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Long time Waskom science teacher continues to make a difference

For Earnestine Johnson, teaching means making a difference in the lives of her students.

Johnson has taught science at Waskom Middle School for 45 years, the entirety of her career (beginning her 46th year today). She calls her students her kids, and she said she has high expectations and aspirations for them.

“Many are very successful,”Johnson said. “Many teachers, administrators, one is an aerospace engineer for Boeing. I have a lot of engineers and nurses, and the new nurse on our campus is one of mine.

“Many of them are very successful; many of them are very good parents, ‘cause I have their children now,” she continued. “And so they know what I expect, and so they’re very supportive.”

Right now, Johnson teaches all the seventh graders on campus and half of the sixth graders. Seventh grade is her favorite.

“Over all three, seventh grade is the grade to teach,” she said. “The sixth graders are coming over from elementary, and many of them are very immature.

“It takes me usually half the year before I’m able to do labs with them because they have trouble even sitting, much less trying to handle science equipment, and so the seventh graders are right in the middle, and many of them I’ve already had, and so they know what the expectations are in my classroom.”

Something Johnson enjoys about teaching is how it’s new every day.

“Some people say ‘I go to the same old job every day, and it’s boring.’ My day is never boring,” Johnson said. “There’s something new about it every day. I learn as the children learn. It’s something I love to do.”

Johnson’s experienced plenty of changes with the school.

“When I first started, we didn’t have any air conditioning,” she said. “We had very few supplies. It was very crowded. It was the very old school; they’ve redone it and made it the high school. Part of it is where I taught years ago. So probably 10 years ago maybe we moved over here to this building.

“I’ve had many principals in years past. Some very good, and some I don’t know how they got to be principal.”

The current principal is actually one of her former students, she said, as are the assistant principal at the high school and the sixth grade math teacher. Johnson said she thinks she has at least three or four former students on every Waskom campus and that she’s very proud of them.

Johnson is looking forward to the coming school year, which begins today.

“When I’m not looking forward to it, I’ll just stop,” she said. “I enjoy it; I look forward to it. To me, science is fun, and I want it to be fun for my students.”

Marshall ISD ready to 'rewrite' the district's story this school year

Marshall ISD teachers and staff are planning to “rewrite” the district’s story this school year as they returned to work following the annual convocation ceremony at East Texas Baptist University in Marshall on Tuesday.

While the district’s teachers and other personnel officially returned to the classroom on Friday, the Mavericks officially celebrated the start of the 2019-20 school year on Tuesday with the convocation ceremony and guest speaker minister and motivational speaker Dennis Swanberg.

While Marshall ISD Superintendent Jerry Gibson said the past few years have been hard-fought for the Maverick employees and students, the fight has been worth the results.

“For the first time in 11 years this year, Marshall ISD does not have a single campus rated ‘improvement required,’” Gibson told the audience to a chorus of cheers and standing ovation. “For more than a decade, this district had at least one campus rated IR (improvement required) but not this year. And those days of IR campuses are over. We are not going to go backwards. We can’t do that. We’re not going to be a ping pong ball and go back and forth.”

Districts and campuses are rated either “met standard” or “improvement required” each year by the Texas Education Agency and the news this year for Marshall ISD means that for the first time in more than a decade, each of its campuses has met the minimum standards required by TEA.

“We are so proud of our accomplishments,” Gibson said. “Our students deserve the best. Our steps have been well-planned and our growth has been methodical over the years.

“I’m looking at a group of educators today who are enjoying the success but are not satisfied — educators who are still hungry.”

While TEA is set to officially publish each district’s and campus A-F rating on Thursday, Gibson revealed on Tuesday that the district overall had moved up from a “D” rating in 2018 to a “C” rating this year.

“We have done what people said couldn’t be done,” Gibson said. “It’s been a hard, heavyweight fight for the past several years, but the fight has been worth it when we have no ‘IR’ campuses.

“At times, TEA and others outside of this room left us for dead, but those of us in this room would not accept defeat. Marshall ISD is still alive and kicking and we are still hungry.”

In addition to the good news from TEA, the Marshall ISD Education Foundation volunteers were on hand Tuesday to award a record amount of grants to teachers totaling more than $73,000.

The grants will allow teachers to purchase supplies, software and other items to enhance classroom learning with funds above and beyond what’s provided by the district and government agencies.

Tuesday’s guest speaker Swanberg encouraged the district’s staff and teachers to be present in the present as the district proceeds with its theme this year of “Rewriting Our Story.”

“You always hear people tell old stories about the good old days,” Swanberg said. “But it’s not about yesterday. Today is the good day. Today is all you and I have. God has something just for you and the team and the students. Be strong. Be courageous. They’re are more firsts to come.”

Gibson encouraged the staff to use diversity to become stronger this school year as they rewrite their story.

“Our story is going to be that as a district, we took the next step,” Gibson said. “We have the perfect storm for success. They’re are still going to be people that are skeptical but that’s OK. I believe in you and please be assured of my support. Let’s have the best year ever.”

Marshall ISD students return to school on Aug. 26.

Hallsville lines up Sesquicentennial Celebration for late October

HALLSVILLE — It's almost time to celebrate a birthday 150 years in the making as the city of Hallsville prepares for its Sesquicentennial Celebration this fall.

The home of the Bobcats is set to celebrate its 150th anniversary in 2019 and the townsfolk are planning to make sure it's one for the memory books, with a big celebration set for Oct. 24-27 in downtown Hallsville, called the "Hallsville Sesquicentennial Celebration."

“This will be our sesquicentennial, which means 150 years, anniversary celebration and it will be a weekend long event,” Committee Member Laura Welch said. 

The committee has planned a jam packed Friday, Saturday and Sunday for the city's 150th birthday, first with a Historical Section set up Friday and Saturday on the land across from Hallsville City Hall where Shiver's Sno Cones currently sits.

The Historical Section is set up by committee member Rob Key who also serves as an organizer for the annual Battle of Fort Crawford event.

"We will have real Native Americans there and they will perform a traditional dance," Welch said. "We will also have a blacksmith set up there, and soap, candle and syrup making, as well as a leather making. We will have teepees and chuck wagons set up and there will be a recreation of the buildings in Hallsville from that era, including the post office and Masonic lodge. Everything will be in a historically correct theme."

Hallsville ISD students are set to visit the Historical section for a field trip on Friday.

In addition to the Historical section, the event will host a historic period themed parade at 10 a.m. Saturday, beginning at Brookshire's, following along on U.S. Highway 80 East to the Hallsville Park.

Wagons will be put on trailers for the parade and the Hallsville High School Bobcat drill team and band will join in the parade, as well as several antique cars and tractors, Welch said.

Immediately following the Saturday parade, U.S. Rep. Louie Gohmert will be on hand to speak at the Hallsville City Park amphitheater, as well as Hallsville Mayor Jesse Casey.

"We will have a huge birthday cake for everyone at noon at Gold Hall Community Center to celebrate the city's birthday," Welch said.

During the day on Saturday, vendors will be set up at the park while bands play live music on the amphitheater stage. 

A Little Miss Sesquicentennial and Junior Miss Sesquicentennial Pageant will be held at 2 p.m. Saturday at the park's amphitheater. Girls ages 3 to 7 years old may compete in the Little Miss pageant while girls ages 8 to 12 years old may compete in the Junior Miss pageant. Sunday dress is requested for pageant attire.

Those wishing to sign up for the pageant or the parade may pick up forms at Hallsville City Hall. Welch said a small participation fee will be required per pageant contestant.

"From about 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, we will have constant back to back entertainment, old games, live bands and wagon rides around town. The Hallsville ISD Band Boosters are set to host a fundraiser dinner from 4 to 6 p.m. at Gold Hall Community Center," Welch said. "At 7 p.m. on Saturday, Beau Brumble, who is a Hallsville native, will perform at the amphitheater at  the park."

At 8 a.m. on Sunday, a church service will be held at the Non Day Camp on FM 450 North, Welch said.

The group of community members planning the Sesquicentennial celebration are next set to meet at 6 p.m. on Aug. 29 at the Clay Medrano Conference Room at Hallsville City Hall.

“We want everything to have the historical aspect in honor of our cities’ 150th anniversary,” Welch said. “We plan to have the Native American dancers, antique tractors, a parade and we will host events with old games and old candy from that era. We want vendors that make things so it stay correct to the historical theme.”

For more information about the event, to sign up for the parade or pageant, or to become a vendor, visit or send tax deductible donations to P.O. Box 116, Hallsville, Texas 75650.

nhague / Nathan Hague/News Messenger Photo  

Marshall running back Joe Jordan works on his footwork Monday evening during the Mavericks’ first practice.

Waskom sets tax rate, adopts resolution to participate in cooperative for splash pad

WASKOM — Waskom City Council adopted an ordinance on Tuesday setting the 2019 tax rate the same as last year’s.

After accepting the 2019 certification of taxable value as presented by chief appraiser Robert Lisman, the council chose to go with the same tax rate, which is $0.287730 cents per $100 assessed valuation instead of the proposed tax rate of $0.280767 cents per $100 assessed valuation.

Mayor Jesse Moore said since the certification of taxable value showed a new value of $519,610 for Waskom, the city decided to stick to the same tax rate as last year’s.

“Since we had the increase in value … it’ll generate (an estimate of) $15,705 income for the city,” Moore said, expounding why the council decided to go with the current tax rate.

At the proposed tax rate, the city wouldn’t have gained any money, he explained. Public hearings to discuss the tax rate are set for Aug. 27 and Sept. 3. The public hearing to consider adoption of the tax rate will be Sept. 10. All meetings are 4:30 p.m. in the City Hall board room, 450 W. Texas Ave., Waskom.


In other business, the council adopted a resolution to participate in the TIPS Purchasing System to assist with purchasing matters associated with the city’s splash pad project that’s currently in the works.

City Secretary Tammy Lofton noted that Hartland, which is with Splash Pad, recommended TIPS. According to the cooperative’s website,, TIPS (The Interlocal Purchasing System) is a national purchasing cooperative that offers access to competitively procured purchasing contracts to its membership.

“We do have Buyboard (Purchasing Cooperative) right now, but we can also have TIPS,” said Lofton.

Lofton said the splash pad is made possible through a grant the city secured through the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department for the Waskom-Taylor City Park.

She said the splash pad is expected to be up and running for the next swim season.

Right now, “it’s in the engineering stages,” said Moore. “We’re moving dead ahead with it.”


In other business, the city approved to continue to give its Harrison County child safety fee allocation to The Martin House Children’s Advocacy Center, which serves abused children in Gregg, Harrison and Marion Counties. The donation approved was for $2,784.18.

Waskom Police Chief Westy Meisenheimer noted how invaluable the center is for the county, providing a safe place for traumatized victims to seek counseling services and other assistance.

“Really, if we didn’t have that service available, I don’t know what we’d do,” Meisenheimer said.

“Unfortunately, we use them more than I’d like,” he said of the alarming number of cases throughout the service area.

Services are provided free of charge and include forensic interviews, medical exams, mental health counseling and advocacy support for children younger than age 18 who are reported victims of physical or sexual abuse or witnesses to violent crimes.