;

    •approved hiring Axley & Rode for the district’s annual audit;

    •updated policies for facility rental for other functions;

    •approved the 2021-22 allotment and TEKS Certification for textbooks and appointed a textbook committee;

    •approved the lease/purchase of interactive flat panels for the remainder of the classrooms, and all teachers now have one available;

    •approved the Trinity County Appraisal District budget; and

    •approved renewals of teacher and counselor contracts.

  • Shepherd city meets for election results

    Shepherd CityEMILY KUBISCH-SABRSULA Yvonne R. Cones gets sworn in as a city alderman following the Nov. 3 elections.

    By Emily Kubisch-Sabrsula

    SHEPHERD - Brenda Myers, Executive Director of the Impact Center in Shepherd, addressed the council regarding ordinance violation fees she had received while trying to build a free-standing restroom near the center.

    Myers, who is being fined for failing to obtain a building permit which would ensure the structure is up to ADA standards, (a water and electric permit had been obtained prior), claimed she was given bad information when she asked what permits she would need. Per city ordinance, buildings that have not obtained all proper permits prior to construction will be fined double the original cost. Myers, along with several members of the crowd, pleaded with the council to drop the violation fees.

    After several minutes of discourse, a vote to dismiss the fine was reached, with the possibility of having the Shepherd Economic Development Cooperation (EDC) determine if they are able to help with the permit fees, since the restroom may serve public use. The Impact Center, located in Shepherd, is a 501c3 non-profit that provides relief programs to several surrounding counties.

    Update to voting results

    At 4:30 p.m., shortly before the Tuesday monthly council meeting, election results for the City of Shepherd were certified, with Mayor Charles P. Minton serving his second term as Mayor, unopposed. Lee “P.K.” Wesley Jr., who had won a majority of the votes and was set to take on an alderman position, was discovered to be ineligible to hold the position due to an old conviction on his record.

    Despite having served his term and taking care of all associated matters, according to Texas Election Code, a felony conviction leaves individuals unable to hold public office without a governor pardon, something the board and Wesley did not know until after the election. Since the offense occurred in Louisiana, he would need a pardon from that state’s governor to serve in Texas.

    The city’s attorney, Larry Foerster, spoke with the Secretary of State in Texas in an attempt to find a legal way that would allow Wesley to serve, citing overwhelming support from his community as a testament to his character, but was unable to find an initial solution. With two positions open for city alderman, Yvonne R. Cones will fill one, and if they are unable to find a course of action to instate Wesley, a special election will be held to fill the second.

    Both the legal entities for the city and Wesley encouraged the audience to reach out to representative Earnest Bailes and Robert Nichols to try and change the current law that makes felons ineligible to hold public office.

    Other Business

    With money left over from not holding a July fireworks ceremony, the Chamber of Commerce and Impact center are seeking to combine their holiday events for a Christmas fireworks show and parade on Dec. 5 with the parade starting at 6 p.m. Two job vacancies will be posted to the city’s website, one for a temporary front office position and the other for the public works department.

    The November Food Bank Drive will happen on Nov. 20 from 4-7 p.m.