State Officials Sylvia Garcia and Ana Hernandez turned away
By Allan Jamail Edited by NCS staff
CHANNELVIEW, TX. – North Channel – Friday, June 29, 2018 — State Senator Sylvia Garcia and State Representative Ana Hernandez went to Casa Montezuma, a child detention facility in their district, to check on migrant children being housed there. The children have either been separated from their parents who immigrated to the United States seeking political asylum from violence and persecution, or else they arrived without parents.
Armed officers in uniforms bearing the name Fort Bend County Patrol swarmed Garcia and Hernandez, stopping them and telling them they could not enter to see the children even though they both proved they were elected state officials.
Allan Jamail, a photojournalist for the North Channel Star, accompanying the state officials, had his camera grabbed by an officer whose uniform identified him as Chief G. Fuentes. Fuentes told the visiting group that the area is private property and off-limits to visitors and photo-taking.
Fuentes said, “Visitors must first make an appointment by phone to visit the facility,” but when Garcia and Hernandez told Fuentes they’ve called for days but no one will answer the phone, Fuente then said, “I know because they don’t want any visitors, so they’re not going to answer the phone.”
Not easily persuaded to leave without first checking on the welfare of the kids, for almost an hour a standoff with security in over 100 degree scorching heat, finally Fuentes agreed to allow Garcia and Hernandez to go to the front door to make an appointment for a visit on another day.
The door was locked and no one inside would come to the door or answer the intercom system, so after numerous attempts Chief Fuentes said, “You need to leave because no one is going to come talk to you or allow you inside. They don’t want visitors.”
Fuentes said he was only doing his job, but Garcia and Hernandez responded and told him he was preventing them from doing their jobs to check on the welfare of children in their District.
As debate rages endlessly in the nation about the federal government policy of separating children from their parents who entered the county illegally, the debate has now moved to the Houston political stage because the state’s largest provider of these services has requested a permit to use a building at 419 Emancipation Avenue on Houston’s east side. Southwest Key Programs is the largest provider in Texas, now housing 2,725 unaccompanied children in 16 locations.
This includes 4 facilities in the greater Houston area that are virtually unknown and unnoticed, including one that dates back to 1991. Two of these are in the North Channel/Northeast circulation area. Casa Montezuma is on the I-10 Feeder road in the Channelview area. Neighbors had suspected that the facility was a federal children’s shelter, but weren’t sure, they told this newspaper. Records from the Texas Health and Human Services show that the facility is currently housing 191 children, and recently had its license increased to 210, an increase of 11% similar to figures statewide. This shelter is licensed to provide child care services only, since May 2017. Children housed are from 10 to 17 years of age.
The other facility in our area is at 7900 Mesa Drive, in Northeast Houston. It houses 54 children, ages 10 to 17, and is licensed for multiple services, including Emotional Disorders. It has had a license from the state since 1991. Most of the Texas shelters are run by two nonprofits: Southwest Key Programs and BCFS Health and Human Services. The latter is a church sponsored group, based in Dallas.
HOUSTON, TX — State Representative Hernandez (D-Houston) joined over 100 local business leaders, elected officials, and community members at the Holiday Inn in Channelview on Thursday, April 19. The event, the first of its kind in the region, was hosted by Amir Khan, CEO of Ashland Hospitality, Inc., and his wife Sabrina.
Other officials in attendance included Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner, State Representatives Armando Walle (D-Aldine) and Mary Ann Perez (DPasadena), Harris County Constable, Precinct 2 Constable Chris Diaz, and Jacinto City Mayor Ana Diaz. Attendees discussed the need for regional cooperation, pressing workforce needs, and the importance of strong leadership that recognizes those issues at all levels of government and in the private sector.
The 55th annual Channelview FFA Livestock Show celebrated another successful year as the auction highlighted the conclusion of the event at the Allen Hall Fairgrounds on April 7.
Many livestock, horticulture and craft exhibits were featured during the week. Auction highlights included the bidding of the Grand Champion and Reserve Champion steers. Madisyn Beach’s Grand Champion Steer earned $5,500 with a winning bid by Channelview Glass. Colton Taylor’s Reserve Champion Steer was purchased for $8,000 by Yates Remodeling.
After the Channelview High School Falcon Marching Band was involved in a major bus accident while returning home from Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla. on March 13, they are receiving some help from many friends.
Goose Creek CISD, La Porte ISD, Pasadena ISD, Sheldon ISD and Texas City ISD are all lending equipment to the Channelview Band until they are able to replace the instruments that were destroyed in the crash. The instruments will quickly be put to good use as Falcon Band members are scheduled to participate in the University Interscholastic League Wind Ensemble contest April 25-27.
In addition, North Shore Senior High School Band Director Shane Gorforth and Crosby High School Band Director Kevin Knight are working together with the Channelview Band to prepare them for the UIL Wind Ensemble event. Falcon Band Director Aaron suffered major injuries in the bus accident and is recovering at an area rehabilitation facility.
“We are very appreciative of everyone’s willingness to help out,” said Jennifer Tunink, Channelview ISD’s fine arts director. “The outpouring of support from so many districts, businesses and the community has truly been a blessing to all of us.”
In a world where so many people are stressed out and have way too much on their “plate”, I am thankful for those who do not understand the word “no”. Last week, our community was rocked with the horror of the Channelview Band bus accident, yet in the midst of this, we all saw some amazing people step up as well as those who just stay ready to help.
From the pastors and ministers involved with the Channelview Ministry Team, to the School Board Members, Band Alumni and community members, love was felt EVERYWHERE. I cannot say enough about how Superintendent Greg Ollis cares about the students and the community. He was running on prayers as I know he did not take time to eat. From the morning of the accident and continuing daily, he has been the lighthouse in the midst of the pain. There were several members of the Crisis Chaplaincy of Texas present and these individuals under the direction of Lunetta Mitchell were a blessing to the families who were waiting to hear from loved one. Among those volunteers was Diane Collette Pinkney, who happens to also be a bus driver for CISD. To say that Diane loves her job is an understatement.
Over the past decade, I have seen her pray for the children that she transports to and from school as well as support them in their activities and love on them as a surrogate grandmother.
School Board Members who continued to communicate with the community and be present to join the Prayer Gatherings for the students and families were invaluable. Steve Dennis is to be commended for the pride he has in the District and the Community. Even when he is not in the best of health, he is there to remind us to pray for the families and support the schools. Greg Johnstone, Patrick Lacy, Kyle Campbell, and the other board members.
Pastors such as Johnny Brady, Irvin Clark, Rob Morris, Byron Murray, Christopher Shackleford, Charlie Tutt and Kent Wilson are often referred to as my brothers because each one of them has been there for me over the years when I have needed a pastor to encourage or direct me in some way. Each of these amazing men where present last Tuesday as we waited on the students.
Truly what blessed me even more was the young people who showed up to support the students. Nico Izaguirre is a 2017 graduate of Channelview High School as well as a current student at San Jacinto College and he was present to comfort and support the families as we waited on the bus to arrive. Later that evening he was one of the young adults who led the group in prayer for the healing of the group. It is no surprise that he and his mom were among the supporters at Chick-fil-A on Tuesday. Joseph DeCola who operates both the Wallisville and the I-10 locations is another angel among us. He donated all profit from both locations and it totaled more than $8400 to help the Channelview Band. Other restaurants in the area are planning similar fundraisers.
While others may think they live in the best community, those of us who are a part of the North Channel Area truly are the most blessed. I love you and there is NOTHING you can do about it.
CHANNELVIEW – Parents and school officials were shocked to hear early Tuesday morning that a chartered bus, with 46 students and adults from Channelview, had left the I-10 roadway in Alabama, and plunged down a 50 foot drop into a ravine, injuring most of the passengers and killing the bus driver.
Two buses, chartered from First Class Tours in Aldine, were bringing the Falcon band members back from a vacation and performance at Disney World park in Florida. It was the second, or trailing bus, that had the accident.
Authorities said that the scene did not show any indication that the bus tried to stop or swerve. The path led through the grassy median and over an embankment and a drop of over 50 feet into a ravine.
Alabama state trooper John Malone indicated that the driver, Harry Caligone may have been “unresponsive” prior to the crash, leading to speculation that he actually died of a medical problem such as a heart attack. However, family members said that he had recently passed a physical exam and was healthy.
The accident happened at about 5:30 a.m. Tuesday morning, while it was still dark. Authorities said that after the initial 9-1-1 calls, about a dozen fire and EMS departments responded from nearby cities, and about 5 helicopters were used to transport injured people. The bus held about 40 students, age 1518, and six adults. Those injured were taken to 10 area hospitals, according to later reports. Most victims were treated at Sacred Heart hospital in Pensacola, where two remained in serious but not life threatening condition.
Students reported that they were thrown through the air, landed on top of each other, or wedged under the seats. They used the light from cell phones to help get out of the overturned bus. It was dark, cold, and lonely at the bottom of that ravine.
Interstate I-10 was shut down in both directions during the rescue operation, and did not reopen for about 10 hours, causing massive traffic problems in Alabama and the Florida panhandle.
The lead bus, which had stopped briefly when the accident occured, continued westward and arrived in Channelview about 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, where it was met by parents and school officials.
Meanwhile, injured students had been taken to about 10 hospitals in the Mobile and Pensacola areas, and were later gathered at Coastal Church in Daphne, Alabama awaiting transportation back to Channelview. Many chose not to ride in a bus or car, and were put on planes. Others waited for their parents to arrive, and take them safely back home.
One of the more seriously injured passengers was the band director, Aaron Allison, with multiple injuries that required surgery. He had been the last person removed from the overturned bus, almost 3-1/2 hours after the crash.
Channelview ISD superintendent kept parents and media informed of news from the site, and the district issued the following statement:
“First and foremost, our thoughts and prayers go out to our students, employees, and families that have been affected by this tragedy. As you are well aware, a charter bus carrying Channelview High School band students was involved in an accident returning from Florida early this morning. At this time, we have been able to confirm that 40 students and 6 adults from Channelview were on the bus at the time of the accident. We are aware of numerous injuries. We are now focused on getting everyone back safely to our community. We are extremely grateful for the first responders, hospital employees, and volunteers from churches and schools in Alabama and Florida that have stepped up to help our students and comfort them though this difficult situation. Those communities have opened their hearts and arms to our children and employees. They have provided resources, support, and a safe and welcoming environment while we work through the logistics of reuniting our families. We also want to thank our state and local officials who have all reached out to help us. Governor Abbott, Senator Sylvia Garcia, Commissioner Jack Morman, Representative Ana Hernandez, and Precinct 3 Constable Sherman Eagleton have all reached out to offer support and assistance.”
Authorities said that the bus company and the driver had better than average safety records, and their fleet of 58 buses seem to be well maintained. The company employs about 94 drivers, records show.
CHANNELVIEW FIRE DEPARTMENT held an Open House on Tuesday, March 6 to dedicate their newest Fire Station #3 on Dell Dale Street. The building houses three functions: Administrative offices for CFD and ESD#50, Fire Department Equipment and personnel, and Ambulance Service. CFD now has two new stations. They recently completed a new building on Market Street.
RIBBON CUTTING PARTICIPANTS included the ESD#50 board members, North Channel Chamber, Judge Joe Stephens, and Harris County Pct. 2 Commissioner Jack Morman. Channelview Fire Department has been in existence since 1949, and in 2012 the ESD (Emergency Service District) took over fiscal management of the department. There are over 70 firefighters and EMS personnel in the department.
CHANNELVIEW, Texas – Feb. 14, 2018 -The Channelview Complex of LyondellBasell (NYSE: LYB), one of the largest plastics, chemicals and refining companies in the world, today opened the doors to a new, state-of-the-art administration building. The site began construction of the $70 million, 96,347 square foot building last year as part of ongoing safety enhancements for the complex.
Harris County Precinct Two Commissioner Jack Morman and several other local community leaders and residents joined LyondellBasell employees and Executive Vice President of Global Manufacturing Dan Coombs to celebrate the opening of the three-story building during a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
“This building investment represents our commitment to putting safety first in everything we do,” said Coombs. “As a company, we are always seeking ways we can improve the safety of our sites. This building, with its enhanced safety features and new location, showcases our continued focus on this effort.”
The new building is located away from operating units and features a number of safety and work enhancements for the site, including on-site security, security card-access to offices and improved fire suppression systems. It also has an on-site Health Center and a room for new mothers.
In addition to relocating the administration building, the site also moved the operations control room for the north plant and maintenance department to the new campus.
It was just another normal day for Channelview High School senior Kennedi Henderson. All of the sudden, in the middle of class, some visitors known to Houston area television viewers entered the room with a welcome surprise.
Henderson’s face lit up with a wide grin as morning news anchor Owen Conflenti called her to the front of the classroom and presented her with KPRC’s $2,500 Senior Scholarship. She is the first recipient out of 20 Houston area students to receive the award, sponsored by Texas Mattress Makers.
“This is amazing,” Henderson said. “This was such an unexpected surprise, but I am excited that my family is here to share it with me.”
Several of Henderson’s family members, including her grandmother, whose home was affected by Hurricane Harvey were in attendance. Her parents, who are both Channelview educators, were also there to support their daughter, along with her brother, who is a junior at CHS.
Henderson is an outstanding student, ranked sixth in her class. She plans to attend Prairie View A&M University in the fall, where she will major in Chemical Engineering. Her involvement at CHS includes serving as a member of the National Honor Society and participating in the Modified Early College Program (MECA) at San Jacinto College. Through her success in MECA, Henderson will receive her Associate’s Degree in May, along with her high school diploma.
NORTH SHORE ROTARY CLUB distributed 300 food baskets to needy families in the North Channel area on Thursday, December 14. Seen above are Rotarians John Parrott, president Adam Lund, Bill Hendrix, and Wayne Oquin with two helpers from the Channelview ISD. Distribution this year was through the high schools in Sheldon, Channelview, and Galena Park, due to the problem of many families displaced because of the flooding from Hurricane Harvey. With the help of the school districts, baskets were sent to each of the High Schools, where recipients came to pick them up.
Pictured above are some of the 300 food baskets that were distributed last week by the North Shore Rotary club, with the help of Harris County Precinct 2. This year the baskets were sent to high schools in Sheldon, Channelview, and Galena Park for pick-up.