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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Top Stories

Friday, August 2, 2002

P-B-T schools get mostly above average ratings from TEA

From Staff and Wire Reports
Accountability results are in and Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD  schools received generally above-average ratings, with one local  school receiving an "Exemplary" rating.

 All but one of the district's five campuses that were included in the Texas Education Agency's ratings received one of the top two rankings this year, led by Bessie Haynes Elementary School. The district's fourth and fifth grade campus received a ranking of "Exemplary," while the district itself was rated "Acceptable."  

Balmorhea ISD also received an "Acceptable" rating for its campus according to the TEA, which are based on Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) results, with extra attention paid to how poor and minority students perform on the standardized test, and dropout rates.

Pecos High School was rated as `Recognized' as were Austin Elementary School and Zavala Middle School. Austin is home to the district's first through third grade classes, while sixth graders attend Zavala Middle School.

The district's other campus that was rated, Crockett Middle School, received an `Acceptable' rating for its seventh and eighth grade students. Crockett's rating kept P-BT ISD from receiving an overall "Recognized" rating from the TEA.

Statewide, The TEA said most Texas public schools earned good grades last year but tougher standards took their toll: 162 schools were tagged low-performing in 2002, up from 100 a year ago.

In all, 17 of the state's 1,040 districts were given the lowest rating, meaning they are considered academically unacceptable. That's up from one district in 2001.

In the Pecos area, the Monahans-Wickett-Pyote and Wink-Loving ISD received the best scores. All campuses in Wink-Loving ISD and the district itself received an overall "Exemplary" rating, as did Monahans-Wickett-Pyote and all of its elementary and junior high campuses. Monahans High School received a "Recognized" rating from the TEA.

Fort Stockton ISD was given an overall "Acceptable" rating. All campuses also received that ranking with the exception of Alamo Elementary, which was given a "Recognized" rating.

Andrews ISD was given an overall "Recognized" raking, with all campuses receiving that mark with the exception of San Andreas Elementary, which was "Exemplary."

Favorable ratings - exemplary, recognized and acceptable - can mean celebrations and bragging rights, just as a low performing label can bring shame and cost educators their jobs.

Texas Education Commissioner Felipe Alanis said the number of schools that earned the lowest ratings surged because of higher passing standards and a test that for the first time included social studies in the scoring.

Low-performing schools get extra state attention, and if they remain unacceptable for two consecutive years, parents can move their children to better schools within the same district.

The release of 2002 state accountability ratings marked the end of an era of improvement for Texas' 4.1 million schoolchildren.

This past school year, 1,908 of Texas' 7,000 public school campuses earned the top mark, up from just 67 in 1994. Altogether, 6,378 campuses earned the top three marks, up from 6,367 schools last year.

Since the TAAS became the cornerstone of the system nearly a decade ago, students have consistently scored better and schools have steadily improved as standards increased. The achievement gap between minority and white students has shrunk, as has the space between poor children and wealthier ones.

"We know there is still work to be done, but the improved academic performance we have seen in this state since the accountability system began is a testament to the hard work of educators, students and parents," Alanis said.

Thursday signified the start of a new, more difficult system some fear will result in more failures.

Beginning next school year, the state will have a tougher accountability system centered around the broader, more difficult Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills, or TAKS.

The state won't rate schools next year to give them time to adjust, but students will still be held accountable. High school students must pass the test to graduate and no longer will third-graders advance to fourth grade if they fail the test.

"The new, more difficult TAKS test and the practice of holding students back that don't pass that test in third grade next year is a daunting challenge. It may take some time and a few hard knocks," said Sheila Fields, a second-grade teacher and president of the Association of Texas Professional Educators.

This past school year, almost 14 percent, or 37,000 of the state's 267,000 third-grade pupils, did not pass the TAAS. That's down from 29 percent a year ago, but not good enough, especially considering next year's high stakes, Alanis said.

Alanis promised that the state would work with educators to help the pupils, most of them non-English speakers, as early as possible.

Out of the 1.8 million students enrolled in grades seven through 12, 1 percent, or 17,563, dropped out of school, the commissioner said, down from 1.3 percent, or 24,457, who quit school last year.

The rate was higher for black and Hispanic students - 1.3 percent and 1.4 percent, respectively.

Alanis said the state is working to develop a better definition of dropout to address criticism from some who say Texas severely underestimates the number.

Last year, more than a third of the schools that earned the state's lowest academic rating were charter schools, which receive taxpayer money but are free from many state regulations.

In 2001, 42 percent of the 100 low-performing campuses were charter schools. That number fell to 40 campuses this year, 25 percent of all low-performing campuses.

The number of charters earning the highest rating tripled from five in 2001 to 15 this year.

Many charter schools are new and teach "at-risk" students who may be harder to serve, TEA officials said.

The agency has begun increasing the number of visits to charter schools and will continue helping failing ones, Alanis said. 

Stockton boy's body is found in trunk of car

Staff Writer

PECOS, Friday, August 2, 2002 -- The body of a 4-year old Fort Stockton boy missing since  Monday was found this morning in the trunk of a car on the family's property.

Schyler Lee Fain was found in the trunk of a vehicle located outside his great-grandparent's home on the north side of Fort Stockton, Pecos County Sheriff's Department Records Clerk Betsy Spencer said about 11:15 a.m. today.

No further information could be provided on who discovered the body and whether or not the area near the vehicle had been previously searched, but according to Spencer more information would be provided later today.

"A public announcement will be made when more information is available," Spencer said.

Searchers were continuing to look for Fain as late as 10 a.m. this morning, and at the time Spencer said no progress had been made.

"They are out there again today," Spencer said. "There is nothing new."

According to Spencer, search dogs came in from Dallas Thursday and were assisting in today's search.

Fain was last seen at 11 a.m., Monday, in the back yard of his great-grandparents home located in a rural area of Fort Stockton.

After parents and family members searched for the 4-year old boy for two hours, the young boy was then listed as missing.

Pecos County Sheriff Cliff Harris said on Wednesday that Fain had a habit of wandering off in the family's yard, since it was on the outskirts of Fort Stockton and there was plenty of room.

"We don't suspect foul play at this time," Harris said.

Harris confirmed the discovery of the boy's body in the trunk of the vehicle early this afternoon, but had no further comments.

On Wednesday, Spencer said authorities followed a lead from an employee with FedEx who reported seeing Fain at about 11:39 a.m., Monday.

"They searched that area and it was an area that she had pointed out a little ways further than where the initial search began," Spencer said. "They searched a little larger area and all the way to Farm Road 1053."

Rains cause flooding north, east of Pecos

Staff Writer

PECOS, Friday, August 2, 2002 -- Area ranchers and farmers received good news in the form of rain,  which fell heavily in some parts of Reeves County last night.

The Texas Experiment Station recorded .42 inches of rain overnight, as showers moved into the Pecos area early this morning after hitting areas to the east Thursday night.

A flash flood warning for northern Reeves County expired at 10:45 a.m., but continued for areas to the north, in Lea and Eddy counties in New Mexico.

"We had flash flood warning for that area, on Farm to Market Road 652 near Orla and all the way to Farm to Market Road 2119 in western Reeves County," said hydro-meteorologist technician Michael Young, with the National Weather Service office in Midland

"We haven't that many reports from out there yet, though," said Young. "Most of the heavy stuff has been up north," he said.

Continuing flash flood warnings are in effect for Carlsbad, where it continues to rain, according to Young. "Eddy and Lea Counties still have flash flood warnings," he said. Carlsbad suffered from flash flooding caused by heavy rains last month, which forced low-lying roads to be closed.

Although there were thunderstorms both to the north and south of Pecos at sunrise today, Balmorhea State Park said that they didn't receive any of the much-needed rain. "We were hoping we would receive some this time, but it didn't rain at all," said state park employee Tony Fleenor.

Thunderstorms that built up east of Pecos Thursday evening caused problems in Midland last night, following some streets and knocking out electricity to parts of the city.

E.G. Davis, community relations officer for the Midland Police Department, said no injuries had been reported by late Thursday night.

Davis said lightning strikes caused at least one fire in a building at an apartment complex.

Davis said trees were knocked down and transformers exploded, causing power outages.

"It looks like we're over the worst part of it," he said.

Davis said about an inch of rain fell in a span of 30 to 40 minutes, causing waters to rise along streets he called "major runoff streets" and stranding motorists.

"Whenever it rains those streets become highly flooded," he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report


PECOS, Friday, August 2, 2002 -- High Thursday 99. Low this morning 72. Rainfall last 24 hours  at Texas A&M Experiment Station .42 inch. Forecast for tonight:  Partly cloudy with isolated thunderstorms. Lows near 70. Southeast winds 5  to 15 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy. Highs in the upper 90s.  Southeast winds 5 to 15 mph. Saturday night: Partly cloudy with  isolated thunderstorms. Lows in the lower 70s. Sunday: Partly cloudy with  isolated thunderstorms. Highs in the upper 90s. Monday: Partly cloudy with  a slight chance of thunderstorms. Lows 70 to 75. Highs 95 to 100.

Texas Tech WIC office to mark World Breastfeeding Day locally

Texas Tech University Health Science Ccenter's Women, Infants and Children Program in Pecos will celebrate World Breastfeeding Day, on Tuesday with a reception for past and current breastfeeding mothers.

Refreshments, door prizes, along with information on nutrition, parenting and breastfeeding are all part of the agenda for the program scheduled from 2-4 p.m., at the local WIC office located at 700 Daggett Street.

The celebration marks the beginning of World Breastfeeding Month 2002, an annual campaign to increase public awareness of the importance of breast-feeding. The campaign is sponsored by the World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA) in conjunction with the World Health Organization, UNICEF, La Leche League International and the Texas Department of Health.

"Healthy Mothers for Healthy Babies" is the theme of this year's campaign, which will focus on the health breastfeeding provides the mother. While providing excellent health benefits to the baby, breastfeeding helps the new mother heal after giving birth, reduces her risk for hemorrhaging, and helps use calories to lose weight. Breastfeeding mothers are at lower risk for ovarian cancer and osteoporosis and may also be a lower risk for breast cancer. The goal of the Texas Department of Health is to have 75 percent of all Texas infants breastfeeding at hospital discharge and 50 percent still breastfeeding when they are six months old.

Current Texas breastfeeding rates are 67 percent at hospital discharge and only 28 percent at six months.

The Texas Position Statement on Infant Feeding, a collaborative effort of Texas health-related organizations, consumers and professionals strongly supports breastfeeding as the optimal way to feed infants. The Texas Department of Health and more than 32 other health organizations and insurance companies have endorsed this position statement. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusive breastfeeding the first six months of life and continuation of breastfeeding for the first year of a baby's life or longer.

Doctor Eduardo Sanchez, Commissioner of Health, says, "August 1, marks the 12th Anniversary of signing of the Innocenti Declaration on the Protection, Promotion and Support of Breastfeeding, which recognizes the importance of breastfeeding to infant and maternal health as well as the social, economic and ecological benefits it provides to the family and society."

WIC clinics across the state have been provided with promotional materials. These materials will be displayed and distributed at local WIC clinic to honor breastfeeding clients and educate pregnant women about breastfeeding.


Armando Garcia and Walter Shaw

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