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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Friday, January 24, 2003

P-B-T to hire third grade tutors for TAKS test

Staff Writer

Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD is taking steps to help district students pass the new Texas Assessment of Knowledge Skills test, which is replacing the TAAS exam.

Board members approved hiring part-time hourly employees from a pool of retired or part-time teachers to help students in the lower grade levels with their reading and to give them a better chance at passing the new TAKS test, which is being designed to be tougher for students to pass than the TAAS (Texas Assessment of Academic Skills) exam.

"We want to give the kids in the lower grade levels a chance at passing this new test," said PBT-ISD Personnel Director Gome Olibas, who presided over the special meeting the board held Thursday evening.

Olibas ran the meeting in place of P-B-T ISD Superintendent Don Love, who is currently in the Reeves County Hospital undergoing tests.

"We want to give them a good chance to learn how to read better and give them a better chance at passing the TAKS," said Olibas.

He added that the instructors would be hired with Tier III funds. "We want to hire retired teachers and I've already made a call to TRS (Teacher Retirement System)," said Olibas.

Olibas said that TRS had stated that the retired teachers could work, but only for 18½ hours per week.

"We want to bring them into the classrooms to help the regular teachers and still have the other students keep up with their school work," said Olibas. This will be done during the school day, he added.

"We've did a mock TAKS and we know which students need more attention," said Austin Elementary School Principal Cindy Duke.

Duke said that the other teacher would take the group out of the classroom and help those that need it the most and let the teacher continue with her regular studies.

"Won't the ones being pulled out fall behind?" asked board member David Flores.

"No, because they will also receive the regular classroom work and both teachers will work with them on that," said Duke. "They're going to work it out so that nobody falls behind, but that they also receive the extra help they need to pass the TAKS."

Olibas said that the money being used for this is free to the district and will help reduce the classroom size load.

"Only certified professional staff will be hired to do this," said Olibas.

"These students are just being targeted to receive the extra help, so that their needs will be met," said Duke.

"How many extra teachers are we looking at?" asked Flores.

"Right now we're looking at four and it can also be certified teacher that isn't retired, but just taking some time off or is new to the district," said Olibas.

"Do we have an hourly rate?" asked Flores.

"We go by their scale and their degree," said board president Billie Sadler.

"Some of these retired teachers have 28 years experience and more," said Olibas.

Duke told the group that they were hoping to get as many teachers as they could get to help the youngsters. "Or as many as we have the money for," she said.

"These 18½ hours is just for the retired personnel. The other certified teachers, if they apply for the positions, can work more hours," said Olibas.

Right now the group is just targeting Austin Elementary School, where the test will be administered to all third grade students.

The TAKS totally changed the format and expectations, according to Duke. "They have to score a 55 percent, and we did okay, but if it were to be a 70 percent, we wouldn't be doing so well," said Duke.

In other action, board members approved the request by Reeves County Sheriff's Department Christmas for Kids Program to use the Pecos High School new gym for volleyball tournament fundraisers on Feb. 8 and March 15 and waive fees.

"Do they know for sure that there won't be any games on those days," said Flores.

"Yes, Mr. Rodriguez checked the dates and the gym is available on those days," said Olibas.

Board members also approved the 2001-2002 audit report presented by Bob Card of Card and Company.

"We found the books and records to be in excellent condition," said Card.

Council wants tighter rules on con ed program

Staff Writer

Town of Pecos City Council members asked city attorney Scott Johnson to prepare a more precise version of the city's policy on funding employees' continuing education programs, following a discussion at Thursday's council meeting at City Hall.

The continuing education policy was one of the topics covered by the council in their hour-long meeting on Thursday. It was drawn up by Johnson and Town of Pecos City Manager Carlos Yerena following the council's approval in November of a new contract for Yerena, which included partial funding of college courses that would allow Yerena to seek a Masters Bachelor of Arts degree.

However, after reviewing the policy, council members Frank Sanchez and Angelica Valenzuela had questions about how the selection process would be handled under the plan, and what city employees would be eligible for continuing education funding.

Yerena said the plan would allow for funding if approved by the worker's supervisor. "If it's related to the job and benefits the city, it would be worthwhile to the city," Yerena said. He added that he would have final approval of any funds, but added, "My approval is going to go on the recommendation of their supervisor."

However, Sanchez asked about how this would affect guards at the Pecos Criminal Justice Center, who were seeking $1,300 to attend the Odessa College Police Academy in order to get their law enforcement degrees.

"If it relates to their guard duty, then the city benefits," Yerena said. But Johnson added, "I don't see it directly improving their jobs."

A few minutes later, Valenzuela asked, "If they want to go back and get their police academy training, would that not benefit the city?"

"What guarantee do you have they're going to stay," asked Johnson.

"What guarantee do we have Carlos is going to stay," Valenzuela replied.

"He has a three-year contract," Johnson said.

"That's not going to be guaranteed," Valenzuela said.

Sanchez was the only council member to vote against Yerena's new contract. Valenzuela was absent for the November meeting, but in December, when the council reviewed the contract for her, Yerena said it would take two to 2½ years to earn his Masters, depending on his course load.

Aside from questions about who qualifies, Valenzuela said she was worried that supervisors could play favorites with employees in granting them permission to receive continuing education funds.

"I would suggest a committee to appeal any decision," said Sanchez, while Valenzuela asked for more specifics in the policy.

"I agree with Angelica," said Town of Pecos City Mayor Dot Stafford, and Johnson said in order to do so; he would need some more guidance from council members.

"We've got to define `good employees.' What one employee defines as a good employee another may not. We're just opening ourselves up for a lawsuit," Valenzuela said.

City Finance Director George Berjarano added that a provision should also be put in the policy stating that the funding would be in the form of reimbursement following completion of the course, in order to avoid having workers get continuing education funds and then drop out of their classes.

Johnson said he would give council members copies of the current proposal. "Look at it, think about it and then call with suggestions," he said.

In other action Thursday, the council approved offers for several property purchases. They accepted a bid of $2,000 for property at 602 S. Palm St., by Sergio Rodriguez; a bid of $600 by Jaime Salgado for a property at 2212 S. Alamo St., along with bids of $2,500 and $1,000 by Salgado on two adjacent properties in the 2000 block of Balmorhea Highway; a $500 bid by Agapito Rodriguez on a property at 122 N. Alamo St.; a $400 bid for property at 411 Sunset St., by Nolberto Salinas; and a $250 bid by Orlando A. Gutierrez on property at 320 S. Walnut St.

The council also agreed to transfer property in the shopping center in the 1800 block of South Eddy Street to Reeves County. The property in question is a former health spa located towards the rear of the building that Reeves County Sheriff Andy Gomez is seeking to use as a facility for department employees.

"The sheriff talked to me about acquiring the old spa building. He has funds to bring it up to date, and he's agreed to make it available to (city) law enforcement officers," Yerena said.

"The state has given me $38,000 to get things like treadmills and weights," Gomez said. "The reason why I chose this building is because it's got showers and has got a sauna. It just needs to be brought up to date."

Johnson said $38,000 in back taxes is owed on the building, of which the city's share is $8,000. Although Johnson said the action would take the spa off the tax rolls, Yerena said, "Usually the offers that come in (for the spa) are a lot less than that."

The council also approved a resolution on the Texas Community Development Program grants that would Yerena, Stafford and Bejarano the signatories on any grant request, while approving the accounts payable, tax reports, juvenile and municipal court reports.

During those discussions, the council was told acquisition of new police cars for the city was awaiting submission of a funding package to the Houston Council of Governments.

"We could use them right now, no question," said Police Chief Clay McKinney. Because of problems with some of the current units, he said the department has been borrowing vehicles for use until the new cars arrive.

Municipal Court Judge Amanario Ramon also answered council questions about possible community service work for teens found guilty of violations. He said that while he could make parents attend school for three days with their teens if they are repeat violators, he couldn't make them pay fines for their children's violations.

Council member Michael Benavides said there were several areas of the city that needed cleaning up. "There are lots the city owns that the kids can work on," he said.

`Surprise treat' found inside dog food bag after drug raid

Staff Writer

There was more than dog food in a dog food bag at the home of a Pecos man, local law enforcement officers discovered after they executed a narcotics search warrant on Thursday.

Officers from the Pecos Police Department, Reeves County Sheriff's Department and the 143rd District Attorney's Office executed a narcotics search warrant at the home of Gerardo Mendoza and family, at 812 E. Fifth St.

"Once the SWAT team had secured all the occupants inside the resident, officers proceeded to search the premises," said Pecos Police Investigator Paul Deishler.

He said that during the search of the southwest room of the residence, a substance believed to be cocaine was found hidden inside the dog food.

Officers continued their search, but no other contraband was located on the premises, according to Deishler.

Gerardo Mendoza was placed under arrest for the offense of Possession of a Controlled Substance, (cocaine), four grams or more, but less than 200 grams. The charge is a second degree felony Deishler said.

Mendoza is currently in the Pecos Criminal Justice Center awaiting arraignment.

High Thursday 43. Low this morning 23. Forecast for tonight: Decreasing cloudiness. Lows in the upper 20s. East winds 5 to 15 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy and warmer. Highs in the mid 60s. Light and variable winds shifting to the southeast 5 to 10 mph by afternoon. Saturday night: Cloudy. Lows in the mid 30s. Sunday: Mostly sunny. Highs in the upper 50s. Monday: Clear. Lows near 30. Highs in the mid 60s.

Head Start students to see MLK presentation

A special program on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., is scheduled for Monday at 9:30 a.m. and 10 a.m., at the Pecos Elementary School Library, where the Pecos Head Start Program is currently located.

Everyone is invited to attend the presentation on the slain civil rights leader, whose birthday anniversary was marked this past Monday.

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