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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
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Top Stories

Friday, March 8, 2002

Judge tosses out teachers' suit against P-B-T

Staff Writer

PECOS, Fri., March 8, 2002 -- Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD has been granted a summary judgment  in a complaint filed two years ago by two school district teachers,  board members were told Thursday night. 

"The court ruled in favor of Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD for summary judgment," said PBT-ISD Superintendent Don Love, after he and the board met Thursday evening in closed session to confer with the board's attorney and hear the results of the suit.

"We're very happy on court ruling on all issues and plan with continuing devoting our efforts back to educating our kids," said Love.

The complaint was brought two years ago by Bernilda Bauer and Bruce Bauer, both of which were teachers at the Pecos High School at that time. The summary judgment, issued on Monday by U.S. District Court Judge Donald E. Walker, means the case was dismissed by the judge in favor of P-B-T ISD before the case went to trial.

The teachers alleged that the defendants, PBT-ISD School Board, Principal Danny Rodriguez and Superintendent Don Love, discriminated and retaliated against them because of Mrs. Bauer's national origin, her filing of a grievance with the Texas Education Agency and a charge of discrimination with the EEOC, and Mr. Bauer's assistance to his wife with her complaints.

Walker dismissed all the claims made by the Bauers, including the one involving the retaliation charge. "Plaintiffs have not proven that their protected activity of filing grievances was a `but for' cause of the nonrenewal of their contracts," he wrote in his decision. "Had they not filed their grievances, it appears certain that their noncompliance with Love's directives alone would have resulted in the same actions by the P-B-T ISD board. Thus, the court finds that the Plaintiffs claims for retaliation under Title VII must be dismissed with prejudice."

Mrs. Bauer, a Panamanian, claimed that the discrimination based on her national origin was a continuing violation that commenced in 1995. While Mrs. Bauer taught English as a second language at Pecos High School in 1995, she applied for an opening to teach English and history. She also applied for a position in 1996. She claims that she was passed over both times in favor of lesser-qualified Caucasian and/or Mexican-American applicants.

Mrs. Bauer was ultimately hired by PBT-ISD in the summer of 1998 as a Spanish teacher. She taught Spanish during the 1998-99 and 1999-2000 academic year.

In October 1999 parents of a PBT-ISD student complained to Rodriguez about the failing grade their child received in Mrs. Bauer's Spanish class in the spring of 1999.

Mrs. Bauer, Rodriguez and the parents of the failing student met to discuss the student's grade. At Rodriguez's behest Mrs. Bauer agreed to retest the student.

Later, Mrs. Bauer explained by letter to Rodriguez on Oct. 11, 1999, that she would not retest the student and considered Rodriguez's request an "assault on her professional integrity." The parents of the failing student wrote to Rodriguez on Oct. 15, 1999, and stated that they believed Mrs. Bauer was being "blatantly discriminatory" in giving her child a failing grade in the class.

Rodriguez ultimately changed the student's grade from a failing 61 to a passing 80.

Rodriguez notified Mrs. Bauer of his decision on Oct. 21, 1999, and explained his reasoning.

Mrs. Bauer filed complaints about Rodriguez's actions through the PBT-ISD grievance process and was denied at each level.

Mr. Bauer wrote several lengthy letters to Rodriguez in October 1999 in support of his wife's decision not to change the student's grade. In addition, Mr. Bauer delivered a copy of a document he authored entitled, "Chapter XVIII to Love as "background information" pertaining to the difficulty (Mrs. Bauer) was having with Rodriguez.

Chapter XVIII is part of a 20-chapter narrative that Mr. Bauer composed between November 1991 and August 2000. The title of this narrative is The Influence of Contemporary American Society Upon Public Education in the American Southwest. A 14-year History from a Teacher's Perspective, 1986-2000. Mr. Bauer plans to submit this narrative as his doctoral dissertation sometime in the future.

On Dec. 17, 1999, Love sent a letter to the Bauers regarding Chapter XVIII and possible Family Education Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA) violations. He explained, "all copies of school records which contain personally identifiable student information are `records' covered by the strict disclosure prohibitions of (FERPA).

Love directed the Bauers to immediately return all student records in their possession, to provide the names of all persons to whom they had given copies of the narrative or the enclosures, to refrain from disclosing any portions of the narrative containing student information to anyone except Love or a parent or guardian of a student, and to provide Love with a copy of all portions of the entire narrative that contain student information by Jan. 3, 2000. Love explained that he needed this information so that he could "verify that (they) have returned copies of all student records in (their) possession."

Additionally, Love explained that their "failure or refusal to comply with the directives will be considered, insubordination and will result in appropriate personnel action."

On Jan. 3, 2000, the Bauers sent Love a one-sentence memo stating, "Be advised that we are holding no documents in violation of (FERPA)."

McCain delays Anchor plant's closing

Staff Writer

PECOS, Fri., March 8, 2002 -- Anchor/McCain employees who were due to begin losing their  jobs this month will have a little longer time on the job, according to  McCain Foods vice-president Steve Prater.

"The Anchor Plant in Pecos will remain open a few more months," said Prater. "We have postponed the closing of the plant because we need additional products from that facility."

McCain announced on Nov. 12 that it would shut the Anchor Foods onion processing plant in Pecos that it had just purchased three months earlier, costing 700 workers their jobs. The company said in December that the Pecos plant was inefficient, and that McCain instead would spend $10 million to expand a plant the company already owned in Grand Island, Neb., and which employs 350 workers. The company plans to add 100 workers there once the Pecos plant is closed.

The first layoffs were scheduled to begin in March, but while Prater said that one production line at the facility had been closed, no one has been laid off because of the decrease in production.

"There was normal attrition, but not people leaving or being laid off because of the closing of that line," said Prater. "We had some individuals that left on their own, to seek employment elsewhere or to relocate."

Back in December, Prater told the San Antonio Express-News that the Pecos plant's products were inferior to some of their own facilities.

"The fact of the matter is, the McCain side of the business was significantly more efficient than the Anchor side," he said. "Our Grand Island (Neb.) onion ring plant is lower cost and more efficient than the Pecos plant."

Since then, Reeves County Judge Jimmy B. Galindo has charged that McCain has exercised an option to maintain its lease on the Pecos facility, in order to block any other company from using the building once Anchor leaves.

Prater said that McCain would just continue to do their best to find another tenant for that building. "We always have been working towards that and will continue to do so," he said.

McCain-Anchor facilities had an overcapacity of onion production plants, which is what Pecos primarily produces, while McCain was not a major player in jalapeno pepper production before the Anchor merger, but that the pepper operations are done mainly at the company's other plants.

McCain finalized its purchased of Anchor Foods in September; a month after the deal was announced. The sale included its Appleton, Wis. headquarters and Wisconsin operations, along with its plant in Pecos and another operation in Mexico. As part of the deal, H.J. Heinz Company purchased Anchor's branded retail products business. Specific terms of the three-party transaction were not announced.

Early voting ending for primary election

Staff Writer

PECOS, Fri., March 8, 2002 -- Just a few hours are left for citizens to participate in early voting for  the March 12th elections, with the  poles closing at 5 p.m., tonight at the Reeves County Courthouse.

Reeves County Clerk Diane Florez reported that as of yesterday 303 ballots were received by mail while 1,482 voters voted by personal appearance.

There were also 47 votes cast last weekend at the special voting site in Balmorhea.

The race for county judge between incumbent Jimmy Galindo and challenger Louis Matta has drawn the most attention locally, but there are several other races in the Democratic primary to be decided on Tuesday, along with primary races for governor and U.S. Senate.

All county voters will cast ballots in the race for Reeves County Clerk, where Sofia Abila is challenging incumbent Florez. Precinct 2 voters will have three other races to decide, including for the position of commissioner, where incumbent David Castillo faces challenger Norman Hill; Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace, where incumbent J.T. Marsh has two opponents, Jim Riley and Jaime Salgado, and Precinct 2 Constable, where Jerry Matta and Clint Glenn are seeking the constable position vacated in December by Salgado, when he decided to run for Justice of the Peace.

Florez said that once the poles close tonight they would not open again until Tuesday, March 12, Election Day.

"If they can not make it out here by five o'clock, they need to go to their polling places on Election Day," she said.

Those locations include: voting box one at the Pecos Community Center, voting box two at the Pecos Technical Training Center, voting box three at Pecos High School Gym, voting box four at Toyah City Hall, voting box five at Balmorhea Fire Hall, voting box six at Saragosa Multi-purpose Center, voting box seven at Reeves County Library, voting boxes eight and nine at the Lamar AEP campus, voting box 10 at the Reeves County Annex building, voting box 11 at Haynes-Sadler Community Center, and voting box 12 at Texas New Mexico Power Company.

Florez said that voting boxes eight and nine were consolidated for the primary race. The previous location for voting box nine at the Orla Red Bluff office.

On Election Day the poling sites will be open from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m.

If anyone has any questions call the Reeves County Clerk's office or the Reeves County Tax Assessor Collector's office.

Junell recommended as new Pecos federal judge

From Staff and Wire Reports
PECOS, Fri., March 8, 2002 -- Rep. Rob Junell, a Democratic state lawmaker who campaigned  for President Bush, was recommended by Texas' Republican  senators Thursday for the vacant federal judge position in the Pecos and  Midland Divisions of U.S. District Court.

Phil Gramm and Kay Bailey Hutchison also recommended Texas 5th Circuit Court of Appeals Justice Ed Kinkeade of Irving.

Following their recommendations to President Bush, they must by nominated by the president and approved by the Senate.

The senators are proposing that Junell fill a vacancy in the state's western judicial district. Junell would be based in Midland, filling a vacancy that will be created when U.S. District Judge Royal Furgeson moves to San Antonio to replace the late U.S. District Judge Hipolito F. "Hippo" Garcia.

Kinkeade will fill a northern district post.

"These two men meet the high standards that Texans expect of their federal jurists," Gramm said.

Junell, 55, is originally from El Paso and has served in the Legislature since 1988, representing a district that included San Angelo, where he lives. He was passed over for a spot on the federal bench by President Clinton.

During his legislative tenure, Junell rose to be one of the most powerful lawmakers in Texas as chairman of the House Appropriations Committee. Junell announced in November that he would not seek re-election this year.

Ferguson announced in January he plans to take Garcia's federal judge's position in San Antonio once the vacancy in the midland and Pecos Divisions are filled. Garia took senior status on Jan. 15.

Ferguson was appointed to the federal court by President Clinton in 1993 after Judge Lucius D. Bunton III took senior judge status and was confirmed in 1994. He was based in Midland, but in recent years has handled more cases in the Pecos Division of U.S. District Court.\

The increasing caseload in recent years, and the retirement of Bunton in 2000 prior to his death last year, has forced visiting judges from as far away as Vermont have been brought in to handle cases in the Pecos court.

Kinkeade, 50, has served as a 5th Circuit justice in Dallas since 1988. He also was the 194th District Court judge from 1981-88 and judge of the Dallas County Criminal court No. 10 in 1981.

Kinkeade's post was left vacant by the resignation of U.S. District Judge Joe Kendall.

PHS grad educates area teachers on tennis

Staff Writer

PECOS, Fri., March 8, 2002 -- Area physical education teachers were able to learn more about  the game of tennis yesterday during a teacher in-service sponsored by  the Texas Section of the United States Tennis Association (USTA) at  the Crockett Middle School Gym.

USTA Schools Coordinator Annette Nichols Boles made a trip back to her hometown in efforts to give back to her community where she first fell in love with the game of tennis.

Boles, who graduated from Pecos High School in 1993, has been working with Texas schools as a representative of USTA in efforts to bring the sport of tennis to Texas students.

Boles came to Pecos to teach an in-service that informs area teachers about the basics of tennis so they would be able to teach them in their classes.

"We're giving the teachers the basic instructions to go off and teach tennis to their students," she said.

Several PE teachers from Pecos, Balmorhea, Sanderson and Wink were present at the in-service and received valuable information about resources and opportunities that USTA offers.

Crockett PE teacher Bernadette Ornelas worked with Boles in setting up the in-service.

"This is just another tennis awareness project that USTA came out with," Ornelas said.

Ornelas has been working with USTA for many years in efforts to provide her students with better equipment and more opportunities to play tennis.

Through USTA, Ornelas has received free tennis racquets and the opportunity to apply for grants through the organization.

All teachers are eligible for the grants and equipment.

Those who attended the in-service received an allotment of racquets and a curriculum guide to help them in teaching tennis.

USTA's mission statement is "To promote and develop the growth of tennis in Texas," according to the website and that is what Boles is doing each time she visits with teachers.

Boles was a three-time district singles champion in tennis while at Pecos High School, and has been working for USTA for about a year and a half after previously working with the University of Texas Athletic Department.

She also has a Bachlor's degree in Exercise Science from Shiner College, where she played on the tennis team, and a Master's degree in Sports Management from the United States Sports Academy.

Boles now lives in Austin with her husband, Brett, and their four-month-old son. She is the daughter of Salvador and Estella Nichols of Pecos.

Coming back to Pecos and talking with the teachers has given Boles a unique feeling, she said.

"It felt good to come back," she said. "It's great to give back to the community."

Boles enjoys the teacher in-services she conducts all over the state because the teachers' excitement comes out when they realize that they would be able to teach tennis so easily.

"It's neat to see the teachers' reaction," she said. "Sometimes they're not aware of how easy the basics of tennis are."

Being able to give students a chance to discover the sport she loves so much and even introducing the same sport to the teachers is in some sense an award for Boles.

"It's very rewarding," she said.

Boles wants anyone interested in tennis to know that there are many opportunities for them to learn more about the game.

"There's just a lot of other opportunities for people interested in tennis," she said.


PECOS, Fri., March 8, 2002 -- High Thurs. 85. Low this morning 48. Forecast for tonight: Mostly  clear: Breezy: And cooler. Lows 35 to 40. Evening west winds 15 to 25  mph: Becoming north towards morning. Sat.: Mostly sunny and breezy.  Highs around 55. North winds 15 to 25 mph early: Becoming east 5 to 15 mph  during the afternoon. Sat. night: Mostly clear. Lows 25 to 30. Sun.: Partly cloudy.  Highs around 60. Mon.: Partly cloudy and warmer. Lows 35 to 40. Highs 70 to 75.


Thomas Chavez and Ann Shaw

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