Mission, Texas Brain

Tuesday, November 21, 2006


Tonight, I was archiving Rep. Peña's website at A Capitol Blog. Blogger used to let you do this without losing you subdomain. However, while the blog was offline, it got taken over by a spam site and I am unable to get it back. The blog is still viewable at http://www.aaronpena.com/acapitolblog if you want to see his latest posts.

I'm working on getting back his subdomain. If you could, temporarily, disable the link because there is a porn ereaser website that pops up. Obviously, it's not something Mr. P wants associated with his name.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Board Highlights for November 13

Sorry this was delayed getting out to you...
Here is your link to the Board Highlights Podcast for their meeting of November 13
Here is your link to the traditional pdf version of Board Highlights
Here is your link to the Board Highlights archive page
Board Highlights pdf is best viewed with Adobe Acrobat Reader version 5.0 or higher.  It is a free download from www.adobe.com.  If you would like more information on Mission CISD Podcasts and how to subscribe to the RSS feeds of the Podcasts, use the following link
Craig Verley
Director of Public Relations and Marketing
Mission CISD
1201 Bryce Drive
Mission, TX 78572

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Friday, November 10, 2006

Board Highlights for meeting of October 31

Here is your link to the Board Highlights podcast for October 31, 2006
Here is your link to the traditional Board Highlights pdf
Here is your link to the Board Highlights archive page
If you would like more information about podcasts available from the Mission CISD Public Relations Department, use the following link
Craig Verley
Director of Public Relations and Marketing
Mission CISD
1201 Bryce Drive
Mission, TX 78572

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Staff Inservice Day is October 9

Mission CISD students have a long weekend coming soon. Students get to stay home on Monday, October 9. District staff, however, will still report to work. Normal school hours resume for students the following day, Tuesday, October 10.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

VMHS choir students advance

The choir directors at Veterans Memorial High School (VMHS) say they are seeing their strongest year yet, since the school officially became a high school a few years ago. They have nine students that have advanced out of recent district competition with seven of those students advancing out of regional competition. Those seven have qualified for the pre-area Texas Music Educators Association audition to be held in November. That is the most ever for the school.

The district and regional competitions were hosted by VMHS this past weekend. Over 200 students from several school districts participated.

Advancing to the pre-area auditions are: Elisa Rangel, Lauren Garcia, Sara Martinez, Krystal Cavazos, Juventino Hurtado, Hiram Chavez, Salomon Lopez. Danny Lopez and Jacob Gaitan advanced out of district to the regional audition.

The VMHS choir will hold their first concert of the school year on October 15 at the First Presbyterian Church in Mission at 7:30 p.m. It will be a joint concert with the Mission Junior High School choir.

Pictured on the front row from left to right are: Elisa Rangel, Lauren Garcia, Sara Martinez, Krystal Cavazos. On the second row from left to right are: Danny Lopez, Juventino Hurtado, Hiram Chavez, Salomon Lopez, Jacob Gaitan. On the back row from left to right are: Pat Masso, principal; Linda Holkup, Mission Junior High choir director; Leticia Rodriguez, VMHS choir director; Vanessa Villarreal, Mission Junior High student teacher; Stacy Gonzalez, VMHS assistant director.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Mission CISD Schools are NOT releasing early



Some of our campuses are calling in saying parents are calling them, indicating they heard on the news and/or radio that Mission schools are releasing students early today.  This is not true.  At this time all Mission CISD schools are observing a normal school day schedule.  For those of you with radio stations in the building, I would appreciate it if you could check with them to make sure they are not sending out wrong information.  I am hoping this is just a case of parents hearing something incorrectly. :)  Your help is appreciated.


Craig Verley

Director of Public Relations and Marketing

Mission CISD

1201 Bryce Drive

Mission, TX 78572





Sunday, September 17, 2006

Mission High School Class Of 1987 Reunion Homepage

Here's the link to the updated homepage.....you've probably already got
all this info but..... better safe than sorry :)


Please remember to RSVP and get your money in as soon as possible!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Mission CISD Board Highlights for September 11

I got the following from Craig Verley. Please read for more info about the MCISD School Board.



Here is your link to the Board Highlights podcast for the trustees meeting of September 11



Here is your link to the pdf version of Board Highlights



Here is your link to the Board Highlights archive page

Mission CISD Board Highlights


The pdf version of Board Highlights is best viewed with Adobe Acrobat Reader version 5.0 or higher.  It is a free download from www.adobe.com.  For more information on any of the district podcasts, click this link MCISD Public Relations Podcasts.



Craig Verley

Director of Public Relations and Marketing

Mission CISD

1201 Bryce Drive

Mission, TX 78572





Tuesday, August 22, 2006


McAllen and Mission Receive Funding to Help Boost Economic Development, Develop Water Infrastructure in Valley 

WASHINGTON—The Cities of McAllen and Mission will receive a federal grant of $1,250,000 to develop water infrastructure for border station facilities at the proposed Anzalduas International Crossing, U.S. Sen. John Cornyn announced on Tuesday. The funding, provided through the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA), is expected to generate dozens of jobs in the area and provide a strong boost for local economic growth.

“This funding is good news for the future of economic development in the Valley,” said Cornyn, a member of the Senate Small Business Committee. “The investment will give a boost to the local economy by creating new jobs, and I applaud the local leaders who worked to secure this funding.”

The EDA will invest the grant funding towards the area’s water infrastructure construction, including the proposed border station facility. This project is expected to expand commerce and industry in the lower Rio Grande Valley by adding new jobs and generating private investment. The grant comes through EDA’s Public Works Program.  

The Public Works Program is a program administered by the U.S. Economic Development Administration, a part of the Department of Commerce. The EDA was established to work with states and localities to generate new jobs, retain existing jobs, and stimulate industrial and commercial growth in economically distressed areas and regions of the United States.

Sen. Cornyn is a member of the following key Senate Committees: Armed Services; Judiciary; Budget, Small Business and Entrepreneurship; and Joint Economic. Cornyn was previously Texas Attorney General, Texas Supreme Court Justice and Bexar County District Judge.


Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Deadlines for Mission High School Class of 1987

Hi All!

Some of you may receive this in triplicate - I apologize in
advance :) I am posting here, Classmates, and emailing direct.

Tentative schedule for the 20th Reunion (I freak every time I type
that...) The only thing set in stone so far are the dates - We are
95% certain that this is the way things will run for the weekend.

Friday Night - October 6th
Homecoming Football game and hangin' out afterwards at Pepe's,
Hotties, or SOMEWHERE..... Can't imagine the football tickets will
be more than 10 bucks.... Steve is in charge of this and we will have
more info soon.

Saturday Night - October 7th
7 - 9 PM BBQ at The Zone
9 - ? Fun and games and catching up at The Zone

Will let you know more on cost a little later but we are trying to
work it so things will be 20 bucks per adult (trying to keep kids
free but we need to put the pencil to things) This money will cover
food, sodas, and a VERY small charge for The Zone. This night is
going to be a BLAST!!!

DEADLINES - Just One :)

SEPTEMBER 22nd - Please let me know your plans ASAP if you can - the
earlier the better! I just need to know what you plan on attending
and how many you'll bring.

If anyone has any questions at all, don't hesitate to email or post!


AYP ratings released for Mission CISD

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has released data that includes preliminary ratings that are part of the federal No Child Left Behind laws. According to the TEA’s preliminary data, most Mission CISD (Consolidated Independent School District) campuses met Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) guidelines. Final ratings will not be released by the TEA until December.

The AYP ratings, as they are commonly referred to, are similar to the state’s accountability system in many respects. However, the AYP rating system requires that levels of performance be met by more sub-groups of students than the state system. This can actually result in schools and districts performing well in the state accountability system, but still receiving a status of "Missed AYP" in a particular area, whether it is in the area of performance or participation.

According to the preliminary AYP results, all but two Mission CISD campuses met AYP in all areas. Mission Junior High School missed AYP for Reading performance. K. White Junior High School missed AYP for Math performance. As a district, Mission CISD missed AYP in Reading performance.

"In each case it looks like it was just a small percentage of students in a subgroup that we need to address," said Oscar Rodriguez, superintendent. "The rules used in determining the AYP status are very complex and in some cases unclear. Consequently, we are studying the data provided by the state very carefully. Based upon what we know so far, we plan to file an appeal."

Districts have until September 20 to file an appeal of the preliminary AYP status with the TEA.

"Overall, our schools and students continue to make gains in all their academics," Rodriguez said. "We just need to tweak a few things. I commend the hard work going on by our students and staff. I am convinced that with everyone working together, we will continue the positive momentum that is building in our schools."

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

MCISD General Assembly

Hi folks,

Just an FYI.  The district will be holding its general in-service this Thursday morning beginning at 8:30a.m. at the Mission High School Neuhaus Gym.  During the first part of the program we will be honoring our teachers of the year, honoring our exemplary and recognized campuses and honoring our 8 campuses that qualified for the Governor’s Educator Excellence Award.  You are more than welcome to join the 1400 or so staff members that will be present. 

Craig Verley

Director of Public Relations and Marketing

Mission CISD

1201 Bryce Drive

Mission, TX 78572




Wednesday, August 09, 2006

First day of school brings a change for Mission CISD elementary students

In a break from tradition, the first day of school for Mission CISD (Consolidated Independent School District) elementary students will be a regular/full-day of school. The first day of school for Mission CISD students will be Monday, August 21. For many years, the first day for district elementary students was a half-day, with junior high and high school students, attending a full-day.
“We are looking at every aspect of our operations to make sure we are maximizing classroom instructional time,” explained Oscar Rodriguez, superintendent. “This year, we have moved elementary registration activities to dates before the first day of school to allow teachers to get into their instructional routine quicker.” Rodriguez added that since the district is changing a long standing tradition, there will likely be some confusion this first year. “Everything we have sent out regarding registration and the first day of school has included the change in schedule, but there are always some who just miss the message or will forget and fall back on the old practice.”
District officials say they will address any problem areas that crop up this year as plans are made for the beginning of the 07-08 school year.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

$57 bond issue program passes important hurdle

The projects involved in Mission CISD’s (Consolidated Independent School District) $57 million bond issue program jumped a major hurdle today. The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has notified the district that its application for Instructional Facilities Allotment (IFA) assistance will be funded. Through this program, the state helps school districts with lower property valuations pay for construction of instructional facilities.
“We had early indications that we would be funded,” explained Oscar Rodriguez, Jr., superintendent. “However, until you get the official notification, you just never know. Consequently, we proceeded with our plans with some caution. Now we can move forward with selling our bonds and construction planning.”
Rodriguez also indicated the formal approval from TEA was needed in order to make final adjustments to the district budget and proposed tax rate for the coming school year.
Under the state IFA program, the state will pay 77% of the $57 million with Mission CISD taxpayers responsible for the other 23%. District taxpayers overwhelmingly approved the bond issue and increases in property taxes this past May.
Mission CISD plans to increase property taxes two cents this coming year, two more cents the second year and then possibly three cents the year after that for a potential total tax increase over three years of seven cents. District officials are hoping all seven cents won’t be required.
District officials say they plan to sell the bonds later this month and actually receive the money from the sale in September. The funds will then be invested until needed to pay for the upcoming construction projects. Interest earned from the bond money will allow Mission CISD to address additional facility needs in addition to what was a part of the official bond proposal.
The bond program approved by voters included: construction of a new elementary school; construction of a new middle school; construction of a performing arts facility for each of the district’s two high schools; renovations/additions to Mission High School, Cantu Elementary, Leal Elementary, Mims Elementary, O’Grady Elementary; and air conditioning system renovations for Waitz Elementary and K. White Jr. High.
Architects/engineers have already been selected for the projects. The district is now in the process of finalizing contracts with those firms so that project designing can begin as soon as possible.

Mission CISD campus ratings show improvement

The Texas Education Agency (TEA) has released its ratings for schools and school districts under the state accountability system. According to the TEA, Mission CISD (Consolidated Independent School District) has two campuses that have earned the highest rating of “exemplary” for the first time under the current accountability system. Seven campuses have earned a rating of “recognized” with nine earning an “academically acceptable” rating.
Mission CISD Superintendent Oscar Rodriguez, Jr. said he was very pleased with the progress being made. “The TEA continues to raise the bar in many areas, including TAKS passing rates,” Rodriguez said. “So for us to have campuses now earning an exemplary rating is quite an accomplishment. We are prepared to continue improvements throughout the district to make sure we build on the momentum being created.”
The campuses earning an “exemplary” rating are Cavazos Elementary and Mims Elementary Schools. District officials are hoping to add one more to this list when the TEA makes their final ratings announcement in October. “We think certain aspects of data used for the “recognized” rating given to Midkiff Elementary School need to be addressed by the TEA,” said Rodriguez. “We are preparing an appeal of their rating with the hopes that it will be raised to “exemplary”.”
Not only did ratings improve at Cavazos and Mims Elementary Schools, but so did the rating for Cantu Elementary School which earned a “recognized” rating this year.
Mission CISD campuses earning a “recognized” rating are: Alton Elementary, Bryan Elementary, Cantu Elementary, Leal Elementary, Midkiff Elementary, Salinas Elementary, Waitz Elementary. The campuses earning an “academically acceptable” rating are: Castro Elementary, Marcell Elementary, O’Grady Elementary, Pearson Elementary, Alton Memorial Junior High School, K. White Junior High School, Mission Junior High School, Mission High School, Veterans Memorial High School.
The current state accountability system is based on the TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) and includes the high school completion rate and the 7-8 grade annual dropout rate. For each major area, the state not only looks at figures for the student population as a whole, but also looks at the following sub-groups: Hispanic, African-American, White, Economically Disadvantaged. Test score subjects included in the ratings system are Reading, Writing, Math, Science and Social Studies.
Mission CISD received a rating of “academically acceptable.”
To be considered “exemplary” a district/campus needs: TAKS passing rates of at least 90% in all subjects tested and for the all-student group and subgroups, SDAA (State Developed Alternative Assessment) passing rate of at least 90%, high school completion rate of at least 95%, 7-8 grade dropout rate of 0.2% or better.
To be considered “recognized,” a district/campus needs: TAKS passing rates of at least 70% in all subjects tested and for the all-student group and subgroups, SDAA passing rate of at least 70%, high school completion rate of at least 85%, 7-8 grade dropout rate of 0.7% or better. A district can also meet the criteria for a recognized rating by meeting a level of “required improvement” for the base indicators.
To be considered “acceptable,” a district/campus needs: TAKS passing rates of at least 60% in Reading/English Language Arts, Writing and Social Studies; TAKS passing rates of at least 40% on math; TAKS passing rates of at least 35% on science; SDAA passing rates of at least 50%; high school completion rate of at least 75%; and a 7-8 grade dropout rate of 1% or better. A district can also meet the criteria for an “acceptable” rating by meeting a level of “required improvement” for the base indicators.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Mission CISD earns state's highest fiscal accountability rating

Mission CISD (Consolidated Independent School District) officials have
received preliminary word that the district has qualified to receive a
rating of "Superior Achievement" under Texas' School FIRST financial
accountability rating system. Final ratings will be issued to school
districts in mid-August.

The superior achievement rating is the state's highest, demonstrating
the quality of Mission CISD's financial management and reporting
system. This will be the fourth year in a row the district has
received the highest rating since they were first started.

The School FIRST (Financial Integrity Rating System of Texas) was
developed by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) in response to Senate
Bill 218 of the 77thTexas Legislature in 2001. The primary goal of
Schools FIRST is to achieve quality performance in the management of
school districts' financial resources, a goal made more significant
due to the complexity of accounting associated with Texas' school
finance system.

"We are very pleased with Mission CISD's School FIRST rating," said
Mission CISDSuperintendent Oscar Rodriguez, Jr., "as it shows that our
district is continuing to make the most of our taxpayer dollars. The
superior achievement rating shows that Mission CISD is accountable not
only for student learning, but also for achieving these results using
cost-effective and efficient practices.

The School FIRST accountability rating system assigns one of four
financial accountability ratings to Texas school district, with the
highest being "Superior Achievement," followed by "Above-Standard
Achievement," "Standard Achievement" and "Substandard Achievement."
Districts with serious data quality problems may receive the
additional rating of "Suspended Data Quality."

To arrive at the School FIRST ratings, the TEA looks at 21 different
indicators, including: cost ratios, student to teacher ratios, fund
balance information, operating expenditures, tax collections, and
annual financial reports. The 2006 rating is based upon an analysis of
staff and student data reported for the 2004-2005 school year and the
budgetary and actual financial data for the 2005 fiscal year.

The TEA has proposed additional refinements to the School FIRST
process effecting ratings beginning in 2008. TEA indicates these
adjustments include the addition of several new indicators and
"raising the bar" for several other indicators. As required by the
TEA, district officials will hold a public hearing and make a
financial management report available for parents and taxpayers after
the final ratings notification has been received from TEA officials.

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Changes made to district immunization clinic schedule

Unforeseen circumstances have resulted in a few changes to a schedule for immunization clinics in the district. Mission CISD traditionally arranges to host these clinics to help parents as they prepare to register their children for school.

All children must have all the necessary protection against the following diseases before the child can attend school: diphtheria, polio, measles, rubella, mumps, Hib, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis A, and varicella. All are required before entering pre-k and returning students must complete any immunizations that are due or pending before registration. The student’s immunization records must be available at the time of registration to avoid any delays in admitting their children.

The updated schedule for immunization clinics hosted by Mission CISD is listed below:

August 1, 8:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m., Alton Elementary

August 1, 8:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m., Castro Elementary

August 2, 8:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m., Waitz Elementary

August 2, 8:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m., Marcell Elementary

August 8, 8:00 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Veterans Memorial High School

August 9, 8:00 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Veterans Memorial High School

August 9, 8:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m., Mission High School

August 10, 8:00 a.m.-3:30 p.m., Veterans Memorial High School

August 10, 9:00 a.m.3:00 p.m., Mission High School

August 11, 8:00 a.m.-3:00 p.m., Veterans Memorial High School

August 21, 1:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m., Cantu Elementary

August 21, 8:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m., Waitz Elementary

August 22, 8:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Mission High School

August 22, 1:00 p.m-4:00 p.m., Salinas Elementary

August 23, 1:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m., Salinas Elementary

August 23, 8:30 a.m.-3:00 p.m., Mission High School

August 31, 1:00 p.m.-4:00 p.m., Veterans Memorial High School

Costs for immunizations will range from $5-10 per shot, depending upon the organization responsible for the immunizations given at each clinic.

Other sources for immunizations in the Mission CISD area include: Nuestra Clinica Del Valle Memorial Health Center in Alton, 519-1800; Nuestra Clinica Del Valle in Mission, 580-3303; Nuestra Clinica Del Valle in Alton, 581-7585; Hidalgo County Health Department in Mission, 585-2461; Southwest Lab in Pharr, 866-496-5227; Health Shots in McAllen, 668-8366; or your family physician or clinic.

Mission CISD Football Season Ticket Sales Announced

Mission High School and Veterans Memorial High School football season ticket holders may purchase their tickets for the 2006 season beginning on Monday, August 7 through Friday, August 18.

Mission High School will have five home games ($25.00) and Veterans Memorial High School will have six home games ($30.00).

Tickets may be purchased in the Mission CISD Athletics Office, located at the Mission High School Neuhaus Gym. Office hours are from 8:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m.-4:00 p.m., Monday through Thursday, and 8:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m. on Fridays.

The general public will be able to purchase their tickets beginning on Monday, August 21.

For more information, contact the Mission CISD Athletics Office at 323-5745.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Reunion Meeting

I got the following message, but I'm not aware what graduating class it is.
Reunion Meeting

A class reunion meeting has been scheduled for Saturday, July 15, 2006 at 2 pm at Angelitos Day Care in Downtown Mission (1020 N. Conway Ave.). Please join us in planning this great event. Thanks.

Marla Munoz

Friday, June 30, 2006

Quick Reminder

Hi folks,

Just a quick reminder that tomorrow (Thursday 29th) will be our last
day in the office before our vacations start. After tomorrow, Central
Office will be pretty much shut down for two full weeks. We will
return to the office on Monday, July 17.

Craig Verley
Director of Public Relations and Marketing
Mission CISD
1201 Bryce Drive
Mission, TX 78572

New curriculum coming this next school year

Mission CISD (Consolidated Independent School District) will begin to
phase in a new curriculum for almost every grade level this fall.
Students may not notice a difference, but administrators say teachers
should see an improvement in the manner in which they plan for and
deliver instruction.
The curriculum is being purchased from the Region One Education
Service Center and is for grades K-12. The curriculum is actually a
collaborative effort involving several regional service centers from
around the state and numerous experts in the field of curriculum
"This is the first time we have found a truly comprehensive curriculum
for K-12 in the four core content areas that is so well aligned with
everything the state expects at each of the grade levels," said Oscar
Rodriguez, superintendent. "They were able to tap into a level of
expertise that we would never be able to afford on our own."
In the past, curriculum development was done piece by piece, using
district staff members during the summer. Administrators say the
complexities involved in aligning all the aspects involved in
curriculum writing had become more than staff members could accomplish
during the summer months.
"All the needed curriculum documents are aligned not only from grade
to grade, but also within the four content areas of Language Arts,
Math, Science and Social Studies," Rodriguez explained. "Assessments
will be better aligned with what is being taught during the school
year and many materials will be available to teachers online. One of
the things I also like about this is it does a better job of defining
what to teach, while still giving our teachers the creativity to
decide how to they want to teach the material."
Training on the new materials will begin this August and district
officials hope to have enough of the training completed for full
implementation of the curriculum by January.
A Spanish curriculum and additional subjects are currently being
developed and can be added by the district once they are complete.

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Architects selected for $57 million bond issue projects

Only a month after voters in Mission CISD (Consolidated Independent School District) overwhelmingly approved a $57 million bond issue, the Board of Trustees took a major step toward beginning construction. During their meeting Monday, June 12, board members selected architects for the major projects.

"The Board of Trustees has made this a priority," said Oscar Rodriguez, Jr., superintendent. "They have committed themselves to moving the bond issue projects along as quickly and efficiently as possible in order to meet the needs of our students while making sure the district is spending taxpayer money as wisely as possible."

The firms MB-ARC, Inc. and EGV Architects, Inc. were approved for additions and renovations to Cantu Elementary, Leal Elementary, Mims Elementary and O’Grady Elementary. Mata Villarreal Garcia Design Group, LLP was approved for additions and renovations to Mission High School. Gomez Mendenz Saenz, Inc. was selected for the new middle school. ERO International, LLP was chosen to design a new elementary school and the new fine arts facilities for Mission High School and Veterans Memorial High School. The engineering firm of ACR Engineering, Inc. was selected for HVAC renovations planned for Waitz Elementary and K. White Jr. High. The selection of the firms was handled in separate motions made by board member J.D. Villarreal.

"We hope to have contracts negotiated with each of these firms as quickly as possible," said Rodriguez. "Once that is done, the next big steps will be to sell the bonds and get the projects designs done and approved. We really need to get the two new schools built as quickly as possible so we can provide room for the student growth we are expecting."

The district plans to sell the bonds in mid-August. Proceeds would then likely be available to the district in September.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Now is the time to think about back to school immunizations

For many students and parents, it may seem like school just let out. But it is not too early to make sure your child’s immunizations are up to date. Waiting until registration day or just before registration can result in longer lines at immunizations clinics, and doctor’s offices.

All children must have all the necessary protection against the following diseases before the child can attend school: diphtheria, polio, measles, rubella, mumps, Hib, Hepatitis B, Hepatitis A, and varicella. All are required before entering pre-k, with returning students needing to complete any immunizations that are due or pending are before registration. Please contact your family physician/clinic to make sure immunizations are up to date.

Texas Education Code requires each student to be fully immunized against disease as required by the Texas Board of Health. According to the education code, a student who is not fully immunized and has not begun the required immunizations may not attend school. A student may also be provisionally admitted if the student has proof that he/she has begun the required immunizations and continues to receive the necessary immunizations as rapidly as medically feasible.

Mission CISD strongly urges all parents to make sure immunizations are up to date prior to registration. The student’s immunizations records must be available at the time of registration to avoid any delays in admitting their children.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Change made to 2006-2007 school calendar

A small change has been made in the Mission CISD school calendar for
the 2006-2007 school year. An inservice day that had been scheduled
for February, 19, 2007 has been moved to February 26, 2007. The moving
of the inservice day was required due to last minute changes made in
state testing dates by the Texas Education Agency.

Anyone who received a copy of the 2006-2007 Mission CISD calendar
prior to June 12 likely has the incorrect calendar. The revised
calendar is available on the Mission CISDWebsite, www.mcisd.net. Once
there click on "district news." A link to the calendar is available

Saturday, June 03, 2006

We got pulled over by border patrol north of san manuel because they saw our luggage in plastic bags. Relieved it was not a ticket

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Summer hours announced for administrative offices

Business hours will change at the Mission CISD Central Administrative Office for the summer. Beginning Monday, June 5, offices will be open from 7:30 a.m.-6:00 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays. Offices will be closed on Fridays.

These hours will last through the month of July, with the exception of the first two full weeks of July. From July 3-14, the Central Office will be closed for vacations.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Some words about Lloyd Bentsen

Local officials have released their sentiments on the passing of U.S. Senator Lloyd M. Bentsen, Jr who passed away yesterday in Houston, Texas at age 85. Bentsen was a native of Mission, Texas who went on to a distinguished career in local, state, and federal government. The former Senator suffered from ill health before his departure to eternal sleep.
Here are links to statements by Congressman Ruben Hinojosa and State Senator Eddie Lucio, Jr.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Mission Favorite Son, Lloyd Bentsen Passed Away

Today we receive news that one of Mission's favorite sons, Lloyd Bentsen, has passed away in Houston at age 85. Lloyd Bentsen once served as Hidalgo County Judge, he served in the U.S. House of Reps and Senate, and ran for Vice President. His most recent notable post was as Secretary of the Treasury. You can read more about the statesman at the Houston Chronicle.

Friday, May 19, 2006

More room..more resources.Better Services at the Speer Memorial Library in Mission, Texas.

An old cliché says – bigger isn’t always better, but in this case – BIGGER is BETTER!  The City of Mission currently hosted a grand re-opening of the Speer Memorial Library after completing a major renovation. 


“What was once a 14,000 square foot facility is now a 48,760 square foot state of the art library that makes us very proud”, said Julio Cerda, City Manager.  “This is a dream come true for the residents of Mission.”


Speer Memorial Library is home to over 100,000 books, paperbacks, microforms and audiovisual material.  It is considered to be the largest single public library building in South Texas.  Patrons can count on a total of 250 computers that are available for public use throughout the library floor and labs.  Furthermore, they are able to provide Dial-in Internet Services to over 2,500 patrons who can access this service from their home. 


Special programs such as story time, games, GED and computer literacy programs as well as tax preparation classes are planned throughout the year for the enjoyment and benefit of the entire family.


There were many patrons, leaders and VIP guests that attend the festivities.  One special group was the delegation from the Prof. Agapito Zepeda Uriegas Public Library in Reynosa.  They along with Speer Memorial have a special agreement of cooperation between the two that allows both parties to be able to offer extended services to their respective patrons be being able to borrow books, materials and other items as needed. 


Rusty Dove, Library Director invites everyone to visit the Speer Memorial Library.  “It is a resource center for the entire community of Mission and the surrounding areas.  We want it to be a busy place,” he said.


Speer Memorial Library is located at 801 E. 12th St. in Mission, Texas and is open seven days a week.  For compete details visit www.mission.lib.tx.us .
Press Release by City of Mission.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

VMHS Commencement to be held on May 30

For Immediate Release 5/18/06

The Veterans Memorial High School (VMHS) graduating Class of 2006 will get their diplomas on May 30 at Tom Landry Stadium. The commencement ceremony will officially begin at 7:30 p.m. The senior will take to the field with the traditional "Pomp and Circumstance."

The presentation of colors will be done by the VMHS JROTC. Samantha Jean Salinas will lead everyone in the Pledge of Allegiance. The National Anthem will be performed by Rebecca De Alejandro, Nina Rodriguez and Romie De Alejandro. Andrea Leianna Gonzalez will provide an invocation.

Jasmine Esmaeili will welcome everyone on behalf of the senior class.

The salutatory address will be done by Sally Ann Hart. The valedictory address will be provided by Hajera Nina Elena Blagg.

Principal Joe D. Reyes will certify the graduates. The presentation of the class will be handled by Oscar Rodriguez, Jr., superintendent.

Diplomas will be awarded by the Board of Trustees.

The VMHS Senior Choir Girls will perform a special song, Bless the Broken Road.

Closing remarks will be offered by Gabriel Isaac Garza.

The commencement ceremony will close with a benediction by Daniel James Crook. The graduates will then depart to "War March of the Priest."

MHS Commencement is May 31

For Immediate Release 5/18/06

The Mission High School Class (MHS) of 2006 will officially begin its commencement ceremonies at 7:30 p.m. on May 31 at Tom Landry Stadium. However, the seniors will take the field with the traditional "Pomp and Circumstance" at 7:15 p.m. honor students will serve as the class escorts.

Deandra A. Cavazos will call for the presentation of colors that will be done by the MHS JROTC. The Pledge of Allegiance will be led by Julissa Barrera and Liliana A. Salinas. Richard L. Reyna will give the invocation. Vanessa Chavez has the honor of giving the welcome on behalf of the graduating class.

The salutatory address will be given by Mariela Ontiveros, followed by the valedictory address by Jorge A. Garza.

An introduction of special guests and school officials will be handled by Lorena Villarreal.

Elizabeth Garza, assistant superintendent for personnel and student services will announce scholarship awards.

Special music for the ceremony will be introduced by Elyssa R. Garza.

The presentation of the Class of 2006 will be done by Oscar Rodriguez, Jr., superintendent. MHS principal, Janie Connelly will introduce the graduates with the diplomas being awarded by members of the board of trustees.

Commencement will close with the benediction led by Rosa I. Balderas. The graduates will then depart to "War March of the Priest."

Monday, May 15, 2006

Alton HeadStart Update

As reported this morning, the Alton HeadStart was damaged after severe thunderstorms last night. The sheet metal on the older part of the building was sheered off due to high winds. After initial inspections, it appears that three of the classrooms received most of the damage from the storm. Damage to other parts of the building are still unknown. Rain water formed bulges in the sheetrock. Maintenance crews had to poke holes in the ceiling paint to allow the water to trickle down. Inside the classrooms, most of the contents got wet. Crews took out the rugs and furniture from the rooms after insurance adjusters inspected the damage. As in most cases where there is moisture introduced into the interior of a building, mold will be something to prevent while making repairs.In the meantime, with the possibility of more rain tonight, repair crews have covered the damage with a plastic sheet and will resume repairs in the morning. There is no verification yet, but it is initially reported that the contractor who installed the roof did not use the customary screws used to secure metal roofs, choosing staples instead. Confirmation of this report is still pending.

There are questions about what to do with the staff at the Alton Headstart. Due to the unexpected event, graduation of the pre-schoolers is on hold and possibly canceled. Officials do not foresee that the school will reopen any time soon. Teachers were counting on the two weeks before end of school to catch up on end of year reports. With the empty classrooms, the teachers will have time to finish their paperwork. The question then is, what to do with the staff for the remainder of the time? One thought is to use them as substitute teachers as needed throughout HeadStart. Given that this sort of incident is not encountered by the organization on a regular basis, many questions are up in the air until questions about how to fund the situation are resolved. Towards the end of the year, HeadStart always faces a budget crunch. There is concern that not having the Alton children in class for the remainder of the school year will affect the program's funding. Any shortfall will not doubt affect next year's crop of pre-schoolers.

Last Night's Storms

A heavy thunderstorm rolled through the Rio Grande Valley last night. The storm brought with it strong winds and lightning. Although the storm had rain, it was not a major factor. In Mission, the main fury occurred between midnight and 2 AM. Residents in my neighborhood could be seen outside tying down loose objects and looking attentively for any signs of funnel clouds. Evidence of the fury of the storm was apparent this morning with damage throughout the RGV. At my apartment complex, a section of a cedar fence rested right behind our vehicle this morning blocking the parking lot. A few feet East and it would have hit the car.
In Alton, the Hidalgo County Headstart canceled classes after the storm ripped the north side of the roof off of the building. Sections of the steel roof were strewn in front of the school on the street and in the parking lot adjacent to the Recreation Center. One section of the roof was right at the door of the building. Inside, the classes were all wet from the rain that poured through the rafters. Next door at the Mission Hospital Clinic, their communication antenna was blown over. South of there, on Conway, a Quince tree was split down the middle.
KURV announced damage in other cities that included roof damage and fallen trees. No injuries have been reported.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

The Paper of South Texas Endorses La Joya Candidates

The Paper of South Texas recently endorsed Team USA, composed of Rita Marie Garza-Uresti, J.A. “Fito” Salinas, and Jose Valente Alaniz. These candidates have, in the past, challenged the hold husband and wife team Billy and Filemona Leo have on the city of La Joya and the La Joya ISD. Team USA's main focus is to get busses to carry children home regardless of how far they live from the schools. Currently children living withing a certain distance from their school have to walk to and from school despite the lack of sidewalks and other safe passages to protect the children from traffic. Another aim of Team USA is to prevent contracts going to bidders with inferior and more expensive products or services as has been recently alleged of Filemona Leo with respect to the district's current insurance provider.  You can read more by visiting http://thepaperofsouthtexas.com/page.php?kei=110.

Friday, May 05, 2006

MCISD Board Candidates Answer Questions

The Progress Times reports on an Q&A session with candidates for the MCISD Board. It's a little long given that each question is answered by multiple candidates, but worth reading. You can read the article here.

Local Leaders Honored by SBA

The Progress Times has an article in which Aida Lerma, Ben Cavazos, Sr, and Oscar Cavazos are honored by the U.S. Small Business Administration at the UTPA-SBDC in Edinburg. Lerma is a former President/CEO of Edinburg and Mission Chambers of Commerce and has served other business organizations.

The Cavazos family, most notably Ben Cavazos, Sr. and Oscar Cavazos, operate MAE Power Equipment, formerly known as Mission Auto Electric, and have been in business for over 50 years. You can find out more by clicking the headline on this post to visit the article in the Progress Times.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Trying to get Press Releases

I have contacted the City of Mission and have spoken with the new Public Relations officer, Aida Lerma, regarding having her office send me official press releases for here and for blog.spinrgv.com. I am awaiting her response pending her discussion with City Manager over whether or not to provide press releases. I'll keep you posted as I find out whether it's a yea or nay.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

MCISD Elections

I stopped by the MCISD Central Office to pick up a list of candidates for the May 13 elections. I came away with a sample ballot.

For the School Board, there are two places up for grabs: Place number 6 and place number 7.

Trustee Place No. 6 Candidates
  • James E. Olivarez
  • Carlos D. Lerma

Trustee Place No. 7 Candidates
  • Heather Cox
  • Oscar Martinez
  • Ramon M. Rodriguez

There is also a $57 Million Bond Election for district improvements and construction of new schools.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Mission Elections

The May elections are on their way. Mission CISD is holding an election for a multi-million dollar bond issue. The election is contracted out to the Hidalgo County elections office.

The City of Mission may have an election, I will find out. Their elections web page has not been updated this year. If I learn anything, I will post it here.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

International Bridge Approved

I just heard in the news that the Mexican Government approved construction of the Anzalduas Bridge. The bridge will be located south of Mission. It will be a three mile long bridge. The bridge is expected to open in September 2008. I understand that it will not have commercial traffic at first, but it's expected that it will eventually. It will be four lanes wide. I don't know if it will have a sidewalk, but 3 miles? I hope they install rest areas every mile or so.

Monday, March 20, 2006

3 Mile and Conway Development

The area around 3 Mile Line and Conway Ave are developing very nicely. Wal-Mart has brought about much change since it opened. The area around the corner now has a taqueria, Radio Shack, and a Subway, amongst other shops. Across the street, crews have already erected the walls for the new Walgreens. There is other development around town as well.

HEB was supposed to move across the corner on 495 from the old Albertson's location to the old Carl's location, but nothing has happened yet.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Firefighters Helping One of Their Own

George Stanley Wyant III, a firefighter with Mission Fire Department, was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma just before Christmas last year. He is currently on medical leave and is undergoing chemo therapy every other week for six months.

George has been with the Mission Fire department since he was 16 years old. He started out as an Explorer, became a volunteer at the age of 18, and attended and graduated from the firemen’s academy after graduating from high school. He has continued with his education by getting certifications to deal with on-the-job situations and other life-saving certifications that he has been interested in. He has also taught some first aid, CPR and other miscellaneous classes during his employment with the fire department.

This man’s life is firefighting. He thoroughly enjoys the job and the fact that he does get to help people, even if he has to see the ones that are lost. He comes from a family that has a history of firefighters. This is one reason why he chose to be a firefighter. He had great role models and decided to follow in some of their footsteps. There are family members that are firefighters all over Texas and even a cousin that is a Navy firefighter. His great grandfather helped found the fire department in Waco and there are still relatives that work in that area. He has a great uncle that is a Fire Chief, a great aunt that is an Assistant Fire Chief, and his mom's dad helped found the volunteer fire department in Mission and helped build one of the first tankers that Mission Fire Department had, in approx. 1970, with an uncle, Hollis Rutledge Sr. and possibly Ray Landry who his mom believes was the fire chief at the time.

The fire department has chosen to show how much they care for George by having a fund raiser to help pay for his medical bills. The chemotherapy, and other routine visits, is proving to be costly for him. Mission, Harlingen and Brownsville fire departments are joining in the effort to try to raise $10,000 for his medical costs. The president of the Mission Fire Department IAFF Local 3609 is heading this up. They will be filling up firemen helmets all over the intersections in Mission on Saturday, February 26, and in Brownsville as well and Harlingen Fire Fighters will be coming to Mission and helping in this endeavor.

George is planning on returning to fire fighting and continuing his education when he is well enough. The fire fighters are hoping this will help him out and ease some of the stress. For now he is home with his family. He is married to Gloria and has two sons, Joseph, who will be turning four in a few days, and Theodore, who is 18 months old. George is turning 28 today (February 24). He will not be learning of this fund raiser until today and it will probably make his birthday even better.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

EPA Cleanup Plans Are Welcomed by Mayor

Reprint from the Progress Times - February 17, 2006
©Progress Times 2006 - All Rights Reserved

“We finally got them to come down and take care of the problem.”
That was the reaction of Mission Mayor Beto Salinas to word that the Environmental Protection Agency is going to tackle the problem of contaminated soil in the area around the former Helena Chemical Company site.
The mayor said he expected the EPA to begin its remedial work within the next couple of weeks, adding that work will not only include a protective fence around the old chemical plant site but also demolition of the deteriorating building which once housed the production of the chemicals.
Although Salinas said the city won't be overly involved in the cleanup, officials are ready to provide whatever assistance the EPA might need, such as security at the site.
The first announcement of EPA plans came from U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett, who has been active in getting the federal government involved in this latest clean-up effort.
Doggett cited the EPA report which read, in part, "The action proposed for this site is demolition of the buildings and complete removal of debris and contaminated soil. Cleanup standards will reflect the future commercial land use as confirmed by the City of Mission."
Doggett said removal of contamination at the site is long overdue. However, he said, the cleanup should be done to meet residential, not commercial, standards.
"I am also pleased to learn that EPA is working to put a fence around the site," the congressman said, adding, "The City of Mission and its residents deserve immediate protective action from the EPA."
Doggett had been critical of the EPA's earlier reports for omission of such tests as long-term air monitoring, groundwater testing and neighborhood health assessments.
For years, many residents in the areas near the plant site have complained of health problems which they blamed on chemical contamination.
However, even without those tests cited by Doggett, the EPA determined that chemicals such as dieldrin, toxaphene, DDT and heptachlor, among others, are all present at the site and pose serious health risks.
Concerning this latest cleanup, Doggett remarked, "Although no mention is made of compensation for the loss of life, health and homeowner's property, it represents a step in the right direction. I look forward to the time when this site is not only safe, but contributes to the economic well-being of the city and its residents."

Sunday, February 19, 2006

A Cold Sunday

This morning, I went to De Alba's Tortilla Factory and Bakery for some barbacoa. It was around 10 AM and my wife insisted I hurry before they ran out of the barbacoa especial. When I got there the place was packed despite, or probably because of the cold. Today's weather was in the 40s. So, after picking up my order, I went home and we had breakfast. We pretty much lounged around the rest of the day to stay in from the cold.
We did have a trip out to The Border Theatre to watch Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. There weren't that many people there this evening. No doubt the cold weather made parents think twice about taking their children out, except us. Overall, it's been a pretty slow day in Mission, Tx.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Body Shop Show - Girls Night Out

I know this is late notice, but I am having a show on Monday, Feb. 6. The new catalog just came out and has a lot of new stuff in it, plus they have redone some of the product to make it even better. I have been having a wonderful time with the product myself and have almost completed my wish list by hosting shows. If you can't come, take a look at the website or let me know if you want to place an outside order. I would like to turn in all orders and money on the same night if possible. I fyou want to host your own show to earn free product, let me know as well and I will bring a hostess packet to you. There are always great hosetess specials and it is worthwhile to take advantage of them to get your own wish list filled.
If you want something to be here by Valentine's day you need to order it this week, no later than Friday probably. It does take 6-7 business days for orders to get to you, if there are no issues.
If you have any questions you can email me or call me at 534-3457.
Hope to hear from you,

Monday, January 30, 2006

Surveillance video shows woman accused of theft

PALMHURST – Police are looking for a purse snatcher that was seen in Wal-Mart there.

Investigators say the woman stole another lady's purse and later used the victim’s credit card at the store and charged up huge bills. Surveillance video captured images of the alleged purse snatcher.

If you have any information, call Mission Crimestoppers at 581-8477.

Watch video.

Peels On Parade

January 27,2006
Travis M. Whitehead
The Monitor

Texas Citrus Fiesta Kicks Off

MISSION — Sara Valdez and her friends have been working diligently on a dress made of congealed orange juice.

"We are going to use other products, possibly cenizo leaves, sunflower leaves, petals," said Valdez, whose daughter Rachel will model her "product" costume dress tonight at the Mission High School gym on 1802 Cleo Dawson.

The product costume show is part of the Texas Citrus Fiesta. The event kicked off Thursday night with the coronation of Summer Marie Flowers, 18, as Queen Citrianna. This year’s King Citrus was also chosen.

Berta Peña, executive director, said Thursday’s festivities also included a competition for the 2007 Queen Citrianna. That competition included young women dressed in ball gowns which resemble an agricultural product from their hometowns. For example, the contestant from Mission was the Duchess of Star Ruby. Other contestants included the Duchess of Lemon from Weslaco and the Duchess of Papaya from Pharr.

"A lot of them have sequins and rhinestones," Peña said. "Some people spend $6,000 to $7,000. The dresses are embellished with laces or appliqué."

The winner of that competition also will be announced tonight.

Peña was in the middle of preparations last week for the fiesta, which concludes Saturday with the Parade of Oranges and the Fiesta Fun Fair.

"It’s going good, thank God," she said. "Hopefully it’s going to be bigger and better. We have a couple of things at the Fun Fair that are new."

One of those new things will be a juvenile diabetes information unit, a semi tractor-trailer which will open into a series of booths will information about diabetes. This presentation will encourage children to be more active. Another booth will encourage dental health by providing places for people to brush their teeth. They will also give away tooth brushes and toothpaste.

The parade — consisting of many colorful floats — begins at 12:30 p.m. at Farm-to-Market Road 495 and Conway Avenue. The floats will compete in various contests, including the product category. Floats in this category must be made of 85 percent product, such as orange peels or other materials.

"That’s the biggest contest," Peña said. "First prize is $1,000."

Why such a big prize?

Peña said the citrus fiesta is trying to encourage more people to get involved. Participation has died down in recent years because of heavy work loads and other commitments. Other prize money will go to Winter Texan R.V. parks that have the best float.

Anyone wishing to see these colorful floats can stand along the Conway Avenue on Saturday afternoon and watch the parade head south to 4th Street. By that time, however, the Fiesta Fun Fair at Market Square on 115 West 10th Street will be in full swing; it will start at 10 a.m. and end at about 8:30 p.m.

"We will have entertainment throughout the day, arts and crafts, all kinds of food," Peña said. "We also have a vaquero cook-off. One of the meats has to be presented with citrus."


Travis Whitehead covers features and entertainment for The Monitor. You can reach him at 683-4452.

Friday, January 27, 2006

The Natural Look

January 27,2006
Kaitlin Bell
The Monitor

MISSION — Dried fruit, leaves and seeds are things most people would brush off a dress.

But Mary Virginia Gerlach actually goes out of her way to find them so she can put them on a dress.

The painstaking time she spends making the garments is a habit she just can’t break.

She’s tried. She’s reminded herself of the long hours it takes to design, glue and dye. She’s remembered how allergic the plants make her feel and the mess they make in her garage. And she’s remembered the embarrassing lengths to which she’s gone to get it all done — like the strange looks she gets while swiping spare onion skins from the grocery store.

Each year, though, a few weeks before the Texas Citrus Fiesta’s product costume show rolls around, she caves:

"It’s a passion — that’s all I can say," is how Gerlach explains her dedication to the craft.

For 37 years, Gerlach has been one of the product costume show’s most devoted costume-makers, piecing together an average of three or four costumes each year for the contest, which celebrates the Rio Grande Valley’s citrus industry through elaborately themed costumes covered entirely in native product.

The contest once garnered dozens of entries, but Gerlach and her decorating partner, daughter-in-law Cori Gerlach, are two of just a handful of designers who will exhibit costumes at today’s show.

Citrus Director Berta Peña said Tuesday she expected about 10 costumes for the show’s five categories.

Dwindling participation in the contest is unfortunate, Peña said, but it may be inevitable in a society where most women work and even teenagers have jam-packed schedules.

"It’s a dying art," she said. "The kids don’t have time anymore, and neither do the moms."

Gerlach, who works full time, agreed.

She fondly recalls the "garden club ladies" who made the fantastical, intricate costumes she remembers from her childhood and teenage years. But she also acknowledges the toll crafting costumes takes.

Displaying her costumes at her Mission home Tuesday evening, she apologized profusely for the Christmas decorations that still decked the living room, and for the state of her garage, which was crowded with freezers to store dried product, half-finished costumes and containers of glitter, more dried product and glue.

During Fiesta season, cars stay in the driveway Gerlach explained, sighing as she surveyed the jammed garage.

But her eyes lit up as she held up the costumes-in-progress, which include a deep pink colored dress made of native red and purple bougainvillea, a T-shirt covered with dried avocado and flower and butterfly-shaped decorations made of pumpkin seeds and glitter.

Cori Gerlach, for her part, confessed she had been sick lately and less involved in costume-making than she has been in recent years. But even when she’s trying to take it easy, she seems to have trouble resisting her hobby — she greeted her mother-in-law Tuesday evening with a special present: bougainvilleas from her yard.

"Aren’t they beautiful?" she exclaimed, lamenting that it might be too late for her mother-in-law to use them, but saying she couldn’t resist picking them.

Luckily for the Gerlach women, the rest of the family is filled with good sports about their obsession. Mary Virginia’s son, Brian, and husband, Ted, pitch in by chopping the product in the blender. And during fiesta season, Mary Virginia says Ted makes dinner.

Even the smallest in the family get involved.

Gerlach used to cajole her friends’ and neighbors’ children and grandchildren to model her costumes.

"But then I got grandchildren," she explained. "So I had my built-in models."

This year, all four are modeling — one in each division. Their grandmother, in typical doting fashion, has costumes to fit them to a tee.


Kaitlin Bell covers Mission, Starr County and general assignments for The Monitor. You can reach her at (956) 683-4446.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

Prepare to Peel

January 26,2006
Kaitlin Bell
The Monitor

Participants put finishing touches on preparations for Citrus Fiesta

MISSION — Things have been a little hectic lately for the organizers of the 69th Texas Citrus Fiesta.

OK, maybe more than a little.

"People don’t realize how much work goes into this. It takes a whole year to get it (together)," sighed Berta Peña, the fiesta’s executive director, as she fielded phone calls and inquiries from volunteers in her crowded Mission office Tuesday.

"But it’s worth it, OK? It’s once a year."

This evening, Peña and her team of organizers will start to see their long hours of labor come to fruition at two of the annual festival’s most beloved and time-honored events — the coronation of this year’s royal citrus court and crowning of the 70th Queen Citrianna. King Citrus will also be announced in the elaborate ceremony scheduled to take place at 8 p.m. in Mission High School’s Neuhaus gym.

As per tradition, the citrus king is usually a well-known member of the community, while Queen Citrianna and her royal court are chosen from a group of high-school age girls who compete, beauty-pageant style, for their titles.

At judging for the Queen Citrianna contest Tuesday night, some two dozen girls, each representing a Rio Grande Valley city and bearing a title of "Duchess," clustered in the Mission High School gym for interviews with judges, as well as a practice run-through for Thursday’s coronation ceremony.

Wearing dressy suits and heels, as well as ample make-up and meticulously coiffed hair-dos, the girls practiced curtseying and walking across the stage with their pages. The pages, who by contest rules must be seven-year-old boys, carried banners bearing the special town crests. An audience made up mostly of parents and siblings sat in the bleachers while Peña and other citrus fiesta organizers bustled about.

Despite the seemingly high-stakes nature of the night — the contest keeps competitors’ names secret until Thursday to avoid allegations of judges’ favoritism and has a certified public accountant tally the votes — contestants professed to be competing for other reasons than just victory.

"I guess I’m here to make new friends and to get out of a little town and broaden my horizons," said a Rio Grande City High School freshman representing Roma. The high schooler, who was forbidden by contest rules to give her name, confessed to being nervous as she waited for her interview with the judges.

Others were all smiles and relaxed good cheer.

"Win or lose, it’s a wonderful experience," said a La Joya Senior High School junior representing Sullivan City. The girl was waiting for her page outside the men’s bathroom.

Such poise, Peña said, is typical of today’s contestants.

"In my generation, you just sat there and you didn’t speak. It was ‘yes sir,’ or ‘no sir,’" she said of her days as a teenager in the 1970s. "They’re smarter, they’re wittier, they’re much more charming, much more mature."

The fiesta continues Friday with the product costume show, where contestants will model outfits covered with native plants and fruits. A parade through downtown Mission follows on Saturday.


Kaitlin Bell covers Mission, Starr County and general assignments for The Monitor. You can reach her at (956) 683-4446.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Mission employee arraigned after drug bust

January 24,2006
Cari Hammerstrom
The Monitor

MISSION — A Mission city employee was arraigned in Peter Ormsby’s McAllen federal court Friday after U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents discovered enough cocaine at his home Wednesday night to fetch more than $800,000 in McAllen.

The DEA received information that drugs were stored at the residence of Mission water department billing manager Albert Hugo Peña, said Will Glaspy, DEA assistant special agent in charge for South Texas.

According to court documents, a "cooperating source" informed agents that drugs would be delivered to Peña’s house. The residence’s address is listed as Route 21 Box 111 C-2.

"Agents established surveillance in the immediate area and observed several individuals come and go from the residence for several hours," reads the complaint, which lays out the reasons for Peña’s arrest.

Glaspy then said that agents did what they call a "knock and talk," in which agents do not have a search warrant but ask to search the residence. Peña allowed the agents to come inside the house, he said.

"He showed us where the drugs were," Glaspy continued.

Agents seized 100.5 kilograms of cocaine. The street value of the drugs in McAllen is estimated at about $80 per gram, Glaspy said. This load, had it stayed in McAllen, and not been transported anywhere else where it would have been worth more, would have sold for slightly more than $800,000.

Glaspy said it was likely such a large load was headed north. Peña told DEA agents that his house was used as a holding center until other unknown individuals transferred the load elsewhere, the complaint reads. Investigators are conducting a follow-up investigation to see where the shipment was going.

Luis Cesar Vargas, a Mexican national, was also arrested in connection with the cocaine bust. He allegedly cited economic hardship as the reason for engaging in criminal activity. It is not clear at this time how Vargas and Peña are affiliated.

According to the city of Mission’s Web site, Peña graduated from Mission High School in 1979 and began working for the city in 1980. In March 1994, he became the water department’s billing manager, handling billing complaints.

Mission City Manager Julio Cerda said personnel issues prohibited him from discussing whether Peña was still employed with the city.


Cari Hammerstrom covers law enforcement and general assignments for The Monitor. You can reach her at (956) 683-4424.