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The Lead Oct. 18, 2022: Sheriff Leitha makes a pitch for a Big Bearkat!

The Sheriff's Foundation holds a fundraiser tonight to raise money for an armored vehicle!

Good morning, Kerr County

Let's just say the rainfall was disappointing, but the cooler temperatures were nice! A fast-moving cold front swept into Kerr County on Monday, spit on us for a bit and then left us behind. We will see cool temperatures today, and then by Wednesday, those highs creep back into the low 80s.

On today's The Lead Live!

OK, today's show might be our craziest one yet. We're going to try to wrangle brewers, winemakers and bartenders into a show about — beer, wine and drinks. The lineup is a who's who of the best in town. And here's the tentative lineup:

  • Pint and Plow Brewing Co.
  • Off-Main Brewing
  • Bridget's Basket
  • Kerrville Hills Winery
  • Turtle Creek Olives and Vines
  • Grape Juice

It's the second day of our "Be Our Guest Week," as we focus on hospitality and fun in Kerr County. Wednesday is all about desserts.

The sheriff's foundation makes its case

The Kerr County Sheriff's Foundation is a little bit behind this year in their efforts to raise more than $150,000 to obtain a matching grant from the Cailloux Foundation to purchase a tactical vehicle for the sheriff's office.

Tonight, the foundation is making its ask during an event from 6-9 p.m. at Arcadia Live. It's the same event where the foundation socked away more than $75,000 in two hours, and the hoper are to triple that tonight.

In question is an armored tactical vehicle called a Bearkat — that will cost more than $300,000. However, Sheriff Larry Leitha makes it clear the utility of the vehicle goes far beyond the intimidating sound of the truck, but one with intrinsic value. Last February, deputies faced the daunting task of trying to make calls on icy roads, but Leitha says this tool is critical in helping protect his deputies during severe weather. Of course, the vehicle is armored, which means it can reach places in case of a shooter or other worst-case scenarios. (There's no mention, of how it stacks up against robot or giant lizard attack).

Tonight's event is free, and there is live music planned. There are auction items and other activities as well.

Today's events

The arts

  • KACC Exhibits — Kerr Arts and Cultural Center, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Information: The details: Three art exhibits. "Artwork by Phyllis & Doug Garey," "Kerrville Art Club Member Show," local artist exhibition and art sale, and "Quilts and Other Art Forms," local quilters exhibit.
  • 39th Annual Western Art Show and Sale — Museum of Western Art, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Information: The details: The Exhibition and sale will bring together more than 40 top Western Artists presenting more than 100 original works of Western Art.
  • Seeing Blue — Hill Country Arts Foundation, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Information: The details: The HCAF juried art show.

Live music

  • Vinyl Night — Inn of the Hills, 7 p.m. Information: 830-895-5000 The details: Vinyl night is a night of listening to music our favorite way and playing records!

Schreiner University trustees to decide football future this week

This week is a time of significant consequence for Schreiner University, with a decision of weight facing the board of trustees.

At stake is a growth plan fueled by a Texas pastime — football — a multi-million dollar decision facing the university's trustees. To add football, Schreiner would need to recruit more than 100 players and coaches and find more than $2 million in funding — just to start.

Last week, university President Charlie McCormick briefed the Kerrville City Council on the impending decision, which could lead to a massive re-working of campus facilities, including adding a football stadium. McCormick offered plans that added a standalone football stadium facing east Main Street and another with a football and track and field complex at the university's current soccer field.

All told, McCormick said the projects could cost $30 million. It could add another $17 million in direct economic impact to the $72 million university officials estimate the school generates for Kerrville.

The vote could happen Thursday.

The Economic Improvement Corporation in a meeting to rival P&Z and City Council

Let's be clear, Kerrville's Planning and Zoning Commission and the City Council become mired in lengthy meetings, and maybe the Economic Improvement Corporation wanted in on the fun.

So, the EIC slogged through a two-hour meeting on Monday afternoon, but it was not without merit. In terms of financial impact, EIC's decisions are some of the subsequent in Kerrville, and city officials came before the corporation to ask for funding to help extend the Guadalupe River Trail.

What's proposed is extending the river trail directly north of Louise Hays Park and below downtown, but there's a catch. It's $1 million for about a mile. The price tag stopped the commissioners, and there were plenty of questions about whether this addition was needed.

"I think it's redundant," said Danny Almond, who led the meeting with corporate president Greg Richards out of town.

Kerrville parks and recreation planners envision the trail serving both the north and south banks of the river from G Street to Tranquility Island. However, there are plenty of engineering challenges to completing the route. That has driven the price higher — a reality compounded by inflationary pressures.

One of the big EIC questions was if this was the best route, with an argument to extend the trail westward toward Nimitz Lake. Assistant City Manager Michael Hornes and Parks and Recreation Director Ashlea Boyle said there are potential issues with working the route around the city's water plant, which sits on the eastern edge of Nimitz Lake.

There are discussions about bringing a marina project to the southside of Nimitz Lake near The Landing apartment complex. However, those plans are not finalized. In the end, EIC voted 4-1 to table the discussion until next month's meeting.

Juxtaposing school safety, student achievement in KISD

The Kerrville Independent School District board of trustees heard two reports Monday night about student achievement and how to protect them from a mass shooter. The juxtaposition wasn't intentional, but the reality facing school leaders.

KISD Assistant Superintendent Wade Ivy told trustees about the district's efforts to improve school security, which began when Kerrville voters approved a 2018 bond. The shooting that killed 19 children and two teachers in Uvalde amplified the need to improve safety. Ivy mapped the reality facing students and staff:

  • The district now conducts door checks and audits to ensure doors close and lock properly — an outcome derived from the Uvalde shooting.
  • The district upgraded all interior door-locking mechanisms at Hal Peterson Middle School and Tivy High School.
  • The district added 7-foot fencing around playgrounds at elementary schools.
  • The Kerrville Police Department works closely with the district to walk through the campus, work through procedures in case of an emergency, and coordinate efforts around family reunification centers.
  • The district is also training students and staff about responding to a shooter with drills and room denial exercises. That means if there's a shooter, they barricade themselves inside.
  • District staff received incident command training to strengthen communication efforts with first responders.

In terms of student achievement, each of the district's elementary school principals presented progress reports in the wake of academic challenges coming out of the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Throughout the pandemic, KISD saw declines in its STAAR testing results, especially in math. The data suggest improvements in reading scores, but math scores continue to lag.
  • At Starkey Elementary School, reading scores crept up in grades third through fifth. The school saw 34% of its third-grade students master reading — up 7% from 2021. However, the school saw declines in fourth and fifth-grade students mastering math. The fifth graders fell from 42% to 26% in one year. At the same time, third graders boosted their math mastery by 16%.
  • At Nimitz Elementary, the results improved in the basic area of approaches to mastering math and reading. Only in the fifth grade did Nimitz see declines in meets standards and masters math.
  • At Tally Elementary, reading scores showed progress, while the math performance was still catching up. In the fifth grade, 61% of students mastered reading — the highest in the district.
  • At Daniels Elementary, there were substantial gains in the third and fourth grades in reading. The school had 97% of its third graders approach grade level, while 51% mastered reading. In the fourth grade, students increased their "meets grade level" from 36% to 73%. Except for third grade, the school's fourth and fifth-grade students went backward in "meets" and "masters."

Trustee Dr. David Sprouse said that the progress made by students was encouraging.

"Very impressive," Sprouse said. "We met one of our district levels, even with the setback of COVID, these are very positive numbers."


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