Thursday’s graduation day lacked caps and gowns and was a little less formal than traditional pomp and circumstance, but it was no less joyous for the participants who filled the third-floor courtroom in the Ellis County Court House.
The six who graduated were among the first to be sentenced 15 months ago to Drug Court and complete its five phases that aim to treat the offenders’ drug problem and give them the tools to not return to their former habits.
Drug Court, while a part of an offender’s sentence with strict requirements, is often informal in its proceedings when it meets every two weeks in the second-floor courtroom of 23rd Judicial District Chief Judge Glenn Braun. He likens Drug Court to more of a conversation between him and each individual, where they share their ups and downs in their lives.
When four goldendoodle puppies were found abandoned by the side of an Ellis County road in early November, Jennifer Hecker saw a perfect opportunity.
Options Domestic and Sexual Violence Services, of which Hecker is executive director, had recently retired Sunny, an 11-year-old golden retriever, as its service dog and was looking for another.
“We’ve been looking specifically for a goldendoodle because of the breed — they’re low allergen, low shedding, and they’re really, really great with kids and adults,” she said. “But of course, they’re very expensive.”
The third-graders from Holy Family Catholic Elementary School leaned over the railing, watching Pebbles and Darius, the African spur-thighed tortoises at Sternberg Museum of Natural History, as they crawled about their pen looking for treats Wednesday morning.
And they peppered Ian Trevethan, Sternberg’s education and outreach coordinator, with questions.
Do they get anything special to eat when they’re good? How old are they? How long do they live? Is a year of their life equal to a certain number of human years, like one year for a dog is equal to seven of ours? Do they dress up for Halloween? And many more, both serious and fun.
The Hays USD 489 school board heard some grim news about the district’s facilities at its Monday night work study session, which included a tour of Wilson Elementary School highlighting its space issues.
Rusty Lindsay, director of buildings and grounds, told the board members that several buildings are needing some large-cost improvements.
“I wanted to set the stage tonight that I’m going to have to switch course a little bit and start looking at some of those buildings,” he said. “I’m not sure where we’re at as far as a bond, but we’re running out of time and we’re going to have to move forward.
A proposal to turn the former Washington Elementary School into affordable housing won’t move forward this year.
“I was very hopeful I’d be here today with good news,” Matt Gillam, vice president of development for Overland Property Group, Lenexa, told the Hays USD 489 school board at its regular meeting Monday night.
“However,” Gillam said, “we were informed very recently that we did not receive funding. We’ve got a bit of a unique situation in front of us right now.”