Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country
of West Texas
Tuesday, June 20, 2000
By Smokey Briggs
Court didn't ban prayers,
just prayers to a god
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled yesterday that school districts may not allow
students to lead stadium crowds in prayers at football games.
"School sponsorship of a religious message is impermissible," Justice
John Paul Steven wrote for the Court.
In their reasoning, I think the Court missed one important point.
That point revolves around the Court's definition of "religion."
To get to this missing point, you have to take a hard look at what a
"religion" is, and examine the underpinnings of government.
When you whittle away the trappings of any religion, what you find is
a system of beliefs - a system of ethics. This is true with Christianity,
Islam, Hindu, etc.
When you look under the hood of any government, and any government institution
such as a school, you find the same thing - an underpinning structure of
beliefs. A structure of general rules. A religion.
What the Court accomplished yesterday is to ban belief systems that
are associated with a god.
There will still be, and there will always be, a system of beliefs that
drives every government institution. The only difference is that the belief
systems that are currently acceptable make no acknowledgment of a god.
Make no mistake, these systems of belief are a religion. They are a
religion followed just as devoutly by their adherents as Christianity is
So at the next high school football game, take a moment and listen to
the collective mumbling of the crowd. Listen to the blare of the bands.
Listen to the opening whistle. Listen to the absence of any prayer.
While you are listening you will hear the prayer of the atheist. You
will hear the prayer of the secular humanist - a religion that does not
acknowledge a god.
It may be silent, but it a prayer none-the-less, and this one is sanctioned
by the state.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Smokey Briggs is the editor and publisher
of the Pecos Enterprise whose column appears on Tuesdays. He can be e-mailed
Race card doesn't play in this hand
Today, there is a letter from School Board President Louis Matta on this
In his letter Matta says that the recent articles and opinions published
by the Enterprise regarding the school district were racially motivated
_ that these articles are simply an attempt to destroy the school board
that recently gained a Hispanic majority.
"It amounts to no more than good ole' racial politics," Mata says in
This accusation does not make sense - especially when you consider the
racial makeup of the parties involved, and the school board, at the time
these events occurred.
A Caucasian child got a failing grade from a Hispanic teacher. A Hispanic
principal changed the grade. A Caucasian superintendent agreed with the
principal. Then, a school board made up at the time of three Caucasians,
three Hispanics, and one African-American, rubber-stamped the decision
to change the grade.
The race card simply does not play in this hand.
Crying racisim at this point is nothing more than another smoke screen
meant to obscure the real issues involved.
School trustee thinks biased
To the Editor:
The good people of Pecos have been force-fed your biased, slanted opinion
long enough. You may know something about the newspaper business, but you
have no concept of what the school business is all about. Now, let's address
1. You have accused Mr. Rodriguez of being unfair to the students in
Mrs. Bauer's class because he did not automatically assume that every student
in that class wanted their grades reviewed when one of the parents requested
that their child's grades be reviewed. This is ridiculous. The only way
Mr. Rodriguez could have acted unfairly would have been to deny another
parent's request to review their child's grades.
If one of your subscribers came to you and complained about the poor
service they were receiving from one of your newspaper carriers would you
automatically assume that all of your carriers were providing poor service
and reprimand them all? Well, you probably would. Our school administrators
and teachers are faced with fairness issues every day and I have faith
in their ability to make the right decisions. This grade change issue is
2. The Bauers submitted student discipline records to support Mrs. Bauer's
grievance concerning an academic grade change. How could student discipline
records be relative to a dispute over an academic grade? These student
discipline records were from the previous school year. How would the Bauers
have had access to these records? This is the question that led the Administration
and the School Board to believe that the privacy rights of the students
whose names appeared on these discipline records had been violated.
The Bauers refused to comply with Mr. Love's directives to return, to
the school district, all student identifiable records in their personal
possession. They also refused to sign and return, to the Superintendent,
an affidavit in the event they did not have any student records, and had
not revealed the student's names or records to other persons. The Bauers
refusal of these options gave the Administration and the School Board no
other choice but to take appropriate action.
It is obvious to any "semi-intelligent" person that your only interest
in this whole affair is to promote Smokey Briggs...and possibly sell a
few more newspapers.
Concerned citizen and parent,
BRENT N. SHAW
Flavorful comments enjoyed
I really enjoy your flavorful comments which show your talent for writing
and keeping your audience coming back for more. Unfortunately, some of
the comments that were printed on the editorial page lately, (please don't
get huffy and defensive as if I were accusing you of something, because
I'm not) indicate lack of knowledge of the due process procedure in the
I will try to explain what I mean with no malice of fore thought toward
any person, directly or indirectly involved, or readers of the editorial
page, but in order to inform to the best of my ability and knowledge.
Citizens of the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah independent School District the
officials of the school board to represent them like the citizens also
elect officials in the other local, state, and national governing bodies.
The school board is the educational judicial review board which follows
procedures for the appeal process concerning educational grievances. There
are levels at which to begin before going to the next level Even in education,
because it too is a business, he must follow the prescribed protocol if
one is ignorant of the rules and regulations, because they are uninformed
or choose to ignore them is no excuse for not following them.
If one does not know the law, then pay someone who does in the educational
system, the appeal of a grievance continues to the next higher level until
satisfaction with decree OR ed to the next level. The decision decreed
may not be satisfactory, but it is a judgment rendered! The due process
allows educational employees to be heard before the judicial review board,
openly if desired, so that all parties concerned can present evidence to
support their actions. Evidence is immensely important! In the business
community as well as the educational community, the by word is Document!
The readers may not have first-hand knowledge of how evidence, including
documentation, is used in an appeal of accusation, commonly called a grievance,
but a majority understand the due process if only from watching judge Judy
or other small claims court presentations on television.
When the judge (or school board) says that the case is closed, or case
dismissed, or judgment for X or Y _ then it is OVER! The school district
is the final authority within its jurisdiction.
If one has no documentation in the lower levels, then it would be futile
to further appeal in higher levels known as a court of law where legal
fees, court fees, and time to pursue an appeal could bankrupt one over
a grievance in which they participated.
Educational employees can choose from several unions, which for a fee
collected, will provide insurance, magazine, newsletters, and other material
to inform and protect their membership.
Ignorance is NOT bliss, and as the Internal Revenue Service puts it,
ignorance of the law is no excuse.
Please Pecos people, become informed of what one can do, when they can
do it, and the approved procedure to do it! These series of articles show
that the knowledge of fact and knowledge of due process could be improved.
We can help each other by following due process, closed or open, and
not "try the case in question' through the media which becomes like the
parlor game "GOSSIP', even if it does keep everyone reading the paper.
If I have said anything to offend anyone, forgive me. The intention
is to edify and let us be Pecos Proud, not Pitiful Pearls.
School Board President says coverage is racist
I shared the following memo with fellow board members. Now allow me
to pass it to you and our citizens.
The attacks continue. And will continue until their point is proven.
Pecos Enterprises' editor thinks he has discovered a novel mechanism
to destroy the credibility of a governing body: What he has failed to find
out it that the tactics the newspaper is using are only political trickery
older than the tales of Pecos Bill.
Yes, I will be the first to tell you that Pecos' schools have personnel
problems, instructional problems, and financial problems. What School District
doesn't. It has been my experience that most of those problems are solved
as they arise. I remain adamant that the important questions Board Members
should get honest and quick answers to relate to our customers: students
and their parents when problems occur. In short, how does this question
relate to providing the best education possible for our customers. If the
best reason is that you are responding to an issue created by the newspaper
or by another citizen, then you must ask yourself how your response will
affect the best interest of your customer.
Often, in dealing with personnel issues, the less said the better. Always,
when dealing with a student's issue. Nothing said proves a sound tactic.
We are dealing with people and there are always at least two sides to every
story. Those that choose to attack us as board members don't have to follow
this advice because they didn't take that oath that we did. At the end
of the day, they forget their allegations and go on to another issue. We
as board members can't.
So why would the Pecos Enterprise and its editor choose to attack this
school board. The Pecos Enterprise was given certified copies of every
correspondence, document, transcript and record pertaining to this issue
through the Freedom of Information Act. The same record was presented to
TEA and a State Administrative Judge who found that his court had no jurisdiction
over this matter because no law had been violated And yet, the editor's
analysis of the evidence drew a different conclusion. My advice is that
we go with the Judge. It amounts to no more than good ole' racial politics.
Look around you. You see students, school employees, administrators, concerned
citizens, and other board members.
What do our attackers see? Too many brown faces, too many Hispanic principals,
too many white traitors who are dealing with them, and no one on the inside
to give them the dirt. Their point it that any governing board not controlled
by them, must be discredited and disbanded. It's 2000 you say, and this
just doesn't go on anymore. Let me suggest to you that it does and that
the attacks on this school system are aimed at discrediting the Hispanic
majority board, and the Hispanic-majority administration.
I've seen these tactics used before in the State of Texas and in Reeves
County. So the mechanism is not new, but the damage it can produce takes
its toll. Holler loud enough and often enough and some will begin to believe
most citizens in this District will deny that they share those racist convictions
and I believe them. But I am not speaking about those that are not racists.
I refer to those who will not allow the election process to function if
their candidates don't win. I expect much denial and grandstanding from
our attackers rationalizing that they are only acting for the good of our
community. This begs the question of how days upon days of half truths,
and severe editing of the pertinent information provided can lead to the
betterment of our schools.
Our legal counsel assures us that we are on firm legal ground., and
that allowing ourselves to be provoked will not help our standing. The
only result it that we will help sell newspapers. Our goal to providing
a better education should not include increasing the readership of any
I have been an integral part of many school Boards, and many other advisory
committees. The last Board and this current one are, without a doubt, as
good as it gets. Don't let a newspaper editor put doubt in your worth as
a positively contributing citizen. School Districts in the State of Texas
are tightly governed and monitored; more so than County and City Governments.
We must adhere to the strict letter of the law as set by the Texas Legislature
and policed by Texas Education Agency. We, as a matter of policy, do not
wait until someone shouts "it's time for an investigation" to initiate
internal and external audits.
As a Board we have chosen the conservative approach in all matters to
consult with lawyers specializing in Public School Law. Often, this seems
to be slow and tedious but more than once, it has been proven as the best
road to take. When the day is done the Board should be proven right and
As to the subject of how future grade changes will be handled and what
procedure will be utilized to assist parents and students who wish to challenge
a grade, I have asked the superintendent to check with legal counsel in
preparing procedures for our consideration.
President _ PBT-ISD School Board
School boards press release _ absurd
I must commend you on your column concerning the school boards accussation
that you withheld information from the community. It was absurd.
I read the Pecos Enterprise daily via the internet, and have followed
this story closely. When the school board released their statement, I too
was wondering whether they had even read the articles printed earlier in
the series. In my opinion, this issue should not be closed.
Also, I can not believe that Mr. Rodriguez did not defend his faculty.
As soon as we allow the children and parents to take control of grades,
the faculty has lost control of the classroom. Why do we even have a grading
system in the first place? If we want to make this normal practice, I am
beginning to think that maybe some of my grades should be changed and I
should be valedictorian of my class. Is it too late to contest that point?
I guess I could go on and on about issue. The fact of the matter is,
parents should have a more active role in their children's performance
in school. This would allow them to be aware of how their kids are doing.
This would also give them the opportunity to question their children's
grades or the teacher's grading system during the grading period while
the teacher has all the appropriate class work on hand vice weeks after
the class is over.
We need to remember that the teacher's are not the enemy. They have
a job to do and that job is to teach our kids and prepare them for life
on their own.
The world is an unforgiving place and we all know we can't change everything
we think is unfair.
Again, I could go on, but I will not continue. To answer the question
most of you may be wondering, yes I do have children in school and yes
my wife and I monitor their performance and communicate with their teachers
on a daily basis. This is what I believe to be a big key to their success.
I commend you again Mr. Briggs and thank you for allowing me to share my
feelings as well.
ERNIE A. MATTA
Family kept in prayers, thoughts after incident
Thank you for your article and picture of Jan Pattillo feeding one
of the orphaned calves whose mothers had been slaughtered on the David
Pattillo Ranch out of Balmorhea.
It is sickening to me to think there are individuals in our county that
murder defenseless animals. And what makes this even more horrible, the
majority of the cattle here are big pets due to the continuing drought
and constantly being fed. They would have greeted the intruders enthusiastically.
I've never known a better or more charitable human being than David
Pattillo. Little did any of us know of the pain and suffering that David
and Jan would have to endure because they care about our community.
I ask each of you to keep the Pattillos in your prayers and let them
know that none of us will tolerate this murderous behavior. We can also
donate to the reward being offered. It's just a matter of time until the
guilty are brought to justice. Thank you!
Private Citizen and Taxpayer
Food for thought
I'm so glad to see someone taking the time and interest in re-opening
the old State Theater. That place holds alot of fond memories of growing
up for me. I had my very first kiss there. My hat is off to Richard and
Lilian. I'm so glad yall took the time, thought and money to re-open that
I just wanted to let you know, I live in the Dallas area and I just
wanted to share an idea with you. Plano just recently opened a Movie Studio
Grill. It's been very successful, and very convenient. You can go into
the theatre, purchase your ticket, pick your own table to sit at, and eat
a full blown meal while you watch a movie. I know this is a long shot for
Pecos, but, I just thought I'd help you with any future ideas.
The Studio Movie Grill has seats that are staduim seating, so the lady
with the big hat won't be blocking the screen, customers have a table in
front of them.
The tables have soft lighting underneath a small lip located at the
head of the table, so, when the lights go down for the movie, you can still
see what you're eating. They also serve beer and wine at the Studio Movie
Grill. I know the State Theatre has that upper deck. That would make a
great kitchen. Of course, I know just as well as others that takes money
for ideas so grande. But, just kinda put it in the back of your mind for
now and see if it may spark some interest around town. Just a thought.
Congratulations Richard and Lilian. I commend you for re-opening a place
that remains close to my heart.
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York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
Peggy McCracken, Webmaster
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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