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WISD signs MOUs with colleges; nixes custodial service contract

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By Chris Edwards
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WOODVILLE – Woodville ISD Board of Trustees approved signing two memorandums of understanding with Stephen F. Austin State University and Lamar Institute of Technology at its Monday night meeting.

The MOUs indicate the district’s interest in a program, which although “still in its infantile stages,” according to WISD superintendent Glen Conner, shows promise of being an immense asset to the district’s student population.

“This could be the best thing that’s happened to us in the 12 or 13 years I’ve been here [as superintendent],” Conner said.

According to Conner, the project involves an academy-type situation with the two higher learning institutions partnering with schools in Tyler, Jasper and Newton counties. At present, the plan is to offer classes out of the former Angelina College teaching center in Jasper.

The method of instruction will be different than the dual-credit courses currently offered at WISD, Conner said. The situation proposed through the SFASU/LIT agreement will offer “a true college atmosphere,” he said, with face-to-face instructors.

Aside from helping high school students to better prepare for college, the program will make it possible for them to obtain associates degrees in a variety of disciplines ranging from health career pathways to welding.

Conner said representatives from the TLL Temple Foundation are helping with the planning stages and could possibly fund it.
He said all that WISD would be responsible to provide are the students for the program and “a shared vision of doing better for our kids.”

Custodial service nixed
The Board killed an agenda item that proposed using a third-party custodial service for the district. Representatives from Houston-based McLemore Building Maintenance were at the meeting to make a presentation about their firm.

The representatives gave specifics on hiring practices, training procedures and examples of some of the institutions they service. District business manager Cody Jarrott said the option of awarding a contract to a third-party service is something the administration has been considering for a while with the retirement of custodial director Bernard Collins.

Jarrott said he believed it to be the best option as opposed to hiring one person. He cited the fact that the firm does custodial work on a large scale in school districts as well as colleges and businesses.
McLemore would hire a project manager, and custodial employees in the district would become employees of McLemore, according to a representative.
Currently there are 30 custodial employees in the district. McLemore projections show that number would likely be cut in half, if they were awarded the contract.
Board member Richard Shaw said the proposal contained “a lot of information we’ve been hit with.”
“This is a big change that affects a lot of people,” he said.
Another board member, Josh McClure, stated concern for employees who would potentially be cut. “I am very, very concerned about every district employee and the families affected,” he said.
Conner said the employees have been aware for some time that changes are on the horizon. “We wouldn’t be doing this if we were satisfied with what we have currently,” he said.
Shaw suggested another meeting to examine the information closer, but board president Jimmy Tucker said “If we wait 30 days, it doesn’t change the fact that half of [existing custodial staff members] are leaving.”
Tucker asked if anyone had a motion to put forth for the contract’s approval. Bryan Shirley motioned for the approval, but no second was provided.

“Teachers of the Year” recognized
The Board recognized teachers from each one of the WISD campuses for the “Teacher of the Year” awards. Tracy Wilson, from the elementary campus; Melanie Spivey from Woodville Intermediate; Marsha Watts from the middle school and Earl Bryan from Woodville High School were given the honors.
Board members along with administration from the different WISD campuses gave praise to each of the educators for their passion and abilities. Bryan, a science teacher, was also named WISD’s “Teacher of the Year” at the annual Chamber of Commerce Banquet last weekend.

 

Other Business
During his monthly report, Conner gave some updates on the district-wide renovations taking place. He said the lighting replacement, on all WISD campuses, is 80% complete.
The HVAC work on the WHS campus is progressing, as well, with workers on site four days out of the week and working on Saturdays.
Conner voiced support on a bill before the Texas House of Representatives. House Bill 3, which was unveiled by Rep. Dan Huberty, a Houston Republican serving as chairman of the House Public Education Committee, proposes $9 billion toward increasing funding per student. The bill would also lower property tax rates by four cents.
Conner called it the best proposal he has seen in 38 years as an educator.
“I honestly feel like they are going to do something with school finance reform this year,” he said.

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2019 Dogwood Festival Princesses Announced

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The 76th Annual Tyler County Dogwood Festival is pleased to announce the Princesses for 2019. Pictured left to right: Hannah Balla, daughter of Brian and Charman Balla (Spurger); Emilee Grace James, daughter of Janay Gilbert and Roy James (Colmesneil); Madison Fondren, daughter of Mark and Kimen Johnson (Warren); Ashlyn Bailee Overstreet, daughter of Paul and Stefani Wade (Chester); and Kaitlyn Elise Odom, daughter of Trevor and Sarah Odom (Woodville).

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Counsel for group addresses city council

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By Chris Edwards
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WOODVILLE – Dallas Barrington, a Kountze-based attorney, spoke before the Woodville City Council at its Monday, March 11 meeting and asked city leaders for help on a matter that many.

Barrington, who works with the law firm of Roebuck, Thomas, Roebuck and Adams, is serving as legal counsel for the group Concerned Citizens of Tyler County. The group is opposed to the construction of a slaughterhouse that is to be located north of Woodville near the community of Doucette.

The facility, which was proposed in 2018 by East Texas Packing, LLC, has been the subject of debate and concern among Tyler County residents, some of whom allege that the company, as well as the City of Woodville, have not been transparent concerning its construction and with environmental issues surrounding it.

Barrington, whose presentation was on the meeting’s agenda as an informative item, asked the city leaders to reconsider a service agreement that was approved for East Texas Packing last June.

Barrington cited the fact that the agreement was entered into with the cooperation of city councilmembers and a mayor who are no longer serving.

Barrington referred to the facility as “an industrial packing plant very similar to what you would read about in The Jungle by Upton Sinclair.”

The service agreement, according to Barrington, was signed on Sept. 26, 2018 without an environmental impact study or investigation into the origin of the animals brought to the slaughterhouse. Furthermore, Barrington claimed that East Texas Packing, LLC is a non-existent entity.

A records search with the Secretary of State’s office shows a business registered under the name East Texas Packing Co., LLC, as of August 24, 2017, with a registered office street address in Woodville.

“These things need to be studied and given due care because it’s going to impact your people,” he said. Barrington urged the council to take the information he presented and create an agenda item in the future to allow for scrutiny of the agreement.

City Administrator Mandy Risinger said there has been some misunderstanding concerning the city’s agreement with East Texas Packing; that the city is nothing more than a utilities service provider to the site. “As a public utility, we don’t get to pick and choose our customers,” she said.

Risinger said that the city has no purview, ordinance-wise, on the property as it is outside the city limits. She said the relationship between the city and the company is strictly one of service provider to customer.

Updates on grants given
Risinger gave a couple of updates on grant monies awarded to the city during her monthly report.

She said the city is awaiting contracts from the Texas General Land Office for a $2 million grant it was awarded in February. That grant, which was from funds earmarked for disaster recovery from damages incurred through floods in 2016, will go toward streets and drainage projects.

Another grant award, in the amount of $293K, was awarded to the city through Hurricane Harvey disaster recovery funds and will be disbursed through the county.

During her report, Risinger also noted that Entergy Texas has begun the process of installing an automated metering system in the area. It will likely install these meters within the Woodville city limits in the summer, she said.

According to a press release from Entergy Texas, the deployment of the advanced metering system throughout its service area has a 2021 projected completion.

“The new technology will provide a great deal of value and a number of future benefits to customers, including improved outage detection, faster restoration response time” and more information to assist customers with decisions regarding energy use, the press release states.

Red Cross proclamation
Woodville Mayor Paula Jones presented a proclamation that marks March as “American Red Cross Month” in the city of Woodville. She urged citizens to support the organization and “its noble humanitarian mission.”

The proclamation was unanimously approved by council.

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‘Possibly suicidal’ driver stopped in Woodville

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By Chris Edwards
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WOODVILLE – Tyler County Sheriff’s deputies along with officers from the Woodville Police Department were able to locate a driver who, according to a tip, was possibly suicidal.

TCSO was acting on a tip they received from the Nacogdoches County Sheriff’s Office, which gave information on a “possibly suicidal subject, armed with a handgun,” and possibly traveling through Tyler County, according to TCSO investigator Brian Seales. The incident occurred on Friday, March 1.
The Nacogdoches agency also provided TCSO with a description of the subject’s vehicle along with registration information.

At approximately 1 p.m., TCSO deputies and city police officers were able to locate the vehicle, which was southbound on US Highway 69. They conducted an investigatory stop of the vehicle in the parking lot of Brookshire Brothers.

The deputies were able to conduct a welfare check on the driver, who was taken to be evaluated by mental health professionals.

Given the nature of the incident, authorities are not releasing the name of the driver. However, according to Seales, the stop was without incident and the driver was safely transported from the scene.

According to an article in the International Journal of Emergency Mental Health and Human Resilience, “Police officers are often the first responders to individuals in crisis; inherent in this situation is a risk assessment to determine whether the individual is at risk of harm to themselves or others.”

Another online publication on the topic, published by the advocacy group Mental Health America, cites the frequency which law enforcement officers find themselves coming into contact with individuals in psychiatric crises and that calls involving suicidal individuals are common.

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