Sunday, January 20, 2008






  Mabank High School gains national acclaim
By Barbara Gartman
Monitor Staff Writer

MABANK–Mabank High School was included in the U.S. News top 1,500 high schools in the nation.

Courtesy Photo/Studio 35
Mabank High School principal Dr. Tommy Wallis (front and center) credits his 125-member staff with 36 core subject teachers for helping make Mabank High School one of the top schools in the nation. The school was listed in the top 1,500 high schools by a U.S. News survey of more than 19,000 high schools nationwide.

The district heard the good news when it returned from Christmas break, principal Dr. Tommy Wallis said.
“We ranked in the top 1,000 high schools in the nation. More than 19,000 United States high schools were reviewed. We were in the top 1,000,” Wallis said excitedly.
U.S. News reviewed 19,000 high schools nationwide and divided the top schools in three categories: gold, silver and bronze. Mabank High School is listed in the Bronze category of 1,000 school. The silver category lists 405 schools. U.S. News ranked the top 100 high schools in its gold category.
About 162 Texas high schools were included in one of the categories.
The honor was linked to the students Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) test, Wallis said.
Almost 50 percent of MHS students are considered economically disadvantaged. Students in that category usually perform poorer on the state standardized test (TAKS), he added.
But 84 percent of MHS disadvantaged students performed at the state’s proficiency level.
“People ask why our students do so much better than other schools, and I tell them our teachers build lasting relationships.
“We hold our students, teachers and administration at a high accountability rate. Our faculty truly believes that all kids have the ability to learn,” Wallis explained.
“It’s not just the school that benefits from the honor, it’s the whole community, the economy and real estate,” Wallis said.
“When we ask why a student is coming into our district, they say ‘the school,’ that’s their reason,” he said.
TAKs is a problem for many school districts and increasing the number who pass the test is always a goal.
“We have a lot of creative and out-of-the-box thinking on the TAKS test (when it comes to helping students pass). We try to make true-life experiences relevant to learning,” Wallis said.
Other Texas school districts are keenly aware of Mabank High School’s accomplishments.
“Schools come from all over the state, and we set up staff-development programs for them,” he said.
Over time, the district has added some advanced training courses.
“Over the past five years, we have focused on allowing students to get a certification they can fall back on; emergency medical technician, pharmaceutical technician, hunter and wildlife skills, Ready-Set-Teach and auto mechanical technician certification,” Wallis pointed out.
Because students work harder at core class grades, they are able to take part in other activities.
“We have a larger number of students participating in many more extracurricular activities. Our students work harder here,” he explained.
Despite their hard work, Wallis is still concerned many students are denied everyday opportunities.
“A lot of our kids have never seen the ocean or the mountains. They have never been to a five-star restaurant or seen an opera,” Wallis said.
The district has a total staff of 125, which includes the 36 core subject teachers – math, English, social studies and science.
Wallis credits the teachers, staff and students with the success the district has made.
“I am very proud of this honor. The past two years, the school was listed as a top high school in Texas, but to rank among the nation’s best, that’s awesome,” he said.
“I’m proud,” he added.
“It’s fantastic.”
“It was a surprise. I did not expect it,” Wallis said.
“I knew we were good. I just didn’t know we were that good,” he added.

No new police officer, now
Police chief gets 40-cent pay raise
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

PAYNE SPRINGS–The majority of Payne Springs City Council members are holding the line on spending, in spite of being bullied by the mayor and the object of loud complaints by visitors at Tuesday’s meeting.
“‘Just because it’s in the budget does not mean we have to spend it,’ is what you said,” Councilman Lynn Sorrell told Mayor Michael McDonald when McDonald continued to press the council into hiring at least one of the two police officers included in the fiscal year (FY) 2008 budget unanimously passed in November.
Sorrell and councilmen Odell Terrell and Carl Powell voted “not to hire a new police officer at this time.” Powell made the motion.
Powell and Sorrell said they opposed hiring a new officer because they didn’t want to hire James East.
East, a reserve officer, has been serving the city full-time without pay since Police Chief Carey James resigned in October.
In August, the council refused to raise James’ pay from $10 an hour to $11.
Several audience members reached in their wallets to give a contribution to East in appreciation for his service.
“He can’t take that,” Police Chief Shane Renberg said. “The law sees that as a bribe.”
“If you don’t hire me, hire somebody,” East shouted from the back of the room. “The chief needs help.”
In a related action, the council considered a raise for the chief, or putting him on salary.
Terrell supported a dollar per hour raise (to $13.10), but Powell moved to set a salary of $26,000 a year for a 40-hour work week, plus straight hourly pay ($12.50) for overtime, with the idea that overtime was to be strictly avoided.
The measure passed 3-1, with Councilman Tom Hinkle opposed.
The salary works out to a pay raise of about 40 cents per hour.
Renberg seemed to be surprised at the outcome, which he thought had been worked out ahead of the meeting.
Audience members showed marked dissatisfaction with the council’s view on police protection, as some stormed out.
“I’m an old lady, and I don’t like you putting a price tag on my life,” an angry Southwood Shores resident said. “I don’t like it one bit.”
Powell moved to increase city secretary Shirley Leonard’s pay from $8.50 to $10 per hour. Leonard works 32 hours per week as city secretary. The motion passed unanimously.
Proposed pay raises for the chief and city secretary both failed during last month’s meeting, although both were included in the approved budget.
The council also appointed Raymond Shackelford as the new city attorney. Coincidentally, Shackelford said he grew up in Southwood Shores.
Former city attorney Drew Gibb moved to Boston, McDonald said.
Walter Hellerbrand reported 27 Southwood Shores homes are now hooked up in the self-help sewer project, with 13 more to go.
He also reported vehicles speeding past him as he works near the roadway, nearly running him over. “It’s 15 mph through there,” he said.
Citizen’s agenda
Henderson County resident and real estate agent Jim Ragsdale asked the council to consider dissolving the city, if that is what the majority of its citizens vote in a nonbinding proposition in the May 10 election.
The city could be redrawn with an intelligent design, new officers elected, adequate police personnel hired and be a city “all residents can be proud of” and one which “operates without conflict and turmoil,” he said.
Ragsdale distributed a short, unofficial history of the city, attributing the city’s vein-like boundaries as an attempt to ensure the prohibition of liquor sales. Henderson County Commissioners approved a petition for incorporation on Oct. 9, 1972.
Ragsdale told the council he has been unable to get an official police report of a Nov. 11, 2007, break-in of his vehicle while he attended a Payne Springs United Methodist Church service.
Apparently, that part of the parking lot is three feet outside the city limits, he said.
His identity has already been stolen as a result, and Ragsdale said he is trying to prevent any further theft.
“The chief is so overwhelmed, he hasn’t had time to finish it,” he said.
Rodney Renberg filled in more details of the city’s history, reminding the audience that before incorporation, all tax dollars went to the Eustace Independent School District, traffic fines went to Athens and the surrounding cities, and said a police department is needed to fight the drug activity occurring in Cherokee Shores.
“We (the council Renberg served on) did the best we could with what we had,” he said.
“We were the only town on the lake without police protection. That sent a message that we didn’t care,” Renberg added.
“You don’t have a tax base, you don’t care. It’s time for this town to care. We’re tired of the rapists and the drugs,” he said.
Harry Riddle, who lives a quarter-mile away, and yet is not in the city, suggested a strong neighborhood watch program would address safety and security issues.
“Payne Springs could save money and reduce crime by starting a crime watch community. It is very cost-effective,” he said.
In addition, the activity would enhance cooperation and send the right message to crooks, Riddle added.
An audience member noted without more than one police officer, no one would be available to answer a call from a crime watch participant.
Payne Springs has 27 miles of roads, more than Gun Barrel City, McDonald said.
Terrell said the city can’t afford to provide total police coverage.
McDonald disagreed, saying four officers would go a long way toward providing security for citizens.
McDonald also read campaign literature from each of the three councilmen, which described them as “fair, honest, impartial, listens to citizens, wise spending, uphold Christian values.”
“Nowhere on here does it say ‘reduce the police department,’” McDonald said. “Or, ‘get rid of the police department,’ but that’s what you’re doing.”
“As long as I’m on this council, I’m going to spend this city’s money just as carefully as if it were my own,” Powell said. “If we listen to you (McDonald), this city is going to be broke in three years.”
“You’re trying to create answers without the right information,” McDonald responded. “The council’s job is to spend the money to benefit the citizens and come out even at the end of the year.
“We have the money, the resources and the budget. We just don’t seem to have the will,” McDonald said.

Sweet stories sought
Special to The Monitor
CEDAR CREEK LAKE– The Monitor is seeking your stories about people you love most.
Your sweetheart stories will be published on Valentine’s Day, Thursday Feb. 14.
Include a photograph of your loved one, or of the two of you together along with your story.
All submissions should include the writer’s name and phone number where you can be reached and be delivered to The Monitor no later than Friday, Feb. 8.
Stories should be composed of no more than 800 well-chosen words. All copy is subject to editing for clarity, grammar, conciseness and style.
The Monitor reserves the right not to publish any stories it deems inappropriate.
Submissions may be made via e-mail to  Digital photos may be sent by e-mail as large jpeg or tif files. Submissions may also be carried or mailed to The Monitor, 1316 S. Third St., Mabank, 75147. It is located at the back of Groom & Sons’ parking lot.