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updated 9:21 AM, Oct 22, 2020 America/Chicago

Houston County

Houston County News

CISD board approves remote learning policy

Assistant Superintendent Chanel Veazy, of the Crockett Independent School District, is shown above leading a discussion on an Asynchronous Learning Policy, a new policy with guidelines for making remote learning available to students whose parents want them to receive instruction from their teachers at home via the internet, at a meeting of the district’s board of trustees Monday evening, Sept. 28. (ALTON PORTER|HCC PHOTO)Assistant Superintendent Chanel Veazy, of the Crockett Independent School District, is shown above leading a discussion on an Asynchronous Learning Policy, a new policy with guidelines for making remote learning available to students whose parents want them to receive instruction from their teachers at home via the internet, at a meeting of the district’s board of trustees Monday evening, Sept. 28. (ALTON PORTER|HCC PHOTO)

By Alton Porter
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Because of the existence of the COVID-19 pandemic and the potential for the continued spread of the virus, some students are staying home and learning remotely from their schools.

Some of the remote learners across the state are engaged in the asynchronous method of remote learning, and the members of the Crockett Independent School District Board of Trustees approved an Asynchronous Learning Policy for the district at a school board meeting Monday evening, Sept. 28.

The CISD trustees voted to pass a motion, made by District 3 Trustee Roy E. Johnson and seconded by District 1 Trustee Ansel Bradshaw, approving the policy, following a presentation given by Assistant Superintendent Chanel Veazy and a lengthy discussion by the trustees.

According to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) website, remote            asynchronous instruction is “instruction that does not require having the instructor and student engaged at the same time. In this method, students learn from instruction that is not necessarily being delivered in-person or in real time.

“This type of instruction may include various forms of digital and online learning, such as prerecorded video lessons or game-based learning tasks that students complete on their own, and pre-assigned work and formative assessments made available to students on paper.”

Before Veazy’s presentation, Superintendent John Emerich said, “This is a plan that’s required by the state for us to submit. It does take board approval. Obviously, we’ve been working under it for a while now. We actually sent this to Region 6 (Education Service Center).”

Veazy added, “They (Region 6 staff members) had very, very favorable comments about it. I was excited about that. So, we’re hopeful that TEA will accept the plan as well.”

In answer to a question from Board Vice President and District 4 Trustee Karen Norman, who presided over the meeting in the absence of Board President and District 7 Trustee Lela P. Wheeler, Emerich said, “This for our online learners.

“Synchronous (another remote learning method) is online, but (in real time) with a teacher while (students) are online. Asynchronous is happening outside of direct teacher contact. So, TEA wanted us to have a formulated plan for how we were going to do that. And that’s what we put together.”

“And we’ve been communicating to the parents and communicating to the stakeholders,” said Veazy. She said when Chromebook laptops were disseminated to parents for their children, the parents were offered opportunities to receive training about the policy, the asynchronous learning method and how to operate the Chromebooks.

In answer to a question from Board Secretary and District 5 Trustee Dr. John Garner, Emerich said 75 Crockett High School students are participating in asynchronous learning, 62 Crockett Junior High School students are doing so, as are 51 Crockett Elementary School students, as well as 16 pupils at the Crockett Early Childhood Center.

In answer to another question from Garner, asking how well the asynchronous learning students are keeping up with learning material and pass/fail, Veazy said, “The secondary campuses are not faring as well. That’s even with daily contact—daily reaching out.

“They won’t turn in the assignments—some of the same struggles you have when they are face-to-face.

“The elementary, in contrast, they have really been coming along with turning in their materials—turning in their assignments.”

Veazy went on to say, “We are encouraging, encouraging, encouraging the secondary folks to bring their kids on back to school.”

Garner said, like other trustees, he has communicated with stakeholders in other districts in the area and region, “and it’s very typical that asynchronous learners are having a high failure rate, particularly at the secondary level.

“This is not unique to us. It’s actually throughout the whole state, but I have talked personally to some in the area’s districts that are having the same problem. You have a whole family of kids that are not being guided or directed by their parents correctly. You can have multiple students in the same household on various grade levels that are falling further and further behind.”

Emerich added, this is becoming a statewide problem. “One thing that I think that highlights is the importance of in-school learning,” Emerich said. “We’re doing the best we can to try to teach kids in this situation we’re in, but the best place for them to be is in school. We’ve always known that, but this is kind of highlighting it.”

In other business, the trustees voted to pass a motion, offered by Bradshaw and seconded by District 2 Trustee Mo Amjad, approving a resolution naming Emerich and Business Manager Tamra Scroggins as the district’s investment officers.

In another action, the trustees voted to pass a motion, made by Garner, appointing nine community members, two students and two district staff members to the district’s School Health Advisory Council (SHAC).

The appointed community members are Olga Ramirez, Julie Erickson, Maria Arcibar, Sharon Owens, Jonitra McKnight, Tracy Whitting, Va’Kishia Warfield, Daisy Hernandez and Kim Marrs.

High school students appointed as members of the council are Chris Burks and Brandon Marrs.

Staff members appointed to the council are Sheryl Patton, school nurse, and Margaret Tuggle, district coordinator for counseling and special programs.

A SHAC is a state-mandated advisory council whose members are appointed by school board members who work together to improve the health of all of a district’s students and families through coordinated school health programs.

The trustees voted to pass a motion, offered by Bradshaw and seconded by Johnson, approving the district’s 2020-2021 school year teacher appraisal calendar.

They voted to pass a motion, made by Johnson and seconded by Bradshaw, approving two amended Nov. 3 school district election items: an amended notice of general election and an amended order of election.

The two candidates who are in a race for a position of the board of directors—the District 2 seat—and whose names will appear on the school district’s election ballot are incumbent Mo Amjad and challenger Stephen Tuggle.

Early voting in the election will be conducted Tuesday, Oct. 13, through Friday, Oct. 30.

After a presentation by Veazy and Junior High School Principal Johnny Gomez, the trustees voted to pass a motion, offered by Johnson and seconded by Amjad, approving a 2020-2021 targeted improvement plan for the district’s junior high school and elementary school.

The trustees voted to pass a motion, made by Garner and seconded by Amjad, approving acceptance of monetary donations of undisclosed amounts from the J.B. & Kathryn Sallas Charitable Foundation to the district’s elementary, junior high and high schools.

“Many in the room knew Mr. and Mrs. Sallas,” said Garner. “You may or may not have been aware that they did not have children of their own, but they were always interested in the community and development of the community. And this is a generous gift…. This foundation continues to give. It’s most appreciated in the amount that’s been given to us.”

And the trustees voted to pass a motion, offered by Johnson and seconded by Bradshaw, approving consent agenda items: minutes of a regular board meeting held Aug. 24, a district bills and budget comparison and a district investment report.

CEIDC board members hope to attract new sawmill business to city

Members of the Crockett Economic & Industrial Development Corporation Board of Directors discussed a tax abatement agreement and incentives they and city and county officials are offering in an effort to help attract a high tech sawmill business to Crockett at a meeting of the CEIDC directors Thursday evening, Oct. 1. (ALTON PORTER|HCC PHOTO)Members of the Crockett Economic & Industrial Development Corporation Board of Directors discussed a tax abatement agreement and incentives they and city and county officials are offering in an effort to help attract a high tech sawmill business to Crockett at a meeting of the CEIDC directors Thursday evening, Oct. 1. (ALTON PORTER|HCC PHOTO)

By Alton Porter
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Crockett economic development officials are hoping to attract a lumber facility to the city that would be used as a regional sawmill and add at least 18 new jobs to the city’s employment roll.

Members of the Crockett Economic & Industrial Development Corporation (CEIDC) Board of Directors, and city and county officials are hoping to land a proposed company, which would be named Lincoln Lumber Crockett, LLC, in the city, and its executives project that it would open for business during the second quarter of next year if all relevant parties approve a proposed contract agreement.

The CEIDC board members met with three representatives of the proposed Lincoln Lumber company Thursday evening, Oct. 1, and approved a tax abatement and incentive agreement that would assist the company financially in establishing and maintaining the business in the 200 block of West Austin Street for several years.

The CEIDC directors voted to pass a motion, made by Board Member Cynthia Neel and seconded by Board Secretary-Treasurer Robert Thompson, approving the agreement, including proposed abatements and a suggestion to recommend it to city and county officials for their approval.

Other CEIDC board members present at the meeting were President Chris von Doenhoff, who presided over the meeting, and Gerald Barkley. Board member Colin Castleberry was absent.

In addition to the CEIDC board members and CEIDC Executive Director James Gentry, who were present at the meeting, Crockett city officials who attended and participated in a lengthy discussion about the tax abatement and incentive agreement and related matters, were City Administrator John Angerstein and City Attorney William R. “Bill” Pemberton.

The executives representing the proposed Lincoln Lumber company who attended the CEIDC board meeting included Jim Kelly, president of Lincoln Companies, which would be the parent company of the proposed Lincoln Lumber business, and who led a presentation giving an overview of plans for the proposed sawmill. Kelly was assisted in the discussion by Lincoln Companies Vice President Will Lyles and Gary Keeling, the company’s US operations manager.

The proposed parties to the contract agreement are the city of Crockett, Houston County and the proposed Lincoln Lumber company, and the agreement sets out proposed property tax abatements, incentives and performances by all parties.

Following the CEIDC’s approval of the agreement, it must now be approved by city and county officials and Lincoln Lumber executives. A 30-days’ public notice must be given before the city can consider it, Pemberton said.

“We’re ready to start moving forward with efforts to bring about the abatements, both with the city, as well as with the county,” Gentry said, on behalf of CEIDC officials.

Introducing the executives of the proposed Lincoln Lumber company to the meeting attendees, Gentry said, “We, basically, have tried to negotiate with them and work with them and the city in terms of how to bring about the (establishment of the sawmill here) and the opportunity to bring 18 good paying jobs to our community. I want to make sure that everybody is appreciative of the fact that we’re not going to turn down any opportunities for jobs here in the community.

“We want to make our best effort to ensure that they are happy being here and we want them to be part of our community, in terms of being able to grow with our community, as well.”

According to the agreement, the proposed Lincoln Lumber company would invest a minimum of $7.5 million in starting up the business over the first two quarters of 2021.

The current value of real property where the company’s facilities will be set up and existing improvements prior to construction is $318,950, according to Houston County Appraisal District staff members, and the estimated investment value that will qualify for abatement is $10.2 million.

If the agreement is approved by all parties, the abatements will commence Jan. 1, 2022, and terminate Dec. 31, 2026, after five tax periods.

Under the proposed agreement, Lincoln Lumber’s property taxes would be abated 100% by the city and county the first year, 80% the second year, 70% the third year, 60% the fourth year and 50% the fifth year.

Incentives proposed to be provided by the city are waiver of all fees for water, sewer and permits, the proposed agreement states.

Construction of the sawmill would begin the first quarter of 2021 and be completed by the second quarter of next year. 

The annual payroll for the 18 employees would be approximately $692,600 according to the agreement.

In other business at the Oct. 1 meeting, the CEIDC board members set their regular meeting date and time to be the second Tuesday each month, beginning at 5:30 p.m.