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Polk County News - Breakout

Livingston art wins big at HLSR

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The Livingston ISD art department was once again recognized by the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo School Arts competition as a supershow award winner.

Approximately 10% of schools participating are awarded a supershow award each year. Livingston received their award last weekend from the 2023 contest.

Livingston ISD’s art department has won this prestigious award eight of the last nine contest years and now brings the count of supershow awards to 11.

In 2019, the Livingston ISD art program was inducted into the HLSR School Arts Hall of Fame for receiving the award five consecutive years. The district went on to win the award again in 2019 making six straight years. They have won the award two of the three competing years since, with one year of no contest due to the pandemic.

Winning Best in Show from Livingston High School was Alyssa Dean, while Gabriel Quintero and Misti Anaya were gold medalists.

Competition winners were awarded by judges at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, and will now move on to the Grand Prix round were an auction of artwork takes place.

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LISD make-up day will be April 19

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Livingston ISD LogoFrom Enterprise Staff

To make up for closing school Tuesday due to inclement weather, Livingston ISD will make up that day on April 19.

“Dear Lion Country, we want to thank the district for the way that parents, students and staff handled the recent weather-related challenges that our district faced during the month of January,” Superintendent Dr. Brent E. Hawkins said Friday.

“Our district encompasses over 300 square miles, and that alone presents challenges when our Texas weather reaches extreme changes. Obviously, what may be safe decisions in one area of our district may not affect the rest of the district. It is always imperative that parents make the best decision for their students. Our district will continue to approach weather-related issues with common sense while respecting all state laws and guidelines.

“On Wednesday, our district attendance was 90.6%, and on Thursday, the district attendance was 95.6%. The district is reminded that opening our doors is not only an opportunity for students to transform their lives but also because we serve a high population of socioeconomically disadvantaged students, feeding students is a motivating factor,” Hawkins said.

“The delayed starts incurred this week will not have to be made up. However, Tuesday, Jan. 16 will be required to be made up by students and staff. We will use the designated “Bad Weather Day” of Friday, April 19 as indicated on the LISD 2023-2024 School Calendar.

“The district would also like to thank Polk County Emergency Management and our local law enforcement partners who provided me with road status as I also drove the district roads to assess the status of roads firsthand,” Hawkins said.

“And a special acknowledgment goes to our transportation department. Not only do they travel over 4,000 miles each school day, picking up and delivering a daily average of 2,400 students, but doing so in harsh Texas weather is beyond commendable,” Hawkins said.


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Origin of Polk County Cares, annual crawfish, shrimp boil given

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Brandon Wigent, president of the Rotary Club of Livingston, presents a check to Toni Cochran-Hughes, who is receiving it on behalf of Polk County Cares, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that raises funds to be distributed to qualifying non-profit organizations in Polk County.  Courtesy photoBrandon Wigent, president of the Rotary Club of Livingston, presents a check to Toni Cochran-Hughes, who is receiving it on behalf of Polk County Cares, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization that raises funds to be distributed to qualifying non-profit organizations in Polk County. Courtesy photo

From Enterprise Staff

Polk County Cares will host its 11th annual crawfish and shrimp boil on Feb. 10 at the Polk County Commerce Center and Toni Cochran-Hughes, one of the founders of the 501(c)3 non-profit, recently spoke to the Rotary Club of Livingston about the upcoming event.

“In 2012, my best friend, Lisa Mayhugh, was diagnosed with breast cancer. My husband Scott and I decided to form a team for the local Relay for Life, which was a fundraising event for the American Cancer Society. We raised a few thousand dollars that first year. In 2014 I told Scott we should have a crawfish boil fundraiser. Had either of us ever had a crawfish boil before? No, but I told Scott, ‘We’ve been to enough. We will figure it out.’ We continued with our crawfish boil and auction for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, being the top fundraising team in Polk County and one of the top teams in our region for six years.

“In 2018, Scott and I were visiting with Bea and Dan Ellis about F.A.I.T.H. Military Support Group and its expenses. Scott and I went home and talked about how we could help. We invited F.A.I.T.H. to join our crawfish boil, splitting the money between the American Cancer Society and F.A.I.T.H.

“In 2019, Scott and I wanted to continue to help in the fight against cancer, but we wanted to help local cancer patients. I spoke with Jeanie Binns and discovered that Center of Hope was in the planning stages of forming an organization to help Polk County cancer patients with travel expenses. Scott and I prayed about it and asked Center of Hope-Cancer Support to join us.

“In 2020, we were lucky enough to be one of the last events before the COVID shutdown. During the shutdown, Scott and I started talking about how we could help more people in our area. We formed Polk County Cares, a 501(c)3 organization that partners with the community to support local charities. Our purpose is to raise funds to be distributed to qualifying non-profit organizations in Polk County. I have a few application packets if anyone is interested.

“In 2021, with COVID still out there, we decided to have our crawfish boil as a drive-thru event and have some raffle items and it was very successful.

“In 2022, we raised over $80,000 and were thrilled with that number. Polk County Cares donated $30,855 each to Center of Hope-Cancer Support and F.A.I.T.H.

“Last year when we started planning the 10th crawfish boil the Polk County Cares board set our goal at $90,000. I thought to myself that 100,000 sure is a nice round number, but I wouldn’t say it out loud. We fed around 580 people and had an outstanding live auction and sold out of steer and purse raffle tickets. We started a couple of new things last year. We had a bucket raffle where you buy ticket books, and each item had a bucket that you put the tickets in and that was a great success. We also had two poker chip raffles for two guns. We had 100 poker chips numbered one through 99 in a bag. You pay the number that you pull. The night of the fundraiser when we got home, I started counting the money. I called Scott to come into my office and double check my figures. They couldn’t be right. We both counted and added everything probably six times. We had raised $129,644. It still amazes me saying that number. I did some checking and in 2021, the population of Polk County was 51,899, so we had raised $2.50 for each resident of the county.

“We have come a long way in the last 11 years. The first year we boiled 450 pounds of crawfish for about 150 people. This year we will boil over 1,500 pounds of crawfish and 475 pounds of shrimp for around 600 people. Over the last 12 years we have raised over $679,000.

“This year’s fundraiser is Saturday, Feb. 10 at the Polk County Commerce Center beginning with cocktails at 5 p.m. We start serving at 5:30 p.m. and the live auction begins at 6:30 p.m. We will have the live and silent auctions, steer and purse raffles as well as the bucket raffles, the poker chip raffles for guns, and since the Super Bowl is the next day, this year we are selling Super Bowl squares.”

In closing, Cochran-Hughes thanked the sponsors who have already purchased tables and also thanked the Polk County Cares board, without whom she said this event would not be possible.

Tickets are $50 each and reserved tables for eight are available. Sponsorships are still available as well. Raffle tickets for a whole processed steer and a Louis Vuitton purse are also available. For additional information email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or visit polkcountycares.com.

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Heavy rainfall, flooding inundates Polk County

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This is the view of Lake Livingston Dam at 1:19 p.m. Friday. The Trinity River Authority increased the discharge to 84,819 cfs (cubic feet per second) on Thursday but by Friday evening had decreased the discharge to 77,163 cfs.  Photo by Emily Banks WootenThis is the view of Lake Livingston Dam at 1:19 p.m. Friday. The Trinity River Authority increased the discharge to 84,819 cfs (cubic feet per second) on Thursday but by Friday evening had decreased the discharge to 77,163 cfs. Photo by Emily Banks Wooten

By Emily Banks Wooten
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

As of Friday afternoon, Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) reported that FM 1987 at Piney Creek, just northeast of the City of Corrigan, was passable. However, water was over the bridge at Nine Bridges Road at Piney Creek and it was impassable. Holly Grove Road had water over the road, but not over the bridge.

According to TxDOT, Menard Creek is currently in flood stage and FM 943 at Menard Creek is an area to watch cautiously as it may be impacted by rising water over the next few days.

“Remember to be cautious when driving, especially at night when visibility is limited and avoid flooded areas. Remember turn around, don’t drown,” TxDOT urged.

Polk Countians have been inundated with weather events. Coming right on the heels of an Arctic Cold Front has been heavy rainfall and flooding.

Water from the Trinity River began to encroach on Route 66, a low-lying area along the Trinity River just west of Taylor Lake Estates Subdivision in Livingston on Thursday. The Polk County Office of Emergency Management (OEM) reported Friday afternoon that floodwaters remained on Route 66. This area is prone to flooding when the Trinity River is in flood stage. Recreational vehicles and some permanent structures exist in the area.

Polk County issued a voluntary evacuation order at 9:40 p.m. Wednesday for low-lying areas along the Trinity River below the Lake Livingston Dam. Residents who chose to evacuate were encouraged to first seek shelter with relatives or friends. For those in need of shelter, the county opened the Dunbar Gym and it was staffed by the American Red Cross. However, as there were no shelter occupants, the shelter closed Thursday morning. The voluntary evacuation order is expected to remain in place until the level of the Trinity River and flooding impacts improve.

Due to the heavy rainfall, a road washout occurred Tuesday on the west side of Crystal Lakes Subdivision at Choates Creek and Crystal Lakes West located off U.S. Hwy. 190 East and Polk County Road & Bridge crew were onsite.

Precinct 4 Commissioner Jerry Cassity informed the OEM that the road was continuing to deteriorate and was not safe for vehicle or foot traffic. Residents on the west side of the subdivision were to shelter in place until further notice. Residents on the east side of the subdivision were able to access their homes via Crystal Lakes East. Roadwork repair began Wednesday and by that afternoon, Crystal Lakes West was passable to local traffic only.

Other roads impacted included Dove Road, Duff Road at Menard Creek, Kitty Wells Road, Clark Springs Street at Latimer, Yarbrough Loop, Upper Leggett Road, Redhorse Road, River Lakes Road, Stryker Road/FM 352, FM 1276 at Double A Lakes, FM 350 North and multiple locations on East FM 942.

The National Weather Service (NWS) forecast a 70% chance of precipitation Friday with new rainfall amounts between a tenth to a quarter of an inch, with higher amounts possible in the event of thunderstorms. There was an 80% chance of precipitation Friday night. Flooding was ongoing on the Trinity River and the NWS extended the flood warning for the Trinity River near Goodrich until Monday morning.

According to NWS, the Trinity River near Goodrich was in flood stage and was forecast to rise to a crest of 39.2 feet Friday evening and fall below flood stage Sunday evening. NWS issued a flood warning for Menard Creek near Rye with minor flooding forecast.

The Trinity River Authority increased the discharge at Lake Livingston Dam to 84,819 cfs (cubic feet per second) on Thursday but by Friday evening had decreased the discharge to 77,163 cfs.

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Plans unveiled for Cochran Complex, superintendent extended

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Livingston ISD LogoFrom Enterprise Staff

The Livingston ISD school board was recognized for its service Monday night while hearing details on additions for athletic facilities, awards for students and staff, and honors for two elementary campuses in their regular meeting for January.

Will Clayton with Claycomb Architect Associates presented the capital project report on the plans for the expansion at the Cochran Complex, located at Livingston High School. The improvements would include seating and a press box. 

The renderings shown to board members for review reflect that seating will begin approximately six and a half feet above the field level. The visitor side will accommodate 1,268 seats, while the home side will have 4,068 seats. A total of 638 reserved seats will have backs and armrests, and will be located at a higher level, giving fans a great view of the playing field. 

The 2,700 square foot press box is an efficient size that will accommodate special seating and include seats with countertops, offering bi-level seating for home and opposing team coaching staff, press, and include an area to allow filming accommodations, where there will not be glass impeding the camera view. The press box will have an elevator, a kitchen area, and networking equipment storage.

If there are no major changes to the current renderings, Claycomb is ready to move into the construction phase. They will meet with the facility committee in mid-February and mid-March, and plans will be ready to present in mid-May to begin the bid process.

Following this timeline, construction would start in July, and the facility would be ready to use by the fall of 2026. The next step is for architects to meet with the Barry and Clay construction manager, using the expansion details provided to begin getting accurate pricing. The Enterprise will have more on the Cochran Complex in a future issue.

After the closed session, the board extended the superintendent’s contract to 2029 on a 7-0 vote.

The January school board meeting opened with the recognition of Livingston ISD winners of the 2023 Polk County Enterprise Best of Polk County Reader’s Choice Awards.

Winners of the contest at Livingston ISD include best preschool to Pine Ridge Primary - second place; best public school to Creekside Elementary - first place and Cedar Grove Elementary - second place; best local athletes to Jace Morris - first place and Chevy Peters - second place and Audrey Rios - third place; best teachers to Samantha Sanders - first place and Bria Morris - second place and Nicole Murphy - third place; best school board to Bea Ellis - first place and Kevin Grimm - second place and Kevin Wooten - third place; best place to work to Livingston ISD – first place.

“U.S. News and World Reports notified us at the end of the fall semester that two of the district’s schools earned a Best Elementary Schools status because they placed among the top 40% in the state.” Livingston superintendent Dr. Brent Hawkins said. “The two campuses are Timber Creek Elementary, which scored well above expectations in math performance, and Cedar Grove Elementary. All public schools are ranked on their performance on state-required tests, graduation, and how well they prepare their students for high school.

Out of 4,393 elementary schools ranked in Texas, Timber Creek Elementary is ranked at 565, which is in the top 12%, and Cedar Grove is ranked at 895, which is in the top 20%.

Hawkins led the public hearing on the Texas Academic Performance Report, where he highlighted attendance during the 2021-2022 school year across the state dropped drastically to 92.2%, while Livingston ISD fared better at 95%. The College, Career, and Military Readiness (CCMR) works to ensure that all Texas high school students have access to high-quality pathways to career and college. The Texas Education Agency changed the way they score the data collected across the state. Livingston High School scored at 16.8% and is continuing to move up. The percentage of Texans enrolled in state higher education reflected 46.7%. The data was pulled from the Class of 2020. Any graduates who attended a private university in Texas would not be included in the calculation, nor would a student who attended colleges out of state.

LISD data reflects a socioeconomic disadvantaged status between 70-80% of the student population based on the community eligibility provision that allows all LISD students to eat free breakfast and lunch each school day. The state has LISD listed as 50% socioeconomic status based on their collected data.

Dr. Audrey Young, the representative of the state board of education, presented the Livingston ISD school board trustees with certificates of appreciation in honor of School Board Recognition Month.

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