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San Jacinto County News

COCISD welcomes new administrators

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Dr. Terra SmithDr. Terra SmithSpecial to the News-Times

COLDSPRING — The Coldspring-Oakhurst ISD School Board met the districts newest administrators at its regular meeting on July 26.

Dr. Terra Smith is the new COCISD Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction. Smith has served as a high school social studies teacher, dean of instruction, a secondary assistant principal, an associate principal, a middle school principal, and a central office administrator within the Houston area. 

During the 2020-2021 school year, she worked as an independent education consultant with Houston-area school districts. 

"Professionally I have been in the field of education for 17 years," Smith said. "I earned a bachelor’s degree in History and master’s degree in Teaching from Trinity University in San Antonio. I earned my doctorate in Education from the University of Houston, and my dissertation topic was the importance of the campus principal as an instructional leader in building instructional capacity in teachers."

Smith will be bringing an increased focus on support and leadership to ensure teachers have the resources they need to help students thrive at high levels in the learning environment.

"My passion is instructional leadership and servant leadership to ensure that school leaders and teachers are well-supported so they are able to meet the needs of all students," Smith said, which includes a particular focus on making sure students can read at grade level and beyond.

"We will be working on crafting a district-wide literacy plan to focus on increasing literacy performance at all grade levels this year," she said.

Married to her college sweetheart, Jarrod, Smith said they will celebrate 12 years of marriage in November, but they have been together as a couple for 20 years in October. 

"We have two boys, Drew (11) and Dylan (6)," Smith said. "Drew will be in fifth grade this year and Dylan will be in first grade."

Dr. Matthew BessDr. Matthew BessColdspring-Oakhurst High School Principal Dr. Matthew Bess is a former COHS assistant principal and athletics coach, and served most recently in administration at Montgomery ISD.

"I am honored to be afforded the opportunity to serve the students, staff and community of Coldspring Oakhurst High School,” Bess said. “Coldspring has always been a destination I could see myself serving in long-term, and when presented the opportunity to serve as Principal at COHS, the decision was easy.

"Looking ahead to the 2021-22 school year, we are so excited to welcome back our students,” he said. “A clear, purposeful and intentional initiative to facilitate student success with an emphasis on campus culture will be our direct focus. I look forward to creating community partnerships, as well as meaningful relationships with students and staff members alike."

Bess and his wife, Stephanie, have been married for 10 years, and have two children, Avery (7) and Ty (4). 

"We love to attend school/community events as a family when possible, so if you see me or my family at an event, please say hi and introduce yourself,” he said.

LJH Principal Nikki Henderson with her daughter GeorgiaLJH Principal Nikki Henderson with her daughter GeorgiaLincoln Junior High Principal Sara "Nikki" Henderson is also a former COCISD staff member.

"I am starting my 12th year in education with a background of high school math, middle school interventions, and elementary administration,” she said. “I received my bachelor's from University of Houston-Clear Lake, master's from Lamar University, and I am wrapping up my doctorate from Lamar University," Henderson said. "Besides working in the suburbs of Houston, COCISD was my first ‘East Texas’ rural school district to work in and I am so excited to be back!  I look forward to returning to LJH!"



The COCISD Board of Trustees welcomed the new administrators at the regular school board meeting on Monday, July 26. 

In other business, the COCISD Board approved:

  • the 2021-22 board meeting dates;
  • the board operating procedures;
  • ESC 6 service contracts for the 2021-22 school year;
  • an agreement for the purchase of attendance credit and to delegate contractual authority to the superintendent;
  • the TASB insurance proposal;
  • the T-TESS appraisal calendar and appraisers for the 2021-22 academic year;
  • the revision of the high school student parking permit fee; and 
  • The 2021-22 Student Code of Conduct.

A public hearing was also held for comment on the COCISD Safe Return to In-Person Instruction and Continuity of Services Plan. This plan is posted on the district website at www.cocisd.org > About Us.

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Rain both blessing, curse

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rain 1000

Wet year can lead to wet problems

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

This year has shown to be wetter than average, as anyone with a familiarity with The Farmer’s Almanac can tell you.

According to the almanac, rainfall for the year was to be above normal in our neck of the woods, but below normal in the north. September and October will be cooler than normal, with rainfall below normal in the north and above normal in the south.

The data for San Jacinto County, according to the National Weather Service, shows that to date, 33.13 inches of rain has fallen. The annual average is just less than 51 inches.

Additionally, the wettest day was on April 30, on which 4.62 inches of rain was logged. The wettest month was May with a whopping 13.69 inches.

In all, 84 of 200 days so far this year have had rainfall; the average is 94.

April and May will be cooler and rainier than normal. Summer will be cooler than normal, with the hottest periods in mid-June, mid- to late July, and mid-August, the almanac predicts. 

The rainfall by month, with the averages, is:

  • January: 3.13 inches, 4.5 average
  • February: 1.99 inches, 3.3 average
  • March: 2.06 inches, 3.8 average
  • April: 7.24 inches, 3.6 average
  • May: 13.69 inches, 5.3 average
  • June: 5.02 inches, 5.8 average
  • July: 3.23 (as of July 19) inches, 2.8 average

There are a variety of issues that too much rain can cause above and beyond saturated ground, flooded streets and storm drains and rising river levels.

According to a May release from Texas A&M AgriLife, the record rainfall can cause numerous problems for both humans and animals.

For instance, an animal living on wet ground with no shelter from the rain, or standing in water, can potentially develop hoof abscesses, various dermatologic conditions and a host of other diseases.

There are also a number of plants that can turn deadly when stressed by too much water, or too much heat. 

The Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory sees an upswing in testing for mosquito-borne diseases like West Nile virus in the spring months, but this year, the excessive rains could produce a host of other animal health problems.

Additionally, there is the possibility of an increase in insect populations, which can lead to a host of illnesses that can affect people and animals; as a result of the extensive rainfall around the state, there is an uptick in mosquito populations, which increases the risk of heartworm infection for dogs and cats, among other issues. 

The excess rainfall also can affect forage and feed, which can further threaten animals.

According to the National Weather Service, each year, more deaths occur due to flooding than from any other thunderstorm related hazard. 

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that more than half of all flood-related drownings occur when a vehicle is driven into hazardous flood water. The next highest percentage of flood-related deaths is due to walking into or near flood waters. 

People underestimate the force and power of water. Many of the deaths occur in cars swept downstream. Many of these drownings are preventable. 

Never drive around the barriers blocking a flooded road. The road may have collapsed under that water.  A mere 6 inches of fast-moving flood water can knock over an adult. It takes just 12 inches of rushing water to carry away most cars and just 2 feet of rushing water can carry away SUVs and trucks. It is never safe to drive or walk into flood waters.

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Shepherd Board, community meet face-to-face

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Several of Shepherd ISD’s FFA members took the microphone during the Student Recognition portion to congratulate students on their summer achievements through the program. (Photo by Emily Kubisch-Sabrsula )Several of Shepherd ISD’s FFA members took the microphone during the Student Recognition portion to congratulate students on their summer achievements through the program. (Photo by Emily Kubisch-Sabrsula )

By Emily Kubisch-Sabrsula
SJNT staff writer

SHEPHERD — Holding its first completely in-person board meeting since the pandemic began last year, the Shepherd School Board met for a final summer round-up in preparation for the upcoming school year to discuss plans for the growing district.

The district boasts 100 percent online enrollment this year, which added 1,031 new students.

With school slated to start back up on Aug. 11, Dr. Jason Hewitt will resume the State of Shepherd Facebook Live programs. The July program took place after going to press, but upcoming live streams will be announced via the Shepherd ISD Facebook page. 

Parents, guardians, and community members will be able to ask questions and receive live updates about changes across the district.

Cabinet reports

Taking the microphone during the cabinet report, Superintendent Jason Hewitt gave a short comparison report of SISD to Region 6 as well as other area schools like Coldspring and Livingston, finding that while Shepherd was on par in subjects like history and even algebra, students were on average 20 points down in other areas. 

The school did not receive an accountability rating last year due to COVID policies, but was given a C rating during the 2018-2019 school year.

During that same school year, the district had 336 employees, a number that has been slowly shrinking since Hewitt’s start in the district, with 318 teachers and staff slated to be employed this year. The steady decline has been due to positions getting absorbed into other roles in order to help the district maintain a balanced budget, which is currently does. 

This change has also made available the means to include new positions like a district librarian. This comes despite still having several positions open across campuses due to a nationwide teacher shortage. A copy of the budget will be posted online for public viewing.

Safe Return Plan

While a draft of the final Safe Return Plan is still in works for how to take on the upcoming school year, Shepherd ISD will model theirs off a similar plan from Conroe ISD on how to return to the classroom for the fall following a year’s worth of pandemic protocol. 

Administrators from CISD met with region service directors to come up with a written plan to interpret TEA and the CDC’s guidelines. 

TEA is asking those who test positive to report it to the school nurse who is required to then alert TEA as well as local health authorities. But otherwise, with little guidance from the Texas Education Agency, as well as Gov. Greg Abbott taking away the ability for local governments to set their own COVID mandates, Shepherd ISD will continue to encourage students and staff to pre-screen prior to coming onto campus. 

Those who are sick or come into contact with someone believed to be sick will be asked to quarantine, but are not required to, as contact tracing will also not be continued. Individuals will not be sent home for displaying covid symptoms unless they have a fever of 100 degrees or higher, similar to how to school currently handles flu cases. 

Those who do choose to stay home or quarantine will not be held harmless, meaning staff will have to use sick days and students will be marked as absent.

With TEA and current legislation opting not to continue funding virtual learning, students who wish to continue online will need to withdraw from the district and find a new method of schooling.

The COVID Vaccine will not be made mandatory into Texas’ Minimum State Requirements for Students Grades K-12, and while the school no longer will offer testing, talk of including the COVID vaccine at already existing community flu shot clinics could be possible in the future.

The school will also no longer enforce social distancing, but will continue to encourage community members to wash their hands and remain vigilant in the event of a surge, with current focus on watching the spread of the Delta variant. 

A final copy of the guidelines will be available on the district’s website.

The next SISD board meeting will the held at 6 p.m. Aug. 19 in the Administration Building in front of the Middle School. For more information on past and future meetings, please visit the shepherdisd.net and look under the “District Information” tab. 

To submit public comment to the board, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. by 12:00 pm the day of the meeting. For a full list of upcoming events, visit https://www.shepherdisd.net/apps/events/.

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Standoff ends peacefully

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072921 standoff anderson christopher 


By Tony Farkas
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COLDSPRING — A 36-year-old Houston resident was arrested Friday after a lengthy standoff in the 200 block of West Cedar Avenue in Coldspring

Christopher Edward Anderson, 36, is facing a charge of murder in the July 20 shooting death of Tonya Davis, 44.

Police reports indicate that early on July 20, police were called to an apartment complex on Ella Boulevard in Houston, after being called by the teenaged son of the victim. Davis suffered at least one gunshot wound, and was pronounced dead at the scene.

Forced entry was found at the scene; Anderson and Davis had been in a relationship and recently separated, the report states.

Harris County Sheriff’s Office investigators processed the scene, and an arrest warrant was issued for Anderson.

Reports indicate Anderson went to his parents’ home in Coldspring, and HCSO deputies with the homicide unit, the warrants unit, as well as the San Jacinto County Sheriff's Office and Texas Rangers, went to the home on Friday attempting to serve the arrest warrant.

Anderson reportedly barricaded himself into the home and refused to respond to commands, and the Harris County Sheriff's Office SWAT team responded, who were able to safely remove the parents from the home prior to attempting to arrest Anderson.

The HCSO SWAT team was able to arrest Christopher Anderson without incident after about four hours.

Anderson was extradited to Harris County on Monday, and was booked into the Harris County Jail, where he currently is being held on a $1 million bond..

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Coldspring City Council looks to stiffen nuisance ordinance

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The Dixie Youth Ballpark in Coldspring is looking forward to sprucing up the area. (Photo by Emily Kubisch-Sabrsula)The Dixie Youth Ballpark in Coldspring is looking forward to sprucing up the area. (Photo by Emily Kubisch-Sabrsula)

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

COLDSPRING — The Coldspring City Council, looking to clean up derelict and unkempt properties within the city, is strengthening its rules as well as its enforcement.

The city had originally demanded the property owners at 210 Slade St. and two pieces of property in the Park Place addition clean up their properties; however, the demand was made through an ordinance which only dealt with substandard structures.

The city is now looking to create an ordinance that would be more appropriate, including dealing with junk storage, leaky exterior pipes, certain types of waste discharge, and grass and tree growth, as well as other issues.

The ordinance, which was discussed at the city’s regular meeting on July 19, also would ban the accumulation of abandoned or derelict vehicles, unless it’s for a business such as a scrap yard.

The ordinance also states that if a property owner is notified, they have 10 days to clean up the property; after that, the owner could be subject to a $500 fine per day, and each day would be deemed a separate offense.

The city also could do the work, and charge the property owner as well as place a lien on the property.

The city took no action.

In a separate matter, the city heard an update on the recently completed baseball/softball season held at the city facilities.

Kraig Erwin, president of the Dixie League baseball/softball association, told the council the organization was now debt-free, and even had a surplus of $6,364.29 in the bank.

Three boys teams and a girls team were able to advance to state tournaments, but did not bring home any titles.

The city also gave its blessing to seek specifications for upgrading lighting and installing a security fence at the park, but delayed approval of the construction of a new bathroom/concession stand facility at the park.

In other business, the city:

  • approved an ordinance banning personal helicopters from landing within the city limits;
  • approved the monthly payment to Inframark for $4,376.93, as well as a new contract with Inframark for maintenance and operation of the city water and wastewater systems, at a cost of $4,700 per month;
  • discussed the completion of the 2016 audit. Mayor Pro Tem John Benestante said the audit will have some findings; and
  • approved entering into an interlocal agreement with the city water office for billing of services.
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