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Posts published in August 2014

Saving the Battleship

DEER PARK–Representative Wayne Smith (R, TX148th) announced alongside members of the Battleship TEXAS Foundation and members of the San Jacinto Historical Advisory Board that Anheuser-Busch generously donated $20,000 to the Battleship TEXAS Foundation on Thursday.

In 1948, the legislature permanently anchored the Battleship TEXAS near Buffalo Bayou and the Houston Ship Channel at the San Jacinto Battleground State Historic Site. This year the Battleship celebrated its 100th anniversary by honoring the battleship, her legendary history, and paid tribute to the surviving crew members who proudly served on the ship during World War II.

“Our area is fortunate to be the home to several of the most remarkable and interesting landmarks in the state: the San Jacinto Battleground, Monument, Museum and the Battleship TEXAS,” said Rep. Smith. “As a veteran, I’m proud to support preserving this historical treasure as a symbol of our nation’s military history and I want to thank Anheuser-Busch for recognizing the importance of donating to the preservation of this magnificent ship.”

While the Battleship has taken on a lot of repairs in the past few years, Rep. Smith remains committed to raising funds to repair and hopefully one day dry berth the TEXAS in its current location.

Both the state and federal entities, who are responsible for the ship’s well-being, are moving forward with a repair initiative to improve the ship’s overall sustainability and keep her afloat until more funds can be raised to permanently dry berth the ship.

Thursday, a special crew of restorationists and machinists were repairing the 40 m.m. antiaircraft weapons while answering questions of visitors.

“I want to recognize and thank the numerous individuals and organizations for their generous and continued support of this project,+h said Rep. Smith. “I also want to thank Governor Perry for his leadership in appointing members of the local community to the Advisory Board as they have had a big hand in supporting this cause with me. Jimmy Burke and Calvin Mundinger both former Mayors of Deer Park and Baytown have a long intimate relationship with the Battleship and I believe it is imperative that we continue to keep our local leaders and community involved in the preservation of this ship so that our future generations will be able to visit and continue to enjoy this national treasure like we have been blessed to do.” Smith said.

To learn more or to make a donation, please visit www.BattleshipTEXAS.org

Representative Wayne Smith represents Texas House District 128, including Baytown, Deer Park, La Porte, Crosby, Highlands, Morgan’s Point and a portion of Pasadena.

Crosby hosts gala art show

CROSBY – A piano played and fountains of chocolate ran as local dilettante viewed the works of local artists inside the Crosby Community Center Friday between 5:00 p.m. and 8. Aesthete were treated to taste and visual artistry as well as fine accompaniment of music.

This year’s connoisseur’s treat were not only visuals of oil and tempera but also statues and carvings accented by a solid wooden piece replica of the “Sacrament of the Last Supper” made by a Prisoner of War prior to World War II in a wooden medium with wood fragments finely carved to resemble Leonardo Da Vinci’s 15th Century 15 by 29 feet masterpiece. The most reproduced religious image of all time that portrays indefinable emotions.Malcolm Butler purchased the meter wide replica about 50 years ago in Occupied Germany. The displayed art will be visible until Friday of this week. Also included were the hand carved works of Jim Logsdon, Doug Humphrey and Bill Fehr.

Crosby, Huffman New Educators feted

CROSBY – The Crosby-Huffman Chamber of Commerce hosted their annual New Educator’s Luncheon last Thursday at the David H. McNerney American Legion Post #658 in which the Chamber members contribute about $21,000 to fete, donate to and show off the bright minds that come to challenge and stimulate the indigenous young minds of school students.

Generally, it is an expense for the Chamber and membership that is offset by the importance of the Chamber’s value in education, and can only be afforded if the local public shops locally.

Main sponsors that should be recognized for tremendous contribution are Community Resource Credit Union, Crawfish Shak, Crosby Church, Crosby Office Supplies and Bayou City Wings cooked. For example, Crosby Church has donated school supplies totalling over $200,000 to local schools.

This year, Dr. Cathy Kemper, Chairperson of the Education Committee of the Chamber, Vice President of Learning at Lee College, made the introductions of the school Superintendents. From her 33 years of teaching in higher education she said, “You will never realize the impact you will make on each and everyone of your students. I want you to realize that this Chamber of Commerce will always support you.”

Becky Shifert of Community Resource Credit Union emphasised the importance of education to local business.

Benny Soileau, Superintendent of Huffman ISD spoke of a renovation project going on at Ben Bowen Early Childhood Center, a $4 M Project, from the fund balance from a frugal board and administrative staff. Then he introduced his board and administrative staff before new personnel.

Dr. Soileau outlined the values Huffman ISD hoped to instill within students. They identified 26 traits that they desired and intend to focus on the top five over the next two years. Perseverance was the most often recognized trait and has contributed to this years theme, “The Grit to Succeed.”

In the first two days of registration Huffman ISD had 321 new students. That will create a strong challenge for the Class 3A school even with 51 new educators.

Dr. Keith Moore addressed the crowd with humor and grace as he introduced all to his board of trustees, 65 new personnel that deal directly with children daily and 18 more educators with special emphasis.

O’Brien takes GCCISD Acting Superintendent

BAYTOWN – At the same special board meeting for Goose Creek Consolidated Independent School District as Dr. Salvador Cavazos resigned, Randal O’Brien was named as Acting Superintendent for the district.

O’Brien holds a bachelor’s degree in business management from East Texas Baptist University, where he played basketball and tennis.

He also holds a Master’s of Education in Administration from Sam Houston State University and is nearing completion of his doctorate at Beaumont’s Lamar University.

As Deputy Superintendent for Administrative Services, O’Brien has overseen the planning, design and development of the three new elementary school campuses and is in the design phase of other bond projects, such as the new Transportation Center and the new Data Technology Center. He also supervises Food Services, Athletics, Maintenance and Operations and Transportation.

“I am looking forward to serving the district as well as the community in the role of acting superintendent,” said O’Brien. “As our staff and students return to school, we at Goose Creek CISD appreciate the community’s support of our district, and we plan to have a great start to the 2014-2015 school year. We would like to focus on the good things going on within Goose Creek.”

Prior to coming to Goose Creek, O’Brien served as superintendent of Hubbard ISD for four years. As superintendent, he was involved with a large bond project, including a new middle/high school and gymnasium complex and an agriculture complex. He also served as high school principal in Blooming Grove ISD for three years, middle school principal in Tarkington ISD for four years, intermediate school assistant principal in Willis ISD for three years and high school assistant principal in Montgomery ISD for two years.

At Conroe ISD, he was the vocational marketing coordinator for two years, and he has taught marketing education, mathematics, science and physical education, along with coaching a variety of sports.

O’Brien was nominated as Region 12 Superintendent of the Year by the Board of Trustees of Hubbard ISD in 2011-2012. He also was selected as Outstanding Administrator in the Region 4 Excellence in Education Awards in 2005. Chosen as a presenter at the SERA Conference in New Orleans in 2012, his topic was Commonalities that Exist Between High Performing Schools.

Cavazos steps down amid controversy

BAYTOWN – On August 7 the Board of Trustees of Goose Creek Consolidated ISD authorized the President of the District’s Board to accept the resignation of Dr. Salvador Cavazos, Superintendent of Goose Creek Schools.

Board member Agustin Loredo III stated, “It has been a tough couple of months for me.

I am very sad that this has happened. In our district a lot of the things these groups are now saying are not true. But, I can’t argue because perception is always stronger than reality.”

Then he quoted figures for the academic standards that have yet to be released.

He said “We have the lowest student turnover rate in the last five years, right now.”

Jenice Coffey made the motion. Coffey, Daniel Blackford, President Jimmy Smith and Vicky Melo voted for accepting the motion, Howard Sampson and Loredo voted against.

There seems to be at issue if reassigning 8 principals to lower rank and pay and the announcement of 12 new principals was a restructuring to meet standards or restaffing for conformity to the demands of the superintendent. Also at issue was spending $14.4 M. on a project from the general fund at Lee High School that was to have been a $10M. project by the bond committee.

There were two closed sessions and a 15 minute recess. During the last closed session, Loredo was giving an interview to a television station.

The last item on the agenda was to determine if the special meeting on August 11 was necessary but that meeting was necessary to approve new hires and accept resignations. On August 12 educators had to begin new training.

A motion to accept Mr. Randal O’Brien for acting Superintendent was made by Melo and seconded by Jenice Coffey. The motion passed unanimously.

Local groups and EPA grapple with toxic concerns from Superfund Sites

NORTHEAST HARRIS COUNTY – A series of meetings concerning environmental contaminants and toxic substances this week have pointed to some little known facts about this area and raised questions concerning the origins of making chemical waste pits near the San Jacinto River and Lake Houston.

Actions and recommendations by the federal Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) prompted local groups to become active and reach out to inform the public about what they need to do, what dangers exist and where developments are at this time.

FINAL REPORT DELAYED UNTIL 2015

Previously, the EPA had tasked independent investigators named by potentially responsible parties (companies that may have polluted something) to make recommendations for what to do with the San Jacinto River Waste Pits (SJRWP.) The recommendations by the investigators for the potentially Responsible Parties did not take into account tidal surges ( there have been three 500 year level floods since the 1990s ) and other factors so the EPA has rejected those findings.

Currently, the EPA is tasking the Army Corps of Engineers and others to study the SJRWP and make a recommendation on their findings. The EPA had expected to reach a conclusion about what to do about the SJRWP in September 2014 but that is delayed for more findings that take into account more of the questions raised by the EPA. They now expect to issue a report in mid 2015.

At a Press Conference at the SJRWP (waste pits) on Friday, Aug. 1, Jacquelyn Young of Texans Together, an environmental outreach specialist, introduced several significant activists in the fight to clean up the SJRWP. Dr. Jack Christie, Houston City Council Member At-large-5 was on hand to describe how the SJRWP impacts the City of Houston overall. Members of the San Jacinto River Coalition were especially plentiful. Lois Gibbs, Executive Director of the Center for Health, Environment and Justice, the organizer of the Love Canal, Niagra Falls, New York neighborhoods into a national coalition that led to the establishment of U.S. EPA Superfund Sites, gave a rousing address concerning attempts to avoid the expense of clean up by potentially responsible parties, how companies and governmental agencies had attempted the expense of cleaning up other sites.

At Lee College on Saturday the Texans Together and San Jacinto River Coalition hosted a Community Workshop featuring Lois Gibbs, an Opening Address by Baytown Mayor Stephen H. DonCarlos and a powerpoint presentation by Jacquelyn Young that overviewed the SJRWP. This was followed by a question and answer session and organizing efforts afterward.

GOOSE CREEK CISD SETS AUG. 7 TO REPLACE CAVAZOS

After months of criticism from the Baytown and Highlands public and parents who were unhappy with continual changes made by Goose Creek CISD superintendent Dr. Salvador Cavazos, the school board has decided it must take action to respond to the community.

Therefore they have called a special board meeting for Thursday night, August 7th at 6:30 p.m. in the Administration Board room at 4544 Interstate 10, Baytown.

The Agenda that they posted last Monday evening lists only three items for consideration. There is no regular business or public comment period on the agenda.

Instead, they call for the following possible actions in open session, which will follow a closed meeting as prescribed by law for personnel matters:

1. Approve a voluntary separation agreement with the Superintendent.

2. Appoint an Acting Superintendent.

3. Cancel the August 11 regular board meeting.

Cavazos has been superintendent for two school years, having been hired from the Alice District in south Texas. Alice is a smaller district of about 5,300 students.

In the last year, he has made a number of controversial personnel changes, including appointing 10 new principals to existing schools, as well as two more to new schools. Many of the new teachers and principals the last two years have come from the Alice district, at the expense of experienced teachers that have been with the GCCISD district for many years.

Critics point out that Cavazos has moved many personnel in unusual and unstable ways, such as three principals in one year at Highlands Elementary, and about 35 teachers at Highlands Junior not having their contracts renewed, without reason or explanation.

A singular event that alienated many parents was the reassignment and therefore demotion of Goose Creek Memorial principal Michael Wahl. This followed stories about a rude confrontation with Cavazos, and led to Wahl quitting the district. Prior to this, Wahl was a highly praised principal who had accomplished good results at the new high school.

An expression of this discontent was the last two school board meetings, when over two hundred citizens packed the room, voiced complaints, and demanded changes, which apparently led to the events that will transpire this week.