School principal plans
Central Elementary Principal “Libby” Horton reflects
on 26 years at Mabank ISD
Monitor Photo/Barbara Gartman
Mabank’s Central Elementary School Principal Elizabeth Horton joins a
kindergarten class for lunch. Small hands sometimes have trouble with milk
and juice containers so she often spends lunch time helping students open
By Barbara Gartman
Monitor Staff Writer
MABANK–With 26 years in education and 31 years in the area,
Central Elementary Principal Elizabeth “Libby” Horton is planning to retire.
All of her years in education have been spent with Mabank Independent School
District, she said.
Her last day with MISD will be Monday, June 11.
“I am the only person I know of that has come up through the ranks into
administration,” Horton said.
“I am not bragging. I am truly grateful. This community has given us so
much,” she explained.
As an example, Horton recounted the time in 1999, when her daughter, Dena,
was severely injured in a riding accident.
“It was just phenomenal the way the community supported us – with blood
drives, cards, phone calls and visits to the hospital,” she recalled.
“If anything (good) can be said of a bad experience, this was a good
experience,” Horton said.
She and husband Howard live on a ranch in the Phalba area. They’ve been
married 31 years.
Horton grew up in Mineral Wells and graduated from Mineral Wells High
She attended Baylor University earning a bachelor of science degree in 1974.
She earned her master’s degree at East Texas State University (now Texas
A&M, Commerce) in 1986 and obtained her mid-management certification from
the same school in 1992.
In 1976, she began teaching at homemaking at MHS. At the same time, Howard
was the Ag teacher.
After teaching a couple of years, the couple decided to buy a dairy.
The petite, professional and always neat principal can surprise one when she
describes the “other hats” she sometimes wears.
“I can milk 124 cows (using the milking machine), and if need be, I can milk
by hand, too,” Horton said.
In late 1977, they sold their dairy and moved to Dallas, where the couple
has the distinction of being charter members of Prestonwood Baptist Church.
In 1979, Dr. Darrell Kinnard called her and asked if she would like to come
back to Mabank and teach the homemaking class.
She accepted, and along with teaching responsibilities, became the junior
class sponsor and worked on graduation projects.
By 1983, she had two small children, son Robert and daughter Dena, so she
left teaching to stay home with them.
“During that time, I got my master’s and came back to teaching in 1985,”
She taught fourth grade for six years, sixth grade math and gifted and
talented for two years, before becoming junior high assistant principal in
She kept that position for three years, and then was made principal of
Central Elementary, a job she has held for 11 years.
A lot of changes have taken place since Horton first went to work in Mabank.
“When I started in 1976, we were a 2A district. Just the growth has been
something else,” she said.
Mabank has always had nice facilities, she said.
“But our facilities are so exceptional, compared to when I started,” she
The district had four campuses – primary, intermediate, junior high and high
school, she remembered.
“Now we have three elementary campuses, a middle school, high school and
alternative school – six campuses,” she explained.
Watching the students be successful in their endeavors such as UIL,
agriculture, music, band, football, track and all other sports is the best
part about being a principal, she said.
“The greatest thing is watching those children and their accomplishments,”
“A lot of my former students are now contributing members of the community –
a doctor, a banker, teachers and business owners,” she said.
Retirement will not mean the rocking chair or a lot of time for resting, she
“I am going to work on our ranch,” Horton explained.
“My daughter is a therapeutic riding instructor. I get to be her assistant,”
“My 11-year-old granddaughter is in Children’s Hospital now. She has been
diagnosed with cancer and there is a whole year of chemo ahead for her and I
want to be there for her,” Horton explained.
She added there were a lot of plans for catching up with projects on the
“I have so many things to do, I won’t live long enough to get them all
done,” she said.
Eustace Council examines
unexpected sewer project bill
By Kerry Yancey
Monitor Staff Writer
EUSTACE–Eustace City Council members reluctantly agreed to spend up to
$8,500 to collapse old septic tanks as part of the sewer hookup project in
the Bent Tree addition.
Collapsing the old tanks was never listed in the project budget, nor the
grant paperwork, but the state won’t release the final paperwork unless the
city agrees to handle that aspect, City Secretary Drucilla Haynes told the
“I’ve tried to get us out of this,” she said. “We had sent all our paperwork
in, but they wouldn’t close out until we had the septic tank agreement.”
There will be between 26 and 29 tanks that have to be filled in. One area
resident has threatened to harm anyone who sets foot on her property, and
another resident has a high-dollar aerobic treatment system, and wants to
try to dig it up and sell it, Haynes said.
With a bid of $290 each (considered very low), that will mean a maximum cost
of around $8,500, she said.
Under a 2001 state law, municipalities and water districts extending sewer
service to first-time residents have to collapse the old septic tanks, and
the state won’t budge on that requirement, even though it was never a part
of the grant-funded project, Haynes explained.
Veteran councilman Chuck Powers pointed out the city was continually having
to spend money to correct oversights or errors made by engineers and project
coordinators, citing the U.S. Highway 175 widening as an example.
Powers suggested the city should have a written document assigning
unexpected costs to the engineers or other parties responsible for
oversights or mistakes in future projects.
“I’d rather pay (the city attorney) $1,000 to write something up than pay
another $10,000 to fix somebody’s flub-up,” Powers said.
In other business during a regular session, the council:
• officially cancelled the May 12 election.
• routinely approved the Henderson County 911 emergency system’s fiscal year
2008 budget as presented.
• denied a disannexation request from Jack Stegall, who did not attend the
• authorized the water superintendent to “rig out” the city’s new truck with
tool boxes, a light bar and other necessities as outlined.
• tabled action on a request by Police Chief Robert Walker to purchase two
more automated ticket writers.
The electronic scanners “read” bar codes on driver’s licenses and vehicle
inspection stickers, and can download citation information directly into the
municipal judge’s computer, Walker explained.
Each writer has to be hard-wired into the patrol car – that’s the reason for
wanting two more of the $1,500 machines, Walker said.
The city has one writer, but it has not been put into service yet. Council
members said they wanted Walker to use the new writer for at least a month
to get any “bugs” worked out before seeking to purchase another two
• met in closed session to discuss salaries, but tabled taking any action
until the “appropriate” time (budget discussions).
Vandals damage birdhouses
Monitor Staff Reports
EUSTACE–“It’s just wiped out this season,” Eustace resident W.D. Arnold
Vandals pushed over five of Arnold’s 12 elevated purple martin birdhouses
overnight Monday. Each of the birdhouses had birds nesting on eggs in them.
During the same time, the vandals took two nearby stop signs along Railroad
Street, along with a street sign at nearby Star Street, and also pushed over
a speed limit sign.
Monitor Photos/Kerry Yancey
resident W.D. Arnold stands among his purple martin houses. Vandals pushed
over five of the 12 houses – each home to birds nesting on eggs – overnight
A 1947 Eustace High School graduate, Arnold
was dismayed and disgusted by the vandalism, noting he hadn’t seen anything
like that since moving back to Eustace in 1986.
Each of the purple martin birdhouses costs between $200 and $250, and all of
them are mounted atop metal poles that are permanently mounted in concrete.
“It takes more than two hours to put one together, if you know what you’re
doing,” Arnold said.
Arnold keeps meticulous records of each year’s purple martin migrations.
Unfortunately, the typical reason martins abandon a nesting site is
predation. It only takes one raid by a snake, raccoon or squirrel to prompt
the rest of the surviving birds to abandon the site.
Purple martins fly thousands of miles north from Brazil each spring to
breed. Once the young have left the nest, they fly back to South America.
The largest member of the swallow family in North America, purple martins (Progne
subis subis) used to nest in natural cavities, such as old woodpecker nests
and natural tree cavities.
Thousands of years ago, Native Americans began putting up artificial housing
for purple martins, using hollowed-out gourds.
Now, martins in areas east of the Rocky Mountains are
completely dependent on human-supplied housing, such as Arnold’s.
Purple martins are monogamous, and both the male and female participate in
constructing the nest and feeding the chicks after they hatch.
Although martins are not the ravenous scourge of mosquitoes, as widely
advertised, like other members of the swallow family, they catch flying
insects on the wing, eating flies, midges, stinkbugs, leafhoppers, June
bugs, butterflies, moths, grasshoppers and wasps, as well as mosquitoes.
Martins like to be around people, but elevated houses (10-20 feet above the
ground) need to be placed in the center of the most open spot available,
preferably 30-120 feet from human housing and at least 15-20 feet away from
trees. Boat docks are ideal locations for an elevated purple martin house.
Once martins have bred successfully at a particular location, the breeding
pair will return each year.
Purple martin houses should be left up until the end of August. This year’s
young will be looking for next year’s breeding sites in July and August.
56th National Day of Prayer
Monitor Photo/Pearl Cantrell
Some took advantage of hourly prayer vigils held at St. Peter Lutheran
Church in Gun Barrel City in observance of the National Day of Prayer
Thursday. The first Thursday in May was set aside as a time of prayer by
President Ronald Reagan in 1988. However Harry S. Truman signed the first
bill proclaiming a National Day of Prayer, April 17, 1952.
Monitor Photo/Pearl Cantrell
The lightning and downpour did not deter this group of supplicants from
meeting at the front of Mabank City Hall for prayer at noon Thursday in
observance of the National Day of Prayer led by Mabank’s First Baptist
Church Pastor Brent Tucker (far right). BELOW: Rev. Scott Schaller (left)
leads a congregational prayer for those trapped in addiction as part of his
prayer for families in the area.