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Hiler, Booth lead Class of 2018

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  • Article Image Alt Text
    Photo by David Kapitan Family and friends look on as the WPHS Class of 2018 wraps up commencement exercises by throwing their mortar boards towards the ceiling of Sunnyvale First Baptist Church.
  • Article Image Alt Text
    Photo by David Kapitan Despite soaring temperatures that pushed into the triple digits, hundreds of local residents came out to support Back the Blue events held at the Wills Point High School parking lot.
  • Article Image Alt Text
    Photo by David Kapitan Jacob Moore (14) took the opening tipoff against Van post Zanden Worley (11) in a district contest played Feb. 13.
  • Article Image Alt Text
    Photo by David Kapitan Local Back the Blue events in Wills Point included a rolling caravan of vehicles from the Van Zandt County Regional Airport to the high school parking lot. Participants in the caravan included mo

It was a night of laughter and tears for the Wills Point ISD family June 1 with the 139-member WPHS Class of 2018 bidding farewell during commencement exercises held at Sunnyvale First Baptist Church May 21.

The senior class, led by Valedictorian Claire Hiler and Salutatorian Maddie Booth, filed into the heart of the church just after 7 p.m. to the traditional playing of “Pomp and Circumstance.”

After every senior had filed in and found their seat, proceedings officially opened with the playing of the national anthem and opening remarks from senior class president Molly Harris.

Harris welcomed those in attendance, ending her speech by echoing the words of the late Tiger coach/administrator William Brown.

“I’ll quote a senior from the Bullard Class of 1998: ‘I’ll take the good with the bad, and never regret the past. I’ll never take the present for granted, because the future is coming fast.’ I’ll leave you with this challenge from make this world ours. It’s not goodbye, it’s see you in I’ll see you later at the afterparty tonight.”

WPHS Principal Jeff Russell took to the stage next, welcoming board of trustees members including C.W. Wilson, Chuck Allen, Russell Hiler, Ray Thomason, Jeff Etheridge, George Wilcoxson, Jeff Etheridge and Jim Lamb, as well as administrators Damon Davis, Dr. Barbie McMath and Dr. Scott Caloss.

Caloss, the WPISD Superintendent, also took a moment at the podium to thank not only the students for all the hard work, but also the families and school employees for helping to contribute to another successful school year.

Class Salutatorian Maddie Booth, graduating with a 4.48 GPA, focused her speech on the bittersweetness of graduation. “The memories we have made with this group are ones that I will keep dear to my heart in the years to come. My favorite show The Office gave me a quote that I believe fits perfectly for tonight and reflects on our years here. One of the characters, Andy to know you’re in the good old days before you’ve actually left them.’As much as we all want to graduate and leave this place, we will miss the joyous times we’ve spent together.”

Following Booth’s speech, Jeff Russell and Class of 2018 valedictorian Claire Hiler took to the stage to present the Spade Award to Ty Salisbury. The Spade Award has been a tradition in Wills Point dating back to 1904, and is annually presented to the highest ranking member of the junior class.

Hiler, who is graduating this year with a GPA of 4.5033, then took to the podium for his valedictory address.

Bringing her speech to the Marvel Universe of superheroes, Hiler stated, “Over these next few years we are all going to be facing new challenges, new obstacles and new fears. Unfortunately, we don’t have superhuman strength, the ability to climb on walls, swing from buildings or shoot webs like Spiderman - it must be nice. But we all have the opportunity before us to become amazing like Peter Parker. Even though we have in each of us to be great, to be a superhero...Everything will not come easy to us which is why we need to reach out and take it. We may dedicate hours upon hours to reach our goal and still fall short but that doesn’t mean we can’t still reach success. We may not win every battle but that doesn’t mean we can’t prepare for the next one.”

The 139-member Class of 2018 received their diplomas from WPISD Board of Trustees President C.W. Wilson before Spade Award recipient Ty Salisbury delivered the night’s benediction.

The ceremony closed with the traditional playing of the school song “Blue and White.”

Loaded weapon

found at WPHS

Days of fear and uncertainty about a loaded weapon being found on school grounds gave way to relief as the Wills Point ISD announced that a suspect in the incident had been identified and banned from all school grounds following an investigation that included district personnel, the Wills Point Police Department, Van Zandt County Sheriff’s Office, and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms among others.

Shortly after 9 p.m. Nov. 6, the Wills Point ISD issued an alert to parents and guardians with students in the district that a “staff member discovered a weapon in one of the building’s restrooms” prior to the close of the school day. The staff member who found the weapon notified administrators who then contacted local law enforcement officials to secure the scene and launch an investigation.

Rumors of what type of weapon had been discovered on campus circled around social media with speculation ranging from a knife to a loaded handgun.

Early the following morning, district officials and the WPPD confirmed that the weapon referenced in the previous day’s notice had in fact been a loaded handgun, and that investigation involving the review of security footage in the career technology building, checking of the gun for fingerprints, and review of the gun’s serial number were well underway.

As an additional precaution, district officials asked for and received additional support units from the Department of Public Safety, WPPD and VZCSO on the high school campus for the safety of both staff and students.

The district subsequently provided a second update Nov. 7 advising “A loaded handgun was found in the trashcan of the boys’ restroom in the CTE building at approximately 3 p.m. by a district employee. The employee notified administrators who subsequently called the Wills Point Police Department. Shortly following the discovery of the weapon, district administrators swept the entire campus to ensure that no other weapons were onsite and the WPPD secured the scene to begin their investigation. The investigation is continuing as ATF traces the firearm, DPS is fingerprinting the firearm, video surveillance is being reviewed, and VZCSO, WPPD, and DPS are remaining on scene the remainder of the day. Over the next several days, additional police presence will be made available throughout the district. WPISD has announced a reward for any student providing information leading to an arrest.”

The WPPD also weighed in advising, “We can confirm that we do have reliable leads involving the investigation and suspect of the incident. We do not feel that there is an immediate threat to WPISD at this time. However, the incident is still under investigation and students are still being encouraged to report any knowledge that they have of the incident.”

Administrators provided an update to the situation on Sunday afternoon, noting that a suspect had been identified and barred from the WPISD campus.

A message sent out to parents/guardians read “[the] WPISD has conducted a thorough investigation to determine the identity of the individual connected to the recent discovery of a loaded handgun. The gun was found by a school custodian in the boy’s restroom of the CTE building located on the high school campus. Based on the investigation conducted by the Wills Point ISD, the district is confident in their discovery of the perpetrator. At present the individual has been removed from the school campus and prohibited from all properties within the WPISD.”

Roundup, publication

of lists clears warrants

The Wills Point Municipal Court continued to make strides in its efforts to clear as many outstanding warrants and monies owed off its ledger throughout the year, routinely publishing warrant lists.

The WPMC’s efforts hit overdrive once again in the month of February with the annual Great Texas Warrant Roundup. The roundup, which began Feb. 24, is an annual effort by more than 300 law enforcement agencies throughout the state to address warrants typically associated with non-compliance of court orders.

In a press release announcing their participation in the effort, the WPMC stated, “If you do not resolve your tickets now, you may be subject to arrest. If you are stopped while driving your vehicle and arrested, your vehicle may be impounded, which would result in additional tow and storage fees. Please take care of your tickets now to avoid arrest.

“As part of this statewide initiative, the WPMC is offering amnesty on warrant fees if individuals come to court to address their outstanding obligations. Individuals who voluntarily come to court may request to see a judge to have warrant fees on their cases waived. If you voluntarily appear to take care of your tickets with WPMC, you will not be arrested. If you are unable to pay, contact the court to discuss options that may be available to resolve your matters with the court.”

The local and statewide crackdown has been a massive success in clearing the books locally with the court announcing that the roundup had resulted in 44 defendant’s taking care to help clear a total of 88 warrants. Overall, payments totaling $17,726.01 were made as part of the roundup effort, clearing outstanding values of $31,342.50 from the books.

Tax revenues slip slightly

Van Zandt County cities wrapped up a solid year of sales tax revenue gains with a solid month of collections according to the office of Texas State Comptroller Glenn Hegar, growing by approximately 4.02 percent overall when comparing December 2018 with totals for the same calendar month in 2017.

Outside of Canton, which saw a slight dip for the month, Edgewood, Edom,

Grand Saline, Van and Wills Point all

ended on the positive side of the ledger.

Wills Point, which saw the biggest

drop locally among county cities in

percentage change for the month of November, bounced back in December by receiving a payment of $93,569.41. That total was a county-best $7,274.25 higher than the city received last year at this time.

Despite those gains, Wills Point wrapped the year behind its 2017 pace collecting $1,099,873.03 from January through December 2018.

Van, up $66,434.33, Edgewood, up $58,170.17, Canton, up $32,857.25, Grand Saline, up $14,576.13, and Edom, up $4,084.17, all finish 2018 ahead of the final totals they posted in 2017.