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Open forum draws many questions during Spurger ISD Board Meeting

Spurger ISD held its monthly regular meeting on April 16, 2015 with a Special Called meeting the following Tuesday, April 21 at 7 p.m.

The regular meeting began with an open forum and the board room was full of Spurger citizens wanting to speak to the board on various issues.

Bradley Heim began speaking about a concern he had for his child in Pre-K.

"She doesn't have a teacher," Heim said. "Her previous teacher was a great teacher and I want to speak on behalf of her. I couldn't ask for a better teacher and I am concerned that there are other issues going on that make decisions for the teachers. I don't feel like anyone is supporting teachers, students and parents and I'm concerned that our kids aren't getting the best that they can have."

Jennifer Eddins, a mother of a Spurger student, also questioned the Elementary snack policy that was recently changed by the School Health Advisory Commitee (SHAC0 and Elementary principal Kim Parker, which does not allow students to bring any outside food or drinks, including snacks for class parties or holidays or candy on Valentines Day.

"I am a parent that has considered taking my child out of this school considering how things have been going the past several months," Eddins said. "On Good Friday every school around us was having an Easter Party and our kids were eating Watermelon. I'm not sure why our kids couldn't have a cupcake. It was the most horrific Easter Celebration I've ever seen in my life and I have an issue with that."

Parker says the school did provide Christmas snack items that fell within the guidelines and hosted a Watermelon party for Easter.

The board was not allowed to take action on open forum concerns but they did say that they had taken notes and would take everything said into consideration at future meetings.

The meeting then began with the tax representative's report to the board. Board members reported that they had a meeting with David Lutcher, the chief appraiser in Jasper County and that they had received several applications for a chief appraiser for the school. Applications will be brought to future board meetings.

Next, the board set a date for the Budget Workshop on June 18 and a Goal Workshop on May 26th at 6:30 p.m.
In other business, the Elementary campus improvement plan was improved, the Spurger High School campus improvement plan was approved, the District improvement plan was approved, the School Calendar A was approved and a depository contract with Citizens State Bank was approved.

Next the board discussed a new marquee for Spurger ISD. According to Superintendent Joe fisher, this item had been on the campus improvement list for several years. The marquee in question would be digital with words or videos and would be installed at the north end of the property. Although no exact costs were given, the project would not be covered by grants.

"I would feel more comfortable fixing all of the problems that need to be fixed before getting a marquee," said a board member. "Lets concentrate on things we have already started."

The marquee was tabled until future meetings.

After the meeting, board members called a Special Called meeting the following Tuesday to discuss several issues and employments.

Discussion was held during executive session.

First, the board approved Charles E. Zeller as the temporary assistant Superintendent for Spurger ISD.

Next, the board approved the resignation agreement with a Pre-K teacher. The resignation was a voluntary separation agreement and mutual release between Spurger ISD and a Spurger ISD Pre-K teacher who had resigned her employment to pursue other opportunities.

Last, the board also approved the posting of a High School principal position and authorized the school to begin taking applications.

Parents give Chester ISD good grades

by Michael G. Maness

From surveys sent to all parents, Chester ISD received valuable input on the school's performance, and a great majority of parents gave Chester excellent reviews.

Chester ISD President Ray McKnight convened the regular session Monday evening, Mar. 20, to a nearly full board. Vernon Lewis led all in a prayer and pledges of allegiance to the U.S. and Texas flags.

Citizen Chuck Davidson gave a brief presentation on the Chester Lions Club fundraiser which will be held on May 9. A dollar each, or six for five dollars—tickets can be bought for a chance on three prizes: first place, 100 gallons of gas; second, a BBQ from Lufkin Home Depot; and third, a table saw donated by Parker Lumber. All profit goes to buy scholarships for Chester HS students. The board was very receptive.

After the consent agenda was approved on the previous minutes and financial statements, Superintendent Wayne Ivey gave the results of the parental survey posted online and sent home with the students. Most of the respondents gave above average to excellent reviews to a host of specific questions. For instance, 90 percent of the parents said the students have internet access in one form or another; 80% felt the school was doing a good job; 90 percent felt interaction with administrators was professional and 80 percent felt the administration was readily available; 100 percent of felt they were involved in their child's school activities; and 97 percent felt their children safe. In overall performance, 85 percent felt Chester ISD was above average to excellent.

In the staff development survey, the teachers put their hearts into looking at ways to provide the best for the students in looking at their own work. They seek to use data-driven assessments and improve upon their comparative learning strategies. Ivey had admonished the teachers to seek more ways to engage the students in less closed-end manners and more in ways that probe the students to think for themselves.

Nominations for the Polk Central Appraisal District did not go as planned, but the board had an option and voted to send in the name of Sam Handley to represent them.

Ivey was thrilled to report that Chandler Berry will be going to the Regional Academic Meet.

The track team was doing great and heading to Flatonia on Wednesday, and they look good, with several moving onto the regionals in Round Rock.

Prom will take place Saturday, Mar. 25, at Abram's in Lufkin.

The board adjourned to go into private consults on employee matters.

Booster is Credited with Reduction in School Speed Zone Violations at Woodville Council Meeting

by Darby Kethan

Judge Judtith Haney, during the March Woodville City Council Meeting, credited the information published in The Booster about last month's City Council Meeting with contributing directly to the reduction in local school zone speeding violations from 40 last month to 12 in February. That's Good News!

Revenues for the city have exceeded expenditures according to City Auditor Richard Rudel's audit report which was accepted by the City Council at the meeting. Other reports included information about possible additional DETCOG funds for hurricane assistance and progress being made on the water system installation.

Police Chief Scott Yosko reported an increase in evading arrest offenses along with a disturbing rise in assault offenses resulting from drug users ramping up the use of formaldehyde with drugs to create a "higher high". This is a very dangerous practice with potential death to abusers and those around them.

A 6-10 week program to increase awareness in youth of the dangerous consequences of drug use is beginning soon. The message of the program is clear; those who abuse drugs will abuse you, especially by getting you hooked so you will become their customer and support their habit. In other words, drug abusers have a hidden agenda and that agenda is getting you hooked to get your money.

Upcoming items of interest in Tyler County mentioned at the meeting include weekend events surrounding the Dogwood Festival, Festival of the Arts, Western Weekend, and Relay for Life, April 24.

Chester Council votes to fight huge gas price hike

by Michael G. Maness

The Chester City Council voted to join about twelve other cities to fight a proposed hike in gas prices at its Monday evening meeting, April 6.

Mayor C.E. Lawrence convened the council with a nearly full quorum. After reading and approval of the minutes to the previous meeting, ample consideration was given the proposed hike in gas prices that is being sought by Gulf South Pipeline System.

Magnum Gas, from whom Chester and about twelve other municipalities get their gas, has taken the lead to fight this. Some jokes were shared, but the seriousness of this brought many fears. The actual proposal by GSPS was a 267.9 percent hike! Shocking. As some council members and Lawrence commented, from their own oil and gas experiences, it was clear that GSPS will be asking for "their" price, knowing they will not get it and knowing they will likely get something. Kind of like shooting for a star and settling with the moon, and without much concern for the smaller companies.

Councilwoman Gail Williams said, "Even a ten percent hike would too much."

The council voted to join the other cities and pay their apportioned legal cost. Divided by the amount of usage among the cities joining, those using more pay more, Chester's share was estimated between $500 and $1,000 depending upon how hard the coalition has to fight.

Chester is solvent. A lively debate ensued on recent reallocations of savings. The city was able to make a little more off some CDs in Woodville and at the same time reduce risk by lowering its combined deposits in Chester below the FDIC insured cap of $250,000. Though there had been some discussion in previous meetings, the move caught the council by a bit of a surprise. As Lawrence advised, the move was made in good faith. As they chatted about options, percentiles, withdrawal penalties, consolidation, FDIC caps, long- versus short-terms gains, and, of course, what the advisers had suggested at the financial clinics for city officers, a few things became clear.

They voted to move a sizable sum back to Chester, and they will look at consolidation of some of the CDs they were maintaining for the city and the Chester Gas Company. And in bringing some back, they will free up a little to help fix the park and other things. One of the other things made clear was that each man and woman and employee was looking steadfastly after the best interests of the city's security and protecting its investment. This good sign was far above those cities that had to debate debt and credit ratings. On this spring day, they debated clear and solid solvency issues, something many larger cities could only dream about.

Colmesneil ISD challenges students, discusses dam

by Michael G. Maness

Colmesneil ISD board discussed several initiatives that challenged their students to excel at their Tuesday evening meeting, Mar. 17.

Greeting the board was a box of green cookies in remembrance of St. Patrick's Day, and Superintendent Angela Matterson gave each a green magnetic paper holder.

President Curtis Pitman convened the board, deferred to Kenneth Adaway who led the invocation, and then Pitman led in the pledges of allegiance to the U.S. and Texas flags.

After the board approved the minutes of the previous meeting and the financials, Matterson gave an overview of the proposed school calendar. She had involved the teachers in setting the optional work and professional development days.

The board approved the Instructional Materials Allotment and TEKS Certification. Matterson noted how the largest publishers courted Texas and California, the two largest school book purchasers. A cycle of sorts runs from legislative session to the next, where Texas might go a few years without buying many new books. Leaning on the teachers, Matterson took seriously their input on which texts to choose. Some of the examples had Texas emblems on the covers, all the more to curry favor with Texas decision makers. This approval was the first step to getting the teachers the new examples from which to choose.

Elementary school Principal Yvette Carlton gave high praise for their open house that has always been well attended. Librarian Leslie Williams and her students created with themes from nature that impressed all—so creative were the children.

The kids were challenged by the Woodville Animal Shelter's "Paws For A Cause" to help raise items like old sheets, towels, small cat toys, puppy pads, trash bags, doggy and kitty food, and other consumables always in need.
Carlton continued to praise their Pre-K program, noting that they had six new children, making that 27 for this year.

A not-so-new teacher was welcomed back out of retirement to temporarily fill a vacancy in first-grade teaching. Dana Knight was helping out while the regular teacher was off, and some excitement followed given some of the fancy vehicles she was known to sport.

Matterson interjected pride in how the school handled the recent accident and fatality that hit Colmesneil last week, blocking traffic and causing some delay. The kitchen supplied breakfast, among other things, and even HS Principal Walter McAlpin drove a bus route. They came together without a hitch, which – Matterson emphasized – helped the children remain calm, especially those who witnessed the horrible accident scene on the way into school. A measured calm and team effort led the morning crisis to smoothly evolve into a rather normal day.
McAlpin reported how the softball team looked like it was going to district. He was proud of the agriculture trailer that the students had made and already sold. Coming up soon at the end of March, the Ag Mechanics Project show at the Houston Livestock Show was always a highlight of the year. He stressed how impressive this has always been and will be this year, too.

Matterson reported on their long negotiations with the Texas Commission on Environment Quality and TxDOT over the dam at Lake Tejas. Pittman and member Kris Lindsey, with Commissioner Mike Marshal, worked with Matterson as they negotiated and determined precisely the responsibilities of each.

Essentially, Colmesneil ISD owns the dam and water, and the state owns the road easement. Matterson was already working on the plan to repair the dam that will need TCEQ's and TxDOT's approvals, and Marshal, who has been a great supporter, has given help in what will be the next priority. The culvert will need to be replaced, and the board was leaning to a concrete one about six feet wide and fifty feet long. Hopefully, they will find a donor, but regardless, this was going to come about in the near future.

The schools cheerleading team was coming together, but only as their academics kept pace. The students who succeed in mastering the dance sequences will be rewarded with of being on the team, and the opportunity to be encouragers to their team mates, family and citizens.

The band program was in a pinch, with Catherine Gramlich's recent delivery of her child, but this program was too important for non-specialist substitutes to handle. As rough as it might seem, Matterson mentioned how it would be better to suspend it than to have sub-standard music lessons, only to force the kids to have to relearn things again when Gramlich returned. Again, not to worry, as Matterson will be pulling duty, herself a musician, as will board member Kenneth Graham, Pam Bruton and Teresa Patrick will be teaming up to keep the band going, all them with experience in music and band. "Kids are first," Matterson said. With all these volunteering, that will also save the school money.