Thursday, Nov. 9, 2006



   Wallis wins state title
Named Texas ‘Principal of the Year’

Monitor file photo/Barbara Gartman
Mabank High School Principal Tommy Wallis named state Principal of the Year.

By Barbara Gartman
Monitor Staff Writer

MABANK–Mabank High School Principal Tommy Wallis was recently named the “State High School Principal of the Year.”
Every athlete knows the excitement of being number one.
Athletes understand that wonderful adrenaline rush driving every team member each time the team moves first from district and then on to state.
Wallis is a dynamic personality who seems to be riding an adrenaline high most of the time.
For that reason, he has also enjoyed the journey to top principal, which began with Region 10 Principal of the Year.
He passed approximately 450 high school principals, representing 80 school districts in Region 10’s nine counties, who were eligible for the award.
Wallis gives the credit for his success to the community, the school staff and to his teachers.
“I am very fortunate to have hired in with such a great staff,” Wallis said.
Wallis was hired as MHS principal in the fall of 2003.
Student success is his main goal.
As an example, he described an incident that happened almost the same time he was told of the state award.
“An 18-year-old lifeskills student took her first steps with a walker. It just can’t get any better than that,” he said.
The freedom to work and implement ideas and staff assignments is a great asset to being a successful principal, and that ability starts at the top, he said.
“Dr. (Russell) Marshall lets his principals do their job,” he explained, adding that gives him the freedom to select teachers who love kids as much as he does.
The ability is necessary, because in high school, the students constantly need encouragement and inspiration to do well.
“High school is where the rubber meets the road. The kids have to perform, they have to graduate,” Wallis said.
Principals from at least 20 high schools were in contention for the state honor.
They filled out a short questionnaire, and were required to submit letters of commendation from several individuals.
Wallis asked a student to write one of the letters.
From the questionnaire and letters, the contenders were narrowed to two.
The two principals selected, Wallis and Bobby Morse of Montgomery, went for a personal interview in Austin.
At the same time, the committee was interviewed candidates for middle school and assistant principals of the year.
The interview subject and length was not announced, so Wallis said there was nothing he could do in advance.
“I did no preparation. I just went down and was myself,” he said.
The interview consisted of only four questions.
• The one thing that made an improvement at MHS.
Answer: “Our advisory program. It gets the kids, staff and parents involved,” he said.
• Name a time in the last three years when you took a risk.
Answer: “Changing from block to a seven-subject curriculum.”
• Tell what you think a principal’s role is.
Answer: “An instructional leader to mentor students, teachers and staff.”
And the fourth question concerned attributes needed for his job to which he was quick to reply, “mutual respect.”
Following the interview, Wallis said he began to have a lot of self-doubt. He wondered what he could have said differently.
By the time he arrived back in Mabank, he was sure he had goofed his interview.
“I thought it would be a larger school,” he said.
Arriving home, the first thing he did was check his messages.
Sure enough, there was a message from Dr. James McSwain, the chair of the committee, who conducted the interview.
“Well, I didn’t make it,” Wallis said he told his wife Nicole, and then she reminded him of an errand, so he left without making the call.
It was the next day before he found out that he indeed was chosen for the state honor.
When he talked to McSwain, he explained his earlier misgivings about the interview and asked why he was chosen.
“You love those kids at Mabank High School. That is obvious by your talk,” McSwain told him. “And, you do cutting edge research – for the kids.”
McSwain said the committee was unanimous in its choice, and paid him a great compliment.
“Mr. Wallis, you are genuine,” he said.
The town of Mabank will now be known throughout the state as having the State Principal of the Year.
The other two winners, Erika Foerster, Middle School Principal of the Year, and Milton Fields III, Assistant Principal of the Year at John Paul Stevens High School, are both from San Antonio.
Wallis is now a contender for the title of National Principal of the Year.
Wallis, who will receive his doctorate in January, was asked if he will consider moving to bigger and better things, career-wise.
“This is my comfort zone. Me and my family love Mabank a lot. I love it where I am,” Wallis said.
“But no one knows what God has in store. I will always go where God Almighty leads me. I will follow His leadership. Sometimes, a person wants one thing, and God plans another,” he said.

Payne Springs goes wet
Republicans sweep election

By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

ATHENS–Payne Springs voted for the sale of alcoholic drinks for off-premise consumption by a mere four votes Tuesday, with 66 for and 62 against.
Early voting numbers showed the “against” leading the wet/dry vote.
Henderson County incumbents retained their seats.
The race to replace retiring Precinct 5 Justice of the Peace Judy Newman was won handily by Republican Tommy Barnett, who garnered 62 percent over Democrat Lloyd Arthus’s 38 percent.
Voters voiced their confidence in the leadership of commissioners court, headed by Judge David Holstein and commissioners Wade McKinney (Precinct 2) and Jerry West (Precinct 4), whose seats were in contention.
“I look forward to continuing the progress we’ve made,” Holstein said.
JP incumbants Dale Blaylock, Sue Starnes and Sue Tarrant retained their seats by wide margins.

By Barbara Gartman
Monitor Staff Writer

KAUFMAN–Incumbent Kaufman County Judge Wayne Gent will serve the county for another four years.
“I am happy I won. I love my job and I love Kaufman County,” Gent said.
“The way the county is growing, we will soon need more courts, and we will need a new building. I would like to see the county eventually get into a new courts building,” Gent said.
“Four years ago, we could have built a four-story 10-courtroom building for $12 million. After the court was petitioned against issuing the necessary certificates of obligation, we went for a bond election. The cost was up by $18 million. The county needs a new facility before the cost is prohibitive,” he said.
Another goal involves the Law Enforcement Center.
“We will continue to see that our sheriff’s department has all of the resources necessary to provide safety for the public,” he said. “I look forward to serving the next four years.”

Economic board director resigns after letter to editor
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer

GUN BARREL CITY–Economic Development Corporation board member James Cochran submitted a letter of resignation Nov. 3, citing a letter printed in the Cedar Creek Pilot, which he believes attacked his “integrity.”
“Due to the editorial published in Cedar Creek Pilot, I must regretfully submit my resignation from the board of directors, Gun Barrel City Economic Development Corporation,” he wrote.
“This public attack upon my integrity and attempt to defame my character from a standing member of the city council makes it impossible to carry out the duties of faithfully putting the interests of Gun Barrel City and its citizens ahead of any other,” Cochran added.
Councilman Marty Goss wrote the letter to criticize councilwoman Kathy Cochran (James’ wife) for not approving the city budget, since her livelihood is not affected by the even split of the council over the budget, citing the value of her home, and the fact she does not hold a job.
Both Cochran and Patsy Black have said they feel the proposed budget reneges on a verbal promise by a former city council to significantly boost funding to the street department over a four-year period, now coming to a close, and have held out for a $180,000 addition for the street department in the fiscal year 2007 budget.
In the meantime, the city is operating under last year’s budget, though how that works exactly is still fuzzy to all involved in paying for non-budgeted needs and much-wanted raises.
A second letter from Goss cited James Cochran’s reaction to the publishing of the Realtor’s valuation of his home, as an emotional response and cites nepotism as the possible cause.
“I have worked hard to demonstrate good faith, stewardship and accountability in all my decisions and votes while on the EDC board,” Cochran writes. “This campaign of unsupported accusations, casting aspirations and veiled innuendos ... by Councilman Goss, has undermined my attempts to assist in the creation of an economically growing city.”
Before his resignation, the EDC board was short one member. Now it needs two.