Colmesneil ISD approves raise for senior teachers

by Michael G. Maness

CISD President Curtis Pittman convened the full board Tuesday evening, Aug. 16. Board member Kenneth Adaway led the invocation, and Pittman led the pledges of allegiance to the U.S. and Texas flags.

The board approved the Employee Handbook that included only one change: all employees will move to direct deposit.
Colmesneil ISD, according to Superintendent Angela Matterson, have clarified their handbooks on graduation. The guidelines are specific and will be enforced. There were provisions for those with illnesses. But for those who just skip school—if they don't have the mandatory attendance, they will not graduate. There was also a remedial process, documented all the way, to make contact with the student and parent at specific intervals to make certain all is fair and all know exactly where they stand as graduation nears. Pass or fail, the school was going to go the extra mile to make sure the student had every opportunity to make that important threshold and graduate.

Use of the Chromebook was also clarified. They have about 215 and do not charge, a great benefit for students, yet a few students have abused this asset. The board approved for the school to clarify and stiffen policies that will curb abuse and even charge for clear abuse of the Chromebook. The Chrombook is a handheld computer, similar to an IPad, that is required for some classes, and is part of the school's desire for the students to get the best cutting-edge education to face the real world of computers.

The board approved an innovative salary raise for their senior most teachers. The current TEA pay schedule for teachers maxes their salary in 20 years. Recognizing the value of senior teachers, the CISD approved a 1.5% raise for each additional year up to 30 years.

Matterson said, "Our teachers rock! They are rock stars!"

In addition, Matterson explained further the appraisal process for new and experienced teachers. There was quite a discussion on the attendance and possibility of needing another first-grade teacher. Matterson had presented the board with a detailed spreadsheet of attendance broken down by each grade, Pre-K through 12th, with totals for the previous 12 years. This important history showed a steady increase over the last few years. Importantly, they have a first-grade waiting list, with three students wanting and ready to come (currently enrolled in another school). Matterson will wait for the first six weeks to assess, after which, if high attendance is maintained, they will be able to consider adding a teacher—good news all the way.

Chester ISD budget remains the same

by Michael G. Maness

Chester ISD President Ray McKnight convened the board on Tuesday evening, Aug. 16, and he led all in the invocation. Board member Vernon Lewis led in the pledges of allegiance to the U.S. and Texas flags.

McKnight opened the floor to public comments, and regular visitor and citizen Chuck Davidson announced that the local churches and Chester Lions Club have purchased a lot of school supplies for children. They will be giving away supplies to children who need them on Thursday, Aug. 18, in the Chester school cafeteria.

The board approved an agreement for the Polk County 4H to work with their students.

In regular business, the board removed the previous superintendent and approved the addition of Principal Brandi Havard and Superintendent Cory Hines the school's bank signature card.

The financial auditors will be visiting soon, and Hines reported that the budget will remain the same for the ensuing year, conservatively based upon a 165 attendance.

McKnight read a letter from Tyler County Sheriff Bryan Weatherford that was apparently sent to all the districts. Therein, Weatherford set a consistent minimum and hourly rate for his deputies should the schools desire to secure one or two off-duty, and apparently this was to make the pay equal in all areas. Of course, the department would be available for any 911 call.

In the closed session, the school approved to hire a second-grade aide to help with the 25 students for the coming year.

County Commissioners busy with second meeting in August

by Stephen R. Juneau

Tyler County Commissioners convened for their second meeting of the month at 8:30 A.M., August 18, in Room 101 in the Tyler County Court House. Commissioner Jack Walston gave an invocation followed by Judge Jacques Blanchette leading in the Texas Pledge being the 2nd meeting of the month.

Due to a number of guests out from Amanda Lake having an interest in Agenda Items E & F, Judge Blanchette—with the endorsement of all Commissioners—chose to address those two items of interest of those guest first up. (See Commissioners Court Decision Appealed.) Afterwards, Judge Blanchette went on to addressing all remaining items on the agenda.

Starting out was the approval of the Minutes from previous meetings. Next up was the consideration of budget amendments/line item transfers; however, since there were none to consider, the judge moved on to Item C: Paying County Bills. Item C was approved.

Item D required the opening of bids for emergency standby services in the event of a hurricane type disaster. The only bid received was from DRC Emergency Services. Their services included emergency supplies and support, debris management, tree trimming and removal, demolition, traffic control and fourteen other services. With hurricane season around the corner and favorable reviews of the company received by County Auditor Jackie Skinner, Commissioners voted unanimously to award DRC with the contract. According to Mrs. Skinner, ‟Projects projected to exceed $50,000 must be in compliance with the Competitive Bid Law." The Competitive Bid Law is designed to obtain the best products/services at the lowest practical price. Regardless of having received only the one bid, County Officials met the requirement of that law. Approved!

Item G was to approve the joint election agreements with cities and school districts elections with the upcoming Nov. 8 General Election. Approved!

Item H was to approve the appointment of Margaret Pope as alternate election judge for Pct. 18 for a two-year term. According to County Clerk Donece Gregory, ‟The law requires that the position of ‛precinct election judge in a General Election' be determined by the party that received the majority of votes in the last governor's race in that voting precinct. Hence, Gail Husband, a Republican, will continue in her role as election judge; while Margaret Pope, a Democrat, will serve as alternate." Approved!

Item I was for the sponsorship of a DETCOG (Deep East Texas Council of Governments) Lunch Meeting on Sept. 15. This is an annual ‟Board of Directors" meeting involving various government leaders throughout the twelve counties of Deep East Texas. The twelve are: Angelina, Houston, Jasper, Nacogdoches, Newton, Polk, Sabine, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Shelby, Trinity, & Tyler. Commissioner Nash referred to the success of Tyler County hosting the event as people enjoy coming out to Tyler County for the event. He recommended the spending of more money on the event which Judge Blanchette endorsed. Approved! (The board will hold their luncheon in the First Baptist Church, Family Life Center, followed by their Board Meeting. DETCOG'S President is Lufkin City Commissioner Lynn Torres.)

J. Memorandum of Understanding between Texas A & M Agrilife Extension Service and County for IT Services. Judge Blanchette explained, ‟Here is the essence of what this is: It is a renewable arrangement that we have—renewable every two years. The county provides for Internet access and provides for the Usual and Customary Services that are afforded to the county. Any special types of needs they have pertaining to what they want, they are responsible for." Approved!

K. Revised Proposal to Provide Professional Engineering/Consulting Services Roof Condition Assessment of Courthouse, County Clerk, Annex, and District Attorney offices. This was a follow up from Commissioners Court held on Aug. 8. After a study of the conditions of Tyler County buildings, County Treasurer Sue Saunders, reported that the following structures were removed from the list as not being in need of repairs: Commissioners Complex, the Justice Center and the Nutrition Center. The removable of the three resulted in a sizable cost saving factor for Tyler County, it was approved!

Agenda Item L was for the appointment of Raymond Wooten to the Emergency Service District (ESD) #2 as a result of the death of Robert Mott who held the position. Commissioner Jack Walston cited that Wooten lived in that district and owned property there. He added that Mr. Mott was associated with the volunteer fire dept. for years before it became an ESD. Approved!

Item M was for a correction to ‟911" Maps on CR 3230 and CR 4368 since those maps have at times, erroneously routed drivers beyond them onto private property which is not maintained by the county. Approved!

Item N was to assist Woodville Youth Football League financially with $2,000 for equipment having had an increase in its youth enrollment. Commissioner Marshall pointed out that, ‟Dues were raised from $85 to $95; however, if it goes any higher the kids won't be able to play." The $2,000 is within the County's limit of $6,000 in donations to youth organizations which is included in the county's budget. Approved!

Item O was to seek bids on a 2016 dump truck having 14/15yard capacity. Approved!

Item P was for the Renewal of Title IV-E Child Welfare Contract #23938992 with Texas Dept. of Family & Protective Services. Title IV-E is Foster Care. Auditor Jackie Skinner described the contract as follows: ‟What that contract does is any child services that the Tyler County Child Welfare Board provides through their funds, providing the requirements are met, will be reimbursed to them by Title IV-E funds." Approved! [Kathy Harris, a Child Welfare Board (CWB) Member clarified as follows: ‟Child Protective Services (CPS) is responsible for placing children in foster homes. The local CWB Members are appointed by Commissioner's Court to be advocates of the foster children from Tyler County. The Title IV-E contract allows the CWB to apply for Federal Title IV-E Reimbursable Funds. These funds provide financial assistance related to the care of the foster children from Tyler County. Tyler County has eleven volunteers on its Child Welfare Board headed by Chairman Terry Allen."

The final item on the agenda was for the Renewal of SAVNS (Statewide Automated Victim Notification Service) Maintenance Contract #1772110 for Fiscal Year 2017. Judge Blanchette pointed out that the fiscal year for this contract renewal begins Sept. 1, therefore, it was up for renewal. County Auditor Jackie Skinner explained that the contract was actually twofold: ‟Contract with the State; but, also with APRISS: the vendor providing the service." The cost to the county is at $6,000. APPRISS—derived from the word "apprise," sets out to enable victims of crime to remain informed or apprised concerning the status of their incarcerated or released-from-prison attackers. Approved!
Having addressed all agenda items, Judge Blanchette adjourned the meeting.

Presiding over the meeting was Tyler County Judge Jacques Blanchette. All other county officials who make up the court were present. They include Commissioners Martin Nash, Pct. 1; Rusty Hughes, Pct. 2; Mike Marshall, Pct. 3; and Jack Walston, Pct. 4. Also present throughout the meeting were County Auditor Jackie Skinner, County Clerk Donece Gregory, County Treasurer Sue Saunders, and Ben Kissee representing the Office of the DA.

County Officials Convene For Special Budget Meeting

by Stephen R. Juneau

County officials convened for a special budget meeting the morning of August 2, 2016 in Tyler County's Courthouse. Jackie Skinner, County Auditor, provided handouts detailing the county's budget. Ms. Skinner gave a positive report on the county's financial standing in today's challenging world. It was the result of responsible budgeting on the part of decision makers staying informed of current trends and laws by attending workshops for efficient governing, as well as their seeking out the best solutions in serving the people of Tyler County. This special budget meeting included the consideration to the rising cost of medical care for incarcerated individuals held in the county jail.

Ms. Skinner cited the medical cost on one inmate as being $6,500 every two weeks in order to meet the requirement of the law. In seeking out a more efficient means of handling medical needs of county inmates, officials are considering contracting with Southern Health Partners, a leading provider of customized inmate healthcare serving over 200 city and county detention centers across 13 states, including 20 counties in Texas.

Tim Quintana, marketing representative for Southern Health Partners, having served 38 years in Law Enforcement, offered his company's solution to the county's rising cost for inmate medical care. The base price for the county would be $6,400 monthly for up to 30 inmates with an additional $1.25 per day {around $38.00 per month} for each inmate above the thirty. Tyler County is currently housing 31 inmates in the Tyler County Jail.

Stevan Sturrock, Chief Deputy, noted that 50% of the earnings of inmates is put on their books {escrow} for expenses incurred by those individuals, including that of their medical cost. However, there are times when costs outweighs the escrow of certain inmates. That burden then rests with tax payers: the reason to consider greater efficiency for medical care on the part of inmates held in the county jail.

Quintana then stated: ‟The idea behind contracting with Southern Health Partners would be to take responsibility off the county and pass it on to us. If it does not work out, there is no long term commitment on the county and we can part ways." He went on to say that the base medical package includes a twice monthly on-site local physician / medical provider, as well as an RN for 20 hours a week; and 24/7 on call RN availability. The package sets out to reducing the high cost of unnecessary medical treatments including those at ER facilities through the screening of inmates requesting medical attention. The plan also includes overnight–pharmaceutical deliveries as well as the following services: Mental Health Care, Laboratory and Diagnostic Services, Medical Records Management, Patient and Correctional Staff Training with necessary manuals.
Commissioners will decide on the plan in a follow up budget meeting scheduled for August 29, at 9:00 a.m. in the Tyler County Court House.

Donece Gregory, County Clerk, mentioned of upcoming elections. They are: Warren ISD School Board on August 16 with Early Voting from August 1 – 12; Spurger ISD School Board on August 27 with Early Voting from August 10 - 23; and, the General Election on Nov. 8 with Early Voting from Oct. 24 – Nov. 4.

County officials present at this commissioners' meeting were: Jackie Skinner, Auditor who presided over the meeting; Martin Nash, Pct. 1; Rusty Hughes, Pct. 2; Mike Marshall, Pct. 3; Sue Saunders, Treasurer; Donece Gregory, County Clerk; Lynette Cruise, Tax Collector; Bryan Weatherford, Sheriff; and Stevan Sturrock, Chief Deputy. Tim Quintana, Marketing Representative with Southern Health Partners was guest presenter.

Commissioners regularly schedule meetings are held on the 2nd Monday of each month at 10:00 a.m. in the Tyler County Court House. In observance of holidays that fall on the 2nd Monday, they convene on Tuesdays.

City of Chester reconsiders staff

by Michael G. Maness

City of Chester will continue to hire some part-time help to aid city Director of Public Works Dale Clamon.

Mayor Pro Tem Gale Williams convened the council at their regular time Monday evening, Aug. 1. Light discussion on the bills preceded the reading of the minutes by City Secretary Annette Hickman.

The financials were approved without much comment.

A lengthy discussion over the park ensued. Not a lot was able to be done in July. The help they had been receiving from community service was coming to an end, and Councilman Floyd Petri tendered the refilling of the fulltime position.
After reviewing the finances, including the decrease in revenue, the council concluded that they will continue to hire part-time help to aid Clamon. Given all the duties Clamon already has, if the park was to continue to be renovated and upgraded, he will need help.

From the previous council meeting, the council has confided in Petri to lead the renovation. Councilman Vincent Incardona noted that they had savings enough to continue the renovation. Clamon mentioned the cost of wire and conduit, and the council seemed to concur that they proceed with upgrades as they are able.

The intention to go into executive session did not seem needed, and the council adjourned their rather brisk meeting in good spirits.

Chester ISD hires new principal

Chester ISD hired a new principal, Brandi Havard from Huntington, at its board meeting Monday evening, July 18. Shown, from left, are Jake David, Bryan Martin, Superintendent Corey Hines, Havard, President Ray McKnight, Cheryl Barnes, Steve Havis, Vernon Lewis and Wade Read.Chester ISD hired a new principal, Brandi Havard from Huntington, at its board meeting Monday evening, July 18. Shown, from left, are Jake David, Bryan Martin, Superintendent Corey Hines, Havard, President Ray McKnight, Cheryl Barnes, Steve Havis, Vernon Lewis and Wade Read.

by Michael G. Maness

Chester ISD hired a new principal, Brandi Havard, at its board meeting Monday evening, July 18.
CISD President Ray McKnight convened the board, member Vernon Lewis led the invocation, and McKnight led the pledges of allegiance to the U.S. and Texas flags.

The board approved the consent agenda after a small discussion on the finances, chiefly over the payment to SECCA and Superintendent Corey Hines' explanation that SECCA was well worth their cost as they filled out the complicated federal paperwork for the fed money the school receives for its title programs.

The board moved next month's ISD board meeting to Aug. 30 and set the 16th for their public tax hearing program. They also approved the tax rate of 1.04 percent for M.O. and 1.06 for I.M.F.
Hines reported that the attendance was 181, but would increase soon with his children and the new employees' children. He would have had a more detailed report, but two hours prior to the evening meeting the power went out because of a storm. The power had just been restored prior to the scheduled meeting.

After returning from a closed executive session, the board hired Havard as the school's new principal. She comes from Huntington, where she had taught for nine years, and Huntington and Hudson have been home until her move to Chester. Her daughter was with her, and they were both excited for this new post.

The board also hired William Williford to teach science, Cathy Buckner for technology, Dwayne Armstrong to coach and teach social studies and Jeremy Wooten to coach and teach P.E.