A LOOK BACK:
With the year winding down, we here at the Wills Point Chronicle decided to look back at some of the biggest and most talked about local and area stories featured in our pages over the past 12 months.
In what has become a common refrain both locally and nationally, elections once again generated plenty of ink in 2018. Other events that generated headlines locally in 2018 included the accomplishments of the Tiger athletic and band programs, as well as the city’s ongoing efforts to upgrade and update its aging infrastructure.
WPISD board elections
Local voters took to the polls May 5, helping to shape the future of the Wills Point ISD by selecting three board of trustees members that will serve for the district, its faculty and students for the next three years. Political newcomers would rule the day with voters opting to fill all three places on the board with new faces.
Election results included:
Political newcomer Tony M. Cooper edged out the longest serving board member Ray Thomason by a margin of 276-243 for Place 1. Cooper led by a slim 107-106 in early voting totals before pulling away on election day by garnering 10 more votes at the Wills Point polling location, 11 more votes at the Myrtle Springs polling location and seven more votes at the Elmo polling location. With Cooper’s win, the longest serving WPISD Board of Trustees member is now Chuck Allen who was first elected in May 2013.
The WPISD was guaranteed to have at least one new face with current board president C.W. Wilson, the holder of Place 2 since 2006, declining to file for re-election. Candidates that returned paperwork for Place 2 included newcomers Cory Shidler, Betty Carper and Jason Groom.
Jason Groom finished as the top vote-getter among all local candidates, receiving 346 out of a possible 529 votes. Betty Carper received 95 votes
(17.96 percent) and Cory Shidler received 88 votes (16.64 percent).
The race for Place 3 on the board of trustees was one of the busiest for local voters with three candidates, incumbent Jeff Etheridge and political newcomers Philip McDonald and Clay Deen each vying for a three-year term. McDonald would go on to prevail in the race, getting 260 out of 540 votes cast. Clay Deen finished with 163 votes and Jeff Etheridge came in with 117 votes.
The City of Wills Point enjoyed another uneventful election cycle in 2018, avoiding any politicking and campaigning after only incumbents Mike Jones and Wade Emerson returned paperwork declaring their intent to run for office once again.
With no challengers in the field the city was able to cancel its planned May election and, on May 8, handled the final piece of business related to the matter by having both Jones and Emerson take their respective oaths of office from Wills Point Municipal Court Judge Maria Gullett.
District mourns passing
of beloved educator
The Wills Point ISD family was left reeling in January, losing a beloved teacher and coach in a single-vehicle accident Jan. 20 shortly on the heels of two 2017 Wills Point High School graduates succumbing to injuries sustained in a two-vehicle accident that occurred back on Jan. 8.
According to reports, Wills Point High School teacher/coach William Brown was traveling near the Van Zandt County Road 3501 and Van Zandt County Road 3523 merge at approximately 9 p.m. Jan. 20 when the 2017 Dodge Challenger he was driving slid off the roadway, striking trees and a nearby barbed wire fence. Brown, currently in his third year at WPISD, was transported from the scene to the Hunt Regional Medical Center in Quinlan were he was subsequently pronounced dead.
News of Brown’s passing spread quickly through social media with dozens of coworkers and students stepping forward to voice their shock and grief, as well as to send condolences to Brown’s friends and family.
“Coach Brown was an outstanding teacher and coach and was loved by many students and faculty. District leadership met Sunday to review and discuss how we would handle this situation. We decided that it would be best to gather all high school students to make sure all students were aware of what happened and what supports were put in place for them,” explained Superintendent Scott Caloss shortly after the tragedy. “Knowing that every situation has its own unique solution, the district does have protocol in place to help deal with unfortunate events such as this. We rely heavily on our school district counselors, as wells as other qualified district employees, to provide the needed support for our students and employees. The district is also very fortunate to have great community support. Our local pastors have always been very supportive and have helped in providing counseling services for our students and employees.”
News of Brown’s death was bookended by two other tragedies for the WPISD family with word that WPHS class of 2017 members Natalie Danielle Bannister and Nathanael David Hipp had passed from injuries sustained in a two-vehicle accident along Highway 80 that occurred back on Jan.
Bannister succumbed to her injuries Jan. 16, being laid to rest Jan. 20 in Alba. The family noted that memorials could be made to APET – SPCA Pet Center, 657 CR 2840, Mineola, Texas 75773. Nathanael Hipp passed away Jan. 21.
Caloss praised both the senior high school staff and community as a whole for their support during these difficult times stating, “The high school campus leadership has been outstanding in handling this unfortunate event. The high school faculty and staff has done as amazing job of being there for the students and for each other. The support from the community has been unbelievable. As unfortunate as this has been, it is great to see a community come together. I am proud to be part of such a great school district and community.”
Wills Point water customers were put into a frustrating position for the second time in as many weeks Feb. 23 with issues caused by a catastrophic failure at the city’s Lake Tawakoni Pump Station causing low or no water pressure for local users and a boil water notice to be put in effect. The issues caused Wills Point ISD to dismiss classes at 10 a.m. Feb. 23, a week after cancelling classes outright Feb. 16 due to a previous catastrophic failure in the city’s water supply.
Mayor Mark Turner addressed both recent outages, issuing a lengthy explanation to residents regarding current issues facing the city’s water supply and potential projects in the works to help alleviate or eliminate future issues Feb.
Turner explained, “This past Thursday (Feb. 22), our city water supply suffered another catastrophic event on the heels of the prior week where our main supply line from Lake Tawakoni was cut off due to a problem with our main pipe feeds.
“You may recall, that when our feed from Lake Tawakoni was cut off, city crews along with MVA and city of Kaufman crews installed a temporary pump at the Wills Point Reservoir and piping was installed and connected to our water plant. The location that this emergency setup was connected to had not been utilized in decades since the feed for the plant was changed to Lake Tawakoni.
“The in-line flow meter failed on Thursday and efforts to replace it began immediately. In order to perform the necessary replacement, the emergency pump had to be shut off. While supply is shut off, demand and usage within the city continues. Every hour the supply is shut off the storage in the water towers is depleted.
“You might ask why we decided to replace an in-line water meter in the midst of running on temporary facilities. First, the state requires that we supply daily usage readings of water. Without the meter we would not be able to be in compliance. Second, knowing the exact flow rate is crucial regarding our water treatment.
“As the replacement meter was located and replaced late in the day, the temporary pump was turned back on and treatment on the water began. At this point, the city believed that we would begin pumping water to our clear well for pumping to the city before the towers were negatively impacted.
“However, tests on the water treatment were less than desired and steps were implemented to determine what the issue was. Failing to identify any specific trigger, Eagle Labs was called in for assistance and sent a crew to assist in identifying the problem. The tests performed take time to produce the results before alterations and further testing could be accomplished. These processes were required for hours into the night. About 4 a.m. the issue was determined to be the positioning of the water feed once the meter was replaced. The positioning wound up being critical in how the water was treated. An extension was placed in the pipe line and tests were once again started.
“During this time, the water storage in the towers hit critical levels and notice went out that water pressure or total loss of water would occur. The city placed notices on our Facebook page and website. Additionally, we contacted Code Red so that everyone who subscribes would be notified. Code Red is being managed by VZ County and the person responsible for issuing the Code Red was unavailable and it didn’t get sent. Word went out to the school and city personnel began contacting businesses. boil water notice was issued as we knew that once water was supplied again that it would be needed.”
Turner went on the explain the repairs that had gone on since the incident surfaced, as well as updating city residents on a longer-term project to pursue grants and loan forgiveness projects that had begun the previous year.
Water woes and needed infrastructure repairs continued to dominate much of the city’s agenda for the year with local crews working countless hours to corral issues caused by aging lines.
Adams, Daniell strike
gold at State
The Wills Point Tiger tennis team capped the high school athletic program’s 2017-’18 season in impressive fashion May 17-18, sending the doubles’ teams of Chase Daniell and Kash Adams, Claire Hiler and Maddie Booth and Jack Johns and Hope Turner to compete at the Class 4A State Tennis Tournament in College Station.
Wills Point netters would come away with four medals overall during the two-day event as the boys doubles team of Chase Daniell and Kash Adams prevailed in all three of their matches to win gold and the girls doubles team of Claire Hiler and Maddie Booth winning two of three matches to score silver.
Results from the State Tournament included:
-Chase Daniell/Kash Adams def. Blake Boubel/Noah Deleon of Fredricksburg, 6-1, 6-3; def. Noah Wingate/ Casey Voss of Robinson, 6-3, 4-6, 7-5; def. Jace Ware/Adam Grochloski of Pampa, 7-6, 1-6, 6-0
-Maddie Booth/Claire Hiler def. Elle Schroeder/Andrea McMillian of Abilene Wylie, 6-7, 6-3, 6-1; def. Cassidy Gillis/Nora Lawson of Lampasas, 6-2, 6-7, 6-0; lost to Georgia Rice/Catherine Coe of Boerne, 3-6, 4-6
-Jack Johns/Hope Turner lost to Garret McGuire/Megan Dwamena of Lampasas, 3-6, 4-6
Coach Ann Daniell, who was also recognized during the tournament as the National Federation of State High School Associations State Coach of the Year for 2016-’17, noted “We could not be more proud of the way our kids represented Wills Point at the State Tournament. They played their hearts out. We had several close three set matches but the kids held it together and did their job.”
Daniell added, “The last state champions win in tennis was from 1995. Chase and Kash are the first boys doubles team from Wills Point to ever win State.”
The Tiger track program also enjoyed a season to remember, sending four-time State qualifier Shelbi Walser, as well as 4A State newcomers Nathan Johnson and Kaylee King to the State Track and Field Meet in Austin.
Walser, a dual event qualifier, was among the most decorated athletes in attendance from any classification having won gold in the seated shot put as a freshman in 2015, silver in 2016, and bronze in 2017.
Competing in the final track meet of her high school career, Walser brought home her fourth consecutive medal in the shot put wheelchair division by placing second overall with a throw of 17’2.75” behind Denise Rodriguez of Richardson Pearce and ahead of Catalina Clubb of CC Tuloso - Midway and Melanie Peters of San Antonio Alamo Heights.
Walser also competed in the 100-meter dash wheelchair race, placing fourth for the second consecutive year with a time of 26.62 seconds. Merri McKittrick of Godley took first, followed by Suzannah Swanson of McAllen Memorial and Melanie Peters of San Antonio Alamo Heights.
Senior Nathan Johnson competed in his first State Track and Field Meet, placing eighth overall in the high jump by clearing a height of 6’2”. Those finishing ahead of Johnson included Kenneth Bodwin of Stafford in first with a height of 6’6”, followed by Ronnie Jackson of Navasota, Andric Herrera of Fort Stockton, Cole McLawchlin of Cleveland Tarkington, Coleson Mc-Craw of Melissa, Blake Aragon of Stephenville and Anthony Garza of Vernon.
Kaylee King, one of two county freshman to qualify for the State Track and Field Meet, also placed eighth overall in her event by clearing 10’ in the pole vault. Those placing ahead of King included Anna Griffith of Taylor at 13’3”, Ashton Moon of La Vernia, Kaitlyn Kvinta of Wimberley, Jordan Morse of Gatesville, Kristen Sneed of Tatum, Ashley Amico of Dalhart and Trinity Buitron of Brownwood.
Tiger athletic programs
The waiting game for athletic directors and coaches came to an end Feb. 1 as the University Interscholastic League announced which districts teams across the state will be calling home for the 2018-2020 athletic seasons.
In a previous press release, the UIL announced conference cutoff numbers for the 2018-2020 reclassification and realignment period as follows:
-6A: 2,190 and above
-5A: 1,150 – 2,189
-4A: 505 – 1,149
-3A: 222 – 504
-2A: 105 – 224
-1A: 104.9 and below
Football realignments were further broken down, with schools in classifications from 1A-5A being subdivided into either “large” or “small” school designations based on enrollment figures: 1A Division I (55.5 – 104.9 students), 1A Division II (55 and below), 2A Division I (161.5 – 224), 2A Division II (105 – 161.4), 3A Division I (335 – 504), 3A Division II (225 – 334), 4A Division I (790 – 1149), 4A Division II (505 – 789), Class 5A Division I (1840-2189), and Class 5A Division II (1150-1839).
February 1 brought news that Wills Point would be paired alongside Brownsboro, Bullard, Canton and Rusk on the gridiron, and Athens, Brownsboro, Canton, Mabank and Van in both basketball and football.
Despite the changes, Wills Point’s football team would finish second overall in district play to reach the playoffs, and the Lady Tiger volleyball program carried a top-25 state ranking throughout the season on their way to an appearance in the Regional Quarterfinals.
Band program continues
success despite changes
The Wills Point Tiger Band program has been a model of consistency and excellence over the past two decades, putting together a run that has included 19 consecutive Sweepstakes Awards and seven consecutive appearances in the UIL State Marching Band Contest under the guidance of longtime director John Young.
Prior to the close of the 2018-’19 school year, Young announced that his 21st year in Wills Point would be his last as he would be moving on to Terrell ISD to serve in a dual role as both head band director and fine arts administrator.
The WPISD Board of Trustees stayed in-house to find Young’s replacement, longtime WPISD assistant director Nick Kornegay as the new head band director for the Tiger Band program at a meeting held April 13.
Concerns that a change in leadership could lead to a possible drop in performance were quickly put to rest with the Tiger Band making the familiar trip to the Alamadome in San Antonio to themselves against some of the best musical talent in the state at the Class 4A UIL State Marching Contest.
Prior to their departure for the State Marching Contest in San Antonio, the Tiger Band welcomed hundreds of appreciative community members to Ken Autry Davis Field to perform their show Nov. 5.
Asked what it meant to have such a strong showing of support Kornegay marveled, “I was absolutely stunned at the support we had at our send-off performance. It was fun for the kids to perform for Wills Point! The sendoff we received from all of the campuses on our way out of town was amazing as well. Seeing all those kids and teachers really made the high school band feel special. Thank you to everyone that has supported us this year!”
The State Contest began with a prelim performance for all 23 schools in attendance with the top-10 moving on to compete again in the finals.
North Lamar posted the best score overall in the preliminary round, finishing with 11 points. Other qualifiers for the finals included Argyle and Canton with 17 points, Churchill Fulshear with 29 points, Canyon with 30 points, Kennedale with 33 points, Springtown with 40 points, Melissa and Little Cypress-Mauriceville with 42 points each and Hidalgo with 60 points.
In the finals, Van Zandt County rival Canton climbed to first overall with eight points, followed by Argyle in second with 12, North Lamar in third with 13, Canyon in fourth, Kennedale in fifth, Melissa in sixth, Little Cypress-Mauriceville in seventh, Hidalgo in eighth, Springtown in ninth and Fulshear in 10th.
Wills Point placed 16th overall with 71 total points, getting scores of 13, 13 and 19 for their musical performance and 18 and 8 in marching.
“I thought we had the best performance we could have had and felt like it was a strong run. We were all a little let down that we weren’t top 10, and that shows the expectations the staff and students have for the program,” said Kornegay. “We’re in the top 10% of bands in the state and we’re ready to better that in 2020.”
Kornegay added, “This was my fifth trip to State Marching Contest with Wills Point and definitely the most stressful for me. This was my first time to organize a trip for 140 kids and chaperones! Everything went well and I hope we get the chance to do this again in 2020.”
community outreach efforts
The Wills Point Police Department enjoyed another active year in 2018, continuing in their efforts to build a bridge to members of the community through events including Kites with Cops, the Back the Blue Car Show, Audio Competition and SxS Show and National Night Out.
The WPPD and city of Wills Point joined forces May 26, welcoming the community to Lester Park for their first ever Kites with Cops event.
The event drew dozens of participants of all ages, and included free kites as well as free food and drinks.
The Wills Point Police Department put together another winning event July 14, drawing hundreds of attendees for their second annual Back the Blue Car Show, Audio Competition and SxS Show benefitting local youth programs and the department’s K9 unit.
Events began early in the morning with a parade of vehicles, including police units, classic cars, motorcycles and side by sides making their way from the Van Zandt County Regional Airport on Highway 64 down Highway 80 and into the Wills Point High School parking lot. Funds raised during the event were earmarked to boosting the high school’s welding program with the purchase of welding helmets.
The WPPD wrapped up their year with another community event Oct. 2, joining forces with the Wills Point Municipal Court and other local first responders by celebrating National Night Out.
NNO is a community-building campaign to promotes the collaborative efforts of courts, city governments, and residents.
The event included games, safety materials, free food and drinks, and the ability for community members to meet with organizations such as Flight for Life, the WPPD, the WPFD and Champion EMS.