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The Lead Sept. 20, 2022: Bexar County jumps into migrant case; KISD wrestles with class sizes

Today is also the Healing Hearts Celebration to benefit the Hill Country Youth Ranch.

Good morning, Kerr County!

Well, the National Weather Service wasn't kidding when it said it would be warmer as we close out the week. By Thursday, we could see temperatures nearing 100 degrees. August was the wettest month since October 2021, but September could be one of the driest in more than 20 years. The good news is we should see temperatures next week in the mid to high 80s. However, there's no measurable rain in the forecast.

On today's episode of The Lead Live!

Today, we turn it over to guest host Bill Blackburn, who will facilitate conversations about leadership. His guests are Kerrville Police Chief Chris McCall, Peterson Health President and CEO Cory Edmondson, rancher Chris Hughes and economic development consultant John Anderson. The conversations start at 9 a.m. Schreiner University sponsors today's discussion. The Macdonald Companies and Pint and Plow Brewing Co also sponsored this week's show.

  • On Wednesday, podcaster and attorney Tom Fox hosts a discussion about the future of work with guests Michele Martinez, Kristi Curry and Rachel Fitch.
  • On Thursday, Mindy Wendele takes the show's reins to discuss female entrepreneurs with Keri Wilt, Anabel Medrano, Amber Thomason and Kristen Hedger.
  • To wrap the week, we'll have a special show Friday morning with a dive into keeping business in the family with Kerr County Abstract and Title Co. and Tenery Service Co. — both multigenerational companies. At 10 a.m., we'll have Museum of Western Art Executive Director Darrell Beauchamp give us a preview of Saturday's 39th Annual Roundup Exhibition and Sale.

And first, a word from our featured sponsors

The Kerrville Chalk Festival, Oct. 15-16, Kerrville City Hall.

Kerrville Chalk Festival is a family-friendly art event for the Texas Hill Country. More than 65 artists create large-scale chalk drawings directly on the pavement. Kerrville’s downtown becomes a festive canvas for local and regional artists, as wells as invited guest artists from around the United States.


The Festival has live music, many free activities, food trucks, as well as wine and craft beer. It attracts an estimated 10,000 attendees annually. Read about the history of chalk art.

Held at Peterson Plaza in the heart of downtown, the event encourages tourists and locals to dine, shop, and experience the beauty and charm of Kerrville, Texas.

The 2022 beneficiary is Kerrville Arts and Cultural Center (KACC). KACC was founded in 1995 by a group of artists with a mission of providing a show place for local artists and to further the arts and culture in the community. The Center is comprised of sixteen affiliated groups representing over 500 artists and has three distinct gallery spaces. It attracts over 20,000 visitors annually.

Mark your calendar for Public Power Week Oct. 2-8, and the Bucket Truck Rides.

The Kerrville Public Utility Board (KPUB) is hosting a family-friendly event to meet our heroes in hardhats while we celebrate Public Power Week!

Please mark your calendars for Saturday, October 8, from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., to join us in Louise Hays Park for a free community event!

This will be a free community event with family-friendly activities that will include taking a ride in one of KPUB’s bucket trucks, arc & spark demos, line worker tool displays, photo ops with our linemen, face painting and more.

KPUB will be providing free hot dogs, chips and refreshments on a first-come, first-served basis, as well as a free t-shirt for the first 100 attendees. For more information:

Today's key events

The arts

  • Kerr Arts Exhibits — Kerr Arts and Cultural Center, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Information: The details: Three art exhibits. Paintings by James Crouse, "Images" KACC judged membership show, "Photoquest" a judged exhibition featuring images captured by members of the Kerrville Camera Club. Artists reception August 27th, 1–3 p.m.
  • Paint Kerrville! — Kerr Arts and Cultural Center, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Information: The details: The annual Plein Air painting competition begins with 50 talented artists from Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana. Artists will paint within the constraints of time, sunlight, outdoor elements, and energy-whatever conditions may be. KACC supporters allow their VIP's a first peek at the works on Friday evening.

Science and nature

  • Ned Talk — Riverside Nature Center, 6 p.m., Information: The details:Tales of the Texas Hill Country & Beyond Naturalist, Fly Fisherman & Marine Veteran Steve Ramirez, author of "Casting Forward & Casting Onward."

Live music

  • Vinyl Night — Inn of the Hills, 7 p.m. Information: (830) 895-5000 The details: Every Tuesday night, come out for a night of solid tunes and good company. Snacks are on the scene. Beer specials. Beefeater specials. New wines.

Oh goodness, Bexar County steps into the hornet's nest

We rarely dig into issues in Bexar County, but the sheriff there launched a human smuggling investigation — something just about every Texas sheriff is doing. However, Sheriff Javier Salazar opened a criminal investigation into how 48 Venezuelan immigrants (refugees) wound up on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts last weekend. The short story is they were dropped there by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis as a political stunt.

DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott have sent busloads full of immigrants to cities with Democrats as mayors or cities that may be sympathetic to immigrants. Salazar said the immigrants were lured to Florida and sent to Massachusetts under false pretenses.

"The Bexar County Sheriff's Office has opened an investigation into the migrants that were lured from the Migrant Resource Center, located in Bexar County, TX, and flown to Florida, where they were ultimately left to fend for themselves in Martha's Vineyard, MA," the agency tweeted.

It's the biggest day of the year for the Hill Country Youth Ranch

The annual Healing Hearts Celebration — now in its 46th year — is set for today at Schreiner University's Events Center. The event is a sellout. It's the biggest one-day fundraiser for the Hill Country Youth Ranch and one of the year's most popular events.

The event features a style show, a shopping experience and a top-notch auction. There's also a jaw-dropping drawing where someone could win an H-E-B gift card worth $2,500. Another raffle costs $100 per ticket but is limited to 100 entries. The winner gets a choice of four vacation packages.

While the event is sold out, a live stream is available for those who still want to participate in the auction. More than $56,000 had been raised as of Monday night.

The Kerrville Independent School District wrestles with class sizes

The Kerrville Independent School District Board of Trustees is usually a unified group, except in one area — class sizes. On Tuesday night, KISD staff asked the board to approve applying to the Texas Education Agency to exceed the 22-students-to-one-teacher ratio in 13 classes.

It sparked a flurry of discussion, led by Trustee Andree Hayes, who has repeatedly opposed such waivers. In this situation, an unexpected surge of new students boosted class sizes just enough to warrant consideration.

Hayes argued that boosting class sizes is unfair to teachers and students. Superintendent Mark Foust said the alternative is equally challenging because it would require moving students, which he described as a significant disruption.

"It's tough, I'm rambling because I don't see an answer," Trustee Jack Stevens said. "There's no alternative."

Foust said most classes that required a waiver would move to 23-to-1 ratios. Still, Hayes and fellow Trustee Greg Peschel voted against the matter — the 5-2 vote an oddity for a board inclined toward unanimity in decisions.

There were just three action items on the board agenda, but district staff shared plenty of information about academic improvement and teacher retention programs. These are just some of the areas covered:

  • Tivy High School Principal Shelby Balser presented how the school's staff is working to close gaps in student achievement — a chunk of it due to the coronavirus pandemic. Tivy had some hits and misses on the STAAR exams, including slight rises in Algebra I performance. However, the school saw a backward trend in English scores. In English I, all levels at Tivy saw slipping results compared to 2021, but English II students gained ground in approaching standards and mastering the standards.
  • Peterson Middle School Principal Tara Althaus discussed how data monitoring plays a role (Balser shared a similar plan) as the school looks to shore up some rocky academic performances. For instance, Peterson's eighth graders — those not in Algebra I — continued to demonstrate problems with math. The STAAR results showed that 4% of eighth graders mastered math, while 30% met the goals.
  • As Althaus was making her presentation about STAAR results, board President Rolinda Schmidt asked if the new multimillion-dollar campus was aiding learning. Althaus said the flexibility of the classroom spaces — walls can be moved — along with technological improvements have made a difference, which could be seen in the next round of test results. However, throughout her presentation, Althaus made it clear that data and intervention were key in narrowing student achievement gaps.
  • When it comes to Advanced Placement testing, Tivy students made gains after the coronavirus pandemic seemed to slow progress. Tivy had 268 students enrolled in AP classes — the most since 2018. Of those students, 58% scored a 3 or better to earn potential college credit. Nearly 400 students are enrolled in an "onramp" program with the University of Texas system that offers dual-enrollment credit. Those students took UT-level classes in chemistry, statistics, pre-calculus, computer science and U.S. History. In chemistry, 85% of students who finished the course accepted the grade for their collegiate transcript. Students can choose whether to accept the grade or not regarding their collegiate transcript.

The Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library will focus on banned books

There is increasing pressure on libraries all around the country to ban books, including here in Texas. However, Kerrville's Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library is encouraging people to pick up a copy of a banned books — like "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," "The Catcher in the Rye," and "To Kill a Mocking Bird."

The Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library will join the ALA and thousands of libraries and bookstores across the country in sponsoring Banned Books Week from Sept. 18 – Sept. 24, an annual celebration of our right to access books without censorship. Since its inception in 1982, Banned Books Week has reminded us that while not every book is intended for every reader, each of us has the right to decide for ourselves what to read, listen to, or view.

The Butt-Holdsworth Memorial Library will be hosting an exhibit featuring frequently banned and challenged materials.

The American Booksellers Association, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the ALA, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, the Association of American Publishers, and the National Association of College Stores sponsor Banned Books Week. The Library of Congress Center for the Book endorses the observance.

Texas is No. 1 in book banning

The nonprofit free speech group PEN America says that Texas is No. 1 — by far when it comes to banning books. Texas has had more than 800 instances of book banning since 2021.

While Kerrville escaped PEN's notice, Fredericksburg Independent School District made the list for banning 81 books over the last year. That district removed the works of Toni Morrison, Patricia McCormick, Margaret Atwood and Khaled Hosseini.

PEN found that 40% of all book challenges involved content about LGBTQ+ characters or issues or non-white protagonists or secondary characters.

A First Amendment win for Texas — maybe

The New Orleans-based U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals is the conservative equivalent to the liberal-leaning San Francisco-based U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals by handing down rulings that leave many in the center scratching their heads.

On Monday, a three-judge panel said Texas could regulate social media platforms that restrict speech. In the case, NetChoice v. Paxton, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed a bill that said social media platforms are common carriers — meaning everyone has access to them. Texas argued Facebook and Twitter's positions in the marketplace placed them in the position to be common carriers.

However, social media platforms counter-argued that they are private businesses and have a right to refuse service by banning those violating their service terms. The biggest example of this ban is former President Donald Trump, who was booted off Twitter and Facebook after the Jan. 6 riot on Capitol Hill.

The conservative court saw it the way Texas sees it — that companies cannot regulate speech on their platforms.

"Today we reject the idea that corporations have a freewheeling First Amendment right to censor what people say," wrote Judge Andy Oldham, a former chief counsel for Gov. Abbott. "Because the district court held otherwise, we reverse its injunction and remand for further proceedings."

Judges Leslie Southwick and Edith Jones joined Oldham in the decision. Southwick was appointed to the court in 2006 by George W. Bush, while Jones came to the bench in 1985 with an appointment from Ronald Reagan. Oldham is a Trump appointee.

"We reject the Platforms' efforts to reframe their censorship as speech. It is undisputed that the Platforms want to eliminate speech—not promote or protect it," the court wrote. "And no amount of doctrinal gymnastics can turn the First Amendment's protections for free speech into protections for free censoring. We (1) explain the relevant doctrine and Supreme Court precedent. Then we (2) hold this precedent forecloses the Platforms' argument that Section 7 is unconstitutional."

What's interesting about the argument is that the court says that they're not allowed to make rules based on speculative opinions — like censoring Nazis or those invoking violence, because they don't seem to believe those exist.

"Far from justifying pre-enforcement facial invalidation, the Platforms' obsession with terrorists and Nazis proves the opposite. The Supreme Court has instructed that "[i]n determining whether a law is facially invalid," we should avoid "speculat[ing] about 'hypothetical' or 'imaginary' cases."

In the end, the U.S. Supreme Court will decide the case, and it's already ruled in favor of the platforms. This is where things can get tricky because it's a First Amendment can of worms. Here's the original text:

"The First Amendment provides that Congress make no law respecting an establishment of religion or prohibiting its free exercise. It protects freedom of speech, the press, assembly, and the right to petition the government for a redress of grievances."

Traditionally, the First Amendment protections are for those aggrieved by the government's attempts to restrict speech. The platforms argued they exercised editorial control and standards, but the court rejected that argument.


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