Update for August 28, 2014
Hondo teachers, staff return to school for new year
By Lewis H. Mathews
The Hondo Independent School District welcomed back their staff at a district-wide meeting held in the high school cafeteria Aug. 18. Superintendent A’Lann Truelock addressed the gathered teachers and staff to share positive developments that occurred over the summer.
Dr. Truelock noted that the ISD had very little teacher turnover this year with only seven positions being filled during the summer across all campuses. In addition, all the computers on the list of outdated equipment were replaced, and she encouraged the teachers to notify her of other repair or modernization needs on their campuses.
While these announcements were met with applause, Truelock’s next statement had the walls of the cafeteria ringing with the cheers. “All of you got a pay raise. We spent an equivalent of 3.5% extra in budget this year on salaries alone.
“I want you to know that, as of now, we are no longer the 13th of 13 districts in the surrounding area in pay. We’re number four,” she declared.
Additionally, she explained a new personal leave policy in which teachers receive additional time off each semester that they can use at their own discretion, as long as their classes are covered. She expects this change to make it easier for the staff to attend their own children’s events.
“You have two hours, in 30-minute increments, that you can do with what you want,” she said, adding that the time off would be administered from individual campuses, rather than at the central office.
She closed her address to the staff with a promise, “We have listened. We have heard, and we will do our best to make this the best school year ever.”
Rodger Clark, Executive Director of Bluebonnet Children’s Advocacy Center in Hondo, was the featured speaker for the occasion. He gave an overview of the mission of his organization, which is was to fight the epidemic of child abuse by conducting forensic interviews with children in desperate need of help. These interviews are used to assist law enforcement and Department of Family and Protective Services (DFPS.)
Bluebonnet has come to the aid of 196 children this year in Medina County, and they expect this number to climb to about 300 cases by December.
Clark’s goal was to remind teachers they play a vital role in the system as the first line of defense for children in danger. To illustrate, he brought pamphlets to inform the teachers of warning signs to be aware of and what they are required to do if they suspect one of their students may be a victim of abuse or neglect.
“You, as a teacher, have 24 hours to report,” he said. “If you wait longer than that, you can be liable for whatever happens to that kid.”
He sympathized with the teachers about how hard these calls are to make, and how difficult it can be to know when to make them. However, he strongly encouraged the teachers to reach out to him any time they need advice about a specific case.
The stakes are just too high when teachers ignore their suspicions and just hope for the best, he said, adding, “I worked for CPS for three years, and I removed 40 children. I cried every time I did it, but none of my kids ended up on (the nightly) news either. So if you don’t want that to happen, do something about it. One minute out of your day can save a kid’s life.”
Staff also viewed four training videos. They learned the proper use of an epinephrine autoinjector (EpiPen) to help a child experiencing a severe allergic reaction as well as the dangers of blood-borne pathogens and procedures the staff should follow to protect themselves from accidental exposure.
A presentation on the changes to the Texas statutes that address the problem of bullying in schools was included, along with information from the Department of Agriculture about civil rights issues that can arise in the cafeteria and food services department.
Following the presentations, teachers and staff gathered outside where the Hondo High School Mighty Owl Band performed a preview of the upcoming halftime performance. Band Director Leon Steward said he composed the original pieces for the show entitled “Interstellar Overdrive,” and that it pays homage to famous science fiction scores by incorporating their refrains in a way that will be easily recognizable by the audience.
The band also played the school song, “For Hondo’s Honor and Glory,” and HHS cheerleaders led staff in a rousing cheer to kick off the new school year.
Teachers were dismissed to their respective campuses to continue with orientation.
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