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Tuesday, August 17, 1999

School starts smoothly, but numbers down

Staff Writer

PECOS, Aug. 17, 1999 -- Things went smoothly on the first day of school at the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD campuses.

"The kids were very positive and everybody cooperated beautifully," said Pecos High School Principal Danny Rodriguez.

Rodriguez said there was only one complaint involving some of the older boys. "We had some that had a beard and those students were just sent home to shave," said Rodriguez.

The new dress code was followed by almost all the students, and the few who didn't quite comply with the new dress code were sent home to change, according to Rodriguez.

"Everybody was very helpful and nothing major happened," said Rodriguez.

He added that some students probably didn't get counted because their enrollment cards were not properly filled out or signed by a parent or guardian.

"If something wasn't right it was just the schedules weren't picked up or lockers not assigned," said Rodriguez. "That kept our staff busy, but other than that things went very smoothly."

The first few days of school, staff members work with the students in establishing rules and what is expected of them. "But they were very reasonable and we will continue to work with them," he said.

With the new rules set that the government and state implemented, things are a little bit different. "The whole issue is safety and that is our main concern," said Rodriguez.

The school officer Hilda Woods, was also on hand to help smooth things over. "She is very good at what she does and we're just thrilled to have her here," said Rodriguez.

"Our numbers were down a bit this year, but some probably didn't get counted and we hope the numbers go up," said Rodriguez.

Pecos High School reported 725 students counted on the first day of school.

"This number usually goes up after Labor Day," said P-B-T ISD Superintendent Don Love.

Two-thirds of funding for the district comes from daily attendance, according to Love.

The preliminary budget was set for 2,700 students. "That's 179 kids down from this time last year," said Love.

"Last year we set it at 2,850 and the first day had 2,829," said Love. "If we continue that trend, things will be great," he said.

The number, however, went up after Labor Day. "So that's what we're hoping for, is that number will go up after Labor Day," he said.

Love said attendance is very important and encourages students to return to school.

"Things went very well on the first day, I spoke to the principals and no problems were reported," said Love.

"We had a pretty good start," he said.

Camera to help police put heat on fugitives

Staff Writer

PECOS, Aug. 17, 1999 -- Prison escapees can no longer avoid detection by hiding under a mesquite bush, said Pecos Police Chief Clay McKinney.

That's because McKinney obtained a thermal imaging camera that will detect body heat and display the image in camera and on a television screen.

"It can find people hiding in closets, hidden compartments in vehicles and even skid marks on gravel," said McKinney.

The device won't penetrate a wall or glass, so people are still safe in their homes, but a prison escapee hidden in the bushes or inside a building is not.

"We can locate them way before they can see us," said Lt. Kelly Davis, who with McKinney went to Scottsdale, Ariz. for eight hours training in the camera's use.

McKinney said the training was included in the grant provided by the President's Drug Control Policy that paid for the $20,000 Raytheon Nightsight camera.

He said the camera will be valuable in searches for small children who become lost or an older person who wanders off. The camera will detect heat from 2,400 yards.

"We can use it in the air," said McKinney, who is a licensed pilot.

Not only can the camera detect people, it can locate a weapon discarded by a suspect, Davis said.

"They can throw a gun down in the dark, and you can find it from the heat that's still on it," he said.

Suspects who flee from police can easily be located with the camera, Davis said.

"We will help other agencies. Not many people have the equipment we have gotten through grants," he said.

McKinney said the camera will allow law enforcement agencies to continue searching for an escapee or lost person after dark.

"In the past, when nightfall came on a search or fugitive, law enforcement called it off until daylight. This will probably expand our capabilities," he said.

Use of night vision goggles to intensify light is not nearly as effective as the thermal imaging camera, Davis said.

Since it detects heat, the thermal imaging camera will also function in daylight, but is not as effective as nighttime operations, he said.

McKinney demonstrated the camera's heat-seeking ability by standing in a darkened room with the door open. The camera showed a grayscale image of his entire body.

When McKinney closed the door, his feet were visible through the camera lens because heat escaped through the crack underneath the door.

Davis said the camera will be useful for forensic purposes, and he welcomes its addition to the police department's crime-fighting weapons and laboratory.

Lost driver found at Christian Home

Staff Writer

PECOS, Aug. 17, 1999 -- Pecos County Sheriff Bruce Wilson and his deputies spent all day Sunday riding around on horseback looking for a man who was taking his ease in Pecos at the Christian Home.

Larry Smith of Bakersfield, Calif., became disoriented while driving on Interstate 10 from Corpus Christi to California, said Sheriff Wilson. He got off I-10 sometime Wednesday and was unable to find his way back. The more he drove the more lost he became.

"Finally, he got to running through fences and mesquite trees until he got the pickup disabled," Wilson said.

A rancher who leases land owned by the city of Fort Stockton found the abandoned truck late Saturday about 20 miles south of Pecos, halfway between I-10 and U.S. Highway 285, and notified the sheriff's office, Wilson said.

"We stayed on horseback all day Sunday looking for him, and it was hot," Wilson said.

Bruce Dury, director of the Christian Home, said that Smith spent Saturday night there, and two of his staff took him back to Pecos County Sunday to look for his truck.

They were stopped and questioned by Texas Rangers who were helping with the search, Dury said. Smith claimed he had been drugged by two associates who had also stolen his truck and his money.

Wilson said that Smith told him that same story, but later admitted he was alone and had taken amphetamines to help him stay awake for the long drive to California.

"He got to hallucinating," Wilson said.

Smith paid all the damages to the ranchers, and was released to continue his trip, Wilson said.

Two schools in P-B-T get high ratings

From Staff and Wire Reports

State officials including Gov. George W. Bush are praising Texas schools for their progress, even though the state's latest report card on campuses and districts shows missteps along with the gains.

"The gains this year are particularly impressive because they come as schools are being asked to meet an even higher standard and include the scores of students who had previously been exempt," said Bush, the Republican presidential frontrunner, after the state's school accountability rankings were released Monday.

"I will continue to insist on high standards and high expectations for every child because no child should be left behind," he said.

More Texas school districts and campuses got the state's highest ratings, more did badly and two districts were singled out for a special, low rating because of serious errors in dropout reporting this year.

Two schools from the Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD received a "recognized" rating from the state, the second-highest rating given by the TEA.

Lamar Middle School and Bessie Haynes Elementary School both received "recognized" ratings, while the other schools in the district were rated, "acceptable."

"We were thrilled to learn that at least two of our schools were rated this high," said P-B-T ISD Superintendent Don Love.

"It's outstanding and we're on the right track," said Love. "All of our schools are doing just great," he said.

Balmorhea schools were also ranked as acceptable overall, according to the TEA, while for other schools in the area, Monahans-Wickett-Pyote received the best overall district rating, of recognized, with Monahans High School and three elementary schools earning that honor, and a fourth getting the exemplayry rating.

All three elementary capuses in the Fort Stockton ISD were recognized, while its intermediate, middle school and high school were rated acceptable. Meanwhile, Andrews ISD had the most varied results. Two of it's five elemetary campuses were recognized and a third was rated exemplary, but Andrews High School was rated low performing by the TEA, one of 109 schools in Texas to be cited for below average results.

Education Commissioner Mike Moses said there is reason to celebrate students' success on the Texas Assessment of Academic Skills, a key part of the school rating system.

At the same time, Moses was concerned about some schools' data reporting and disappointed about an increase in the number of special education students exempted from the TAAS.

This was the first year TAAS scores of special education students and third- and fourth-grade Spanish TAAS scores were included in school ratings. Some schools previously tested special-education students who could have been exempted to see where the pupils stood academically, but stopped doing so, Moses said.

School district and campus ratings are based on student passing rates on the TAAS, dropout rates and attendance.

The state looks not only at overall student test performance and dropout data, but at figures for specific student categories: black, white, Hispanic and economically disadvantaged.

This year, 1,110 campuses and 121 school districts got the state's highest rating of exemplary. That's up from 1,048 campuses and 120 districts last year. More schools also got the second-highest rating of recognized.

But more campuses and districts also got low ratings. A total of 106 campuses were low-performing and nine districts were academically unacceptable.

Two other school districts Austin and West Texas' Ysleta got a new, low ranking Moses created to reflect significant mistakes in reporting of students who leave school. Officials with both districts said they were addressing the problems.

The move came after a 1996 state audit said weak TEA oversight resulted in a reported Texas dropout rate that was less than half the actual rate. In the audit's wake, the agency began collecting a "leaver record" to get more precise data on what happens to pupils who depart in grades seven through 12.

The new rating for school districts with serious errors in such data is "unacceptable: data quality."

TEA is conducting additional investigations into 14 other school districts because of a high number or percentage of students who weren't accounted for after leaving the public schools, officials said.

Those districts are Fort Worth, El Paso, Houston, Arlington, Clear Creek, Waco, North Forest, Pearland, Channelview, Sheldon, Kingsville, Midway (McLennan County) Springtown and Manor.

Senate Education Committee Chairman Teel Bivins, R-Amarillo, said accurate identification of dropouts is an area that needs more attention. He said his committee will look into the issue to ensure students who need extra help are identified.

The Texas Education Agency is listing school data on its Web site at

California man sentenced in meth case

U.S. District Judge Royal Furgeson on Monday sentenced Jerardo Perez, 20, of Lynwood, Calif. to 70 months in prison for possession of methamphetamine.

Although Perez was convicted in the Pecos Division, Judge Furgeson pronounced sentence in Midland.

He ordered Perez to attend a 500-hour drug abuse program while in prison.

In another Pecos case, Judge Furgeson accepted a plea of guilty to marijuana possession from Jesus Gonzalez-Montanez, 47, of Midland.

Gonzalez admitted possessing 124.8 pounds of marijuana with intent to distribute. He will be sentenced in Pecos Oct. 12.


AUSTIN (AP) Results of the Cash 5 drawing Monday night: Winning numbers drawn: 2-4-19-22-27. Number matching five of five: 2. Prize per winner: $39,887. Winning tickets sold in: East Bernard, San Antonio. Matching four of five: 251. Prize: $476.


AUSTIN (AP) The winning Pick 3 numbers drawn Monday by the Texas Lottery, in order: 3-2-5 (three, two, five)


High Monday 103; low last night 69. Tonight, fair. Low in the lower 70s. Southeast wind 5-10 mph. Wednesday, mostly sunny. High in the upper 90s. Southeast wind 5-15 mph. Extended forecast, Wednesday night, mostly clear. Low near 70. Thursday through Saturday, mostly sunny days and fair nights. lows near 70. Highs in the upper 90s.

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