Heads in Austin for Legislative Session

Head 2 Former Athens State Rep. Fred Head and his wife, Henderson County Democratic Party Chairman Marsha Head, were in Austin for the start of the 83rd Legislative Session this week.

TOP PHOTO: Fred Head and his wife, Marsha, right, enjoyed a visit with current Texas House of Representatives Speaker Joe Straus and his wife, Julie, at the Texas Legislative Wife’s Club Dinner Dance held at the Omni Hotel Ballroom in Austin Monday, Jan. 7. (COURTESY PHOTO)

BOTTOM PHOTO: Shown below with Representative Gooden (center) are Marsha Head (left, her husband Fred (right) and their granddaughters Katie and Clara Love (center left and right), who work in Austin after finishing their University Educations there. (COURTESY PHOTO)

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Pitts looking to end 15-percent Rule

Jim Pitts
Jim Pitts

State Rep. Jim Pitts has filed legislation that would end the so-called 15-percent Rule, which would require that 15 percent of a student’s final grade come from their State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) end-of-course exams.

The STAAR replaced the TAKS two years ago. According to the Texas Education Agency: “The STAAR program at grades 3–8 will assess the same subjects and grades that are currently assessed on TAKS. At high school, however, grade-specific assessments will be replaced with 12 end-of-course assessments: Algebra I, geometry, Algebra II, biology, chemistry, physics, English I, English II, English III, world geography, world history, and U.S. history.”

Continuing uncertainty about the STAAR test, however, has caused the 15-percent rule to be deferred the past two years.

Now Pitts would like to just end the rule permanently. In December, State Rep. Lance Gooden announced that he was going to file legislation that would do the same thing.

Area superintendents have reservations about the STAAR.

In December, Athens ISD Superintendent Blake Stiles said, “The plan for implementation of the end-of-course tests has been very disorganized. Schools did not know what the passing standards would be and there was very little directions from the state as to how we should apply the 15 percent rule to the courses (by semester, by year, retakes, GPA, etc.). The rules and procedures for the end-of-course tests and the 15 percent rule should be crystal clear before we hold our students accountable for their performance on the exams.”

Daily Brief: Thursday, Jan. 10

Gold watchIn the photo above, Athens Mayor Jerry Don Vaught (right) reads the inscription on a gold watch the city presented to former mayor and current Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace Randy Daniel during a council meeting yesterday. Daniel was also presented a plaque for his service. Daniel served as mayor from 2005 through 2012.

Vaught said the presentations were “With much appreciation from the city and the City Council.”

During the meeting, the council also looked at items that will be on Monday night’s agenda, including appointing Steve Grant to the Airport Advisory Board, a possible air show at the airport, and improvements needed at the facility. No action was taken, but the appointment is expected to be approved Monday.

Rich Flowers over at the Review has more details.

The UT Tyler Mobile Go Center (MGC) will be at Malakoff High School from 6-8 p.m. tonight.

According to the website:

The University of Texas at Tyler Mobile Go Center is an internet-equipped mobile computer lab providing college-going resources to individuals and their families. The mobile center is designed to increase the number of students enrolled and succeeding in higher education programs in Texas.

Parents of seniors, take note.

Speaking of Malakoff, the District Attorney’s Office issued a press release yesterday announcing a convicted drug dealer from that area was sentenced to 18 years. 

In case you missed it, San Antonio atheist Patrick Greene has changed his mind … again … about suing over the Henderson County nativity scene. 

Anyone want to make book on if he decides to file again?

Didn’t think so.

Daily Brief: Wednesday, Jan. 9

Rain_Rain_Go_Away_1_-_WW_Denslow_-_Project_Gutenberg_etext_18546Rain, rain go away
Come again some other day

Actually, the rain is a good thing for Henderson County. We’ve seen way too much of drought in recent years. Still, when the rain comes down like it did last night — and the way it is forecast for today — that children’s song always comes to mind.

I checked, and that little phrase goes back at least to the 17th century… and a version of it has been around all the way back to Ancient Greece.

So remember to take your umbrella today, and when you unconsciously hum “rain, rain” under your breath you will know you are singing the hits from the 1600s.

The Legislature convened yesterday amid declarations of being different than Washington, D.C.

Here at HCTNow, we had a story about State Rep. Jim Pitts filing legislation to extend the no-cellphone-while-driving-in-a-school-zone rule to the entire school property for elementary and middle schools.

The Athens City Council will be holding its “regular” special meeting today at 11:30 a.m. The council nearly always holds a special meeting the Wednesday afternoon before their Monday night regular meeting.

I used to be bothered by the pre-meeting meeting, but I have since changed my mind. Now I think it is pretty smart. On Wednesday, council members get to learn about what they will vote on Monday night, giving them several days to think about the issue. The setup also gives citizens several extra days to learn what the council is doing.

And with one meeting in the afternoon and one at night, a broader spectrum of citizens have the opportunity to see their council in action.

I call it a win-win.

The county has lowered the speed limit on Mill Run Road from 60 mph all the way down to 35 mph. We applaud the change — we’re all for safety.

Rich Flowers over at the Review has a good story about the change.


Keep dry out there … and if you are one of the fans following the TVCC basketball teams to Brenham for their games against Blinn tonight: Be Careful!

UPDATE: TVCC has announced it will stream tonight’s games live online.

SBDC/AEDC join up to help small business

By Jennifer Hannigan, TVCC Public Information

Athens Texas LogoA new partnership between two Athens agencies could result in big dollars for one budding entrepreneur.

For more than a year, the Small Business Development Center and the Athens Economic Development Corporation have been neighbors in the Athens Partnership Center. Earlier this year, AEDC President Brian Malone and SBDC Director Mike Ellsberry realized their services could work together.

So beginning in February, the two will pool their resources to offer a new program, and their effort will give one business venture $30,000 in startup funds and the training to give a new business owner the tools to succeed.

Malone said the AEDC has been going through a strategic planning process for the past year. During that process, the group has realized it needs to do more to encourage new small businesses in Athens. However, he said, he also wanted to include a way to train new business owners in the specifics of opening an establishment.

“We needed a way to make sure we had qualified people who wanted to begin businesses,” said Malone. “We realized that new business owners who are properly trained have a greater potential for long-term success.”

Meanwhile, at the other end of the building, the SBDC has the resources to train those who want to start a business, but relies on outside sources to fund those new ventures.

“With the economy and banking the way they are, it’s very hard to secure funding for start-ups,” said Ellsberry. The SBDC – a venture of Trinity Valley Community College, the State of Texas, and the U.S. Small Business Administration – provides consulting for new business owners and existing businesses.

Starting on February 19th, the SBDC and AEDC will offer a high-level Going into Business Seminar forsix Tuesdays. The class will run from 5:30-7 p.m.

The course, said Malone and Ellsberry, will be fast paced and will include work both inside and outside of class. Potential business owners will build a full business plan which will address virtually all the significant decisions which need to be made for a start-up.

“This class will be very intensive,” said Malone. “It will not be for the faint of heart, but will provide real training to help a new business succeed.”

At the end of the six weeks, the entrepreneurs who have attended all the classes and completed their business plans will be eligible for consideration for the grant.

The plans will be judged on several criteria, including the potential size of the businesses and if there is a market in Athens for the proposed venture.

“Will the winning business help the community grow? Will it provide a place for future residents to work in Athens?” Malone asked. “We’re looking for businesses that have a real potential to grow and meet the needs in this community.”

For a business venture to be considered, it must be located in the city of Athens and potential owners will be required to meet other criteria as well as possibly undergo a background check before being considered for the grant. Those who currently own businesses but would like to take their current venture in a radically different direction will also be considered.

The cost for the seminar will be $50. For that amount, the attendee will also receive the textbook onwhich the seminar is based, Rhonda Adams’ “Entrepreneurship, a Real World Approach,” and other materials. Attendees will also be coached by an SBDC advisor and will be expected to meet weekly with that person.

Ellsberry said he sees the joint venture being a great way to help encourage new businesses in Athens.

“We are hoping to make this a regular event,” said Ellsberry. “It’s important for us to be collaborative. We’re hoping to build Athens into the future.”

For more information and to sign up for the seminar, contact the SBDC at 903-675-6390 903-675-7403. Pre-registration is required and the deadline is Feb. 12.