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Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

Compromise plan approved in PHS salutatorian dispute

Staff Writer

Pecos High School may have dual salutatorians at this year’s PHS graduation, board members said Thursday, following a continued discussion as part of the regular Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD Board meeting.

School board members resumed discussion of a dispute between two PHS seniors vying for the second-best grade point average among Class of 2005 students, and voted to have multiple recipients for the honor.

“If things remain the same by the time graduation comes around, I make a motion that they share this honor,” said school board member Bubba Williams.

School board president Billie Sadler stated that the board was not voting for a particular person, because they don’t know yet who will be salutatorian or valedictorian.

“But if the situation does not change by then, the two will share the honor,” she said. The problem became apparent a few months back, when the parents of two seniors from Pecos High School approached the board.

At this time, PHS senior Jummy Akinyode has the higher grade point average, but only began attending Pecos High School the second semester of her sophomore year. The school handbook states that a student must be in the school district for six semesters in order to be eligible for the honor of salutatorian.

Her mother, Grace Omitogun, had suggested that the two share the honor.

At the March boar meeting P-B-T ISD Superintendent Ray Matthews recommended the board stay with the policy.

When asked what his interpretation of the policy was, he stated the student must be enrolled for six semesters to be eligible for valedictorian or salutatorian honors.

“The board does have the power to allow multiple recipients in special circumstances, but I don’t feel this is a good decision,” he said.

Omitogun said that she did not want to take away anything from anyone, but she just wanted the two to share the honor.

The policy reads: “Effective for students entering ninth grade in school year 2000-2001, the valedictorian and salutatorian shall be the eligible students with the highest and second highest ranking as determined by the District’s class-ranking procedure described in this policy and who completes the recommended program or the distinguished achievement program.

“To be eligible for valedictorian or salutatorian honors, a student must have been continuously enrolled in the District high school for the six semesters preceding graduation and must have completed the recommended program or the distinguished achievement program for graduation.”

Matthews said at the March board meeting that legal counsel had the board has the authority to change policy.

Several individuals were on hand to voice their opinion on the subject at Thursday’s board meeting.

PHS teacher and coach Joan Capshaw stated several instances in which the names of the recipients were not known until the very last minute.

“In 2001, the valedictorian and salutatorian were named, their names were in the newspaper in the radio and on the day of graduation a mistake was discovered,” said Capshaw. “The person that was third, turned out to be second and salutatorian, by .00013 grade point difference.”

She said that the recipients of that honor are not known until the very last minute. “If you’re going to make a change, do it at the beginning of senior year, not at the end,” said Capshaw. “I can never remember the state allowing multiple recipients.”

Capshaw said that the state of Texas recognizes only one recipient of each school. “What incentive does someone has who has lived here all their lives and then someone comes in and takes it away from them,” she said.

Amie Reynolds presented the board with a letter written by her father, Randy Reynolds on behalf of having only one recipient for the honor.

His letter read in part: “The first and primary issue is really a simple one and answered by policy. To qualify for the award of valedictorian and salutatorian a student must have attended six semesters at Pecos High School. This is a clear and unambiguous policy and provides the answer to anyone who desires to be considered but simply cannot meet the qualifications because of failing to meet this residency requirement. This policy has stood the test of time and has the additional support of precedent and determines that anyone who has not met the residency requirement simply does not qualify for the award.

“Second, is whether a special circumstance exists when a student who otherwise meets the other requirements does not meet the residency requirement and the answer is no. Someone who moves into the school system area with less than six semesters left in high school is exactly what the drafters of this policy anticipated in writing the policy. Thus, this would not satisfy a special circumstance. One might ask just what would be a special circumstance?

“I suggest that a child who has attended Pecos High School but becomes ill and must attend for a few months from a hospital room might satisfy a special circumstance analysis.

Finally, the question is whether to change the six semester requirement. First, there is a lot to say in support of a policy that has been in place for some time. Further, I checked and many schools require four semesters of attendance, some second and some none around Texas. A few months ago when I checked, I noticed that Andrews required a six semester residence as well.

“In any event, if you choose to change this requirement in the future, I suggest you might need to strongly consider no residency requirement. If you change it to four, surely someone will move in with three semesters to go and would desire the same special treatment or circumstance which is desired at present.”

“I’m not hurting anybody I’m only asking the board to express the right that has been provided them,” said Omitogun.

School board cuts enhanced program on split vote

Staff Writer

The Enhanced Program for the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD will no longer exist, but other programs will be implemented to help those students in the district, school board members decided on Thursday.

PBT-ISD Superintendent Ray Matthews said that he had put the item on the board’s April agenda to eliminate the Enhanced Program at the schools, following a presentation given by administration.

“We feel all the kids would benefit by grouping them together,” said Matthews. “Students learn from their peers and by all of them being in the same classrooms they’ll all be equal.”

He said that other programs would be implemented to help the gifted and talented students that are beyond their peers academically. “But socially it would benefit the students more if they were all together,” he said.

School board member Bubba Williams agreed with the decision and said that all students should be taught the same and could really learn from their peers.

Board members were told the change would not affect the district’s gifted and talented program.

“This is not to be confused with the GT program, which is state mandated,” said Matthews.

Board member Amy Miller said that educational research shows that students in the gifted and talented program should be homogenously grouped.

“They are the elite students and should be taught in a separate setting,” said Miller. She said that teachers have been putting a lot of pressure on passing the TAKS test. “The students are so busy studying for the TAKS and some of these students that are gifted already know all that, that’s time that they could be learning some new material,” she said.

“The kids capable of learning the most, are learning the least, under these circumstances,” said Miller.

“We want all of our students to be successful,” said Williams.

“There are some students that could qualify, but are only limited to 22,” said board member Crissy Martinez.

Matthews said that the GT program was mandatory and that the Enhanced Program was locally. He added that one of the alternatives they are working on is a pull-out program. A full-time teacher will go to each campus 2-3 hours a week, according to Kindergarten Principal Robert Garrett.

“If we do away with the enhanced, the GT will work well for us,” said Bessie Haynes Principal John Fabela. “If they pull them out they will be adequately served that way.” Austin Elementary School Teacher Anita Zubeldia, student Amie Reynolds and parent Helen Vernon all spoke on behalf of keeping the enhanced program.

“I appreciate everyone’s input, but my recommendation still stands,” said Matthews. “I’m not here to be popular with the teachers, but to do what is in the best interest of the school district.”

Williams made the motion to do away with the program, seconded by Crissy Martinez. Board members Amy Miller and Steve Valenzuela voted against doing away with the program. The tie was broken by board president Billie Sadler who voted to end the program.

In other action, the board listened and saw a power points presentation made by the Town of Pecos City Manager Joseph Torres on the restoration/renovation of the historical Buck Jackson Rodeo Arena through a venue tax.

During the May elections an item has been placed on the voting card to allow the city to raise the motel rates to 15%. By voting yes, this would allow the city to impose an additional local hotel occupancy tax at the rate of 2% for the purpose of financing the venue project.

P-B-T asked to improve facilities at tennis courts

Restrooms, an office and ADA compliant facilities to better serve the elderly or handicapped that would like to see their student play tennis at the Pecos High School tennis courts were debated on Thursday, during the regular Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD board meeting.

Parents, students and coaches showed up to talk to the board about a problem with the spectator and restroom facilities at the PHS tennis courts, located on the south side of the main campus.

Melanie Ikeler, a parent of one of the high school tennis players, said that the parents in the stands have to drive to Dairy Queen to use the restroom facilities while watching the matches, because there isn’t one set up for visitors.

“Also the elderly population that come to watch, it’s not in ADA compliance,” said Ikeler.

“I believe it’s a necessity and we could bring in a lot more people to Pecos,” she said. By having some of these items corrected, Ikeler said that this would not only enhance the tennis program, but Pecos as well. “More visitors would come in and this would bring more revenue into the city,” she said.

There are also no lockers for the players, who have to carry all of their things out there when they are going to play.

Coach Mike Ortiz told the group that the students have to lug their things around and that he does not have an office.

“My office is my car, I have to have all my paperwork in there,” said Ortiz. “We do have a little shed that we were storing things in, but it kept getting broken into, balls, squeegees, you name it was stolen,” said Ortiz. “It’s not a secure place.”

He said that there were no restroom facilities for the girls, they had to go to another building. “And the school is locked, as it should be, but they don’t have anywhere to use the restroom,” he said. Boys are able to use the restrooms in the near by PHS football field house.

Ortiz said that he would like to see the district matches held here, but other schools were opposed because the site doesn’t have restrooms or a concession stand.

“I think this would be something great, that their friends can come to Pecos to watch them play,” he said.

Student tennis player Mimi Ornelas told the group that this is her second year to go to regionals. “All the other sports have the appropriate facilities and our coach doesn’t even have an office,” she said.

Ornelas said that the tennis players would like to have district competition held here in Pecos. “We also need to have more play time against other teams, to build up our own tennis team,” said Ornelas.

PBT-ISD Superintendent Ray Matthews said that the tennis team represented Pecos really well at the District 3-3A meet. “They did an outstanding job and we have a young team,” said Matthews.

The students received a round of applause from all that were present at the meeting. The board appointed Matthews to do a needs assessment and bring something back to the board.

“Well, I’m sorry it had to be all of you to bring all this to us, we should know about these things and try to accommodate everyone,” said board president Billie Sadler. “We should have been more observant before you brought it up, but we’ll see what can be done,” she said.

Ornelas’ mother and former PHS tennis coach Bernadette Ornelas said that these things would enhance not only the tennis program, but Pecos as well. “This would bring more people into the community,” she said.

No action yet on bill to alter Red Bluff’s board

Staff Writer

There was little new news for the Red Bluff Water Power Control Board to hear, during their regular monthly meeting on April 12 at the district’s office in Pecos. And there is also little new to report from Austin on the efforts to get two of the district’s seven sub-districts voting rights restored on the board, threw a new bill in the Texas Legislature.

Red Bluff members met for just 20 minutes in their April 12 meeting, covering only routine issues on the agenda. All five voting members were in attendance, along with the non-voting representatives from Ward County Water Irrigation Districts 1 and 3, Tom Nance and Ava Gerke.

Ward County WID 1 switched from a water irrigation to a water improvement district three years ago, and Ward County WID 3 made the change last year. However, the actions led to a lawsuit by the Red Bluff board, saying that the voting eligibility rules for an irrigation district were different from those of a water improvement district, and were against the Chapter 55 Water Code rules the districts were formed under 70 years ago. Red Bluff won its suit last fall before 143rd District Judge Bob Parks, after which the two districts, along with members of some of the other sub-districts, asked State Sen. Frank Madla and State Rep. Pete Gallego to file a bill in the current Texas Legislature that would allow the irrigation districts to appoint members to the Red Bluff board.

Currently, the legislature is working on SB-3, a new comprehensive water bill for the state. But Jason Anderson, an aide to Madla who deals with water-related legislation, said no action has been filed yet, and the senator has no plans to add the proposal to SB-3.

“That’s just a local bill,” he said of the sub-districts’ request. While it does give Madla a longer period to file the proposal before the deadline for submitting legislation during the current session, Anderson said on Friday, “The senator hasn’t made a decision on whether he will file the bill.”

Gallego said earlier in the week that any action would have to come from the senate side first. But he added he hoped the sub-districts and Red Bluff could come to an agreement on their own, without the need for action by the legislature.

Red Bluff managing director Randal Hartman sent Madla a letter in October of 2004, outlining the district’s side of the argument over the status of the two districts, which Hartman said centered around efforts by Ward County WID No. 1 and Reeves County Water Improvement District No. 2 to sell Pecos River water back to New Mexico.

In his letter, Hartman said the change in status of the two Ward County districts, from Chapter 55 to Chapter 58 Water Code districts, which also resulted in a change in voting rules within those districts. Chapter 55 water improvement districts only allow residents within the district to cast ballots in elections, while landowners are allowed to vote in Chapter 58 elections, whether or not they reside within the district.

Gallego said last week the water sale claim, “should be a non-issue,” since he didn’t see any chance of state officials ever allowing Red Bluff’s sub-districts to sell their water rights back to New Mexico.

“The water in the Pecos River is owned by the state, so no one is in position to sell water to New Mexico without the state’s permission,” he said. “I don’t know anyone in the Texas Legislature who is willing to say Texas has a surplus of water right now.”

“He and Pete agree on that,” Anderson said about Madla’s opinion of selling Pecos River water rights to New Mexico, which has been forced to buy up water rights from farmers in recent years to meet its obligations to Texas.

“Even if they wanted to do it, they can’t,” Gallego said. This is a tempest in a teapot.” The water issue emerged over the past several years, as drought conditions in Texas and New Mexico at times caused the Pecos River to run dry in Texas, and cut off water allotments to farmers in both 2002 and 2003. However, the rains over the past year have caused the water levels at Red Bluff Lake to more than triple over the 2003 lows, and the district members were told last week the lake’s water level at the beginning of April was 130,680 feet, up 7,410 feet since March.

“The lake’s a little over one-third full,” Hartman told the board. “Everything looks good, and the ground is basically still wet.”

District secretary Robin Prewit said she didn’t have the full numbers for water use by the sub-districts, since the reports weren’t due in until this past Friday.

Board members also tabled action on a proposal by the Upper Pecos Soil and Water Conservation District No. 213 seeking funds for the Pecos River Ecosystem project, and approved cash disbursements and receipts for March, along with accounts payable and the fund balance report.

Cortez events set for Friday, Saturday

A Catholic musician will be in Pecos this month for a concert and workshops sponsored by the West Texas Catholic Communities.

Jaime Cortez, musician, educator and composer will present a concert and conduct workshops on sacred music in Pecos, on Friday, April 22 and Saturday, April 23. Involved in the pastoral music ministry at St. Bridgett Parish in Mesa, Ariz., Cortez has presented workshops throughout the United States on music and culture, bilingual music for the sacraments, and liturgical music.

He was a presenter at the El Paso Diocesan Congress in 2001.

Cortez will present a concert at 7 p.m., April 22, in the Pecos High School Auditorium, and

will conduct workshops from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on April 23, at St. Catherine’s Parish. Topics of the workshops are: “How to Prepare Liturgical Music for the Mass”; “Voices, Arrangements and Rhythms in Liturgical Music”’ and “Techniques for Parish Participation.”

A question and answer session will conclude the day’s activities.

Cortez is involved in the pastoral music ministry at Saint Bridgett Church in Mesa, Ariz. His involvement reflects his long-term dedication to promote better Hispanic liturgies and bringing cultures together for worship.

Workforce network hosts Tuesday event

Employers are invited to the Pecos Workforce Network, 215 W. 2nd Street, from 10-11 a.m., Tuesday, April 22, for an Employers Workshop.

Limited sitting is available and individuals are asked to call ahead to ensure a seat. Call 432-445-9664.

First Choice seeks cookbook recipes

This year First Choice Power’s cooking up some fun in exchange for customer recipes for its annual cookbook. That means that any First Choice Power customer who submits a recipe for the cookbook can register to win a basket of great prizes for the kitchen.

Between May 2 and May 27, customers can come by any First Choice Power office to drop off their recipes that may be old family favorites or new tempting treats. All submissions will be reviewed and as many will be included in the cookbook as possible. Wile at the office, customers can register to win new kitchen collectibles to spice up their homes.

Each First Choice Power Office in the company’s Texas service area will draw a winner on Tuesday, May 13. Only one kitchen gift basket will be awarded per office, so customers should drop by soon for a chance to win. They can also pick up a First Choice Power Smile Card for up to 20 percent savings at local restaurants and businesses.

“Everyone seems to enjoy getting our cookbooks each year, and it will be fun this year to include some favorites from our customers,” said Terry Beck, First Choice Power vice president of Marketing. “We enjoy involving our customers in efforts like these and are always appreciative of those who have been loyal to our company,” said Beck.

TNP Enterprises is the holding company for Fort-Worth-based First Choice Power, which provides community-based electric service throughout Texas.

Carrasco named All-American Scholar

The United States Achievement Academy announced that Jessica L. Carrasco, of Pecos, has been named an All-American Scholar.

The USAA has established the All-American Scholar Award Program to offer deserved recognition to superior students who excel in the academic disciplines. The All-American Scholars must earn a 3.3, or higher, grade point average. Only scholars selected by a school instructor, counselor, or other qualified sponsor are accepted. These scholars are also eligible for other awards given by the USAA.

Carrasco, who attends Pecos High School, was nominated for this national award by Charlie Wilson.

Carrasco who will appear in the All-American Scholar Yearbook, which is published nationally.

“Recognizing and supporting our youth is more important than ever before in America’s history. Certainly, winners of the All-American Scholar Awards should be congratulated and appreciated for their dedication to excellence and achievement,” said Dr. George Stevens, Executive Director of the United States Achievement Academy.

The Academy selects All-American Scholars upon the exclusive recommendation by teachers, coaches, counselors, and other qualified sponsors. Once awarded, the students may be recognized by the USSA for other honors.

Carrasco is the daughter of Ruvel and Alicia Carrasco of Pecos.

The grandparents are Ismael V. and Soccoro Lara and Julie Carrasco, all of Pecos.

EP woman dies, 7 others injured

Staff Writer

An El Paso woman was killed Thursday afternoon and two others injured in a two vehicle accident on Interstate 20 west of Toyah, while five persons were hurt, one critically, in an accident early Monday morning on Interstate 10, west of Balmorhea.

According to a report by Texas Department of Public Safety trooper Richard Crum of Pecos, Yvette Silva Bujanda, 36, died when the 1994 Mercury she was driving rolled over after colliding with a Kennworth truck-trailer as both were eastbound on I-20.

Crum said the accident happened at 2:20 p.m. on April 14, when Bujanda attempted to pass the truck on a curve, 8.8 miles west of Toyah. Her car went off the left lane towards the center media, and Burjanda then overcorrected, causing the front of her car to strike the rear of the Wabash trailer being towed by the truck. The collision sent the car into the center median, where it flipped end-over-end before coming to rest upside down and facing southwest.

Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Jim Riley pronounced Burjanda dead at the scene at 2:35 p.m., and her body was taken to Peaceful Gardens Funeral Home. Crum said she was wearing a seat belt when the accident occurred.

Injured in the accident were two passengers, identified as Manuel Careniva Silva, 64, and Melinda Paz, 23, both of El Paso. Both were taken first to Reeves County Hospital and then to Medical Center Hospital in Odessa. Silva was listed in stable condition with head and chest injuries, while Paz suffered lacerations and contusions, and was also in stable condition.

Crum said Silva was wearing a seat belt when the accident occurred, while Paz was not wearing a belt at the time of the accident.

A full report was not available at press time on the Monday morning accident, which occurred at 3:03 a.m. on I-10 at the 202 mile marker, two miles west of Balmorhea. Initial reports said three adults and two children were in the vehicle at the time of the accident, and one female adult occupant was ejected. Ambulance services from Balmorhea and Pecos were called to the scene, and the five were taken to Reeves County Hospital, with the female later flown by air ambulance to Medical Center Hospital in Odessa.

Police Report

EDITOR’S NOTE: Information contained in the Police Report is obtained from reports filed by the Pecos Police Department, Reeves County Sheriff’s Office, or other officers of those agencies.

The serving of warrants by an officer for outstanding fines of either traffic citations, animal control violations or other court costs are considered arrests and will be printed as such unless indicated that the fines were paid. In such instances we will indicate payment and release.

*** Faustino Olivas Ortiz, 70, of 619 S. Pecan St., was arrested by police on April 3 in the 1300 block of East Third Street on a charge of driving while intoxicated. Police said the arrest was made after they received a report of an intoxicated driver, stopped the Ford pickup Ortiz was driving and gave him a field sobriety test.

A passenger in the vehicle, identified as Gustavo Montoya Salgado, 63, of 506 1/2 E. Sixth St., was also and charged with public intoxication. Both men were transported by police to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center after their arrest.

*** Ashley Nicole Martinez, 21, of 811 E. Fifth St., was arrested by police and charged with public intoxication on April 1. Police said the arrest was made after they were called to the 600 block of South Sycamore Street in response to a disturbance.

*** A male juvenile was arrested on April 2 at the PHA East Side Apartments on a charge of assault causing bodily injury. Police said the arrest was made after they were called to the site at 7:02 p.m. by a woman, who said she had been assaulted by the juvenile in the 900 block of East 10th Street. The woman told police she was knocked to the ground and kicked in the head, back, face, and lower leg area by the juvenile.

*** Carlos “Cain” Hinojos, 29, 1206 Kerr St., was arrested by police on April 3 at 9 p.m. in the 1600 block of Washington Street on a charge of criminal trespass, a Class A misdemeanor. Police said the arrested was made after a warrant was issued for Hinojos’ arrest by Municipal Court Judge Amanario Ramon, and he was then taken to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center.

*** Jonathan Salazar Rubio, 18, of 409 E. 15th St., Ramiro Reyes, 17, of 401 E. Seventh St., Christopher Sosa Millan, 17, of 403 n. Alamo St., and Jose Heriberto Garcia, 20, of 920 S. Orange St. were arrested by police on April 3 on charges of criminal mischief, a Class A misdemeanor. Police said the four were arrested after a vehicle they was in was seen leaving the parking area of Pecos High School, and a car parked there was found to have been vandalized.

Police said alcoholic beverages were found in the vehicle when it was stopped in the 1100 block of South Eddy Street, and the occupants had alcohol on their breath. All the suspects were arrested and taken to the Pecos Criminal Justice Center, and an additional charge of driving under the influence, a Class C misdemeanor, was filed against Garcia, the driver of the vehicle.

*** Pedro Melendez Acosta, 26, of Midland, was arrested by police on April 2 in the 800 block of West Third Street on a warrant for driving with a suspended license. Police said the arrest was made following a traffic stop, when a records check revealed the outstanding warrant out of the Midland County Sheriff’s Department.

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