Superintendent discusses policy option for arming personnel

By Chris Edwards
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SPURGER – Spurger ISD Superintendent Kendall Smith made it clear at the district's March board meeting that adopting a policy to allow district personnel to carry firearms needs to be decided soon.

Smith told the board members that it is a time-consuming process to put such a policy in place.

"Before I start building a plan, I want to make sure it is something ya'll want to pursue," he said. Currently there are 172 school districts in Texas permitting personnel to carry firearms, according to Texas Education Agency. The debate about arming teachers and staff has surged in response to recent school shootings, such as the Feb. 14 mass shooting in Parkland, Fla.

Texas school districts can choose between two plans, the Guardian Plan and the School Marshal Plan, to authorize employees to carry a firearm on school property, according to TEA. The Guardian Plan has been discussed by SISD administrators. The Guardian Plan allows for the school board to adopt a local policy authorizing the designation of specific employees to carry firearms on school premises, according to a document outlining the different plans from the Texas Association of School Boards.

Smith explained some of the steps necessary to adopt the policy, which include psychological evaluations, firearm training and testing and getting the needed legal paperwork in place. Smith said that under such a policy, employees chosen to carry firearms will be held to a standard of confidentiality.

Board President Carroll Hatton suggested that the superintendent "dig into it a little more to see if we want to pursue it."
Smith said he's already done a lot of research into the policy, but the trustees needed to decide whether or not it was something SISD wants to do.

Security and safety measures were foremost on Smith's mind when he gave his report to the board members at the March 15 meeting.

Smith said a security door, accessible via a keycard, was installed on the back of the elementary school building last weekend. Smith said he chose the location to test the door out due to the high amount of traffic coming and going. He said the door was programmed to automatically unlock at certain times of the day and teachers were given keycards.

The company that installed and programmed the door volunteered to do so at no cost to the district so SISD personnel could see how it works and practice its use before deciding whether or not to outfit the district with the doors.

Smith also reported that he has also been looking into policies of other districts as to the items students are allowed to bring on campus as well as student clothing. He pointed to Woodville ISD's policy of allowing only clear backpacks and its ban on hoodies as possible safety measures to adopt in the future for SISD.

On its agenda for regular business, SISD trustees voted to renew three contracts for the upcoming 2018-19 school year. The contracts of Connie Griffith, Business Manager; Doug Jenkins, Transportation/Grounds Maintenance Supervisor and Leona Callaway,

Child Nutrition Supervisor, each were renewed for one year.

Smith gave the current enrollment figures for the district. There are 197 students enrolled in the elementary school and 173 in the secondary program with a total of 370 pupils. Smith said attendance is at 94.24 percent, and the district is at 353.93 for average daily attendance.

Other Business
Board members also voted to approve the following:
• The instructional materials allotment and TEKS Certification for the 2018-19 school year.
• The hiring of Mitchell T. Fontenote, CPA, as auditors for the district for the 2017-18 school year.
•The TASB Policy Update 110 Affecting Local Policy BBB, as it pertains to school board member elections and terms.

Chester stops gas theft

By Michael G. Maness

Chester City Council members appointed Jeannie Johnson to fill a vacant seat Monday, April 2.

With councilman Hoke Hart on speakerphone, Petri's appointment of Jeannie Johnson to the council was approved unanimously.

After briskly approving the minutes to prior council meeting and the financial statements from the city and Chester Gas Company, the council tabled a resolution for Child Abuse Prevention after the resolution and its representative did not appear.

Petri committed to helping Councilwoman Gale Williams get onto the city computer for access to the Incident Command System.

After hearing a report on delinquent gas accounts, city staff was directed to interrupt service for those who are 61-plus days in arrears.

The parking lot at the city park seems to be in good order, after six loads of rock were spread. Petri received a complaint about swings at the park for the littlest ones, and Williams moved that two new ones be purchased. The council will be ordering new chains and slip-covers for the chains.

City Secretary Annette Hickman noted that a tournament had been scheduled, eliciting a joyful response. One noted the crawfish domes around the field which caused Petri to pipe vigorously that Director of Public Works Dale Clamon was "killing them." Williams quipped, "Yes, for about a year."

Because Johnson's husband had done previous work on the city park, Petri asked if she would oversee the city park's continued refurbishment, and she gladly accepted.

Lastly, but not least, an informer has allowed the city and Sam Houston Electric Coop to spot a thief who had tapped utility lines for several years undetected.

Petri was told Sam Houston will be pressing charges.

The mayor passed out photos of the creative flower bed that had obscured apparatus linked to the gas line and the new lock now securing it. The council debated several options, including criminal charges. On a motion from Johnson, the council voted unanimously to allow the customer to request a new, proper connection at regular prices.

Commissioners honor American Red Cross, revise meeting schedule

Tyler County Red Cross volunteers Jodi King, Mary Annette Stagg, and John Stagg accepting a proclamation from Woodville Mayor Pro Tem Joyce Wilson after the Woodville City Council proclaimed March Red Cross month in the city.  (Valerie Reddell)Tyler County Red Cross volunteers Jodi King, Mary Annette Stagg, and John Stagg accepting a proclamation from Woodville Mayor Pro Tem Joyce Wilson after the Woodville City Council proclaimed March Red Cross month in the city. (Valerie Reddell)

By Valerie Reddell
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County officials signed a proclamation Monday recognizing the vital role the American Red Cross plays in helping local families recover from disasters. Volunteers serving with the national organization have worked for decades to create the procedures used around the world to help families during and after widespread natural or man-made disasters. Red Cross also assists members of the uniformed military services return home when their family suffers a bereavement or other emergency.

The court also named John Wilson as chairman of the Tyler County Beautification Campaign.

"This is a good day in Tyler County. This man called and said Tyler County needed to be cleaned up and I asked if he would volunteer as chairman, and he said yes," Blanchette said.
Wilson will work to coordinate volunteer efforts between the city, county and school districts to clean up litter prior to the 75th annual Dogwood Festival celebration.
The Texas Department of Transportation has had crews and a contractor working along the highway rights-of-way, but it doesn't take them long to replenish the trash," County Judge Jacques Blanchette said.

"This is an ongoing issue in the county — not just our county but all across the state," Wilson said. "you have to keep working on it and trying to get people involved. You have to educate people not to throw it out to begin with, take more pride in where we live."

"So far the response has been great. When you start piling it up and see how much each mile produces ..." Wilson said.

"That information will be very valuable," Martin Nash said.

"It's amazing how much trash each mile produces," Blanchette said.

Pct. 4 Commissioner Jack Walston reminded those in attendance that residents can drop off used appliances and other scrap metal items at the Pct. 4 barn.
County Treasurer Sue Saunders reported that the county received a check for $1,850 recently for scrap metal good collected and sold.

Commissioners voted to amend their meeting schedule for the remainder of 2018. Commissioners court session will be held every other Wednesday at 8:30 a.m.
A recent attorney general's opinion required Commissioners Court to convene to approve payroll prior to checks being issued. In response, Tyler County officials added meetings to their schedule to ensure the current payroll schedule would continue. After reviewing statutes related to meeting schedules, they have been able to consolidate their regular court sessions to alternate Wednesdays.

Finally, commissioners approved renewal of the LexisNexis agreement for the County Law library as well as a resolution to seek bids for road materials and fuel.

Woodvile ISD recognizes teacher, reviews performance report

By Valerie Reddell
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Woodville ISD trustees presented STAR awards to Kim Smith, a math teacher at Woodville High School, and Kara Harrington, who teaches seventh grade math at the middle school campus.

Amy Shumake also made the WISD list of honorees, but was unable to attend the Monday night meeting.

Trustees then held a public hearing on the district's Annual Performance Report for 2016-17.
Superintendent Glen Conner called trustees' attention to six or seven sections of the report.
He explained that a simplified version of the district's independent audit is included in the report.

In 2015-16 the district general fund had nearly $14 million in total revenue, yielding $10,216 per student. Local ad valorem taxes provide 47.29 percent of that; and 49.16 percent comes from the state. Local and intermediate fund generated $461,911 — 3.31 percent of the budget. WISD a quarter of 1 percent in federal funds.

The district earned the highest possible rating from the Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas (FIRST). Texas Education Agency says the system is designed to encourage Texas public schools to better manage their financial resources to provide the maximum allocation possible for direct instructional purposes.

WISD ended the year with an unassigned fund balance of $1,494,742, or 11.7 percent of the total budgeted expenses.

Texas public school districts are required to keep a fund balance sufficient to handle district operations for a minimum of two months.

WISD's accountability rating for 2016 was "met standard" which is the highest rating currently assigned.

Criminal Incidents for 2016-2017

The report offers data for violent or criminal incidents that occur on WISD campuses.
The report shows there was no gang-related violence or assaults against teachers or staff during the reporting period. No firearms or weapons were confiscated and no vandalism or criminal mischief causing more than $200 in damage was reported against student property or teacher/staff property.

One incident was reported at the middle school that targeted school property.

The elementary and high school each reported one incident in which a student was assaulted.

Nine incidents at the high school involved the possession, sale or use of tobacco, alcohol or other drugs. One incident was reported at the middle school.

Post-secondary performance
After graduation, 16 members of the Class of 2015 were enrolled in four-year public university in 2016. Six students had grade point averages of 3.0 or higher.

Another 22 graduates in 2015 were attending two year public colleges, with eight of them earning a 3.0 GPA or higher.

Two students were at independent colleges or universities and 30 could not be found.

Monthly Financial reports
Cody Jarrott, assistant superintendent of finance, informed board members that ad valorem tax revenue had underperformed the prior year, but that line item caught back up with 2017 numbers in the first week of February.

"We are in a very good financial position at this time," Jarrott said. "Most taxes are collected so we expect to see [revenues and fund balances] drop down until taxes are collected in August."

The board approved an afternoon bus route that will deliver younger WISD students to two licensed day care centers in the city.

"We've been looking at what it takes to get that approved, and capture transportation mileage," Conner said.

The route has also been designated as "hazardous" to meet state and federal requirements for reimbursement for transportation within two miles of the campus.

Calendar approved
Trustees approved the calendar for the 2018-2019 school year.
Conner noted that it was similar to the current calendar. It is also aligned with other Tyler County districts.

Early resignation incentive
Trustee's approved a stipend bonus of $500 for teachers who notify the district that they will not be returning next year by March 30.

Conner said the early notification helps the district search for replacements. The stipend has been paid to retiring/resigning teachers for the past two years.

Commissioners OK contracts, appointments & spring cleaning item in sprint through agenda

By Valerie Reddell
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County Commissioners approved fireworks sales for Texas Independence Day, received the quarterly investment report and filled a vacancy on the hospital board of managers during a session held Feb. 15.

Vendors will be allowed to sell fireworks from Feb. 25 to midnight March 2. "As wet as it has been, that's a no-brainer," said Pct. 3 Commissioner Mike Marshall. The motion passed unanimously.

The court also approved contracts related to the administration of the primary elections for the Republican and Democratic parties.
County Clerk Donece Gregory told commissioners that the Texas Election Code states the elections administrator can execute the contracts without bringing them before the court.

"Since I'm spending county money — although they do reimburse us — I feel like it would be good to get it approved," Gregory said.

County Treasurer Sue Saunders presented the quarterly investment report to commissioners.

Saunders said two $2,500 Certificates of Deposit have been cashed out, in accordance with action taken at a prior court session. The proceeds were put in the TEXPOOL Prime investment pool where the county can earn 1.5 percent interest per day, and Texas Class which pays 1.09 percent a day.
Saunders said the bulk of the county's investments are in pools.

"The checking accounts have pretty good balances," Saunders said. "The investment committee agreed to move the Jail interest and sinking fund over to TEXPOOL Prime. We can get $140 a day, rather than a month. We will be able to move it back and forth very quickly if we need to."

Investments earned $77,073 for the year, she added. "The pools are safe and giving a very good return," Saunders said. "I am looking for money that is just sitting there that we can move over there."

County Cleanup
Commissioners unanimously approved an item that offers free disposal of metal and white goods at the Tyler County Collection Center for the month of March.
"This helps people get rid of old appliances etc.," Walston said. "We make a little bit on the metal when we get rid of it, so it's good for the people and the county."

Hospital Board of Managers
Emergency Management Coordinator Ken Jobe was appointed to fill the unexpired term of Susan Thompson of Precinct 2 who resigned. Commissioner Rusty Hughes made the motion to appoint Jobe effective immediately.

In other business, commissioners approved the following:
• Monthly reports from probation department, district clerk, county clerk, Extension office, auditor, treasurer and Justice of the Peace Pct. 1.
• Ratify payroll ended Feb. 14.
• Appointed Aleena Conner as Deputy District Clerk.
• Approve a bond for the treasurer of Emergency Services District #2.
• Purchase of a 2500 HD Silverado 4x4 Crew Cab truck from Caldwell Country through the BuyBoard.
• Auction surplus county equipment through and
• Amended an offer for office space for DETCOG Hurricane Harvey Disaster Recovery Coordinator, changing location from courthouse to Senior Citizens Center.

Pct. 4 Commissioner Jack Walston presided over last week's session while County Judge Jacques Blanchette was on vacation with family.

Hwy. project could impact lift station

By Mollie LaSalle

Colmesneil City Council met Tuesday, Feb. 13, and packed a lot of information into a short amount of time. A discussion of the future Hwy. 69 Corridor was broached by Mayor Don Baird.

Baird's main point of concern was the lift station on Hwy. 69 North. At this time, the city is uncertain as to whether the state will buy the land it is on, or if the city will have to move it.

Baird said that "the city is in limbo right now" in regard to the station. Both pumps are in working order, per Keith Barnes, Director of Utilities. The city cannot tear the building down because the pumps are inside. Baird estimates that the cost to the city to move it would be between $5,000 and $7000.

"It can be moved," Baird said. If the state doesn't buy the land, the city has no choice, it will have to move the building.

Parts of Hwy. 69 at present are under construction. The highway between Zavalla and Huntington to the north, and from Lumberton to Warren to the south. The Colmesneil area is last on the list, and work is not scheduled to begin until sometime in 2019.

"That gives us time to consider our options,"Baird said.

In other business, council approved all reports and the minutes from the January meeting. Council also approved a motion to write off all unpaid water bills from 2017. Council went into executive session to discuss and accept bids for the sandblasting and re-painting of Well #2. Upon returning to open session, council voted to hire Tandem Tank & Tower of Moscow for the job, with work slated to begin in the near future.

The city has CDs at Citizens Bank totaling $350,000, and at present, the interest from them is going back into the general account or rolling back into the CD. Council voted to let the interest roll back into each individual CD.

City secretary Mandy Pattillo informed council members that FEMA has all the documentation they need, and the city has been approved for money due to Harvey damage. Council was also updated on road repairs. FM 3065 is slated to get four-foot extensions on each side.

Mayor Baird closed out the meeting with comments about the city's water system, which is still in good shape, and has sustained the city through two hurricanes. The generators are also in good shape.

Council member Duane Crews reiterated the age of the city's water system. The lines currently in place are over 40 years old, and at some point will need to be replaced.

Council members all agreed that the work could be done "a section at a time and pray for a grant."