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Rangers investigate shooting

The Texas Rangers, with the assistance of the San Jacinto County Sheriff’s Office, are investigating an officer involved shooting.

San Jacinto County deputies were conducting a routine safety check of a convenience store Sunday, Aug. 6 when the shooting occurred at 11:25 p.m. The convenience store is located at 6899 US Highway 190, Point Blank, according to Sergeant Stephanie Davis, spokeswoman for the Texas Department of Public Safety.

The 48-year-old suspect was identified as Vance Chastean May of Point Blank. The suspect was transported to an area hospital with a gunshot wound to the upper torso.

At this time, May’s medical condition is unknown, according to Davis.

Currently, the investigation is active and additional “details cannot be released without jeopardizing the integrity of this case,” Davis said.

Residents celebrate 147th birthday of San Jacinto County

Times Members of the San Jacinto County Historial Comission stand together for a photo during birthday festivities on Friday, Aug. 11 to celebrate the birthday of San Jacinto County. From left to right, Chair Ray McCoppin, Yvonne Ryba, Barbara Shelton, Tomi Lorraine, Brandon Tinsley, Barbara McGee, Annie Lee and Dale Everitt. (Charles Ballard/San Jacinto News)Times Members of the San Jacinto County Historial Comission stand together for a photo during birthday festivities on Friday, Aug. 11 to celebrate the birthday of San Jacinto County. From left to right, Chair Ray McCoppin, Yvonne Ryba, Barbara Shelton, Tomi Lorraine, Brandon Tinsley, Barbara McGee, Annie Lee and Dale Everitt. (Charles Ballard/San Jacinto News)

By Charles Ballard
Reporter

Happy Birthday, San Jacinto County!

On Friday, Aug. 11, community members and county officials gathered to celebrate the 147th birthday of San Jacinto County. Party goers held a birthday party in the rotunda of the County Courthouse in Coldsrping.

County Judge John Lovett, Jr. read a resolution proclaiming that Monday, Aug. 13 be declared the birthday of San Jacinto County.
Cake and punch was served to all attendees, and a good time was had by all during Friday’s festivities.

The beginning
The original Courthouse was a wooden structure and was located near the Old Town Jail. The structure was approved to be built for $8,000 on March 12, 1877 by the commissioner’s court. The Jail was built for $1,500. However, it burned in the early years of the county. The new Courthouse is located on the town square of Coldspring, originally named Coonskin. The building was built for $15,000.

During the 1975 and 1976 years the courthouse was renovated for modern facilities and air coniditiong. The arch way doors were added and lockable doors were added to the courthouse. During the restoration the stained glass above the rotunda was broken and florescent light fixtures were added to replace the broken glass.

The County was named after the Battle of San Jacinto, which gave Texas its freedom from Mexico. The county was a division of Liberty and Montgomery Countys that divided in 1870.

The original inhabitants of San Jacinto County probably belonged to either the Atakapa or the Patiri Indian tribes. Little is known about the latter group except the name. The Atakapans sparsely populated the area and hunted game such as deer and bear. Anglo-American settlement began in the lower Trinity River region during the 1820s.The population of San Jacinto today is 26,384, with Coldspring serving as county seat.

Diggles family found guilty

By Greg Peak
Contributing

Walter, Rosie and Anita Diggles exit the Ward R. Burke Federal Courthouse in Lufkin. Jurors deliberated about 5 1⁄2 hours before returning guilty verdicts on all fraud-related charges against the former DETCOG executive director and two of his family members. Sentencing by Judge Ron Clark will be held in four to six months. The three could be facing up to 30 years in federal prison and up to $1 million in fines.(Photo courtesy of Cara Campbell/The Lufkin News)  Walter, Rosie and Anita Diggles exit the Ward R. Burke Federal Courthouse in Lufkin. Jurors deliberated about 5 1⁄2 hours before returning guilty verdicts on all fraud-related charges against the former DETCOG executive director and two of his family members. Sentencing by Judge Ron Clark will be held in four to six months. The three could be facing up to 30 years in federal prison and up to $1 million in fines.(Photo courtesy of Cara Campbell/The Lufkin News) LUFKIN - Walter Diggles along with his wife Rosie and daughter Anita were found guilty Thursday on all charges stemming from a conspiracy to divert federal funds intended for hurricane victims to their own use or groups with which they were affiliated.

Diggles, 64, the former executive director of the Jasper-based Deep East Texas Council of Governments (DETCOG), helped oversee the disbursement of a number of federal grants intended to help a 12-county region served by DETCOG, which includes San Jacinto County.

The federal jury found all three Diggles guilty of conspiracy to commit wire fraud. Walter Diggles was found guilty on a total of 11 counts of wire fraud, two counts of stealing federal funds and three counts of money laundering. His wife, Rosie, was found guilty of nine counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering. His daughter, Anita was found guilty of one count of wire fraud

Sentencing by Judge Ron Clark will be held in four to six months. The three could be facing up to 30 years in federal prison and up to $1 million in fines.
Closing arguments in the eight-day long trial were held Thursday in the federal courthouse in Lufkin in a case that began in March 2014 when FBI and other federal officers executed search warrants at the DETCOG headquarters, the Diggles residence and the New Lighthouse Church of God in Christ in Jasper where Diggles served as the pastor.

A federal indictment charging the three family members was handed down in Beaumont in December 2015

According to evidence presented during the trial, Diggles defrauded federal authorities by inflating the amount the Deep East Texas Foundation needed for social service programs. Diggles was listed as the “registered agent” for that foundation.

He received about $4.4 million from 2007 to 2012 through federal Social Services Block Grant funds. Of that, $1.3 million was spent on personal expenses, such as transportation, funeral expenses and church rent.

Prosecutors said members of the New Lighthouse Church operated an after-school program, and that Rosie and Anita Diggles prepared documents and reimbursement packets to request funds in support of the learning center.

Texas Sales Tax Holiday This Weekend — Aug. 11-13

(AUSTIN) — Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar reminds shoppers the annual sales tax holiday is scheduled for this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 11-13.

The law exempts most clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks priced for less than $100 from sales tax, saving shoppers about $8 on every $100 they spend during the weekend.

Lists of apparel and school supplies that may be purchased tax-free can be found on the Comptroller's website at TexasTaxHoliday.org.

This year, shoppers are expected to save an estimated $87 million in state and local sales taxes during the sales tax holiday, which has been an annual event since 1999.

Willis man arrested after pursuit in wooded area

18-year-old Willis man Mason Kennedy led the San Jacinto County Sheriff deputies on a chase in a wooded area off of Old Salem Church Road on July 20.

Kennedy reportedly stole a motor vehicle in the Lake Livingston Acres off of Lake Road. He was seen leaving the neighborhood by the complainant, Sheriff Greg Capers said.

“A pursuit involving the suspect as well as the complainant then evolved, with the suspect crashing the stolen vehicle into a wooded area off of Old Salem Church Road,” Capers said. “The complainant and the suspect exited the vehicles. As the suspect entered the wooded area he turned and fired at the complainant. The complainant retrieved his weapon out of his wife's vehicle and returned fire.”
That is when Kennedy ran into the woods.

Capers said deputies arrived approximately two to three minutes later and immediately called Warden Harris of the Polunsky Unit for their assistance with their pack dogs to track the suspect. Approximately an hour later, they arrived as deputies were going door to door to warn neighbors of the possible threat in the area.

The pack of dogs was turned loose to track Kennedy. Capers said within two minutes later the dogs were on the trail of the suspect.

“The whole time we had stationary as well as roving patrolmen working the perimeter, when Deputy C. Simmons located the suspect on Collier Road and took suspect Kennedy into custody without any further incident,” Capers said. “Special thanks to Warden Harris as well as Sergeant Davidson from TDC for their expedient response time and pushing the suspect out into the roadway for a quick capture of the suspect.”

Willis was charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, theft of a motor vehicle, criminal mischief, as well as theft of a firearm. He is currently being held in the San Jacinto County Jail. His bond amount totals $322,500.

“We are still investigating other charges on this criminal episode,” Capers said.

‘We have work to do for our kids,’ says new Shepherd Superintendent

By Megan Whitworth
Editor

Rick Hartley walked into his new office July 13 on his first day as the new Superintendent of Shepherd ISD.

“Nervous is not the right word, excited I think is a better word,” Hartley said after he was asked how he felt about his first day.

Recalling the moments after he was announced as the lone finalist on June 19 by the Board of Trustees, the new superintendent said he felt “a lot of elation.”

“My mind started thinking, ‘Alright, this is happening. This is good. I’ve been named the lone finalist,’” he said. “My mind immediately started thinking work - all the numbers, all the information I had. I started processing where I needed to start.”

On July 11 Hartley was officially voted in as superintendent in a special meeting where he met SIS principals, along with their spouses. Calling the evening a big celebration, Hartley said it was good to get that initial contact. Getting to know the staff, school district and community is a priority for the Superintendent, which is part of his 90-day plan as he begins his new job.

“I’ve got the big learning curve. I need to learn Shepherd,” Hartley said. “Most everybody here has lived here and knows everybody. I don’t have that yet. It will take me time to get there. I need to start meeting people – all of the different aspects of the district and the community. The two work together to educate the kids.”

Hartley said his top priority will be to work on removing the Improvement Required labels on some of the schools in the district. Shepherd Intermediate School and Shepherd Primary School both received IR ratings on the 2015-2016 report cards, according to Texas Education Agency reports.

“I’m not walking into this nervous. There’s a job to be done,” he said. “We need to remove the IR label, for that to happen we need to change some things on the campus as far as the students at the rate they are learning. How do we do that? It’s a variety of things.

“That’s our first goal, but that’s not our only goal,” Hartley continued. “Just because the other campuses are meeting accountability, we can look at different aspects of it; find out where we can be better there. What more can we do for our students? … I want to make sure we are always providing what our students want, because they are the ones who drive what we need to provide.”

Another item Hartley said he wants to work on is forming a Parent Teacher Association in Shepherd.
“I want to reach out here, and reengage a strong communication between the schools and community,” he said.

One way to build strong communication, Hartley plans to visit local churches to get to know parents and students.

“I need to be in the community, I need to engage the parents,” he said. “I need to go into the community to have a dialogue. I need to find out if there are any misconceptions, because if you don’t have a dialogue, there can be perception the school is doing this, but the school may not be doing that at all. Whether it’s good or bad, I want full disclosure - here is what we’re doing at the school; here are all the fantastic things your kids have a chance to do.”

But changing things around this year is not something Hartley is focusing on.

“There is a process I need to go through, and most of it is learning. This is not the year of change. ..If anything it’s the year of tweaks. We know what we need to do. We’ll find out what’s happening, we’ll make a few tweaks along the way so we can improve the instruction.

“Just because I see something different from what I’m use to doesn’t mean it needs to be changed, doesn’t mean it’s wrong. It just means it’s different. I need to find out about it,” Hartley said. “Some of the things that are going to be different, I’m going to get the history on why it’s there and go, ‘It makes perfect sense.’ Somethings I’ll look at and realize it’s that way because it’s always been, but nobody knows why, and I might tweak that, either the way I’m use to or the way that best fits Shepherd’s needs.”

Hartley got his start in education while studying criminal justice in college. He used to tutor math students after the professors left for the day. After a plan to go into the FBI failed because of his eye-sight, Hartley remembered the love he had for tutoring those students. He quickly decided to pursue education. His first teaching job was at the lowest performing elementary in San Diego, California with a district population of 143,000 students.

“I walked in; saw a pile of curriculum I’d never seen before. We survived that year. It was fun. It was a great learning experience,” Hartley said. “I learned a lot of things I did wrong, because as a brand new teacher – it doesn’t matter what you learned in the classroom, classroom management is bottom line. You have to have that down.

"You can be brilliant in your content knowledge, but if you can’t build rapport with the kids, and engage them where they want to learn or at least actively participating. Learning is going to happen when that happens. You’re in trouble. I was in trouble a lot.”

During his second year of teaching, Hartley said he shifted to middle school and that’s “where I found my calling.”

“I was definitely cut out to be in middle school,” he said. “That was my fit.”

After eight years of teaching in California, Hartley and his family packed up and moved to Waco. He went straight into teaching middle school with 498 students, from a previous 1500 student population in his previous school.

“I was responsible for every eighth grader. Every eighth grader that left our campus had me as their math teacher,” he said. “That’s something I really liked. I knew I was personally responsible for every child leaving with a strong math base heading into high school.”

After serving as a teacher, Hartley then became principal over a struggling school in South Waco.

“We were able to come into a campus that was struggling a little bit, and turn it around. We quickly became at that point …the highest performing middle school. I had a great staff. They also didn’t leave. That’s important.

“We need teachers to stick around, because the relationships they build with the students and families, and each other, build a strong team. That’s important,” Hartley said. “That’s what this team of teachers did. We got in there. Looked at what we needed to work on, and we were able to move these kids forward. Actually drove those students into academic students we needed to be.”

Over the years, Hartley moved through different positions in Waco ISD, lastly serving as assistant superintendent. His first campus assignment was four struggling middle schools. During his first summer, he had had to replace four principals. But without a doubt, Hartley, and the middle school staff, were able to turn around the schools and move them forward with higher scores.

Hartley said he applied to be superintendent in Shepherd ISD after a friend notified him of the open position. After researching the school district and seeing the areas that needed improvement, Hartley said it was almost as if he was called to his new position. His years of experience in helping middle schools raise their testing scores, and other areas of service, Hartley knew it would be a perfect fit to help the students move forward.

“I looked at it, and I saw the areas where improvement is called for, greatly matched exactly the previous three years I had worked on the middle schools and high schools I was working on back in Waco,” he said.

The new superintendent has already met with directors a couple of weeks ago to discuss curriculum, but to also get to know the staff. He also plans to meet with students, starting with the high school students, to not only get to know the students better but to see what can be improved and what needs to be changed.

“I want to hear from them,” he said. "The fact that they’re in high school, and most of them will be all Shepherd, I need to know their experiences – the experiences they’ve struggled; the experiences they think are fantastic, and what they would like us to provide an opportunity we don’t have just yet. The curses we offer are driven by students’ desire. …’We really want to learn this, whatever this is’ – and if it’s one of the courses TEA offers, it’s our job to put it into place.”

Hartley said it can be daunting when a new superintendent comes into a new school district – what will they change, who will they be - are some of the questions staff may ask. But Hartley said he wants to move past those questions, and “just get down to it; we have work to do for our kids.”

“I’m Rick. We’ve got a job to do,” he said. “I want to help educate kids.”