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LISD addresses social media rumors

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072122 LISD facebook

By Brian Besch
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July’s edition of the Livingston ISD school board meeting heard reports on STAAR testing, teacher turnover and the district’s use of social media.

LISD Superintendent Dr. Brent Hawkins addressed teacher hiring, where he said the district experienced three years of state-average turnover.

“When you look at where we are as a district, there isn’t more success for quite a distance. Our school district staff were heavily recruited in the spring by various districts. Our mission is to keep kids safe and accelerate learning. During Covid, there was a need for constant communication because of panic and fear associated with the impact of the medical health conditions across the nation. We had to update the number of positive cases of Covid continually and keep our community informed.”

Hawkins said Facebook Live was used as a communication tool for parents. Over the past year, parent and staff emails have served as a main source of communication. The goal is to ensure that social media information has communication components, but it is used to showcase student and staff success. A tab on the district website will allow all to find answers to frequently asked questions, as well as address rumors for transparency and communication.

“We continue to have the This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. email address that is available, but encourage our community to give us a call or knock on our doors to better serve you. Our FAQ tab looks to address a wide array of information that our community can go to quickly and get information. Recent examples that were on social media, but brought to our attention include examples like a post about my personalized license plate. It indicated that I placed a personalized plate on a school vehicle. The license plate was purchased in 2011 by my daughters after I received my doctorate. They purchased the plate with their money, and it was on the truck that I drove when I started to work in the district eight years ago. I renewed it each year on my personal vehicle, and I assume that someone did not know that I actually owned the truck it was on.

“Another post that a different community member called me about was a post on social media that described a police report from 2017, reflecting theft of funds and personal items from my vehicle while it was parked in my driveway. My vehicle was broken into, and there was money that was stolen, but this money was replaced from my personal funds at no cost to the school or district insurance policy.

The post stated that the amount of funds was up to $50,000 and that the money was derived from athletic funds and deposited into the Ag department accounts. The true fact of this was that, in fact, money was stolen from my truck and was a few hundred dollars. We do not take in that amount of money at the athletic gate, and booster clubs handle concession funds. I’m not sure that I have even handled gate money during my eight years in the district. The money was, in fact, brought to me one night by an employee who had discovered a former employee had been negligent in depositing money from an Ag fundraiser. Again, it was a few hundred dollars and several checks that dated back over several years, and also included some signed blank checks from the booster club. I do not have access to the district safe after hours, so the money was secured in my vehicle. The post makes little sense in that athletic departments across the state lose money, but Ag departments receive weighted funding from the state. It is just a simple case of a lack of understanding of the facts that we hope we can clear up before it turns into defamation-type behavior.”

The superintendent said he has also been asked to explain facility use by the Little Dribbler program.

“I start by saying that I’m a huge basketball fan. I coached basketball previously in my career, and my kid played, and I coach in this Little Dribbler program. I see the importance of the Little Dribblers for our students. We used the same policies and formulas to arrive at the cost as has been done for years in this district. The difference is in the increase in use by the organization and the increased cost of labor and supplies. These points were covered with the organization prior to use. There was $29,250 worth of facility use that was waived for Little Dribblers this past year and $15,525 in 2018-2019, which shows an increase of usage. A balance of $11,240 is currently owed at the end of their season for custodial labor and cleaning supplies; $3,960 of that total was for Covid fogging, which was a requirement by the district protocols for Covid, and $7,280 was custodial labor and supplies. This is an increase from $4,120 that Little Dribblers paid in November of 2020, but you can clearly see that increase in usage and supplies affects all of us. When we buy a tank of gas or groceries at the store, we all feel the impact of increases in cost. We cannot staff a custodial department paying $7.25 per hour in wages. Labor is a major driver of cost for our district and society. Little Dribblers is not a 501(C)(3) nonprofit organization, it is a for-profit organization. We have made numerous attempts to contact the organization, even via registered mail; they have not been successful. I actually had a person that was going to donate the cost of Covid fogging they incurred, but because of lack of communication back from the organization, the person has withdrawn that offer. The district is on a fixed income, we do not have the taxing authority to raise taxes beyond our current level. We have continued to prioritize staff salaries throughout these times. I mean, we have the capacity for teachers to earn approximately $100,000 per year through the state-funded teacher incentive allotment. If we do not stay with market-driven salaries, our ability to staff the district would be impacted.”

LISD Director of Student Services Lana Smith gave the district an update that her department was compiling a district report and holding a safety meeting July 25.

“We are preparing an exterior door audit, which includes inspecting door locks for the Texas Education Agency before the first day of school. We have a very detailed and specific plan for the prevention and mitigation of active threats, active attackers, and active shooters. Principals are auditing campuses and helping to assemble a district report, which is distributed to the safety team.”

Smith said key audits are held across the district, and all campuses have one master key. During the summer months, audits cover the interior and exterior of campuses. Fire drills take place each month, and all camera systems are checked. TEA has required audits at each campus, but the district already had a rotation at each campus.

“All threat assessment teams have training,” Smith said. “They review each threat and complete a profile on each incident, and it is tracked from campus-to-campus. All campus staff will be training on safety procedures and trauma with specific training for new teachers.”

The meeting opened with LISD principals reporting on student success based on the Texas Education Agency’s State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) results. “We built on the culture of students first,” Creekside Elementary Principal Elisha Bell shared. “We will do whatever it takes to serve our students. When I joined the campus, we had a D rating. Today, we are at a solid B, thanks to the dedication and commitment of the CSE staff. We worked hard on lesson plans and aligning the curriculum. The focus will continue to be on the growth of each student. Our future plans are to help our students and parents to learn how to track their progress so they can understand their growth and performance. Every student must grow at a minimum of one year. Working together with students, parents, and CSE staff will ensure this growth.”

Timber Creek Elementary Principal Sheri Murphy told the board of her “very smart group of students who are headed to the junior high campus.”

“Our science scores improved from 69% to 78%,” Murphy said. “We were proud of the results of all grades and are focusing on students meeting grade level and making one year’s growth. Our plans for the new school year are closing the achievement gaps and focus on special education. I am super proud of our teachers and students.”

Cedar Grove Elementary Principal Erin Barnes was proud of the “really good year” on her campus.

“Our previous campus score was an 83, and we now have an anticipated score of 87, so we are definitely a high B. Our third graders went from 24% to 47% masters in reading. Our scores rose from 78% to 91% in 5th (grade) math. Fourth grade meets and masters were the only areas we did not see growth. Our plans to increase our growth in math are for our response to intervention (RTI) reading aide will now be assigned to work with our students in math. We have 11 new teachers starting in August, so our focus for next year will be teacher retention.”

Pine Ridge Primary Principal Sarah Hans said her school group is reviewing data, focusing on student growth in reading groups, and working on early literacy skills to ensure success in first grade.

Livingston Junior High Principal Jared Nettles reviewed how in his first year as principal the campus received TEA accolades in five out of seven areas. In 2019, the following year, the junior high campus received a D rating. The staff worked hard, met student growth, and has received a preliminary C rating.

“Response to intervention (RTI), instructional coaches, and programs helped us make improvements,” Nettles said. “We have hired an A-team of incoming teachers. We hired lead teachers and coaches, and Dr. Snyder has put together an instructional plan with a focus on seventh grade math. We will be sharing videos and photos of classroom activities on school social media to keep our parents informed.”

High school principal Dr. Derrick James shared student achievement data that reflected approaches at 69%, meets at 47%, and masters at 16%.

“We plan to increase both areas of meets and masters,” James said. “More effective Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) on campus guidelines were set during the spring semester. We spent a lot of time sharing knowledge and looking at data. English I and II reflected a decrease in masters, but improvements in the PLCs will result in an increase in masters. In the spring, we were very consistent with the rules, treating everyone fairly, where all students and teachers were focused on learning.

There are assistant principal meetings every Monday to make sure everyone is on the same page. We have created an environment of data reviewing and sharing. We are waiting on the TEA college, career, and military readiness score, but anticipate a B rating.”

In the lone action item, board members approved the 2022-2023 Student Code of Conduct.

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Youth mental health event set for July 30

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From Enterprise Staff

The St. Luke’s Episcopal Church’s mental health initiative group is hosting a youth mental health and first aid event from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. on July 30 at its location at 836 W. Jones St.

The event is free of charge and lunch will be provided. Please call 936-327-8467 for additional information.

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Two named Paul Harris Fellows

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071722 Paul Harris Fellows named(Left) Rotarian Judy Cochran presents a pin and certificate to Dr. Raymond Luna following his being named a Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Club of Livingston Thursday. (Right) Rotarian Ron Boyce presents a pin and certificate to his son, Andrew Boyce, following his being named a Paul Harris Fellow by the Rotary Club of Livingston Thursday. Photos by Emily Banks Wooten

By Rotary Club of Livingston

By Emily Banks Wooten
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Dr. Ray Luna and Andrew Boyce were recognized as Paul Harris Fellows by the Rotary Club of Livingston Thursday.

The Paul Harris Fellow is a prestigious distinction given by Rotary and is named for one of the founders of Rotary who was very involved in the development of the organization, which grew from a single club in Chicago in 1903 into today’s global organization. The award was established in his memory to recognize outstanding contributions to the ideals of Rotary, specifically, ‘Service Above Self,’ the motto of Rotary.

Rotarian Judy Cochran presented the award to Luna after a brief speech about him which follows:

“Dr. Raymond Luna was born in Albuquerque, N.M. on July 16, 1954. His mom dedicated her life to raising him and his four sisters, and his dad was a navigator in the air force during World War II and worked as an engineer at the Sandia National Laboratories. His parents emphasized the importance of having a good work ethic.

“Dr. Luna attended college and medical school at the University of New Mexico. During his last year of medical school, he participated in a rural rotation at an Indian reservation. There he met his wife, Grace, who was also on an externship for pharmacy school from the University of Nebraska. They married on July 2, 1983.

“Dr. Luna moved to San Antonio for his family medicine residency where he met Livingston native Dr. Jerry Wood. In 1985, Dr. Wood convinced Ray and Grace to move to Livingston where they established their careers and raised their family. Since then, Dr. Luna has been providing excellent medical care for countless patients in Livingston.

“In addition to the medical care Dr. Luna has provided to the Livingston community, he is actively involved in various organizations throughout Polk County. Within the medical community he serves as the health authority for Polk County, and he is also a member of the green team at St. Luke’s Health Memorial Hospital Livingston. Dr. Luna is an active member of the Livingston City Council and has been for 17 years. He has spent many hours organizing, supporting and volunteering at the Polk County Recycling Center with Polk County Recycling & Beautification. He is an avid bike rider and member of the Polk County Cyclists Club.

“During the pandemic, Dr. Luna worked tirelessly to provide safe and effective health care to the community. During the tornado that ravaged Onalaska he helped to organize and aid the disaster relief shelter including providing health care to anyone in need. These are just a few examples of the dedication and services Dr. Luna has offered to the community. There are too many to list out fully and many more that he provided anonymously.

“He has participated in the MS 150 bike ride for several years. He worked with the health district in giving COVID shots at the commerce center for several days. ‘Service Above Self’ is the Rotary motto and this is the highest award that Rotary gives to non-Rotarians. Dr. Luna has lived a life of service above self.

“Some people call him Dr. Luna, some just call him Doc, others call him Councilman, some call him Dad. I call him my friend, but those special to him call him Poppi. I am pleased to present the newest Paul Harris Fellow award to Dr. Raymond Luna.”

Accepting the award, Luna said, “Grace and I came here in 1985. Jeffrey was one and Ann wasn’t even born. We were best friends with Jerry and Patsy (Wood). I knew how Jerry felt about Livingston. This was more than a job. It was like joining a family. This is a generous and compassionate community and I thank you very much.”

Rotarian Ron Boyce presented the award to his son, Andrew, after a brief speech about him which follows:

“In the summer of the year 2000, we moved back to Livingston. Andrew was between the fourth and fifth grade. We had been in Port Neches for the past 10 years. Andrew did not want to move. He loved his friends, his teachers and his school. You could say that he came kicking and screaming to Livingston. When we got here, we started looking for activities to get Andrew involved in his new surroundings. Someone referred us to Frank Henderson who was coaching the Livingston Leopards youth football team. When Andrew joined the team and got to know the other players, his whole attitude toward Livingston changed. He loved playing football and he loved his teammates. In high school he was an all-district offensive tackle and set a state record in powerlifting. He went on to play college ball.He keeps in touch with all of his old teammates, both high school and college.

“While in college he called his mother and said, ‘Mom, I met a girl.’ Not long after that, Dakota became part of our family. They have two sons, ages 6 and 2. They are the joy of their grandparents.

“After college he came back to Livingston to coach football for three years. While on the golf course, some friends of mine suggested to Andrew that he should go to work for his dad at the title company. Kathy and I thought that was a good idea and we hired him. It turned out to be a great decision for all of us. He is now our CEO and in charge of running the company. His wife Dakota also works for the title company and is one of our lead closers. These two make a great team and they are certain to have a bright future.

“One day he asked me if he could go to Rotary Club with me and I said absolutely. He joined Rotary and got involved. He served as our president the last half of the year and will serve as our president for the coming year.

Andrew was no stranger to Rotary. He sang with the Honors Choir at Christmas and received a Rotary scholarship. He also serves on the board for Boys and Girls Club and the Chamber of Commerce. He will be the President of the Chamber next year. He also won 2nd place in chicken in the recent barbecue cook-off and 14th in brisket out of 40 teams.
“It’s my proud honor to present this Paul Harris Fellowship to my son and our president, Andrew Boyce.”
“This is an honor, especially coming after Dr. Luna,” Boyce said upon receiving the award. “When presented with opportunities, I say yes and figure it out later. That’s always been my way – in business and in life. It’s been a pleasure.”

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Goodrich trash service raises rates

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By Brian Besch
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The Goodrich City Council heard a rate increase, purchased a laptop computer and discussed use of a heavy dumpster Thursday at the Goodrich Community Center.

Pro Star Waste raised its rates from $20.21 to $22.08 beginning next month. The rate increase is part a yearly evaluation. The 9.66% hike is the first increase in five years.

A laptop was purchased for Goodrich City Hall. Goodrich employees and council members will utilize the new device for Zoom meetings with Polk County Emergency Management and a few other organizations. Current equipment at city hall does not have the capacity to hold those meetings. Council members will also be able to complete training sessions via Zoom meetings on the laptop.

There remains an issue with the heavy dumpster in the parking lot at city hall. In June’s meeting, the council agreed that City Secretary Felicia Garrett would remain at city hall until 5 p.m., the time that the dumpster was to be removed. Pro Star Waste representatives have let city employees know that it will not always be possible to take the dumpster at 5:00 p.m.

Issues with an excess amount of items or items that are illegal to dump are all occurring overnight. Cameras will now be installed at the dumpster to deter those dumping illegally. Council expressed that they do not want citizens to lose the opportunity to dump items once a month, but will be forced to end the service if problems continue.

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071722 city thanks council Several representatives of the Livingston-Polk County Chamber of Commerce attended the last Livingston City Council meeting to express their appreciation to the city for the use of Pedigo Park for the chamber’s recent Smoke in the Pines Barbecue Cookoff. Seated (l-r) Alderman Alan Cook, Alderman Marion A. “Bid” Smith, City Secretary Ellie Monteaux, City Manager Bill S. Wiggins, Mayor Judy B. Cochran, Alderman Clarke Evans, Alderman Elgin Davis and Alderman Dr. Ray Luna. Standing (l-r) Chamber Director Joyce Knierim, Chamber Board Chairman Craig Jones, Chamber Director Kim Brown Jernigan, Chamber Administrative Assistant Brenda Clifton and Chamber President/CEO Yvonne King. Photo by Emily Banks Wooten

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