News

Suit originated with power price squabble

By MIKE BROWN Reporter Editor

From left, new trustee Wenda Jo Dyer was sworn in to a first term Monday while Michelle Lehmkuhl and Lee Jenkins took the oath for new terms. Jenkins was elected as the board’s new president. From left, new trustee Wenda Jo Dyer was sworn in to a first term Monday while Michelle Lehmkuhl and Lee Jenkins took the oath for new terms. Jenkins was elected as the board’s new president. The lawsuit which got under way Monday in 20th District Court might have been viewed as a key factor in keeping Alcoa’s Rockdale smelter open if things had worked out differently.

It’s easy to forget the timing of the lawsuit’s filing on Aug. 22, 2008, in 20th District Court.

At that time Alcoa had only announced the shutdown of three out of Rockdale Operations’ six potlines.

In fact, there was even some hope f loated that ongoing negotiations between the two former partners could avert those first 300 layoffs.

It didn’t happen.

That week, ta lk s were termed “at an impasse,” and plans to shut down the first three potlines proceeded.

Retiring school board president James Birkhead (R) served as trustee for 15 years, board president for eight. Supt. Dr. Howell Wright presented him with a plaque. Reporter/Mike Brown Retiring school board president James Birkhead (R) served as trustee for 15 years, board president for eight. Supt. Dr. Howell Wright presented him with a plaque. Reporter/Mike Brown Alcoa had maintained the cost, and reliability, of power it was purchasing from Sandow Unit 4 was a key factor in the smelter being cut from six to three potlines.

The lawsuit was touted as a remedy for that situation. Alcoa asked the court to order Luminant charge the aluminum company no more than $46.25 per kilowatt hour when Sandow 4 is not operating or operating at a reduced level.

In August, 2008, Alcoa offi- cials were even saying the local smelter possessed the potential to run profitably at three lines.

One month later, Luminant responded to Alcoa’s lawsuit, “generally denying each and every allegation contained (in Alcoa’s suit)...”

The next week Alcoa announced it was closing the remaining three potlines at Rockdale Operations and shutting down the smelter.

Luminant has countersued Alcoa, seeking, for starters, at least $10 million-plus in money it says was lost from the power company’s business dealings with Alcoa.

An era ended Monday for the Rockdale ISD board of trustees as Lee Jenkins replaced James Birkhead as school board president.

Birkhead did not seek re-election to his Place 5 position this spring, ending a 15-year tenure on the board, the last eight as president.

Lee Jenkins was elected as Birkhead’s replacement in the president’s chair Monday in the Central Administration Building and Wenda Jo Dyer, who ran without opposition, was sworn in as the new Place 5 member.

Birkhead was presented an appreciation plaque by Dr. Howell Wright, superintendent.

“I’d like to thank all the great people I worked with over the past 15 years to help the kids in Rockdale schools,” he said.

Jenkins was elected board president unanimously. Michelle Lehmkuhl was named vice-president and Mike Pruett secretary, also in unanimous votes.

TAKS to STAAR

Penny Curry, assistant superintendent for instruction, presented preliminary reports on 2009-10 TAKS tests and the new STA AR tests which will replace it.

Rockdale ISD’s fifth-grade and eighth-grade TAKS scores are the best in years with the equivalent of “exemplary” ratings in three of four categories and “recognized” in the other.

(A story in the May 6 Reporter detailed the preliminary TAKS scores.)

Curry pointed out RISD is achieving the high scores with a disproportionate high percentage of special needs students which are now being “mainstreamed” with scores counting toward TAKS.

She praised the efforts of district teachers and students.

But TAKS is ending, to be replaced by the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) exam in 2011-12.

“STAAR replaces the exit-level TAKS test with 12 end-of-course exams in four core areas,” she said.

Current seventh graders will be the first class to graduate under STAAR, she said.

Art gallery

FayeLee Cox, RHS art instructor, turned the Central Administration Building into an art gallery, reporting on achievements of the school’s young artists.

She said two RHS seniors are heading to college to pursue art careers and have made extensive portfolio presentations.

“Corolyn Holub has received a full scholarship to The University of Texas at Austin and Kennedy Cooke-Garza will attend Savannah College of Art & Design and has already earned $13,700 toward college,” Cox said.

Ashley Willard and Christy Walker presented a slide show on the elementary’s pre-kindergarten program.

‘Drawing board’

Karl Kacir, assistant superintendent for business, told board members it was “back to the drawing board” for RISD budget planners after preliminary appraisal figures from the Milam County Appraisal District came in lower than anticipated.

Kacir said the goal of budget planners has been to reduce an anticipated $879,000 deficit to $750,000.

In other business, trustees:

• Accepted the resignation of Kristen Gunter (health/coach/ physical education) and Courtney Dees (RJH instructional aide).

• Hired Abby Melde (fourth g r ade), Wh it ne y Pou nder s (fourth grade), Tanya Mynar (fifth grade) and Amanda Frerich (junior-high science).

• Changed the district’s food service contractor from Aramark to SFE.

• Okayed a project to replace flooring in the junior-high kitchen for $28,764.

• Approved revisions to the district’s leaves and absences policy.

• Okayed the English as a Second Language (ESL) schedule of instruction for summer school.

• Accepted an interlocal agreement with the City of Rockdale to provide a School Resource Officer.


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The burn ban for Milam County has been lifted. Burning is always prohibited in the county's municipalities.


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