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Woodville ISD offers students kudos for outstanding efforts

Kaylee-Allen

By Valerie Reddell
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Woodville ISD honored several students who have earned state or national recognition in athletic and academic contests during their April 23 meeting.

Kaylee Allen earned a perfect score on the ACT reading test, and her composite score place her in the 98th percentile of all students taking the test across the United States.

Theatrical Design Team Members - Amber Falcon, Joshua McNeil, Alexis Mitchell, Hannah Richardson and Individual Set Design competitor - Benjamin Wilson advanced to the state competition. The Theatrical Design Team has since being recognized placed first at state.

In sports, Woodville is also sending a boys' doubles team to the state tournament and four students competed in the state powerlifting tournament.

The board also reviewed financial reports that showed the district has received $9,496,430.66 (76 percent of the revenue budgeted for the current fiscal year), which is slightly more than $3 million under budget. On the expense side, the district has spent 62.42 percent of the amount budgeted for the year.

Trustees approved a 3.5 percent salary increase for all district employees for the 2018-2019 fiscal year.

Conner explained that the actual amount of the raise is calculated using the median salary for all staff members in that classification, rather than 3.5 percent of each individual's current salary. In other words, all food service employees will see an increase equal to 3.5 percent of the median salary earned in that department.

The increase for administrators will be calculated based on the average daily rate for teachers.

The district will begin is main push to fill any vacancies for the coming year next week, since the deadline to renew contracts is Friday.

The board selected E3 as its design-build contractor for energy efficiency and building improvements. The Austin-based firm partners with the Texas Association of School Boards for energy efficiency and conservation programs.

County marks hospital week, names architect for courthouse restoration

hospital week

By Valerie Reddell
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County officials opened the April 25 session of Commissioners Court by urging all residents to express their appreciation for the Tyler County Hospital's vital role in providing access to care in our community as well as the local jobs and other vital contributions made by the organization, its employees and other partners in delivering quality care.

All four commissioners made simultaneous motions to adopt the resolution designating May 6 to 12 as National Hospital Week in Tyler County, with this year's theme of "Caring is our Calling."

"We'll leave it to the Deputy Clerk to decide who gets the official nod for making in the motion in the court minutes.

That unanimous support also accompanied the selection of Karl Komatsu Architectural firm to represent Tyler County's interests before the Texas Historical Commission related to maintenance and rehabilitation of the courthouse.

County Judge Jacques Blanchette told commissioners that Komatsu has been a member of the appointed commission.

"He's very knowledgeable about the inner workings and activities of the commission," Blanchette said.

"There will be a contract forthcoming, right now I just want to take action making that official."

In a similar move, Pct. 1 Commissioner Martin Nash said the county should pursue some sort of legal counsel or investigator to gather the information used to form the basis of actions that have already been taken.

"It's a wise idea to make sure that if we have to defend ourselves, we have some type of defense," Blanchette said.

Those concerns have come about after a visit from a member of the THC staff who joined county officials and employees and seemed to approve of and give consent for repairs that including the removal of the bell tower and cupola as well as future removal of the stucco that covers the original brick façade of the courthouse.

After that work commenced, THC seemed to signal some concerns about Tyler County's plans, and removed their staff person from the project.

After a short discussion, the court reached a consensus to schedule an executive session for the next meeting to discuss whether the county needs to retain counsel.

With assistance from County Auditor Jackie Skinner, the court opened bids for road material, culverts, bridge materials and cracked fuel oil for the road and bridge departments. No action to approve bids was taken.

The court also unanimously approved the purchase of a 2019 Chevrolet 2500 HD Silverado pickup for Pct. 4 from Caldwell Country Chevrolet through the buy board.

Former TDCJ staffer begins 6 month sentence

By Valerie Reddell
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Victoria Hart Pryor, 46, of Jasper, a former correctional officer for Texas Department of Criminal Justice was booked into the Tyler County jail this week to begin serving a six-month sentence for violating the civil rights of a person in custody by sexual contact.
Pryor was first charged in August 2016 for incidents that occurred at the Gib Lewis Unit in Woodville between September and November 2015, following an investigation by TDCJ's Office of the Inspector General.

When an investigator interviewed the inmate, he said that he and Pryor worked together in the kitchen and had a relationship that lasted more than a year.

Pryor later admitted to having sex with the inmate on several occasions in the fall of 2015.
Pryor has been assigned to the Plane State Jail unit in Liberty County.

Castillo Children’s Center planning for June opening

By Valerie Reddell
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Tony Castillo announced last week to the Woodville Rotary Club that the Castillo Children's Center — a new company he founded with his brother — plans to open in June. The center will be located on Nellius St., at the site formerly occupied by the Sinclair Children's Center which closed in 2014.

During his 30-year career of working with abused and neglected children, Castillo has run several facilities, including Sinclair for a portion of the time it operated in Woodville.

In 2008, under Castillo's leadership, Sinclair had a 90 percent success rate. Sinclair was a residential treatment facility for abused and neglected children between the ages of 5 and 17. The level of care needed by those youngsters ranges from minimal to intensive, and just short of what is offered at a psychiatric hospital.

Success at facilities like Sinclair and what Castillo has planned for the new center, is measured by a child advancing to a lower level of care.

Since achieving those successes often meant a child was uprooted and sent to a facility in another community, Sinclair expanded. The center purchased the athletic facility for the old Woodville High School and converted it to a 16-bed dorm.

"That allowed kids to stay in the community, churches and school system where they got better," Sinclair said.
Castillo said Sinclair's closure left the community with a bad impression.

"(The new center) will have my name on the side of the building," Castillo said, indicating he's willing to stake his personal reputation on the facility's success.

The Castillo Center will be licensed for children from 5 to 17, but will focus on 8- to 14-year-olds.

He expects children to begin moving to Woodville in June, then work up to 34 available beds in the first three years. Eventually, Castillo has set his sights on housing 45 children.

Castillo said he will be making contact with 20 former Sinclair staffers. Ultimately, the business will provide 45 new jobs in the community, with an annual payroll of $2 million.

Prior to its opening, public hearings will be held to give residents an opportunity to learn more about the new business and have any questions answered. Castillo has met with Woodville's Mayor Pro Tem Joyce Wilson to discuss the new venture. He regularly meets with Woodville ISD Superintendent Glen Conner, as Castillo is an elected trustee for the school district.

Initially, newly arrived residents at the center will participate in a self-paced school program using a laptop at the Center, Castillo explained.

"We will try to transition them to public school," he added.

Castillo also plans to partner with local youth sports times just as Sinclair did prior to its closure, providing another bonus to the community.

Once a center resident enrolls with WISD, Castillo said staff members will accompany their charges onto the campus in the same ratio needed at the center, to help children be successful on campus and address any issues that could arise.

Castillo expects the center's relationship with the district to be a positive for the community as a whole.
When Sinclair closed, WISD lost 40 students and an estimated $300,000 in revenue due to the lower weighted average daily attendance.

Castillo pointed out that the state pays a higher rate for students with identified special needs.

Rotarians with professional backgrounds in education say the classroom environment won't change for existing students.

Disruptions or disciplinary interventions occur every day in most schools, according to Rochelle Springfield, a former high school principal.

"In reality, kids with some of the same issues sit next to your kids at school now," Castillo said. "They just haven't been identified yet."

Another difference for the typical WISD student once students from the Castillo center join them on campus will be that staff from the center are trained to intervene and assist educators with disruptions or other negative behaviors.

Woodville businessman Fred Sullivan voiced his support for the facility.

"For years, Sinclair was an asset to the community. I look forward to it being reopened," Sullivan said.
A date for the public hearing for licensure of the Castillo Children's Center will be announced in the Tyler County Booster when those arrangements are finalized.

Cleaning up the county

By Caitlin McAlister
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Tyler County has a litter problem.

Every day, people throw trash out onto roads all over the county. A local movement, Keep Tyler County Clean, has recently begun trying to address the issue of garbage thrown out alongside roadways in Tyler County.

"It's a noticeable problem unique to East Texas," John Wilson, founder of Keep Tyler County Clean, said. "Other areas in Texas are doing better than we are. It doesn't have to be this way."

Wilson, a Woodville resident, began Keep Tyler County Clean after taking an interest in the issue of litter along county roadways.

"The county and city don't have the resources," he said. "They basically don't have the money or the manpower to pick up trash." He said that the state picks up litter along highways twice a year, but that those areas become dirty again soon after being cleaned up.

Wilson said that the amount of litter along some roadways is excessive.

"The Rotary Club picked up the Old Livingston Highway — a portion of it," he said. "They picked up 32 bags (of trash) in a one mile portion."

Wilson said that Keep Tyler County Clean wants to educate people in the community about the impact that littering has on the county. As part of this effort, he has sent letters to schools and businesses in the county, asking them to raise awareness of the issue.

"This is what people see when they visit our county," he said. "This is their first impression when they drive into it. One of the taglines I've been putting into the letters is 'throw it out at home, not on the road.'"

Wilson said that local residents should also be conscious of the impact that trash has on the environment.

"Everyone who enjoys fishing in our local waterways – that's where this trash is going," he said. "What happens when it's thrown out, is your highway mowing crews come along and mulch it into smaller pieces, which are easier to carry downstream. Those go down tributaries, which are creeks, into the Neches River, into our local lakes, and into the Gulf, and it's washing up on our beaches. Much of the trash found on Texas beaches starts off thrown out on the side of the highway."

Wilson said that not all of the trash that winds up alongside roads is thrown out deliberately.

"Another thing that we stress is for people who drive trucks not to throw trash in the back of their trucks," he said. He said that lighter pieces of garbage, such as empty feed sacks or Styrofoam cups, will often blow out of the backs of pickup trucks at highway speeds. "That's where a lot of it comes from, is blowout."

Wilson said he believes that bad habits may contribute to the amount of litter being thrown out in the county.

"I don't know whether it's because we have more population or it's become acceptable," he said. "I suspect it's just become accepted, that the bar has been lowered. I think people become jaded at seeing it to a point where they don't notice it anymore. Once you change the habit and become aware of it, it's an easy change to make."

Wilson said that Keep Tyler County Clean has been encouraging people to help clean up roadways in the county, either by picking up trash along particular roads on their own or through the state's Adopt-a-Highway program. He said that only a few sections of highway in the county have been officially adopted.

"Pretty much everything is available for adoption," he said. He said interested individuals can adopt a section of highway through the Texas Department of Transportation. "They will call the local TxDOT office and fill out paperwork to adopt a highway. Their requirement is that it be cleaned quarterly. Once you start cleaning it, the neighbors take notice and the cleanliness begets more cleanliness."

Although there is currently no official means of adopting roads other than highways, Wilson said Keep Tyler County Clean also encourages people to clean up county roads. He said those wishing to do so can announce their intention to clean up a particular area through the Keep Tyler County Clean Facebook page.

"We would like to model it after the Adopt-a-Highway program, where people adopt a section that's in need and clean it quarterly," he said.

Keep Tyler County Clean recently participated in the city of Woodville's Spring Clean on March 17.

"We are trying to get an avenue for people to work together instead of being individually aware, to get involved," Wilson said.
Since Keep Tyler County Clean began six weeks ago, the movement has been growing, Wilson said.

"We have about 50 to 60 volunteers," he said. "It's growing. We're trying to make it a county-wide effort. The response has been good. The more people get involved, the better our county will be for it."

For more information, visit the Keep Tyler County Clean Facebook page or contact John Wilson at 409-283-5377.

WPD investigating death at sober house

By Valerie Reddell
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Last Wednesday, Woodville police went to a residence in the 400 block of Pine Street at the request of family members who had lost contact with a 22-year-old man who had recently celebrated 60 days of sobriety. Ethan Ray Tiner had been staying at the Pine Street residence while continuing treatment for alcohol addiction.

Shortly after entering the residence, police found the body of Ethan Ray Tiner of Livingston.

An obituary placed in the Polk County Enterprise indicates that Tiner died Monday.

Woodville Police Captain Mike McCully said his department received a request Wednesday night to check Tiner's welfare.

McCulley said that investigators did not see any indication of suspicious circumstances. An autopsy was conducted in Beaumont which will provide investigators with a cause of death.

Friends of the Tiner family have said that Ethan recently began taking seizure medication.

It will likely take several weeks for the medical examiner in Beaumont to complete the necessary testing.
Meanwhile, family members have planned a funeral service for 2 p.m. Wednesday at Cochran Funeral Home in Livingston. In lieu of flowers, the family asks for donations in Ethan's memory to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson's Research

Police are continuing to investigate what type of business was being operated at the facility.
Woodville police are continuing to interview witnesses to determine when Tiner was last seen.
"We are reaching out to appropriate state officials to determine who is supposed to be supervising activities at that location," McCulley said.

Authorities are continuing to delve into who operated the group home, but it does not appear that any licensure is required to use a residence at a "sober living homes."

"We are trying to determine what requirements there were," McCulley said. "The death may not have been avoidable and it doesn't look like any type of foul play. Several factors are going to have to be considered."

McCulley said he had no information on whether other clients were continuing their stay at that residence."

Cypress Lakes Lodge is located one mile east of this location on Hwy. 287 (Pine St.), a licensed treatment facility for addiction.
Cypress Lakes Clinical Director Jordanna Cook told the Booster on Thursday that her facility is not affiliated with the residence where Tiner died.

"We are saddened to hear the news," Cook said. "It is the hardest part of working with people struggling with addiction."

Cook added that she could not comment on whether Tiner had been a client at her facility.