Southside Qualifies for Employee Incentive Funds
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
MABANK-Southside Elementary in Mabank was the only school in the Cedar Creek Lake area to qualify for the Governor's Educator Excellence Grant, an incentive program that rewards school personnel for achievements based on student performance.
The grant was approved during the last legislative special session this summer.
Only two other schools in the 12-3A district qualified in Cross Roads and Athens.
Southside met the two qualifications set by the state for schools hoping to split a $100 million-dollar pie. Southside's award is $75,000.
Though several schools in the area carry a large percentage of children from economically disadvantaged homes, Southside's percentage (in 2004, the qualifying year) - a little more than 70 percent - put them in the top one third of the Texas schools with the highest percentage of students from this group.
The second qualifier was the achievement level.
Qualifying schools must be either a recognized or exemplary campuses and show marked improvement in math and/or reading.
"We're very proud of that," Principal James Pate told The Monitor.
"We just felt honored and privileged to have made the cut (for the award)," Pate added.
The Texas Education Agency identified and prioritized qualifying schools throughout the state until the money was completely assigned. These schools may remain in the running over the next three-years.
Qualifying schools than have to submit a plan for equal and fair sharing of the incentive funds between employees on campus.
"We found out about the logistics of the award in mid-August and our due date was Oct. 5," Pate explained. But before final submission, it had to pass muster with the school board and with the District Site Base Committee, a diverse group of educator from district 12-3A.
That gave them about a month to complete the complex grant writing process.
To get the job done, Pate assembled a committee with teachers from grades one through five, including special education, special programs and P.E. He also added a paraprofessional to round out the committee of 10.
"I was very proud of the committee. Some leaders emerged who took the initiative in research or were a voice for their grade level or department," Pate said.
Their job was to create a payout plan that would give everyone an opportunity to earn a fair slice of the pie.
The committee formulated a plan in two parts that outlines measurable criteria for earning incentives, specifies the amounts that can be earned by each kind of employee, including the librarian, nurse and cafeteria staff and include an improvement plan for staff development.
Pate estimates it took 300 man-hours - all in the evening and on weekends to meet the deadline.
"I believe Mr. Pate and his staff did an excellent job in developing a plan that the board was really pleased with. They did a very good job of making it fair and equitable," Mabank ISD board president Gary Sapp said.
All the details of the grant can be found at mabankisd.net, the district's website.
Hensarling Talks Positives at Kiwanis Meeting
Monitor Staff Reports
GUN BARREL CITY-U.S. Rep. Jeb Hensarling accentuated the positives during a talk to the Cedar Creek Lake Kiwanis club Wednesday.
Hensarling, who is seeking a second term in the Nov. 7 general election, started with the economy, noting it was perhaps the most "under-reported" story.
Hensarling reminded the gathering, which included a number of visitors from the Athens Kiwanis club, he was a co-sponsor of President Bush's economic program, and its sweeping tax cuts.
During the past three years, more than six million new jobs have been created, and the unemployment rate now stands at 4.6 percent, which is lower than the average rate in the 1970s and the 1980s, Hensarling told the gathering.
"Today, more Americans own their homes than at any time in history," he added. "Clearly, we have one of the best economies in history."
Despite the tax reductions, tax revenues are up, and the budget deficit is being reduced more quickly than projected, Hensarling said.
Co-sponsoring the Bush economic program was one of the actions he was most proud of as a legislator, Hensarling said, adding "I believe it's made a difference in the lives of people."
Turning to the war on terror, Hensarling said as a Congressman and as a father, he considered radical Islam to be America's greatest threat.
"These people simply hate Western civilization," he said. Members of al-Qaida "feel they have the moral authority to kill Americans."
While he believes the nation is at war, Hensarling said he wasn't sure many Americans believe that.
Americans have never been at war against enemies who don't wear uniforms, don't belong to a nation/state and don't believe in the common rules of engagement, he said.
"Any time the nation has been at war, there's always been a balance between security and liberty," he said, adding he favored security.
"It's no accident that there hasn't been another 9/11 since 9/11," he said, noting the nation's surveillance programs were necessary to block terrorist plans.
"I'm not scared about offending their sensibilities" through strenuous interrogation, Hensarling added.
More al-Qaida members are trying to infiltrate into America through its borders, and, until recently, border security had not been a high priority.
"A nation without borders ceases to be a nation," he said, adding he was in favor of extending plans for an actual and virtual fence along the U.S.-Mexico border.
"The debate is not immigration, yes or no," he said. "The debate is about illegal or legal.
"Some of the best Americans I know weren't born here," he added.
To offer illegal immigrants any kind of amnesty program "is a slap in the face to those who stood in line for years, learned English and learned our history" trying to comply with the lengthy and complicated citizenship procedure, Hensarling said.
Hensarling then turned to government spending, noting the current increase in the rate of government spending was not sustainable.
Without some kind of cap on spending, within a few years, the federal budget will cover Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and nothing else, he said.
"The easiest thing to do as a Congressman is to say 'yes' when asked for money," he said, adding he was a co-sponsor of legislation to give the President line-item veto power.
Also, he's attempting to introduce legislation creating a sunset law, which would enable Congress to end a government program that's no longer needed.
"As the father of a 4«-year-old and a 3-year-old, I hope to spend more time thinking about the next generation," he said. The problems with government spending and Social Security funding "aren't going to come home and roost this year, or next year."