State Capitol Highlights

Education chief announces fines assessed to testing service

Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath on Aug. 23 announced the Texas Education Agency will fine the company that delivers and administers STAAR® — the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness — with $5.7 million in liquidated damages.

Morath also directed the company, Austin-based Educational Testing Services, to invest $15 million for a total of $20.7 million. The $20.7 million, according to the TEA, “addresses various logistical issues encountered by students and school systems during statewide STAAR administration in the 2015-2016 school year.”

“I believe this combination of liquidated damages with an additional financial commitment from ETS reflects the correct balance of accountability for the recent past and safeguards for the future,” Morath said in an Aug. 29 news release. 


Storytime starts Friday, Friends meeting, Dog Days next week

John Motley

Labor Day has passed and activities are gearing up after the “lazy days of summer.”

The first Preschool Storytime of fall was Friday, Sept. 9.  This week Miss Rhonda will point out all the fun that takes place at the library.

Then at 4 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 14, Dog Days at the Library will continue. This program is for kindergarten through fifth grade students, or is it for the dogs?

Who knows! Everyone has fun! Come read to these easy-going and lovable dogs.

Our volunteer profile this week is about a 17-year-old young man, John Motley.

This Canton High School junior said he was looking to volunteer to pass the time, but also wanted to find a way to improve our society. When he found out the Van Zandt County Library was looking for volunteers, he stepped up.

He began volunteering in August and has worked two days a week, totaling four hours a week.


State Capitol Highlights

Texan diagnosed with Zika illness after returning from trip

AUSTIN — A Texas resident who recently traveled to Miami, Florida, has tested positive for Zika virus disease, the Texas Department of State Health Services reported on Aug. 15.

The traveler, an El Paso County resident, sought testing after becoming ill. This is the first Texas case to be linked to travel within the continental United States. The case will be classified as “travel-associated” and is being investigated for more details, the DSHS said.

While this is El Paso County’s first reported case of Zika, Texas had 121 reported cases of the disease as of Aug. 19. The count includes three pregnant women, two infants infected before birth and one person who had sexual contact with a traveler.


Texas farms, ranches help send students back to school

From pencils and paper to school rooms and playgrounds, Texas agriculture is helping students head back to school.

“With the hustle and bustle of this time of year, it can be easy to forget the large role Texas farmers and ranchers play in our everyday lives,” Kevin Wilkerson, Van Zandt County Farm Bureau president, said. “For example, corn, a popular crop in Texas, is used to create a corn-based adhesive that ensures crayon wrappers stay on as long as possible.”

Timber from East Texas is used in some school room walls, in furniture and in playground equipment.

“Of course, it’s also used to create paper, which almost every child uses every day,” Wilkerson said. “This time of year is the perfect opportunity to talk to kids about what farmers and ranchers do and how it affects them.”


Connect with health at Library

Now that school has started it’s time to start new routines and the Grand Saline Public Library is partnering with the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension office of Van Zandt County to help you get A Fresh Start to a Healthier You. 

On Wednesday, Sept. 7, 21, 28, and Thursday, Sept. 29 at 10 a.m., you can come connect with friends, get confidence to cook healthy meal for your children and family, learn practical cooking and shopping tips, handy kitchen tips and tools, and recipes for success in the kitchen. 

Bring a friend or family member so you can get a fresh start for a healthier you. 

When you bring someone to learn with you then you can help hold each other accountable outside of the classes.  When the colder weather of fall starts it’s easy to turn to rich and decadent comfort food and this class will help you learn healthier alternatives. 


Some things change, others remain

Take a moment to think back about your life.  What has changed in the past 16 years for you and for your family?  No doubt just about everything.  Kids grow up and move on (if we're lucky and have raised them right) - there have been births and deaths, relocations, so many things.  But one thing is sure:  nothing stays the same.

We can't say that for our dog and cat situation here in Van Zandt County.  16 years ago our organization was founded because a woman in Grand Saline recognized the problem and worked very hard to make it better.  Her name is Caroline Edwards.  She and her husband no longer live here (one of those changes), but her work is carried on by several people who share her vision. 


Story time starts again Sept. 9

Library volunteer, Abigail Muse, shelving children’s books at the Van Zandt County Library

The librarians and volunteers are enjoying a small lull in action between summer programs and fall programs. This would be a great time to volunteer and learn various jobs to help support the smooth operation of the library.

Speaking of volunteers, this week's Volunteer Profile is about junior volunteer, 15-year-old Abigail Muse. Abigail began volunteer work about two years ago at the “ripe old age” of 13.

As a home school student in the Classical Conversations Home School Co-op, she has a more flexible schedule that allows her to fit in about one hour a week volunteering at the library. Usually she spends her time shelving books along with her mother, who also volunteers.

Abigail's interest in volunteering was sparked by a love of books. She said that she loves this library, especially the librarians.


Defending yourself without guns

Many people in Van Zandt County think first of guns when they think of self-defense. When I was a kid, I started to open the screen door to go to school. There was a rattlesnake coiled in front of the door. I called for my mother, who got a .22 rifle and shot the snake through the head, through the screen door. I kicked the dead snake off the porch, went to school, and had to patch the screen after school.

But not everyone can handle a gun. I know some old ladies with trembly hands who might not be able to handle the recoil from a handgun and are too shaky to aim a rifle. Believe it or not, there are people who are afraid to shoot any kind of gun.

How could someone defend himself without guns? Many guys I know would use their fists. I also know some people with black belts in karate, judo, or other martial arts. There are other ways, too.


State Capitol Highlights

Court relaxes Texas voter ID law in time for fall election

AUSTIN — Voters will have more options when presenting personal identification at the polls for the November 8 general election, Texas Secretary of State Carlos Cascos announced last week.

Pursuant to an Aug. 10 federal court order, Cascos said, if a voter is not able to obtain one of the seven forms of approved photo ID, the voter may vote by: (1) signing a declaration at the polls explaining why the voter is unable to obtain one of the seven forms of approved photo ID; and (2) providing one of various forms of supporting documentation.

Supporting documentation can be an original, certified birth certificate, a valid voter registration certificate or one of the following:

- Current utility bill;

- Bank statement;

- Government check;

- Paycheck; or

- Other government document that shows the name and address of the voter.


School’s in, so is the library

Shawn Moyers

Can you believe that school is back in session?

Backpacks, school supplies, lunch boxes and back- to-school clothes have been acquired. Also, teachers and administrators have been working diligently to have the facilities ready and lesson plans written. It's now time to move from laid back days to a busy schedule.

As students are given assignments, the library is full of resources to help complete them: books on many subjects to check out; or for use in the library, resource materials, periodicals and computers are available. Of course, if a quiet spot to work is needed, what could be better than a comfortable work space in the library.

This week's Volunteer Profile is about Shawn “Murdock” Moyers.


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