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Thursday, July 12, 2001

Nepotism charge in P-B-T hirings gets strong denial

Staff Writer
PECOS, Thurs., July 13, 2001 -- Allegations of preferential treatment were put to rest and a report from the Campus Improvement Committee was heard during the regular Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD Board meeting held Tuesday.

The board also heard about problems filling the vacant assistant principal's position at Pecos High School, after the candidate selected for the post resigned from the school district.

During the audience portion of the meeting, Nannette Portillo read a statement to the board in regards to allegations made at the last board meeting two weeks ago. The allegations were connected to protests against the hiring of a new teacher at Austin Elementary over returning a former Austin teacher to that position, who had tendered his resignation after being moved to Pecos High School last year.

"At the last board meeting, held June 28, several statements and allegations were voiced concerning the Personnel Director and his preferential treatment to relatives employed by the district," said Portillo. "Being that we are the only blood relatives employed by the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD in relation to (personnel director) Gome Olibas, we would like for the board and the public to know we are both personally offended and aggrieved by such statements, and we find it terribly unprofessional and entirely unwarranted."

Portillo said, that first and foremost, that as professional educators, they were protected by law, and entitled the same rights, privileges and opportunities as any other individual employed by this district. "Our current positions have only been attained and perpetuated through our personal certifications and merits," she said. "We have continually demonstrated our dedication and commitment to this district, and our reputation as educators is nothing short of exceptional."

Portillo said that the mere implication that they have benefited and advanced their careers because of nepotism is both idiotic and absurd, and told board members they were not hired by Olibas.

"Furthermore, by allowing such asinine and false statements to be articulated in a public forum, you have not only done a great injustice to us, but you have also allowed bigoted, spiteful, and mean-spirited behavior to personally affect others," said Portillo.

"At the same meeting, it was presumed that both Veronica Valenzuela and Michael Valencia are relatives of Olibas, therefore also relations to us," she said, adding that while she did not think this should bear any influence upon the decisions and actions of others, the assumption that both were related to Olibas was false.

Portillo said that neither Valenzuela nor Valencia are blood relatives of Olibas.

"Continuing, we would also like to assert that because such defamatory statements were permitted, we feel personally discriminated against. This is something we will no longer tolerate, and in the future, any libelous, false and/or slanderous statements will be dealt with accordingly and legal representation will be sought," she said.

Portillo said that school board president Crissy Martinez should have been responsible for conducting the meeting in a fair, professional, and procedural manner. "Such faulty comments should never have been allowed, and your inability to properly govern and maintain control of such an occurrence is a great disappointment," she said.

Portillo further said that as school board members, "you have been entrusted with the responsibility of making ethical and reasonable decisions based on FACT." In the 1990 Crump v. Board of Education of Hickory Administrative School Unit, the court said, "when performing their quasi-judicial function during a board hearing and any resulting deliberations, members must be able to set aside their prior knowledge and preconceptions concerning the matter at issue…"

The claims were made at the last school board meeting after PHS teacher Priss McNutt stood up and spoke on behalf of a colleague, Alvino Garcia, who resigned his position at the high school, because he didn't want to teach and coach at the same time. Garcia had previously held a position at Austin Elementary School, but was moved to the high school, a position he did not want, and replaced at the elementary school with another teacher. When that teacher resigned following the end of the school year in May, the position was offered to Michael Valencia, who is from out of town.

McNutt said that Garcia really liked his position at the elementary school and it is the position he wanted, not the one at the high school. He has been with the district for several years, grew up in Pecos and wanted to get his position at the elementary school back.

However, she said that when the position was open again, it was not posted. School administrators said that yes, the position had been appropriately posted and Garcia did not apply for it, but Valencia did.

However, during the June 28 meeting board members went against superintendent Don Love's recommendation to hire Valencia and opted to wait and see the position posted and more applicants.

At Tuesday's board meeting Valencia was approved by the board, but not at the Austin Elementary School position. Valencia will be the Pecos Kindergarten physical education teacher/coach.

Love explained on June 28 that when a teacher has a dual assignment, to resign from one position, they must resign from both positions. Due to that rule, Garcia had to resign his English teacher's position at PHS in order to resign from the coaching post as well.

The assistant principal's vacancy arose last month as well, and the P-B-T Campus Improvement Committee read a report on Tuesday stating that they had met in an emergency meeting called by PHS Principal Danny Rodriguez.

The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the assistant principal's position at the high school, according to PHS teacher Barbara Scown.

"Mr. Rodriguez informed the committee that Rudy Martinez would be unable to take the assistant principal's position due to facts that should have been discovered prior to the interview process," said Scown, who went on to indicate that Martinez needed to complete additional administrative certification courses to fill the post.

Rodriguez sought the committee's input on the best course of action to take at this point. "As no one other than Martinez had been interviewed that the committee felt met the requirements necessary to fill this demanding high school position, committee members were concerned that at this late date we would be unable to recruit qualified applicants," said Scown. "What was particularly distressing was the fact that most potential applicants would by this time have already found employment elsewhere."

Scown said that high school is such a unique environment and this is such a demanding position that having years of experience with high school students should be a prerequisite for the job.

"After much discussion, it was recommended that we first try to work out the position with Martinez taking a temporary Dean of Students position during which time he could take the necessary hours and perhaps be able to enter the assistant principal program with the university in the spring or at the end of the school year," said Scown.

Rodriguez would act as mentor overseeing many of the administrative decisions and would make disciplinary duties the main responsibility of this temporary position. Concern was raised that Martinez had been "burned" in this whole process and, no longer having his old job with the district, was going to look elsewhere, according to Scown.

At this point the recommendation was made that there were other teachers at the high school working on their administrative certification, one of whom could serve as Dean of Students until he would be able to assume the assistant principal position.

"It was also recommended that the district should open the position for assistant principal and widely advertise it. Concern was raised that our district does not post its available positions on Texas Education Agency's website that is used by most other districts in our area and the committee wanted to know the date that the position had first been posted, where it had been posted, and for how long it had been posted," said Scown.

"Clearly, this is an unfortunate situation and the time element for us is critical. Our CIC committee has heard nothing in response to these recommendations and we are worried," said Scown.

She said the person selected for this position would have to handle disciplinary actions against PHS students. "These are the rules, you broke this rule _ this is what you must do as punishment. It's not let's make a deal, counselor time, and this is not a PR position," said Scown.

The resignations of Garcia and Martinez from their posts were both approved by the school board. Other personnel issues approved at the board meeting included resignations of Virginia Hunt, fifth grade teacher/Bessie Haynes Elementary School; Susie Molina, special education teacher/Zavala Elementary School; Zane Nutt, math teacher/Pecos High School; Daniel Rene Rodriguez, physical education teacher/coach/Pecos Kindergarten; Karen Suzanne Rodriguez, kindergarten teacher/Pecos Kindergarten; Nancy Russell, English teacher/GT Coordinator/Pecos High School and Lillian Talamantez, physical education teacher/coach/Bessie Haynes Elementary School.

Reassignments: Etta Bradley from Crockett Middle School reading teacher to Zavala Elementary School sixth grade language arts teacher; Roxanna Chavez from Lamar Alternative Education Program special education teacher/coach to Pecos High School special education teacher/coach; Crissy Dominguez from Pecos High School special education teacher to Lamar Alternative Education Program special education teacher/coach; Eva Garcia from Austin Elementary School third grade bilingual teacher to Bessie Haynes Elementary School fifth grade teacher; Jose Gonzales, Jr. from Zavala Elementary School sixth grade teacher/coach to Crockett Middle School reading teacher/coach; Robin Manning from Pecos High School history teacher to Lamar Alternative Education Program discipline teacher; Robert Ortega from Crockett Middle School physical education teacher/coach to Bessie Haynes Elementary School physical education teacher/coach; Eufemia Salazar from Bessie Haynes Elementary School fourth grade bilingual teacher to Pecos Kindergarten pre kindergarten teacher and Veronica Valenzuela from Pecos High School English teacher/coach to Austin Elementary School physical education teacher/coach.

Change of contracts included Crissy Dominguez from probationary contract for certified teacher to probationary dual assignment contract for certified teacher.

Tammy Walls from one-year dual assignment contract for non-certified professional to one-year term dual assignment contract for certified teacher.

Doc says trips to Pecos beat L.A. commute

Staff Writer
PECOS, Thurs., July 13, 2001 -- The Pecos medical community has grown since the new arrival of an orthopedic surgeon from Los Angeles.

Frank Dzida and his wife, Linda, decided that they would move to Odessa after living in Los Angeles for 10 years, and he travels 75 miles to Pecos to see patients every other week.

Dzida made several trips to Odessa on his own and on several occasions he made the trip with his son and wife.

"We liked Odessa the best," Dzida said. "I have a 7-year-old boy (Tim) and I was just looking for a new life style."

The new life style that Dzida said he was looking for was one in which he could be at work in 10 minutes and back home in 10 minutes.

"I want to be able to spend more time with my son," Dzida said.

Other then looking for a new life style, Dzida said that they chose Texas because he had lived here before.

Dzida had spent four years in San Antonio during his medical residency and he said that he just loved Texas.

Though he said that he liked San Antonio, Dzida said that he would not move back to a big city because he then would have to work more.

"Big towns have problems because of the HMO and with managed care," Dzida said. "Because of that I had to work more."

Though his wife is also a doctor in radiology, Dzida said that she would be a stay-at-home mom for their son.

"The most important thing in our lives is to be at home when our son gets home from school," Dzida said.

Dzida said that he enjoys his work as an orthopedic surgeon because every case is different.

"Orthopedics has to do with the problems of the muscles, bones and tendons in your body," Dzida said. "Every body is different. There is a variety."

"As an orthopedic surgeon people tend to be very appreciative and they let you know how important it is that I was able to help them," he said.

Dzida also said that what makes his day challenging is the fact that every individual is different. Though the injury and surgical routine might be the same as his previous patient something will change.

"Some times we may have to use custom made tools on someone," Dzida said. "Sometimes we even get patients that have something we have never heard of."

For Dzida different types of surgeries have unique problems.

"There are different types of difficulty, you have physical and mental difficulties," he said. "Back surgery is hard. So is hand surgery because of the skill. You have to use care and there is stress associated with it."

Dzida has operated on the elderly, children and newborns.

He remembers that one of his patients came in asking for his help. The patient had broken his leg going down a water slide at a water park and had had surgery done by another doctor. Dzida said that the patient's bone healed but it was pointing the wrong direction. After several surgeries with the same doctor, the patient decided to get a second opinion and came to him for additional surgery.

"Two years after I operated on the patient, his leg healed and now he is playing racquetball," he said.

Dzida said that since his move everyone has been very nice.

"The people are very kind and seem interested in accepting people," he added.

Overnight rollover near Toyah leaves girl dead, three injured

Staff Writer
PECOS, Thurs., July 13, 2001 -- A young girl died and three others were seriously injured following an early morning traffic accident on Interstate 20 east of Toyah.

The accident occurred at 3:50 a.m., today, at mile marker 27, on Interstate 20, five miles east of Toyah. The posted nighttime speed limit in that area is 65, according to the Department of Public Safety report.

The accident occurred when the vehicle, a 1998 GMC Envoy, was eastbound on I-20 traveling at an excessive rate of speed and veered off roadway into center median sliding sideways. The vehicle then flipped end over end, overturned twice and came to rest upright facing south.

Killed in the accident was 12-year-old Tia Blanch of San Jose, Calif. She was pronounced dead at 7 a.m., at Reeves County Hospital by Justice of the Peace Lamberto Herrera. Her body was taken to Pecos Funeral Home.

Blanch and a 15-year-old passenger, identified as Mia Evans, were both ejected from the vehicle.

The others injured include Michael DeCarlo Blanch, 46, of San Jose, who is listed in serious condition, with internal injuries. He was airlifted to Covenant Hospital in Lubbock. Evans, also of San Jose, was listed in serious condition at Covenant this morning with head and internal injuries.

The van's other passenger, Vernell Evans, 45, of San Jose, was also airlifted to Covenant Hospital in Lubbock and is listed in serious condition with internal injuries.

The accident was investigated by DPS Trooper Terry Gilchrest.

The fatality was the third on Pecos area roads in the past three days. Barstow resident Lucio Florez was killed Tuesday morning when his pickup was struck by a Union Pacific freight train on the east side of Barstow, and 84-year-old Bobbie Isham Luker of Stephenville was killed six hours later when the Ford Crown Victoria in which she was a passenger overturned near the 54 mile marker on I-20 in Ward County.

Martinez leaving job as city secretary

Staff Writer
PECOS, Thurs., July 13, 2001 -- The Town of Pecos City Council said goodbye to the city secretary during their regular meeting this morning at City Hall.

After seven years of service to the city, Geneva Martinez is resigning from her position as city secretary to take another job.

Her last day at city hall will be Friday, and she is planning to start her new job at American Home Health on July 23, where she'll be working for owner Leo Hung.

Martinez said that she is excited about her new job although it is quite a change from city employment.

"It's totally different but I'm ready for a change," she said.

Martinez is a native of Pecos who grew up and graduated in Pecos. She continues to live here with her husband, Joel, who was originally from Balmorhea and is the current safety manager for Reeves County Detention Center.

Together they are raising three children Joel Jr., 15, Jennifer, 13, and Jeremy, 11.

In addition to her city secretary position, Martinez has worked with the Pecos Youth Advisory Commission since its beginning in 1995.

"I really enjoyed working with the youth group," she said.

City Manager Carlos Yerena said that he was not expecting Martinez' resignation, and that she would be missed by all the employees of the city.

"We were a little bit surprised," he said. "But we're working with her and anything she needs, we're here."

During the meeting Mayor Ray Ortega said that he wanted to thank Martinez for her service to the city.

"I want to say thanks for everything you've done for us," he said. "We hate to see you go."

Martinez said that she would miss the people at city hall.

"I'll miss my co-workers," she said. "We worked really well together."

Martinez' resignation discussion came during an otherwise quiet council meeting.

In the public comment portion of the meeting, Hazel Herrera asked the Council to consider blocking off a dirt road that has formed on the empty lot between Veteran and Stafford Boulevards.

Herrera said that people travel through that area even though it has not been designated as a road.

Yerena told Herrera that the city is already working on blocking off that "street" and that it should be done by today.

Councilman Frank Sanchez informed the rest of the council that he had discussed the possibility with Yerena before and asked him to do some research for him.

Sanchez said that instead of just giving them some information on the roadway he "took the bull by the horns" and went ahead with blocking off the area.

After the meeting, Yerena explained that the dirt road is just a unpaved section of Yucca Street and is not heavily traveled.

He said that the city decided to block off the street, which runs parallel to Veteran and Stafford Boulevards, because it was never designated as a street.

The Council approved several ordinances from the 2000 edition of International building, residential, mechanical, fuel gas and electrical codes.

"We're looking to upgrade our codes," said Yerena, who explained that the city had been using the same codes that were approved in 1985.

"We haven't updated them since then," Fire Marshal Jack Brookshire said.

He said that upgrading the codes would make it easier for contractors who come in to build new buildings in Pecos.

"Most contractors work under the 2000 codes," he said.

The Council tabled the updated fire code so they could receive more information on one section in the code that involves the storage of liquids in aboveground tanks.

The Council had questions on what liquids the code refers to.

At the end of the meeting, Yerena said that the city would be receiving estimates next week on how much it would cost the city to bring the Pecos Athletic Swimming Pool up to regulation.

Over the past several months, officials have told the Enterprise that the city would be forced to permanently close the pool next summer due to the change in state pool regulations.

However, Yerena said that the city is not planning to close the pool but is exploring different options that the city could take to meet the new state standards.

"We're looking at the options and trying to see what we can do to keep it open," he said.

Yerena said that no matter what might happen next year the pool remains open this summer from 2 p.m.until 6 p.m., Tuesday through Sunday. It is located next to Rocket Park on the southwest side of Maxey Park.


PECOS, Thurs., July 13, 2001 -- High Wednesday 103. Low this morning 69. Forecast for tonight: Mostly clear. Low 70 to 75. Southeast wind 5 to 10 mph. Friday: Mostly sunny. High around 106. Southeast wind 5 to 15 mph. Friday night: Mostly clear. Low 70 to 75. Saturday and Sunday: Partly cloudy. Lows 70 to 75. Highs between 100-105.

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 instanced we will indicate payment and release.


Ron A. Valeriano, 19, was arrested at 6 p.m., on July 8 in the 2200 block of Eddy Street on a warrant for theft over $50 but less than $500-Class B Misdemeanor.


Alonzo Munoz, 29, was arrested at 8:39 p.m., on July 8 in the 700 block of Mesquite Street for driving with a suspended license.


Ruben Muniz, 42, was arrested at 10:12 p.m., on July 7 in the 200 block of Sycamore Street for public intoxication.


Ramon A. Noriega, 42, was arrested at 10:35 p.m., on July 7 at Saragosa Hall for public intoxication-enhanced, Class B Misdemeanor.


Oscar Hernandez, 45, was arrested at 12:36 a.m., on July 8 in the 200 block of Peach Street for public intoxication-enhanced, Class B Misdemeanor.


A female juvenile was arrested at 2:14 a.m., on July 8 in the 200 block of Locust Street for being a juvenile runaway.


Norbeto Rodriguez, 18, and Benjamin N. Anchondo, 20, were arrested at 10:24 p.m., on July 6 in the 1300 block of Cedar Street both for public intoxication while Anchondo was also arrested for evading officers.


Enrique Lujan, 45, was arrested at 12:01 a.m., on July 7 in the 1500 block of Cowan Street for assault under the Family Violence Act.


Pedro Morales, 63, was arrested at 1:55 p.m., on July 7 in the 200 block of Peach Street for public intoxication-enhanced, a Class B Misdemeanor.


Nolberto Martinez, 17, was arrested at 2:30 p.m., on July 1 in the 7000 block of Titan Street in the Lindsey Addition for assault under the Family Violence Act.


Jose Luis Lujan, 39, was arrested 10:53 p.m., on July 10 in the 800 block of Martinez Street for public intoxication.


Marcelo Carrasco and Lucio Florez, Sr.

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