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Chester City Council open to bids for building expansion

by Michael G. Maness

Chester City Council considered a bid to expand the city hall building during its regular meeting Monday, April 7. They plan to add to the current building a 12' by 27' expansion and are open to bids until the end of April, said Mayor Elton Lawrence, whom prospective contractors can call at (936) 215-1309.

There was no quorum at the March meeting, and no emergency meetings were required.

Therefore, Council approved the February meeting minutes, read by City Secretary Annette Hickman, as well as financial statements for the City and Chester Gas System.

There was some lively discussion over the construction bid submitted, the current needs and just how long ago they had built the current city hall. Hickman stressed the need for climate-controlled storage and reasonable expansion to meet the needs of the future.

There was also discussion over the upcoming end to Microsoft's support of its XP computer operating system and the need to upgrade. Even though official support would end Tuesday, April 8, the Associated Press reported that anti-malware updates will continue through July 14, 2015. AP further reported that it has been estimated that 30% of the computers used by businesses around the world are still running XP, including many "water treatment facilities and power plants to small businesses like doctor's offices." The Council will be leaning upon City Supervisor Dale Clamon to make contacts and report back to the Council in May on options for upgrading.

The lively discussion on the computers included some personal jokes and anecdotes, including the fact that most computers become out of date just a few years after purchase. Hickman stressed the need to address this, in order for the Council to protect the City's interests and those of its citizens.

The Council read the first reading of an ordinance establishing the mayor as the "Emergency Management Director" with the ability to cooperate with other mayors and the county judge in an inter-jurisdictional county-wide program, limiting liability, to marshal and delegate resources in case of emergency.

On a lighter note, Councilman Vincent Incardona expressed the desire for the City to fly the U.S. and Texas flags. The old tattered flags had been taken down. Apparently, the new ones were not yet purchased, but new ones will be flying soon. Salute.

Warren ISD to Welcome Babin as Athletic Director

by Janette Blackwell

According to Superintendent of Schools Brad McEachern, the highlight of the March 25 Warren ISD Board of Trustees meeting was the approval to hire Chris Babin as athletic director and head football coach. Babin will assume his duties in Warren as soon as he wraps up loose ends to transition from his present athletic director position at Deweyville ISD.

Babin will succeed John Woodard's 2½ years as Warren's athletic director, as Woodard accepted an athletic director position in the northeast Texas community of Quitman.

The numerous applications received in response to the open position reflected a great deal of interest in both the district and the career opportunity. McEachern stated that the Board and administration are excited to welcome Babin, and that "we believe he'll have a great impact on our kids."

Babin himself says he has been intrigued by Warren ISD's sports program for some time. As a matter of fact, two years ago when Woodard was selected for the athletic director position, Babin applied for the role, too. The Lumberton native is familiar with Warren's community reputation as one of supportive, good people, and views the district as "good parents, good kids and good administrators." He is eager to work with the Superintendent, who he has known for some time, and describes McEachern as "a great guy – a 'kid' guy."

After graduating from Lumberton High School, and then Texas A&M-Commerce, Babin's first coaching position was training freshmen and eighth graders at his own alma mater. After two years on the job, he was promoted to offensive coordinator at the 4A school. When he started, the team had not won a game for two years, but by 2008 they won the district championship.
In 2009, the 27-year-old received an offer to assume the head football coach position for Houston ISD's inner city Scarborough High School. When he arrived, he says, "the team had won only one game in four or five years, and it was a big deal" when he led them to a 2-8 year.

As delighted as Babin was with the head football coach position, the family found that they missed the down-home country living afforded by the Piney Woods. When he was offered the offensive coordinator position in Lumberton in 2010, he jumped at the opportunity to return to their roots, and he remained in Lumberton for two years, until Deweyville offered him a challenge he couldn't resist.

The Deweyville Pirates hadn't seen the playoffs since 2007, but won district with an 8-3 record his first year there. It was the eighth time in the school's history they had competed in the playoffs. The school's cumulative record for Babin's two years at Deweyville is 17-5, a sharp contrast to their previous record, and the Pirates competed in district playoffs in both 2012 and 2013.
Babin's family is glad to be back in deep East Texas. His wife, Mandy, is the curriculum coordinator for the Lumberton ISD secondary education program, as well as its cross-country coach. The couple has two daughters, Hailey and Hannah, and one son, Hayden.
Babin is forward looking in regard to Warren's Warriors. He has taken Deweyville to "one of the best rushing offense teams in the state, and I'll bring that same system to Warren," he states. Although Warren has not competed in playoffs since 2005, Babin predicts a promising future for the team.

As an outside observer of Warren's athletes in competition, Babin says, "There's a good group coming up," and describes the students as "hard-working kids." For several years, he has watched Warren teams compete across its various athletic programs and is confident of a bright future. Babin states that his own daughters' involvement in middle school volleyball and cross-country stirs his eagerness to take Warren's girls to new heights of competitive achievement. In addition to his duties as athletic director and head football coach, Babin will also serve as head softball coach for the district.

Superintendent McEachern reported that human resource business at the March Board meeting also included renewing existing teacher contracts. In other business the Board voted to approve the 2014-2015 school year Instructional Material Allotment and TEKS Certification required for submission to the Texas Education Agency, the 2014-2015 school calendar, the disposition of old computers according to schedule, as well as financial and tax office reports.

Chester ISD accepts $3,400 Booster Club donation

by Michael G. Maness

Board President Ray McKnight convened the Chester ISD monthly board meeting, and Vernon Lewis led an invocation and the Pledges of Allegiance to the U.S. and Texas flags.

The Chester Athletics Booster Club raised and donated $3,400, which was gratefully accepted. Most was raised from a Wild Game Supper and will be used to buy uniforms.
The prom was set for April 19 in Lufkin.

The normal consent agenda was approved, including the financial statements, payment of bills, tax report and bank statements.

The board unanimously approved to go with Singleton, Clark and Company out of Austin to be the school auditors for the 2013-2014 school year.

Superintendent Wayne Ivey reported that their attendance was holding steady. Though a few were out for the flu, everything should be back to normal as spring comes in. The school has contracted out care for its heating and a/c units, about 50 in number, the contractor checking and servicing them every eight weeks. That will yield a significant cost savings and at the same time free up some of their staff.

The Cheerleader Handbook was updated, clarifying some of the language, which gives the students guidelines.

The board adjourned to executive session and, upon return, they accepted the resignation of elementary school science teacher Keisha Bryan for the 2014-15 school year. They also approved the professional contracts for the administrators.

The next Chester ISD Board meeting will be April 21 at 5:30 p.m.

Woodville I.S.D. Board recognizes State bound STAR students

By Janette Blackwell

The highlight of the March 17 Woodville ISD Board of Trustees meeting was the recognition of the following STAR students who are advancing to state level in various extracurricular competitions:
HOSA (Health Occupations Student Association): Victoria Hadnot
SkillsUSA (a cooperative effort of students, teachers and industry to ensure development of a skilled American workforce): Chris Messer, Enrique Gonzalez, Drake Allison and Tyler Hollingsworth
FCCLA (Family, Career and Community Leaders of America): Diana Hernandez and Kelsey Jackson
Theatrical Design State Qualifying team: Brittany Lancaster, Alexus McQueen, Monique Moye, Paige Ogden, Sean O'Neal and Alexis West
Texas All-State Choir member: Michael Nanney

Superintendent Glen Conner asked the Board to approve the 2014-2015 Instructional Materials Allotment and TEKS (Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills) certification. The District applies for state funds to purchase instructional materials every school year, specifying the grade levels and subjects included in the Woodville academic ISD program. In order to receive funds, the Board must declare the materials we purchase will meet TEKS requirements and the funds will be spent appropriately to comply within state parameters. The Board unanimously approved the annual certification.

Mary Nell Rainey addressed the Board with a request to include observation of all federal holidays, including Labor Day and Memorial Day, in the 2014-2015 school calendar.
Conner presented and recommended approval of the proposed 2014-2015 school calendar. Preparation of the calendar entailed his meeting with the superintendents of four County school districts to establish common professional development days and to coordinate spring break dates. The Board discussed the calendar's proposed holidays and flex days and carefully considered the feasibility of observing all federal holidays, as requested. Conner addressed Board members' questions, comments and concerns, as members discussed the proposed calendar's details. The Board approved the calendar as presented in a five-to-one vote.
After the Board reviewed and unanimously approved the February meeting minutes, Assistant Superintendent for Business Cody Jarrott presented the February Financial Reports and Investment Report, which the Board subsequently approved. The Board also approved the Tax Collections Report, which revealed 93 per cent of property taxes have been collected for the year.

In his Superintendent's Facilities Report, Conner stated that District-wide facilities updates and improvements are complete except for attention to the final details on the building access control: the equipment itself is in place, and only work on programming and card readers continues.

Dates and the schedule for the much-anticipated TASB facilities assessment remain pending.
The District is responsible, in part, for maintenance of Shivers Library facilities, and coordinated the paving of the parking area behind the library buildings.

Student competitions this month include the UIL One-Act Play, FFA students' showing of the animals they have raised and AG mechanics projects, HOSA contest, SkillsUSA competition, FFA judging contest and middle school and high school choir contests.

Middle School students have the STAAR® test coming up in April. The STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness) replaced the TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) test of academic progress.

Conner provided Board members with options for attending the Summer Leadership Institute, where they may participate to meet state continuing education requirements.

Superintendent Conner also suggested the possibility of calling a special Board meeting to address topics that might otherwise slow the progress of regular scheduled meetings. In particular, these subjects may include a workshop with the TASB facilities assessment team, annual budget planning and salary schedules.

Conner asked Board members to begin considering graduation preparations, including scheduling the related events and program content.

Campus principals, Ms. Atkins (District test coordinator and instructional specialist) and Conner are meeting to compare and contrast the different grading policies among the various campuses and to align them for a consistent District-wide policy.

Conner presented the need for the Board to consider how to address a budget question related to replacing technology equipment. The budget includes technology maintenance and replacement of computers, and the administration has historically replaced obsolete equipment according to a predetermined schedule. Recently, however, short-falls in funding and the purchase of necessary laptops and hand-held devices from the replacement fund created a shortage of monies specifically for replacing equipment that is aging out, as well as outdated operating systems. From a budgetary perspective, the trade-off is that assets for previously-needed large computer labs are no longer needed, as technology has been integrated / migrated into classrooms.

In closed executive session, the Board also considered various personnel matters, as well as administrator contracts for the 2014-2015 school

Colmesneil ISD considers options for reducing unexcused absences

by Michael G. Maness

President Curtis Pittman convened the Colmesneil ISD board Tuesday, Mar. 18, and Secretary Kenneth Adaway led the invocation.

After passing the consent agenda that included several previous board minutes, they proceeded to address several policy items.

The board approved an addendum to the Athletic Handbook, recommended by Interim Athletic Director Paul Veirs, that will allow the coaches to develop some "athletic" punishment for unexcused absences, like running, lifting weights or other exercises. Pittman liked the idea, and so did most everyone else. Board member Kenneth Graham voiced several concerns from previous experience, including warnings of how such a program might be manipulated.

Graham was clear and specific, and the board took the warnings to heart. Graham liked the idea, too, with proper supervision, equality, and specified recommendations. Interim Superintendent Elton Hightower will instruct the coaches accordingly.

Considering two policy updates, the board will likely decide at the next board meeting two recommended changes. Hightower recommended that teachers be evaluated annually and the standard for evaluating teachers every other year be lifted to only those teachers with a prior rating of "exceeds standards". He also recommended that para-professionals be evaluated annually.

The board approved the new school calendar for 2014-2015 that sought to add five teacher staff development days, per the request of Hightower and final approval from the TEA.

They approved the Instructional Materials Allotment and TEKs Certification that included the new science and math textbooks.

The board also approved the varsity baseball team staying overnight in Houston in preparation for their game the following day at the Minute Maid Park, under the supervision of Veirs.

Because the new superintendent would not be using the house provided by the school district, the board will adopt a rental/lease policy and put the home up for rent to district staff.

Elementary school Principal Yvette Carlton reported that the open house was not attended as well as they had hoped, but the book fair was a success, yielding money for trips and extra books for the classrooms.

High school Principal Walter McAlpin reported that their one-act play was ready to go, and there had been a lot of questions regarding the attendance guidelines previously approved.

Hightower reported that part of the HB-5 guidelines required the schools do a self-assessment with broad latitude given to the schools for their own development of an assessment.

Hightower identified one from the Star ISD, and they are in the process of tailoring their own version. Still to be determined will be those allowed to take the assessment, and Graham encouraged that the more that can give input the more accurately the assessment will reflect the reality of the school.

He also reported on the renovations at Lake Tejas, thankful to Tyler County Commissioner Mike Marshall who recently installed several long-needed culverts. The dredging of sand and new wooden docks will be ready for the upcoming triathlon, the date of which has been moved to April.

Hightower mentioned that the school will be able to move its depository contract's second year with Compass to the Citizens State Bank after the latter opens and becomes fully operational in June or July, as a result of his meeting with President Trey Allison and his assurance that the deal for Citizens' move to Colmesneil was nearly final.

Colmesneil ISD selects Angela Matterson as new Superintendent

CISD Chooses New SuperintendentColmesneil ISD selects Angela Matterson as Superintendent, seated (l-r) are CISD President Curtis Pittman, Matterson, Interim Superintendent Elton Hightower, and standing (l-r) are board members Twyla Darder, Secretary Kenneth Adaway, Jim Carlton, Danny Brown, Kris Lindsey and Kenneth Graham.

by Michael G. Maness

Colmesneil ISD board chose Angela Michele Matterson to be their new superintendent Monday night, Mar. 11.

After convening by President Curtis Pittman and an invocation by Secretary Kenneth Adaway, the board quickly went into a private executive session in an adjacent classroom, allowing the guests to remain in the board chambers.

When they returned, the motion was made and accepted for the board to confirm the resignation of Athletic Director Fancy Johnson, and they authorized Interim Superintendent Elton Hightower to execute the voluntary separation agreement approved by both parties, which included a lump sum payment of the remainder of his 2013-14 contract, less appropriate deductions.

Then the motion was made to announce the board's lone finalist for CISD Superintendent. On acceptance, Matterson was asked if she would like to ask anything, and she said, "No, I am good to go. I thank you all."

One board member mentioned the hard work ahead, and another confirmed the board's support.
Pittman affirmed her readiness to start April 3, two days before spring break.

Hightower reflected how she had helped him obtain about $400,000 after Rita. She had called him just a few days before the deadline to receive that grant money and he had not forgotten it.

The board had 19 apply and 10 were interviewed in February.

Matterson worked two years at Warren ISD, five years at Colmesneil ISD, three years at Woodville ISD, then became principal of Spurger ISD for five years and superintendent SISD for four years.

Recruited by Region V, she directed the Teacher's Certification program for three years and lastly directed the Special Education for Polk County Special Serviced Co-op.

Matterson graduated from Woodville ISD, earned a bachelor's and master's degrees, and earned both the Superintendent's and Principal's certificates.

When Colmesneil Mayor Don Baird heard the news shortly after, he said, "She's my neighbor." Several of her family live on the same street. With 22 years in education, in many ways she is returning home to be CISD's eighth superintendent.