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San Jacinto County News - Breakout

Groups look to protect the land

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071422 group protects landA monitoring station will track any land subsidence in southern San Jacinto County. Area of the district experiencing sinkholes and other effects of land subsidence. Courtesy Photos

Special to the News-Times

The Lower Trinity Groundwater Conservation District and Mercy Water Supply Corp. of San Jacinto County have teamed up to keep an eye on subsidence in the southern part of San Jacinto County.

Randy Baker, president of the Lower Trinity Groundwater Conservation District and operations manager of Mercy Water Supply Corp., said that even though county does not show signs of subsidence, having a system in place to monitor and avoid groundwater subsidence made sense.

“The groundwater district uses the data to understand land surface deformation trends and monitor subsidence to know if any changes do happen over the next few years of aquifer use in the area as we continue to grow in population,” he said.

Land subsidence (such as sinkholes) is the gradual lowering of surface elevation caused by compaction of fine-grained aquifer sediments (silts and clays) below the land surface due to groundwater well withdrawals.

Mercy Water Supply Corp. supplied the land and power for the groundwater district to have a monitoring system installed that uses GPS to detect any movement of the ground either up or down or sideways. The Harris-Galveston Subsidence District donated all the computer equipment.

The GPS monitoring station consists of a deep pipe that holds an antenna that collects satellite signals and an enclosure box that holds a receiver which stores the satellite data and powers the equipment.

The station collects data every 30 seconds, which is averaged over 24 hours every day of the year. The Groundwater District collects the raw GPS data and sends the data to the Harris-Galveston Subsidence District and the University of Houston that currently monitors more than 220 stations in the Gulf Coast Aquifer area to collect and process it to produce the rate of change in the horizontal and vertical directions. Then reports their findings to all the areas water planning groups.

Removing water from fine-grained aquifer sediments compresses the aquifer leaving less pore space available to store water, resulting in the sinking or settling of the land-surface. Most compaction that occurs because of groundwater withdrawal is irreversible; even if groundwater levels rise, compacted sediments and the associated land-surface lowering would remain.

Consequences of land subsidence already exist south of San Jacinto in Montgomery County, The Woodlands and the Houston-Galveston area. Symptoms of subsidence include reduced ability to store water in an aquifer, partially or completely submerged land, collapsed water well casings, disrupted collector drains and irrigation ditches, altered flows of creeks and bayous which may increase the frequency and severity of flooding, and damaged roadways, bridges, building foundations and other infrastructure.

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Local students honored at SkillsUSA event

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070722 skills usa

Special to the News-Times

ATLANTA — The following local career and technical students won one of the nation’s highest awards at the 2022 SkillsUSA Championships, held in Atlanta June 22-23.

More than 5,200 students competed at the national showcase of career and technical education.

The SkillsUSA Championships is the largest skill competition in the world and covers 1.79 million square feet, equivalent to 31 football fields or 41 acres.

Local students from the area include Ethan Manshack of Point Blank and a student at Coldspring-Oakhurst CISD. He was awarded a skill point certificate in restaurant service.

Students were invited to the event to demonstrate their technical skills, workplace skills and personal skills in 108 hands-on occupational and leadership competitions including robotics, automotive technology, drafting, criminal justice, aviation maintenance and public speaking.

Industry leaders from 650 businesses, corporations, trade associations and unions planned and evaluated the contestants against their standards for entry-level workers. Industry support of the SkillsUSA Championships is valued at over $36 million in donated time, equipment, cash and material.

More than 1,100 industry judges and technical committee members participated this year.

The Skill Point Certificate represents demonstrated workplace readiness in the student’s occupational specialty. Students can add the certificate to an employment portfolio. Skill point certificates were awarded to all national contestants who met a threshold contest score for their event as an indicator of proficiency.

All SkillsUSA Championships competitors were honored on June 24 at the SkillsUSA Awards Ceremony at State Farm Arena.

“More than 5,200 students from every state in the nation participated in the 2022 SkillsUSA Championships,” said SkillsUSA Executive Director Chelle Travis. “This showcase of career and technical education demonstrates SkillsUSA at its finest. Our students, instructors and industry partners work together to ensure that every student excels. This program expands learning and career opportunities for our members.”

The SkillsUSA Championships event is held annually for students in middle school, high school or college/postsecondary programs as part of the SkillsUSA National Leadership and Skills Conference. The national, nonprofit partnership of students, instructors and industry is a verified talent pipeline for America’s skilled workforce that is working to help solve the skills gap.

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SAAFE House hires interim director

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071022 saafe house directorConstance Rossiter has been hired as interim executive director of SAAFE House.

Special to the News-Times

HUNTSVILLE — The Board of Directors at the SAAFE House organization is looking into management issues while making changes in its leadership.

Board President Kimberly D. Moore said there is an ongoing investigation that, in fairness to all involved, must be completed before conclusions are released. However, at this point in time, the SAAFE House still is operating and is working to fulfill its mission.

To assist in the transition, Constance Rossiter has been hired as interim executive director, and began working for the SAAFE House Tuesday. A search to fill the position permanently is ongoing.

Moore said Rossiter is a skilled collaborator with extensive experience working with diverse victims of violence through a trauma-informed and culturally sensitive lens. She holds master’s degrees in Psychology and Business Administration and is proficient in developing and managing programs and securing private and government funding.

Throughout her career, she has provided outreach and trainings on domestic violence, sexual assault, human trafficking, and interpersonal trauma on the local, national, and the international level.

The SAAFE House is a non-profit entity which is dedicated to assisting victims of family violence who are in crisis, without regard to disability on the part of the victims and their families.

On June 9, the board received information regarding the management of the SAAFE House, and because of that, changes were made to the management team and an investigation was launched.

Moore said she could not provide more information at this time as it is an ongoing investigation, which has included reports to law enforcement and privacy laws that protect employees.

The SAAFE House provides short-term housing to victims and their minor children. This housing is intended to protect victims from their abusers by giving them a safe place to live without threat of further injury from their abusers. Housing, clothing, food, social services, and counseling also are provided.

The clientele of the SAAFE House need anonymity in seeking our services, in that they are often trying to cut off contact with those who would hurt them.

In completing its mission in providing shelter to the abused, the SAAFE House is in the process of remodeling one of its facilities. This project was approved by the board in June 2021 and fundraising efforts began in September of that year.

Construction has been ongoing since funds have been received from our donors; however, as part of the ongoing investigation, the board has developed concerns about the remodeling, Moore said. The inspections which the board has obtained since June 9 have required that construction be suspended as the SAAFE House develops a sound strategy for continuing the project in a safe and efficient manner.

SAAFE House often is a harbor of last resort for the victims of family violence, including in many instances sexual assault. SAAFE House is funded entirely through donations and public grants. It has an obligation to account for how it uses this money to its donors and the State of Texas.

It’s governing board of directors is comprised of volunteers who are not compensated. No board member has ever been paid for their services and the by-laws of the SAAFE House specifically provide that they may not be compensated for their service.

The Board has necessarily been required, since modifying the management of the SAAFE House on June 9, to work many hours to ensure that the non-profit stays open and continues its mission. The people of this community need the SAAFE House’s services, and it is committed to continuing this mission even when problems arise which have disrupted its management.

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District elated at test numbers

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070722 staar test results

By Tony Farkas
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SHEPHERD — Preliminary results from this year’s STAAR testing for the school district are “exciting,” according to Shepherd ISD administrators.

Tammie Hewitt, director of teaching and learning, said that in several areas the scores show the students performing above pre-COVID levels, in many cases double-digit gains in the STAAR test parameters — approaches, meets andmasters.

Superintendent Jason Hewitt said that in the fourth-grade reading category, there was a 30-point swing, which he called amazing.

“It’s a lot of blood, sweat and tears (that went into this),” he said. “Kids in Shepherd can learn if you’re diligent.”

Hewitt said there is a long way to go to get students to all be at the proper level, but in 2021-22 they to a very big step.

“I can’t commend the teaching staff enough,” he said.

In a separate matter, the board held a public hearing on its proposed budget priorities for the coming year.

The district is looking at a proposed budget of $21.5 million, and Assistant Superintendent DeAnna Clavell said that salaries are biggest expense. Nutrition dollars are less since the school adopted a hybrid calendar; students will be in class less, resulting in less days to serve students, she said.

Clavell said that the projected enrollment is 1,900, while projected attendance daily average is 1,740, mostly based upon the impact of COVID.

Additionally, preliminary assessed values of property within the district is just under $839 million; the district won’t know what the final numbers will be until July, but the current figures show valuation is a 14 percent increase from the previous year.

Should the numbers hold, the possible tax rate percentage will drop, meaning that there could be a 3 cent drop per $100 valuation to property owners, she said.

In other business, the board:

•approved a resolution to compensate employees that did not work because of an electrical outage on May 25; and

•approved expenditures of more than $50,000 to Edgenuity Digital Libraries, Mindplay, school supplies, computer replacement, work on the primary school gym floor and to Kace Systems Management.

070722 sisd awardShepherd Middle School students receive the S award. Photo by Tony Farkas

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A day of celebration

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070722 day of celebration(Top left) Allyson Moses captures the audience. (Bottom left) Greg, the sax player of the Do Yo Thing Band says music is a universal language. (Top right) International Recording Star “The Lady Songbird Jinda”. (Bottom right) Volleyball was in hot competition. Photos by Charles Ballard

SJNT staff

SHEPHERD — San Jacinto County residents were treated to fun, games, fireworks and inspirational music during the Shepherd Chamber of Commerce’s Independence Day Explosion on Saturday.

Chamber President Yvonne Cones said the day was blessed with no rain, a great band and singers, and Chamber board member Brenda Myers was amazing with the kids games.

The American Legion opening flag ceremony was stirring, Cones said, and DJ Joe and his wife Tina LeBlanc always are wonderful.
Cones said the event could have had more people showing up; those that missed the day missed the fireworks, a 20-minute long display that capped off the day’s events.

070722 day celebration twoNeck and neck in the sack race.

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