Things I Learned: Christmas decorations, a new school board member, and ‘Human Zoos’

By Michael V. Hannigan/HCN

I finished putting up my Christmas decorations last weekend and posted on Facebook asking if I was the last procrastinator.

I wasn’t by a long shot!

So if you still have your Christmas tree up while you read this don’t despair, you aren’t the only one.

Here’s what I learned this week.

— AISD gets a new school board member

The Athens ISD Board of Trustees accepted the resignation of board member Renda Garner on Monday night and immediately replaced her with Kari Wilmeth.

Wilmeth is a pretty well-known figure in the Athens area.

“As a long time supporter of AISD and a parent of two children who attend Athens Public schools, I am honored to have been afforded the opportunity to serve the district in any way I can,” she said.

Garner stepped down because she is moving out of the district and will no longer meet the residency requirement.

— Organizations that protect children are looking for help

There was a meeting last week that brought together representatives from Child Protective Services, the District Attorney’s Office, CASA of Trinity Valley, the Rainbow Room and a new Parent Collaboration Group.

I attended the meeting and learned that — like so many of our county’s problems — illegal drugs are at the root of many of the ills befalling children.

I also learned these organizations need help.

“So many people kind of go through their day-to-day and don’t really think about our kids or what they go through and we want to change that,” said CASA Executive Director Emily Heglund.

If you’d like to find out what these folks were talking about, you can contact the people below:

— Sheriff’s podcast is a huge success

I knew that crime stories get the most reads on the Henderson County Now website so I wasn’t surprised when our first episode of “Sheriff’s Beat with Sheriff Botie Hillhouse” did well.

I didn’t expect it to be the most listened to podcast HCN had ever done right out of the gate, however, but it was.

Here is the first episode, if you missed it. The next episode should be posted on Thursday, Jan. 17.

— Athens Citizen of the Year to be named

The annual Athens Chamber of Commerce Gala will be this Friday at the ACC. Tickets are still available, so don’t wait to call Marisa Gunstanson at the Chamber office, 903-675-5181.

Of course, this is the event where the Athens Citizen of the Year is named. Looking back, the first Citizen of the year was Orval Pirtle in 1966. Then there was a five-year break and R.E. (Dick) Dwelle was honored in 1971.

Since then there has been an annual Citizen of the Year (sometimes two!).

Last year’s winner was Milburn Chaney.

Who will it be this year? I’ll be there to find out!

— ‘Human Zoos’ screening in Athens

‘Human Zoos’ is a movie documenting the effort to dehumanize entire classes of people in the name of science by displaying them like animals in cages at the beginning of the 20th Century. It will also tell the story of the courageous African-American ministers in New York City who tried to stop what was going on.

The award-winning documentary will be shown 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 20, at First Baptist Church Athens. The film will be presented by writer and director John G. West, who will be hosting a discussion after the movie with a panel of other experts.

Learn more about this important event on the event page here and on the movie’s website here.