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Posts published in “Day: August 9, 2007

Crosby VFD conquers local plant fire

CROSBY – Heroics, planning and expertise made a lofty spectacle for few observers last Friday, August 3 as Crosby Volunteer Fire Dept. commanded the snuffing of flames at KMCO L.P. on Ramsey Rd. with support from Highlands V.F.D. and numerous other local fire and ambulance agencies.
KMCO L.P. states that “Beginning at approximately 7:30 p.m., KMCO experienced an upset when a distillation column was taken down for a turnaround. The manways had been removed for cool down and preparation for entry and clean out of the unit. That unit had salt residue in the bottom of it which ignited. ”
KMCO’s ERT (Emergency Response Team) went into action, contained the fire along with Crosby Volunteer Fire Dept. and their backup, mutual aide, eventually extinguished the fire using foam and water. The process took approximately five hours from the time it started until the time the column was closed up and there was no chance for re-ignition.

The Harris County HAZMAT mobile unit as well as Harris County Pollution Control was also present during the event. Lots of steam could be seen as a result of the water being used as a source of cooling and extinguishing agent. There appears to be no issues with either agency on site.
Vacuum trucks were dispatched as soon as it was determined that there was run off water outside the facility. The run off water was contained and removed into the following day.
KMCO L.P. representative Venita Smith notes, “There was no danger to the public at any time. There were no lost time injuries to any personnel or fire fighters.
We would like to say “Thank You” to all agencies involved for their rapid response and the cohesive team work that took place in resolving this upset.”
Radio transmissions stated that two people refused transport to the hospital against medical advice while other observers stated that injuries were minor due to the caution exercised by crews.
Crosby Assistant Chief Black was in command of the scene for most of the five hours, Black never wavered in a firm and calm leadership, judging from radio transmissions.
At one important step in containment, foam stopped up one of the lines. Within minutes the crews had replaced the line and began anew with suppression efforts.
Crews worked from elevated gangways in fire suits inside steam from the unit but maintained a steady vigil until about 9:00 p.m.
Law Enforcement on the scene at about midnight stated that most of the fire had been cooled down but the remaining efforts were to secure underground structures.

State says San Jac River is a ‘National Priority’ for clean-up

HIGHLANDS— A pool of poisonous industrial waste that has been polluting the San Jacinto River for decades has moved another step closer to elimination now that Texas has officially approved the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to consider it as a candidate site for the federal National Priorities List (NPL).
“The health of East Harris County residents has been harmed too long by these poisonous wastes,” U.S. Rep. Gene Green said. “This is a major step forward for the San Jacinto River and its surrounding areas all the way down to the Bay.”
In a July 26 letter to the EPA’s regional administrator, Texas Governor Rick Perry expressed the state’s support for the EPA’s plan to add the polluted area to the NPL. Texas’ approval was necessary before the EPA could proceed with the cleanup process. The EPA created the NPL to designate which sites most urgently need to be cleaned.
In September the EPA will publish information about proposed cleanup sites in the Federal Register, accept public comments, and attempt to identify parties responsible for the pollution. Then, the EPA will name sites from around the country to the NPL. The San Jacinto River’s waste pits will most likely be included on the list given Texas’ cooperation.
Green originally became concerned about contamination in the San Jacinto River when he learned that an industrial waste pit used in the 1960s and 1970s was contaminating fish that residents were catching and eating.
Pollution levels had been high in the San Jacinto River for many years, but scientists didn’t know why until 2005 when they discovered the pit, which is located near the Interstate 10 bridge.
According to a February 2007 EPA report, the pit is releasing dangerous levels of polychlorinated dibenzo-p-dioxins, commonly called dioxins, and polychlorinated dibenzofurans, commonly called furans, into the river.
In March, Green asked the EPA to add the site to the national Superfund list, which would provide federal money to help clean up the pollution if the parties responsible for the pollution weren’t found.

TEA: Crosby and Huffman are rated ‘Acceptable’

EAST HARRIS COUNTY— A report issued by the Texas Education Agency last week found that the Crosby, Goose Creek and Huffman school districts were “academically acceptable.”
The accountability report was based on Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) tests conducted at each campus.
In addition to being acceptable district wide, the high school, middle school and intermediate schools were found acceptable.
To reach this level, a campus must have a 65% passage rate in reading social science and writing, 45% in math and 40% in science. A 75% passage rate earns recognized status while those exceeding 90% are exemplary. Not only much campuses reach these passage rates overall but each of the subgroups: African American, Hispanic, White and Economically Disadvantaged must also.
District superintendent Mike Joseph said that he was pleasantly surprised with the report.
He noted that while the average passage rate at the high school for math and science is 65% and 66% respectively, they are higher than the state average of 60%.
“It is very difficult to get these numbers over 75%,” he said. “That’s why you won’t see many high schools in Texas becoming recognized.”

Overall, Joseph said, the district saw improvement in 95 areas, with 31 areas falling and five areas remaining the same.
Crosby High showed mixed results with improvement in math and science but a drop in the percentage of students passing the reading test. At the middle school the average passage rate was “recognized” level, but they missed on the subgroups.
Despite improvements in reading and math, Drew saw a drop in science that hurt their overall scores.
Newport Elementary and Barrett Primary stood out as exemplary. Both schools saw improvements across the board with Barrett showing a double-digit improvement in its math scores.
Joseph said that both the middle and intermediate school were just a few students away from being recognized campuses.
This year’s goal, he added, was to make sure that Crosby was at or above the state average on each test.
State tests show that Highlands’ students performed better.
Highlands Junior School, Highlands Elementary and Harlem Elementary all made recognized. Hopper students were groups with Highlands Elementary.
At the junior school, students averaged in high 80s with math passage rate getting into the 90% range. Despite a drop in writing scores, Highlands Elementary was also in the high 80s. At Harlem, the school saw across the board improvements.
Dr. Doug Killian, superintendent of Huffman ISD, saw this year’s ranking as both a positive step and a call for improvements. All four campuses earned acceptable rankings.
Killian pointed out that efforts to help special education students at the high school paid off with the school dropping the unacceptable rating it was given last year.
However, he would have like to see more of the campuses reach the recognized level. Despite across the board improvements at each campus, Killian said that they fell just short of the goal. “We were just a few students from getting recognized at some of the campuses,” he said. Killian said that he is especially proud of the district’s success in science and math, two subjects that have hurt schools statewide.
As teachers receive more training, he said, parents could expect better results from students. “It takes more than one year to prepare students for these tests,” he said. “You just can’t teach TAKS preparation and expect to do well.”
He noted that he would like to see more success on the exit level tests, or the test required by every high school senior to graduate. “We need to have every student walk across that stage.”

The story behind ‘Little Brown Church in the Vale’

The Rev. Dr. Gail Harrelson is a newcomer to Crosby. She relocated to Crosby in early June to become minister of the Crosby Methodist Church were the Springer’s call home during our Crosby visits. She was reassigned from the St. Matthew’s Methodist Church in Houston. Linda and I are anxious to meet Dr. Harrelson during our next trip to Texas.
As is the custom in that church, the Pastor always provides a short three or four column message at the beginning of each Crosby Methodist semi-monthly newsletter. Being over 1,200 miles away our copy comes late and we received our July 18 Newsletter about a week ago.
I found myself much interested in Dr. Gail’s message of that issue and thought you might find it interesting as well. I quote from her message:
“I often hear people talk about the hymns we sing in church as being irrelevant, old, and boring. It may surprise many Christians to learn…(these hymns) have interesting stories behind them.

“…One of my favorite hymns is the ‘Little Brown Church in the Vale.’ The hymn was written by Warren Pitts, who was traveling by stagecoach to…Fredericksburg, Iowa. When the stagecoach made a stop in Bradford, Pitts walked about the area to stretch his legs. He walked by a grove of trees that Pitts thought would make a perfect setting for a church.
“He couldn’t forget the peaceful scene, so he wrote the words and music to “Little Brown Church in the Vale” after he returned to his home in Wisconsin. He filed it in some of his papers.
“Five years later, Pitts…relocated to Iowa to be close to his wife’s elderly parents. He was completely surprised to find a church building sitting in the very spot he had imagined five years earlier. Christians in the community didn’t like meeting in abandoned stores and built themselves a small church. The Civil War was raging and times were hard, but by 1862, the building was up. It was painted with the cheapest paint available, which happened to be the color brown.
“When Pitts saw the little brown church, he rushed home to find the hymn he had written so he could sing it at the church’s dedication in 1864. William Pitts sold his music score for $25 to a publisher in Chicago. He used the money to attend medical school. He spent the rest of his life as the town doctor in Fredericksburg, about 14 miles from Bradford.
“The Little Brown Church in the Vale still stands today and has a membership of about 100. It’s best known for the hundreds of weddings and thousands of tourists who travel there each year to see ‘the church in the valley by the wildwood’….
“….I ask you to remember that stories of Christian faith and Christian theology are the foundation for each hymn in our hymnals. As we learn the background for the hymns, we gain a different appreciation for the gift of this music to the church of the ages….”
Thanks Dr. Gail Harrelson for this story that I add to my library. Many Christian hymnals have stories of inspiration that moved the writers of the poems and/or the music to compose such. Certainly this was the case for the most popular of all Christmas Carols, “Silent Night, Holy Night!” But that is a story for another time.
Such are the people, places and things that have touched my life in my West Virginia home!
Don Springer can be reached at

The School of Hard Knocks

Back in the sixties yours truly graduated from the School of Hard Knocks. In continuing my education, I attend classes several times a year or so it seems with the knots, scars, and bumps to prove it. You go to classes too?
Google’s Wikipedia describes School of Hard Knocks as an idiomatic phrase meaning the (sometimes painful) education one gets from life and wisdom imparted by life experience.
The older you get the smarter you get or that is the way it’s supposed to happen anyhow.
Walked out on the back porch under the cover and felt like water dripped on the back of my hair do. Wiped at it and felt nothing but did feel what came next.
A yellow jacket got me above the right eyebrow; felt like I got shot with a flaming arrow and hurt all mighty. Knocked my glasses off swinging and swatting at whatever it was.
Looked in the mirror after a bit, looked like a tap from a ball-peen hammer, felt as bad too.

Of course, I already knew to stay away from a yellow jackets nest but this was a surprise attack and it cost them.
Yellow jackets generally are local wasp building the smaller nest around your house and in the ground.
Hornets are wasp too but generally nest out in the woods in the hollow of a tree or hanging from a tree in the huge nest.
If you ever been popped or stung by one of them, you surely remember the occasion.
This is the time of year for the wasp as they are most plentiful in the back and front yard around the house. Did some hunting with a can of the long spraying wasp stuff yesterday got five and it was in the heat of the day.
One really should wait till it’s getting close to dark to go after wasp. Be sure to have your running shoes on too.
Back when I was a dumb little boy in Georgia, my neighbor dummy and I were in the storage area out back of the house where potatoes and onions were kept on the shelves. We proceeded to chunk potatoes at a fairly large nest up in the corner.
They got both of us and fly out of there we did and hollering to all get out.
My mother came out to see what all the hollering was about, soon to find out what happened.
We both got daubed with snuff over the stings. It is suppose to draw out the poison and get your mind off the sting with all that spit on you.
How many of us have to learn the hard way?

TEA ‘Recognizes’ Barbers Hill ISD

CHAMBERS/ LIBERTY COUNTY— A report issued by the Texas Education Agency last week has given Barbers Hill ISD a reason to celebrate, while Dayton officials are looking at mixed results.
The accountability report was based on Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) tests conducted at each campus.
As a district, Barbers Hill was designated as recognized with three of its campuses also earning recognized status while a fourth was found to be exemplary.
The high school was the sole ‘academically acceptable’ campus. Despite the ranking the school showed well on the tests, averaging a 94% passage rate in reading, 94% in social science, 80% in math and 79% in science. The state average for math and science is around 60%. The district did see slight declines in their math and science subgroups. This was balanced with a 20% increase in African-American students passing the science part of the tests.
The TEA, in assigning rankings, looks at not only the overall student population but at subpopulations of African American, White, Hispanic and Economically Disadvantaged.
The middle school earned a recognized status this year.
Students averaged a 94% rate in reading, 98% in writing, 96% in social science and 88% in math. The school saw improvements over 2006-2007 in nearly every subgroup. Standing out was African-American Math passage, which was up 26% from last year.

The intermediate school was named exemplary, the highest rating available.
They had a 97% in reading, 98% in math and 97% in science. The only subgroup to fall under the 90% floor was Africa-American students in science, which was an 88%. However, due to the low number of students taking the test the state did not include this group in their analysis.
The primary and elementary campuses were combined for test purposes, thus earning both campuses a recognized label.
The schools recorded a 95% passage rate in reading, 97% in writing and 94% in math.
The schools also saw improvements in nearly every subgroup from last year. This included double-digit improvements in Hispanic and Economically Disadvantaged students in math.
With the exception of Nottingham Middle School, every campus in the district was rated as acceptable this year. The district was also rated as acceptable as a whole.
Dayton High School shed its ‘academically unacceptable’ ranking from 2006. Moving up to acceptable this year.
Most remarkable was the change in the special education students. These students are measured differently from other students, using the State-Developed Alternative Assessment II (SDAAII). Dayton High saw a 42% increase in the number of students passing the test this year over 2006-07.
As a whole students had a 90% passage in reading, 90% in social science, 68% in math and 62 percent in science. Students also showed a marked improvement in math, with a nine-percent or more increase in every subgroup.
Students at Wilson averaged a 76% in reading, 84% in writing, 80% in social science and 57% in math. While there were drops in social science tests, the campus saw improvements in reading, writing and math.
District officials were shocked to learn that the campus was found unacceptable. After all, they ranked high in every test and subgroup. The campus was also one subgroup from reaching the 75% mark required to be recognized.
Then came the SDAAII ratings. In 2006-07 the school had 37 of 46 students pass the test or 80%. This year, the state report shows 5 of 33 students passing or 15%.
Due to the sudden large dip in the passage rate, there are those at the district who believe that the report does not accurately portray the tests administered.
There has been speculation that the district would appeal the report. However District Superintendent Greg Hayman was unavailable for comment this week.
As whole Austin, Richter, Colbert and Kimmie Brown did well on the tests. Because of the grade level separation Richter and Colbert are combined for testing purposes.
Both Austin and Richter/Colbert just missed the 75% level required to be recognized. In each school the passage rate for Hispanic math was 74% or the difference of one student.
Brown showed mixed results. While African American Science was up 25% and the Economically Disadvantaged was up 10%, Hispanic students were down 11%.