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Ennis Daily News

2007: The year in review

Ennis faced tough times this year but also saw prosperity
EDITOR’S NOTE:Like every city Ennis has its highs and its lows, its good news and its bad. The Ennis Daily News has attempted to report on all aspects of the city, and some of the top happenings from 2007 are included in the following first installment of a two-part series.

The birth of a new year started at a low point in Ennis as family, friends and the city at large mourned the death of a fallen local soldier.
Navy Corpsman Kyle Anthony Nolen, 21, who lost his life in a land mine assault in Iraq’s Anbar province Dec. 21, received full military rites, including the Purple Heart Medal at his funeral at Myrtle Cemetery Jan. 2.
Nolen was the third Ennis soldier lost to the War on Terror. His funeral drew more than 230 mourners, who had to stand in the aisles of the sanctuary or sit in the lobby of Keever Mortuary.
“Kyle felt obligated and compelled to protect our God-given American freedom,” Rep. Joe Barton, R-Ennis, said about Nolen’s willingness to serve as a medic. “He wanted to alleviate pain and suffering and to save lives.”
Other significant Ennis losses this year included Ivan Goodwin, 78, and Dr. Walter McCall, 89, who died only a day apart.
Goodwin, who died Feb. 16 after a long illness, was well known for his dedicated service to the children of the Ennis Independent School District as an educator and long-tenured member of the school board.
The following day, McCall, an equally beloved area physician for 40 years, passed away. In 1917 McCall was born (as he said in an interview once) where “HEB’s meat market is now.” McCall, the oldest charter member of the Ennis Noon Lions Club, served on the Planning and Zoning Commission and the Ennis City Commission.
The death of another local icon brought widespread grief in Ellis County and throughout Texas. Frances Anne Blocker, who served Palmer ISD for over 40 years as administrator and coordinator extraordinaire, died at age 84 on Aug. 13. An author and playwright, Blocker was a Texas Women’s Hall of Fame nominee, founding president of the Palmer Preservation Society and an appointee to the Ellis County Historical Commission.
On the heels of citywide sorrow following Nolen’s funeral the school district held an uplifting ceremony celebrating the beginning of construction for a new junior high campus and expansion of Ennis High School. School administrators, board members and city staff met Jan. 10 to begin a new chapter in Ennis history with a groundbreaking ceremony for the facilities.
A bond was approved in November 2005 and in a little more than a year the district located a plot of land for the new junior high, neighboring the current high school property. Total cost of the project was initially budgeted at $89.9 million for renovations and additions at the high school and the brand new junior high campus.
Phase one of the new junior high school is initially to be built as a 198,292-square-foot facility with a student capacity of 1,000. Phase two would add room for another 200 students. Renovations to the high school and adding the new building would basically double the size of the current campus.
Notable features at the Ennis High School include natural daylight throughout the school, indirect lighting used in every classroom to reduce glare and increase energy efficiency, implementation of new technology including wireless, interactive marker boards in each classroom, LAN, connected via fiber via WAN, projectors with local audio in all classrooms, computer labs adjacent to classrooms allowing easier access to technology, security technology including card access (keyless entry) and surveillance cameras inside and out, larger student classrooms in the new addition, added new student, staff and visitor parking locations, a performing arts complex that was integrated into the design of the high school addition that will be available for community use, Media/Tech Center and Lecture Hall to be used for district-wide SAT Testing with after-hours use by students and the community college available.
Design ideas for Ennis Junior High School include the building facing north and south to capture the best possible light for classrooms, indirect lighting is being used to reflect off the ceiling and illuminate the classrooms, implementation of new technology including wireless, interactive marker boards in each classroom, LAN, connected via fiber via WAN, projectors with local audio in all classrooms, security technology including card access (keyless entry) and surveillance cameras inside and out.
Completion for each project is slated for August 2008.
It hasn’t been a complete bed of roses for the school district. The first wave of disappointing news came in February for George Washington Carver High School alumni when the Building Standards Commission announced it was finally time to bring down the dilapidated structures on Martin Luther King, Jr. Blvd. In a unanimous decision the Commission voted to condemn and demolish the schools that had served the black community during segregation.
Since the school’s demolition, which began in April, alumni have called the act a blessing in disguise as they rally together and vow to preserve the school’s history.
“Good can come out of a bad situation,” activist Norma Black said, referring to the success of the project she’s spearheading to locate and preserve memorabilia associated with Carver High, Dorie Miller Elementary and earlier schools that once stood on the now razed site. “We have had a big response. People have donated pictures, yearbooks, programs and we’re still getting calls offering to help build our archive. We have people with mementos going all the way back to the old Ennis Colored High, and we have someone who has old classroom maps and students’ desks.”
Another silver lining to come out of the school’s demolition has been an effort by the Junior Historians as Ennis Junior High to create a scrapbook honoring the historic site.
“Our class is attempting to create a memory book for the former Carver High School and Dorie Miller Middle School,” said history teacher Steven Boon. “We are hoping to enter this project in a state contest.”
While the demolition of the Carver buildings was a blow to Ennis history, news concerning the Ennis Intermediate School was an immediate threat. Just a few weeks before students were scheduled to attend classes, EISD announced that the fourth and fifth grade campus had suffered untold damage due to excessive rains, resulting in the disuse of the campus for the current school year. The majority of the 420 fourth graders were displaced into the schools they attended while in third grade, and the over 400 fifth graders were moved to Sixth Grade Center.
Following an October meeting outlining options available for the district, it was decided the school would not be restored and a Facility Needs Study Committee would be appointed to focus on enrollment growth within the district as well as special issues created by the closing of the Intermediate School.
It has yet to be announced what will become of now vacant building on Ennis’ east side.
Meantime the school district focused on other concerns, such as the implementation of a random drug-testing program. The policy encompasses all students who are actively involved in voluntary extra-curricular or any UIL-sponsored program, including band, choir, Ag, theater, etc.
Students randomly selected by an outside testing facility are required to provide a urine or hair sample and will be tested for a variety of illegal drugs, alcohol and anabolic steroids. Those who test positive for any illegal substances will face a variety of consequences specifically designed to assist students in their discontinuing use of all illegal substances.
“It is not a gotcha type policy,” EHS Principal David Everett said. “The sole intent is to give our students another reason to resist the temptation of drugs and to be able to say no tot the inevitable peer pressure applied by those who choose to use illegal drugs. This policy will be another tool in their toolbox and will allow our students to say no.”
Another disappointing loss for EISD was the dismissal of Kevin Haynes as police chief. Haynes came under fire after being arrested and charged with driving while intoxicated, resisting arrest and assault on a public servant on May 26. Ovilla police arrested Haynes at his home in the 100 block of Nob Hill Lane after a verbal and physical altercation with an unidentified officer.
The EISD named a new police chief with the hiring of Herbert “Ross” Jones Jr. Jones served in the U.S. Marines and has served with the McLennan County Sheriff’s Department, Texas Department of Public Safety, Wills Point Police Department, Dallas County Constables Office and Kaufman ISD Police Department.
The EISD wasn’t the only one with woes this past year. St. John High is in jeopardy of closing down permanently. St. John’s Parish Council, Finance Committee and School Board Advisory Council met before parishioners, parents, teachers and students June 19 to discuss the future of the 95-year-old parochial school.
It was decided to allow the 2007-08 school year to commence and a sub-council, made up of St. John Principal Chris Rebuck, Parish Business Manager Julie Houston and one member of the three standing councils, has until Dec. 31 to give St. John priest Father Vela a decision on whether or not the high school will continue to operate after this year.
The new committee is commissioned with the responsibility of creating a business plan for the school, holding fundraisers to pay off the school’s debt and finding new ways to increase enrollment.
On an opposite note to schools closing and being torn down, the Ennis Regional Medical Center (ERMC) celebrated a new era as its new facility at the corner of Lampasas St. and the Hwy. 287 Bypass opened July 23. The 102,000-square-foot acute-care facility features 60 all-private rooms, a 10-bed Emergency Room, five surgical units and a 12-bed Outpatient Care Unit, six-bed Intensive Care Unit, a new radiology department with 4D Ultrasound System, 64-slice CT-Scan, Mammography, Fluoroscopy, X-ray and nuclear medicine, a Women’s Center dedicated exclusively to women’s healthcare with 10 spacious labor and delivery, recovery and post-partum suites, on-site helicopter pad and emergency helicopter provided through Air Evac Lifeteam.
Four months after the new hospital’s opening it was announced the Board of Trustees at ERMC had named David D. “Dave”Anderson as the new Chief Executive Officer beginning Nov. 12.
Anderson was hired for his ability to build teams, foster strong physician relations and creating ties to the community. Before locating to Ennis he was Chief Operating Officer (COO) at North Fulton Regional Hospital in Roswell, Ga., and COO at Piedmont Medical Center in Rock Hill, S.C.Anderson said after his hiring, “My primary focus will be to provide the leadership, support and resources necessary to build upon the strong foundation laid as the new hospital opened, in order to provide the best quality in healthcare possible. I look forward to working with physicians, hospital staff and members of the community.”

Read part two of the Ennis Daily News’ 2007 year-end roundup in Monday’s edition.

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