By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
ATHENS–A stone monument wih bronze plaque was unveiled Saturday to pay tribute to longtime Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Agent Rick Hirsch.
He served Henderson and McLennan counties for 28 years, teaching the Henderson County Master Gardener class from 2000 to 2015. “We remember Rick as a man of wit and humor,” the plaque placed at the entrance to The Master Gardeners’ Dream Garden at the East Texas Arboretum states.
Master Gardener Vice President Evan Sparks called him, “the rock of our organization. We would have thought we were Rick’s favorite project in Henderson County. But every group he worked with felt that way.”
Rick died April 24, 2016 at the age of 51.
“We continue to mourn the loss of a great leader in Ag Extension,” Precinct 4 Commissioner Ken Geeslin said Oct. 8. “He was the first to address any issue related to agriculture. It was just normal to call Rick.” From issues dealing with bees dying to 4-H; the Hunters Rendezvous to the elected officials’ luncheon; he was the county’s go-to resource, Geeslin said.
“His radio programs were always very interesting and he always ended with the Henderson County Ag Extension motto: If you eat, wear clothes, or live in a house, you have a definite state in agriculture.”
4-H Texas A&M AgriLife Coordinator Kate Pittack described Rick as “a fixture at the Henderson County Junior Livestock Show. He helped youth reach their potential. He was a friend, mentor and role model,” she said.
Catholic Father Nolan Lowry of St. Edward Church blessed the monument and spoke of Hirsch’s abiding faith in God, of his superb role as father and husband to his widow, Bronte and said his life was an example of service working through love.
Texas District 4 Representative Stuart Spitzer recognized the impact Hirsch had in the area of agriculture contributed to the entire state of Texas.
He presented two flags to Bronte on behalf of himself and Sen. Robert Nichols. The Lone Star flag was the same one flown over the capitol in Austin just a few days after Rick’s death on Aggie Muster Day. “He was a true Aggie and a good man,” Spitzer said. He also presented Bronte with Old Glory, which had been flown over the Capitol in Washington D.C. and read a proclamation honoring Hirsch.
The proceedings were a highlight of the park’s annual fall festival in Athens.
Master Gardener Cecilia Boles, who attended Rick’s first Master Gardener Class, summed up Rick’s contribution to the lives of all he touched with a garden simile. “He was able to step into any situation with aplomb and grace. He was like well-composted manure in a spring garden.”
Posted by : October 12, 2016| On :
By Pearl Cantrell
Posted by : October 7, 2016| On :
By Pearl Cantrell
Monitor Staff Writer
MABANK–Some changes in management policy are taking place at the library in Mabank, since the 25-year-old institution passed from private hands to the city’s umbrella. The biggest change is the ouster of Whisper, the library cat.
Whisper, a spayed female tabby, has been living in the library for the past eight years, celebrating her birthday with small celebrations during Saturday library hours, receiving modest and elaborate gifts. In fact, the cat, while just a kitten, got her name from a library-run contest.
The gray tabby was rescued from the animal shelter in Tool and was recommended for her mild temperament, even while a kitten. Sydney Busch of Friends to the Animals recommended her adoption to the library’s board; and her organization has provided for Whisper’s day-to-day needs for food, kitty litter, vaccinations, collars and toys. “Whisper has never been an expense to the library,” Busch said.
The city directed Whisper’s departure from the library as of Oct. 1.
When the city council met Oct. 4, a dozen of Whisper’s fans attended the meeting hoping to reason with the council about keeping the library cat, and with her the uniqueness of the Tri-County Library.
One gentleman, who’s been volunteering at the library for a short time and no particular friend of cats, suggested the council view Whisper as a marketing tool for the library and not as a quasi-community pet. “I’ve seen families come to the library, and seeing the cat is a highlight of their visit,” Howard Hopkins said.
Mayor Jeff Norman responded that keeping the cat in a city building would set a precedent that may lead other employees to demand the company of a pet during working hours. “This has been litigated, the two are not comparable,” Friends of the Animals founder Ed Busch said. “Everyone is not on board with the cat,” Norman answered.
“Let the population have a voice in this,” Ed Busch said. “This is a quality of life issue.”
Norman commented that it was his opinion that if a poll were taken there would be as many others who have strong feelings for keeping the cat out of the library. “I’ve received comments disfavoring the cat,” he said.
Former mayor and now councilman Larry Teague said, as long as the city wasn’t over the library “we’ve said nothing against it. But things are different now. There’s liability.”
The city manager said he had letters from both the city’s attorney and insurance agency recommending that cat not be kept in place at the library. Ed Busch testified that in his discussions with the city manager, the city’s insurance does cover the cat.
“Though the cat may be covered, the insurance agency doesn’t recommend it,” city manager Bryant Morris said. The library has a kitchen facility and animals and food generally aren’t a good mix according to the health department, Norman said.
While people may not bring a suit against a privately-held library, knowing it doesn’t have any resources that may be gained by the winning of a lawsuit, it’s a different attitude when people view it as a government entity. “They wouldn’t hesitate to sue over the smallest of harms or perceived harm,” Teague explained to The Monitor later. “It’s a whole different animal,” he said.
Though it would appear fans of the library cat found no support from anyone on the council, the mayor said the issue of the cat will be put on the November meeting agenda and taken to a vote. Whisper’s supporters have until then to sway members of the council to their side of the argument.
Of the dozen or so fans speaking at the meeting, only one was a Mabank resident and she was the one who was most distraught. She has been the chief caregiver of Whisper, taking her home with every weekend and bringing her back “to work” every Monday.
“Mabank residents aren’t the only ones who regularly use that library, some of the most regular visitors come primarily to visit Whisper,” Sydney Busch said.
In other business, council members:
• re-nominated Don McAfee to continue his service on the Henderson County Property Appraisal board.
• approved a final version of the 2016-17 City Budget to include a correction and an addition of a line item for Information Technology and 9-1-1 Service in the police department section.
• approved the final version of budgets from the Economic Development Corporation and the Hotel-Motel funds, with updated beginning balance numbers as of Oct. 1.
• heard staff reports, including one from library director Brandi Marett, for the first time. Directing the library the past two years, her report included attendance numbers as they compare to this time last year, included an update on the renovation of the Children’s area with a safari theme, funded by grant money. She noted that the library of today serves more as a community center than a depository for books and periodicals, as this form of media increasingly is being replaced with Internet technology and eBooks.
Posted by : September 28, 2016| On :
By Robyn Wheeler
Monitor Staff Writer
EUSTACE–First on the agenda at the Eustace ISD Sept. 19 meeting was to consider the resignation of long-time board member Sonny Hodge. After accepting Hodges resignation, David Morton was appointed to fill the vacant position. Morton, of Eustace, has a son attending school in the district in second grade. He said he felt this opportunity would allow him to become more involved and keep him up-to-date on what’s going on at the district. Hodge accepted a plaque for his dedication and many of his family members were in attendance.
After a brief financial report, EISD Superintendent Dr. Coy Holcombe discussed the Performance Based Monitoring Analysis System (PBMAS) Report which showed the district received top scores (zeroes) in all categories except in special education.
“We will get the kids the help they need. We will do right by our students, even if that means scoring threes and fours,” Holcombe said. Area superintendents feel that the way progress is measured for special ed students by the state set them up to fail.
School principals spoke to board members about the 2016-17 Campus Improvement Plans. The intermediate school reported a 97 percent attendance rate and all schools reported parent involvement challenges. The intermediate school is offering free breakfast and lunch meals as well as offering several field trips to larger towns so children can see more of the state and the way others live. The school is also making an effort to teach the children about morals and ethics, in and out of school. The middle school has recently created a middle school Facebook page for engaging parents which has already received 10,000 likes to posts. The primary school’s Love & Logistics program teaches students practical ways of dealing with all areas of life. The class is free, lasts six weeks and the workbook is $10. The school has also implemented a new snack program called Building Bulldog Bodies, which offers extra fruits and vegetables to the kids. “We are impacting family structures and the community from the bottom up,” Principal Dianne Shaffer said.
The high school is offering a computer science class this year and also brought in a part-time science teacher. A Principal Leadership Team has been created so students have a direct line to the principal.
In other news, board members:
• accepted a big for $21,000 from J & L Technology for fiber optic upgrades throughout the district. The current cables were installed 16 years ago. With the slow speed, amount of devices currently in the district, Holcombe said the district will see a significant difference in performance.
• approved the bid for teacher laptop replacements from Region VII vendor, CDI. Veteran teachers whose laptops they were issued as new teachers will get the replacements.
• approved EHBAF (local) for Special Education Video/Audio monitoring. If the district receives one video request it triggers all classrooms in the district to get them. The recording may never stop even if the person who requested it changes their mind and retracts the request. The recordings will cost the district local money as no funding is available yet for this type of procedure.
• heard enrollment decreased at primary and middle schools and increased at intermediate. Total enrollment for the end of August was 1,547.
• heard all campuses met standards on all areas of the TEA accountability. The high school was one of 432 school that earned every distinctions possible. Holcombe said all schools in the district received post-secondary readiness but the district did not. “I don’t understand and have no explanation for it,” he said.