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Polk County News - Breakout

GISD receives positive financial report

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Goodrich ISD Hornet Facing LeftThe Goodrich ISD board received the financial audit report and financial integrity rating in November’s monthly meeting Thursday
night in the administration building.

CPA Eric Carver with Axley & Rode gave a financial audit report for the district, saying that the past year was particularly challenging. However, Goodrich ISD was able to perform well. The opinion issued by
Axley & Rode was an u modified, clean opinion, meaning that finances were materially correct.

Carver said because schools have accepted money from the government
through Essar funds, they may need to have funds stored to pay some of it back. He also said the government could come back and mandate additional requirements, such as a limit on students in a classroom, a
limit on students in a bus or other examples that could cause expenditures. Those items, if they occur, would come in the next two
to three years, Carver said.

Carver said schools would need to have funds available, as they are
not held harmless this year as they were in the past with COVID-19. A
surge of the virus in the spring could cost the school district
thousands of dollars if groups of students were not able to attend for
an extended period.

Overall, Goodrich ISD is up $700,000 in total assets, with around
$118,000 of that in capital improvements, such as buildings. The cash
was up around $590,000 with donations like the new solar project and
the rise in property taxes. The net position is $3.6 million, up
$822,000 from the prior year. Revenues were up almost $250,000, mostly
from the solar project donation. Expenditures decreased about $135,000
from the year before.

Goodrich was issued the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas’
(FIRST) rating for 2020-2021 based on the 2019-2020 school year. A
superior achievement rating of 100 was received by the Goodrich ISD
financial department, led by business manager Kaelin Smith, fulfilling
all 20 categories on which they were graded.

The district is looking to upgrade teacher computers and displays in
the classroom. Once a recommendation has been returned, it will be
placed on the agenda, possibly as soon as December.

The school’s window project went back out for bid after the district
felt bids returned the first time were high. The first of four or five
bids have been returned. Goodrich Superintendent Daniel Barton said
his office was excited that this round of bids “look like they will be
a lot better than projected, based off previous bids.” Bathroom
renovation bids will soon be collected. There is also the possibility
that someone will be hired on a project basis or that the job could be
done in-house.

In business items, the board approved the financial audit report,
district improvement plan, primary campus improvement plan and a
salary increase for one of the bus routes.

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Drake lone finalist - LISD principal to be new Chester superintendent

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Dr. Paul DrakeDr. Paul Drake has been named the lone finalist for the superintendent position at Chester ISD.  Drake served five years as principal at Livingston High School and will assume his new position on Jan. 3, 2022. He is a 2001 graduate of Livingston High School

Drake received a Bachelor of Science degree at Stephen F. Austin State University and earned his Master of Science and Doctorate in
Educational Leadership from Lamar University. His first teaching and coaching job was at Brownsboro ISD, where he taught math and history at the junior high and coached football and track at the high school.
He was a boys head coach at both Rusk ISD and Bishop Gorman High School in Tyler, and served as an administrator at Whitehouse ISD as assistant principal at Stanton-Smith Elementary School.

“I am very excited and fortunate to have the opportunity to serve in Chester I.S.D. as the Superintendent of Schools,” Drake said. “I have had the great privilege of serving my alma mater, Livingston High School, for the past five years and making an impact. I am looking forward to arriving at Chester I.S.D. on Jan. 3 to work with the students, parents, faculty and community of Chester, impacting the school in positive ways. There are many people to thank from both communities and I can’t wait to meet the students of Chester I.S.D.”

Livingston High School realized many successes during Drake’s tenure, including the 2019 UIL State Champion Robotics team, multiple FFA teams advancing to the state competition, 42 students advancing to
state-level competition in Business & Professionals Association (BPA),
and sweepstakes wins by both the choir and band each year.

One of the highest achievements for Livingston High School in the last
five years was finishing in the top 25 Texas UIL Lone Star Cup. This
honor recognizes the top high schools in each UIL conference based on
overall team achievement in sanctioned competitions of academics,
athletics and fine arts.

“We are both proud of the job that Dr. Drake has fulfilled for us the
past five years as Livingston High School Principal and for this
opportunity to impact the students of Chester ISD,” LISD
Superintendent Dr. Brent Hawkins said. The consistency of Dr. Drake’s
leadership has allowed Livingston High School to experience continued
success. When you accomplish great things, doors open for you, and
other organizations offer your staff advancement opportunities.

“Dr. Drake is well prepared and well-deserving of this opportunity.
When you think of LHS Alumni, you think of the characteristics and
character that Dr. Drake exhibits, and these attributes make our
organization very proud. I know he will do great things and have a
bright future ahead. Dr. Drake will continue to serve the LHS
principal through the end of December, as the district begins its
search for the new LHS principal, which we anticipate will be in place
as of January.”



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CanStruction 2021 - Polk County food drive competition

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Local Attorney Joe Roth, a MannaFest volunteer, is participating in MannaFest’s CanStruction contest by building a structure made up of jars of peanut butter in his local law office. Joe’s birthday was Wednesday and all he asked for was jars of peanut butter for his CanStruction. Following the judging and viewing of the CanStructions, all food will be given to MannaFest Food Pantry.Local Attorney Joe Roth, a MannaFest volunteer, is participating in MannaFest’s CanStruction contest by building a structure made up of jars of peanut butter in his local law office. Joe’s birthday was Wednesday and all he asked for was jars of peanut butter for his CanStruction. Following the judging and viewing of the CanStructions, all food will be given to MannaFest Food Pantry.

The build is on in local food drive competition

From Enterprise Staff

Here’s the competitive question: Can companies and Polk Countians use cans creatively to concoct culinary constructions? That’s what the organizers of CanStruction want to know as they kick off this year’s contest to use cans or other packaged food items to build interesting structures and help fill shelves at the MannaFest Food Pantry.

The competition comes at a time when food pantries nationwide not only are dealing with high demands but also are having trouble procuring popular items such as peanut butter, green beans and turkey for clients due to problems with the food supply chain.

CanStruction team registration is open through noon on Nov. 29 and judging will take place on Dec. 2. Registration forms are available in the events section on MannaFest’s website: https://www.mannafestlivingstontexas.org or by calling the MannaFest office at (936)327-9555.

Competitors are asked to use canned or boxed food items to create model-sized “structures” that fit one of this year’s themes:

• Best interpretation of overall theme: Leading the fight against hunger in Polk County

• Best Polk County inspiration

• Best creative use of food and labels

After judging and community viewing, the components of the structures are donated to the non-profit food pantry. Marilyn Wise, executive director of the MannaFest Food Pantry, said the holidays bring extra demand on pantry supplies.

“We expand our offerings for the holidays,” she said. “At Thanksgiving we deliver meals to shut-ins, the homeless and others who need blessings on that day. And we already are putting together boxes for families with school-age children to use during the Christmas break when their kids are home from school.”

The website outlines rules of the competition, including what building materials can be used. Entrants can choose from one of three size categories based on the number of building blocks or cans: Small (under 250), Medium (250-500) or Large (More than 500).

CanStruction serves as a lead-in for MannaFest’s Christmas Tour of Homes, which will be from 4-8 p.m. Dec. 4. CanStruction award winners will be announced at 7 p.m. that day.

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Filing underway for March primaries

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

The filing period for the 2022 Texas Primary Elections officially opened Saturday, allowing candidates to file with their respective party chairs for a place on the March 1, 2022 primary ballot.

For primary elections, candidates file their applications with their state party chairs or, in the event that a district is wholly contained within a single county, their county party chairs. The state and county chairs, in turn, upload approved candidates into the Texas Secretary of State’s portal.

The filing period for county, district and statewide offices ends at 6 p.m. Dec. 13. Early voting for the March 1, 2022 Primary Elections begins on Feb. 14.

Locally, the following seats will be on the ballot: 258th Judicial District Judge Travis E. Kitchens Jr., Criminal District Attorney William Lee Hon, District Clerk Bobbye Christopher, County Clerk Schelana Hock, County Judge Sydney Murphy, County Treasurer Terri Williams, Precinct 2 Commissioner Ronnie Vincent, Precinct 4 Commissioner Tommy Overstreet, County Court at Law Judge Tom Brown, Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Darrell G. Longino, Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Sarah Rasberry, Precinct 3 Justice of Peace Robert “Dooley” Johnson and Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace Jamie Richardson.

Both Hon and Longino have said they are not seeking reelection.





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Board discusses agreement with energy company

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LISD CFOLivingston ISD Chief Financial Officer Ben DavidsonFrom Enterprise Staff

November’s meeting of the Livingston ISD board was highlighted by an agreement with Lone Spur Solar Energy and a report on a recent Senate bill.  

During the public hearing, Kathy Mathias with educational consultants Moak Casey presented the application of Lone Spur Solar Energy LLC for an appraised value limitation on the qualified property, pursuant to Chapter 313 of the Texas Property Tax Code. Chapter 313 allows a school district to offer a temporary, 10-year limit on the taxable value of a new investment project in energy projects valued over $10 million.  

Invenergy, the world’s leading privately held sustainable energy company, has asked for 10 years for a limited value for up to a 105-megawatt solar power generation facility in Polk County and meets all requirements of the state comptroller. Mathias explained that a Chapter 313 must be located in a reinvestment zone. Polk County has already created the zone, but it must be created by LISD as well.  

The facility is targeted to begin operating between 2024-2025. The solar technology uses the power of the sun to deliver clean, renewable energy and is now one of the lowest-cost energy sources available. The estimated benefit to the district is $1.4 million over the next 10 years under the Chapter 313 agreement.

LISD Superintendent Dr. Brent Hawkins presented an update on Senate Bill 1444, passed during the last legislative session allowing school districts to opt-out of Teacher Retirement System (TRS) Active Care for school employee insurance. The current plan is considered costly, with a participation rate of approximately 41%. Law states a five-year hiatus from the program when opting out of TRS.  

“Our claims are very high as a district of almost 600 employees,” Hawkins said. “A private carrier would not underwrite us and we were told the value that we receive from TRS Active Care is the best value for our employees due to these high claims. We can start to have conversations as a staff about how we can utilize the SHAC (School Health Advisory Councils) and offer opportunities for our employees that could start to impact our claims. If we can change our claim risk, then we could look at alternatives in the future and possibly improve our employees’ health benefits.”

Hawkins also gave an update on the district staffing plan.  

“The biggest challenge for schools today is staffing, and that is all schools everywhere,” he said. “We have to work together as a community to overcome staffing shortages, because the solution is one that everyone owns. Money will attract the employees to the job, but how the community treats educators can make a difference. Every employee is marketable, as we are seeing employee-driven markets. We were fully staffed on July 5, 2021, and today, we have five professional positions, two paraprofessional and two custodial positions open. We have 30 substitutes, but we need 60 substitutes in the spring to comfortably run the district or we run the chance of limiting student extracurricular experiences. Our staff is spread extremely thin. We have nearly 600 employees who are showing a lot of grit. I appreciate everyone working together.”

LISD Chief Financial Officer Ben Davidson presented the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST) Report. The state’s school financial accountability rating system ensures that Texas public schools are held accountable for the quality of their financial management practices. The district is rated on 20 different indicators, including budgeting proficiency, staffing ratios, and performance on the annual independent audit. Livingston ISD received an A or superior rating, and a perfect score of 100 by the Texas Education Agency.

The board approved items under the consent agenda, including purchasing three vehicles from Premiere Autoplex for $95,924, and district technology upgrades of Chromebooks and iPads in the amount of $600,784. Also approved was a 4% of the midpoint employee retention stipend for the 2022-2023 school year, to be distributed in August 2022.

Under action items, the board approved the following for Lone Spur Solar Energy LLC.

Ratified extension requests for the pending application.

Approved a resolution creating Livingston ISD Reinvestment Zone No. 1

Adopted findings under the Texas Economic Development Act

Approved the waiver of job creation requirement requested by Lone Spur Solar Energy

Approved the agreement

Approved the personal property early turnover resolution 33.11 Property Tax Code

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