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2008-10-30 12:32 pm

[Cameron Herald] -- Letter to the Editor

To the Editor,

Ten years ago, I was editor of The Yoeman Arrow, and I was pleased to find that the Arrow has returned to the Herald this year (Oct. 16 issue).

We are in a time of great change in our country. It is an election year -- a historical one at that. We are in what could be considered the greatest economic crisis since the Great Depression. Losing Alcoa in Milam County has put a heavy strain on many of our neighbors.

But as we deal with these things that have such an impact financially and in turn mentally and emotionally, we can’t lose sight of our youth. Whether you are a parent, grandparent, neighbor or new to the area, as we today pave the road for our youth, it won’t be long before our youth are making their own paths. I, for one, am curious what paths we can expect to see in the future. One way to anticipate that is by knowing what is going on with our youth right now. Even as a senior in high school, I always felt having The Yoeman Arrow as a part of The Cameron Herald helped to keep the schools in front of everyone.

When I was editor of the school newspaper, I didn’t know at that time what kind of a profound effect that experience would have on me through the following years. It not only helped me start to learn a trade, it also taught me about being committed to a finished product and taking pride in what I was doing. I applaud the students and Ms. Doskocil for taking on the task of bringing the paper back to the city, and in turn for giving everyone a glimpse into the activities and opinions of students. Thank you, also, to The Cameron Herald for running the Arrow for all to see. I can’t wait for the next issue!

Denise (Schoppe) Mattox
Nashville, TN
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2005-12-21 03:05 pm

[Marlin Democrat] Column - One final entry

One final entry

Nise's Notes
By Denise Schoppe

The Marlin Democrat
December 21, 2005

This column has proven itself harder to write than I ever expected it to be, as with this column, I close the book on "Nise's Notes" and my time in Marlin comes to an end.

This last year and a half has left a mark on my life that will last forever. Many people in this town I will consider friends for life. i've laughed with you. I've cried with you. I've listened to your stories and tried to share them with others. I've told you many of my own stories.

My time here at the Democrat has provided me with experiences I'd probably never have had any other way. There have been countless times that I've thought to myself, "I have the coolest job around."

I have truly grown to think of Marlin as "my town." When I speak of city happenings I use terms like "we," "us," and "ours." I have several purple shirts purchased specifically with the Bulldogs in mind, and I've cheered for the Bulldogs and the Chilton Pirates through their endeavors to reach that state football title. I can't wait to see various projects come to fruition in time; I've come to feel like I have an interest in them, if only from afar.

At the heart of Marlin is good people. This town has an abundance of people ready to stretch out a helping hand. It is with an outstretched hand that people wave as you pass by their homes, or share a high-five when something positive is accomplished. It is with an gentle hand that people console one another in times of sadness. It is through outstretched hands towards one another that the town can progress, and hopefully some day reach the peak of grandeur it had in the days of the bath houses.

Sure, Marlin has its problems. What city doesn't? The problems of Marlin are not unique to Marlin. The same financial troubles, need for better streets, and the battle of genders, race and religion are echoed in city after city in America. This world is a cynical place because of these kinds of problems.

Nonetheless, I am off to explore more of this world — cynicism and all.

After a long holiday vacation and the tedious process of packing up all my possessions, I am moving to Nashville, Tennessee. No, I can't sing, and I haven't even touched my flute from high school band in six years. This move is primarily for personal reasons. However, the added bonus is that I've had my Music City as my goal, since I was in high school, to persue my professional ambitions.

I am very excited about what is to come. It's all wide open and unknown, which is a little scary! However, fear is trumped by excitement, as is the sadness in seeing my time here end.

I am indeed sad to leave. I will miss everyone, and I am certain I will check in regularly to see what is up in Marlin. I'll even probably feel a little bit of jealousy and maybe even be a little territorial towards whomever takes this position behind me. I've grown to care about everyone here, and you've all taught me a lot. Thank you for that and for welcoming me so graciously into your town. Thanks for your friendship, and thank you for giving me your time every week to ramble about whatever is on my mind at the moment.

So as I leave the city limits of Marlin one last time, I wave good-bye from my big black Ford truck with a tinge of sadness, and I look ahead with a giddy excitement.

Thanks again...
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2005-12-14 05:38 pm

[Marlin Democrat] Column -- ‘Tis the season . . . and letter-writing time, too!

‘Tis the season . . . and letter-writing time, too!

Nise's Notes
by Denise Schoppe

The Marlin Democrat
December 14, 2005

Next week, The Marlin Democrat will be publishing the Santa letters of local school children and getting them ready to send them to the North Pole. While they letters are being processed by our own group of elves, I thought I’d follow the children’s lead and write my own letter.

Dear Santa,
It’s hard to believe Christmas time has come once again. I think time does go faster as each year passes.

I remember as a child that Christmas seemed to take forever to arrive. Every day was almost excruciatingly long as I wanted for that magical time to come. I’d always leave milk and cookies out for you, and somehow I never questioned how you got into our house as we didn’t have a fireplace. I didn’t want to know. It was all a part of the magic of Christmas.

Christmas was always my grandma’s favorite season, and that meant the holiday was always done with a tasteful level of flair. On either Christmas Day or Christmas Eve, the family would all gather at my grandparent’s house for a huge meal.

After we ate, everyone would find a way to squeeze into the living room for carols, jokes, poems, Christmas stories and, of course, gift exchange. You even made an appearance one year! There would be pictures galore, and it never failed that there would be at least one of the grandkids unhappy and unconsolable... for a little while at least.

I don’t think there was a doubt in anyone’s mind that Christmas was going to be the last in which we all got together. I think we all hugged a little tighter at the end of the night, as years of a tradition came to a close.

The family has grown since that last Christmas, but it has also broken apart into the individual families make their own traditions. A few of my grandparent’s children are now grandparents themselves. And while the holiday is done differently than it was done when I was a child, it is still magical when the day arrives.

However, I’ve found myself so caught up in everything else that elements of the season have gone past me. Christmas is only eleven days away, and I wonder where the time went.
Santa, what I want for Christmas is to live in the moment and be amazed by its singular joy. I spend so much time focused on what needs to be done next, or on what I forgot to do, that I miss right now. This is the season to be in the here and now.

Please bring joy to everyone. This is a hard season for so many people. They need a helping hand to get through.

As you travel the world on Christmas Eve, please bring the childhood feeling of Christmas to all — whether they are newborn or nearing the end of their life. There is a different feel to Christmas Eve night. No matter the weather, the world seems to be bathed in the glow of a calming peace around midnight on Christmas.

Have a safe trip that night... and we will all see you again next year.

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2005-12-07 05:33 pm

[Marlin Democrat] Column -- ‘Tis the season

‘Tis the season

Nise's Notes
By Denise Schoppe

The Marlin Democrat
December 7, 2004

It’s fairly well known that in Texas, we really don’t have four distinct seasons. There is summer, which is unmistakable. Spring is marked with turbulant weather. Winter comes in short spurts of cold air that hang around for a day or two and then warm back up. Fall is a somewhat foreign idea to Texans.

This year, while its hard to say we’ve had Fall, things have been a little bit different. The trees have color.

Maybe two weeks ago, I started to notice something different about the scenery. Last week, I finally put my finger on it. The trees are colorful and breathtaking to look at it.

Now, I have to admit, these brilliant colors come much like our cold weather: in spurts. Traveling down the highway, there are long lines of the usual green and brown leaves that we have every “Fall.” However, out of nowhere, a patch of beautfiul red, orange and yellow will make an appearance.

There is one house along my route to work that is especially noteworthy, as it has one tree of solid red, another of bright yellow, and a third of deep orange — all in the front yard. It takes me take a second look every time and marvel at its beauty.

Nature, the same nature that brought disaster this summer, has brough a new and wonderful pallete of color to the landscape.

Go out of a short drive just before sunset, when the sunlight is at that perfect level of intensity to bathe everything in a cross of pink and orange hues, and the already brilliant trees become more beautiful. At that time, colors that popped out seem to virtually explode with color.

I am sure there are those that live in areas that do get the four distinct seasons that would find my fascination with these changing leaves amusing. In that, though, it is almost a pleasure to me that this kind of Fall-like event rarely occurs at this level. Because of its rarity, there is a deeper appreciation for its beauty.

Now, as our version of winter progresses, the leaves drop off of all the trees and the limbs grow baren. Despite the need to go outside and rake up the leaves, the sudden lack of leaves, too, has its own beauty to be appreciated. It is highly unlikely that we will have white Christmas, but we will enjoy our twinkling lights and figurines of deer, snowmen and Santa just the same.

Winter will, undoubtly, come in spurts again. We will have days of “bitter cold” temperatures followed by days of almost spring-like weather. That’s just Central Texas. It’s what we are all used to having happen. It’s why we appreciate the moments of something a little different — like the changing leaves.

We can never be sure of what nature has in store for us. The best we can do is be prepared for the worst and marvel at it at its best.

Either way, hopefully we respect it and appreciate it.
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2005-11-30 03:02 pm

[Marlin Democrat] Column -- The forgotten soldiers of war

The forgotten soldiers of war

Nise's Notes
By Denise Schoppe

The Marlin Democrat
November 30, 2005

Earlier this month, we celebrated Veteran's Day. It was a day to remember those who have served in war -- many of whom gave the ultimate price for our freedom. These men and women deserve our thanks and respect every day, but there are those silent soldiers right here on our home soil that are often forgotten. These are the families of our soldiers.

My boyfriend is a musician who has spent the last week and a half in European countries bringing a little bit of home to our soldiers overseas. He's previously spent time in South Korea and Japan, but this most recent trip took him close to the heart of the current on-going unrest that thousands of our soldiers are being sent out to face head-on. I'm proud of him and all those with him for their going over there, and it is a no-brainer to encourage their travels in this "Operation Season's Greetings."

However, even as I've known he was as safe as he could be, and I've been fortunate to actually talk to him several times, there's been this underlying fear and stress that will continue until I know he's safely back at home.

It's these feelings that opened my eyes to those right here at home that deserve our admiration.

How dare I feel such concern when I know he'll be back soon, and I know he and his fellow bandmates are being protected by our Air Force? I can't even begin to claim to know the feelings that the spouses, children, parents, siblings and friends of our soldiers feel every day. At least I have an itinerary to follow, and I have a pretty good idea where my boyfriend is at any given time during this trip.

These loved ones of our military personnel don't have that luxury. They certainly don't have the luxury of knowing they're husband or wife will be home at night. They can't take a good grade to Mommy or Daddy. They can't share an important anniversary with their child. They can't share a round of beer during a good football game with their buddy.

These people, too, are making a huge sacrifice for our country. They see on the news about bombings, terrorism, and missile strikes. They know that someone so dear to their hearts could be there, and they know that person just might not come back home.

However, I may be stepping out of line, but I dare to say that a vast majority of those here at home feel a pride in their soldier who is over there fighting. Even as they want them to come home, they're also proud of them for being there.

They go through their days like normal. Most you would never know are members of this silent team of soldiers here at home. It takes someone very special to be the spouse, parent, child and/or sibling of a soldier. They are strong people... strong people that also deserve our thanks.

Thank you to all of you who wait here at home for your soldiers. Thank you for sacrificing memories, precious moments, and for handling emotions many could not handle. You are a lifeline and a string of sanity for all of those who serve and protect all of us.You are very much a part of what happens "over there."

Thank you to all of those who currently serve our country in this silent way. Thank you to all of you who have served in this capacity in the past as well. And to everyone who will be in these people's shoes... it is a thankless job. There is no Veteran's Families' Day. However, it is also one of the most highest importance.

Last week, we all celebrated Thanksgiving. The next four weeks we prepare for Christmas. It's the holiday season, a time of giving, hoping and loving. The forgotten soldiers of war give every day their loved one is away. And it is during this season that their sacrifice is most strongly felt. Please take the time to not only think of our soldiers, but remember their families as well. They need the love and support of all American's, too.
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2005-11-30 02:57 pm

[Marlin Democrat] -- Tax statements to be mailed . . . sometime

Tax statements to be mailed . . . sometime
by Denise Schoppe
Staff writer

The Marlin Democrat
November 30, 2005

Falls County property owners who have been watching their mail for their tax statements will have to wait a little longer according to Tax Assessor/Collector Kate Vande Veegaete.

"Bear with us," Vande Veegaete said. "We're doing our best."

Nonetheless, property owners and officials have begun asking questions. According to tax codes, tax statements are to be mailed by October 1 or "as soon thereafter as practicable." To date, no statements have arrived and numerous complaints have caught the attention of county commissioners.

"Ms. Vande Veegaete is an autonomously elected official and we can not run her office for her," County Judge Tom Sehon said, "but I have had many complaints and it is disturbing that she [closed] her office early [on Wednesday], a day that is not a county holiday. I plan to discuss this matter further with county attorney, Mike Dickson."

Vande Veegaete explained that the reasons why the statements have not yet been mailed are due to understaffing and they are doing two jobs at once.

"This is an extra job from our usual duties," she said. "We have to work on this while we take care of day-to-day business."

The tax assessor-collectors office handles vehicle tags, voter registration, and property tax collection on a daily basis. Vande Veegaete explained that in addition to this being an extra job, this year the statements have to be folded by hand, individually.

"This year's tax statements contain a five-year comparison that is state mandated, so people know if their taxes have gone up or down," she said. "This comparison of the last five years has to be matched by hand with each individual owner. We can't prefold anything; it has to be done one at a time. It's not what we want to do; its what the state says to do."

Vande Veegaete explained that she knows of the public's frustrations, and says they are working as fast as they can.

"Give us a little while and let us do our job," she said. "The phone calls and remarks that we get are not helping us get this done any faster."

Vande Veegaete said that the tax statements have come out late in past years, and that a late school bond hearing two years ago delayed the disbursement of statements into November or December. This year, she said, the preparation of the statements were delayed by the county tax rolls not being confirmed until August 22, almost a month later than usual.

Vande Veegaete could not give a projected date on when the statements would be out, but hoped it would be in the next couple of weeks.

The deadline to pay the taxes without penalty is January 31st.

Vande Veegaete encouraged anyone wishing to pay their taxes prior to the end of the year, for income tax purposes, etc., should come to the tax office, located on the second floor of the courthouse, to find out the amount of their bill and pay it in person. You may also call the office of the Tax Assessor/Collector at (254) 883-1436.

Judge Sehon also noted that it is hard to run a county when you rely heavily on the monies generated by taxes, and, when the statements don't go out you have no money coming in when it's needed the most.
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2005-11-23 02:21 pm

[Marlin Democrat] Column -- Adventures in travel

Adventures in travel

Nise's Notes
by Denise Schoppe

The Marlin Democrat
November 23, 2005

This last weekend, I logged more air miles and added yet another city to my list of places in which I’ve spent time.

Friends have come to just say, “Have fun where ever you are headed next!” as in the last year or two life has taken me to many different locations, and I know I have many more places to go in the future.

This most recent trip took me to Atlanta, Georgia and to Nashville, Tennessee. It was spurred by a special birthday and a wedding on the same day.

I started my travel with the purchase of plane tickets within a set time frame months ago. I wanted to make the most of my trip, but I also couldn’t leave before time A and I had to be on my way back before time B. I juggled all the variables and found a set of tickets that I felt good about.

Months pass. Wedding and birthday gifts are purchased. A dress for the wedding. All the preparations to go were in process.

Last minute I found out I needed to rent a car. Not only that, but I’d be renting the car in one city and dropping it off at another. Try after try I ran into roadblocks. Mostly, I kept finding all the cars had already been prebooked and there weren’t any in the size I wanted available.

Finally after countless tries and biting the bullet to pay the high costs, I had the car reserved.

Bright and early, I was on a plane Atlanta-bound. The flight was smooth and we were, in a rare occurance, early for our scheduled arrival. However, then I discovered how massive the Atlanta airport is and I was ever so glad I didn’t have to catch a connecting flight there — this time.

I claimed the rental car and hit the interstate in a city in a state I’d not been in since I was maybe four years old. Thankfully, my directions I had printed out were clear and traffic flowed smoothly. I traveled the 40 miles to my first destination with few problems.

A night of fun ended with a three and a half hour drive to Nashville. Excitement abounds when you leave at 2:30 (central time) in the morning. Thankfully I was not alone this time as I’d picked up my boyfriend to spend the rest of the weekend together. We arrived into Nashville at 6 a.m. as the sun was coming up. (I’d gotten up for the day at 4:30 a.m.) We were fighting fatigue with caffiene and conversation.

We got home and exchanged birthday gifts before catching a few hours of sleep. However, we had little time for sleep before we were up and out running errands before going to the wedding.

The wedding was gorgeous, one of the most beautiful I’ve ever seen. The short ceremony was held at the Opryland Hotel, which was already fully decorated for Christmas. Twinkling lights ran through the trees and amid poinsettas, large christmas stockings and wreaths. Pathways lined with waterfalls were accented by yet more lights, and the gazebo under which the ceremony was held had a dome of lights atop it.

A crowd gathered as the wedding was held, and it was hard to fight tears of joy for the couple.

After the wedding, the party moved upstairs for dancing, laughter and millions of pictures. Toasts were made, the bouquet was thrown (and I caught it), and the night seemed to fly by in a whirl of memories that will not soon be forgotten.

The next morning, after yet another very short night, I caught a connecting flight to Atlanta out of Nashville. It was a small plane that we climbed out of right onto the tarmac. I jokingly said I felt like the President walking into the terminal.
I was quickly reminded of the massive size of the Atlanta airport, and I almost burned the wheels off my carry-on as I pulled it behind me full speed across the airport.

My final flight from Atlanta to Austin was delayed, but luckily only by about ten minutes. Despite the flight being one of the most bumpy I’ve ever had, the lack of sleep for three nights in a row caught up to me and I slept for almost half of my two-hour flight.

I landed in our state capital with a lot of miles under my belt, and yet as I set foot in the airport I itched to go again. I once feared flying, and now I’ve grown to just love it.

Rental car hassles, lack of sleep, long distance track through the airport and even the security checks don’t diminish the joy trips bring to me. It’s always an adventure, and there is so much to experience out in the world.

This time I experienced the city of Atlanta, and I delved further into life in Nashville. I took a different plane carrier than ever before, and I attended a wedding that was very different from any I’d attended before. I may have come home very tired, but I’d have not traded the experiences I had for anything.
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2005-11-16 04:18 pm

[Marlin Democrat] Column -- In search of the perfect greeting card

In search of the perfect greeting card

Nise's Notes
by Denise Schoppe

The Marlin Democrat
November 16, 2005

Last weekend, I went in search of a greeting card. I will be attending a wedding this coming weekend, and I was on a mission to find the perfect card for this couple to congratulate them.

I made my way to the cards in the store and there in front of me was a whole section of wedding cards. Ahhh... selection. The last time I went in search of a card, my selection has been very limited. I was excited to find choices.

After awhile I realized that I'm not sure what is more difficult: too few to choose from or too many.

As I read card after card, every one seemed to fit and yet every one seemed to miss the mark. After my tenth card, all the words began to run together.

I ended up taking out the cell phone and calling my date for the wedding to get his opinion on what kind of card we should give. Soon I was reading cards out loud over the phone trying to find one that fit. After awhile he made an excellent point:

This couple will be getting so many cards that they, too, will find the words running together after awhile. We opted to go as simple as possible, but I found that the simple card had captured everything all the other cards were saying. Only, instead of long prose of love and good wishes, it brought it all down to six lines.

As I paid for the card and left the store I was struck by the importance we place upon a small piece of folded paper. Something so simple can mean so much.

For my birthday, I received several cards. There were those that were humorous and there were those that almost made me cry from how touching their words were. There were those that landed in the middle of the two extremes.

No matter where the card landed in that spectrum, every one meant a lot. Every one touched me and made me smile.

When I go to purchase a card, I find myself at times grumbling over the cost. When you look at the card from simply a quality/material stand point, it is hard to justify in your mind the cost. If you look at it from a purely sentimental and emotional standpoint, there is no cost too high.

Many people choose to make their own cards, which adds to the level of value tenfold. I often like to straddle the line by finding a card with a blank space inside to put my own words.

This Christmas, as always, the post office will be swamped with cards and letters from loved ones sending wishes for the year. Sending so many cards can get expensive. Postage, the cards themselves, and then the time spent addressing the letters and possibly writing a personal note inside: they all add up quickly.

However, this simple piece of cardboard paper has unending levels of worth to the recipient. That fact alone makes the hours spent staring blankly at rows and rows of cardstock worth it.
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2005-11-16 04:16 pm

[Marlin Democrat] -- County voters say no to same sex marriages

County voters say no to same sex marriages
by Denise Schoppe
Staff writer

The Marlin Democrat
November 16, 2005

Twenty percent of registered Falls County voters turned out at the polls to cast their vote regarding a state constitutional amendment banning same sex marriages in Texas in early voting and during the election held Tuesday, November 8.

Of the 9,462 registered voters in the county, 1,842 voted on the proposed amendment. A grand total of 1,592 voters, or 86 percent, voted in support of the amendment, while 14 percent voted against it.

The amendment passed state-wide with 76 percent of Texas voters who came to the polls in this election supporting the amendment, making Texas the 19th state to place a marriage definition into their state constitution.

On proposition one, the amendment creating the Texas rail relocation and improvement fund, Falls County residents voted against the amendment 1215 (69%) to 536 (31%).

On proposition three, the amendment clarifying that certain economic development programs do not constitute a debt, Falls County supported the amendment 859 (52%) to 792 (48%).

On proposition four, amendment authorizing the denial of bail to a criminal defendant who violates a condition of the defendant’s release pending trial, Falls County supported the amendment 1492 (84%) to 278 (16%).

On proposition five, the amendment allowing the legislature to define rates of interest for commercial loans, Falls County voted against the amendment 1051 (62%) to 652 (38%).

On proposition six, the amendment to include one additional public member and a constitutional county court judge in the membership of the State Commission on Judicial Conduct, Falls County supported the amendment 916 (58%) to 662 (42%).

On proposition seven, the amendment authorizing line-of-credit advances under a reverse mortgage, Falls County voted against the amendment 845 (51%) to 807 (51%).

On proposition eight, the amendment providing for the clearing of land titles by relinquishing and releasing any state claim to sovereign ownership or title to interest in certain lands in Upshur County and Smith County, Falls County supported the amendment 955 (60%) to 643 (40%).

On proposition nine, the amendment authorizing the legislature to provide for six-year staggered terms for a board member of a regional mobility authority, Falls County voted against the amendment 1040 (62%) to 643 (38%).

Over 475 voters turned out for early voting, and over 1350 voted on election day.

State-wide, all amendments passed except proposition five and proposition nine.
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2005-11-09 02:38 pm

[Marlin Democrat] Column -- The quarter-life crisis

The quarter-life crisis

Nise's Notes
by Denise Schoppe

The Marlin Democrat
November 09, 2005

To steal a phrase from my friend, Rie, I’m soon to be “five-squared.” I suppose now is when I’m supposed to have a quarter-life crisis, but I did that when I hit college.

It was first few months of my college career in which I found out some particularly blowing to my ego: I don’t know everything.

Like every other graduating senior from high school, I had it all figured out. I had just spent the last year as “top dog” at school. Nothing could touch me. I knew where I was going. What I was doing. Heck, college was just a formality.


In no time at all, I realized I didn’t know as much as I thought I did. Straight A’s weren’t a given. Friends no longer necessarily came built-in to all of my days. Responsibilities began to grow. And I had a fast wake-up call to life.

I consider my first few years of college my “quarter-life crisis.”

Now, right at 25, I’ve still got a healthy dose of “freak out” upon various ordeals. However, I deal with it better than I did then. I’ve already learned that hard lesson of life that I don’t know everything. The neat thing is that in knowing that fact, I’ve also found that you open yourself up to learning about the things you don’t know.

As a cocky teenager, the eyes and ears are often closed to the lessons going on around you every single day. Eventually, though, you just “go dumb,” as I like to put it. That’s a pretty scary time, and even a little bit lonely for awhile. I know I felt really lost until I realized that it’s okay to say, “I don’t know.” Especially if you’re open to finishing it with, “but let me find out.”

There are so many things that I wish I’d paid more attention to in school. History lessons, health class, english, math, home economics and even driver’s education. All these classes I may have made straight A’s in, but it doesn’t mean that there weren’t a lot of things that I missed because I had the attitude of already knowing it all.

Today, I find myself asking the questions I should have asked back then. Who? What? Where? When? Why? How?

With that, though, I actually happily research whatever it is that has me so perplexed, and, armed with my research, I find myself more willing to debate the issue.

For me, the “quarter-life crisis” has never been about getting to a certain point in life by a certain time. It’s been about finding out the limits of my current knowledge and opening myself up to the lessons that are all around me every single day.

Five years ago, just as I was coming out of the brunt of my “crisis,” I took a “career awareness” course. The focus of the class was to help those taking it find their correct career path, and then it armed everyone with skills in interviewing, resume writing, and business etiquette.

We learned table manners through a seven course meal one night in Rudder Tower at Texas A&M. A business executive with a local company came in and gave us each a very grueling interview followed by hit-you-between the eyes feedback on what you did right or wrong in the course of the interview. We took personality assessment tests to help us find our future careers.

It was as if the class was built to help everyone through the “crisis.” It showed us that even if we have it all figured out, there are a lot of things we don’t realize that we don’t know. I certainly thought I had good table manners; never did it cross my mind as to what side is proper to be served from, how to signal a waiter that I’m finished with my meal, or even why meals are served in the order they are.

I was fascinated. Instead of snubbing my nose at the class, as I’d have probably done before, I was enthralled. I not only enjoyed the class, I wish I could take it again. I’ve already forgotten many of those lessons, and I’d gladly take a refresher-course to learn it all again.

As I stare 25 in the face, my starry-eyed optimism is peppered with realism. Sometimes it’s knowing your limitations that means much more than knowing what you know.

I don’t have it all figured out, but I trust that I will make every attempt to handle every challenge to the best of my ability.

I’m young enough to have fun, but old enough to know my limits.
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2005-11-02 02:42 pm

[Marlin Democrat] -- Grant to provide social workers to MISD schools

Grant to provide social workers to MISD schools

by Denise Schoppe
Staff writer

The Marlin Democrat
November 02, 2005

The Marlin Independent School District was presented a $40,000 grant from the Bernard and Audre Rapoport Foundation on Monday, Oct. 24, which will allow for the placement of two social workers in the schools to help care for the various needs of students.

Officials with MCYC, Bernard and Audry Rapoport, and school and city officials were all on hand to celebrate all the good the grant will do for Marlin ISD students.

“When you care about children and families and show them the way to go and give them a path, they will be successful,” Cindy Michaelis, MCYC director of development, said.

The social workers will be coming to Marlin ISD through the Community in Schools program of MCYC. Its mission is to connect community resources and schools to help young people learn, stay in school and prepare for life. It is part of the nation’s largest stay-in-school network.

“Typically, Communities in Schools has about a 98 percent success rate, and we fully expect to see that in Marlin,” Michaelis said.

Communities in Schools oversees 25 campuses in McLennan and Falls Counties, and places a social work professional on a public school campus to be available to help students. The services the workers provide include supportive guidance, health and human service referral, giving opportunities to get parents involved, training in necessary employment skills, and a focus on increasing academic performance.

Marlin ISD will place a social worker in the elementary school and in the high school. The two will share responsibilities over the middle school.

Marlin Elementary School students were on hand to present the Bernard and Audre Rapoport a gift of thanks for their decision to provide Marlin with the grant.

Mr. Rapoport said that it is through a combination of love and education that the best outcome results.

“The $40,000 is just an affirmative to our dedication about the type of life we want to provide children,” Rapoport said. “You’re doing your part to make better citizens, and we will do our part.”

The Bernard and Audre Rapoport Foundation focuses on helping programs that benefit children in the areas of education, arts and culture, healthcare, community building and social services, and democracy and civic participation. Organizations that have benefited in the past from support by the Rapoport Foundation include Cesar Chavez Middle School in Waco, Carter BloodCare, Caritas of Waco and World Hunger Relief, Inc.
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2005-11-02 02:40 pm

[Marlin Democrat] -- Marlin police recover stolen merchandise

Marlin police recover stolen merchandise
by Denise Schoppe
Staff writer

The Marlin Democrat
November 02, 2005

Marlin Police Department recovered stolen merchandise from a home in Marlin following a three and a half week investigation.

Suspected organized criminal activity prompted the issuance of a search warrant for 433 Chambers in Marlin by County Judge Tom Sehon. Marlin Police officers, with the assistance of the Falls County District Attorney’s office, executed the search warrant. After gaining entrance into the home, the stolen merchandise was discovered, and after receiving consent from the homeowner, Sylvia Tobias, the search continued and the merchandise was confiscated.

Items recovered were two DVD players, a VCR, a PlayStation 2 system, Nintendo 64 system, an XBOX, 51 DVD movies, 256 CDs and several spray cans of paint that may have been used in graffiti markings around Marlin.

The items recovered were taken from homes throughout Marlin as well as other jurisdictions. Arrest warrants are currently pending for several juveniles and one adult, names being withheld, suspected of taking part in the thefts.

“They are a self-proclaimed criminal street gang,” Detective Sgt. A.P. Turner said. “They’re out of control.”
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2005-10-26 02:35 pm

[Marlin Democrat] Column -- The love of a good scare

The love of a good scare

Nise's Notes
by Denise Schoppe

The Marlin Democrat
October 26, 2005

Ghosts. Goblins. Ghouls. Oh my!

Clearly it is time for Halloween. All the Christmas stuff is on sale at department stores already.

I do love Halloween. If for no other reason than the glorious fact that it’s a time for candy. I’ll be 90 years old and I’ll still love this holiday for the fact that it brings about the sharing of candy.

There’s also that fantastic scare factor. I have several books of nothing but ghost stories. I hunt out the shows on the Travel Channel that tell “real life” ghost stories. Turn out all the lights and wait for that inevitable tingle down the spine. The hairs raise up on the back of the neck. Goose bumps raise on your arms and legs. There’s rustle in the corner. What could it be??

Probably just the cat getting himself into trouble again.

I seriously do enjoy the fun of the fright that surrounds Halloween. While today the holiday is primarily all about free candy (gimme!!!), long, long ago it was taken far more seriously.

Halloween gets its name from “All Hallows Eve” — the night before “All Hollows Day” or “All Saints Day” celebrated by the Catholic Church to honor saints.

In my research on the internet I found that in the 5th century BC, in Celtic Ireland, summer officially ended on October 31, a holiday called Samhain.

One story said that it was believed that on that day the disembodied spirits of all those who had died throughout the preceding year would come back in search of living bodies to possess for the next year. Those still living did not want to be possessed, and thus, on October 31, villagers would dress up in all manner of ghoulish costumes and noisily paraded around the neighborhood, being as destructive as possible in order to frighten away spirits looking for bodies to possess.

Trick-or-treating has several origins. One origin is that from the ninth-century European custom called souling.

On November 2, All Souls Day, early Christians would walk from village to village begging for “soul cakes,” made out of square pieces of bread with currants. The more soul cakes the beggars would receive, the more prayers they would promise to say on behalf of the dead relatives of the donors. At the time, it was believed that the dead remained in limbo for a time after death, and that prayer, even by strangers, could speed up a soul’s passage to heaven.

The Jack-O-Lantern custom is said to come from Irish folklore. A man named Jack, who was notorious as a drunkard and trickster, tricked Satan into climbing a tree. Jack then carved an image of a cross in the tree’s trunk, trapping the devil up the tree. Jack made a deal with the devil that, if he would never tempt him again, he would promise to let him down the tree. After Jack died, he was denied entrance to Heaven because of his evil ways, but he was also denied access to Hell because he had tricked the devil. Instead, the devil gave him a single ember to light his way through the frigid darkness. The ember was placed inside a hollowed-out turnip to keep it glowing longer.

The Irish used turnips as their “Jack’s lanterns” originally. An Irish potato famine that caused 700,000 people to immigrate to the Americas. These immigrants brought with them their traditions of Halloween and Jack-O-Lanterns. They found that pumpkins were far more plentiful than turnips. So the Jack-O-Lantern in America was a hollowed-out pumpkin, lit with an ember.

I’ve only in the past few years taken an interest in carving my own Jack-O-Lantern, but I always loved trick-or-treating through the streets of my hometown. It never seemed to fail, though, that a “cold snap” would come and cause my costume to be hidden under a heavy jacket. Back then, I hated that. Today, I welcome the cooler temperatures. The drop in temperature and the sight of children dressing up as ghosts, goblins, witches, princesses, super heroes and any number of “beings” means one thing: the beginning of the holiday season and the move towards the end of another year.

Time does fly and I can hardly believe the season has begun. However, it is my favorite time of year as well and I welcome it.
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2005-10-19 02:33 pm

[Marlin Democrat] Column -- Leave it on the field: School allegiance does not determine character

Leave it on the field: School allegiance does not determine character

Nise's Notes
by Denise Schoppe

The Marlin Democrat
October 19, 2005

It is no big secret that I graduated Texas A&M University and thus am a die-hard Aggie. I stand proudly for my school and consider it an honor to be part of the Aggie family.

However, I also have a lot of respect for all other schools. Rivalries that exist on the field and who wins the game does not interpret the level of education and worth of a school. I have friends that attend a wide range of universities around the state and around the country. They are all good schools, and you choose your school due to you own personal set of “requirements.” However, I firmly believe that when you earn your diploma from a school, you’ve worked hard for it and earned it. It doesn’t matter if you attended the University of Texas, Harvard, or Florida State. You earned that degree, and where you earned it does not determine your stature in society. Your character does.

I have a friend who is a die-hard Longhorn, and we tease each other mercilessly about being on opposing sides of a long-standing rivalry. Put us in a room together, and the “insults” fly almost non-stop. However, its done with a high level of respect for one another, and we know that the colors we wear on our shirts do not determine the person that we each are. At the end of the day, we will shake hands and go our separate ways with a grin. We laugh over our good-natured ribbing and know that it’s something that we will always do, it just gets a little worse during football season.

However, this last weekend I encountered someone from another school who did not good-naturedly tease due to rivalry. Those same “insults” that could be flung back and forth with laughter due to the underlying respect with my friend, were flung with malice and a “better than you” attitude. A two minute conversation left me with a bad taste in my mouth, and my blood pressure sky-high. There is no reason to judge someone based on the school they attend/attended and to treat them as if they were an idiot for not being on the same side of the field as yourself. This person tarnished my opinion of them, and what respect I’d had went out the window in a look and a few words. They failed to look past my Aggie ring and maroon shirt; they let a school rivalry determine how they treated me in a private setting far away from our respective campuses.

I often jokingly say I have two strikes against me: I’m blonde and I’m an Aggie, referring to the stereotypes associated with those groups. However, give me a chance to prove that I’m not dumb and I do have a little common sense. Don’t judge me before you know me.

While I am using school rivalry as my example, this is a problem that exists all over. It exists between political parties, gender relations, race relations, religions, and in business dealings. There is a serious lack of respect in the world today. Everyone is entitled to their opinion, but having an opinion doesn’t mean its right to treat someone like dirt because they do not agree with your way of thinking.

I’m not a Longhorn fan and I never will be, but you’ll not hear me put someone else down because they are (not outside of playful teasing, of course). They have a right to their beliefs and allegiances just as I have a right to mine. Even though the two beliefs are different, it doesn’t make me right and them wrong or visa versa.
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2005-10-12 04:38 pm

[Marlin Democrat] Column -- Queen nominees give good impression of today's youth

Queen nominees give good impression of today's youth

Nise's Notes
by Denise Schoppe

The Marlin Democrat
October 12, 2005

This Friday night, four high school senior girls will vie for the title of Homecoming Queen. Three others will be honored as representatives of their class in the Homecoming Court.

Last week, I had the opportunity to meet all of these young women. I'm far enough out of high school that I wasn't sure what to expect. I've lost touch with that age group, and I had a strange disconnected feeling going into Marlin High School.

Sure, I remember high school clearly. However, it is with the finer details of everyday life of a teenager that I've admittedly lost touch. I've come to know what the media, television, movies and magazines have told me about "kids today." I've become bogged down in the less-positive view many of these mediums have.

Therefore, I admittedly met with "the girls" prepared for anything... or so I thought.

What I found myself face-to-face with are seven young women who left me very impressed. You hear so much about the bad that you can easily forget how much good there is in any situation. I'd forgotten how amazing high school girls can be — full of life, dreams, and good spirits. As I witnessed their interactions, my high school days came back to me and for a little while I felt like I was 18 again as well. There was laughter, and yet there was a feeling of seriousness underlying it all. There was light-hearted ribbing, and yet a feeling of respect came through as well.

Granted I do not know any of the ladies personally, and I know that the hour I spent around them was not enough to get a full idea of who they each are individually. However, first impressions are the ones that make the most impact on a person. My first impression of them was simply one of being completely impressed.

We are taught to respect our elders, but we should also realize we need to respect the youth as well. Youth can easily be stereotyped in a negative fashion, and yet I received no negative feelings from or towards these ladies. I respect them, and I received a feeling of respect back. I believe the choices for Homecoming Queen — Brittney, Amber, Brittany and Robyn — are all a good choice; that no matter which one is crowned she'll deserve it. I also believe the junior, sophomore and freshmen classes should be proud of their choice to represent them. Shyteria, Destiny and Sharkeria have all already given a positive impression of your class.

I drove away from MHS feeling like I'd been taught a lesson. Don't go into a situation with preconceived notions. People will always surprise you. I'd gone in prepared to meet a group of girls I'd have a hard time getting to cooperate with me. What I got was a group of young adults who made me feel alot better about the future and those who will be leading our country some day.

Congratulations, ladies, for your placement on the Homecoming Court. It's an honor you will never forget.

Thank you, also, for the respect you showed me and for restoring my faith in today's youth.
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2005-10-05 04:35 pm

[Marlin Democrat] Column -- Lending a hand to others brings positive outcomes

Lending a hand to others brings positive outcomes

Nise's Notes
by Denise Schoppe

The Marlin Democrat
October 08, 2005

Stories continue to circulate about Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Rita. It seems no one went unaffected, either through family, friends or direct experience.

While there are indeed stories of horror, there are also stories of help. Central Texas quickly became a refuge to those seeking shelter. The City of Marlin was, and continues to be, among the communities helping others.

Doors opened. None wider than those of the Volunteer Fire Department, where over an estimated 500 weary travellers found rest, food, a warm smile and a helping hand. City Hall opened its doors, as did churches, motels and rent houses. The McDonald's parking lot overflowed, and tired travellers took time to rest in the Wal-Mart parking lot. Food donations poured in even as local citizens worried for their own safety should the storm come this way.

I've always felt Marlin to be one of the friendliest towns I've ever had the pleasure to enter and many evacuees from South Texas felt the same way. One couple even found their time to be such a delight that they indicated they may relocate to Marlin in the future.

I firmly believe in the idea that you get what you give, reap what you sow. Marlin's open attitude to those in their time of need will not go unnoticed and unappreciated.

Now, the Marlin VA hospital has opened up and been given control of to FEMA. Nursing home patients who have spent weeks in the uncomfortable conditions of buses, gymnasiums and anywhere else they could be "fit in" have found a new home and refuge in Marlin.

Once again, city citizens are being challenged to open their hearts to these people and their families. They're being asked to work with the facility's personnel and make these people so displaced from home feel that they are at home.

For those concerned with "what do we get from this," take a look at the potential for a boost to the economy this presents. Family of the patients and the personnel will shop our stores, eat at our restaurants, and some will worship in our churches.

Many complain that Marlin is "drying up." The best way to stop that from happening is to nurture the city. Plant the seeds of hope and determination. Welcome other people into the town and make them indeed look at the city and give it consideration as a possible place to live. Instead of pushing these people away, bring them into the fold.

Marlin was a bustling city thanks to the bathhouses back in the day. It was a medical hub that people came to visit from all over the country. Perhaps it's through opening our doors to people once again for medical purposes that things can turn back around.

We offered the hungry food and the tired a place to rest. We now offer the sick and special needs patients a place to get the medical aid they need. This is a chance to continue helping our fellow man. Grasp this opportunity with both hands.

Even if the benefits of helping others is not obvious, it is there. It is there through the rewarding feeling that comes from seeing the smile and relief on someone else's face. It is in the feeling of accomplishment.

Instead of asking, "What do I get out of this?" perhaps the question should be, "What can I do for you?" I assure you, the answer to the first question comes as a result of the second.
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2005-10-05 04:00 pm

[Marlin Democrat] -- Marlin City Council adopts budget for 2005-2006 year

Marlin City Council adopts budget for 2005-2006 year
by Denise Schoppe
Staff writer

The Marlin Democrat
October 05, 2005

The Marlin City Council adopted the 2005 - 2006 budget for the city and established the 2005-2006 tax rate for the city during a special emergency council meeting on Tuesday, September 26.

The new budget shows a projected deficit in the general fund of $543,760 and a surplus in the water fund of $660,883. The two funds combined bring a $117,123 surplus in the next year's budget.

"The council has authorized raises in the amount of 4% across the board for the employees at $67,600 so we have actually a working buffer of $49,523," Randy Holly, Marlin city manager, said.

Holly said he felt the buffer would be adequate because of the investment made of $130,000 on new water meters.

"We need to have a similar investment next year of another $130,000 in order to get all the meters replaced," Holly said. "We believe conservatively that after two years we will generate about $380,000 just by measuring the water that our citizens are actually consuming."

Holly said the despite inadequate records, he feels that the council has set aside enough in the budget for chemicals for the water and sewer treatment plant, supplies, and electrical costs. However, due to the fluctuating price of gasoline, he anticipates having to make an amendment to the budget to alter what is set aside for fuel.

Included in the budget packet was projected expenditures and revenues for the 2006-2007 budget. Among the items listed is the $370,000 Texas Water Development Board loan payments starting on July 1, 2007.

"We have not budgeted any of the money for that, but the reason being is the investment in the water meters," Holly said. "We believe that we are going to not only be able to make the loan payment back, but also have additional flexibility with revenues with meters."

Improvements to the water system are projected to save $10,500 on water treatment chemicals, $30,000 on a sewer permit fee that will no longer be necessary, and $8,000 on sewer chemicals.

"I would like to compliment [Mr. Holly] on the manner that [he] handled this budget," Elizabeth Nelson, council member said. "We did not have to have two meetings every week for six weeks to get it done."

Following passage of the budget, the council approved amending the tax rate for 2005-2006.

"The new effective tax rate is 0.6036," Holly said. "Of that, 0.1304 is necessary to pay the $147,000 set aside for bonded indebtedness."

The effective tax rate is the rate that would provide the taxing unit with approximately the same amount of revenue it had the year before on properties taxed in both years.

Marlin had an increase in total assessed evaluation of $112 million dollars as opposed to $111 million dollars from the previous year.

Following the meeting, the council praised the city's actions in helping evacuees from Hurricane Rita.

"The community responded very well to the need to take care of our brothers and sisters," Holly said. "A lot of people put in a lot of hours."

Holly said the volunteer fire department carried the brunt of the service. He estimated they helped 500 - 600 people. At city hall, approximately 30 people were helped and five chose to spend the night at city hall. Holly said he had several evacuees express pleasure over their time in Marlin.

"It was stressful," Holly said, "but very rewarding,"
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2005-09-28 03:55 pm

[Marlin Democrat] Column -- Sit. Wait. Wonder.

Sit. Wait. Wonder.

Nise's Notes
by Denise Schoppe

The Marlin Democrat
September 28, 2005

The last week could easily be entitled, “The Wait for Rita.”

One day rolled into the next day with little attention to the usual goal of getting to the weekend. Instead, the weekend seemed to be little more than something to dread — as warning of what the damage from Hurricane Rita could be. The want for more time to prepare battled with the need to get it over with so we could move on with life.

Perhaps one of the most difficult things was the sitting and waiting. Wondering where the hurricane would hit. How much damage would it bring? Would everyone get out in time? And then once they got out, where would they go?

Everyone had a story of someone stuck in traffic for hours on end trying to get out of the coastal areas of Texas. The places so many had flocked to this summer for a dip in the Gulf waters were now the places everyone wanted to escape.

With a weary eye, everyone watched the path of the storm sway this way and that way. Those evacuating wondered if their houses would withstand Rita's power. Would it be a Category 5 or 4 when it made landfall? Or would the state be — dare I use the word — blessed with a Category 3? Did anyone even dare wish for such a thing?

There was more sitting. More waiting. More wondering. Would electricity go off for days at a time? Would there be flooding? What about tornados — the biggest weather threat this area faces yearly?

A person could go a little bit crazy waiting for the inevitable.

In a frenzy, people packed into stores and lined up at gas stations. While officials asked people to stock up items, they also asked they do so with a clear head so everyone would have a fair shot at the needed items.

Nonetheless, people would leave stores with five times the amount recommended, while others left empty handed. I suppose the early shopper gets the water.

Supplies purchased, more waiting. More wondering. Would it be bad enough that boarding up windows would be necessary? Or is that “overkill”? Maybe it would be no worse than the storms that hit the area last month. Then again, maybe that was only an appetizer of what mother nature had to offer.

For me, that was the hardest part. I would mentally try to come up with every possible scenario I could. One minute I would be filled with such confidence that there was little to worry about, and the next minute I'd be filled with such dread and fear of the unknown.

I've lived through countless tornado watches and warnings. I huddled in the band hall in high school as tornados prepared to drop on top of us — but thankfully never did. I've been stranded at home due to water closing highways. I've gone without electricity — granted not more than maybe four or five hours at one time. I'd handled all of that fine.

However, the thought of all of that at one time shook me, and even as I went about my days with a grin — deep down there was a very little girl ready to run and hide. I couldn't — and still can't — imagine how those on the coast felt in the days leading up to Rita's landfall.

As those of us this far inland scurried to find needed necessary supplies, there were others in a more dire situation coming up with no destination in mind. Just head north. As we waited and wondered in our homes in the days leading up to Rita, they sat, waiting and wondering in their cars.

Probably with Rita's passing, the days leading up to the storm will be analyzed. What more could have been done? What shouldn't have been bothered with? How will we handle it next time... because like it or not there will indeed be a next time. But the need to focus on only that is no longer a problem. There are other things to worry about and handle. As the pre-Rita time of wait and wonder is over, the post-Rita time of moving forward begins.
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2005-09-28 03:51 pm

[Marlin Democrat] -- Marlin Board of Trustees begin search for new superintendent

Marlin Board of Trustees begin search for new superintendent
by Denise Schoppe

The Marlin Democrat
September 28, 2005

The search for a new Marlin ISD superintendent is underway with the projected goal of having them in place for the second semester of the school year.

Texas Association of School Boards (TASB) has been brought in to aid with the search process. Mayo Neyland, a Senior Consultant with the Executive Search Services, was recently in Marlin speaking with school administrators, school board members, faculty and community members to begin building a profile report for the position.

"Our intent is to gather as much input as we can to determine the type of superintendeant communities and boards want," Neyland said.

The goal of their survey is to build a list of characteristics and qualifications needed and wanted by the community in their school district.

"We've had a good turn out," Neyland said. "I'd estimate we will have around 100 to 120 responses to build a good database and develop a profile."

Questions included in the survey address district strengths and concerns, professional characteristics requested, and personal characteristics.

Once a profile is developed, it will be posted on the TASB web-site for applicants to view and submit their application. Neyland said he expects upwards of 25 to 35 responses to the posting due to interest in the area and the district. The deadline for applying for the position is October 18.

"We do not screen the applications," Neyland said. "The school board will see all the interested candidates; we will come prepared to recommend five applicants should the board request it."

The names of all the applicants will be held confidential.

"We work to keep the information confidential because we find we have a better applicant pool that way," Neyland said. "People don't want to burn bridges by it coming out that they have applied to go elsewhere. We do not want to disrupt people's lives."

The board will select five or six candidates to interview. Each candidate will answer the same set of questions, and the interviews are tentatively set to be held November 6 - 8.

The candidates will be narrowed down to two or three following the initial interview. A second round of interviews will be held a few days later, on November 13 - 15.

"We do something different in the second round of interviews," Neyland said. "The second round is done with the spouses present."

He explained that typically they have a reception in which the applicants spouse and the board members' spouses intermingle and get to know each other. Then the spouses of the board members will take the spouse of the applicant to the home of one of the members while the second interview takes place.

"We find that the spouses add an extra dimension," Neyland said. "We make sure that both the applicant and their spouse are comfortable in the town and with the people."

The applicants are then narrowed down to one, and a team of three board members make a site visit to the applicants current home district. This gives the school board a chance to see how the candidate functions in their district. The candidate sets up groups of people for the board to speak with as they request. This lets the board feel more comfortable with their choice for the position.

Tentatively set for November 26, the board will meet to vote and name the finalist for the position. At that time, the name will be released to the public.

Law states that 21 days must pass between naming the finalist and voting to hire to give the public time to do their own research about the candidate. Thus, on December 20, the board would vote to hire the new superintendent who would begin their position with the start of the second semester.

"We will work to ensure a good candidate," Neyland said. "We will make sure that the board is satisfied. We will not stop until then, we guarantee it."

Neyland said it is up to the board to decide on salary and benefits that the new superintendent would get.

TASB is a non-profit, voluntary, statewide educational association that serves and represents local Texas school districts. Executive Search Services assist Texas Association of School Boards' members in the recruitment and selection of a chief executive officer or other key administrator. Since 1988, Executive Search Services has assisted more than 400 Texas schools, ranging in size from 100 to more than 197,000 students, in hiring a superintendent.
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2005-09-21 11:14 am

[Marlin Democrat] Column -- Losing our freedoms, one law at a time

Losing our freedoms, one law at a time

Nise's Notes
by Denise Schoppe

The Marlin Democrat
September 21, 2005

When I was in elementary school, mid-morning we would always have announcements. The principal or secretary would come over the speaker and give announcements, such as the lunch menu or if we were going to the high school pep rally that week. Then we'd all stand up, face the flag, and say the Pledge of Allegiance.

In either first or second grade, my teacher took it one step further and began teaching us the Star Spangled Banner by playing it on a tape recorder. We'd continue standing, facing the flag with our hands over our hearts, stumbling over the words. We did it every single day, and by the end of the year we knew our national anthem.

There was a feeling of patriotism instilled in each and every one of us. None of us really studied what we were saying; we never tried to make sense of it. The words and our actions, however, instilled in us a sense of pride and love for our country.

During the Gulf War, we'd follow the progress of what was happening by writing the daily news in a journal. We'd draw pictures and ask questions about the men and women serving our country over seas. We were proud of them. We supported them. We hoped they all came home safe, but we also believed in them and in what they had to do.

In history classes, we'd learn how our country started. How people came to this continent on boats over the seas, traveling for months at a time, in hopes of finding religious freedoms. We learned how through war, the men and women broke free of their rule by England. A country began; states formed. It was the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Today, we are the land of "there oughtta be a law" and "let's just take it to court."

The thing about making a new law every time someone gets their feelings hurt is that another freedom has been taken away. We inch away from the principles of freedom that this country was based upon, and we move towards a nation of only doing what we are told. We prove our lack of respect and common sense towards our fellow man by demanding the law step in and tell us what we can or can not do.

There are many issues in which this is necessary, yes. However, there are also many in which I feel the parties involved should be responsible and respectful enough to find a compromise on their own.

Namely, the recent ruling by the Supreme Court in which the Pledge of Allegiance has been deemed unconstitutional in schools due to the separation of church and state. The words "Under God" have been declared offensive to atheists and school children are not to say the pledge in school any more.

(Those words were added by Congress only 51 years ago, when in on June 14, 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved the addition saying, "In this way we are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America's heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country's most powerful weapon in peace and war.")

There was a time when a parent who felt it offensive would have met with the teachers and school administrators and hopefully found a common ground. Perhaps they could ask that the teacher not force the children to say the pledge. Give them the option to just not say those words, to not participate at all, or perhaps give them something else to do during that time.

Prayers at football games and in school at all was found unconstitutional years ago. It offended a few who chose to force their will upon everyone else, versus exercising their right to just not participate. Those wishing to pray lost the right to do so completely, whereas those wishing not to always had the right to not participate.

As we've had prayer in school taken away by a few and the Pledge of Allegiance taken away by one father, I wait for the day we have our nation's history taken out of schools as well. After all, it all started because of religion. Beyond that, perhaps we should no longer allow our currency to be used because it says "Trust in God."

With each law and declaration passed regarding what we are allowed to do or not do takes away people's rights and inches us away from the freedoms our ancestors fought to gain in our governmental system of democracy.

They came here because they wanted a choice. They fought hard and lives were lost to obtain that.

Our children no longer have a choice to pledge their allegiance to their country and to begin grasping what that means. How many more choices will we give up over time? And how many of those will we actually ask be taken away?