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Tuesday, May 23, 2000, PECOS ENTERPRISE

Commissioners approve funding for Rescue Cam

Staff Writer

PECOS, May 23, 2000 - Funding to go towards the purchase of a Rescue Cam for the Pecos Volunteer Fire Department was discussed at the regular Reeves County Commissioners Court meeting held Monday.

Commissioners had agreed to help fund the Rescue Cam and set aside half of what is needed for the special equipment at their last meeting, and County Auditor Lynn Owens told commissioners, "This is one of the areas you can adjust the budget for."

Pecos Volunteer Fire Chief Roy Pena made a presentation to the court on May 8, showing a video detailing the piece of equipment that will help save many lives from burning buildings. The camera allowed firemen to get a better look through smoke to see if anyone is inside a building on fire.

At that time commissioners agreed to help purchase the Rescue Cam and on Monday they discussed where the funding would come from.

"I think we could get the money out of repairs of buildings," said County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo.

"I think it's a great opportunity to help the volunteer fire department and if they can save just one life it will be worth it," added Precinct 3 Commissioner Herman Tarin.

Fire department funding is normally split between Reeves County and the Town of Pecos City, and the total cost of the Rescue Cam has been put at $15,500. Tarin also donated $200 of his own money to help with the camera purchase.

In other action, commissioners discussed a foreclosed property bid policy for Reeves County.

In the past the policy was to have a once a year sale, where all the jurisdictions would have a list of the properties, according to tax assessor-collector Elfida Zuniga.

Zuniga told the court that properties that were foreclosed due to taxes were on the list and that once all the entities would participate in a "mass sale."

"Now the other entities are accepting bids over-the-counter and I think we should be doing that also," said Zuniga.

She also suggested that they do away with the July sale, since they would be accepting bids over-the-counter.

Anything sold by the other entities would have to be approved by the county also, according to Zuniga. "That way if we don't have the yearly sale we won't have to pay for advertising."

"I don't know about not advertising, I don't know if that's legal or not," said Owens. "We'll have to look into that.

"If original advertisement for taxes is enough, then we'll be alright," he added.

"I think it will be safe to adopt the policy and then ask that question," said Galindo, who suggested adopting the policy and then getting a written opinion in regard to proper procedure.

"Do we give them plenty of time to pay their taxes, once we strike it off as foreclosed?" asked Tarin.

"Yes, we give them plenty of time to work with us and then they still have a redemption period," said Zuniga.

A bid on foreclosed property at 2019 S. Park St. was approved in the amount of $3,050. The city, hospital and school had already approved the bid also, according to Zuniga.

A bid for property located at 402 S. Mesquite was tabled until further information on the exact procedure is found.

Commissioners listened to a performance review of the Reeves County Detention Center operations by MGT of America.

"First of all I want to tell you that this is one of the finest facilities I've seen, you should be proud of that," said Mr. Bob Lauder with MGT of America.

Lauder reviewed the findings, which included just a few recommendations for the facility that is otherwise in tip-top shape.

MGT also did a survey of salaries, comparing the salaries at RCDC with those of other facilities.

Lauder told the group that the salaries for CO1s and CO2s were very close with the other counties, the difference started with the CO3s. "The salaries are very similar but some facilities have CO3's that are getting a slightly higher salary," he said.

"As far as salaries, you're in mid-range with the statistics from the Department of Labor and a comparison with other facilities," said Lauder. "You're competing in a bigger arena, you're in a place that is surrounded by other prisons."

Lauder complimented the new system implemented at the RCDC. "From what we saw it's dynamic," he said.

The new inmate management system has also brought good reviews from employees in the different sections of the facility.

"The employees in the commissary department really like this new system," said RCDC Warden Rudy Franco. "It has certainly made their job easier."

Susie Maldonado, who works in the commissary department at the RCDC, told the court that before the new system, everything was done manually. "Now, we just scan the item and it is automatically deducted from the inmate's account," said Maldonado.

"It's like a retail store," said Galindo. "So it will be faster?" he asked.

"Yes, and it also tells us when we're low on items," said Maldonado.

New hires included at the Reeves County Detention Center, Jody Contreras, Alex Marquez, Rene Guerra, Jose L. Rodriguez, Kriss Natividad, Adela Herrera, Linda Bailey, John P. Thurman, Raul Salinas, Louis A. Miranda and Fred Lozano, as Correctional Officers 1 at an annual salary of $19,000. At the RCDC, Chris Portillo was promoted to the position of Computer Specialist III at a salary of $23,000 a year.

Arturo Pallan was promoted to the position of Food Service Foreman III at a salary of $23,000 at the RCDC; Natalie Nazaroff was hired at the Northside Swimming Pool Concession Stand Operator/Lifeguard, for the recreation department at $5.15 and $6 and Sarah Flores was hired as a Lifeguard at the Northside Swimming Pool on a part-time temporary basis at $6 and $5.15 for parties.

Teachers claim dismissal due to grade change fight

Editor's Note: This is the first in a series or articles concerning a student's grade that was administratively changed at Pecos High School, and allegations by the teachers involved that the district retaliated against them for challenging the action by not renewing their contracts for the 2000-2001 school year.

Staff Writer

PECOS, May 23, 2000 - Did your child fail a class at Pecos High School last year?

If he did, your complaint may be all that is needed to change that "F" to a passing grade.

That worked for one Pecos High School student this year.

The student failed a Spanish I class in May 1999 with a final exam grade of "15". The final semester grade of "61" was later changed to "81" by high school Principal Danny Rodriguez after the student's parents complained.

No reason was listed on the Grade Change Form supplied to the Pecos Enterprise by the school district.

Speaking to the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah Independent School District School Board during a closed executive session Superintendent Don Love explained that the grade change was warranted because the teacher did not keep the tests and work that proved the student deserved the failing grade.

The Pecos Enterprise obtained the minutes of the meeting through an open records request to the district.

The teacher involved, Brenilda Bauer, disagrees with Love's explanation.

Bauer also claims that fighting this grade change she characterizes as "unfair and discriminatory to her students" has cost her and her husband Bruce Bauer their teaching positions with the school district. Both teachers hold master's degrees and both are certified to teach multiple subjects by the State.

The school district denies that it retaliated against the Bauers by refusing to renew their contracts.

When questioned about the matter Rodriguez refused comment. Love said that the district had followed the Texas Education Code and that he could not comment on matters dealing with personnel and students.

According to attorney Judy Brown, the district refused to renew the contracts because the Bauers violated the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) by, "releasing student records containing personally identifiable information." Brown is an attorney with the law firm of Walsh, Anderson, Brown, Schulze and Aldridge that represents the district.

Mr. And Mrs. Bauer deny any violations of FERPA.

"You have to start from the beginning to understand what has happened here," Bauer said during an interview on May 2.

"The student failed my Spanish I class in the Spring semester of 1999. The student made a fifteen (15) on the final exam. That was in May. Then, four or five months later, in October, the parents came to see me about the grade and accused me of failing their child because I didn't like the student. They claimed I was handing out grades arbitrarily. They insulted me and they said they would take me to court. Then they went to see Principal Rodriguez," Bauer said.

Soon after the first meeting Rodriguez held a second meeting between Bauer and the disgruntled parents, Bauer said.

"It was about 10:30 in the morning. I explained the grading system to them (the parents) and showed them how the student failed," Bauer said.

"During the meeting the mother asked her child, `Wasn't she handing out grades?' The student said, `I don't remember,' and the mother got mad. The father said he would take me to the school board. It was very upsetting," Bauer said.

"Next, Danny Rodriguez called me out of a class. He had the head of the science department, Ms. Barbara Scown and the head of the social studies department, Mr. Charlie Wein, with him. He said that my grades were wrong and told me I had to change all my grades, but he was mistaken," Bauer said.

"The result of that meeting was that Ms. Scown and Mr. Wein both said that the grade did not need to be changed," Bauer said.

In a memorandum to Bauer that he initialed, Rodriguez said that Scown and Wein where present at the meeting. When asked about the meeting, Scown refused to comment. Wein could not be contacted. The memo was supplied to the Enterprise by the school district.

"The next day, Mr. Rodriguez demanded that I retest the student, and I refused," Bauer said.

"The day after that, Mr. Rodriguez called me out of the classroom again. He had Ms. Scown with him again, and he told me that I would retest the student. Again I refused," she said.

Bauer said that eventually she gave in and agreed to retest the student but shortly thereafter realized how unfair it was to all of her other students _ especially those that had also failed the course _ to give one student a second chance at passing the course.

"I took my test back and told Mr. Rodriguez that I would not retest the student. That it was wrong," Bauer said.

"Mr. Rodriguez then had another Spanish teacher write a new test and made an offer to the parents to retest the student himself," she said.

"But the parents refused to let the child take the new test. It seems to me that if the child knew Spanish well, the parent's wouldn't mind the child taking the new test, but they refused. Now they just wanted the grade changed," Bauer said.

Bauer said that the same day Rodriguez produced a letter from the parents dated from the week before (Oct. 15) accusing her of giving grades in an "arbitrary and capricious manner" and being "blatantly discriminatory."

The letter produced by the district at the request of the Enterprise does not detail the type of discrimination alleged, however Mrs. Bauer is a Hispanic born in Panama and according to records supplied by the district, the student is white/non-Hispanic.

"Most of my students are Hispanic and most of the students that failed were Hispanic. In all, 32 students failed my classes that semester. There were Anglo students that passed the course and I had students who aced the course," Bauer said. "I don't know what kind of discrimination they could accuse me of."

"The next thing I remember was receiving the letter from Mr. Rodriguez telling us that he had agreed with the parents to change the grade. The letter was dated Oct. 21," Bauer said.

In the Oct. 21 letter handed over to the Enterprise by the district, Rodriguez details that Bauer incorrectly averaged the student's grades and that she did not keep the student's final exam or class notebook _ two grades that contributed to the failing grade for the semester.

Rodriguez said that although the district has no policy requiring retention of student work, that it was, "his understanding that most teachers retain sample student grade materials for a year."

"…it is very difficult to justify and support a teacher's grades without any supporting documentation," he said in the letter.

"Given the circumstances in this instance, I have agreed to drop the semester exam grade and re-average the remaining six weeks grades to determine the semester average," he said.

Bauer doesn't find Rodriguez' explanation compelling.

Bauer said that she does not agree that the grades were averaged incorrectly, but that even using Rodriguez' formula, the student still failed the class.

Bauer also contends that Rodriguez' request for the student's final exam to support the grade is simply a pretext to base his decision on.

"The district requires teachers to maintain `representative work,'" Bauer said. "There is no definition of representative work, but a logical person would conclude that it means work that is representative of what the students did in the class _ not every piece of work handed in by every student."

"At some point teacher credibility must be an issue here. From the administration's standpoint, I have none. They have demonstrated that ," she said.

Bauer said that she thought the timing of the parents' complaint was also important.

"Why did they wait until October _ four or five months after the grade was given _ to complain?" she said. "How long should a teacher keep every piece of graded work by every student she teaches so that she can prove her grades are not lies," Bauer said.

"If my exam was so unfair, why didn't the district change the grades of other students that earned failing grades in the class? Why change the grade for this one student? This is unfair to every student in my class and the rest of the school," Bauer said.

"They have the final exam I gave _ just not the test this student wrote. The only thing in question is whether I graded the exam fairly. If I did not, then the grades for all of my students should be examined and changed, not just this student's grade," Bauer said.

According to attorney Judy Brown the district is not required by law to examine other grades in the class just because the decision was made to change one grade.

"Ordinarily grades are changed on a case-by-case basis and there is no legal obligation to recheck all the other grades when there are no other requests (from parents or students)," she said. "The administration may certainly change a grade if there are no documents presented to support the grade."

Bauer said that when she learned that Rodriguez planned on changing the grade she decided to file a grievance with the district.

"Filing the grievance and pursuing it all the way through the TEA (Texas Education Agency) has cost us our jobs, but it was the right thing to do," she said.

Through Brown, the district has stated that the decision not to renew the Bauer's contracts was not in retaliation for their grievance, but rather because of violations of FERPA that were revealed during the grievance process. The Bauers deny that they have violated FERPA in any way.

Superintendent of Schools Don Love said that the district, "followed the Texas Education Code verbatim and that there are limitations on our side as to how much of this story we can tell." Love refused to comment on any of the events or facts related by Bauer.

"I'm not going to discuss personnel or students," he said during an interview on May 4.

On October 25, 1999, Bauer filed a Level One Complaint with the school district.

Part II in this series will report on the Bauer's appeal to the grievance process and the district's response to the grievance.

Officials review WIPP truck safety plan

Staff Writer

PECOS, May 23, 2000 - Salt will save the United States from radioactive material, local officials and area residents were told during a presentation at the Quality Inn this morning.

Low-level radioactive material from all over the U.S. is being shipped to the Waste Isolation Pilot Plant, 26 miles east of Carlsbad, N.M. The first shipments to the site began in March of 1999, and shipments to the site through Pecos are scheduled to start later this year.

Mike Rutherford, Emergency Planner for the Texas Department of Health, said the Department of Energy chose that area for many reasons.

"That area has been geologically stable for millions of years," Rutherford said.

The stability of the area, bedded salt, depth, absence of water and the remote region all factored into the current site being chosen.

Before this site was built, the radioactive material was stored in temporary above ground facilities, which left the materials exposed to the environment and Mother Nature.

Rutherford said storing the material underground would minimize the chance of exposure.

Material is already being shipped to the WIPP site from western U.S and beginning in September, shipments from eastern U.S. will start.

The transportation route will be on Interstate highways, including I-20 across most of Texas.

"They have chosen Interstate highways for transportation because of good road conditions," Rutherford said.

Trucks will travel west on I-20 to Pecos, and exit onto U.S. 285 and travel through town to Loving, N.M.

Rutherford said there has been a great deal of precaution in the transportation of this radioactive material.

The material will be stored in type A containers, which are 55-gallon drums, which will be stored and transported in type B or Trupact-II containers.

These containers are designed to hold 14 drums at one time and are made of insulation, ceramic fiber, polyurethane foam and stainless steal. When they are fully loaded, each container weighs 19,250 lbs.

Rutherford said the type B containers are extremely safe.

The containers will be shipped on specially designed trucks that are equipped with a transport communication system.

This system will allow Denita Powell, Assistant Radiological emergency Planner of the Texas Department of Public Safety, to track each truck's movement throughout Texas.

"Each truck is tracked by satellite," Powell said.

The tracking system shows each truck on radar and will show up approximately two hours away from Texas and will be visible all the way across Texas and into New Mexico.

Powell will be able to determine when each truck driver stops for meals, has maintenance problems or is involved in an accident.

Each driver will be able to call emergency personnel from the truck and has a list of 911 numbers for every county they travel through, Powell said.

Each truck has two drivers and there will be a driver with the truck at all times.

Powell also said each county has the opportunity to be contacted when a truck is coming into their area.

Rutherford and Powell said they would have training classes for the emergency personnel on how to deal with the shipments and trucks in case of an accident.

T-Ball registration ends on Thursday

PECOS, May 23, 2000 - Parents have three more days to sign up their boys and girls for the Reeves County Community Sports and Recreation Department's summer T-ball league.

Parents can fill out registration forms for boys and girls between the ages of 4 and 7 at the RCCRD office in the old Pecos High School gym from 5 to 10 p.m. today through Thursday. T-ball teams will begin their seasons in June.

Sign-up forms for the league, which is open to boys and girls ages 4-7, can be obtained between 5 and 10 p.m. today through Thursday at the office.

For further information on any of the programs, call the RCCRD office at 447-9776.


Geoffrey Pacheco

Geoffrey Pacheco, 10, of Pecos, died Sunday, May 21, 2000, at Odessa Medical Center.

A rosary will be held at 7:30 p.m., today at the Pecos Funeral Home Chapel.

Mass is scheduled for 2 p.m., Wednesday, May 24, at the Santa Rosa Catholic Church with burial in Mt. Evergreen Cemetery.

He was born May 5, 1990, in Odessa, was a lifelong Pecos resident, a Catholic and a student at Austin Elementary School.

Survivors include his parents, Fernando and Yolanda Pacheco of Pecos; maternal grandparents, Norberto and Mary Legarda of Pecos; paternal grandparents, Felix and Crusita Pacheco of Pecos; great-grandparents, Timotea Hernandez of Barstow and Alejandro and Natividad Pacheco of Pecos.

The family requests that in lieu of flowers donations be made to the Children's Miracle Network on behalf of Geoffrey L. Pacheco.

Pecos Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

Thomas Rey

Thomas Nunez Rey, 64, of Pecos, died Monday, May 22, 2000, at Odessa Medical Center.

Services were held at 3 p.m., today at Santa Rosa Catholic Church, with burial in Greenwood Cemetery.

He was born Dec. 8, 1935, in Toyah, was a veteran of the U.S. Army, a lifetime Pecos resident and a Catholic.

Survivors include one son, Thomas Rey, Jr. of Pecos; one daughter, Elizabeth Rey Lopez of Pecos; two brothers, Juan Nunez Rey of Pecos and Alfredo Nunez Rey of Midland; four sisters, Mart R. Ontiveros of Big Spring, Flora Rey of Hanford, Ca. and Anita R. Ordionez of Austin, Maria R. Marin of Odessa, and three grandchildren.

Martinez Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.


PECOS, May 23, 2000 - High Monday 104. Low this morning 65. Forecast for tonight: Clear. Low in the mid 60s. Southwest wind 10-20 mph. Wednesday: Sunny and continued hot. High near 105. Southwest wind 10-20 mph. Extended forecast: Wednesday night: Partly cloudy. Low in the mid 60s. Thursday: Partly cloudy. Low in the lower to mid 60s. High in the mid to upper 90s.

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Pecos Enterprise
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
Division of Buckner News Alliance, Inc.

324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
Phone 915-445-5475, FAX 915-445-4321

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