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San Jacinto County News - Breakout

Hearings on supply change disruptions held

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Robert Nichols webisteBy Sen. Robert Nichols

Distict 3 Representative

This week we mourn the loss of 21 Texans in a horrific shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas. Words cannot adequately express our grief and we offer prayers of comfort to the families affected, the community, and our state.

Here are five things happening around your state:

Finance and Business and Commerce hearings
Two Senate committees I am a member of held hearings in Austin regarding their interim charges. The Senate Business and Commerce committee met to discuss the supply chain, cybersecurity, and the state workforce.

Over the past two years, there have been several supply chain disruptions and we were tasked with examining the causes and impacts of those disruptions on the economy and industry. Regarding cybersecurity, we reviewed regulations relating to cybersecurity protections and requirements for local governments, state agencies, and critical industries.

Lastly, we discussed the possibilities of remote work for the state workforce. We heard from state agencies about their remote work options and their implications for statewide recruitment and employment.

In Finance, we covered property tax relief and tax exemptions. We discussed ways to further reduce Texans’ property tax burden, including using state revenue to eliminate the school district maintenance and operations property tax. We also heard from experts on state tax exemptions and possible expansions of those exemptions.

Coastal Barrier Protection System legislation makes headway

This month, the US House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure approved legislation that would fund a $31 billion proposal to build a levy system on the Gulf

Coast designed to protect Texas from major hurricanes.

Two weeks before, the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee also unanimously approved a similar piece of legislation. Approval in both chambers is a critical step forward.

The Coastal Texas Protection and Restoration Feasibility Study, the formal name for the project, is the largest engineering recommendation of its kind that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has ever proposed.

The plan includes gates spanning the Galveston Bay that can block a storm surge of up to 22 feet, as well as rows of dunes that would line Galveston Island and Bolivar Peninsula. That’s part of a larger coastal spine that also extends to Orange and Jefferson Counties.

TDEM announces new Texas Emergency Management Academy

The Texas Division of Emergency Management announced the creation of the Texas Emergency Management Academy this month. The new program is aimed at training the next generation of the emergency management workforce.

The Academy will prepare interested individuals for emergency management careers at TDEM in a variety of preparedness, response, recovery, and mitigation capacities.

Graduates will receive a certification as basic emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and earn several nationally recognized emergency management certifications.

The Academy will be based in San Antonio, will last eight months, and is scheduled to begin in late Summer 2022. To learn more and apply, visit www.tdem.texas.gov/academy.

Criminal Justice hearing covers catalytic converter thefts

The Senate Committee on Criminal Justice met in Houston to discuss one of our interim charges, catalytic converter theft. In the past two years, the state has seen an alarming increase in catalytic converter thefts.

Thieves have targeted this automobile part due to the precious metals inside, including platinum, palladium, and rhodium. Catalytic converters can be sold for around $250.

They can be stolen rather quickly, with some thieves able to remove one in just two minutes.

In some cases, the thieves become violent if a victim encounters them during the theft. Harris County Sheriff Deputy Darren Almendarez was killed when he confronted two men attempting to steal his catalytic converter.

Last session, the legislature passed House Bill 4110 to combat these thefts. During this hearing, we discussed additional steps that could be taken next session.

Sales tax holiday for water-efficient products this weekend

This weekend is a sales tax holiday for certain energy- and water-efficient and ENERGY STAR® products. Texans can save on these purchases from May 28-30.

The Texas Comptroller’s office estimates shoppers will save about $14 million in state and local sales tax. Products displaying a WaterSense® label can be purchased tax free for personal or business use. These include showerheads, bathroom sink faucets and accessories, toilets, and landscape irrigation controls. It also applies to lawn and garden products that help conserve water outdoors.

Certain energy-efficient products can also be purchased tax free, including air conditioners, refrigerators, ceiling fans, light bulbs dishwashers, and washing machines.

There is no limit on the number of water-efficient or energy-efficient products Texans can purchase tax-free this weekend.

Sen. Robert Nichols represents District 3, which for now includes San Jacinto county, in the Texas Legislature.

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School steps up in wake of tragedy

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Prayer around the flagpole - COCISD students and community members gathered around the LJH flagpole on Wednesday morning before school started to pray for the Uvalde community, all schools, and the nation. Courtesy photoPrayer around the flagpole - COCISD students and community members gathered around the LJH flagpole on Wednesday morning before school started to pray for the Uvalde community, all schools, and the nation. Courtesy photo

Special to the News-Times

COLDSPRING — The horrible news of the devastation at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde on May 25 sent a shockwave through the COCISD community, as it did through every community across the country. 

It didn’t seem possible that such darkness could enter a children’s classroom at all, much less during joyful end-of-the-year celebrations. It was a shock. And then it was a mobilization.

Immediately, individuals were reaching out to see what they could do, how they could help. People both near and far showed up in Uvalde to donate blood, serve meals, comfort the comfortless, and to pay their respects. Many are still there and will remain for the hard days, weeks and months to come.

The COCISD community came together to pray. Students, families and community members gathered around campus flagpoles before school started on Wednesday morning to pray for the families affected, our schools, and the nation.

COCISD made sure its already stringent security measures were effectively in place, and increased security through the end of the school year. And out of respect for the lives lost, put on hold posting its own happy end-of-the-year photos to social media until a more appropriate time.

Superintendent Dr. Bryan Taulton sent the following message to COCISD staff and the community:

“I send this message filled with emotion and simply at a loss for words due to the senseless shooting tragedy that occurred at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas that took the innocent and precious lives of 19 students and two of our dedicated colleagues. Please keep the families of the victims and those who were injured in this devastating incident in your thoughts and prayers.

Safety and security are our utmost priority, and I will continue to work with Chief Dean and the campus administrators to review our emergency operations procedures and protocols to ensure that we are doing everything possible to keep our students and staff safe. Most importantly, as a school community, we will continue to remain steadfast, vigilant, and dedicated to maintaining schools that are safe and secure. We can do this by ensuring adequate supervision, limiting points of entry to our schools, double-checking to make sure that gates are locked/doors are secure, and reporting any threatening/suspicious behavior(s) of anyone within our school community immediately to the campus police officer and administration. 

Additional safety measures will be in place as we wrap up the school year.

As a united school community let us lift up Uvalde ISD in prayer.

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Shepherd hires band director

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Michelle DurdenMichelle Durden

Special to the
News-Times

SHEPHERD — Michelle Durden has been hired as the new Director of Bands and Coordinator of Fine Arts for Shepherd ISD.

Durden is a graduate of Sam Houston State University where she received her bachelor’s degree in music cum laude in 2018. 

While at SHSU, Durden was a 4-year member and 3-year visual technician of “The Pride of East Texas” Bearkat Marching Band, as well as a part of the Symphonic Band, Angry Orange Brass Band, and Old Main Brass Choir. Durden joined the Shepherd ISD Staff in 2018.

“I am so excited to have this opportunity,” Durden said. “I plan on leading our growing music program from Pre-K through High School as well as coordinating all of our amazing Fine Arts Programs.

“The Band program is moving up in numbers, quality, and drive for excellence,” she said. “(We) are working on an exciting marching show and we can’t wait to show everyone. Thank you again for this opportunity and I can’t wait to show Shepherd the amazing things the band program has to offer.”

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Good fortunes come to foundation

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Coldspring Oakhurst FoundationSpecial to the News-Times

COLDSPRING — The Coldspring-Oakhurst CISD Education Foundation is enormously pleased to announce it received a donation in the amount of $5,000 from Coldspring Alum Bill McGraw, owner of Quality Home Products in Conroe, on May 17. 

“We are very appreciative of Mr. McGraw for supporting the Coldspring Education Foundation,” said COEF Fundraising Chairperson Dr. Judi Benestante. “The support of COCISD graduates is always welcome and encouraging.”

The COEF is a nonprofit philanthropic organization founded in 2011 by a group of local community members with the goal of providing money for innovative academic programs and materials to benefit COCISD students. Since its inception 11 years ago, the COEF has contributed more than $200,000 to COCISD classrooms and campuses. 

These funds have brought learning experiences to students they may not have experienced otherwise including cutting-edge projects such as VR goggles for virtual field trips and lessons, advanced equipment for culinary arts and graphic design classes, and a book vending machine at James Street Elementary.

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Board approves budget with raises

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Board ApprovesSISD Instructional Coach Patricia Owens was named an Anchor Award winner. Courtesy photo

By Tony Farkas
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

SHEPHERD — The Shepherd ISD Board of Managers began the annual budget season by approving a compensation plan at its regular meeting Thursday.

While the board passed a 3 percent raise a couple of months ago, Superintendent Jason Hewitt said the board also approved a plan to supplement acquisition and retention of staff.

According to Assistant Superintendent DeAnna Clavell, employees who return and are employed as of Aug. 31 will receive a September payment; employees who are employed on or before Dec. 31 will receive the January payment and employees who are employed on or before May 31, 2023, will receive the June payment.

Full-time certified teachers and other employees on the teacher or administrative pay scales will receive $4,000. Full-time employees on the paraprofessional and auxiliary pay scales will receive $2,000. Of these total amounts, 25 percent will be paid in a lump sum in September, 25 percent in January 2023, and 50 percent in June 2023.

Half-time teachers will receive $1,500 with 50 percent paid in September, 25 percent in January 2023, and 25 percent in June 2023. Other part-time employees will receive $1,000 with 50 percent September, 25 percent in January 2023 and 25 percent in June 2023. 

Substitute workers who work 50 percent or more of the full student instructional days offered in the fall semester shall receive $500 paid in January. If they work 50 percent or more of the spring semester student days offered, they will receive an additional $500 in June. Substitute workers who do not work full days may add their half days together to equate 50 percent full days.

In addition, the compensation plan includes an increase for bilingual certified teachers who are now eligible to receive an additional $12,500 each year, an increase stipend for certified math and science teachers at the 9-12 grade level to receive $8,000. This package includes the pay raise approved earlier in the year for all staff. 

Hewitt also said the board discussed the future and sustainability of the raises, since grant funds were used for them.

In all, the annual budget for Shepherd ISD is $21 million, and the district has $10 million in its fund balance. Hewitt said that they try to pass a balanced budget each year.

In other business, the board:

approved a hold harmless agreement with the state over average daily attendance;

•accepted bid for rebuilding the primary school parking lot from CCC Blacktopping for $661,500 plus $68,700 for engineering fees;

•approved an agreement with Teachworthy in connection with the district’s Nspire program;

•approved an agreement with Conroe Regional Day School for the Deaf for services;

•approved an agreement with Conroe ISD for drug detection;

•approved an agreement with Harris County Department of Education for services; and

•approved repairs to doors and windows using approximately $350,000 in ESSER funds.

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