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Tuesday, May 10, 2005

Peggy McCracken

Squarely Pegged

By Peggy McCracken

Construction team
doing good work(s)

I left a good-looking, available man at my office door on Friday to have lunch with two young gentlemen whom I want to get better acquainted with.

Thurman Williams has been our handyman at the God’s Army headquarters (the red trimmed white house at Missouri and Veterans) for the past two months. He picked neighbor Ray Palomino off the street to help him, and they make a dandy team.

Ray tells me he was working for Dell Computer in Austin when an 18-wheeler ran a stop sign and totaled his car during a lunch break several months ago. He was bruised and battered, suffering a herniated disk in the process. Dell couldn’t hold his job until he was able to return to work, so Ray came home to Mom and Dad. His father operates Ray’s Upholstery.

Since the trucker had no insurance, Ray is sort of in limbo. His doctor has referred him to a San Antonio hospital for treatment, but so far he has been unable to afford that option.

Thurman works like a Turk when he is motivated. Some days I have to stand over him with a stick to motivate him to finish the job at hand. He’d rather be outside painting or sawing on plywood.

Friday morning, the three of us dismantled an outside wall and window facia to get to some termite-ridden, rotted wood and dirt that was making grass grow inside the sunroom and climb out the roof. Thurman kept threatening to kill a Gecko that got in his way, and I threatened to kill him if he did. Next thing I know, my pry bar has cut the tail off a little bitty Gecko. Does that mean I deserve the same fate?

Despite my fussing and nagging, Thurman keeps on working, and even sings a little. He tells me he has written 150 Gospel songs. I won’t rest until I see them and try out the tunes on my piano. He says he can’t sing, but I’ve never seen a preacher who doesn’t think he can sing.

Yes, he even preaches at Mt. Zion Baptist Church when Bro. Billy Veal lets him. And he has a heart for youth. Maybe that’s why he hangs in there and tolerates my bossiness. He knows the house will be used to minister to youth, as well as elementary and even preschool children.

Watch for a May wedding featuring Thurman Williams and Dorothy Smith. They make a cute couple.

“How can a young man keep his way pure? By living according to your word.” Psalm 119:9, NIV

EDITOR’S NOTE: Peggy McCracken is Enterprise business manager. Contact her at

Your View

Readers voice their opinion about enhanced program

Dear Editor:

The mentality of Pecos strikes again

Leave no child behind. Every child deserves an education, right? Not according to some members of the school board and the school superintendent.

A year ago a prominent business man told me Pecos has crawled long enough. It’s time to get up and walk. Well, here in another way Pecos is crawling.

Just as Mr. Matthews stated he was not in a popularity contest, neither are we as teachers, parents and grandparents. We are concerned what affects our children.

Like it or not, children learn at different levels and the advanced children are being penalized for learning abilities. Does this mean the other students can’t learn? Absolutely not, it means each child should be allowed to learn and progress at a comfortable level. Be it accelerated or not.

As adults in charge of our children’s education, does it take a brain surgeon to understand the importance of keeping children stimulated and interested in school. You are creating potential drop outs. Our children need the best we can academically give them to survive outside of Pecos. And there is a world outside of Pecos.

The schoolboard meeting Tuesday was a farce. A tie vote was more or less ignored because accepting it meant the negative with previously cast stood. We were told, “I hear you, but I don’t have to listen to you.” None of the alternatives to the advanced program were discussed even though it was on the agenda.

Please don’t tell me about expense. If they can waste a million dollars on a football field, then spend the same amount on academics. Just as all children learn differently, not all children are sports candidates, but look at the money spent on sports.

Another way Pecos crawls.

Wake up parents, your children are at stake here.


Dear Editor:

I just finished reading the article about the school board’s insane decision. I’ve heard of some stupid things, but wow. This one has got to be at the top of the list. Maybe Mr. Matthews had a temporary brain loss? Pulling this program is only punishing the students who worked hard to get where they are now. I don’t think Mr. Matthews has been around kids that long. If he had been, he would know that most of the students aren’t likely to help the ones not in the program. Like Mr. Briggs said, “Last time I checked, we hired teachers to do the teaching.:” I couldn’t agree more. How “By all of them being in the same classroom they’ll all be equal” challenging anyone? I was a substitute in 2004 for Pecos High School and Bessie Haynes Elementary, and from what I saw, all this is going to do is make the slower learners even more discouraged than before.

Not only have I had the chance to view students from a teacher’s point of view, I myself was in the advanced program from 1st grade to 12th grade (1992-2003), as were my closest friends. Sure the classes were harder, (I had to retake English II!) but isn’t that the point? To challenge to make students realize that college isn’t going to be peaches and cream? As I got into my junior year in high school, I had a baby girl. I also slacked off. I will be the first one to tell you that I should have continued to take the full load that my friends did. However, I still graduated with honors, due to what the advanced program had taught me over the years. This program doesn’t just challenge the students educationally, it also challenges them to have respect for themselves, and to keep up honor for the things they have done. As I said, the classes were harder, and there weretimes when we were all so stressed, but stressing from those classes really paid off. This decision to pull the program really gets to me. My daughter will be starting school in about 2 years, and as fast of a learner as she is, I plan for her to be in this program. Not because I think she’s a genius, (even though I do think she is!) but because what being in the advanced program did for me. I want very much for her to have that experience. I just don’t see the point in not having some kind of challenging program for students who learn faster.

Everyone always seems so worried about the dropout rate, but in my opinion, they must not honestly care too much. Pulling this program is just going to increase that rate. I thought that we were supposed to encourage learning, not discourage it. Like Mr. Briggs and the rest of the citizens in Pecos who have a good head on their shoulders, I will be voting for Paul Deishler and David Flores. It sounds to me like we need some brains put into the school board.

Dear Editor:

Obviously, I spoke too soon when I lauded Steve Valenzuela for voting to continue the enhanced program. In the past, students who participated in the enhanced program have gone on to graduate from MIT, Harvard, Stanford, Pepperdine, Brandeis, Williams, and many other prestigious universities. That is certainly a record not worth perpetuating. But, hey, I want to take this opportunity to congratulate athletic director Willis on a stellar football season! That turf was worth every penny, and definitely a more worthwhile investment that squandering money on academics! I was somewhat disappointed, though, that a few more coaches weren’t hired, but that’s probably in the works even as I write. As a taxpayer, I am relieved to know that the administration and the school board (except for Amy Miller, Lila Cerna, and Paul Deishler) have their priorities straight.


Dear Editor:

According to the US Census data for Reeves County, 46% of residents over age 25 lack a basic, high school education. I was unable to find an urban ghetto with worse statistics.

In a nation where basic education is free and even compulsory, such a statistic belies contempt for the pursuit of knowledge. Last week, Billie Sadler, Steve Valenzuela, Bubba Williams, and Crissy Martinez validated that contempt to the sound of vigorous applause by PBT-ISD Superintendent Mathews.

How odd that a school board composed of minorities has so little compassion. These kids will be deprived of a worthwhile program simply because of their status as an intelligent minority within a largely uneducated population.

If these kids were willfully stupid, had skin of purple hue, and a third eyeball rooted in the middle of their forehead…they’d likely have their own building.

This board, and this superintendent, has conveyed that smart kids, as a minority, do not warrant protection and nurturing. Why?

Mr. and Mrs. Briggs, and at least nineteen parents of other bright children per grade, wonder publicly about why the enhanced program was eliminated.

Paraphrasing VI Lenin, “If you wish to determine the reason for a policy decision, simply look for those who will benefit financially from it.”

Public education has ceased to be about learning. Today, it’s about funding positions and garnering state funds. Public education was once about achievement. Today, it’s about attendance.

Funding is what gives purpose to “teaching to” state-mandated tests, draconian attendance policies, and an overwhelming emphasis on school sports. Pursuit of state funding makes filling seats with children more important than it is to fill those children with knowledge.

The enhanced program was eliminated because it impacted a minority of children and was not an efficient use of resources. A larger number, of mediocre to failing children, either quit Pecos’ schools every year or are regularly absent from classes. They represent a huge drain on the school budget. Without an enhanced program, teachers may now teach to the middle, assisted by the brighter kids acting as unpaid student aids. The tactic provides more breathing bodies to help maintain order and to entertain the slower kids…thereby, keeping them in school and part of the daily census.

What if a bright kid becomes cynical, bored, and underachieving? And, what if the child acts out because they’re bored or frustrated?

Such a child is more in line with the lowest common denominator of students and the district will embrace a new mission as a warden.

What if parents defensively move a bright child from this district?

Nobody will notice one more “For Sale” sign in a town where such signs bloom like dandelions in a well-watered lawn and where, while G-d merely provides each bird with a worm…local officials, for votes, ‘one better’ G-d and toss the worms into the nests.

The damage to, or the loss of, a bright child becomes ‘collateral damage’ in a war to maintain enrollment numbers and keep the state dollars flowing.

Money is a very powerful reason to abandon a minority of smart children and their dutiful parents. Nothing better has been offered as a reason for elimination of the enhanced program.

To the Editor:

As an elected official, I am neither fearful in admitting my flaws nor my mistakes. With regard to the continuance of the Enhanced Program in our district, I readily acknowledge a lack of expertise in the areas of curriculum and special programs. Because of this, I frequently rely on both our district educators’ input because they are our ‘resident experts’ in this fields, as well as educational experts from surrounding communities.

As an elected representative of the district, my position as a school board trustee necessitates that I make informed decisions concerning the general welfare of our district and it’s stakeholders, and that I continually communicate with the public to better represent our district. For these reasons, subsequent to the last regular board meeting, I have openly met with and discussed the Enhanced Program with various educators from Pecos and surrounding communities, and I visited with many parents and students about it as well.

The Enhanced Program is not a state mandated program. Rather, it is a local program that differs from the Gifted and Talented Program (which is state mandated). While both programs are designed to challenge cognitively accelerated learners and can prove highly effective if implemented properly, the Enhanced Program encompasses one classroom per grade levels 1-6 and averages a mere 21 students per classroom.

Enhanced classes in our district are not entirely comprised of students who qualify for this program. Interestingly enough, there are several students who are admitted into the program, but they are placed in a regular classroom (one that does not provide enhanced services) because of parental request. As a result, ‘regular’ teachers are expected to provide instruction that motivates and challenges each student according to their capabilities. At this point, I must ask, “isn’t that what ALL of our students deserve and are entitled to?” With this in mind, it appears that all classes could be construed as ‘enhanced.’

According to our school administration, a carefully designed system aimed at strengthening and improving our Gifted and Talented program is currently being coordinated, which will be implemented as early as next year. This includes a pullout program intended to challenge students identified by the district (according to predetermined criteria) as gifted. An exclusive GT teacher will be hired solely to provide higher-level instruction geared towards these particular students. I believe the most harmful misconception surrounding the elimination of the Enhanced Program is that our accelerated learners will quickly become bored and be left nothing to do. As a wholehearted supporter of the professionals working in our school system, I have utmost confidence that they will not allow this to occur.

Perhaps the most important point I would like to make concerns the effect the Enhanced Program has on the other students - those who do not qualify. I recently asked a random 4th Grade Student what he know about the Enhanced Program. His response (based on his perception) was, “Oh that’s for smart kids…I didn’t make it.” How am I to respond to a child whose confidence has already been shaken? What are we doing? Are we giving this child a chance? Unfortunately, there may be 180 more students just like him at each grade level.

After Tuesday’s special meeting, one individual commented that, “(I) should hope that (my) son does not have to sit in a regular classroom and be bored.” I am honored that the individual believes my son would qualify would qualify for the 1st Grade Enhanced Program, but at the same time, I don’t sit on the School Board to represent only my son. Our district mission statement clearly states.

We (the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah Board of Education) should provide educational opportunities with EQUITY for ALL students.

My personal interpretation of this mission includes my obligation, as an elected official, to not only represent my son, but to represent all students of PBT-ISD. Therefore, by voting to eliminate the Enhanced Program, I firmly believe I have made an informed and well-thought out decision, and my obligation has been entirely fulfilled regarding this issue.


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