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Spurger ISD Board Discusses Declining Mineral Values

by Emily Waldrep

Spurger ISD held a school board meeting on Thursday, March 1, in the Administration building to discuss various issues, including district goals, declining mineral values, and reading and dyslexia programs.

The first order of business on the regular agenda was a report from the tax accessor. The report stated that since timber prices are falling, the value of minerals will decrease as well, which means that the district will collect less in taxes. A tentative tax audit will be available for the district in the coming months, and the final will be completed in July, but reports are already stating that values will be much lower because of the falling timber and mineral values.

During the district goals report by Mrs. Keppi Fortenberry, the reading and dyslexia program was discussed. In an effort to give every child the same learning experience, students are beginning to be screened for dyslexia and learning problems at a 2nd grade level, then followed and if necessary, evaluated, at a 3rd grade level. Superintendent Joe Fisher says this works because, "kids don't have a solid reading foundation until about third grade, but they have their basics down after 2nd grade, and we begin to watch them at that level." That way, Spurger can catch possible reading developmental problems earlier and place the kids in the appropriate program. As far as the dyslexia and reading program itself, Fisher say's "we will continue to use the same programs because they work." The district also boast having Amber Conner, a certified master reading teacher, at the school to work with students who need the extra help.

The board also passed a resolution to name Emily Waldrep to the Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) Media Honor Roll, a prestigious honor that has never been given to another Spurger resident. The TASB Media Honor Roll's goal is "to recognize representatives who make the effort to get to know the superintendent, board president, and district mission and goals, report school news that is fair, accurate and balanced, give a high profile position to good news about schools, visit the schools and maintain a policy of no surprises by sharing information with school representatives." Nominees for this award get recognition by the board and employees, as well as a certificate and recognition of tasb.org.

The board also voted on a representative on the ESC board of directors, and will be adding Christy Hughes as the single name on the Tyler County Ballot. Winners will be announced after the entire regions votes are counted.

The elementary principal reported that the children are working hard to raise money for a new piece of playground equipment shaped like a large Pirate Ship. The board will be budgeting that next school year, but has no time frame of when that piece of equipment will be purchased.

The board also went over various smaller matters, such as approving David Stickler as the auditor for the next school year, discussing a long range facility improvement plan and budgeting for the coming years and discussing the High Schools One Act Play's performance in competition in Carthage at Panola College on March 22, 2012.

The next board meeting will be held on April 19, 2012 in the Administration building.

Woodville ISD Board reviews goals, property values

by LeAnn Monk

"I know I'm out of order," stated Trey Allison, President of the Woodville ISD School Board, " But I would like to read the Board Goals before we proceed with this meeting. I feel they should be read at least once a quarter to remind us of why we are here and to help direct us in making our decisions." This statement was made at the school board meeting held on Monday, March 19. "Goal 1: Student Achievement- Woodville ISD will focus on STAAR (State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness) and EOC (End of Course) preparation. WISD students will score above the aggregate average of like districts for all tests, as well as above like district averages in all tested areas. WISD will strive to assure that 100 percent of eligible seniors will graduate under current TAKS standards. Woodville ISD will continue to increase district-wide academic performance," read Allison. He went on to say how important it was for the board to keep these goals in mind as they made decisions concerning the district and its students. For a full set of the Board goals, you can contact the WISD Administration Office.

Representatives from the firm Moak, Casey & Associates from Austin, were at the board meeting to discuss necessary action on the pending application the district has for a Chapter 313 Appraised Value Limitation on qualified property. According to Glenn Conner, Superintendent of the District, Woodville ISD would like to submit a completed application for approval to the Texas State Comptroller for appraised value limitation on qualified property. The Chapter 313 is an optional program applicable to school districts only and is set in place to help promote economic development. The basic concept is to allow a ten-year tax relief program for qualified properties. For the first two years the property would be fully taxed. However, during years three through 10, the property would receive a tax break. Eligible projects for this program would be new buildings and business personal property with a value limit ranging from one million to $100 million. These projects must be related to manufacturing, research and development, clean coal, gasification for a coal biomass mixture, renewable electric generation, or nuclear power; and these projects must create at least 10 new permanent jobs. "Basically it's an incentive for new companies, like East Texas Electric Coop and German Pellet Texas, to come in to our county or district. And there is no risk to the school," said Conner. After hearing the update from the firm, the board voted to submit the completed application to the state Comptroller.

Also visiting the members of the School Board was Jenny Grissom. Grissom is a HOSA State Qualifier, having been a finalist in the Health Care Issues Exam. Out of all of the students competing only 10 students advanced in the exam competition to State. Speaking to Grissom, Allison stated, "We are proud of how you represented Woodville ISD". Brook Brown, and AJ Foust also competed in the HOSA competition and are advancing to State in their respective contests as well.

During discussion on the financial statement, Cody Jarrott, from the district's business office advised the board it was time to set a date for the budget workshops. "We need to get an idea of where we are. We have to define what operations are," said Jarrott. "We are going to face challenges we haven't faced before," stated Conner. He went on to explain the district will experience those challenges due new changes by the State Legislature on values to the mineral accounts in the county.

During the Superintendent's Report, Conner reported to the Board the renovations on the music room were finished. He also told the Board construction on the new softball/baseball practice facility should be underway soon. He told the Board they would have to start thinking about replacing the water damage to the roof of the Kirby Gym and the middle school P.E. gym. "We have struggled with our security cameras for a long time," stated the superintendent. He advised the board he was looking into some possible upgrades using current equipment. "They are just good to have," he said. Conner then went over upcoming events happening around the WISD campuses. He pointed out the STAAR testing would be held on March 27 – 28, and April 24 – 27. The WISD campus is also the host of the annual Dogwood Pageant held in the amphitheater on April 7.

WISD Board Meetings are held on the third Monday of each month. The next meeting will be April 16, at 7:00 pm.

Colmesneil Council Considers New Fire Station

by Leann Monk

During the Colmesneil City Council meeting, Tuesday, March 13, Council heard from David Waxman, grant administrator from David Waxman, Inc., in Jasper. Waxman reported on the status of the proposed new Colmesneil fire station. He explained the fire station would be built with combined funds from Tyler County and the City of Colmesneil's Hurricane Ike Round Two Relief funds.

"Funding applications have been submitted," Waxman said. He then described the process that would take place in building the fire station. "First, after we are officially funded, we will get the interested parties to look at sites for the engineer to evaluate. Then we will turn it over to an environmental specialist." Councilman Charlie Branch asked if the fire station had to be built inside the city limits. "No. Not necessarily. You want to build the fire station centrally located to your response area, whether that is inside the city limits or not, is up to you all," Waxman said. Although Waxman has a contract with the State, he expressed his top priority was to please Colmesneil. "We want a first class project here," he said.

Waxman then discussed the need to replace deteriorated water lines in the city. According to a report he presented Council, the city is losing 20 percent of the water it is making due to poor water lines. That is one gallon lost for every five gallons pumped. Seven percent is typically considered an acceptable water loss. "This is something we really need to be looking at seriously," said Branch. Waxman told Council they had a couple of options on funding for the water lines project. One option would be to apply for a $275,000 grant that should be coming available in the next few months. Another option would be a bond. "We will no longer have the debt of the current bond after this year. We could look at another bond once this one is paid off," said City Secretary, Carrie Edwards. Waxman told Council to review the report he gave them and they would revisit the issue at the next council meeting.

Edwards then reported to Councilmembers the Annual Family Fun Day the City sponsors, which had been scheduled for May 19 has been cancelled. The event was cancelled due to a conflict with the Wings and Wheels Stunts Show which was also scheduled for that day. The stunt show is being held as a fundraiser for Colmesneil ISD and the Tyler County Art League. After a meeting with CISD Superintendent Stacy Ackely and Elementary Principal Yvette Carlton, it was decided the community could not support two large events and the Family Fun Day would be cancelled. Edwards told Council Family Fun Day would return next year.

Also addressed in the council meeting was a response to citizens' complaints to a street being paved recently. Barnes explained why Sutton Street in the city was chosen to be paved over other streets. "It was Round One Hurricane Ike Relief money that determined which streets were to be paved. We had $62,000 left over," Barnes said. "To get approved for the money, I had to show damage to the streets from hurricane clean-up efforts. Sutton Street was the only street that showed base failure and qualified." He went on to say, "Hickory Street has not been paved yet because it is tied up in another grant. If we paved it now, we would lose the grant money."

Also brought before Council was the need to correct a 911 addressing issue on Farm to Market Road 1745 North. "Currently numbering on the road inside the city limits is causing confusion," said Edwards. She went on to say, "According to DETCOG the City has two options, change the street numbers or change the street name." After some discussion, Branch made the motion to change the name of the portion of FM 1745 inside the city limits to Sturrock Drive. All of Council approved this motion.

In the upcoming events and Council comments section of the meeting, the Mayor told Council Congressman Kevin Brady's mobile office will be at City Hall on March 22 from 10 to 11 a.m. He urged everyone to attend this meeting.

The Colmesneil City Council meets the second Tuesday of each month. The next meeting will be April 10.

Woodville City Council Takes No Action on Zydeco Showdown

Woodville Ben Bythewood and Texas Confederation of Clubs & Independentsby Leann Monk

In the regular monthly meeting of the Woodville City Council held March 12, Council proclaimed May as Motorcycle Safety month. TCOC&I, Texas Confederation of Clubs & Independents, Region 4, from Beaumont was at the meeting presenting the request for the proclamation. Mayor Ben Bythewood read and then signed the proclamation urging all of the community to become aware of the inherent danger involved in operating a motorcycle and to give the operator the respect on the road they deserve.

Next on the agenda to discuss and take action on was the issue of the variance to the noise ordinance for March 30 and 31. This issue was first reported by the Booster last month, when Kendall Coleman petitioned the Court to modify the current ordinance the City has in place by allowing amplified music past the hours of 10:00 p.m. on March 30 and 31 for the Second Annual Zydeco Showdown. Last month this request was tabled until a representative from Coleman's group could be present to further explain the group's intentions. However, neither Coleman nor a representative from his organization was present during the council meeting. City Administrator, Mandy Risinger explained to Council that Coleman emailed a modification to the original request. Coleman now wanted to adjust the variance to the ordinance for March 31 only, making the request for one day instead of two. Council asked Police Chief Scott Yosko his thoughts on the City approving the variance.

"The area in question is a residential area. If you have loud music or noise going on after 10 p.m. you are going to have complaints by the residents," Yosko said. He went on to explain to Council other issues involved with having the Showdown. One specific issue brought out by the Police Chief was that of the overtime incurred by his department and the city. "This event cost the City last year in overtime with our police officer working over," Yosko said. "We bent over backwards to help them out," he went on to say.

"If Council does allow the variance, I suggest they provide licensed peace officers to be present that are "not on our clock," suggested Risinger. Bythewood then called for action on the issue, at which point councilman Caleb Spurlock made the motion to take no action. Bythewood called for discussion and Councilwoman Paula Jones noted that, "If it's important enough to amend the rules, you should be here." The motion passed unanimously. There will be no change to the current noise ordinance which states there can be no amplified music at any time in a residential area.

Mic Cowart from Entergy addressed Council regarding billing changes and tree removal. "Our services are improving and our prices are going down," said Cowart. He explained to Council that the Entergy customers would be seeing a fuel refund. Currently, the cost per kilowatt hour is $114.14. Beginning this month and continuing through May the cost per kilowatt hour will be around $81.28. Cowart asked the question, "What do you get for your money?" "Reliability," he said. The Entergy representative explained the goal is to provide the least amount of outages for their customers. This is gaged by the SAIFI or System Average Interruption Frequency Index. The SAIFI equals the number of customers experiencing an outage, divided by the total number of customers served. In the Woodville network, the total Entergy customers served is 7,200 as of January of this year. Cowart reported a 21 percent improvement from previous years. He also explained the big push for Entergy was tree removal. Downed trees have become an epidemic due to previous hurricane damage and the recent drought conditions. "The trees are stressed," explained Cowart. "As of right now we have removed 380 trees in the Woodville area," said Cowart. He went on to say outages are primarily due to the downed tree issue. "Entergy is working hard to clear the lines to fix this problem," Cowart said.

Also up for consideration was a city ordiance repealing a current ordinance concerning the provision of certain health insurance benefits or Other Postemployment Benefits (OPEB) to retired City employees. This agenda item was an ordinance to repeal the previous action providing postemployment benefits to retirees who met certain qualifications. These postemployment benefits are intact to all current employees and qualified retirees, but will not be offered to newly hired employees. Citizens can obtain a copy of this revised ordinance from the City office.

The City Administrator then gave her report by proclaiming to Council, "It's Dogwood Time in Tyler County!" Risinger told councilmembers she was still working with Fire Chief Shane and the ISO to update the City's fire code rating. "The survey went well. It looks like our rating should improve, but we cannot get a definite answer at this point."

Police Chief Yosko gave his racial profiling report to Council. He summed the report up by stating "According to the report, white males are the worst drivers."

The Woodville City Council meets the second Monday of each month. The next meeting will be April 9 at 7 p.m.

Ivanhoe City Council Hears Reports, Revises Ordianances

by Emily Waldrep

Ivanhoe city council members met on Saturday, March 10, for their regular council meeting to discuss and adopt multiple agenda items.

The first items on the docket were reports from the Dam supervisor, Road supervisor, and the security committee. The reports recognized Danny King for spotting and removing a large log from Lake Camelot's spillway, mentioned the upcoming project to fix Deerwood Street with asphalt as soon as the temperature remains in the upper 70s, and reviewed the 39 security calls made to law enforcement from within the city.

Council also discussed and reviewed the new Animal Control program. Currently, two members of the council are attending an "animal control officer" school to receive their qualifications to capture and detain animals. Ivanhoe doesn't currently have an animal shelter, and all of the shelters surrounding the city stay filled. The city wants to put an animal shelter in place to decrease the number of stray animals, and to keep citizens' pets safe.

"We will educate everyone in the city by virtue of an ordinance, and hope that this will keep animals off the streets and out of danger."

The issue was tabled until the next council meeting.

Council also approved various small agenda items, including purchasing a new "light bar" for the Ivanhoe patrol car, maintaining the current Sheriff's Department patrol through Ivanhoe on Fridays and every other Saturday, and establishing new office hours of 10 a.m. - 5 p.m. on Tuesday through Friday and 12 noon - 8 p.m. on Saturday. They also amended the Zoning Ordinance to exempt city property, and adopted the enforcement of zoning violations, including sewage leaks from RVs. Council also approved the use of volunteers to help with city hall business, and discussed the actions and duties of the city secretary.

Other items were also discussed and approved for their first and second readings, including:

1. The junked vehicle ordinance, an ordinance in which junked vehicles will have special restrictions put on them and can't be displayed within public view.

2. Tree protection ordinance, in which certain tree's will not be allowed to be removed and a special permit will be required to remove some tree's.

3. The Sign ordinance. This ordinance will require a permit for signs displayed in Ivanhoe and will require signs to be approved.

The next city council meeting with be held on the second Saturday in April, and all meetings are always open to the public.

Colmesneil ISD Board Votes To Extend Contracts

Colmesneil ISD School Board met Tuesday February 22 in regular session with a number of agenda items.

First up for consideration were the usual reports of the minutes and financial statements. These reports usually go through without much notice, but during this meeting, member Kris Lindsey had a few questions about where the school district's money was being spent. Lindsey questioned two line items on the financial statement in particular. He questioned the money being spent in the athletic activities and supplies account and the technology supply account. He also wanted to know how much money was left in the Lake Tejas funds account. Colmesneil ISD Superintendet Stacy Ackley reported that the fund held approximately $101,000. Ackley said he would be comfortable with leaving a working amount in the account of $40,000. Lindsey asked where he planned on spending the other $60,000. Ackley said the plan was to spend it on general needs of the district. After a few more questions by the board, the financial report was accepted and approved.

Also on the agenda was a vote to recognize Public School Week, March 5-9, with an Open House set for Tuesday, March 6 from 5:30 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.

The Board also discussed and tabled the issue of approving an overnight band trip to Florida for attendance purposes. This matter was tabled due to uncertainty of the trip.

Yvette Carlton, Elementary principal, gave an informative report on campus safety. She recently attended a conference where atendees were briefed on the latest information about school safety. This conference helps educators understand the importance of having an emergency plan in place. It also touched on topics such as gangs, bullying, and dating violence. Carlton explained the importance of having faculty and staff trained on what to do in emergency situations. She recommended a survey go out to the students and parents to gather public thoughts on the safety of CISD. This survey should roll out around the first of May.

During the Superintendent's report, Ackley presented the Board with a "wish list". He explained the items listed were not in order by priority, but things he would like to see for the campus. Some of the things listed were items such as new roofs for the elementary, old gym, field house, maintenance and bus barn. Also mentioned was an upgrade in technology for the elementary campus and a possible Chevrolet Suburban.

During Ackley's discussion on the technology upgrade, it was brought out that several of the elementary teachers currently do not have working computers in their classrooms. It was explained that these computers are vital in the everyday instruction of the students. He recommended the board consider a possible matching grant/grants to purchase new technology equipment such as laptops and ipads for the classrooms. The cost to the district after the grants would be approximately $125,000. To this, Lindsey and board member Jeff Mashaw, wanted to know how to get the computers to the teachers now; without waiting on a grant. Board members discussed taking money previously discussed in the Lake Tejas fund to purchase the needed computers. Upgrades for K-4 grades is approximately $30,000. Mr. Ackley asked the board to wait on purchasing the computers until after he had time to research the turn around time on a grant. Lindsey asked for a report within the week. The board will meet again in an emergency session to vote on the computer issue when Ackley has completed his research.

The CISD Board then adjourned into executive session. Upon returning to open session, the board voted to accept the resignation of Coach Jim Crews. They also voted to extend the contract of both campus principals, Walter McAlpin and Yvette Carlton.

Colmesneil ISD School Board meets on the third Tuesday of each month. Board members are President, Jim Carlton; Secretary, Kenneth Adaway; member, Kain Rawls; member, Curtis Pittman; member, Kris Lindsey; member, Jeff Mashaw; and member, Twyla Darder.