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HMJ Teacher Grateful for Return of Treasured Memories
09/29/2017
  Grace Wright, Karina Sanchez and Jesse Martinez, City of Baytown Public Works employees, look at the treasured photo album they returned to
Kristie Fudge ,Horace Mann Junior School teacher and her daughter Hannah, a seventh grader at HMJ.
Photo by Susan Passmore
(from left) Grace Wright, Karina Sanchez and Jesse Martinez, City of Baytown Public Works employees, look at the treasured photo album they returned to Kristie Fudge (second from right), Horace Mann Junior School teacher and her daughter Hannah, a seventh grader at HMJ.

HMJ Teacher Grateful for Return of Treasured Memories

By Susan Passmore

Although she had lost most of her possessions in the floodwaters during Hurricane Harvey, Horace Mann Junior School ESL teacher Kristie Fudge was just grateful she and her family had been rescued. Now, she has a piece of her life back thanks to several Baytown Public Works employees who cared enough to track her down.

Jesse Martinez, foreman of a Waste Water Treatment Plant, was talking to a lift driver at J.C. Hollaway Park across from Whispering Pines subdivision several days after flooding subsided when they spotted a small photo album on the street. Martinez took it to his office and set it down on the desk, asking lab technicians Grace Wright and Karina Sanchez to go through it to see if they could find the owner.

“They were baby pictures, and they were not digital, so they couldn’t be printed out again,” said Martinez. “I thought, ‘This is somebody’s child and somebody’s memories.’”

Wright and Sanchez immediately became detectives and set out to find the owner of the photos. Although some of them were damaged, they had a clear picture of a house and a house number, and they could read Kristie’s name on the back of a picture.

“We used a magnifying glass, and saw that the same name was on the hospital bracelet of the lady in the picture with the baby, so we knew the book belonged to her,” Wright said. “We also had a picture of a house and some dates in 2004 on the back of some photos.”

Sanchez posted some photos on Facebook, and they waited to see if anyone recognized them.

“I didn’t want to post faces, but I thought someone might recognize the house or the name,” said Sanchez. “I know that social media is the fastest way to get the message out to a large group.”

Within two hours, Amy Sims Bouillion, Fudge’s childhood friend, started trying to contact her because she recognized the house as Fudge’s childhood home. Eventually, Fudge’s mother Sandy Fudge called the Waste Water Treatment office, and her father Earl Fudge went by to pick up the album.

“It’s overwhelming the kindness that people show to find something like this and know this is special,” said Fudge.

Hannah Fudge-Adams, the baby in the pictures, now a seventh grader at Horace Mann Junior School, was grateful that her baby photo book, which had been tucked away in a drawer, had been recovered. The album contained pictures of many “firsts” for Hannah – going on a car ride, taking a bath and having a bottle fed to her by her grandparents.

“I’m looking at a picture of Mom and Dad bringing me home from the hospital, and I’m thinking that I could have lost these forever,” said Hannah. “My mom was super happy. It means a lot. I would never be able to remember this because I was so young.”

Although it has been a difficult time for the family, Fudge focuses on what she has instead of on what she lost. Fudge, her parents, her daughter and her dog were safely evacuated by three firemen from Fire Station 3, who picked her mother up in a kitchen chair and loaded her into a Baytown vehicle. Her mother’s electric wheelchair, which also made it out safely, was loaded into their vehicle.

“When we called for help, all we were able to do was grab the bags we had packed and go. A lot of memories were in drawers and in special places. We even lost my grandparents’ Bible. These pictures are some of my treasured moments, and I’m glad to have them back,” Fudge said.

HMJ Teacher Helps Evacuate Families from Floodwaters
09/16/2017
 Michael Knight, seventh grade math teacher at Horace Mann Junior, waits for an answer from a student during a lesson. After days of evacuating numerous families from the floodwaters caused by Harvey, his first week back as a teacher has been relatively calm.
Photo by Susan Passmore
Michael Knight, seventh grade math teacher at Horace Mann Junior, waits for an answer from a student during a lesson. After days of evacuating numerous families from the floodwaters caused by Harvey, his first week back as a teacher has been relatively calm.

 HMJ Teacher Helps Evacuate Families from Floodwaters 

By: Susan Passmore

When a friend posted on Facebook that his truck was flooded out, Horace Mann Junior School math teacher Michael Knight asked if he needed help. The friend Jose Carino asked how he was going to get him out.

“Just me being me, I was going to get to him, because that was what he needed. I knew he was on the bayou, and with the overflow, I could launch a boat. I launched it in a ditch and was able to go down the street. There were already several boats underway,” said Knight.

The rescue was successful, but Knight saw that others needed help down Bayou Blvd. that leads into the Whispering Pines subdivision. Knight coordinated with the City of Baytown EOC to evacuate people, and the next morning, he received a call from the EOC, so he was off again to join the rescue crews. The second day, he worked the Pinehurst area, and Leo Ryza, Goose Creek CISD maintenance supervisor, and his dog were among others grateful to be safely brought out of the neighborhood. Then, it was on to North Main Street to assess the situation there and lend a hand. Although Knight’s not sure how many people he evacuated during the week, he knows that he and the others made a difference with each one.

“It’s hard to describe everything that happened. At this point, it’s still kind of a blur. I made sure my family was safe. The first day, I took a couple of people who’d evacuated back in to get things they’d forgotten, like medicine. Of course, I had my own list of people, but everywhere I looked there was someone else needing help. Some friends I went to Sterling with were running boats with me. It’s really not about me – it’s about what we did as a community,” Knight said.

Knight explained that people were confused and didn’t know what to do after they were rescued.

“We got them to high ground, dropped them off and someone took care of them. We had pets, wheelchairs and all kinds of things. Many former Goose Creek students were giving back to the community. It was teamwork,” Knight said.

Knight gives credit to Bobby Workman, Justin Dockery, Tommy Wood and many others, especially former Goose Creek CISD students, for their heroic efforts during the flooding. When the worst was over, in his typical style, Knight worked to clear out other people’s houses before he worried about his own.

It wasn’t the way he planned to start the school year, but at least it wasn’t his first year of teaching. Before spending the past five years in the U.S. Army, stationed at Ft. Polk, La., Knight taught three years at Gentry Junior School.

“Being in the military had been one of my goals. I lived that experience, and now as a teacher, I can answer questions about the military as a career option. I also learned selfless service, one of the seven army values. It doesn’t matter about you, it’s how you can help others,” Knight said.

His military training helped Knight have personal courage when it came to taking others to safety through the floodwaters, but he had also received similar training at home.

“Thinking back about it, my parents taught me to help others. That’s what life is about. That’s what makes you sleep at night. That’s why I like teaching – it’s all about helping students,” Knight said.

Besides his math curriculum, Knight returned to the classroom with some new experiences that just might benefit his students at Horace Mann Junior.

“We want to teach kids about being productive members of society,” Knight said. “If they see me as someone who helps their friend’s cousin’s parents out, it’s a step in the right direction.”
     

RSS Custodian Loves Her Job
09/15/2017
 Juliana Blunt, Ross S. Sterling High School custodian, entertains her granddaughter, 3-year-old Smiya Ali, at the shelter at Memorial Baptist Church after her apartment flooded.
Photo by Susan Passmore
Juliana Blunt, Ross S. Sterling High School custodian, entertains her granddaughter, 3-year-old Smiya Ali, at the shelter at Memorial Baptist Church after her apartment flooded.

RSS Employee Loves Her Job 

By: Susan Passmore

When the apartment she shared with her daughter and granddaughter flooded due to Harvey, Ross S. Sterling High School custodian Juliana Blunt appreciated the shelters at Memorial Baptist Church and at Lee College. They provided a safe place to stay, food and clothes for her and her granddaughter, 3-year-old Smiya Ali, but she was not quite ready to board the bus for the NRG Center Monday morning when those still at Lee College were scheduled to transfer.


“I love my job at Sterling and all my co-workers,” Blunt said. “I didn’t want to leave Baytown.”

Mayor Steve DonCarlos heard about her reluctance to leave and, knowing that she would find resources to help her in Houston, reached out to a Goose Creek CISD administrator who talked to Herb Minyard, director of operations and grounds for the district.

“Tell her to do what she has to do to help herself,” Minyard said. “We’ll work with her on her job.”

Before anyone else could get there, DonCarlos rushed to the shelter at Lee College to talk to Blunt before the bus left, assuring her that she should go to Houston to get the resources she needs to get back on her feet.

“I hadn’t eaten or slept for two days because I was so worried about leaving my job. Mr. Mayor came by and told me he had talked to someone and it was okay. Bless him!” Blunt said.

Dr. Ron Wyatt, human resources director, said that employees affected by Harvey should contact their supervisors.

“We are working with everybody individually,” said Wyatt. “Employees need to contact their supervisors, and supervisors are working with HR to make sure we’re taking care of our staff and students and helping everyone get back to work and school. The board approved to pay employees for the days the district was closed, and they may take their accrued leave if they need more time to get everything in order. Our policy will be to work with our employees on an individual basis to help protect jobs.”      

     

Siple Wishes She Could Have Done More
09/15/2017
 Goose Creek Memorial High School teacher and coach Lauren Siple is in her element when she has an opportunity to help others. She spent last week rescuing families, working on houses, taking co-workers in her truck to find rental cars in Lufkin as well as donating time and supplies at shelters.
Photo courtesy of Lauren Siple
Goose Creek Memorial High School teacher and coach Lauren Siple is in her element when she has an opportunity to help others. She spent last week rescuing families, working on houses, taking co-workers in her truck to find rental cars in Lufkin as well as donating time and supplies at shelters.
 
Siple Wishes She Could Have Done More 

By: Susan Passmore

Lauren Siple’s strong work ethic is no surprise to anyone. A teacher and coach at Goose Creek Memorial High School, her former teachers at Cedar Bayou Junior School and Ross S. Sterling High School remember her as a hard worker who was always willing to help others.

 When people needed help during the flooding, Siple was in her element. Monday, she took snacks and groceries to Eagle Heights Church, which was set up as a shelter. Tuesday, she went out on a boat with neighbors and helped rescue two families. After a long day of making sure people were safe, Siple headed off to help at the shelter at Mercy Gate Church in Mont Belvieu. There, she assisted people in signing up for FEMA and fed more than 300. 

 Wednesday, Siple returned to Mercy Gate to organize clothes and continue helping people sign up for  FEMA. Not allowing herself a break, Thursday she was up and running again, helping with clothing at Mercy Gate Church and chauffeuring Susan Jackson, GCM principal and teachers Kami Johnston, Leslie Garcia and Norma Picacio-Jones to Lufkin in her truck to pick up rental cars. The trip took hours, since some of the roads were still flooded. Friday, Siple spent the day helping the Jacksons take out floors and power wash the mud from the house. 

 “She was phenomenal,” said Jackson. “We would not have made it without support from Lauren and so many others.”

 Saturday, Siple volunteered her time at co-worker Deborah Turner’s house, taking her belongings out of the house to begin the demolition process.

 “I wish I could do more. I know there is so much need in our community, but so many people are working hard to help others,” Siple said.

 Volleyball practice has started up again and school will soon begin, so Siple will have to slow down a little with her volunteering, but she has helped many people who will always be grateful. When anyone refers to her as a hero, she modestly avoids the compliment.

“I’ve got to be honest with you, if I’m a hero there are so many people out there with me. Our whole town is a hero,” said Siple.

Teacher helps students’ family
09/15/2017
 Eric Henrichsen, a teacher at Stephen F. Austin Elementary, takes time to work on his classroom after helping some students and their parents demo their house after Harvey.
Photo by Carrie Pryor-Newman
Eric Henrichsen, a teacher at Stephen F. Austin Elementary, takes time to work on his classroom after helping some students and their parents demo their house after Harvey.

Teacher helps students’ family

By: Susan Passmore 

 When April Dobberstein and her husband Rhett saw the water rising downstairs in their home, they knew it would be a while before it was livable. The whole demolition process seemed overwhelming – but Eric Henrichsen came to the rescue!


Henrichsen, a teacher at Stephen F. Austin Elementary, was driving through the Whispering Pines subdivision to see if he could help a friend. The friend wasn’t home, so he stopped at the Dobbersteins, whose children Layla and Jack McCarty attend Austin Elementary.

“He has never been my children’s teacher, but everyone knows him because he’s so loved at the school,” said Dobberstein. “His son is in Cub Scouts with our son Jack, so he stopped when he saw my husband and said, ‘Hey, Jack’s dad, can I help?’”

They eagerly accepted Henrichsen’s offer, and for several hours, he helped tear up flooring and take down cabinets and sheetrock. The demo went much quicker with Eric’s capable hands helping out.

“I had been out of town for a week, and none of my family had damage, so I felt like I needed to put in some time helping other people. They were super appreciative, and they were all in pretty good spirits considering there was a tree on their house and their yard was full of things they’d taken out of the house. They were exhausted, but they said they appreciated my energy,” Henrichsen said.

Helping others is a way of life for Henrichsen.

“That’s just the kind of guy he is – always willing to help our neighbors, friends, family, and he even went to his school to help the cafeteria ladies earlier this week,” said his wife Alice Henrichsen, Celebrities Dance and Drill director at Robert E. Lee High School.

 

 


District Maintenance Supervisor Puts Student Needs First
09/15/2017
 Leo Ryza stands in front of GCCISD truck at Stallworth Stadium.
Photo by Carrie Pryor-Newman

District Maintenance Supervisor Puts Student Needs First

By Beth Dombrowa

It’s not like Leo Ryza wanted to be a superhero. It’s just that after 30 years with Goose Creek CISD in the maintenance department, he knew there would be things that had to be taken care of to restart school, so it was second nature to him to come to work every day, even after his own house took on a foot of water.

Ryza, who supervises the district’s building mechanics, waited until the last moment to leave his home in the Pinehurst area. Increasingly concerned about water coming into his home, he was sleeping downstairs in a recliner when his beloved Labrador Retriever woke him up by nudging at his hand about 1:30 a.m. on the morning of Tuesday, Aug. 29.

“When I stood up from the recliner, I was standing in about three inches of water,” he said.

By about 4 a.m., his house was flooded with about 12 inches of water. Ryza and a neighbor (Mike Knight, a teacher at Horace Mann Junior School) started loading up a boat his neighbor had managed to get, and by 10 a.m., they headed across Cedar Bayou, ending up at Fleming Road. Knight’s father was waiting there with a truck and took Ryza and his dog home. From there, Ryza was shuttled around between friends until he ended up at a friend’s house, where he is currently staying.

“I was displaced several times but there were actually some comical moments,” he said.

As soon as he could get back in, Ryza collected some of his prized possessions and, with the help of GCCISD co-workers, began cleaning his home and removing sheetrock. Like many others, Ryza had no flood insurance and there is a great deal of work to be done and items to replace – including brand-new appliances and cabinetry from a recent remodel.

“It’s going to be okay,” he said. “I’ve got good friends and a good team. I wouldn’t trade them for anything.”

Despite the destruction to his home, Ryza knew there would be a good amount of work to do around the district, so he reported to work every day, supervising carpet cleaning, ceiling tile replacement, welding, painting and many other district needs.

“It wasn’t mandatory, but Leo is one of those guys who felt like he needed to be here,” said GCCISD Maintenance Director Charlie Miller.

It’s not easy to sleep with so many things on his mind, so Ryza starts each morning by returning home to check on his house and move fans. Then he arrives at work, usually puts in a full day and returns home to work on his house until about 9:30 p.m.

“I wasn’t ordered to return to work, but this place has been good to me for 30 years,” he said. “It’s important for us and this community to get the district back up and running. It’s our job to give the students and staff the best possible learning and teaching environment we can. We’re here for the students.”

New GCCISD Employee Flooded, But Feels At Home
09/15/2017
 Frances Bushnell and son, Tre’ enjoy time together
Photo courtesy of Frances Bushnell.
Frances Bushnell and son, Tre’.

New GCCISD Employee Flooded, But Feels At Home 

By Beth Dombrowa

A brand new employee of the district, Frances Bushnell hadn’t even received her first paycheck from Goose Creek CISD when Harvey flooded the Humble-area home she shared with her 5-year-old son, Tre’ with eight feet of water.


“We were sitting on the couch eating bacon and fish sticks – the most random combination ever – when the sheriff’s office knocked on the door and told us we needed to get out,” Bushnell said. “I was shocked. The streets weren’t even flooded yet.”

That was Monday, Aug. 28, at 11 a.m. By 4 p.m., Bushnell, who packed up minimal belongings, started getting texts that her neighborhood was under 4 feet of water and more was expected. Like so many affected by Harvey, Bushnell didn’t carry flood insurance.

Her son wanted to go home, and Bushnell didn’t know how to tell him that his toys and sports equipment were all gone.

“He kept saying, ‘I want to go home.’ How do you explain to a 5-year old that there isn’t a home anymore, at least not for right now?” she asked.

Bushnell and Tre’ were able to get to the Central Administration Building to pick up donated items, like cleaning supplies, toiletries and other immediate necessities. They are staying with her sister in Baytown, and Tre’ will begin school at Bonnie P. Hopper Primary School. He had already attended Meet the Teacher night at his school in Humble, so this will be a change, but Bushnell is grateful for the positive feedback she has heard about the school.

“That’s one worry I can take off my plate,” she said. “It’s a big weight lifted.”

Although she is new to GCCISD, Bushnell recognized the district’s family-like culture.

“It was so humbling to be greeted like we were, to hear that I needed to take care of family first. People I don’t even know yet treated me like family,” she said. “It’s comforting to have your job take you under their wing and tell you it’s going to be okay.”

Massengale Makes New Friend
09/15/2017
 Denice Massengale (right), teacher at Gentry Junior School, poses with her new friend, 95-year-old WWII Navy veteran Fabian Greenwell, who at one time served as a Goose Creek CISD Board member.
Photo courtesy of Denice Massengale
Denice Massengale (right), teacher at Gentry Junior School, poses with her new friend, 95-year-old WWII Navy veteran Fabian Greenwell, who at one time served as a Goose Creek CISD Board member.

 

Massengale Makes New Friend

By: Susan Passmore


 Around 4 a.m. Monday, August 28, Denice Massengale, technology applications teacher at Gentry Junior School, sent out a desperate Facebook post for someone with a boat to rescue her friend’s mother in Whispering Pines. Another friend agreed to meet her at around 6:30 a.m. While waiting for the rescue, she came upon 95-year-old WWII Navy veteran Fabian Greenwell.  Greenwell also had been rescued from the rising water, along with his two dogs, by boat. The former GCCISD Board member had no family in the area, so even though she had just met him, Massengale took him and his pets home with her.

 

The next few days were spent cleaning out and gutting Greenwell’s house, assisted by volunteers, including Massengale’s husband Timmy and several family members. She, Lynne Foley from Lee College and others willing to donate their time and effort washed his clothes and took his military uniform to the cleaners.  Massengale even took Greenwell to the hospital when he said he felt ill, but she still doesn’t think she did anything out of the ordinary.

 

“I just happened to be there,” Massengale said. “I did what anyone else would have done.” Now, Massengale thinks of her new friend as family, and although he is staying in Sweeney with a relative, Greenwell says he’s ready to get back to Baytown. 

Amidst Rising Floods, Goose Creek Teacher Delivers Baby Boy
09/15/2017
 Perla Reyes and baby Diego Fernando rest at Kingwood hospital.
Photo courtesy of Perla Reyes.
Perla Reyes and baby Diego Fernando rest at Kingwood hospital.

 

Amidst Rising Floods, Goose Creek Teacher Delivers Baby Boy

 
By: Beth Dombrowa

Perla Reyes and her husband opted out of naming their new baby boy “Harvey,” although their son was born in the middle of Hurricane Harvey’s historic flood waters. The Travis Elementary teacher and her husband welcomed Diego Fernando Reyes on Monday, Aug. 28, after a harrowing trip to get to the hospital.

Although she wasn’t in active labor, Reyes was 41 weeks pregnant while she and her husband watched news reports of consistently rising water near their Summerwood home. About mid-day on Sunday, they decided it was too risky to wait it out and tried to get downtown to the hospital where Reyes was scheduled to deliver.

 
“The feeder roads were already very high and we had difficulty making it to the freeway,” Reyes said. “It was quite an ordeal.”
 
After ultimately making it to the freeway, the Reyeses found the road they needed to get downtown was closed. A police officer advised them to head north and added, “Go now,” predicting that the flooding would get worse.
 
The Reyeses took his advice and drove further north, where they spotted the Kingwood Medical Center. They explained their situation and, after an examination, it was determined that Reyes’ labor had begun and they were cautioned against attempting to leave, although she had still hoped to make it to the hospital where she was supposed to deliver.
 
At 6:30 a.m. on Monday, the Reyeses welcomed their first baby, Diego, who entered the world at 6 lbs., 9 oz. and 19 ¼ long.

Bus Driver Helps Students and Families
09/15/2017
 Blanca Pena, a bus driver for Goose Creek CISD for the past 10 years, talks to (from left) Reese Owens, Ryan Owens and Adelyn Shibley, whose parents were serving food at J. C. Hollaway Park Sunday. Pena went out to check on some of her former students on her route in the Whispering Pines area, volunteering at their homes and picking up food for their families.
                                                                                                                                    Photo by Susan Passmore

Bus Driver Helps Students and Families

Blanca Pena, a bus driver for Goose Creek CISD for the past 10 years, talks to (from left) Reese Owens, Ryan Owens and Adelyn Shibley, whose parents were serving food at J. C. Hollaway Park Sunday. Pena went out to check on some of her former students on her route in the Whispering Pines area, volunteering at their homes and picking up food for their families.


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