Murchison Foundation helps AHS students get chance at college (Part 1)

AHS sign(This is Part 1 of 2 describing the College for All and Early College programs at Athens High School. Part 2 will cover the drive for college, changing cultures and overcoming obstacles.)

ATHENS — The Murchison Foundation came through where the state did not.

Jami Ivey
Jami Ivey

Athens High School Principal Jami Ivey told school board members last week the Murchison Foundation donated $140,500 to the school this year to help students get ready for college.

Not only get ready for college, but also go to college.

The foundation donation includes $100,000 for the College for All program, which helps AHS juniors and seniors pay for tuition and fees at Trinity Valley Community College, whether the classes are taught at the high school or college campus.

The money also provides funds to allow the high school to have teachers at the campus until 6:30-7 p.m. to help those students.

This year, Ivey went from being in charge of the school’s Early College High School — which is a separate program — to being the high school principal. When she moved, she said she wanted to bring some of those college ideas to the main campus.

Money for college, however, is not in the operating budget, so the school applied for a Texas Education Agency (TEA) grant.

“We applied for that and were kind of devastated that we didn’t get it,” Ivey said, during an interview this week with Henderson County Now.

The Murchison Foundation stepped into the gap.

“If we didn’t have the Murchison Foundation, it would be difficult to do this,” Ivey said.

“This” includes having 62 students at the main campus enrolled in college classes this semester, including five taking a full load of college courses.

The rest of the foundation donation was geared toward helping students get ready for college, with $30,000 for college placement testing — including money for every junior to take the PSAT this year — and $10,000 for scholarships through the Athens Academic Renaissance Organization. The final $500 was a gift to the senior Last Blast.

College for All and Early College High School

There are actually two separate programs now helping AHS students attend college:

– Early College High School, which started five years ago and must be certified by the state. This program has specific rules about who is eligible and operates almost as a “school within a school.”

– College for All, which started this year and does not have to be certified by the state. There are no eligibility requirements, but state rules only allow juniors and seniors to participate.

At this point, the Murchison Foundation is providing funding for both programs. Ivey said the foundation donated about $120,000 for Early College the past two years. There are currently about 260 students in the Early College program.

The beginning of the Early College program mirrors the start of College for All. The district hoped to get a grant but didn’t, and the Murchison Foundation stepped in to help.

Last year, the first class of AHS graduates came out of the Early College and 83 percent of them had associate’s degrees. Ivey said the state average for graduating with a degree is around 15 percent.

“The graduation rate is phenomenal,” Director of Curriculum Dr. Janie Sims said this week.

“Our community has looked at that (success),” Ivey said, “and I really believe from the things that we’ve heard that parents would like to see some of that at the main campus, which I agree with.”

Helping Hands

A program this ambitious doesn’t succeed without a lot of help, and Murchison Foundation members aren’t the only ones stepping up.

Ivey said TVCC has been very helpful. The college waives tuition for the first six credit hours (two classes) and is invested in trying to make the program work.

“From many meetings we have to try and schedule classes to even trying to work with us a little with some books, they have been a great partner,” Ivey said.

And how do you get students from one side of the city to the other? AHS has a bus that runs like a shuttle between the high school and the college that works for both Early College and College for All.

“That is something this district has shown that they are behind and have paid for the transportation,” Ivey said.

And then there are the teachers who sign up to take shifts after school to help the students with their homework and dealing with college coursework.

“You can’t just put our kids out at the college without giving them some sort of support mechanism,” Ivey said. “Our demographics are such that we have to have that; most of our kids can’t go home and get help.”

But from top to bottom, the vision is the same.

“My ultimate goal is that if a student wants to go to college and can’t that we can help them no matter who they are,” she said. “Or even if they would like to go to college as a benefit of being at Athens High School, we would like to pay for it. That’s what we are trying to go toward.”

“The only way to change somebody’s life is through education,” she said.

(Part 2 to come tomorrow: The drive for college, changing cultures and overcoming obstacles.)

Daily Brief: Hornets win tourney; Brownsboro AD on administrative leave

Congratulations to the Athens Hornets on winning the Palestine Wildcat Tournament. (PHOTO COURTESY AISD)
Congratulations to the Athens Hornets on winning the Palestine Wildcat Tournament. (PHOTO COURTESY AISD)

Ty Thomison
Ty Thomison

Yesterday, Brownsboro ISD Superintendent Chris Moran announced that High School Football Coach and Athletic Director Ty Thomison has been placed on administrative leave.

Moran told The Athens Review — which broke the story — that he could not go into detail on the specifics of the administrative leave, but issued a statement concerning Thomison’s departure and his interim replacement.

The following is the text of Dr. Moran’s statement:

George Losack has been named Interim Athletic Director for the Brownsboro Independent School District in the absence of Ty Thomison who has been placed on Administrative Leave. Mr. Losack has 37 years of experience in education, including service as head football coach and athletic coordinator at both A&M Consolidated and San Marcus High Schools. He has served as an assistant principal for Brownsboro High School for 8 years. District officials are considering all options for leadership of the athletic program and will make the appropriate decisions at the appropriate time. In the meantime, we are thankful to have Mr. Losack’s experience and willingness to serve the students and staff during this time.

Thomison has been coach of the Bears for the past two seasons.


The red-hot Trinity Valley Community College Lady Cardinals will be at home tonight to take on Jacksonville College. Tip-off is set for 5:30 p.m. If you can’t make the game, listen in on a live stream.


January is School Board Recognition Month in Texas. We listed the boards of each school district in the county. 

We learned that the City of Malakoff has its own Facebook page now.

Obituary for Alice ‘Bobbie’ Berry Rodeghier. 


The Athens Review is reporting that two people were killed in a Tuesday accident on Loop 7. The accident involved a car and a truck. Names have not yet been released, however police said none of the victims were local.

The Ghostriders Drill Team took first place at the Fort Worth Stock Show’s “All Western Parade” last Saturday. The team includes riders from Henderson County. Find out more about the team on its website or its Facebook page.

Chapel Hill ISD is in mourning after a 15-month-old girl was accidentally killed by a school bus. 

If you need something added to the Daily Brief, just click “Contact” in the menu bar and let us know.

You can get the Daily Brief in your inbox, Monday through Friday. Just add your email in the form below and let Henderson County Now come to you.



Recognizing county school board members

Athens ISD school board members were recognized at last week's meeting in honor of School Board Recognition Month in Texas. Pictured, from left, are board members Alicea Elliott, Robert Risko (president), Steve McElhany, Ginger Kirk, Bob Spears, and Raymond Williams. Not pictured is David Freeman. (STACY DUNACUSKY PHOTO/Athens ISD)
Athens ISD school board members were recognized at last week’s meeting in honor of School Board Recognition Month in Texas. Pictured, from left, are board members Alicea Elliott, Robert Risko (president), Steve McElhany, Ginger Kirk, Bob Spears, and Raymond Williams. Not pictured is David Freeman. (STACY DUNACUSKY PHOTO/Athens ISD)

January is school board recognition month in Texas, a time set aside to remember the men and women across the state who donate countless hours to service at our public schools.

As the Texas Association of School Boards‘ press release reads:

Texans benefit every day from the tireless work and countless hours contributed by a group of more than 7,300 men and women in communities across the state. These local volunteers are elected by their constituents and receive no compensation for their work as public servants. These men and women are the school board members of Texas.

The following serve on school boards in Henderson County:

Athens: President Rob Risko, Vice President David Freeman, Secretary Robert Spears, Raymond Williams, Ginger Kirk, Steve McElhany, and Alicea Elliott.

Brownsboro: Wes Johnston, Michele Rinehart, Michele Blackmon, Brian Bersano, Steve Sanders, Jeffery Fulgham, and Scott Williams.

Cross Roads: President Scott Huddleston, Vice President Darren Himes, Secretary Keith Pryor, Shelly Robertson, Dr. Russell Giles, Scott McCurley and Larry Scoggin.

Eustace: President Diane Rush, Vice President Thomas E. Frazier, Secretary Gary Walsh, C.D. (Sonny) Hodge II, Bobby K. Ashton, Michael Cates, and Billy (Cotton) Walker.

Mabank: President Kenneth Odom, Vice President Dr. Darrell Kinnard, Secretary Mike Cathey, Tyson Johnson, Todd Grimes, Dr. Jeff Gaddis, and Gary Sapp.

Malakoff: President Gary Woolverton, Vice President Todd LaRue, Secretary Daymon Sims, Mike Monroe, Billy Sparks, Jason Darymple, and Rick Vieregge.

Murchison: President Donald Goines, Vice President Lloyd Smith, Secretary Nelda Tillison, Sheryl Sims, Mike Davis, Nancy McCall, and Gayla Roberts.

Trinidad: President Eric Airheart, Vice President Ricky Stanfield, Secretary Karen Newsome, Billy Hornbuckle, Mike Airheart, Bill Tart, and Dennis Parker.

Daily Brief: Monday, Jan. 21

Parade 1

Happy Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day AND happy Inauguration Day.

The Henderson County Black Rodeo Association held a well-attended parade Saturday. See photos from the event here. 

DON’T FORGET: The Henderson County Black History Committee will be hosting its annual Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Candlelight Vigil tonight in Malakoff starting at 7 p.m.

Congratulations to Bill Hunt of Texas Ragtime Inc. on being named the Athens Chamber of Commerce Citizen of the Year at the chamber banquet last Friday night.

You can find a list of the other award winners here, as well as our Facebook photo album with pictures from the event here. 

Not everything this weekend was happy. Sunday night, a candlelight service was held at Malakoff High School in honor of Jamiya Givens Williams and her daughter, Alahna Williams. who were killed in a car accident Sunday, Jan. 13.

We were there for the vigil. 

Funeral services were set for today at 11 a.m. at First Baptist Church on Mitcham Street in Malakoff under the direction of Huckabee/Tomlinson Funeral Home, Malakoff.

Rich Flowers over at the Review has the first interview with new Athens City Council member Monte Montgomery. Mr. Montgomery took Mayor Jerry Don Vaught’s spot when Mr. Vaught became mayor.

Average retail gasoline prices in Texas have fallen 2.0 cents per gallon in the past week, averaging $3.14/g yesterday, according to GasBuddy’s daily survey of 13,114 gas outlets in Texas. This compares with the national average that has increased 0.7 cents per gallon in the last week to $3.26/g, according to gasoline price website

Including the change in gas prices in Texas during the past week, prices yesterday were 9.7 cents per gallon lower than the same day one year ago and are 10.9 cents per gallon higher than a month ago. The national average has increased 1.9 cents per gallon during the last month and stands 8.9 cents per gallon lower than this day one year ago.

Awards presented at Chamber of Commerce banquet

Bill Hunt of Texas Ragtime Inc. (left) was named the Athens Chamber of Commerce 2012 Citizen of the Year. He is pictured with incoming Chamber Chairman Mark Allen.
Bill Hunt of Texas Ragtime Inc. (left) was named the Athens Chamber of Commerce 2012 Citizen of the Year. He is pictured with incoming Chamber Chairman Mark Allen.


Bill Hunt of Texas Ragtime Inc. was named the Athens Chamber of Commerce 2012 Citizen of the Year Friday night at the annual chamber banquet.

The award was presented by last year’s Citizen of the Year, Judith McGilvray.

Outgoing Chamber Chairman Tony Kalawe stepped down and welcomed new chairman, Mark Allen.

Other award winners included:

  • Reindeer Games: Don Lawyer
  • Ambassador of the Year: Kim Hodges
  • Small Business of the Year: The Ship Shop
  • Large Business of the Year: First State Bank

Check out our Facebook photo album.

The nomination letter for Hunt follows:

We proudly nominate Dr. Arch William (Bill) Hunt for Athens Citizen of the Year 2012.

Bill is an outstanding individual who exemplifies a strong leader grounded in good
morals, sound judgment and consistent drive. He arrived in Athens in 1996 and has
been deeply involved in community affairs for the past 16 years. His background as
a college professor (University of Texas-Austin), a restaurant
entrepreneur (Fuddrucker’s start-up) and as a trained physicist has allowed him to
excel on many fronts. Some of his accomplishments that we feel have been important to Athens are as follows:

1. He brought to Athens an international company (Texas Ragtime) which consistently
employs approximately 50 people and adds about $1,000,000 each year to the Athens
economy. This was done without the aid of incentives or tax abatements. He took
all the risks and now owns a very successful company.

2. He has served on numerous community boards, including committees to better our
public schools (speaking out for passage of school bonds and improved standards)
and is currently very active as a member of the Cain Center Board (has supplied
very innovative ideas to the Board, and has seen some of them successfully executed).
As a member of the Board of the Athens Country Club his ideas precipitated changes
which have been permanently adopted and are generally acknowledged to be good.
It is evident that if Bill is on a board, he is going to be an active contributor.

3. He served as President of the Athens Rotary Club and on its Board.

4. He is a member of the First Presbyterian Church of Athens and has served on several
committees with distinction.

5. He has been generous in his financial contributions to the needs of Athens.

For these and other accomplishments that may be overlooked, we feel Bill Hunt would be a worthy Athens Citizen of the Year 2012.