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Spurger Board approves district wi-fi upgrade

by Emily Waldrep

Spurger ISD School Board held its regular meeting on July 16 at 7 p.m. in the John Mooney Hicks Administration Building on campus.

After the consent agenda was approved, the board heard the tax appraisals district representative Rusty Roberts report to the board. Roberts reported that the certified tax roll will be given to the district on July 25 and that the district would also begin interviewing for a new appraiser on August 10.

Next, the board changed the date of the August regular board meeting to August 27.

In other business, the board approved the quarterly investment report, approved the proposed tax rate for publication and approved TASB as the provider for property, casualty, auto and liability insurance in the 2015-2016 school year.

The board also voted to move money from the fund balance to Function 51 to upgrade the districts wi-fi network. The total cost to upgrade the network came in at $31,285. E-rate gave the district $17,954 to help cover the cost, so the board approved to move the remaining $13,330 to upgrade the wi-fi. According to the board, the upgrades will make the wi-fi faster, prepare the network for future growth and set up better security and a better firewall for the district.

Finally, the board called for a Special Called meeting on July 21 at 7 p.m. to discuss the voluntary separation agreement or contract with the Superintendent as well as to discuss an interim superintendent contract.

Colmesneil declines Entergy rate change

by Michael G. Maness

Colmesneil city council declined approval of Entergy Texas' proposal for changes in rates at the council's regular meeting Tuesday evening, July 14.

Mayor Don Baird convened the meeting on schedule at 7 p.m. and took citizen comments.

Citizen Billy Andurs stepped forward and kindly requested the city look into getting some kind of law officer, not a fully credentialed police officer, but someone to enforce city codes and such. He was particularly concerned about trash and neglected areas. One place of concern was a residence just outside the city limits that seemed to be excessively junky. Baird reflected his same concerns and his attempts to get a resolution with the Tyler County Judge and others. To date, there appears little anyone can do with property outside the city limits.

Entergy Customer Service Representative Sam Bethea was present with a large box of fresh peaches that he and his wife had purchased from a fund raiser. He shared the fresh peaches with all, and they seemed to be just right for munching. Bethea addressed the rate increase and options the council had. There was an advantage, it appeared, to the council declining the request, which would allow Entergy to bundle the cities together in a group presentation to the Public Utility Commission. Bethea favored the city's declining. The cities that opted to delay would bring forth a 90-day automatic suspension.
The proposed increase in rates would come to about 9 percent across the board.

Entergy had purchased a $75 million 500 megawatt gas turbine plant at a remarkable bargain, for perhaps as much as 50 cents on the dollar. It was up and running, too, which allowed immediate benefits of power that would not be present in the time it took to construct a new power plant. This plant also came with millions of dollars of improvements.
The council quickly agreed to decline any approval of a rate change.

In other business, the council approved the financials and the city secretary's office report.

The water damage from the frog in the A/C drain was fully covered by insurance, and they were waiting on determinations for the storage area so they could combine construction on that with the new carpet and repairing the water damage.

WISD End of Year School Board Meeting

by Darby Kethan

WISD Board of Trustees met June 15, to hear end of year preliminary reports and to begin considering 2015/2016 school year plans and some proposed changes.

Financial reports indicate that the money expended this school year, 12.23 million, is lower than the anticipated amount of 12.43 million, keeping the district under budget. Tax collections year-to-date total approximately 9 million, with 96 percent collection to date. This is an increase of approximately 1 million over last year's report.

Concerns for the coming year include the state insurance increases for employee insurance in 2015/2016. Superintendent Conner asked the board to consider how changes to WISD contributions might provide more support for insured employees A possible change in WISD contributions to employees' retirement is another item under consideration. Conner feels using incentives, such as contributing more to employee retirement for those employees having exemplary attendance, may help increase employee attendance and help the district to, "become better stewards of the public's money."

WISD has received a grant of $70,000 from the state for a new serving line at the WISD elementary cafeteria. The board also authorized going out for bids on surplus equipment, including a bus, trailer and truck.

The superintendent's report included information that trustee elections will be held in July, with three positions open. WISD started the year with 1,306 students enrolled and at completion of the school year, there were 1,288. The average daily attendance for the year was 96.24 percent, with campuses ranging from 95.4 to 97 percent. Conner stated that WISD is proud of the attendance numbers.

Plans have been made to speak with the tax appraisal district regarding a dispute over the value of the minerals owed to WISD.

The Legislative Update regarding SB 313, regarding the standards now in place and proposed changes to TEKS, Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills, was given. All were encouraged to call and urge the governor to reduce the "width" of the standards by reducing the number of standards and increasing the "depth" of the remaining standards. A reduction in the number of standards will allow teachers to spend more time providing in depth instruction.

Superintendent Conner was authorized to offer contracts to qualified prospective teachers and administrators on behalf of WISD for the period beginning June 16, 2015, and ending on August 17, 2015. Possible dates for the superintendent's evaluation and district goals for the 2015/2016 school year were July 7 or July 9, with the possibility of changing either as needed.

The next regularly scheduled WISD board meeting is July 20, 2015.

To Build or Not to Build—Chester invites citizen input

by Michael G. Maness

The Chester city council invites all citizens to its next regular meeting on Monday evening, 6 p.m., Aug. 3, to discuss the city park renovation, whether to build a roof or not, how much to remodel the restrooms, improve access, lighting, and other maintenance issues.

Mayor C. E. Lawrence opened the council with a quorum.

After the minutes were read and approved, the council spent a good amount of time looking at several options for the city park. Lawrence had communicated with the Parks and Wildlife Department who said they had a matching grant program available where the PWD would help with up to $50,000 for their half for any qualified improvements. Since Chester had not applied in a long time, it was said they had a good chance of getting the grant. Floyd Petri had talked with several residents that were not sold on a roof and were somewhat stressed about the current lighting, and Petri mentioned there could be others with other concerns and asked about having a Town Hall Meeting of sorts to let the views air. All were in favor of that, and Councilwoman Gale Williams will be putting up flyers around town encouraging those interested to come to the next council meeting.

Other topics included the employee insurance and raises, but that was tabled for another meeting. Seems the insurance company will be raising the rates again, by a few percent, and several felt they wanted a fuller quorum to entertain these items. Likewise tabled to the next meeting was the gas price increase, as the city has incurred another transportation fee of about $2 for the first 1,000 cubic feet. Councilman John Wayne Davis was adamant that he did not want to raise the rates at all. After a discussion, any rate change will be considered later, the status quo remaining, the city absorbing the cost for the time being.

Tyler County Emergency Management had some money that could help the city if there was a disaster declaration. Several items have been in need for many months. Lawrence signed the disaster declaration with the council's support, so that two culverts could be installed and a bad road could be fixed with that aid and avoid another hefty city expense.

Colmesneil ISD lauds school Bass Club

by Michael G. Maness

The board welcomed Superintendent Angela Matterson's praise for the Colmesneil Bulldog Bass Club that has become so popular.

President Curtis Pitman hosted an open meeting Tuesday evening, June 23, to a nearly full board and a few visitors for the purpose of hearing about how the Federal Title and Carl Perkins Funds money will be spent. Matterson said the funds were not as much as they used to get, but they will be used mostly for staff development.

The new PolyVision boards are highly interactive assets that look like normal white boards advanced into a teaching tool capable of colors and internet access. Training on that will commence soon.

Matterson consulted with the teachers on their needs, and the teachers have favored Gretchen Bernabei's professional development classes. Bernabei has written several books on teaching, including her latest, "Fun-Size Academic Writing for Serious Learning" (Corwin, 2013) and "Grammar Keepers" (Corwin, 2014). The two-day seminar will take place in Houston on June 25 and 26 and cover a series of topics on STAAR writing and grammar. The teachers attending include Paula Standley, Dena Follmar, Susan Adaway, Amy Dinger, Renea McAlpin, and Heather Mitcham—all to help develop "super strong student writers," said Matterson.

Pitman then convened the formal ISD board to carry on business. Secretary Kenneth Adaway led the invocation and Pittman led all in the pledges of allegiance to the U.S. and Texas flags. Postponed to the fourth Tuesday because of several conflicts, and next month the board will likewise meet on the fourth Tuesday for similar conflicts.

On the grant money just discussed in the open meeting, Matterson's plans were affirmed.

With high praises for the extraordinary success for the Colmesneil Bulldog Bass Club, Matterson praised their teams, especially noting two teams that became qualifiers in the Deep East Texas High School Fishing Series, the championship tournament taking place on Lake Sam Rayburn. CISD students Randahl Patrick and Jake Patillo are in 4th place and Eli Dinger and Stephen Thomas are in 6th place. (See DeepEastHighSchoolFishing.com for more.)

The Texas High School Baseball Coaches Association selected the 2015 All-State Teams, and two CISD made 1st Team, including second baseman Kaled Lindsey (junior) and outfielder Sam Matterson (senior). Matterson noted how great an honor this was.

Coach Edd Trotter reported that summer training had begun and their coaches will be attending several trainings this summer.

The consent agenda was passed without comment. The board designated Charlie Branch to represent CISD for the Tyler County Appraisal Board. They approved the TASB Policy Update 102.

The board adjourned for closed session and returned to open session, extending the Matterson's contract to June 2018 and hiring four teachers, Ross McMurry (Secondary Teacher/Coach), Joe Smart (Secondary Teacher/Coach), Terry Rodgers (Secondary Math Teacher) and Bridget Toler (Elementary Grades 5/6). McMurry and Tolar also graduated from CISD.