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Shining Star Production’s ‘Tarzan’ reschedules dates, site

‘Tarzan’ is swinging his way to Sulphur Springs but it is taking him a little longer than expected. The Shining Star Productions play will run July 24-27 at Sulphur Springs Middle School, instead of debuting next week as was originally scheduled.  

“The show was formerly set to go onstage June 12-14 on the Hopkins County Regional Civic Center auditorium stage,” said SSP Director Amanda Brandenburgh. “However, the extensive damage to the auditorium roof caused by the storm that hit Sulphur Springs on Memorial Day, sadly, forced the company to relocate and reschedule due to safety considerations with the special flight equipment that might have been compromised by the damage and to allow the Civic Center to begin the process of repairing and renovating the auditorium.”


Personnel changes OKed by school board

Sulphur Spring Independent School District Board of Trustees gave its approval Friday to additional personnel changes for the 2015-2016 school year. 

The board approved resignations from kindergarden teacher Tia McKee at the Early Childhood Learning Center; aide Brooke Hicks from Sulphur Springs Elementary School; fifth grade teacher Monica Graves from Douglas Intermediate School; and English teacher Jerri Cole, science teacher James Payne and social studies teacher Robert Scott Rozell from Sulphur Springs High School.  

New personnel hired included Cydney Williams as a teacher for the visually impaired; resource teacher Nichole Cooks and second grade teacher Kassandra Smith at Douglas; classroom aide Kimberly Jones at Travis Primary School; fifth grade teacher Casen Layne Ashmore at Douglas; English language arts and reading seventh grade teacher Amy Anderson, math teacher Susan Cook and special education aide Teresa Parks at Sulphur Springs Middle School; and library aide Amanda Pennington and English teacher Breanna Van Dyke at SSHS. 

In other personnel changes, Marcie Stewart is changing from special education aide at Sulphur Springs Elementary to classroom aide for the visually impaired. The position will be district-wide. Toi Cook will be shifting from a special education teacher at SSMS to a special education self-contained teacher at SSES. Tracy Flanery will be moving from Bowie as a special education teacher to a special education position at SSHS.   


Eight more child sex assault charges filed

 Sheriff's Investigator Dennis Findley served eight additional warrants on Hunter James Dixon for sexual assault of a child Thursday. Dixon was already in jail in lieu of $1.4 million bond on charges of continuous sexual abuse of a child and aggravated sexual assault of a child when the warrants were served. Justice of the Peace Brad Cummings set additional bonds of $100,000 on each of the warrants. Bonds for Dixon now total $2.2 million.

Teacher’s ‘Ghetto Awards’ spark controversy at SSMS

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Facebook erupted today as hundreds of concerned parents raised awareness after Sulphur Springs Middle School teacher Stephanie Garner held a ceremony for her students called the “Ghetto Classroom Awards.” The incident gained notoriety when a certificate from the “awards” was posted on the social media site Wednesday evening by Jerrika Dabbs, the mother of a seventh-grader in the class.

Dabbs’ post showed a certificate appearing to be signed by SSMS Principal Jena Williams (it was not signed by her) and Garner. The award said it was part of the 8th Annual Ghetto Classroom Awards, in which the student received the ‘huh?’ award. The student, whose name is omitted by the News-Telegram because he is a minor, has been trying to pass his STAAR test.

“My son has a twin brother who received two awards for English and science this year. The next day, [her son] came home and showed me the certificate. My first reaction was to tear it up,” said Dabbs. “I feel really offended because it is very demeaning and insulting toward him. I feel like his teacher really bullied him. He may not have really understood the significance when everyone laughed in class, but it is there.”

After discovering her son received a “Ghetto Award,” Dabbs called her aunt, who is a school teacher in Corpus Christi.

“She said she spoke to several of her colleagues at CCISD and confirmed to me that the award was unacceptable. My aunt told me to post it on Facebook and let people know what was happening,” said Dabbs. “I hope this does not happen to anyone else.” 

By Thursday morning, the post had been shared more than 600 times and viewed thousands of times on the website. 

“I do not think this was the result of SSISD, but rather the actions of one teacher. I spoke to the SSMS principal and she seemed to be unaware of what had been going on,” said Dabbs. “My son told me the teacher told him that she forged the principal’s name on the certificate. The teacher told my son, ‘That is what makes this award ghetto.’”

Dabbs went on to say she could not believe a teacher would instill fraudulent behavior in a student. 

“She is setting a bad example. These children are being molded right now into adults. If my child is struggling to get a 70 in class and may not make it to eighth grade, why would anyone give him a ‘huh?’ award?” said Dabbs. “My worry is that the teacher just gave up on my child.”

News-Telegram staff tried to contact SSMS Principal Jena Williams, but she would not comment on the situation. All inquiries about the “Ghetto Awards” was directed to the SSISD Administration office. 

“SSISD is aware of a set of awards that was handed out in a Sulphur Springs Middle School class. These awards were teacher-generated and only given to student in this teacher’s class,” said SSISD Superintendent Michael Lamb. “The awards are not endorsed by SSISD, nor Jena Williams, principal of Sulphur Springs Middle School.”

Lamb continued to say that the awards were unacceptable and the circumstances are currently under investigation. 

“SSISD wants to apologize to anyone that was offended by the action,” remarked Lamb. “The teacher worked at another school district for six of the years and we did not received any complaints last year. The 8th Annual Ghetto Classroom Awards will be the last one.”  

STAAR test results show progress over time

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Preliminary results of this year’s STAAR test showed a predominantly positive trend, Sulphur Springs Independent School District trustees were told Friday at their board meeting, the result of a “building process” in the district.

That was the summation of SSISD Superintendent Michael Lamb, who discussed the results with the Board of Trustees.

The results were mostly positive compared to the tests results of last year, although fourth grade students struggled in both reading and writing. Lamb focused on long terms goals and importance of the new data.

“The hard part about these scores is we are not sure whether to be excited or not because it depends how you compare it,” said Lamb. “I hesitate not to get too happy or sad because these are preliminary — but overall, we are excited.”

Breaking down the numbers, Sulphur Springs students have improved in their STAAR reading tests in third, fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth grades as well as performed above the state average. In seventh grade writing, 81 percent of students passed in comparison to the 72 percent Texas average. In eighth grade social studies, 68 percent of local students passed while the state average was 64 percent. Lamb stressed that to be victorious, students would have to improve over last year and average better than the Texas average.

Looking at the negative, fourth grade students struggled in reading and writing with only 70 percent and 60 percent of students passing, respectively. The state average is 74 and70 percent, which means next year some work will have to be done, Lamb said. Fifth grade and eighth grade had 64 and 63 percent of students passing in science with a 72 percent and 70 percent state average. After the summary, Lamb focused on the big picture.

“When you look at the numbers, there are a lot of things you can say. All of the numbers are improvements from last year and that’s something to be excited about,” said Lamb. “The important thing we are noticing is a trend that we need to capitalize on. When you look at eighth grade reading, 90 percent of our kids passed. Everyone in our district should be proud of that. That score did not happen over a year. That's a building process.”

Lamb summarized each year is a building block process and the scores are indicative of an overall success from third grade through high school. 

The high school scores were 89 percent in Algebra I, 94 percent in biology, 79 percent in English, 82 percent in English II and 94 percent in US history. 

“Even though there might be static in lower grades, what we are seeing is a improvement process over time,” said Lamb. “The seventh grade really starts to separate itself and it continues. We are getting these kids and working with them and every year we make more progress.” 

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