PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

Local News

January 14, 2013

PN-GISD approves safety plan, buys new band uniforms

GROVES — Strong finances and new band uniforms took a back seat to school safety during the Port Neches-Groves ISD board meeting Monday night, as trustees took action to secure new security procedures.

In wake of the Newton, Conn. shooting that left 20 children and six educators dead, PN-GISD is working with local authorities to “develop a comprehensive security plan” according to trustee Melaine Miller.

The board did not provide any details on the measures being taken. Board President Randy Balsamo, who works for the Port Arthur Police Department, said the plan is “still a work in progress.”

The board met in closed session for nearly an hour before unanimously approving the improved security measures.

Three community members spoke to the board during the open presentations, including two men representing a martial arts academy.

Chris Pettingill, who has a daughter at Van Buren Elementary, said he was at the board meeting on behalf of White Lion Kung Fu to offer the district “a cost-effective way to have a safe environment.”

“We would teach scenario-based training,” he said. “It’s not like the stuff you see in movies. It’s more efficient — there’s a function to it.”

Tara Winn, who has two boys enrolled in PN-GISD schools, addressed the board about implementing a buzzed entry system to schools and building a fence around the playground at Ridgewood Elementary.

“I couldn’t imagine losing one of my kids ,” she said. “As a parent, I want to see what I can do. I would sit up there and buzz people in the door if they asked me to.”

Winn said Ridgewood Principal Julie Gauthier was receptive to her ideas.

“I have faith in the district,” Winn said.

The board moved onto a lighter subject after the safety procedures by approving the purchase of new band uniforms.

Business Manager Cheryl Hernandez said it was the first time the district had bought band uniforms in 11 years.

“We usually move in a 10-year cycle,” she said. “So this is in line with that.”

The uniforms, which now have purple pants, will be ready for the first football game in August, Cheryl said.

The district originally set aside $95,000 for the 250 uniforms but was able to come in under budget at $92,455.

Saving money has been a common theme for the PNG-ISD that past several years.

The district was able to add $2 million to its fund balance last year and had a clean financial report for 2011-12, according to Gary Davis of West, Davis & Co., the company contracted to overview fiduciary measures,

Davis said adding to the fund balance is “not common across the state.”

“Most districts are digging into their fund balance,” he said.

Before adjournment, the board agreed to start accepting bids for demolishing the empty bank building on Port Neches Avenue.

According to information the board received from a local Realtor, the land would be more valuable as an empty lot. But trustees had different motivation for wanting the building torn down.

“It’s a liability for the district,” trustee Jim Walters said. “It’s a matter of time before someone gets hurt.”

Email: jbrown@panews.com

Twitter: @joshnathanbrown

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