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Tyler County News - Breakout

Chester swears-in new councilmember

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Mayor Robert Poynter swore in new councilman Chris Cocco at the Chester City Council meeting, Monday evening, Aug. 29 in place of the first Monday. PHOTO BY MICHAEL G. MANESSMayor Robert Poynter swore in new councilman Chris Cocco at the Chester City Council meeting, Monday evening, Aug. 29 in place of the first Monday. PHOTO BY MICHAEL G. MANESS

By Michael G. Maness

CHESTER – Chester Mayor Robert Poynter swore in new councilman Chris Cocco at their regular meeting Monday evening, which was moved to Aug. 29 in place of the first Monday in September because of Labor Day. 

Poynter appointed Cocco to fill the position vacated by Kevin Hicks who recently resigned.

The lively meeting perused several items, including scrupulously analyzing the budget. With gas prices and other items burdening, the council decided to cash in one of its CDs. They raised the minimum gas payment to $40 and will be looking at other ways to keep the budget balanced.

Poynter has been in regular contact with the Railroad Commission regarding some gas issues. The city has new persons certified, and negotiations and openness with the Commission seems to have worked out well in the city’s favor. A gas leak that might have cost the city a pit appears to have been by a vandal, and the Commission looking at exempting Chester from that loss.

City Secretary Balela Mahaffey brought up issues on workload and her lengthy conversations with GrantWorks on a few of their grants. More clarification on that will come. She explained some the effects and portents given the recession and near certain continuance of inflation. 

The city park will be worked, and removal of all the equipment will be forthcoming in preparation for new equipment construction once all the grant details are worked out. Some of the equipment may be returned after construction of the new is complete.

Minutes from the previous council meeting and the special session called on July 18 were approved. At the special session, they approved a modification in the policy on compensation time for employees that have to be called out for extra work. 

Tommy Hubert of Discount Computer Systems was secured to work on the city computers. The council voted to not to approve a rate change from Entergy. 

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Spurger ISD Board hears reports

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spurger piratesBy Mollie LaSalle
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SPURGER – The board of trustees held their monthly meeting last Thursday in the John Mooney Hicks Administration Building, and after a quorum was established, quickly began addressing agenda items.

On the consent agenda, the minutes, list of T-TESS appraisers, ARD administrative designees, review committees, and instructional materials committees for the 2022-23 school year for the elementary and junior high/high school were all approved in short order.

Moving on to the regular agenda, the first item was the approval of the final budget amendment(s) for 2021-2022. The next item was the approval of stipends and staffing. The third item was the approval of the 2022-2023 budget, and next the board approved an ordinance adopting the tax rate for 2022-23. The next two items were not discussed; number five was the tax appraisal district representative report to the board (appraiser was not in attendance), number six was the approval of purchases over $25K (this was tabled). The SHAC wellness plan (student health and activities) was approved; this centers mainly around the nutrition requirements that the district must adhere to per USDA guidelines. Nutrition, physical activity and other plans are in place throughout the school year to keep the students engaged and healthy and ready to learn. The board also approved the shared service agreement with SETX Regional Day School program for the deaf and approved the innovative and college course transition program. 

The board set a time for goal setting for the district for Sept. 15, at the next regular board meeting; the first goal is student performance. 

Elementary principal Jason Drake presented his report to the board and reported that the week of August 15 showed and enrollment of 189 students, the week of August 22 showed an increase of seven students, up to 196. The Back to School Bash was a big hit with students, parents and staff; everyone is excited to have a successful year. 

Jr High/High School principal Michael Hatton was equally enthusiastic about the new school year; enrollment at both campuses was at 156, and the total as of August 25 was up to 354. “We are getting the kids involved as much as we can and have already started volleyball and cross-country” Hatton added. 

Security (police) are present campus wide at all times throughout the day, and all staff are looking forward to building good community relations. All doors are shut and locked and visitors must go through a visitor check-in to enter the building(s). All staff are required to wear ID badges. 

Hatton was excited to announce new staff for the junior high and high school campuses. Cindy Alaniz is a HS Science teacher; John Carlisle is a junior high/HS coach; John Cooley will teach HS science and coach; Donna Martin is the new ag teacher; Corey Maxwell is on board as the new welding instructor and Jennifer Wyse will be the new art/web design instructor. 

Superintendent Morgan Wright gave an enthusiastic first (new school year) report to the board next. He was pleased with the district’s academic performance report(s). The new gutters have been installed around the campuses, (and are being put to good use with the recent rains). The security fencing is almost complete, and the new Special Ed bus arrived early (last week), “it wasn’t supposed to arrive until October” Wright said. Overall, Wright is pleased with the progress being made district wide already and looks forward to another successful year for Spurger ISD. 

The next regular meeting of the board of trustees of Spurger ISD is set for 7 p.m. on Sept. 15.

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County sets tax rates for coming year

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082522 county approves rate

By Chris Edwards
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WOODVILLE – In a special-called meeting of the Tyler County Commissioners Court on Thursday, August 18, county officials voted to set the tax rates for the coming fiscal year.

The first item on the agenda was the proposed tax rate for the county’s general fund.

County Auditor Jackie Skinner explained the numbers for the commissioners and County Judge Jacques Blanchette. She noted that there had been funds taken out of the general fund balance for the road and bridge accounts to keep from raising taxes.

She explained the proposed tax rate of $0.5619 per $100 of valuation is an increase over previous years, for which the county had adopted the no new revenue tax rate.

“We can’t keep using the same amount of fund balance we did this year. It catches up with you,” Skinner said.
Skinner added that she and tax assessor-collector Lynette Cruse refigured road and bridge budget, but the county can’t go with no new revenue. “The money won’t be there,” she said.

Pct. 3 Commissioner Mike Marshall motioned to adopt the proposed rate for the general fund.

Pct. 2 Commissioner Stevan Sturrock and Pct. 4 Commissioner Buck Hudson voted in favor of the proposed rate, while Pct. 1 Commissioner Joe Blacksher and Blanchette voted against it.

The next rate to be voted on was the county’s farm to market flood control fund, or its county special rate.

The proposed rate of $0.2178 per $100 was approved by a 3-2 vote, with Marshall, Sturrock and Hudson voting in favor and Blacksher and Blanchette voting against.

“If we try to lower that rate...we’re not going to have the money to operate on. We’re going to have to cut employees,” Marshall said.

The last proposed tax rate the commissioners tackled was the rate for the Tyler County Hospital District.

Sturrock motioned to adopt the $0.1800 rate for the Hospital District.

TCH CEO Sondra Williams answered a question posed by Blacksher about the increase in the hospital’s needs, which is due to indigent care cases, which the county pays for.

The hospital tax rate was approved by a unanimous vote of the commissioners and Blanchette.

Skinner advised the officials of a date and time, considering legal postings of the rates, of a hearing for the proposed tax rates. That date and time was approved to be 9 a.m. on Tuesday, Sept. 6, prior to a regularly scheduled meeting of the Commissioners Court, in the County Courtroom (Room 101) at the Tyler County Courthouse.

Allen speaks about possible public transportation project

Terry Allen, with the county’s Juvenile Probation Department, said she had spoken with a DETCOG representative who was “very positive” about helping to bring public transportation to Tyler County.

“Anyone 60 or older who would ride public transportation, DETCOG would reimburse us,” Allen said.
A transport van would have to be registered in the county. She said the investment from the county would not be a lot of money, according to the DETCOG rep.

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School Safety and Security

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082122 School Safety SecurityWoodville ISD Superintendent Lisa Meysembourg spoke at the weekly meeting of the Woodville Rotary Club last Wednesday at the Pickett House. Meysembourg, who also serves as the club’s secretary, gave a presentation on school safety and security measures ahead of the start of the new school term. Photo by Chris Edwards

The safety and security of the students and staff at Woodville ISD has always been a top priority in the district, however recent events throughout the state and nation have emphasized the need for schools to re-evaluate their security measures. There is heightened awareness and sense of urgency at all levels, from the Governor on down, to ensure that we are taking any and all actions necessary to prevent and mitigate potential tragedy and ensure the protection of our children.

One of the major goals in our district long-term strategic plan addresses these concerns: “Woodville ISD will provide safe and secure facilities and a positive learning environment for all students and staff.” Under this goal are listed several objectives and strategies that have been and will continue to be implemented, with changes and adjustments as needed to meet new state guidelines and directives. While not inclusive of everything we do, I have listed below some of the safety and security measures we have in place as well as new initiatives that we are implementing this school year:

•The district has an established an Emergency Operations Plan that identifies the roles and responsibilities of key personnel in addition to clear procedures for responding to a variety of potential emergency situations. This is reviewed and updated annually.

•Established a Safety and Security Committees at the district and campus levels that conduct regular safety and security audits of the district and are responsible for implementing the Emergency Operations Plan if needed.

•We have controlled entries and access points at the junior high and high school campuses using the RAPTOR Visitor Check-In System (criminal background scan.) Parents/Visitors can only enter through the front door and must submit a photo ID upon entering the building or when picking up a child from school early.

•In collaboration with the City of Woodville, we have hired a second School Resource Officer (SRO). We now have Officer Steven Hoke who serves as SRO at the Middle and High School and Officer Michael Williams who serves as SRO at the Elementary and Intermediate Campuses.

•We are offering free meals and free access to events at Woodville ISD for any law enforcement personnel in uniform – regardless of association (City Policy, Sheriff’s Office, State Trooper, Game Wardens, etc.) This will act as a deterrent to potential offenders due to increased law enforcement visibility on all campuses. It will also allow law enforcement to become familiar with our facilities and build positive relationships with students and staff.

•Woodville ISD conducts monthly emergency drills for all students and staff at both the campus and district level using Kologic Campus Safe – CopSync 911 and the Texas School Safety Center Standard Response Protocols.

•Kologic Campus Safe – CopSync 911, is a notification and communication system that immediately alerts all district employees and first responders of any emergency situation in the district. Because of this program and the drills we practice, we can lock-down our entire district in less than minute. In addition, emergency personnel are notified and are on campus within minutes as well.

•Conduct annual professional development/training for district personnel including but not limited to: Basic First Aid; CPR and AED (Automated External Defibrillator); Mental Health Awareness and Suicide Prevention; Bullying and Cyberbullying Prevention; Child Abuse and Human Trafficking; CPI (Crisis Prevention Institute); Active Shooter/Intruder; and Standard Response Protocols for Lockdowns, Lockouts, Evacuations, and Sheltering-in-Place.

•In October of 2021, we implemented Go Guardian, which is program that scans all student digital communications through the district network, to identify potentially harmful student situations and notify appropriate personnel to intervene as needed.

•Last school year we hired an additional district counselor to specifically address the social, emotional, and behavioral needs of students. She also serves as a parent liaison, helping students and families find resources and supports for any type of social, emotional, behavioral, or mental health need.

•Several years ago, we implemented an anonymous online reporting system through our District Web Site in addition to the physical boxes located outside the counselors’ offices at each campus. Any student, parent or community member is encouraged to report any concern related to our school or our students. If you see something or hear something, Say Something!

•We are in the process of establishing Community Based “Eagle Eyes” Safety Patrols at each campus. The goal is to encourage community volunteers to assist school personnel in proactively supporting school safety and security. This would include conducting “door sweeps” to ensure exterior doors/windows are locked; monitoring doors, grounds, parking lots, and traffic during arrival and dismissal times; and assisting with emergency drills. Members must be willing to go through an application and training process and commit to working within the guidelines and protocols of the district.

•This summer we finished a complete upgrade of the district’s technology infrastructure. This allows us to move on the phase 2 and 3 of our plan – to upgrade and improve security cameras and security lighting across the District and to upgrade and replace communication systems district-wide to include phones and intercoms.

In addition, the district has a well-established working relationship with city and county officials, police, and emergency responders. We will continue to coordinate and train with the appropriate City/County Health and Law Enforcement Agencies. We are very lucky to have such a wonderful community of support for our students and our schools.

I realize this was a rather long article, but I appreciate you taking time to read it. The safety and security of our students is of critical importance and will continue to be a priority as we plan for the future. As always, if you have any questions, concerns, ideas or suggestions, please feel free to contact me at school via phone or email: 409-283-3752 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.. Thanks for your continuing support of our students and our school.

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Kuciemba speaks at TCRW meeting

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081822 Kuciemba speaksCounty GOP chairman Rusty Kuciemba speaks. Photo courtesy of Wilda Barton

WOODVILLE – Rusty Kuciemba, the chairman of the Tyler County Republican Party, was greeted by 21 people to hear about the reorganization of the Republican Party in Tyler County, and the plans for the newly organized Tyler County GOP CEC at the meeting of Tyler County Republican Women last week at Wild Bill’s Grill.

The county GOP is in the process of filling the Precinct Chair positions. For anyone interested in filling one of these positions, they can contact Kuciemba.

TCRW drew a great response from its membership drive last Saturday at Wild Bill’s Grill. The organization had 22 people present at its meeting. TCRW will be at Brookshire Brothers in September to give out copies of the United States Constitution. If you do not have a copy, they are free from TCRW donated by the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

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