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Wednesday, May 24, 2000

Hung takes Luna's spot as RCH board member

Staff Writer

PECOS, May 24, 2000 - The Reeves County Hospital District Board of Directors worked through its May agenda in about an hour Tuesday afternoon.

After swearing in board members that were elected in the recent district-wide election and saying good-bye to out-going board member and president Greg Luna, the board got down to business as usual.

Scott Johnson, attorney for the district, swore in new member Leo Hung and re-elected members Elizer Flores and Jesus Prieto.

The board then elected new officers. Marcella Lovett was voted president and Prieto was selected as vice president. Members then presented Luna with a plaque of appreciation for his four years of service on the board.

"The four years Greg has been on the board have been an uphill battle," board member Lovett said. "When he was elected we didn't know if we would be able to keep our hospital. Now we are financially secure and that couldn't be said four years ago."

Luna told the standing-room-only crowd that it had been a privilege serving on the board and with the staff of the hospital.

He thanked the hospital volunteers, the Pink Ladies, for making the community a better place.

"Marcella, it has been a privilege serving with you and I know that your best interest is the betterment of the community," he said.

"Richard, you've taken every contract wrung it dry," he said to hospital chief financial officer Richard Mathis. "How you get the best price every time I don't know."

Luna also complimented hospital chief administrator Charles Butts and encouraged him to continue his good work.

The board tabled a memo from the board of directors to the employees of the hospital at the request of Flores and seconded by Hung.

The memo, which Lovett said the last board approved, directs employees to follow hospital procedures regarding work-related problems and not addressed to board members.

Hung explained that he was not totally comfortable with the document and feared that it could create an atmosphere where problems could be easily buried by supervisors, or where employees could be subject to retaliation from the supervisors, and he wanted some time to review the policy.

The board also approved bids to purchase foreclosed properties at 420 Mulberry, 609 Almond and 1014 E. Eighth Street.

Reeves County Tax Assessor Lydia Prieto informed the board through memos that the bids for the properties were: $500 for 420 Mulberry, $900 for 609 Almond, $500 for 1014 E. 8th Street.

The board approved the sale of each of the properties to the bidders.

The board also authorized Chief Executive Officer Charles Butts to negotiate a contract with U.S. Radiology Partners, Inc for professional radiology services.

Butts explained that he and administrators from Pecos County Hospital and Ward Memorial Hospital had met with representatives of the company.

The proposal from U. S. Radiology is to provide a full-time radiologist to the three hospitals as a group.

Butts said that while the hospital would continue to try to hire an in-house, full-time radiologist, the agreement would provide better service than currently available.

Complaint, appeals by Bauers failed to alter decision on grade

Editor's Note: This is the second article in a series concerning a student's grade that was administratively changed at Pecos High School and allegations by Brenilda and Bruce Bauer that the district retaliated against them for challenging the grade change by not renewing their contracts for the 2000-2001 school year.

The first article, printed in Tuesday's Enterprise, related the events that led up to the filing of a grievance by Mrs. Bauer.

Bauer claims that the grade change was unwarranted and prejudicial to her other students, especially students who also failed the course, but did not receive a grade change.

The administration's response, as taken from memos and the minutes of an executive session school board meeting, was that the grade was changed because Bauer did not retain the failing work of the student involved. Without the failed final exam and other work, the administration said that it could not justify the grade to the student's complaining parents.

The district's legal counsel also said that the district was under no legal obligation to investigate the other failing grades in the glass just because one student's grade had been changed.

The new grade was created by dropping the student's final exam grade. The student earned a 15 out of a possible 100 on the exam.

Staff Writer

PECOS, May 24, 2000 - On October 25, 1999, Brenilda Bauer filed a Level One Complaint with the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah Independent School District challenging a failing grade assigned by Bauer and changed to a passing grade by High School Principal Danny Rodriguez.

According to Bauer, there are four levels a complaint can go through.

Level I begins with the school principal and Level IV ends at the Texas Education Agency. In between a complainant will go before the superintendent of schools and the school board, she said.

Bauer's formal complaint requesting that Rodriguez reinstate her grade produced no changes. Bauer's request was denied.

In this first complaint Bauer argued that Rodriguez was barred from changing the grade because the parents had waited too long to lodge their complaint; that Rodriguez had failed to adhere to a consistent grading policy during the school year which resulted in confusion in grade computation; and, that by failing to enforce discipline in the classroom Rodriguez was in part responsible for the student's failing grade.

Bauer also stated that changing the grade because she did not keep the final exam as "proof" was not a legitimate reason.

"I kept the exams for six-eight weeks as district policy requires," Bauer said.

In his reply, Rodriguez informed Bauer that there was no "statute of limitations" on students or parents contesting a grade.

According to Judy Brown, the district's attorney, he is correct.

Brown, an attorney with the law firm of Walsh, Anderson, Brown, Schulze and Aldridge, said that there is no statute of limitations on a student or parent contesting a grade.

"I was mistaken," Bauer said. "I still find it hard to believe, but apparently, by law, a student can contest a grade twenty years after the fact. It makes me wonder how long a teacher should keep the tests and papers of her students so that she can prove her grades were legitimately given."

Rodriguez' reply concerning his grading policies pointed out that the issue was the percentage Bauer assigned the final exam. The percentage was supposed to be 25 percent, he said.

"No matter how you average this student's grades _ if you use the final as 33 percent or 25 percent, the student fails the class," Bauer said.

In replying to the accusation that he failed to enforce discipline in Bauer's classroom, Rodriguez cited the statute of limitations defense denied to teachers fighting a grade change four to five months after the fact.

"Since P-B-T ISD Policy DGBA (Local) requires employee complaints to be brought within 15 calendar days of the time the employee first knew or should have known of the event … about which the employee is complaining, I am prohibited from considering your allegations about enforcement of discipline in your classroom…," Rodriguez said in his complaint response.

In his response Rodriguez does not address the issue of representative work _ an issue that Bauer says is very important.

"The administration has justified it's actions by saying that since I didn't keep the failing exam, they can't prove the student failed, and so they drop the exam grade and the student passes," Bauer said.

"But the district does not direct teachers to keep all final exams and all graded work. Rather, it directs teachers to keep representative work, for which there is no definition," she explained.

"I kept the exams for the time period specified by the district. That should be enough," Bauer said.

Addressing the school board during the Bauer's Level III complaint hearing, Superintendent Don Love said, "It's been maybe an unwritten policy around here,…- that you turn in your final exams as representative work."

"I turned in what I felt was representative of the work done by my class," Bauer said. "A failing exam is not `representative work' by my definition and there is no definition supplied by the district.

"I didn't know that we had `unwritten policies'."

After receiving Rodriguez' response, Bauer then filed a Level II Grievance that goes before the superintendent of schools.

"Mr. Love used the same language Mr. Rodriguez used in denying my request to have the original grade reinstated," Bauer said.

"After carefully reviewing all documentation presented, I do not find any basis to overturn Mr. Rodriguez' decision. Your request to have the final grade conferred on the student in question be returned to the grade that you assigned is denied," Love said in his reply to Bauer complaint dated November 22, 1999.

The response was produced by the district pursuant to an open records request by the Pecos Enterprise.

"So then I appealed to the school board _ the third level in the complaint process," Bauer said.

"We went into the school board hearing thinking there was going to be an even give and take _ a real hearing. I didn't present any documents. I had already presented all the documentation to Mr. Rodriguez and Mr. Love. I thought that those documents explained our case very well," Bauer said.

However, she said the actual hearing was very disappointing to her.

"The school board members did not ask a single question," she said.

"We were also surprised when the school board conducted the hearing in a session closed to the public," Bauer said. "That was our fault. We assumed that the meeting would be open to the public unless we requested otherwise. We learned too late that unless we requested the meeting be open to the public, the school board could conduct it in secret."

Attorney Brown confirmed that it was up to the Bauers to request that the hearing be open to the public.

During the hearing Bauer read from a prepared statement that summarized her complaint.

According to the minutes from the meeting, Bauer stated that a student's grade had been changed from a 61 to an 80 and that the action had been taken in favor of one student and one student only.

"Which I believe is discriminatory to the other 875 students of this high school who have not received similar treatment," she said during the hearing.

Bauer requested a written explanation from the board no matter which way the board ruled.

In response, Love first addressed the matter of grade calculations.

Love explained that the grade should be calculated with each of the three six-weeks-grades counting 25 percent and the final exam counting 25 percent.

Love explained that the student had earned an 86 for each of the first two six-week periods of the Spring Semester, and then a 56 for the last six-week period of the semester and a 15 on the final.

Love explained the "notebook" required by Bauer had brought the last six-weeks grade down as well, and that Bauer had not retained either the notebook or the final exam.

Love also said that only 5 of approximately 25 people in the class passed the final exam.

"We don't have any documentation showing the semester exam grades. All we've got is the grade book," Love said. "So there is not anything the parents could review. There's no notebook, which hurt the sixth six-week's grade. There's no semester exam that's got a 15. The representative work that was turned in, my understanding, was good notebooks and that's all."

Love also said that Bauer had incorrectly counted the final exam as a six-weeks test giving it a weight of about 33 percent, rather than 25 percent.

"So in the absence of any documentation to support the grade given and presence of evidence that the grade had been incorrectly averaged, applied the wrong way to the semester exam, it was not arbitrary…it was not unlawful for the administration to decide to drop the exam grade, re-average the main grade from the teacher's grade book to determine the final grade."

Love's response was taken from the minutes of the closed session supplied to the Pecos Enterprise pursuant to an open records request to the district.

"Either way you average the final exam grade the student failed," Bauer said. "The argument that my grades were incorrectly weighted does not hold water."

"The only way they could pass this student is to drop the exam grade and they justified this action after deciding to do it," she said.

"It seems that if the district was serious about being able to "prove" a grade to parents four or five months after the grade was given, then there would be a policy requiring teachers to maintain this proof. As Mr. Love has said, there is no such policy," she said.

According to the minutes of the closed session, P-B-T School Board President Earl Bates then asked both the Bauers and the administration to leave the room so that the board could discuss the matter.

"We will now go off the record," Bates said according to the minutes.

When the board returned to open session, it voted to deny Bauer's request.

Bates said that he could not comment on what transpired during the executive session or any of the events leading up the Bauer's complaint.

"The only comment I can make would be to refer you to the attorney that represents the school district," he said during an interview on May 4, 2000.

Other school board members who were contacted also refused to comment on the matter.

"I can't say anything about it. It is either a personnel or a student matter and I can't say anything about it, in my opinion," former school board member Steve Armstrong said.

"There is not a whole lot I can say," board member Brent Shaw said.

Board members Louis Mata, Billie Sadler, Frank Apolinar, Jr., and Freddie Lujan could not be contacted before press time.

According to the district's attorney, Judy Brown, the board is limited in what it can say concerning personnel and student affairs.

Part III in this series will report on the Bauer's appeal to the Texas Education Agency and allegations from the district that Bruce and Brenilda Bauer violated the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act. These alleged violations are the reasons given by the district for not renewing the Bauer's contracts for the 2000-2001 school year.

Early `graduation' for Austin first graders

Staff Writer

PECOS, May 24, 2000 - Several first graders experienced a "mock graduation" held Tuesday in a classroom at Austin Elementary School.

The students in Patricia Matthews' first grade class at Austin had a "mock" graduation program, complete with a valedictorian and salutatorian of the class and special "gowns" worn by the students along with graduation caps.

"The students have worked very hard in class this year and I wanted to reward them for their efforts," said Matthews. "I especially want to encourage them to continue their education and have as much fun learning in the future as they have had this year."

"I want to give special thanks to all of the parents who worked with us so we could have this special time to celebrate learning with the students," she said.

The students filed into the classroom to the music of "Pomp and Circumstance" the traditional graduation song.

"I had had `mock' graduations in the past, but not every year," said Matthews. "Our activities in the classroom depend on volunteers."

The students, parents and friends enjoyed a reception following the "graduation ceremony."

The more parents that help, the more activities that are done in the classroom during the year, according to Matthews.

"I want the students to understand how much fun school can be when they are willing to work hard," said Matthews. "I also want them to understand the importance of homework which automatically heightens their acquired learning."

Matthews stated that God has been very good to her and she hopes she can give back to the community some of what parents have given to her during the past 15 years through their prayers, encouraging comments, and support at school and away from school.

"We have been blessed with parents who follow us when we go on field trips and when we do special programs in town," she said.

"I don't think we can do enough for our students to be successful," said Matthews. "Their futures will depend on a good education and they deserve the right to have the best education possible."

One arrested in police raid on apartment

Staff Writer

PECOS, May 24, 2000 - One man was arrested and an investigation is continuing following a narcotics search, Friday morning on an east side apartment.

Pecos police said at approximately 10:53 a.m. Friday, police officers along with Reeves County Sheriff's deputies and the Trans Pecos Narcotics Task Force executed a narcotics search warrant at an apartment located at the intersection of Fifth and Mulberry Streets, which was occupied by Benjamin Maldonado and Sandra Ronquillo.

"Once the warrant had been executed by the officers and Maldonado was secured, officers proceed to search the premises," said Pecos Police Investigator Paul Deishler.

Upon searching the residence, various types of contraband commonly used in the injection of heroin were found inside the apartment, according to Deishler. Also found inside the bedroom were two bottles of prescribed medication with the name of the patient removed from the bottle.

Maldonado was placed under arrest, after the officers had completed their search, for the offense of possession of drug paraphernalia.

Maldonado, 40, was taken to Reeves County Jail, charged with possession of paraphernalia and fined $300.

"The investigation is continuing and two warrants have been issued since the search of the apartment (was) for another subject that is connected to the search," said Deishler.

Awards given to junior high, HS students

Staff Writer

PECOS, May 24, 2000 - High school and junior high students have been recognized with awards over the past few days, as the 1999-2000 school year enters its final week for Pecos-Barstow-Toyah students.

Pecos High School teachers gave out awards Monday to outstanding students in each area of learning.

Each teacher picked a student that excelled in hard work, dedication, attitudes and grades in that class. Students could only receive one award so that more students are recognized.

Crockett Middle School also gave awards to their students on Friday.

Outstanding academic, athletic and music students were recognized. These awards were based on grades, attendence and leadership.

Among the award winners were Daniel Quintana and Alma Porras.

These students received awards for having over 500 points in the accelerated reading program.

First National Bank recognized Porras, giving her a $100 savings bond, while Security State Bank recognized Quintana with a $100 savings bond.

A representative of Wal-Mart was also on hand to recognize science teacher Jim Workman with the Teacher of the Year award. He received the Teacher of the Year vest and the school was given a $500 check.

Barbecue luncheon scheduled Thursday in museum courtyard

PECOS, May 24, 2000 - The Annual West of the Pecos Museum Barbecue and Fixin's fundraiser will be held from 11:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m., Thursday, in the courtyard of the museum, at First and Cedar streets.

Drinks and dessert will be served for $7.50 a plate.

The event is sponsored by the First National Bank.

Everyone is invited to come out and support the West of the Pecos Museum.


PECOS, May 24, 2000 - High Tuesday 109. Low this morning 69. Forecast for tonight: Fair. Low in the mid 60s. South wind 5-15 mph. Thursday: Mostly sunny and continued hot. High near 103. Southwest wind 10-20 mph and gusty. Thursday night: Partly cloudy. Low in the lower to mid 60s. Friday: Partly cloudy. Low in the lower to mid 60s. High in the mid to upper 90s.

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Pecos Enterprise
York M. "Smokey" Briggs, Publisher
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324 S. Cedar St., Pecos, TX 79772
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