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Thursday, June 15, 2000

School board wrong, "missing" facts are there

By Smokey Briggs
Editor's Note: Yesterday the Enterprise printed a press release from the local school board. Within that release, the board accused me of intentionally leaving out facts from a recent series of articles concerning a grade change and the non-renewal of Brenilda and Bruce Bauer's teaching contracts. This is my response.
PECOS, June 15, 2000 - In its release, the board implied that I intentionally left out facts with the intent of helping Brenilda and Bruce Bauer's story, and hurting the poor, defenseless school board.

It then uses a lot of ink "detailing" the facts I left out.

There is only one problem. The "facts" they claim are missing from my articles are not missing. Any semi-intelligent person could find these facts within the four articles by simply reading them.

I will deal with these "facts" momentarily.

More important to Pecos than the personal attack on my credibility and honor and the credibility of the Enterprise, is the obvious fact that the school board is practicing damage control and blowing smoke, rather than addressing the issues.

The issues that should be addressed are:

1) Why wasn't each student in that class treated the same? That the district was not legally bound to do so does not change its moral duty to treat these kids equally.

2) Did the Bauer's violate the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act? A violation of this act is the reason given for the non-renewal of their contracts.

The board does not address these issues at all.

This is a pretty good clue that the whole press release is nothing but a smoke screen meant to distract Pecos from the real issues.

Now I will attempt to address each accusation made by the board in its press release regarding the "facts."

Accusation No. 1

The board used a lot of ink explaining that the Bauers filed their complaint with the Texas Education Agency on December 15th and that the complaint "included copies of student discipline records" collected the previous year without the knowledge or consent of the district, parents, etc…, and that the Bauers did not remove the names from these records before submitting them to the Agency.

"The discipline records were not relevant to the grade change in any manner," the board said.

Whoa Nelly! How does the school board know what is relevant to the Bauer's complaint? That sounds like the fox guarding the hen house to me.

More importantly, these facts were in the articles.

The opening 13 paragraphs of the fourth article of the series, printed in the Enterprise on Friday, May 26th, sets out the details of these allegations by Superintendent Don Love.

Accusation No. 2

The next "fact" I supposedly omitted was Don Love's demand that the Bauers return all copies of student records in their possession, and the Bauers' response.

Wrong again. The demand and the response appear in the fourth article, in paragraphs 6, 7, and 12.

Next, the school board complains that I did not mention that the board offered the Bauers an affidavit to sign in the event that they did not have any student records.

The board is correct. I did not. The reason, is that the question had already been asked and answered. To include the part about the affidavit was redundant. Don Love's allegation that the Bauers violated the Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) and the Bauers' response were reported in detail.

To include that the Bauers did not "deny" the allegations a second time by signing the district's affidavit equals the proverbial beating of a dead horse.

Accusation No. 3

The school board next spends another bucket of ink complaining that the Bauers "misrepresented to the Texas Education Agency … that their contracts had been nonrenewed by the board on March 10."

This whining by the board verges further into ridiculousness.

As the board explains in the release, the Bauers only officially received notice of "proposed nonrenewal" on March 10.

They didn't actually get "nonrenewed" until the April 4th school board meeting, the board said in its press release.

What I actually reported was: "The couple found out on March 3, 2000 that their professional evaluations had been changed and the district was not going to offer them contracts for the 2000-2001 school year because of their alleged violations of FERPA."

March 3rd was the day their evaluations were changed and they were advised of the administration's intentions not to renew their contracts.

Personally, when I'm told I'm going to be fired, I count that as the date. Ya'll make the call on this one, but if this is of importance, I'll eat my hat.

Accusation No. 4

Last, the board tries to cast doubt on Texas State Teachers Association Interim General Counsel, Kevin Lungwitz, as I quoted him in the May 26th article.

A careful examination of this accusation reveals that it is a lengthy non-answer wholly lacking in substance, and does not refute what Lungwitz' said, or how I quoted him.

In the press release the board also tries to shift the spotlight from whether the Bauers violated FERPA, to whether they were insubordinate by refusing to hand over the records they were accused of having, in violation of FERPA.

First, the Lungwitz matter:

The board makes much of the fact that Lungwitz, "…had no knowledge of the facts related to the case," and was not presented with Superintendent Love's directives to hand over records.

Well, they are partially right. He was not briefed on all the facts of the case.

The story required his legal opinion on whether the Bauers had violated FERPA. I provided him with Don Love's accusations and "evidence" as Love outlined in a letter to the Bauers dated December 17.

I had already printed the district's attorney's opinion that the Bauers were in violation of FERPA. In the interest of fairness, it was only right to solicit the opinion of a knowledgeable and disinterested attorney on the same subject.

Again, you will notice that the district does not deny Lungwitz' statements or say that I misquoted him. It does not deny Lungwitz' opinion that the Bauers did not violate FERPA.

The board simply whines that Lungwitz was not also told about the Bauers refusing to give Love the documents that were demanded.

I'm not sure how this equates to intentional omission of facts.

In the article I state very clearly what facts Lungwitz was presented with, and what matters he was asked to address.

Here is exactly what I reported regarding Lungwitz' opinion:

Kevin Lungwitz, interim general counsel for the Texas State Teachers' Association, (TSTA) agrees with the Bauers.

"To characterize the Bauers actions as violations of FERPA is absurd," Lungwitz said.

Lungwitz' comments were relayed through TSTA Information Officer Annette Cootes after Cootes briefed him on the district's accusations contained in the Dec. 17 letter from Superintendent Love.

"Lungwitz said that a teacher couldn't violate FERPA by releasing records to privileged individuals and agencies, such as to the superintendent, or the Texas Education Agency, especially in the context of the grievance process."

Lungwitz did not find the argument that the Bauers had somehow released the records to themselves credible either.

There is no reason to ask an attorney as to whether the Bauers were guilty of insubordination. We can all figure questions like that out without the help of general counsel.

Well, most of us. I'm not sure our school board could.

In conclusion…

The attempt by the Board to fall back on the Bauers refusal to comply with Don Love's directives is an illogical smoke screen that quickly blows away when exposed to the winds of reason.

If the Bauers were not in violation of FERPA as they have maintained from the beginning, Don Love's directives can hardly be a lawful command.

It is well established in logic and ethics that without a lawful command, there can be no insubordination.

This "cart-before-the-horse" argument by the board is pathetic, and silly.

These few straws, which the board grasps at in its release, are the only complaints made.

You will notice that the board does not dispute a single fact that was printed in these four articles, and cannot come up with a credible argument that anything relevant was omitted.

Neither does it address the two issues that underlie the entire story:

Why weren't the other kids treated the same as the one whose grade was changed?

Did the Bauers violate FERPA?

In the press release, the board closes with, "This statement is the only statement that will be made by the Board of Trustees and we consider the matter closed at this time."

Well, the board is not granted the power to decree what matters are closed and what matters are not closed. The people of Pecos have that power.

For Pecos' sake, for the sake of all the kids in this school system, I hope this matter is anything but closed.

Chamber/Shopper Advisory Committee meet with grocers

Staff Writer

PECOS, June 15, 2000 - A lot of questions were answered and concerns were addressed during a meeting between several members of the community and local grocery store managers.

Chamber of Commerce Board member Linda Gholson updated the board during the regular meeting held Tuesday at the Senior Citizens Center.

"We met on June 1, at the Reeves County Civic Center, with the managers of both local grocery stores and the owner C.G. Evans," said Gholson.

Gholson stated that a lot of questions were answered and concerns addressed. "A committee was formed that will follow up on the communities' concerns," said Gholson. "All concerns will be addressed," she said.

This is something they have been working on and any comments and concerns will be addressed by the grocery stores, according to Gholson.

"I really appreciate the community's comments," said Robert Garcia affiliated with La Tienda. "I think it was a very good meeting and a lot of decisions were made," said Garcia.

Garcia stated that they really got the ball rolling and that concerns brought up during the meeting would be addressed by the grocery store personnel.

The group will have another meeting on July 13.

Members of the Shoppers Advisory Committee include, Jean Burkholder, Jo Cooksey, Geneva Martinez, Emily Fernandes, Dot Stafford, Jeannette Alligood, Tom Rivera, Carol Clark, Alice Florez, Pat Hubbs, Bill Davenport, Michael Benavides, Janet Martinez, Louise Moore, Gerald Tellez, Fred Dominguez, Linda Gholson, Norma Golden and Armando Gil.

Board members also voted to donate $250 to the Pecos Volunteer Firefighters in their effort to purchase a Rescue Cam.

"They currently have about $10,000 and total cost for the Rescue Cam is $15,500," said chamber director Tom Rivera.

Reeves County has already donated half, to the worthy cause.

Board president Jeannette Alligood told the board that Rivera had had a call about a meeting in Austin regarding the trucking system.

"This is to determine which highways will tie together and this could be a very important thing for Pecos," said Alligood.

Alligood stated that Pecos wanted the highway to tie together from Fort Stockton on down to the New Mexico state line.

The judge called Rivera and stated that he would like representation from the city, county and chamber, according to Alligood.

"We really need representation in Austin," said Alligood

A team that was in Pecos recently doing a survey will submit a written report in a couple of weeks.

"One of the things the team members did agree on is that we didn't have a plan, other than that we want more businesses and want the town cleaned up," said Alligood.

One of the things suggested was having a retreat with city council members, county members and the chamber.

"Set up a retreat sometime in August, with all the entities and come up with some plans," said Alligood. "The written report from the team will be here in a few weeks," she said.

Darren Clark, team leader, said he would be the facilitator for the retreat, according to Alligood.

"If the board feels it's a worthwhile project, we should pursue it," said Alligood.

The item was discussed for a while, but no action was taken.

"We could put a survey out, before having the retreat, and possibly send it out with the water bill," said Linda Gholson.

"It'll be awhile, but between now and July, we need to come up with a plan as to who will be in the retreat and whether to have it or not," said Alligood.

Town of Pecos City Mayor Ray Ortega was going to look into seeing if the survey could be attached to the water bill.

The chamber has ordered bags that will be available to all the merchants to be sold for $14. "These are real nice bags that will put Pecos out there, and all the merchants can purchase them to sell at their place of business," said Rivera.

"We did put a business directory together and will be added to our website," said Rivera.

In other business, Rivera reported that they are still working on the Fall Fair Concert. "The group that did it last year stated that they are no longer interested in doing it," said Rivera.

Space still available for Night in Old Pecos

Staff Writer

PECOS, June 15, 2000 - Space is still available for vendors at Night in Old Pecos and the spaces are free to local vendors.

"We still have some openings and are trying to get more vendors out there," said Chamber of Commerce Director Tom Rivera.

Rivera stated that some people wait until the last moment to go sign up.

Night in Old Pecos is scheduled for Saturday, July 1, in downtown Pecos.

Vendors will be set up along Oak and Second Street and a D.J. will be performing on the Windmill Square, located directly behind the West of the Pecos Museum.

Vendors who have already signed up will be selling all kinds of items including toys and novelties, sunglasses, bandanas and burritos. A vendor from Odessa will be selling aguas frescas, fruit cups and nachos.

Another vendor will be offering chili dogs, sno-cones, large corn dogs and funnel cakes. Fries, nachos, sno-cones, burritos and pickles will be for sale at other booths and a group from Monahans is bringing a Kiddie Ferris Wheel for the children's entertainment.

"We're trying to make it a fun time for everyone and have something for everyone," said Rivera.

Tickets for the rodeo events are on sale now at the Chamber of Commerce Office and can be purchased by calling 1-800-588-BULL or the chamber office at 445-2406.

Reserved seats will $8 and $10.

Tickets can also be purchased on-line this year, and the West of the Pecos Rodeo will be able to be viewed via the internet. Log on to: to watch the broadcast.

Pizza Pro added to Dan's Music and Video

Staff Writer

PECOS, June 15, 2000 - Dan's Music and Video is now becoming the local stop for dinner and a movie.

Ronny Daniel and his wife, Jeannie, are adding Pizza Pro to their business on the corner of Cedar and 3rd streets. Pizza Pro will open late next week and will serve three sizes of pizza, Stromboli, cheese sticks, bread sticks, hot wings and barbeque wings.

Daniel said this addition is good for business.

"This is something added because just being in videos is hard," Daniel said. "We're just diversifying."

Daniel needed more space in order to add Pizza Pro. An addition was added to the front of the building for video storage and office space.

"This area was storage and my office, and we needed it for the kitchen and storage," Daniel said. "We just kind of rotated."

Daniel hired five new employees to work at Pizza Pro and will use the current employees there as well.

"Most of the new people have some food experience," Daniel said.

Daniel said the food and the rest of the equipment will arrive today and tomorrow.

Daniel and his wife traveled to Little Rock to be trained on how to use the equipment at the Pizza Pro headquarters. The employees will be trained next week in time for the opening at the end of the week.

Dan's will continued to serve sno-cones, nachos and slushies.

Orders will be taken over the phone or at Pizza Pro and they can be picked up at the inside or drive through windows.


PECOS, June 15, 2000 - Today mostly cloudy this morning partly cloudy and breezy this afternoon. High around 95. Southwest wind 15-25 mph and gusty. Tonight partly cloudy low in the mid 60s. South wind 10-20 mph. Friday partly cloudy high 90-95. South wind 10-20 mph.

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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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Copyright 2000 by Pecos Enterprise