Posted by : March 23, 2017| On :
By Denise York
The News Staff Writer
TOOL–Tool Elementary School Principal Christa Calhoun and Malakoff Elementary Principal Ronny Snow received Region 7 awards in recognition of High Progress as Title 1 schools.
Federal Programs Specialist Vicki Weatherford presented the awards. Snow was also recognized as High Performing which means the school scored in the top 25 percent in performance.
Snow was also presented with an award from the Governor of the State of Texas in recognition of his being named District Educator of the Year by his alma mater Sam Houston State University. Snow received that honor at the university during an award ceremony March 4.
Superintendent Perry commented what an honor it was to receive such a distinction from one’s alma mater. “We are very proud of Mr. Snow,” he said.
The board saw a demonstration from Pasha French’s fourth grade class who recently learned about electrical circuits. Killian Ireland, Anna Svoboda and Alek Green presented a hands-on demonstration of what they have learned.
Superintendent Perry read for the first time, Update 107, an update to district policy. He gave the board what he called the “cliff notes” version and the board members were provided with the entire update.
Notable changes were in the gifts section which allows the superintendent to accept gifts on behalf of the district unless they are real property or have a condition attached to them, fund-raising which reinforces the requirement for parent-teacher groups and organizations to have principal approval in advance for all fund raising efforts. Perry pointed out that this has been an issue in the past with the school not being aware of a fund-raiser in progress.
The other portion Perry expounded on regarded compulsory attendance. In the State of Texas under §25.085, compulsory attendance applies to students who are at least six years old as of September 1 of the applicable school year. The law requires a student to attend public school until the student’s 19th birthday, unless the student is exempt under §25.086.
Exemptions currently include children who are enrolled in a private or parochial school, children who are eligible to participate in a special education program and cannot be served by the district, children who have a physical or mental condition of a temporary or remedial nature and are recuperating or children who are expelled. (There are others. For full information refer to §25.086, available online.)
For students who are homeschooled, the district requires a dated letter on file from the parent or guardian stating such. Perry added that if the district has evidence that a child is not being educated, the district can then investigate and pursue legal action to compel attendance. There must be a good reason, Perry added. The board will have time to review this update and vote on it during the next board meeting.
In other business, the board:
• approved the district calendar for the 2017-2018 school year with school starting Aug. 28 and ending May 25. May 29 is listed as a possible bad weather make-up day.
• noted current enrollment is 1,302, attendance at 94 percent down from 96 percent last year. Perry noted they would have to do well this last 10 weeks in order to get back up to 96 percent. Pervasive illness during the third six weeks (including closing one day), caused the drop in attendance numbers,
• approved five struck-off properties to be sold in the Henderson County Sheriff’s sale May 2,
• made plans for board members to attend summer leadership institute,
• approved Superintendent Perry to serve on the Region 7 ESC Regional Advisory Committee 2017-18.
Posted by : March 16, 2017| On :
By Pearl Cantrell
The News Staff Writer
MALAKOFF–The Malakoff City Council is going ahead with the purchase of a Storm Warning Siren to be installed on the north side of the city at the water treatment plant. The council agreed Tuesday, March 13 to seek monetary support from the Economic Development Corporation. The siren system, including installation and computer software, totals $51,000.
The city conducted a test of the system at 2 p.m. to insure the siren can be heard by anyone outside within a two-mile radius. This was one of four actions taken after a lengthy executive session.
The council also named Interim Police Chief Floyd Thomas the official police chief. He received congratulations all around.
Council members agreed to the reformation of the Malakoff Fire Department. More applications from volunteers willing to serve are still being accepted for another two weeks, at which time the council expects to hold a special meeting to interview from the list of volunteers, suitable candidates for fire chief and fire marshal, Mayor Pro Tem Tim Trimble said. Mayor Delois Pagitt was absent. Thus far, the city has received five applications, Trimble said. Applications are available at city hall and should be returned there once they are filled out.
The very full agenda also contained the approval of $7,300 in EDC funds to help pay for $10,000 worth of improvements at the ball fields.
Softball and Baseball Association representative Jason Hayes reviewed the three projects for the funding, including: clearing up a sewer issue, making repairs to lights and putting a concrete pad under the spectators’ bleachers.
Hayes said the organization was also seeking grant funding to assist with the installation of lights for field 4, replace or repair scoreboards and replace the backstop on Kilman Field.
In addition, the council renewed a five-year lease agreement with the association for the use of the ball fields through 2022 at a dollar per year, payable on each March 1.
“We welcome those big tournaments that bring in retail sales to Malakoff,” Trimble said. “So, we’re glad to help out.”
The council also agreed to change three items in a proposed service agreement with Star Harbor for wastewater treatment, at the request of Star Harbor.
The amended agreement must now return to Star Harbor’s city attorney and then to their council for a vote and signing before it takes effect. Earlier that day, the Star Harbor City Council also met and two people from that community attended the Malakoff City Council meeting held that evening.
Funds the Star Harbor community held in escrow for January and February’s billing, rather than pay toward the proffered service agreement, motivated Malakoff to negotiate, with Star Harbor Mayor, Walter Bingham, told The News by phone interview.
Posted by : March 9, 2017| On :
The News Staff Reports
ATHENS—Henderson County Sheriff Botie Hillhouse reports the arrest of four suspects involving auto theft and drug warrant charges.
Ronnie Waters, 53, was arrested at an address on State Highway 274, where a backhoe and trailer that were reported stolen were discovered. He was also found to be in possession of methamphetamines. The state jail felonies are punishable up to two years in prison and a $10,000 find.
In similar action, narcotics investigator Brad Beddingfield and deputy Kyle Pochobradsky arrived at a residence on CR 1504 to serve an outstanding felony arrest warrant for Brunswick Jones, 45, wanted for manufacturing and delivering controlled substances. During the arrest, more narcotics was located in the home under search warrant. While officers were there, two men arrived. Both were in possession of illegal drugs and were taken in. They are Michael Barker, 35 and James Sockwell, 36. Sockwell was charged with possession of meth, and both men were also charged with possession of marijuana.
“It was a busy day for our team.” Hillhouse said. “Thanks to the alert, careful and persistent work of these deputies and the growing cooperation from the community, we are making a difference.”
Posted by : March 9, 2017| On :
ATHENS–The Athens Hornets boys basketball team had a good season, finishing with a 25-7 record and playing in the regional quarterfinal playoff match.
Lone senior Jabrile Richardson was named to the second team on the All District 18-4A squad, while juniors Miles Koehler and Gary Lyons were named to the first team. Junior Javiry Bowman was named to the second team. Junior Chris Taylor was named to the honorable mention team.
Academic all-district team members were senior Brandon Arroyo, junior Adrian Givens, Lyons, Taylor and junior Alec Scott.
The Most Valuable Player of the district went to Mexia senior Shemar High, and Offensive Player of the Year went to Fairfield senior E.J. Ransom.
Defensive Player of the Year went to Madisonville junior Tommy Holiday and Fairfield junior Kolby Adams was named Newcomer of the Year.
Complete District 18-4A awards were:
MVP: Shemar High, Sr., Mexia.
Offensive Player of the Year: E.J. Ransom, Sr., Fairfield.
Defensive Player of the Year: Tommy Holiday, Jr., Madisonville.
Newcomer of the Year: Kolby Adams, Jr., Fairfield.
All District First Team
Malcolm King, Sr., Mexia; Miles Koehler, Jr., Athens; Gary Lyons, Jr., Athens; Sam Bennett, Jr., Madisonville; Jailyn Tatum, Jr., Fairfield; Akeem Jackson, Sr., Fairfield; Eric Rhodes, Sr., Palestine.
All District Second Team
June Rischer, Sr., Fairfield; Kasey Williamson, Jr., Madisonville; Chris Mathews, So., Mexia; Javiry Bowman, Jr., Athens; Jabrile Richardson , Sr., Athens; Kadarius Spurlock, Sr., Palestine; Jaise Oliver, So., Fairfield.
Kolbe Branch, Jr., Fairfield; Nick Porter, Jr., Madisonville; Deontae McAdams, Sr., Madisonville; Kendall Moffett, Jr., Madisonville; Cornelius Merchant, Jr., Madisonville; Travion Carter, Jr., Mexia; Davion Carter, Jr., Mexia; Tykieston Gamble, So., Mexia; Chris Taylor, Jr., Athens.
Athens: Brandon Arroyo, Sr; Adrian Givens, Jr.; Lyons, Jr.; Taylor, Jr.; Alec Scott, Jr.
Fairfield: Jaise Oliver, So.; James Reed, Jr.
Madisonville: Tyrese Brown, Fr.; Sam Bennett, Jr.; Kasey Williamson, Jr.
Mexia: Travion Carter, Jr.; Davion Carter, Jr.
Posted by : March 2, 2017| On :
By Russell Slaton
The News Correspondent
ATHENS–Malakoff Rotary members met Feb. 21 in Athens to hear Faith in Action Outreach’s executive director, fellow Rotarian Teri Caswell, give a report about the group’s Day Resource Center, which has been helping the homeless in Athens since it opened on Dec. 5, 2016.
Serving the homeless population – along with those who are on the brink of homelessness – needs extra help from the community, Caswell told Rotarians. “Since we opened our doors, the number of people we are serving continues to grow each day, so the cost of staying open is growing, too,” Caswell said.
“We need funds to keep our doors open so we can continue to serve the poor and needy in our area,” Caswell continued. “We know that God has called us to open this mission, and we know that He will provide the funds through His people – YOU! Please help us to help others.”
The fundraising drive is hosted on a GoFundMe web page, where online donations can be made. FIAO would like to reach its fundraising goal by March 15, Caswell said.
The FIAO Athens Day Resource Center, which is located at the corner of Maple and Pearl streets in northwest Athens, operates from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. The center offers a safe place to use the Internet, take a shower, wash clothing, eat a warm meal, or get a coat or a blanket, along with toiletries and food items.
Several area businesses, organizations and individuals have already stepped up to the plate to help Faith in Action’s Athens Day Resource Center, Caswell said. Clothing is provided by Athens Thrift Store, while Baker Brothers and Randy Featherston donated plumbing services, including a hot water heater and finished-out shower and bathroom facilities. Acme Brick also has provided new industrial carpeting.
Malakoff Rotarians also brought donated items to Feb. 21’s meeting, including canned goods and Valentine’s Day candy. Further community service will come during Spring Break, when First Baptist Church of Athens’ will scrape, paint and perform other chores at the Athens Day Resource Center.
Posted by : February 9, 2017| On :
By Denise York
The News Staff Writer
ATHENS–Athens Chamber of Commerce President Tara Rigby has a passion for connecting people and building community.
“We were created to live in community and I want people to know that I am here for them to build on our strenghths and partner together as different entities, young and old, to mend fences, build bridges and improve our commmunity,” said Rigby. And that is reflected in the mission statement “Serving to build a better community.”
Rigby was born and raised along the central coast of California, graduated from Santa Cruz High School, received her A.S. degree in Accountancy in Aptos and her B.S. degree in Business Administration from California State University in Fresno. During that time, she also studied abroad in London.
She moved to the Nashville, Tenn. area as part of a church planting team where she met and married her husband Lance, an accomplished musician and artist who specializes in wood carving. When their eldest daughter was nine months old, the couple relocated to Lacey, Wash. where they lived for 2 years and from there to Shelton, Wash. on the Olympic Peninsula side of the Puget Sound where they lived for 10 years.
Lance had family in Eustace and Tara in other areas of Texas and the couple visited the East Texas area frequently before moving in June, 2015. Rigby said “We had intentions of moving for some time, but things never seemed to line up right. In 2015, things came together.”
While in Shelton, one of Rigby’s major accomplishments was to found the Pioneer Community Food Bank. She was able to bring together resources and like-minded people to establish the food bank, which still exists to this day.
Her most recent position was as Operations Manager for the Cain Center until it was taken over by the city and closed for major renovations. In that position, she worked with a great staff of varied talents, she said, and they did great things as many community events were held there.
As President of the Chamber, Rigby sees herself as a member of a solid organization with a board of directors, 20 Ambassadors and many dedicated members. Kristina Jacobson serves as the Office Manager for the Chamber and together they make a dynamic team.
Rigby is impressed by the history and culture of the East Texas area and she said, “Athens has such a rich history and such great people. I love to get out there and meet our chamber members and learn about them and their businesses. There are so many citizens dedicated to improving the community and helping others. It’s really a special place and people are so welcoming and friendly.”
Membership in the chamber is up over 315 and she hopes to get to know them all, a few at a time as she visits businesses. She sees the Chamber as a resource, to partner with the city, county, college, schools, EDC and local business to strengthen the community and put on events that benefit the community. Some of the popular events include the “Taste of Athens’ which will be held Feb. 25, the “Go Texan” Rodeo held at the fairground, the farm and ranch tour and the Ladies Night Out in November.
She has some new ideas such as yard signs that can be put out to honor the monthly large and small business of the month and recognition for local teachers.
There is a lot to do but with her talent for bringing people together and her genuine love for people, the road ahead looks bright. As she says, her door is always open to the members of the community and she hopes to serve.
Posted by : February 2, 2017| On :
By Rachel Williams
The News Correspondent
ATHENS–The Athens City Council named an architectural/engineering firm to renovate the Cain Civic Aquatic Center Jan. 23. PGAL Architects, headquartered in Houston with offices in Dallas and Austin and founded in Texas in 1946, delivers international expertise with 11 regional offices and a staff of more than 200 architects, engineers, planners, and designers. The firm was named to the project after a qualifications-based assessment. The council members unanimously agreed PGAL Architects will provide the full complement of specialists and consultants to bring these facilities up-to-date. City Manager Philip Rodriguez is also authorized to execute an agreement, pending city attorney review.
The council also ordered an election for May 6 for Place 1, now held by Monte Montgomery and Mayor, held by Jerry Don Vaught. The city will share the costs of the election with Athens ISD by mutual agreement with Henderson County providing election services, and conducting Election Day voting.
Council members also held a public hearing on amendments proposed for mobile food vendors, subject to development standards and applicable zoning regulations, followed by a first reading of an ordinance pertaining to mobile food vendors. The city’s development services staff reviewed ordinances being used in other cities, including rules about restrooms, trash receptacles, proximity to brick-and-mortar restaurants and other items. Concerns about the disposal of grease and water was voiced. The item is expected to be listed for a second reading at a future council meeting. The next one is set for 5:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 13.
The council also considered a first reading of an ordinance which would provide entry level police officers a hiring incentive. The ordinance proposes offering new officers a $1,500 signing bonus on the first day of work and a second $1,500 payment before the end of the first year of service.
In other business, council members:
• appointed Keri Wilmeth to the Planning and Zoning Board.
• adopted a resolution outlining a legislative agenda. In general, the collection of statements support policies that protect “home rule” and local control, encourage the state to support its mandates with resources and promotes effective local governmental processes, city staffer Ryan Adams explained. The resolution also directs the city manager or his designee to act or represent the agenda when corresponding with elected officials in Austin.
The Texas 2017 regular legislative session began on Jan. 10 and will continue through May 29. About 6,000 bills are expected to be proposed during the 140 days the state representatives meet every two years. The legislative agenda will help lawmakers understand the Athens perspective and enable them to act on their constituents’ behalf. Representatives include Lance Gooden in the House and Robert Nichols in the Senate.
• Approved the purchase by the Athens Fire Department of a new lightweight model brush truck running slightly over budget at $96,489. Fire Chief John McQueary said the vehicle meets all design specifications.
• Approved a request from the Athens Economic Development Corporation for a letter of support for the City of Athens to be included within the Foreign Trade Zone.
• Authorized a lease agreement with Steven Eddy for T-Hanger No. 1 at Athens Municipal Airport.
• Authorized the city manager to execute a contract with Stantec for street improvements in support of FutureMatrix, Inc, using 2016 Texas Capital Fund.
Posted by : February 2, 2017| On :
Special to The News
TYLER–A 35-year-old Trinidad, Texas man has been sentenced to federal prison for child pornography violations in the Eastern District of Texas, announced Acting U.S. Attorney Brit Featherston Jan. 25 in a press release.
Mikael Johnson pleaded guilty on Oct. 11, 2016, to distributing child pornography and was sentenced to 140 months in federal prison by U.S. District Judge Ron Clark on Jan. 24, 2017.
According to information presented in court, on Dec. 14, 2015, Johnson knowingly sent another person child pornography by using the Internet, digital services that he owned and a social media application. Following an investigation, federal agents obtained and executed a search warrant at Johnson’s residence on Jan. 7, 2016. More than 600 images and videos containing child pornography were located and seized during the search. Johnson was arrested on that day and a federal grand jury returned an indictment on Jan. 20, 2016 charging him with federal child exploitation violations.
This case was prosecuted as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice. Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov. [external link]
This case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Marisa Miller and U.S. Department of Justice Criminal Division Trial Attorney Amy Larson.
Posted by : January 26, 2017| On :
The News Staff Reports
MALAKOFF–Malakoff High School senior and member of the “Pride of Malakoff High School Band” Julia Walden, has been chosen for the 2017 Association of Texas Small School Bands (ATSSB) All-State Band.
More than 9,000 high school band students across Texas auditioned in 22 regions for a place in their respective all-region bands. The top chairs in each region advanced to one of five area auditions in the state. Of those 2,222 students, only 295 were selected for all-state honors.
Walden plays the flute under the direction of Band Director Chad Bentley and is also a private student of Sue Bugg. This is her first time to perform as a member of the ATSSB All-State Band.
Walden is the daughter of Curtis and Tawna Walden of Malakoff and enjoys playing in the East Texas Youth Orchestra as well as performing as a part of the Malakoff Theater Troupe. Her other interests include Journalism.
Bentley, who in his high school days was one of only five others who made All-State Band from Malakoff, said, “We are extremely proud of Julia and all she has accomplished. She has worked very hard for many years and deserves this honor.”
The ATSSB All-State Bands will meet in rehearsals in San Antonio from Feb. 8-11 and present a concert on Saturday, Feb. 11 in the Lila Cockrell Theatre of the Henry B. Gonzales Convention Center. Joseph Missal of Oklahoma State University will be the clinician-conductor. The symphonic band will premiere a piece by Johnnie Vinson, commissioned by ATSSB for the event.
Posted by : January 26, 2017| On :
The News Staff Reports
ATHENS–Henderson County Sheriff Botie Hillhouse reports the arrest of three people in a drug ring in Athens Jan. 20.
Investigators have been eyeing the operation for about three months, Hillhouse told The News, before moving in with a search warrant last Friday afternoon.
Stephen Duane Roberts, 44; Elisha Marie Jones, 31; and Jason Denard Donnell, 41; were charged with first degree drug felonies upon finding at their Williams Street residence a large amount of methamphetamine, along with crack cocaine and controlled substances, Xanax and Ecstasy.
“This was a major drug-dealing operation,” Hillhouse said. “Our team got the information and with help of other law enforcement officers were able to shut them down.”
Investigators counted 36 grams of meth, two grams of crack cocaine, 28 grams of Xanax and 15 grams of Ecstasy, Hillhouse reported.
Narcotics investigators Josh Rickman and Brad Beddingfield were the lead in this investigation and swore out affidavits before Henderson County Court at Law Judge Scott Williams to obtain the search warrant for the residence.
Officers helping in the execution of the warrant included Chief Deputy Kevin Halbert, Captain David Jones, investigators Cayce Bosher, Brad Gray, Jeremy Rose, Robert Powers, Jessica Halbert and Jerry Corder, along with Precinct 1 Constable Kay Langford and detectives from the Athens Police Department.
Bail for the trio totaled $650,000 with a history of prior drug arrests. “Getting them in jail and keeping them there until they can be brought to trial sends the right message to other dealers and users in this community,” Hillhouse said.
Roberts and Jones were charged with three counts each of manufacturing and delivery of controlled substances in various amounts, with bonds totaling $275,000 each. Donnell was charged with possession of a controlled substance not less than a gram or more than four grams with bond set at $100,000.
“Henderson County is no place to be making, selling or using illegal drugs.,” Hillhouse stated. “I am committed to clean up this county and so are my fellow officers and judiciary.”
If convicted, Roberts and Jones face up to 99 years in prison but no less than five. Donnell faces felony possession sentence up to 10 years and no less than two, if convicted.
“These folks were selling poison that destroys lives,” Hillhouse said. “With them off the streets, hopefully one child, one mother, one father, one family will not fall into a life of addiction and pain.”