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Daily Newspaper and Travel Guide
for Pecos Country of West Texas

Monday, August 18, 2003

School returns with new rules for Texas kids

From Staff and Wire Reports
Children in most school districts across Texas went back to class today, and found a new law requiring students to recite a pledge to the Texas flag and observe a moment of silence awaiting them today.

Students also will pledge allegiance to the U.S. flag. Supporters of the law say it helps promote patriotism and build character. But critics of the new measure argue that the new state measure violates the First Amendment. They also note the requirement will stretch already thin budgets because a Texas flag must be present in every classroom.

The new law was discussed earlier this month by Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD board members, during a special meeting of the board in late July.

"State law requires students to recite the (Pledge of) Allegiance to the United States Flag and the Pledge of Allegiance to the Texas flag each day," said Pecos High School Principal Danny Rodriguez during discussion on the handbook for the new school year at the July 31 meeting.

During the minute of silence student may choose to reflect, pray, meditate, or engage in any other silent activity so long as the silent activity does not interfere with or distract others.

"This will be done at all campuses," said P-B-T ISD Superintendent Don Love, and Pecos Kindergarten Principal Robert Garrett added that the rule would also extend to kindergarten students.

Those who bring a note from home can be excused from the pledges. But Pam Parker, an attorney with the Association of Texas Professional Educators, is concerned about how school districts will implement the rules.

She said a U.S. Supreme Court ruling states that pupils have First Amendment rights, including the ability to decline participation even without a note from parents.

"I suspect that we will have a lot of teachers that have not received the proper guidance from the district and will not know how to deal with these issues," Parker told the San Antonio Express-News in Monday's editions.

The law's author, Sen. Jeff Wentworth, said his motive was to encourage pupils to honor the flag and be loyal to their country.

"When we say the pledge, we bring a sense of patriotism and loyalty both to the U.S. and the state we live in," said Wentworth, R-San Antonio.

A state pledge has existed since the Texas Legislature adopted it in 1839, during the years the state was an independent republic. But some teachers expressed surprise when they were told about the new law at the rally for Northside educators Tuesday.

Hundreds of teachers, pledge cards in hand, recited the pledge inside the high school auditorium: "Honor the Texas flag; I pledge allegiance to thee, Texas, one and indivisible."

Many teachers acknowledged they hadn't previously known the pledge.

"I can't believe they never taught me that in elementary school," said Sara Rodriguez, a third-grade teacher at Rhodes Elementary School.

Susan Mann, an English teacher, said she expects the new law will spark some interesting discussions among her students at Holmes High School, where the pledge has been recited for years.

"I find it ironic that the pledge is a priority among legislators, instead of putting money into the schools," said Sarah Simmons, an English teacher at Hobby Middle School. "Ironic, but not surprising."

The mandatory pledge and moment of silence was one of two major changes for P-B-T ISD students today when classes resumed for the 2003-04 year.

All staff, personnel, visitors and students at all P-B-T ISD campuses will wear identification badges this year. During last Thursday's school board meeting, when the ID badges were approved, Jodi Exum, PBT-ISD Career and Technology, said the future project is to provide barcoded ID cards to students, staff, substitutes, volunteers and visitors.

Exum said that all adults would be required to wear them in a visible place. "Visitors will have a visitors ID cards with a number and before they leave the building they will turn those in," said Exum.

Police seek info on recent vandalism cases

Staff Writer

PECOS, Mon., Aug. 18, 2003 -- Criminal mischief in Pecos has been on the rise in the last couple of months and the Pecos Police Department is asking for the community's help in deterring these crimes, including one that damaged a Pecos Police vehicle..

"On July 21, we had several cars that were vandalized, along with homes," said Pecos Police Officer Mike Balog. His patrol car was one of the cars that were vandalized that night, along with two other cars.

Balog said that the incident had occurred between 3 a.m. and 4 a.m., and added, "There has been a lot of criminal mischief in the last few months and they are occurring between the hours of 2:30 a.m. and 5 a.m."

Vandals broke out the windows in the vehicles of two other cars that evening and on another occasion vandals went out and turned off the power to some homes, before damaging them.

"They went and turned off the power to three to four homes and broke windows out of those," said Balog.

His patrol car was considered totaled because of the amount of the damage, which was estimated at $4,700.

"I don't the estimate damage done to the other vehicles at this time, but it was probably considerable as well," said Balog.

Vandals also hit the Security State Bank Parking lot. "They vandalized some windows in cars that are parked out there," said Balog.

Vandalism was also reported on Hackberry Street, where car and house windows were broken out. "This was all done at about the same times in the morning," he said.

The police department is advising citizens to leave lights on and to keep an eye out for their neighbor's property. "If they see any suspicious activity, or noises report them to the police immediately," said Balog. "These vandals may be doing damage to your neighbor and they don't know it or can't hear it."

Balog said that a good program to implement was the Neighborhood Watch

"Sometimes if they see that there is a Neighborhood Watch, that's a good deterrent to doing any damage," he said.

Individuals with any information about the vandalism can also call Crime Stoppers and they will remain anonymous. "A lot of the times, the neighbors just don't want to get involved," said Balog. "But it's always good to report any type of suspicious activity."

"Someone out there has some information and we really need to find out who these vandals are, because it's causing a lot of property damage," said Balog.

Mischief of three vehicles which occurred in the 500 block of Hickory Street, 1200 block of Veterans Boulevard and the 1000 block of Normandy Street were reported to the police on July 21.

Damage reported to police included breaking out the passenger side window of a 2001 Chevrolet, two-door car; the driver's side window of a 2002 Silver Camero and Balog's patrol unit. The cruiser had the rear windshield broken out, both driver side windows, the emergency light bar on the roof of the vehicle and several dents on the entire vehicle.

Pecos Valley Crime Stoppers is offering a $500 reward for information leading to the arrest of individual(s) involved in this crime.

If anyone has any information they can call Crime Stoppers at 445-9898 or the Pecos Police Department at 445-4911. Individuals can remain anonymous.

RCJ escapee stays weekend in Abilene jail

Staff Writer

PECOS, Mon., Aug. 18, 2003 -- Reeves County Jail escapee John Michael Baker spent the weekend in an Abilene jail awaiting a decision on whether he will be sent back to Reeves County and await his trial, which is scheduled to begin on September 15 in the U.S. District Court in Pecos.

Baker, 23, remains in custody in Taylor County, (Abilene) after turning himself in to law enforcement officials in neighboring Callahan County on Thursday, a day after he escaped from the Reeves County Jail. Baker is awaiting trial on a federal murder charge, which is scheduled to take place next month at the Lucius D. Bunton III Federal Courthouse, located across the street from the Reeves County Jail.

"I do not know. I called the (Texas) Rangers this morning," Reeves County Sheriff Andy Gomez said. "They have not called me back. I will get back to you when I find out"

FBI agent Bill Vanderland, out of Midland, said he was also unsure whether Baker would remain in Taylor County or be sent back to Reeves County.

"He will sent back to the Western District," Vanderland said. "However, it would be up to the U.S. Marshals."

He added that Baker was now facing a second charge, escaping from federal custody.

Baker had been in the Reeves County Jail since May 26. He escaped last Wednesday by crawling through a vent located in a storage room where recreation equipment is kept.

He is facing trial on a charge of murder, in connection with the death of Shannon Stewart Roberts, 43, a fourth-year medical student at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, in Big Bend National Park. Baker told park rangers that he had killed Roberts and had buried his body in the park, where it was found on March 31, 2000.

Pecos Fire Department volunteer Brian Fuentes was working outside the city's fire station early Wednesday afternoon when he saw Baker crossing the street in civilian clothing and with what appeared to be legal papers in his hand.

Roadblocks were set up south of Pecos, in the believe that Baker would attempt to return to his hometown of Leon Valley, a suburb of San Antonio. But Baker instead headed east on Interstate 20, where he later contacted his attorney, who arranged for Baker to surrender to Callahan County sheriff's deputies in Baird, about 30 miles east of Abilene.

Baker was the first escapee from the jail in 17 months. Steven Perez walked away from the facility while on work detail on the jail grounds on March 8, 2002. Perez had fled to Juarez, Mexico but was caught six months later in at an Odessa residence after returning to the United States.

FSA accepting names for county committee posts

PECOS, Mon., Aug. 18, 2003 -- The Reeves County Farm Service Agency is accepting nominations between now and Sept. 5 for the 2003 County Committee elections. Nomination forms can be obtained from the FSA County Office, 1417 W. Third St.

Anyone with an interest in providing guidance on federal farm program issues that impact local farmers and ranchers is encouraged to submit their nomination. All landowners, operators and tenants of legal voting age are eligible to serve on FSA County Committees and vote in these elections.

Fore information contact your local FSA at 432-445-3196 ex 2.


PECOS, Mon., Aug. 18, 2003 -- High Sun. 102. Low this morning 71. Forecast for tonight: Mostly clear. Lows in the lower 70s. SE winds 5 to 15 mph. Tues.: Partly cloudy. Highs near 102. SE winds 5 to 15 mph. Tues. night: Mostly clear. Lows in the lower 70s. Wednesday: Partly cloudy. Highs near 103. Thursday: Partly cloudy. Lows near 70. Highs near 101.


Sandra Garcia, Dora Hayter, Dr. Robert Miles and Michael Pankey

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