Lubbock Avalanche Journal (October 2009-July 2011)
May 12, 2011
Bare-bones budget scenarios in Austin augur as many as 800 layoffs across Texas Tech’s three-school system, according to the first estimates presented Thursday to the university’s governing board.
Tech’s Board of Regents heard the sobering outlook from administrators who reminded the board these early estimates reflect a worst-case scenario based on state higher education cuts proposed by the Texas House, where lawmakers face a tax revenue shortfall of as much as $30 billion.
PDF ♦ URL: http://lubbockonline.com/local-news/2011-05-12/tech-800-layoffs-possible
April 14, 2011
A newly inked $1 billion contract between the Big 12 Conference and FOX Sports could double exposure and more than quadruple television revenue split among Texas Tech and nine other schools.
Big 12 officials are keeping financial details of the 13-year contract close to their vest, but sources have confirmed the once-imperiled conference will earn $90 million annually under the new deal, four times the $20 million it receives under its current contract with the network.
PDF ♦ URL: http://lubbockonline.com/local-news/2011-04-14/big-12-boasts-huge-fox-deal
Oct. 14, 2010
Months of growing unease among some of Texas Tech’s faculty came to a head Wednesday when the university’s faculty senate approved a resolution urging administrators to ease up on tenure policy changes.
The resolution comes in response to a letter provost Bob Smith’s office sent to deans late this summer directing them to tightly redefine acceptable letters of recommendation for faculty applying for tenure.
Smith’s proposed guidelines sought to narrow the scope of acceptable letters by requiring applicants to submit at least three recommendations only from their “personally unacquainted” colleagues at roughly 55 of Tech’s so-called peer institutions across six athletic conferences.
The provost said he designed the new standards to prevent abuses in the current recommendation system that has seen applicants earn tenure through “tepid assessments” from close friends and former students.
Faculty feedback varied, but most seemed concerned about the unusually narrow scope of the revisions.
But the issue at the heart of Wednesday’s resolution was whether Tech would grandfather into the former policy non-tenured faculty who began working at the university prior to this fall.
The senate committee that framed the resolution feared the new guidelines could pull the rug out from about 300 of these earlier hires, thus leaving the university vulnerable to possible legal recourse.
“Let’s be prudent,” Lewis Held, chairman of the committee, told the senate. “Let’s be cautious. Let’s be fair.”
A secret ballot passed the resolution with 36 voting in favor, three against and three abstaining.
The senate’s official action comes after months of behind-the-scenes friction between faculty and administrators over the proposed rules.
PDF ♦ URL: http://lubbockonline.com/education-/-tech/2010-10-14/tenure-tweaks-expose-tech-rift#.TinfLWF6Tms
Dec 18, 2009
The language of the Comanche people, a lifeline of its culture, is fading fast.
Its muted vowels and sapient cadence once echoed throughout the fenceless grasslands of the South Plains, but today it can muster barely a whisper.
That’s why Texas Tech anthropologist Jeff Williams and a handful of other researchers have devised a plan that could help save Comanche from confinement in history books.
With a recent $215,000 two-year grant from the Administration for Native Americans, they’ll shoulder the task on modern technology and a new generation of Comanche students eager to learn their ancestral tongue.
“Its important for any language to have its say, to be documented,” Williams said. “It’s interesting for Comanche because it rose to dominance on the South Plains so quickly, then to have it so quickly go into a state of complete demise.”
PDF ♦ URL: http://lubbockonline.com/stories/121809/loc_536884399.shtml
Oct. 3, 2010
Houston Jones nervously watched the cursor blink on his computer screen.
Seconds passed. Then minutes.
Still no reply.
The 17-year-old glanced over his shoulder to the person on the other end of the Web chat, his roommate. The two were sitting with their backs to each other in their room in Hulen Hall on Texas Tech’s campus, each listening to earphones and exchanging instant messages.
Or, rather, they had been before Jones’ last line stopped the exchange.
“I think I might be gay,” it read.
PDF ♦ URL: http://lubbockonline.com/education-/-tech/2010-10-03/tech-students-survey-non-straight-students-face-tough-campus-climate
Aug. 4, 2010
Texas Tech investigators have linked a Jan. 7 laboratory explosion that severely injured a doctoral candidate to 20 surrounding violations of the university’s safety policy, according to documents released Monday.
University officials ordered the probe after a highly explosive chemical combusted in 29-year-old Preston Brown’s hands, sending him to University Medical Center with three severed fingers and a perforated eye.
In their April report to administrators, investigators concluded the chemistry department had failed to meet some 20 safety standards outlined in the university’s Chemical Hygiene Plan, or lab safety manual.
PDF ♦ URL: http://lubbockonline.com/local-news/2010-08-04/blast-probe-finds-20-safety-violations
Jan. 14, 2011
Patricia’s toothy grin gave the old girl away.
She had managed to elude her hunters for a quarter-billion years or so — first the scavengers of the Triassic Period and, more recently, the paleontologists of the Red Raider Age — by blending in and keeping a low profile.
Then, in 2005, her game was up when Tech research assistant Doug Cunningham spied Patricia’s not-so-pearly whites protruding from a patch of soil just south of Post.
He brushed away a layer of dirt.
“I got a skull!” he whooped to a nearby colleague.
PDF ♦ URL: http://lubbockonline.com/local-news/2011-01-14/tech-researchers-identify-rare-fossil-crocodile-ancestor#.TiX1-2F6Tms
April 8, 2010
Tony Martinez’s shock has now given way to worry.
With two teenage sons, a 12-year-old daughter and a mortgage, he will soon lose his job as a binder at Texas Tech’s University Print and Design Solutions.
School officials announced Friday they will shut down the 76-year-old in-house printing department in July to make room for more research facilities.
The university’s aggressive push to become a tier one, nationally recognized research school carries a heavy price.
Martinez now knows that. So do about 30 of his co-workers.
“We got the news on Good Friday,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s a good Friday or not.”
PDF ♦ URL: http://lubbockonline.com/stories/040810/loc_603324569.shtml
Jan. 26, 2010
Devon Napper didn’t feel pain Friday night when the bullets struck his body – too much adrenaline, he says.
What he remembers instead are those horrific thuds.
“My adrenaline was going so fast I couldn’t feel the shots, but I could hear the thump when they would hit me, so I knew I was getting hit,” Napper wrote Monday in an e-mail to The Avalanche-Journal.
The nightmare started innocently with some late-night Mexican food.
Just minutes earlier, Napper was waiting in his truck in a fast food drive-through line when a silver four-door Honda rear-ended him and sped off. He followed.
It was a short pursuit to the nearby Wal-Mart in the 700 block of West Loop 289, where Devon cornered the hit-and-runner and got out of his truck.
“I asked him what his problem was, calmly, not raising my voice,” he said. “Then he told me to (expletive) off and mind (my) own business. He rolled up his window, so I knocked on it.”
PDF ♦ URL: http://lubbockonline.com/stories/012610/loc_554730565.shtml
Janie Ramirez spoke that night in a seamless blend of Spanish and English.
Roughly 10 Hispanic high school students and their families sitting in the Monterey High School cafeteria watched as she outlined the problem.
One graph, one chart, one statistic at a time, Ramirez detailed the academic underachievement gripping the Hispanic community, a trend that could spell disaster for the country as a whole if left unchecked.
Her data left little room for doubt: Hispanics here and across the country are proportionally trailing their white, black and Asian counterparts in going to college and coming away with an undergraduate degree.
PDF ♦ URL: http://lubbockonline.com/stories/041810/loc_611425817.shtml
Richard Garcia never made it to college.
His single mother, he now says, just couldn’t afford it.
She had her hands full just keeping up with the day-to-day expenses of her eight children.
“It was pretty tough for her,” he remembers, “just keeping a roof over our heads.”
After graduating from Lubbock High School in 1983, he went straight to work to take some of the financial burden off of his mother.
Today, years later, he works maintenance for Texas Tech’s Physical Plant, but still wonders how things would be different if he’d earned his bachelor’s degree.
“Even at my age,” the 45-year-old said last week as he sat on the couch of his home not far from campus, “you wish you could go back. You realize the importance as you get older.”
Delia, Richard’s wife, nodded next to him.
“Now our focus is on Alex,” she smiled. “We’re focusing on him 100 percent.”
PDF ♦ URL: http://lubbockonline.com/stories/041910/loc_611810149.shtml
Statistically speaking, Alex Saez should be in jail.
The 20-year-old Texas Tech student had all the odds stacked against him.
His mother’s schizophrenia spiraled out of control about 12 years ago. His father, a worker at a tire shop in the Austin area, couldn’t care for Alex and his younger sister.
The state stepped in and bounced Alex and his sister from foster home to foster home before they finally landed in one where he found some semblance of a home, a family and a hope.
He now remembers the anger more than anything, the frustration of a dissipating family coupled with the common teenage angst.
“It was tough at first,” he said. “I felt a huge amount of anger. Thankfully, I had a great foster mother.”
It’s been a tough road since, though Alex is only now coming to understand the magnitude of his accomplishments.
PDF ♦ URL: http://lubbockonline.com/stories/042010/loc_612171446.shtml
Odessa American (December 2008-October 2009)
June 13, 2009
That’s how many foster and adopted children from across Texas are currently on life support in Vicky Thorp’s “little intensive care unit” – to use her words.
The West Odessa facility is called Vicky’s Kids, and it’s a center for children who are under the state’s care who suffered severe brain damage as babies and never recovered.
Today, they’re bed-ridden. And most are even unresponsive to visitors.
Inside the ordinary-looking home – an old welding shop turned medical facility – the subdued sounds of whispering respirators puff and whiff in rhythm with the beeps of heart monitors.
The room appears much like any other intensive care unit in any U.S. hospital, except for the purple dinosaur dancing and singing on a television in the corner, its volume turned down low.
A 27-person team of nurses and caregivers tend to the children in shifts around the clock.
PDF ♦ URL: http://www.oaoa.com/news/facility-32363-nine-care.html
July 17, 2009
Strung-out, drunk, skinny, broke, broken and dejected, they trickle in one by one, seeking a shower or a meal and maybe even a kind touch and a prayer.
The emerge from the dirt and traffic fumes of North County Road West and knock on the door of Victory Life Church, an unassuming building that could probably use a new coat of white paint.
It is there in that building tucked behind a gravel parking lot that Pastor Albert Flores waits, day in and day out, for these men to come to him for help, their bodies razed by drugs and booze, by the alcohol on their breath and train tracks on their arms — and with nowhere else to go.
To them, Flores’ steeple is the end of the line, a transfer station where they can hop on a train in a new direction.
PDF ♦ URL: http://www.oaoa.com/articles/one-33938-building-knock.html
April 14, 2009
Several years ago, Odessa truck driver Chris Andersen was somewhere in the Midwest, eastbound in a make-do truck when he looked in his rearview mirror and saw a familiar sight – a purple 2000 model Kenworth.
It looked a lot like the one he sold when they told him he was going to die.
“I looked in my mirror – now, I know there’s a lot of purple Kenworths out there, thousands – but I just knew that was my old truck,” the 56-year-old trucker said.
Andersen flagged down its driver, “a real big kid,” and approached him when they pulled over at the next truck stop.
The two had the same purple Kenworth in common, and Andersen confirmed it before telling the other driver that it was his old truck.
“He said, ‘You’re supposed to be dead,” Andersen recalled. “I said, ‘Everybody keeps saying that!’ ”
PDF ♦ URL: http://www.oaoa.com/news/looked-29360-truck-model.html
Aug. 20, 2009
A proposed budget on the table at the Ector County Independent School district has the makings of a tax hike for local property owners, yet school officials and trustees are still tightening their belts in anticipation of a reduced local money flow.
Higher tax rate or no higher tax rate, overall property and mineral value drops across the county are projected to cause ECISD’s tax revenue to fall this year by at least $2 million from last year’s $104 million in tax revenue.
And all this is on top of $2.9 million in state-mandated pay increases for many of the district’s employees and only vague indications from the state about what the district can expect in the way of federal stimulus reimbursement.
With such uncertainties on the horizon, the district has scrambled to freeze or reallocate money from its locally funded programs — things like computer upgrades, teacher stipends for perfect attendance, and even a 5-percent departmental budget cut across the board — to pay for the pay hikes until federal and state officials clarify how much funding will be available and what it must be spent on.
PDF ♦ URL: http://www.oaoa.com/articles/tax-35564-county-property.html
Sept. 30, 2009
Ratliff Stadium, it’s Odessa’s pride and joy, a place that has been referred to as “the epicenter of high school football.”
In the autumn months when the dusk sinks into the horizon on Fridays evenings, the stadium’s massive lights flicker to life like a call to battle at Odessa’s truest monolith — a building that ESPN ranked among the nation’s Top 10 high school football stadiums in 2008.
That’s when the throngs of fans, part army and part pilgrims, converge on the stadium.
This is football on Odessa’s terms.
But despite all the poetic hyperbole surrounding football in West Texas, Ratliff is a building, and like any other building it needs upkeep.
PDF ♦ URL: http://www.oaoa.com/articles/ratliff-37443-stadium-.html
Sept. 7, 2009
On a recent afternoon at Blackshear, a crowd of students gathered in one of the school’s atriums and stared quizzically down at a couple of turtles that they believed to be fighting.
Their teacher, Sandra Elms, soon was on the scene, pushing her way through the crowd to catch a glimpse of the creatures.
“That’s not fighting,” she said to her students. “They’re mating — uh — the good kind of fighting.”
Everybody stood still for a few seconds, staring quietly down at the turtles.
“Guys,” Elms finally said, “give them some privacy,”
And then came the giggles.
In each student’s hand was a clipboard, and they were do exactly what any professional biologist would do in the field — studying nature, even when it gets a little R-rated, which it is sometimes prone to do.
PDF ♦ URL: http://www.oaoa.com/news/recent-36350-afternoon-roundup.html
Sept. 3, 2009
An upcoming presidential address to local school children may bring the United States’ current fractious political climate to local classrooms.
A little more than a week after President Barack Obama announced that he would be delivering a speech directly to children in classrooms across the country on Tuesday, some local parents have caught wind and are up in arms about what they perceive to be the president’s ulterior motives.
PDF ♦ URL: http://www.oaoa.com/articles/address-36228-presidential-united.html
Aug. 2, 2009
Once again, the graduation rate at the Ector County Independent School District has marred the district’s accountability ratings, this time on a federal level.
Despite general improvement at many of the district’s schools and a 100 percent passing rate at all of the district’s elementary schools, for the second year in a row, ECISD’s overall ratings failed to pass the federal government’s annual Adequate Yearly Progress report, which is the yearly assessment linked to the national No Child Left Behind program.
PDF ♦ URL: http://www.oaoa.com/articles/ecisd-34927-federal-government.html
July 2, 2009
You never know where Jesus Lopez is. He tends to kind of float around West Texas, from Amarillo to Odessa to El Paso and then across the border to Juarez, Mexico, and then back up north again.
At first, he’ll tell you he only speaks English “poquita,” or “a little,” but then the conversation seems to move along fine anyway, and he’ll tell you about his travels – his eyes still and looking off into the distance like something heavy and woeful tiptoes behind them.
On July 4, he said, he’ll be turning 56.
Some might call him a drifter, but Lopez said you’ll sometimes find him downtown on Friday afternoons eating a free meal under a shady tree at Noel Heritage Plaza, but only sometimes.
Thanks to a core group of people like Georgia Hayse and Greta Vaughan, scores of Odessa’s less-fortunate inhabitants like Lopez find a little food to put in their bellies every week.
PDF ♦ URL: http://www.oaoa.com/news/tell-33138-friday-poquita.html
May 6, 2009
An Ector County Hospital District Board member has been accused of hitting the board secretary on her arm and “causing a bruise” after the woman went to his office to pick up paperwork he didn’t want to give her.
ECHD board secretary Delma Marin filed a report Monday with the Odessa Police Department accusing board member Abraham Torres of assaulting her by hitting her “upper left arm with a closed fist causing a large bruise,” according to a police report.
The incident, according to the report and a copy of an internal complaint filed at the hospital, reportedly occurred at about 10:30 a.m. Friday at Torres’ office in the 1000 block of South Crane Avenue.
Marin, whose name was redacted from the copy of the internal hospital complaint obtained by the Odessa American, wrote that she received a phone call from ECHD Board President Judy Hayes that morning asking her to go to Torres’ office to pick up paperwork all board members must file as a part of an application for increased Medicaid reimbursement for the hospital’s Family Qualified Health Clinic.
PDF ♦ URL: http://www.oaoa.com/news/torres-30549-report-incident.html