Ward County students flowed back into classrooms Wednesday, Aug. 13, on
the opening day of the new school year in the Grandfalls-Royalty and
Monahans-Wickett-Pyote school districts.
One Sudderth Elementary student in Monahans yelled, "Great!" in answer
to a noon hour question on what it was like to be back in a classroom
after the Summer recess.
The student did not know that Sudderth. according to a communique from
the Texas Education Agency, has been ranked an exemplary school by the
Such a rating, Monahans School Superintendent Clifton L. Stephens notes,
means the school district "should be very, very proud."
A state "exemplary" rating, the TEA reports, means the school, in this
case, Sudderth, has a 90 percent or better pass rate in all subject
areas - mathematics, reading ad writing - in the required Texas
Assessment of Academic Skills.
Gensler Elementary in Wickett had been the only Monahans district school
to carry an "exemplary" rating in past years.
But Gensler slipped slightly in the latest TAAS tests.
Stephens and the TEA communique note Gensler Elementary and Walker
Junior High have been ranked as "recognized" campuses by TEA.
"Recognized" means that 70 percent or more of the students taking TAAS
passed all subject areas of the state examination. The rest of the
school campuses where pupils are required to take the tests were rated
"acceptable," where the pass rate is at least 30 percent.
Says Stephens: "I congratulate the students and their teachers. I am
very pleased with these results. I am very proud."
Thomas Kirkpatrick, a 19-year-old convicted burglar who drifts from West
Texas to the Gulf Coast and back, was snared again after a 113-mile
chase by the law.
The circuitous pursuit began in front of the Ward County Coliseum on
Route 18 in Monahans when Kirkpatrick attempted to drive away from
Highway Patrol Trooper Eric White in a one-ton black truck reported
stolen in Brazoria County near the Gulf of Mexico.
Dogged by intercepting Ward County sheriff's deputies in a wild ride
down Route 18, on desert roads and then onto Route 11 through Imperial
and to Bakersfield, the run ended on Interstate 10 at Fort Stockton. It
began at 4:24 p.m. on Thursday, Aug. 7, and ended at 5:34 p.m. in a
flash of grinding metal when the fleeing truck, down to its front wheel
rims after traffic spikes blew the tires, hit a pillar in the interstate
"Highway Patrol outside Fort Stockton covered the highway with traffic
control spikes," reports White from his Monahans office. "He blew the
front two tires on the truck and was driving on the rims when he hit the
center pillar that holds up the overhead signs on Interstate 10 at Fort
Stockton. By this time he was below the speed limit having driven
several miles on his front tire rims."
When it was over, White recalls, Ward County Sheriff's Deputy Jim Price,
who had been in most of the chase, said he clocked the run at 113 miles.
Speeds ranged from 50 to more than 100 miles an hour, depending on the
road surface over which the pursuer and pursued were driving. Sheriff's
Deputy Bill Riley was with White almost immediately after the chase
began. Intercepting Ward County officers included John Steussy and
Price. Highway Patrol Cadet Josh Graham was with White when he first
identified the black truck that had been reported stolen. Graham rode
with White during the pursuit.
"We are lucky no one was injured seriously," says White, noting the
potential danger to civilian motorists in such high speed chases.
Battered and bruised from the crash that shattered the truck,
Kirkpatrick was taken to the hospital in Fort Stockton for emergency
treatment of injuries that proved to be minor. The felon was then
airlifted to Odessa Medical Center where he was released on Monday, Aug.
11, to the custody of the Ector County Sheriff's Office. Probation
officers in Big Spring, where he had been on probation for a burglary
conviction, already have filed court motions to revoke probation. When
those legal procedures are over, Brazoria County has a hold for the
wrecked truck. In addition, White reports, Kirkpatrick is being held in
lieu of a $25,000 bail bond.
"We're third in line," says White. "Ward County has him on six charges
when the rest of it is over."
Those charges, White said, are:
1. Deadly conduct in the attempt to escape White and the Ward County
2. Evading detention.
3. False report (When first stopped in Monahans, he told White the
vehicle he was driving was not stolen. He said the issue was a
disagreement with a former employer. That was seconds before Kirkpatrick
pulled away from the trooper and ran South on Route 18 toward
4. Reckless destruction.
5. Driving without a valid driver's license.
6. No evidence of liability insurance.
Investigation into the incident continues.
Kirkpatrick has lived at several towns in West Texas, including Big
Spring, Odessa and Monahans in recent months. His last official address
was said to be Odessa. He had been working in Brazoria County where the
truck was reported stolen by D & L Services Co. of Brazoria.
Officers there were told it was believed Kirkpatrick might head back for
West Texas. The stolen vehicle report was broadcast only a few hours
before White saw Kirkpatrick and the truck in Monahans.
Precinct 2 Justice of the Peace Ronold Ray says the county can expect to
pay for more autopsies in the future.
Ray made the comment on Monday, Aug. 11, after Ward County Commissioners
voted to reimburse $700 on the cost of an autopsy Ray had refused to
County Judge Sam G. Massey, who abstained from voting on the
reimbursement, sent Judge Ray a letter requesting his presence at
The JP declined the invitation because:
"The Commissioners Court doesn't have the power to order me to
appear... I'm not on trial for anything."
During an interview in his office Monday afternoon, Justice Ray made
several comments on the Commissioners' decision.
"I neither need nor appreciate the Commissioners second-guessing me on
this matter. I am entrusted by the state to perform inquests and order
autopsies if I see it as necessary.
"In this particular case, I did not see an autopsy as being necessary
so I decided not to spend the taxpayers' money on one.
"Since I'm the one that takes the heat on these decisions, and since the
Commissioners decided to override me on this, they can expect for me to
be ordering a lot more autopsies in the future," Ray said.
The incident which sparked the conflict was the May 29 death of Jo
Fern Milson, 54, of Wickett.
According to reports from the scene:
Milson's daughter, Darla Moore, asked Ray to order an autopsy on her
mother's body. The Justice of the Peace declined and told the family
they would have to pay for it if they wanted a pathologist's report.
County Attorney Kevin Acker, who outlined the situation for the
Commissioners Monday, said Ray based his decision upon his studies at
Justice of the Peace school.
"Judge Ray told me that since the lady had just been released from the
hospital for treatment of a heart condition, he ruled it `apparent heart
failure'," said Acker during his presentation.
"He said that under such conditions, that it has been shown that 90
percent of such deaths are caused by heart failure, thus that's the way
"Judge Ray also told me that Darla Moore had indicated that she wanted
to sue a doctor, but this is something she told me she never said," said
Moore, who was in Commissioner's Court Monday, repeated she had never
said she wanted to sue a doctor.
Milson's family did indeed send the body to Lubbock for an autopsy
which cost $1,734. In the meantime, Judge Ray had been filling out the
state-mandated death certificate and he contacted the Lubbock
pathologist in an effort to obtain his opinion on the death.
The doctor refused to release the information to Judge Ray since the
family and not the county paid the cost. Judge Ray faxed an unsuccessful
subpoena for the report.
As Commissioners pondered the question, Judge Sam Massey told the court
Justice Ray had come to the County Courthouse to visit his [Masey's]
"As he started to explain his position, I told him that if he didn't
want to say it in open court, I wasn't interested in hearing it," Judge
"Whether Judge Ray is right or not is not the issue here... he did not
order an autopsy and he may have to answer for that in the future.
" It was his call and we shouldn't be second-guessing him. What we're
trying to determine here is whether the county should pay for this
[Milson's] autopsy and I don't think we should," the county judge said.
Commissioner Julian Florez made a motion to reimburse the full amount of
the cost of the autopsy. The motion died due to lack of a second.
Another motion was made to reimburse $700 of the cost, which is the
county's contracted rate for autopsy. The motion passed 3-0, with Judge
In his office interview, Ray said it would not be unusual for him and
Precinct 1 Justice of the Peace Pascual Olibas to investigate 40 deaths
in a year.
"Forty autopsies at a cost of $700 each, I guess the county may be
looking at about $28,000..." he said.
Justice Ray did file a death certificate in Milson's death.
Cause of death: Apparent heart failure.
Texas Election Bureau
Proposition 1: The Texas Constitutional Amendment providing school
property tax relief by increasing the homestead exemption by $10,000 to
Aug. 9, 1997
Poll Vote For Against
Pyote 57 57 0
Convention 204 202 2
Coliseum 115 114 1
Sudderth 56 54 2
Early Voting 238 234 4
Totals 670 661 9
James W. Everett 39*
Mark John Barker 3
Joyce Wilhelm 8
Don Howell 1
Council (2 seats expiring in 1998)
Will Grigorio 28*
Jim Cahill Jr. 21*
Paula Francisco 2
Jesse Heard 2
Mark Kuhn 1
Tom Kuhn 1
Shirley Barksdale 1
David Santiago 1
Rudy Ramirez 1
Council (1 seat expiring in 1999)
Jim Crawford 45*
Tracey Myers 1
Janie Brandenberg 1
Elementary children in the Grandfalls-Royalty school district pay a
dollar for lunch; middle and high school students, a dollar and a dime;
this school year, according to a statement released this week by the
All Grandfalls-Royalty students pay 75 cents for breakfast.
In addition, the administrators note, free or reduced price meals are
available for pupils who qualify.
Says the statement:
"To get free or reduced price meals for your children, you must complete
an application and return it to the school. We cannot approve an
application that is not complete."
The statement notes that all families who already receive food stamps or
Aid to Families with Dependent children automatically qualify for free
or reduced price meals.
In addition a family of four whose annual income is $29,661 or less also
would qualify for some type of school meal assistance. For complete
information, the administrators say, contact the school. And
Superintendent Charles Carter notes: "No child will be discriminated
against because of race, sex, color, national origin, age or handicap."
By Suzi Blair
Main Street Project Director
On Friday, Aug. 8, Monahans Main Street treated 41 new teachers, coaches
and administrators from MWPISD to a tour of the town and lunch at The
Connie Bean and Gina Williams from MWPISD transportation drove the
teachers around town in the beautiful new Loboe bus, which Connie has
aptly named "Precious". Connie lended his expert narration as the group
was shown such sites as the Schools, City and County offices, Ward
Memorial Hospital, the Million Barrel, Ward County Golf Course and R.V.
Park and the downtown area.
After the tour, everyone was treated to hamburgers at The Corner served
by Timmie Neace and her staff. The teachers were also given a test to
make sure they were paying attention during the tour and prizes were
given out to those who correctly answered the questions. Monahans
Chamber of Commerce and Ward County Teachers Credit Union gave bags of
goodies to everyone. This is the second year for the bus tour and lunch
for new employees of the school district. "We want the new teachers to
feel welcome to our great community and give them an idea of where
everything is around town."
Main Street would like to thank everyone who participated in the event
and helped make it a success.
On Monday, Aug. 11, Monahans Main Street Association held its Annual
Membership Meeting at the Convention Center. The purpose of the meeting
was to elect new members to the Board of Directors. Armando Ochoa and
John Wade were re-elected to the board and a new board member, Libby
Slay, was elected. Joy Fletcher, who has served on the Main Street Board
of Directors since 1996 was elected as an Ex-officio Board member.
Armando, John and Libby will serve as directors for 3 years.
At the meeting, Main Street President, Billee Lou Harris, gave a brief
history of Monahans Main Street, complimented the City of Monahans and
the City Council for their support and thanked all the volunteers who
have given so generously of their time and effort for the Main Street
Administrators in Ward County school districts depend on the state to
absorb their revenue losses in the wake of the overwhelming vote across
Texas on Saturday, Aug. 9, for a constitutional amendment that brings
property tax relief in the school districts.
Ward County balloting reflected the landslide across Texas for a
constitutional amendment increasing the homestead exemption by $10,000
The increase, reports a staff member in the county appraisal office, is
effective on Sept. 1. Homeowners will not be required to present new
homeowner exemption documents, says a staff member.
"It's all automatic," she says.
Statewide, the amendment was approved by a 94 percent margin. In Ward
County, the approving margin was comparble.
According to vote totals released by Ward County Clerk Pat V. Finley,
the constitutional amendment, Proposition 1, carried the county 661 to
nine, a light vote. Rolls show 6,833 registered voters in the county.
There were two "no" votes at the polling places in the Ward County
Convention Center in Monahans and at the Sudderth Elementary School
Gymnasium. One "no" vote was counted in the early balloting. One "no"
vote came at the polls at the Ward County Coliseum.
Finley says the landslide victory may have been the largest in the
history of Ward County and certainly was the biggest percentage victory
margin in any election during the 19 years she has been Ward County
Clerk and chief elections officer.
Increasing property tax rates in the Grandfalls-Royalty School District
and the Monahans-Wickett-Pyote School District to make up for lost
revenues is not an option. Both districts already are at the maximum
rate, $1.50 per $100 of property valuation, allowed by law.
That Saturday election was the closest the legislature came to the
oft-promised property tax relief in the state. And the legislature
embodied in that amendment provisions for a "hold harmless" factor for
the state's school districts for two years when the next session of the
General Assembly is scheduled in Austin, notes Joe A. Hayes, business
manager for the Monahans district.
"We don't know what is going to happen until the smoke clears and the
numbers come in," says Hayes.
In the Monahans-Wickett-Pyote district, Superintendent Clifton L.
Stephens reports the appraised value of taxable property before the
increased homestead exemption was $617,789,708. With Saturday's vote to
increase the homestead exemption, the assessed property value in the
district, Stephens notes, decreases $15,651,111 to $602,138,590.
Property tax savings statewide have been estimated by the Texas
Legislative Council at an average of about $140 a year in the school
districts. Hayes says no estimates have been made for a property tax
savings figure per property owner in the Monahans district but he
believes the $140 "would be a reasonable estimate."
Trustees of the Monahans-Wickett-Pyote School District Tuesday, Aug. 12,
adopted five goals for the district and identified the district's
mission. That mission, according to the policy adopted: "The . . .
district believes that it is responsible for providing quality
curricular, co-curricular and extra-curricular programs and actions
which give all students opportunities to reach their maximum potential
and become productive citizens." The goals: consistently strive for
highest academic quality; encourage positive parental and community
involvement; demand productive, disciplined and safe campus
environments; continuous progress in technology and development; plan
for facility improvements to enhance present and new programs.
Copyright 1997 by Ward Newspapers, Inc.
107 W. Second St., Monahans TX 79756
Phone 915-943-4313, FAX 915-943-4314
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