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Hays Free Press
Kyle, Texas
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January 30, 2013     Hays Free Press
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January 30, 2013
 

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+ GALA WINNERS! Kyle gives honors to local businesses, people at gala. - Page 1D + HaysFreePress.com January 30, 2013 Page 3B A new chain link fence around Elm Grove Elementary has some parents in the Whispering Hollow the project. They are also concerned about how they will maintain their wooden fences. neighborhood upset about the PHOTOS BY KIM HILSENBECK lack of communication by the district regarding Hays CISD officials say chain link fence at Elm Grove improves safety; neighbors say project wasted money BY KIM HILSENBECK kim@haysfreepress.com With school security in the spot- light, the addition of a new five-foot high chain link fence arotmd the perimeter of Elm Grove Elementary should be a welcome sight. But several residents oftheWhis- pering ttollow neighborhood near the school, particularly those with prop- erty that backs up to the playground, say it was wasted money. Many are also unhappy about the lack of com- munication by the district. Residents said they noticed a work crew installing a chain link fence around the perimeter of the playground. But neighbors say no one contacted them or the homeowners association about the new fence, which was installed about six inches in front of the existing privacy fence. There are several access points from the neighborhood along the privacy fence line; none have a locked gate. About eight of those homes in Whispering Hollow have gates in their privacy fences that open to the school's property. A group of neigh- bors, most with property along the school's edge, met with the Hays Free Press at the playground to discuss their concerns. another neighbor with property next to the school. "But they did not even go to [hom- eowners]," Leonardis said. Bmtton said she wants people to understand that all of the back and side entries of the school are locked at all times; having a gate that opens into the schoolyard does not give anyone special access to the building. "Visitors to the school must enter through the front door and check into the office," she said. "We walk around to the front door to check in, just like everyone else." A post on the Hays CISD Facebook page on Friday offered a reason for the fence. Part of the post read: "Don't insult our intelligence by saying this [fence] is going to stop a crazy person" -Emily Bratton, a homeowner whose property sits against the Elm Grove Elementary School playground "We are installing a fence around the Elm Grove Elemen- tary School play- ground as part of our efforts to increase campus security. As you know, school security is a critical issue for districts across the country. We are committed to increasing security in many ways at all of our campuses." Another section read, "The portion of the school's metal, chain-link fence that is directly adjacent '7~ few of us have gates that enter into the field. But they never came to us to ask us [to remove them[," said Emily Bratton. "These are parents of students who are volunteers, fundrais- ers, taxpayers. We're not here to cause harm." "If the school had come to us and said, this is a security violation, could you please remove your gates- what would your answer be?" asked Sheri Leonardis of her fellow neighbors? 'Absolutely." replied DanaWllliams, Whispering Hollow resident Dana Williams,. who has children that attend Elm Grove Elementary, shows how the new chain link fence was installed six inches in front her privacy fence. She said she "absolutely" would have removed and fixed the gate if the district had communicated with her in advance. to existing wooden, back yard residential fences was added the wooden fences have gates that expose the play- ground." The notice went on to say that the school's playground is exposed to po- tential hazards and there is also a need to protect the school against more common dangers, such as strangers entering an unrestticted playground, animals getting loose onto the play- ground, or children wandering away. It was not immediately clear if there were any documented cases of such incidents and Elm Grove Principal Kathy Faulks did not respond to a request frown the Hays Free Press about those issues. An additional concern among neighbors is that the chain link fence was installed too close to the existing privacy fence. "My whole issue is we cannot ac- cess our wooden fences to service them," said Leonardis, "and they fall all the time." The neighbors were told that locking gates will be installed at the existing entry points that would be unlocked during typical drop-offand pick-up times. 'According to the deputy superin- tendent [Scherff]," Williams said, "this is part of a larger project to fence in the entire school." Hays CISD spokesperson Tim Savoy said the dmeline for completion of the next phase of the fence project depends on when the City of Buda finishes the sidewalks that will be installed as part of a federal Safe Route to Schools grant. But securitywas given as the reason for the fence installation. "I just find it strange that from a security standpoint that the board was not included," Bratton said, "that it because a number of was a decision made on a school basis. I find that odd." Residents who spoke with Hays CISD school board members Marty Kanetzky and Meredith Keller about the fence said those trustees were not aware of the fence installation until their constituents called. However, the board only has to approve projects or purchases that cost nmre than $50,0o0. "The cost of just this fence alone was $27,000/' Dana W'filianas said. Savoy confirmed the $27,000 expense and said the work was per- formed byA-to-Z Fencing. Savoy added that the district will maintain the grass between the chain link fence and the wooden privacy fences. Savoy assured that no chemi- cals will be used, which was a concem for Whispering Springs resident and organic gardener Pat Pynes. Several of the Whispering Hollow neighbors seemed in agreement that the fence project was money ill spent, but emphasLzed that school security is important to them as well. "I don't have a gate.., but I see it as a taxpayer issue," said Kathy Rainey. "In- stead of spending $27,000 to fence in something that was already fenced in, why not communicate with the home owners and ask them to remove their gates and then install more secure gates at those entry points, leave this [privacy] fence here and save all that money and put in an adequate gate." She said a five-year-old could eas- ily hop the chain link fence that was installed. "I would rather have had $27,000 spent on a more secure, taller, more appropriate fence if security is the is- sue," Ralney said. "Don't insult our intelligence by say- ing this [fence] is going to stop a crazy person," Bratton said. Acting Hays CISD Superintendent Carter Scherff said in a written state- ment, "Last week, we erected the first part of a fence around the Elm Grove Elementary School playground. We did this with student safety as our mo- tivation and we take that responsibil- ity to heart. In our zeal to improve the security at the playground, we may have acted too quickly, without fully considering the affect the fence's con- struction would have on our neigh- bors. Our neighbors- many of whom are our parents- are essential partners and we take those relationships seri- ously I appreciate all of the emails and feedback that I have received. This has been a learning moment for me. I will better communicate district plans that will affect our neighbors." BY KIM HILSENBECK kim@haysfreepress.com At its regular meeting Monday night, the Hays CISD Board of Trust- ees laid a plan and time frame for hir- ing a new superintendent. The hole in the administration was left after Jeremy Lyon resigned to head up a larger district near Dallas at the be- ginning of this year. Lyon started at Hays CISD in 2010. The board heard from Robert Stock- well, vice president of operations for Proact Search, LLC, the Illinois-based firm hired earlier this month to con- duct an executive search for a new superintendent. Four firms submit- ted bids in response to the district's request for proposals, three were se- lected for interviews. Proact got the job. This is the same firm that brought Austin ISD superintendent Maria Castarphan to that district in 2008. Proact Search also helped the Dallas ISD hire Mike Miles as its new head honcho in 2012. Stockwell said the timeline his firm proposed for Hays CISD would allow ample opportunity for public com- ment and feedback. Stockwell said the goal is to gather stakeholder input about what is important in a candi- date. The process will likely include at least two public forums along with fo- cus groups and a district-wide survey. Board members will be interviewed individually to assist Proact in under- standing the characteristics desired for a new superintendent. At the same meeting, the board also approved the approximately $6,700 advertising budget proposed by Stockwell. He said the funds will be allocated to cast as wide a net as possible in the search for a new su- perintendent. Proact's recruitment tactics include placing ads in print and online, attending education con- ferences and conducting face-to-face searches for qualified candidates. Based on board input, Stockwell said the goal is to announce the board's fi- nal candidate selection by May 1. ' SCHOOL BRIEFS College Go Center For anyone thinking of returning to college or finishing a GED, Texas State AmeriCorps G-Force members will of- fer free help and answers to questions. The program is open from 4:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m. on Tuesdays, 10 a.m. to noon and again from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. onWednesdays at the San Marcos Public Library. Times by appointment are also available. G-Force members will help with searching for colleges, filling out applications, and looking for scholarships and financial aid, including the FAFSA. AYP results posted The Texas Education Agency re- ported that the final 2012 Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) results are now posted following the conclu- sion of the appeals process. For most districts, TEA said the rating remained the same as those issued last summer. Hays CISD Honor Choir seeks new members Next month, up and coming lo- cal vocalists in Hays CISD fourth through seventh grades have a chance to audition for the district's Honor Choir. The 60-member choir has student representatives from all thirteen elementary campuses, as well as four of its five middle schools. Interested students must sing a song from their music class. Auditions will be at 5 p.m. Feb. 25 in the Hays High School Choir Room. To schedule an appointment, call 512-694-1746 t Offering lessons in piano, guitar, and oU instruments, 119 Cimarrofl Park Loop Ste. B. 312-5995 www.AIl ml:ir .A . m FARMERS' Debbie Thames Insurance Agency AUTO HOME LIFE BOAT HEALTH 251 N. FM 1626 #2C Buda, TX 786 I0 Office: (512) 312-1917 Fax: 312-0688 Emaih dvthamcs @austin.rr.com Monday-Friday, 9am-5pm Your Business & Referrals Are Appreciated ADWARE SPYWARE MALWARE VIRUSES On-Site Removal (requires broadband CO~t/~ P ~] internet access) Norton Internet Security and Anti-Virus 2010 Mfr. Rebates Available to Previous Owners