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WISD board discusses four-day week

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Woodville Elementary and Intermediate Gifted and Talented students presented the WISD Board of Trustees with customized globes as gifts for their leadership in moving the district forward. CHRIS EDWARDS | TCBWoodville Elementary and Intermediate Gifted and Talented students presented the WISD Board of Trustees with customized globes as gifts for their leadership in moving the district forward. CHRIS EDWARDS | TCB

By Chris Edwards
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WOODVILLE – At its regular monthly meeting on Monday night, the Woodville ISD Board of Trustees discussed a future possibility of a four-day instructional week.

The approach, which has been adopted by some districts in the region, such as Colmesneil ISD and Jasper ISD, has been the subject of a discussion by the district’s advisory team and a subsequent survey distributed to faculty and staff, according to WISD Superintendent Lisa Meysembourg.

Meysembourg said that, overall, the results of the survey showed that 46% of respondents preferred, or would like to try, a four-day week, while 20% have no preference and the rest did not.

“We need some more information, and will be going out to the community,” Meysembourg said.

Meysembourg stressed the importance of gathering the community’s input, and that of businesspeople, as to how such a change might affect them.

The purpose of Monday night’s discussion was to gather the thoughts of the trustees, Meysembourg said. Many of the board members agreed that it was important to reach out to other districts that have adopted four-day weeks to gather information on how the change has worked for them.

Trustee Kris Fowler asked if a move to a four-day week would allow teachers to be able to do their best and emphasized that if such a change were instituted that it be carefully and strategically implemented. “I’d like to see it not rushed in to,” he said.

FIRST rating results announced

Prior to the regular agenda, the WISD Board conducted a public hearing to review and discuss the district’s 2021-22 FIRST rating results.

Assistant Superintendent/Finance Manager Cody Jarrott said the district received a mark of “Superior Achievement,” with an overall score of 98. A passing score, Jarrott noted, is 78.

The acronym, which stands for Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas is a system of accountability conducted by the state to ensure that public schools are held accountable for the quality of financial management practices.

Jarrott said it is getting “harder and harder to meet these scores,” and added that the district did very well.

WISD Board President Jimmy Tucker, on behalf of the board, commended Jarrott for an outstanding job in handling the district’s finances.

ESSER funds put to use

Several action items on Monday night’s agenda approved the allocation of the district’s ESSER (Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief) funds toward different district projects.

The ESSER funding is part of a federal program, approved by the Department of Education, as part of aid that came about during the pandemic. The funds were designed to help keep schools open, invest in infrastructure and provide emergency financial assistance for projects necessary to school districts, with funding available through Sept. 2024.

The trustees unanimously approved proposals for a district-wide security system; a district-wide communication system overhaul; a budget amendment for repair to the football field turf and the approval of the purchase of exercise equipment, all projects funded through the district’s ESSER allotment

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Library hosts regional writer

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Floyd Marsellos  Photo by Mollie LaSalle | TCBFloyd Marsellos Photo by Mollie LaSalle | TCB

By Mollie LaSalle
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WOODVILLE – East Texas author Floyd Marsellos held a poetry reading and book signing at the Allan Shivers Museum, Saturday, Jan. 7.

At 97, he showed very little of the advance of time; he struck this writer as having the stamina and appearance of someone at least 20 years younger.

Marsellos began reading selections from his book, and after about an hour, asked if it was alright with everyone if he sat down.

Marsellos was born in East Hampton New York in 1925. He is a WW II veteran, an accomplished architect, having designed several buildings in Lufkin at Angelina College, and several buildings at Stephen F. Austin State University. He has also designed numerous churches and homes in the region. Marsellos retired in 1991 after 35 years to devote all his free time to painting and writing.

Marsellos has written five books, the latest of which is a compilation of poetry titled Once I Had a Garden. It is a collection of poems written over a span of 65 years, which he wrote for his own satisfaction.

Woodville resident Chuck Royston and his wife Pat have known Marsellos for quite a few years. Royston, in his introduction, praised Marsellos as one of the finest people he has ever met. “He’s an accomplished architect, artist, and author of five novels, the latest which he will read from today.”

Royston recalled a time when his home caught on fire, and Marsellos and his wife offered for Royston and his wife to stay with them while their house was being repaired. “We didn’t live too far away from Floyd and his wife, so we graciously accepted their kind offer. We stayed for seven months. I offered to re-imburse Floyd for putting up with us, and initially, he refused. I finally convinced him to accept some of the insurance money from the fire.”

Royston’s wife Pat had these words to add: “His heart and his soul and his consciousness and his just giving spirit are of the purest nature, and it has been an unbelievable gift for Chuck and I to know Floyd.”

Back in the day, when Marsellos was pondering writing his first book, he approached Royston about how to get started. He told Royston, “a novel is rattling around in my head. It’s about Alexander the Great, and I have no idea how to write it all down.” Royston offered to help, and at the time, he taught writing at Angelina College.

He told Marsellos he would give him an outline of how to do it.

For his latest book, he had been writing down poems and thoughts on bits and scraps of paper throughout the last 65 years. With Royston’s help once again, Once I Had a Garden was born.

The cover of the book is an original painting by Marsellos, and Royston loved it so much that Marsellos gave it to him as a gift.

Dianne Amerine, who is the president of the Women’s Study Club of Woodville was Marsellos’ chauffer for the event; They were delayed arriving due to the fact that Marsellos’ batteries in his hearing aids had died on the trip from Lufkin. After a stop at the local Wal-Mart for new batteries, they arrived for the event, with Marsellos commenting that he felt like he’d “been born again” when he could hear once again.

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Chester begins new year

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chester logoBy Michael G. Maness

CHESTER – Mayor Robert Poynter welcomed a nearly full council to the City of Chester’s new year at its regular called meeting Monday evening, Jan. 9.

Poynter asked Councilman Austin Odom and the council to schedule a budget workshop on Tuesday, to they could work a more detailed budget for the upcoming year. Poynter, Odom, and Councilmen Chris Cocco and Wes Whitworth voiced some needs for some line items.

Councilwoman Gale Williams called the council’s attention to some discrepancies in some receipts, small, but every penny counted.

There were some anomalies in the internet billings. Even Odom had received some odd texts, and City Secretary Balela Mahaffey mentioned other concerns. They would be working out the bugs in the weeks ahead.

In the light of the previous meeting with Magnum Gas, they were pleased to announce that because of the reserve credit the Chester Gas was able to pay its month’s bill from that credit.

The minutes from the previous meeting and the financials were approved.

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Woodville council hears about chickens, cameras

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Woodville City SealBy Mollie LaSalle
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WOODVILLE – Woodville City Council met for its first meeting of the new year Monday evening. All members were present, and the meeting was called to order by mayor Bythewood at 6 p.m.

Resident Rusty Kuciemba spoke before council again about possibly amending the ordinance pertaining the keeping of backyard chickens within city limits. He wants it amended to include chickens within 25 feet from a residence.

The present ordinance requires that chickens and other livestock be kept at least 200 feet from a residence. “Backyard chickens produce their own eggs, and people in Woodville should have the ability to have their own chickens.”

He also stressed that this would preclude roosters and would like to have some sort of resolution to this matter before March, when Tractor Supply starts getting chicks in for spring. Kuciemba had previously brought this matter before council last summer, and at the time wanted the ordinance amended to 50 feet.

The first item on the regular agenda was a proclamation by the mayor declaring January as National Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Bythewood commented that this touched her on a personal level, and “it’s not if it happens here, it’s when.”

Two agenda items that were extensively discussed were the In-Car Video System Upgrade and the Body Worn Camera Upgrade at the police department. Woodville Police Chief Mike McCulley spoke of the need for the grants to get this equipment upgraded in the near future. McCulley requested that the grants, which go through the office of the Governor’s Criminal Justice Division be approved.

McCulley estimated the cost to upgrade all the equipment (in-car video and body worn cameras) would be $110-120K. This equipment has a 10-year life expectancy. “We’ve been limping along for the last 6-8 months, the cameras are failing, and we have had to replace some of them; two have failed and been replaced, at a cost of $500 each. We need to get the best equipment at the best price. The grants would pay at 100% for the in-car cameras, and the body worn cameras pay at 75%, so at least $100K of the price would be covered by the grant money.”

After much discussion among council, the resolutions were passed unanimously, citing the importance of having up to date equipment in the city’s patrol units.

In her regular report, City Administrator Mandy Risinger spoke to council at length about the next cycle of CDBG funding through the Texas Department of Agriculture, and all the various projects that the city has on deck. Council passed both ordinances to allow the city to begin the process of applying for grants in the next cycle.

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Historic church new home to Methodist congregation


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Built in 1853, the Mount Hope Methodist Church is now the home of a new congregation. Chris Edwards | TCBBuilt in 1853, the Mount Hope Methodist Church is now the home of a new congregation. Chris Edwards | TCB

By Chris Edwards
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CHESTER – Mount Hope Methodist Church, which was constructed in the 19th century as a focal point of the Mount Hope community, near Chester, is the meeting place for a new congregation of worshipers.

Last Sunday was the first meeting of the congregation, which is comprised of Methodists who wanted to remain part of the United Methodist Church (UMC).

According to Dr. Jerry Springfield, who worships at the church, the former Woodville United Methodist Church voted, by majority, to disaffiliate itself with the United Methodists,

and approximately 20 members of the congregation began organizing in October to remain part of the United Methodists.

In December, a session was called of the Texas Annual Conference of the UMC, which approved the disaffiliation requests of 281 congregations from across the state. Both Woodville and Spurger disaffiliated, and the Warren congregation is pending due to a technical issue.  The Texas Annual Conference is one of the four UMC regional conferences in Texas to approve the requests. In total, 546 of the 1,260 Texas UMC churches have left, according to a report in December.

The reasons for the divisions in recent years have owed to the UMC becoming more accepting of LGBTQ lifestyles, according to CBN News.

Springfield said in November, the members of the congregation who wished to remain as United Methodists met at his home with Rev. Morris Matthis, from the offices of the Texas Annual Conference. Matthis discussed with them what was needed to be done in order to form a new congregation. Once contact was made with Rev. Will Reed, also from the Texas Annual Conference, concerning the availability of the Mount Hope church for use, a lease agreement was put in place for the new congregation.

Now, with officers elected, bylaws approved and a new pastor, Rev. Ernie Turney, the church is meeting, and according to Springfield, the group has grown by about 20%. “As the word has spread, others have expressed interest. There is hope that others from Tyler County and Corrigan who also want to remain United Methodists will join our group,” Springfield said.

Mount Hope Methodist Church, according to records from the Texas Historical Commission, is likely the first Methodist church in Tyler County.

Aside from a nearby cemetery, the church is all that remains of Mount Hope, which faded when most of its residents relocated to Chester in the late 1880s, after the railroad came through and bypassed Mount Hope.

Services take place each Sunday at 11 a.m., and there are plans for a Bible study to be held during the week at a location in Woodville, which will begin soon, according to Springfield.

To get to the church, from Chester, take FM 1745 northeast to CR 2600, turn left and continue to CR 2615, then turn right and you will arrive at the church. Signs have been installed to help lead the way.

“Our goal is to make ‘Disciples of Christ,’ and our motto is ‘all are welcome’,” he said.

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