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New Braunfels Herald Zeitung (Newspaper) - January 7, 2000, New Braunfels, Texas FELSHerald-Zeitung — ■ ...... " ' . - '•" “             1 .       ;.-______—--,-----    ._______IVol. 149, No. 36    18    pages    in    2    sections    January    7,    2000    pRJJYYY    Servin£Comal County since 1852    50    cents New class rank structure to be considered by CISD trustees By Heather Todd Staff Writer Current freshmen at Canyon and Smithson Valley high schools could fall under a new class rank system if trustees approve changes recommended by a campus-based review committee. A Class Rank Review Committee comprised of school administrators, students, teachers and parents met this past fall to review how Comal Independent School District high schools calculate class ranking among students. If approved by the board the changes would be made in the current student handbook and the 2000-2001 handbook, but would not affect current upperclassmen. The committee is scheduled to recommend the changes for board approval at the Jan. 27 meeting at Bill Brown Elementary, 20410 W. Highway 46. The committee’s major recommendation is to eliminate most elective courses in the class ranking system. Currently, most elective courses such as debate, theatre arts, health science technology and accounting, are included in the class ranking. Most elective courses are calculated as regular credit courses. In the current system, core courses, Advanced Placement and honors courses are weighted in the ranking, which makes the courses more advantageous for students to take. For instance, a student that earns a IOO in an AP class might earn 8 ranking points, while the same grade in a pre-AP honors class might earn 7 points, or 5 points in a regular credit course. The committee is recommending moving most elective courses into a non-ranking category. Other courses currently not given a rank value include band and athletics. Under the proposed changes, students would still earn credit for all their courses and all courses taken by a student would still be used to calculate the cumulative grade point average. But, only specific courses would be used to determine class ranking. Bob Wiegand, principal of Canyon High School and a member of the committee, said the changes were recommended as a way to encourage students to take elective courses without jeopardizing their class rank. “The objective is to encourage students to take more elective courses without the pressure of how they will affect their class ranking. We believe that students who are currently reluctant to take electives w ill enroll under this new recommendation.” Jan Booth, secondary curriculum coordinator for CISD, said many elective courses such as engineering graphics, health science technology and computer animation were beneficial to students planning to enroll in college or find jobs after high school. But, she said, many highly ranked students do not take the courses because it would be detrimental to their class standing. And, a drop in class rank could endanger some students’ scholarship opportunities, district officials said. “Students on the committee often said ‘I’d love to take that class but I can’t take it because it might hurt my class rank,” Booth said. By moving elective courses to a non-ranking category, students would be allowed to take courses in high school that would give them a hands-on experience without penalizing their class ranking, officials said. Booth said school principals decided to review the class rank system after hearing students’ concerns. “The principals heard from the students and they were the catalysts for the move,” Booth said. See RANKINGS/3AComal County Sheriffs Department adding tactical unit ERIN MAGRUDER/Herald Zeitung Comal Sheriff’s Department Capt. David Oft displays a tear gas launcher Thursday. By Erin Magruder Staff Writer The Comal County Sheriff’s Department is taking a proactive approach to handling a crisis situation—they want to be prepared before a disaster strikes. For that reason, the department is assembling a SWAT team that will be trained and equipped to respond to a volatile event such as this past year’s Columbine High School tragedy in Littleton, Colo. “SWAT team is one of those things you hope you never have to use,” Sheriff Bob Holder said. “But if you do—you have people with the skills. You are prepared as a police agency in case anything happens.” The SWAT team will be comprised of about 20 to 24 full-time and reserve sheriff’s officers that will receive specialized training as snipers, negotiators, or as part of entry and perimeter teams, said CCSO Captain David Oft, who is heading up the SWAT team. “lf something like Columbine ever hit here, we would have to be ready,” Ott said. “We have to think ahead about what we would do and what resources we would draw on.” For example, local Smithson Valley High School has the same amount of students about 2,000— as Columbine High School, he said. To qualify for the SWAT team, certified peace officers must pass a physical fitness test and maintain physical standards, make a two-year commitment to the team, pass an oral interview board and receive additional firearms training, Ott said. The SWAT team has been assembling since November, and about IO members already have been selected and are in various stages of their training. “We have a good bunch of officers to pull from,” Ott said. And not all members of the SWAT team are men. A female patrol officer will be part of the negotiating team, and a female reserve officer, who also is a registered nurse, has applied to be a part of the SWAT perimeter team.See SWAT/3A Inside Abby...............................5A Classifieds.....................3-8B Comics...............................7A Crossword..........................5A Forum.................................6A Local/Metro........................4A Movies................................5    A Obituaries...........................3A Sports..............................1-3B Today.................................2A Church Directory...............9A Key code 76 File photo City workers remove one of several lighted structures from the Holiday River of Lights display at Cypress Bend Park. The River of Lights recently completed its third consecutive season, raising $113,498 in revenue for city coffers. Another $238,155 was transferred from the city’s portion of the hotel/motel tax funds to help defray the cost of running the event, which this season cost the city $254,707. $113,498 — collected from gate revenue, season pass sales, other promotions and sponsorship and program ads. An estimated 14,030 vehicles and 56,000 people passed through the display, up 29 percent from the 1997 season and up 35 percent from the 1998 season. But gate revenue, as well as season passes and sponsorships, didn’t bring in enough to cover the costs of renting the lights and setting up, operating and marketing the display — $254,707. Hotel/motel tax funds paid for $238,155 of the costs. Bed tax money actually allowed the city to put the net operating margin of $96,946 into the city’s general fund. That money wouldn’t be there without the Holiday River of Lights, assistant to the city manager Don Ferguson said. “When it puts $96,946 in the general fund, that’s $96,946 less we need from the taxpayers,” he said. Money currently brought in by the city’s 7 percent hotel/motel tax is divvied up between the Greater New See LIGHTS/3AAnalysis Holiday River of Lights Operating expenses $254,707 Operating revenues Gate revenue: $79,839 Season pass sales: $4,000 Other (ornaments, “Fun Run”): $1,159 Sponsorship and program ads: $28,500 Total: $113,498 Gross loss $141,209 Subsidization Hotel/motel tax revenue: $238,155 Net gain $96,946 Chamber shifts focus to Convention Center to between 55 to 65 percent with no cap. Tile cap, however, allows the city to get some surplus funds, which are used to fund the Holiday River of Lights. In addition, the chamber gives the city $20,000 of its $826,000 for the display. If the city chooses to lower the chamber’s percentage, between $40,000 to $100,000 could be freed up to fund a down payment on a convention center, estimated at $6 million.See CHAMBER/3A Lights out City leaders could decide later this month to pull the plug on a tradition By Peri Stone-Palmquist Staff writer By Peri Stone-Palmquist Staff writer Funding for the Holiday River of Lights and the Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce, Inc. could be cut to fund a new convention center, if city council approves a recommendation from the chamber. Council hasn’t discussed the issue yet, and the chamber hasn’t formally presented its ideas for how to fund a convention center. But the issue could come up in a workshop not yet scheduled and the Jan. 24 council meeting. Chamber president Michael Meek said Thursday the chamber wanted to renegotiate its contract with the city to provide some bed tax funding for a .    convention center. “We feel everyone would benefit from a convention center,” he said. “Our job is to maximize the benefit of tourism for the whole community.” Currently, the chamber gets 74.286 percent of the city’s 7 percent hotel/motel tax, unless that exceeds a predetermined cap, which totals $826,000 for 2000. “With this cap program, we typically receive about 60 percent of the total,” Meek said. The rest of the money is divvied between arts and heritage organizations (14.286 percent) and upkeep of the New Braunfels Civic Center (11.428 percent). Meek said he’d like the chamber’s percentage to change from 74 percent The future of the Holiday River of Lights could come to a vote soon and probably will have to compete with a convention center for bed tax funding. Organizers of the Holiday River of Lights say the drive-through light display has not met revenue expectations but shows promise. During the past three years, the city reports expenses associated with the light display project at $804,805, which was was partially funded with $600,310 from hotel/motel tax revenue. The city had to pay $83,489 out of the general fund to cover the cost of starting the River of Lights in the project’s first year, 1997. The general fund received $55,686 in 1998 and $96,946 in 1999, providing the general Hind a total of $69,143 during the past three years. Without the hotel/motel tax subsidy to the project, the city would have lost more than $500,000. Hotel/motel tax, by state law, is a dedicated tax. Revenue can be spent on convention facilities, tourism promotion and promotion of arts and history. The three-year contract for the lights expires this year — and in the next month, the city likely will determine just how it should spend its bed tax money. At Monday’s meeting, council will set a workshop to discuss the convention center. And on Jan. 24, both the convention center and the Holiday River of Lights could be agenda items. In 1999, revenue from the 52-day event in Cypress Bend Park totaled ;