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Posts published in “Day: December 9, 2010

Barbers Hill students learn art of meat processing

MONT BELVIEU—Knives, bone saws and electric meat tenderizers may not be the typical items found in a classroom, but for students in Barbers Hill FFA’s Meat Processing class they are the tools of the trade.
Mary Wilson, FFA instructor, said the school began the program seven years ago because she saw a way to prepare students for jobs after graduation. “There is a huge industry out there for meat processing, especially on the college level,” she said.
Wilson said that once a student completes the class they would have the skills to work in any butcher shop or grocer’s meat market. Not only will this give them job skills, but also it can lead to a career she added.
Wilson noted that one former student who went through the program later attended Texas A&M university, where she earned a degree in Meat Science. That former student is now in charge of making all meat purchases for Houston Independent School District.
Starting next semester, students enrolled in the class will earn dual credits through Central Texas College.
Barbers Hill is nearly unique in offering the class. Wilson said that there are only five such programs offered in Texas.
The meat processing class is offered in two parts. The first part is an introductory class, where students learn sanitation, industry standards, health department regulations and safety. They then go onto the actual processing, where they have classes in animal anatomy and the standard cuts of meat.
Student Heather Caudle said she is taking the class to learn the skills and giver herself job options.
Since Barbers Hill does not have a “kill floor” meat arrives in boxes, as it typical in butcher shops. The meat that comes in is the ones usually found on meat counters such as brisket, poultry, pork and lamb. Students also learn to make boudain as well as smoked sausage.
The fall, however, means deer. Area residents can bring in deer and have the students process it for a fee of $125, quite a bit less than professional butchers. Wilson said that in the past couple of weeks 17 deer have been brought in for processing.
Cody Griffin, a student is the class, brought in two deer that he killed this season. They will be a class project for him. He said that hunting takes on more significance for him when he is able to see the product go “from the field to freezer.”

Highlands Elementary honored for creating Christmas cards for troops

HIGHLANDS— The program is called “Christmas cards for our Troops.” Its mission: to put smiles on the faces of as many of our U.S. troops from Texas as possible.
And no school in the 2nd U.S. Congressional District accomplished that mission better than Goose Creek CISD’s Highlands Elementary School.
On Nov. 29, Congressman Ted Poe presented the student body and faculty of Highlands Elementary School with two trophies — one for 2009, the other for 2010 — for the most Christmas cards and for the “Most Creative Cards” for our troops.

“The response to this project has been overwhelming,” said Poe. “I would like to give a special thanks to all those that took time to remember our troops and recognize their sacrifices this Christmas.”
Poe singled out three Highlands Elementary School teachers behind the school’s Christmas card drive: music teacher Donna Johnson, art teacher Sandra Marquez, and computer literacy teacher D’Ann Gonzalez.
Each hand-decorated Christmas cards included a note from the teacher, and a CD of Christmas music sung by Highlands Elementary students.
“I want to thank all those who made this year special for our troops – it means the world to them,” Poe said. “It’s a job well done.”
For the past four years, Congressman Poe has been collecting Christmas cards to distribute to U.S. servicemen and women who are serving our country in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Poe said no school district in his district sends more Christmas cards than Goose Creek CISD.
“This school district has been very, very energetic in producing these Christmas cards,” Poe said.
Poe said he got more than 10,000 cards from Goose Creek CISD.
Goose Creek CISD board member Bob Hoskins, whose son served in Iraq and Afghanistan, told the Highlands Elementary students that letters from home are very important to the troops, and they “cherish the words on the cards.”
“They really appreciate the support,” he said.
Principal Ruth Perrin told the students and staff, “I am so proud of you,” holding both trophies high.

Commissioner Garcia says farewell to media, and the community

Precinct 2 Commissioner Sylvia Garcia held an informal meeting with local media last week, to give her an opportunity to thank the community for the opportunity to serve, and to reflect on her 8 years in office, with work done and also some projects not finished.
After a surprising defeat by newcomer Jack Morman in last November’s election, some of the questions she fielded were about her campaign and the results of the vote. She attributed her defeat to three factors: straight ticket voting due to the unpopularity of the current administration, her association with Obama on some issues, and her Hispanic family name at a time when immigration is an unpopular issue. Although Precinct 2 is an Hispanic district by population, it’s voter roles are only about 25% Hispanic, suggesting she did not get enough of that support. In fact she lost by 2,310 votes out of about 130,000 that were cast.

She discussed the accomplishments of her two terms in office, such as the Port Authority, NASA, establishment of the Independence Parkway and the Stars project, new county parks, a master plan for the future of Precinct 2, work with the Economic Alliance and local industry, establishment of a Precinct wide bus transit system, work with seniors, youth, veterans and the hungry in Precinct2gether, establishment of a LifeFlight heliport in Baytown, survival and rebuilding after Hurricanes Ike and Katrina, and improvement in the environment, in the rivers and in the air quality.
Asked what she liked most about her job, which she has been quoted as saying “I love my job,” she said it was the people, getting to know them and interact with them in many activities. “I love mixing with people.”
She said she was glad to continue the work of her predecessor, Commissioner Jim Fonteno, who established many of the community centers and parks to serve the communities.
Garcia said she did not have any immediate job plans, and would be happy to relax with her family. Although single, with eight brothers and sisters she said that family has always been important to her.
She is also concerned about her Precinct 2 staff, and whether they will remain or move on to other jobs. Precinct 2 has over 500 employees, and a budget that was as high as $65 million dollars. She was also busy packing for her departure, and archiving some of the material she has accumulated in eight years.
When asked about any ambitions for office, she said she did not know if she would run for commissioner again. “It depends upon what happens, and I will look at all decisions.” Garcia did not indicate any interest in state or national office, directing most of her comments to Harris County. However, she is president of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials (NALEO) and has gained national attention.
She also expects to stay involved in some of the projects she started, such as the STARS or Independence Parkway project. She is on the board of the Economic Alliance, which has spearheaded this project.
As for the future of the county and the precinct, she thinks the new commissioner, Jack Morman, will face a “challenging” set of problems in the current economy, since the budget must be cut by a sizable amount. Other problems he will face include Mobility, including rail, Metro, and the port; and air quality versus the needs of the petrochemical industries. Morman has issued a memo to Pct. 2 staff, indicating he does not plan on any significant changes at this time.
Garcia expects the east side of Harris County to continue to grow, with the Port Authority and the chemical complexes as major factors to spur this growth. She cautioned that the county must think regionally, not locally, to solve their problems properly.