News And People

Volume 14, Issue 27 - Friday, July 22, 2016
NextGen classrooms changing face of public education 
Round Rock ISD pilot program embraces instructional technology
This NextGen classroom in the Round Rock ISD is part of a highly successful pilot program. (Round Rock ISD photo)

While some public schools strive for 1-to-1 technology in their classrooms, where every student is issued a computer device for use at school and at home, the Round Rock Independent School District is instead focusing on integrating instructional technology in developing "next-generation classrooms."

The result of Round Rock ISD's experiment with classroom technology is its Next Generation Digital Classroom three-year pilot program. The program will enter its third year with the 2016-2017 school year.

Yesterday's classrooms with text books, chalkboards and overhead projectors are a thing of the past, thanks to today's cutting-edge technology that is expanding and adding more classroom capabilities every day. Round Rock ISD is taking advantage of that technology. To build the foundation of its new NextGen classrooms, the district chose as participants in the program teachers (dubbed "Trailblazers") who were ready to embrace technology in the classroom, according to Lannon Heflin (pictured), the district's Director of Instructional Technology.

Strategic Partnerships salutes Texas' Lone Stars
Martin Winchester, Deputy Commissioner of Educator Support, Texas Education Agency

Career highlights and education: I'm proud to hold degrees from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte, the University of Minnesota and The University of Texas-Pan American. I have more than 20 years of experience as an educator, 16 of which were as a classroom teacher.

What I like best about my job is: I'm most excited about the opportunity to positively impact more than 340,000 teachers and 5 million students by working to improve outcomes for those constituents.

The best advice I've received for my current job is: Put students first and strive to support educators in their demanding roles.

Advice you would give a new hire in your office: There is a wealth of knowledge within the agency and at the regional Education Service Centers, so don't be afraid to utilize them.

If I ever decided to leave work early, I could probably be found: Outdoors with my family at a nearby park.

People would be surprised to know that I: cooked my way through college working at a four-star seafood restaurant.

One thing I wish more people knew about my agency: The Texas Education Agency exists to serve schools and students and wants to help them meet their goals.

Commissioner announces new HHSC senior staff appointees

As the state's Health and Human Services agency transitions from five agencies to three, a new leadership team is emerging. Executive Commissioner Charles Smith recently announced additions to that team. Smith said the transformation of the agency "will ensure that HHS is more functional and effective for our clients, stakeholders and taxpayers."

New members of Smith's leadership team include: Enrique Marquez, Director of External Relations; Karin Hill, Director of Internal Audit; Chris Adams, Deputy Executive Commissioner for System Support Services; David Kostroun, Deputy Executive Commissioner for Policy and Performance; and Bryan Black, Director of Communications.

Martinez has been serving as director of communications at HHSC for the last year and held the same position previously for the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and the Texas Association of Business. He is a former senior advisor to then-Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst and was press secretary for House Speaker Joe Straus. Martinez is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin.

Hill was an internal audit director for the Department of Assistive and Rehabilitative Services for the last four years, is a former chief internal auditor for the Texas Juvenile Justice Department and staff auditor for the Texas Commission for the Blind. She has an MBA from Southwest Texas State University, a bachelor's degree from Park College and an associate's degree from the Community College of the Air Force. 
Adams' state government experience includes stints at the Texas Water Development Board, Office of the Attorney General and Texas Commission for the Blind. He currently serves as the human resources director for the HHS system. He is a graduate of The University of Texas at Austin. 

Kostroun is a veteran 22-year employee and the former chief administrator for licensing and regulatory at the Texas Department of Agriculture. He also served the agency as assistant commissioner for regulatory programs and the chief administrator for agriculture and consumer protection division. He holds bachelor's and master's degrees from Texas A&M University.  

Black became HHSC's chief press officer in 2015. He previously served as director of communications at the Texas Department of Agriculture. Black's background also includes a decade of experience in broadcast journalism. Black graduated from California State University, Fullerton.

State's annual Sales Tax Holiday scheduled for Aug. 5-7
The state's annual Sales Tax Holiday is approaching. This year's event is slated for Friday through Sunday, Aug. 5-7, and allows consumers to save backpack sales tax on most clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks priced below $100.

Shoppers can save $8 on every $100 spent on certain items during the holiday, of special interest to families about to send their children back to school.

The State Comptroller's Office estimates that shoppers will save approximately $92 million in state and local sales taxes during the three-day holiday, which has been held every year since 1999.

Lists of both apparel and school supplies that will be exempt from sales taxes during the sales tax holiday are available at
Abilene approves $12.4 million in capital improvement projects

Abilene City Council members recently approved $12.4 million in capital improvement projects after agreeing to issue certificates of obligation in August to pay for the upgrades.

Several of the projects will supplement projects approved in a 2015 bond election, including improvements to the site for a new aquatics center to be built at Rose Park, council members said.

Other projects to receive funding from the issue of certificates of obligation are new parking lots at two new splash pads at two city parks, additional funding for unexpected expenses in building a new police records facility and improving two dams.

Amarillo to prioritize $900M in capital improvement projects
The Amarillo City Council recently identified projects to include in the proposed $900 million WISE investments program while preparing to prioritize projects to be scheduled for the coming fiscal year.

The big ticket projects being considered are $169 million for utility upgrades, $166 million to expand the civic center and $124 million to expand youth athletics and other parks and recreation projects. A large drainage project also is being considered, noted Interim City Manager Terry Childers.

City officials are looking at several methods, included a bond election in November, grants and a possible tax increase to pay for the projects rated as high priority, Childers said. The deadline for calling a bond election in November is Aug. 22.
Allen ISD approves plans for $97 million freshman center

freshman_center Allen Independent School District trustees recently approved plans for building the Lowery Freshman Center (see accompanying artist's rendering), a two-story, 300,000-square-foot facility to house 1,800 freshmen students.

The $97 million project is part of a November bond election that also includes the demolition of the existing freshman center, renovation of a stadium and conversion of the south wing to a new Dillard Special Achievements Center.

Current plans call for construction on the new freshman center to begin later this year and open for students in the 2018-2019 academic year.

Harlingen approves $14.8 million in debt to fund convention center

The Harlingen City Commission recently agreed to issue $13.5 million in certificates of obligation to pay for building a new $14.8 million convention center.

The agreement for the public-private partnership project calls for the developer to build a new 150-room hotel and the 43,700-square-foot convention center that will be leased to the developer.

The city expects to soon begin the design phase of the project in order to begin construction within the next six months, City Manager Dan Serna said.

City officials plan to use $9.7 million in sales tax revenue from the Community Improvement Board, $3.8 million in revenue from the hotel-motel occupancy tax and $1.78 million from new tax revenue generated within three tax increment finance zones to pay for the convention center.
Houston adopts $7.7 billion, five-year capital improvement plan

Houston City Council members recently adopted the mayor's proposed five-year capital improvement plan calling for $7.1 billion in utility and airport projects.

Council members also approved an additional to $567 million in upgrades to public facilities such as police and fire stations, libraries, parks and recreation centers for inclusion in the voluntary plan developed to help serve as a guide to the council.

The approved capital improvement plan is not binding and the council is required to vote on each project before work proceeds.

Amarillo ISD OK's issue of $16 million in bonds for new school

new_elementary Amarillo Independent School District trustees recently agreed to issue $16 million in bonds approved in 2013 to pay for building a new $15.5 million elementary school (as seen in accompanying artist's rendering).

The action leaves only one project remaining from the 2013 bond proposal. The remaining project is improving the heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems at several campuses,

Board members also heard proposals from two architectural firms on their visions for the new school. The board, however, made no decision on which firm to select to design the new elementary school to be located in the southeast area of the district.

Tyler water official urges $96 million to upgrade water system
Gordon Mayer, the interim water utilities director for Tyler, recently proposed spending $96 million over the next 10 years on 100 projects involving the water and waste water system when presenting his department's 10-year capital improvement plan.
At least 12 of the proposed projects totaling about $10.9 million are needed to meet new state environmental regulations and 14 projects totaling about $28.5 million are required to meet new regulations from the federal Environmental Protection Agency, Mayer said.

The largest proposed project for $15.7 million calls for improving the wastewater treatment process at two facilities. The proposal also urges spending $6.9 million on the wastewater collection system.
Victoria County wins $3.8 million grant to upgrade two roads

danny_garcia Victoria County commissioners recently accepted a $3.8 million grant to upgrade 4.5 miles of two roads in the area of the Port of Victoria in an effort to spur economic development.

A grant from the Texas Department of Transportation will pay 75 percent of the cost to rebuild McCoy Road and Old Bloomington Road. The Port of Victoria will pay the remaining 25 percent of the cost of the road improvements. The port, operated by the Victoria County Navigation District, is an inland port connected to the Intercoastal canal by a 35-mile channel.

Current plans are to seek bids for the road improvements in late September and begin construction in November, said Commissioner Danny Garcia (pictured).

Bellaire city manager asked to develop sidewalk plan
The Bellaire City Council recently asked City Manager Paul Hoffman to develop a plan for improving the sidewalk network in that city.
Council members asked Hoffman to develop a plan using available data that includes a construction schedule, budget and recommendations for funding the sidewalk upgrades and present it to council on Aug. 1. That information is necessary, council members said, because they are considering a bond election in November and the sidewalk initiative could be part of the projects included on the ballot.
Other projects being considered for the bond election are a new city hall, civic center building and police station.
U of H to build new health sciences building in Pearland

william_staples University of Houston officials recently agreed to begin construction on a new health sciences building at the Pearland campus of the University of Houston-Clear Lake (UHCL) after Pearland city council agreed to donate land for the new facility.

The new 52,000-square-foot building will provide more space for existing degree programs and for the possibility of adding new programs at the Pearland campus, said William Staples (pictured), president of UHCL. The new Health Sciences building is expected to attract more students to pursue a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing, Staples said.

Current plans call for construction to begin on the building in the spring of 2017 and classes to begin in the fall of 2018. During the 84th legislative session, lawmakers allotted $24.8 million in tuition revenue bonds to pay for new facilities at UH campuses.

Need a job? Got a job opening?

Dozens of public-sector jobs are available. Some of the new jobs added this week: Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board - Director, Information Solutions and Services; Texas Military Department - Teacher Aide III; Public Utility Commission - Advisor/Attorney and Customer Service Specialist; Ector County - Legal Aide-District Attorney; Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts - Financial Reporting Analyst; and State Bar of Texas - Director, Texas Opportunity and Justice Incubator Program and Legal Secretary - State Disciplinary Council. Click here to view more. Send your posting to

Jobs with closing dates listed will be removed from the listings on that date. If your job does not have a closing date, please contact us once it is filled.
Waco begins discussion on proposed $292.3M city budget

Waco City Council members recently began discussions on a proposed $292.3 million budget that includes more than $42 million to pay for several major projects to improve roads and utilities.

The proposed capital improvement funding includes $23.4 million to improve the water system by replacing lines and adding new cross-town transmission lines; $12 million for an automated water meter system; and $11.2 million to improve the wastewater system.

While city officials plan to use bond funds to pay for several of the capital improvement projects, they are awaiting approval from the state for a grant that will pay for the majority of the project to replace old water meters with an automated water meter system.

Calendar of Events

Public-Private Partnership Higher Education Summit set in San Diego
Oct. 3-4, 2016
Public-private partnerships are helping higher education officials meet their needs for new and renovated facilities. How this trend is growing will be discussed at the upcoming Public-Private Partnership Higher Education Summit. The summit is being described as "the premier conference for collaboration between university officers and development professionals pursuing public-private partnerships." The gathering, scheduled for Oct. 3-4 in San Diego, will feature influential decision-makers from throughout the country. Those attending will participate in two days of in-depth learning, business development and networking opportunities with facility planning, finance and business officers who are involved in public-private partnerships across the country. Speakers will show how P3s on college campuses are no longer just for student housing, but have expanded to include classrooms, laboratories, research facilities, athletic spaces and other campus infrastructure. Registration is now open and a program schedule has been released.
Fontenot will address health care at EWTG luncheon on July 27
July 27, 2016
Lawyer and nurse Sarah Freymann Fontenot will be the guest speaker at the Wednesday, July 27, luncheon of the Executive Women in Texas Government. Fontenot's address will be on "Above the Fray: A conversation about the future of health care in Texas." Fontenot has been the health law professor for graduate students in the Department of Health Care Administration at Trinity University in since 1997. She is a published author on the Affordable Care Act and writes a regular column for the Physician Executive Journal. Fontenton also publishes a free newsletter ("Fontenotes") which reaches more than 23,000 readers and addresses various aspects of health care reform. This national speaker teaches for the American Association of Physician Leadership (formerly the College of Physician Executives) and at the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) and other national professional organizations. The luncheon will be held at the Austin Woman's Club, 708 San Antonio Street in Austin. Networking begins at 11:30 a.m. with lunch served at 11:45.  The program concludes at 1 p.m. Cost to attend is $20 for members and $25 for guests.  Online registration will end at 10 a.m. Monday, July 25.
TASSCC 2016 Annual Conference slated in Galveston in August
Aug. 7-10,  2016
With a theme of "Catch the IT Wave," the 2016 Annual Conference of the Texas Association of State Systems for Computing and Communications (TASSCC) will be held Aug. 7-10 at Moody Gardens Hotel in Galveston. The conference will feature individual sessions on subjects such as IT Strategy, Roadmaps and Governance; Infrastructure and Cybersecurity; Leadership; and Data Management and Analytics. Addressing Organizational Leadership Perspective of Information Technology - "Current and Future Landscape" will be Phillip Ashley, associate deputy of fiscal matters, Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts; Larry Temple, executive director, Texas Workforce Commission; Whitney Brewster, executive director, Department of Motor Vehicles; and Thomas Suehs, former commissioner, Health and Human Services Commission. There will also be keynote speakers each day. The agenda is available and registration is now open.
LBJ School offers Construction Purchasing Certificate Program
July 26-27, 2016
Buyers, contract administrators and project managers interested in earning a construction purchasing certificate can do so through The University of Texas at Austin's LBJ School of Public Affairs. The program aids in understanding and using new terms, remaining compliant with unfamiliar laws, developing control plans and schedules and staying on budget. The LBJ School's Construction Purchasing Certificate Program consists of four core courses and one elective to be completed over a period of two years. The goal of this certificate program is to provide participants with the skills and knowledge to ensure that their organization's construction projects are well managed and secure the intended results and value. The courses are complementary in nature, and each course repeats annually. The next available course is Legal Aspects of Construction Contracts and will be held July 26-27.

Courts move into the world of high-tech 

By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships, Inc.

Technology has invaded every aspect of our lives. Individually, every day, we rely on all kinds of devices. We check our computers, text our friends, visit ATMs, use key fobs for access to workplaces and monitor homes and children via camera technology. We use apps to schedule transportation and we shop online. We stream movies and programs or pre-record them for on-demand entertainment and we stay in touch with friends through the Internet. While we rarely contemplate our increasing dependence on technology, we know it exists.  

Businesses are even more dependent on technology. It's one of the most critical components of success. No sector is exempt. However, there is one place where technology has emerged rather slowly - and that is in the judiciary - the nation's courts.

Times are changing though and courtrooms will never again be the same. Technology is automating processes and procedures and taxpayers are benefitting from cost savings, convenience and timely access to information.

Videoconferencing now allows "remote jurors" to participate without being in the courtroom and video arraignments are becoming the norm. Many families now visit prison inmates via videoconference when travel is prohibitive.

Moran appointed acting Smith County judge
nathaniel_moran Nathaniel Moran (pictured), a former member of the Tyler City Council, recently won selection as the acting county judge in Smith County.

He replaces Joe Baker, the county judge who was recently suspended by the State Commission on Judicial Conduct following an indictment on charges of violating the Texas Open Meetings Act. Moran will serve as acting county judge until the case against Baker is resolved or the position of county judge comes open again for election in 2018.

Moran served on the Tyler City Council from 2005 until 2009. He has a bachelor's degree from Texas Tech University and a law degree from the Texas Tech School of Law.

King named finalist for TVCC president post
jerry_king Jerry King (pictured), a former mayor of Athens, recently won selection as the finalist for president at Trinity Valley Community College. (TVCC)

King, who also applied for the position in 2007, will replace Dr. Glendon Forgey, who resigned in early May.

Joining the college in 1975, King has been a professor, dean and an associate vice president. He has been the vice president of instruction and chief instructional officer for TVCC since 2008.
West Oso ISD selects Garcia as interim superintendent
West Oso Independent School District trustees recently appointed Conrad Garcia as interim superintendent.

A former assistant superintendent for the West Oso district and a principal for Corpus Christi ISD, Garcia replaced Superintendent Elizabeth Saenz, who was placed on administrative leave by trustees.

Board members plan to hold a special meeting this week to discuss a possible resignation agreement with Saenz, district officials said. 
Texas Tech selects Galyean interim provost
michael_galyean Texas Tech University officials recently selected Michael Galyean (pictured) as the interim provost. He will replace Lawrence Schovanec, who is beginning his new duties as president beginning Aug. 1.

Most recently the dean of the College of Agricultural Sciences & Natural Resources, Galyean will begin his duties as interim provost on Aug. 1. He also served as a faculty member at New Mexico State University and West Texas A&M University.

Galyean has a Ph.D. from Oklahoma State University
Cervantes named to lead La Villa school district
Jose A. Cervantes recently agreed to serve as superintendent for La Villa Independent School District.
Previously superintendent for Edgewood ISD, Cervantes also was superintendent for Alpine ISD.

Cervantes has a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from Sul Ross State University. He has a doctorate from The University of Texas at Austin.

Llano names Edmonson as its new city manager
Llano city officials recently selected Scott Edmonson as the new city manager, effective on Aug. 1.

Most recently the maintenance director for the Llano school district, Edmonson previously was city manager in Mertzon. He also was a manager for a private company and a county extension agent for Texas A&M AgriLife.

Edmonson has a bachelor's degree and a master's degree from Oklahoma State University.

Gesch resigning as Navasota superintendent 
rory_gesch Superintendent Rory Gesch (pictured) of Navasota Independent School District recently announced that he plans to resign from that post to accept a new position as assistant superintendent at Alvin ISD.

Gesch joined the Navasota district as an assistant superintendent in 2006 and became superintendent in 2010. He also was a director and principal at Stamford ISD.

He has a bachelor's degree from Sul Ross State University, a master's degree from Angelo State University and his superintendent certification from Abilene Christian University. He is pursing a doctorate degree at Texas A&M University.
La Feria selects Sanchez as interim city manager
La Feria city commissioners recently selected City Secretary Esmeralda Sanchez as the interim city manager to replace former City Manager Sunny K. Philip, who was terminated from that job after serving as city manager for 25 years.

Sanchez joined the city in 2013 as a coordinator for capital projects, human resources director and became city secretary in 2016. She has a bachelor's degree from The University of Texas at Austin and a master's degree from Texas A&M University.

Commissioners also agreed to begin a search for a new city manager.

Donna postpones search for new city manager
Donna City Council members recently agreed to postpone their search for a new city manager after failing to pick a lone finalist after interviewing three finalists for the job. This is the second attempt for city officials to request applications, interview finalists and then decide against selecting a new city manager.

Instead, council members agreed that Interim City Manager Ernesto Silva would remain in the temporary post. The former bridge consultant for the city became interim city manager in December 2015 when council members allowed the contract of former City Manager Fernando Flores to expire.

The three finalists interviewed were Karen L. Kline, an appraiser for the Aransas County Appraisal District; Rebecca Castillo, executive director of the Brownsville Community Improvement Corporation; and, William A. DeLibero, city manager of South Padre Island.

Coatney begins duties as Dallas Fire-Rescue chief
david_coatney David Coatney (pictured), the former fire chief in Round Rock, recently began his duties as the new chief of Dallas Fire-Rescue. He won selection over two other finalists from Philadelphia and Nashville.

A firefighter and assistant fire chief in San Antonio for 25 years, Coatney replaced former Chief Louis Bright III, who retired from the department that employs 2,000 firefighters and paramedics. 

Amarillo tables search for new city manager
Amarillo City Council members recently agreed to put on hold their search for a new city manager and retain the services of Interim City Manager Terry Childers during the immediate future.

While council members screened applicants with extensive experience, the council decided that Childers' experience is needed while the city is working on several projects such as preparing a document on best practices for the police department, a possible bond election and campaign to attract a minor league baseball team to the city, the mayor said.

Victoria College taps Price-Seeger as vice president of instruction
marji-price-seeger Victoria College officials recently selected Marji Price-Seeger (pictured) as the vice president of instruction.

Most recently vice president of academic affairs at Dawson Community College in Montana, Price-Seeger was dean of instruction at Oxnard College and San Bernardino Valley Colleges in California and an associate dean for Cascadia Community College in Washington.

Price-Seeger has a bachelor's degree from Southern Utah University and two master's degrees from Idaho State University.

Pearland appoints Pearson finance director
cynthia_pearson Pearland city officials recently appointed Cynthia Pearson (pictured) as the finance director.

Most recently the director of finance for Lancaster, Pearson has more than 20 years in public finance. She also has been an accountant for the city of La Porte and director of finance in Baytown and League City.

Pearson has a bachelor's degree from Jackson State University and attended the Southwest School of Finance at Texas Tech University.
Keene selects four finalists for city manager
Keene City Council members recently selected four finalists from a total of 30 applicants for city manager and plan to soon begin interviews with the applicants. The new city manager will replace Bill Guinn, who retired July 1.
Council members selected Mayor James Chapline to serve as interim city manager until a new city manager is selected.

Spencer retiring as director of housing department in Austin
betsy_spencer Betsy Spencer (pictured), director of the department of Neighborhood Housing and Community Development (NHCD) in Austin, recently announced plans to retire from that post, effective on Sept. 26.

City officials also appointed Letitia Brown, the acting assistant director for NHCD, to serve as interim director of the department as Spencer will be out of the office until the official retirement date.

Spencer became director of NHCD in late 2010. She previously had been the chief operations officer for the San Antonio Alternative Housing Corporation, a nonprofit organization.

On Our Website 

Hearne ISD terminates Nuques as superintendent
Hearne Independent School District trustees recently terminated the contract of Superintendent Raul Nuques. While Nuques will leave the job immediately, board members agreed to pay his salary for one year.

Trustees also appointed Adrian Johnson, a former superintendent at North Forest ISD, as interim superintendent until a new superintendent is hired.

Nuques, who joined the Hearne district in January, also was a superintendent for Zapata County ISD.
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Texas Government Insider is a free weekly newsletter detailing important happenings throughout the state and summarizing current political issues relevant to individuals interested in government.   
Publisher: Mary Scott Nabers 
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