, Port Arthur, Texas

Local News

February 7, 2012

Public updated on school turf suit

GROVES — Questions about things ranging from the cafeteria to the turf were jockeyed in a public forum Monday night held by Port Neches-Groves ISD superintendent Rodney Cavness.

The superintendent called the meeting to answer concerns from the community openly and in person.

Brenda Coffey, who has worked in the high school cafeteria for 30 years, asked the superintendent why the district has not been able to fill positions for the under-staffed cafeteria at the high school.

According to Coffey, the cafeteria is perennially understaffed and has had to function missing as many as seven people at times.

She called the work dangerous.

“Can anyone tell me why the positions cannot be filled?” said Coffey.

“Simply because we don’t have the money to pay for them,” said Cavness.

The financial difficulties that the district will face for at least the next three years seemed to be the answer to most of the questions, as PN-GISD is predicted to receive $2.8 million less this in the coming budget cycle. The district has not offered pay raises to any staff or administration for the past two years.

According to Cheryl Hernandez, superintendent of finance at PN-GISD, the teachers have actually received a net pay decrease because of the cost of insurance increase.

On top of that, teachers and staff are asked to prepare students for new, state-mandated tests that test standards the superintendent describes as “at an all-time high.”

Perhaps the hottest item for discussion was the deteriorating turf field at the stadium and the ensuing legal efforts taken against the company, FieldTurf, who installed it just four years ago.

Two weeks ago the PN-GISD school board hired a law firm to support them in a lawsuit against FieldTurf.

According to Cavness, FieldTurf will send a written report in the next three weeks based on a recent examination the company performed last week.

The district will bring in an independent surveyor to test the field, said Cavness.

“We’re not playing defense on that any more,” said Cavness. “We’ve got the ball and we are moving forward.”

Cavness said he had talked with administrators at four different school districts, Aledo ISD, Midlothian ISD, Navasota ISD and Humble ISD, who had all had problems with their turf fields installed by FieldTurf.

The superintendent was also asked about the possibility of a return to a regular schedule system from the block schedule at the high school, a change Cavness is in favor of but the community and the school board are not.

“It has been made very clear to me that that isn’t what people want,” said Cavness.

Cavness gave many reasons for favoring the regular schedule, his chief reason being students get to see their teachers everyday.

Another reason was it would save the district money.

According to the superintendent many students at the high school, who are in a special program, go to their math classes every day because they need the everyday instruction.

“We are going to do more of that, it seems to be working,” said Cavness.

Cavness did not know when their might be another bid for a change back to regular schedules at the high school but, he said, it might be necessary if the system of funding schools in Texas does not change soon.

In his closing remarks, Cavness said, “We have to be focused on where we are going, know how we are going to get there and we have to be one heart beat,”

“We don’t have time for distractions. We all have to pull together in the same direction.”

Cavness bid to voters to make it clear the their congressmen, if they don’t vote for public education they won’t be elected.


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