New classroom puts teens to work – and they can’t wait

By Trishna Buch

STUDENTS were keen to get classes off to an early start after Texas City independent school district’s industrial trades center was declared open last week.
Pretty quickly, they were trying out the equipment, as our photo shows.
And the public was allowed to tour the newly constructed Ninth Avenue North building, talk to its students and even test the simulators it will use to teach trades such as maritime and construction skills, welding and pipefitting to some 200 students from Texas City and La Marque high schools.
The district hopes the training and accompanying industry-certification courses will open several doors for students intending to make a career in the manufacturing, petroleum and maritime industries, helping to fill a potential workforce shortage as the area’s current skilled workers reach retirement age.
During the opening ceremony on Wednesday, the district’s superintendent, Cynthia Lusignolo, said: “Our goal is to become the skilled-craft training pipeline for Galveston County and the greater Gulf Coast area.
“Our mission is to launch our students into high-skill, high-wage, high-demand positions that will help secure a high quality of life for them and their families.”

New COM boss Nichols tells Trishna Buch his plan to make the college great again – with a little help from voters

WITHIN moments of sitting down with new College Of The Mainland president Warren Nichols, it was obvious he already cares deeply about the institution’s students and staff and the surrounding community, leading him to strong opinion about two particularly divisive topics.
Referring to one, he told me he, left, considers students to be the college’s biggest strength while its biggest weakness is its dilapidated structures, which he sees as a reason to support the college’s need for a voter-approved multi-million-dollar reconstruction bond.
He said he has yet to calculate the bond’s value but insisted: “Without an infusion of new funding, we cannot truly maximize our abilities to serve the community.
“College Of The Mainland is the community’s college and I don’t think we can stress that enough. We want to be involved in the community, we want to make sure the community feels like we are worthy of their investment and our focus is to make sure we are serving their needs.”
COM’s bond issue has been a topic of discussion for several years as the college seeks to rebuild parts of its 50-year-old campus. Aware that a bond has already been rejected in two referendums, Nichols said he believes it is a matter of significant importance.
He said: “I have no timetable for moving forward with a bond but I know that we need to desperately improve our campus facilities. We need to be expanding our programs for our students so that they can get well-paid and high-paying jobs in businesses and industries.”
But he believes that successfully asking the public to vote for a bond will stem from showing the community that the money will go towards a good cause.
He said: “We need to get a stronger message out to the community we serve, about all the good things COM is doing, not only for our students but for our community. We need to be able to prove to the voters that their investment, by passing the bond, would be an investment to improve the quality of the entire area.”
The other major topic on which Nichols was keen to air his views was Texas’ new campus-carry law, which has allowed licensed individuals aged at least 21 to carry a concealed handgun on university campuses since August last year and will be extended to community colleges in August this year.
He made it plain that it is one thing he is definitely not happy about, saying: “As a former police officer, I really do not welcome open carry. I am not opposing it and we will do what the state expects but, in my previous law-enforcement capacity, I only wanted police officers to be carrying guns in public.”
Speaking about the college’s commissioned law-enforcement officers, he said: “I much prefer to place my trust in the use of deadly force with my police officers than I do with someone who has just gone through 40 hours of training”

Path to the presidency

MARRIED with two sons and three grandchildren, Warren Nichols considers himself an outdoorsman and enjoys reading science-fiction novels and watching the comedy TV series The Big Bang Theory in his free time.
He has arrived at COM after a professional career that did not begin in the educational field. First, he earned a two-year degree in law enforcement from Tarrant County College in Fort Worth. He then worked for the Arlington police department and simultaneously attended University Of Texas at Arlington, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in criminal justice.
While at Arlington PD, he began a natural transition into the education field when he was asked to train new officers.
He then moved to Victoria College to create a police academy and a two-year degree program in law enforcement before becoming a founding dean of Lone Star College’s Montgomery campus in Conroe.
Along the way, he earned his doctorate in higher education administration from University Of Houston and soon found himself appointed vice president at Darton State College in Albany, Georgia, and then president at Volunteer State community college in Gallatin, Tennessee.
That led him to the vice chancellorship of community colleges for Tennessee’s public education system, a job in which he was responsible for overseeing the transition of 13 independent institutions into a statewide community-college organization.
After 13 years in that role, the presidency at COM called out to him because it allowed him to come back home – he is a Texas native, having been born in Fort Worth – and work on a college campus.
He said: “I had been away longer than I had anticipated and I missed working directly with students, faculty and staff. I missed developing partnerships with businesses and industries to grow the workforce and I wanted to recapture that.”
After a lengthy search process, College Of The Mainland finally appointed Nichols its new president in January and he took up his position on February 13.
He took over from interim president Rodney Albright, who came out of retirement to take over leadership of the college from former president Beth Lewis in June last year.
Lewis, who had presided over the college since 2013, is now the dean at Del Mar college in Corpus Christi.

THE NEW president at College Of The Mainland takes up his duties tomorrow two weeks late because of confusion about a state retirement law.  
Warren Nichols was originally due to take over from interim president Rodney Albright on January 30 but his contract negotiations were halted when, shortly after being named sole finalist for the position previously held by Beth Lewis, he learned that the state legislature had changed its retirement-system law in 2013.
According to the new law, he would have to pay a penalty should he return to work in a public-school system. At the time of his recruitment in December, the former Arlington police officer was Tennessee’s vice chancellor of community colleges.
The college trustees were forced to suspend negotiations and hold off issuing a contract according to a law known as the 21-day rule.
“The 21-day rule governs the appointment and contracting with a community-college president”, trustee member Rachel Delgado told The Post.
“After a college appoints a sole finalist, it must wait 21 days until a contract can be issued. We had to stop the clock when we were apprised of this new information and decide whether or not we could move forward.”
She added that Nichols, above, had been unanimously named the college’s new president in a unanimous vote on January 30 “after researching the rule and much discussion of the best way to proceed”.
Nichols said his biggest priority will be a partnership with the college’s staff, students and surrounding community.
“I’m a big proponent of getting the community to view the college as a meeting place and resource”, he said.
A relieved Wayne Miles, who chairs the COM trustees, said they were “thrilled” to have Nichols on board, describing him as “the right guy at the right time”.
Albright, a former president of Alvin community college, will remain at COM as a consultant until the end of the month to ensure a smooth transition for his replacement.
Lewis is now dean at Del Mar college in Corpus Christi.

Island medics to lead nation’s fight against insect diseases

By Trishna Buch

UTMB has been given the $10 million task of saving America from a host of insect-borne diseases such as malaria, zika and dengue fever.
The Galveston Island hospital system said on Monday that the federal centers for disease control and prevention, known as CDC, has called on it to set up a unit to stop diseases carried by insects such as mosquitoes and ticks.UTMB
Apparently, the agency is concerned that the nation “is not adequately prepared to prevent these diseases from spreading and to protect at-risk populations” and instigated the award under last year’s Zika Response And Preparedness Appropriations act.
The man chosen to lead the unit, Scott Weaver, said the lack of preparation stems “from complex problems such as difficulties in controlling the aedes aegypti mosquito, the rise of [disease carriers] that are resistant to insecticides and a decrease in public health expertise and preparedness in recent years”.
Weaver, the director of UTMB’s institute for human infections and immunity, will head a team including personnel from nine other academic institutions, six local public-health agencies and Texas’ health services department at the unit, to be known as Western Gulf Center Of Excellence For Vector-Borne Diseases.
Vector-borne diseases are those transmitted by the bite of infected cold-blooded arthropod species such as blackflies, mosquitoes, sandflies, ticks and triatomine bugs, which are sensitive to climate conditions such as those on the Gulf Coast.
The species are referred to as vectors by the medical profession because they do not cause disease themselves but spread infection by conveying pathogens from one host body to another.
UTMB said Texas is especially vulnerable to such diseases because of the state’s climate, proximity to the United States-Mexico border and the fact that it holds major hubs for travel from Latin America and
the Caribbean.
Weaver said: “Texas is a gateway for vector-borne diseases entering or emerging in the USA. We have seen dangerous viruses spread by arthropod vectors such as mosquitoes and ticks, including dengue, chikungunya, West Nile virus and zika, establishing themselves and spreading, especially in the Gulf Coast region.”
Weaver said he believed UTMB had been chosen for the task because of its “unparalleled expertise in arthropod-borne diseases” and that the center of excellence will enable the institution “to improve lives all across the Americas”.
He said the center will approach its work “from many different angles, including safe and reliable control of mosquitoes while safeguarding against insecticide resistance”.
It will also look at ways to speed up diagnosis of the diseases and make it more reliable and improve both the ability to predict disease emergence and spread and methods of dealing with communities affected by insect-borne diseases.
“The goal of the center is to greatly improve our ability to anticipate mosquito and tick-borne diseases,” he said.
“The center will enhance both the regional and national capacity to anticipate, prevent and control emerging and exotic vector-borne diseases”.
UTMB’s academic partners in the project will be UT’s Austin, El Paso and Rio Grande Valley campuses, Texas A&M’s AgriLife and AgriLife Extension services and its engineering experiment station, University Of Houston, University Of Colorado and Vanderbilt University.
Initially, Harris County was the only local-government entity UTMB named among the six public-health agencies it said will contribute to the project’s team. However, after its print edition went to press, The Post was able to establish that the agencies of Cameron, Dallas and Hidalgo counties and of Brownsville and McAllen will also be involved.

Crimewatch with Walt Candelari

IT SEEMS as if there has been a significant paradigm shift in several major businesses in the past several years as to how they relate to their customers. From the moment I walked into a hospital on one occasion, every employee I met greeted me in a positive manner and more than one asked if they could help me. Not only were they being helpful but they were also, indirectly, letting me know that I had been seen. soc_railroad-crossing-tips
In a car dealership, I was greeted again in a very positive manner and the employees spent time finding out what it was that I wanted and not what they wanted to sell me. Again, not only were they being helpful but I was aware that they could put a name to my face and I could be identified.
In both instances, I seemed to be treated as an individual about whom they cared and not just patient number 243 or customer Wotsisname. It was refreshing.
Back at home, I have been among neighbors watching a car coming down the block slowly as if looking for an address. More often than not, at least one of us will step to the street and see if we can help the motorist.
In that moment of contact, we see who is in the vehicle, what kind it is, sometimes note its license number and always let the driver know that he or she has been seen. We have also learned never to step in front of the car, just in case the driver has no intention of stopping.
Most drivers are innocently going about their business but there are many ways to scam you and care is always a wise precaution. This is also the case with scams that arrive by phone call or e-mail message.
There are often reports of someone calling supposedly from the IRS and saying you or your attorney must call a number they give you. This has been reported to the IRS but, if you receive a similar call, please report it by calling 1-800-366-4484 or going online to
The phony “You missed jury duty and we have a warrant out for you” scam often makes the rounds. Be careful! These folks just want your money, so don’t give them your credit-card details thinking payment will avoid your arrest. Law-enforcement agencies don’t work that way.
And you thought it couldn’t get worse? Watch for the “funeral notification” e-mail scam, which appears to come from a real company and would appear to be an announcement of pending arrangements and a memorial service. There is no personal name attached and, when you open the message, a virus or malware is installed on your computer.
Again, when in doubt, look up the number of the named funeral home and call it. If the message is genuine, the staff will give you any details; if not, they will probably be quite interested in finding out if their company is being used in a scam.
If you receive unsolicited calls from companies offering services or products, do some research before doing business with them. In this region, for example, scammers will be out to sell you inferior materials and products to keep your house safe when hurricane season is in full swing. But, whatever time of year, always check with Houston Better Business Bureau when you are not familiar with a company that calls you out of the blue.
Finally, call your power company if someone comes around trying to sell you a lightning rod for your house at a shockingly hefty price and implies that they represent the company. They don’t.
Remember: Think, plan and execute crime-prevention design. Don’t be a crime victim.
Walt Candelari is a crime-prevention specialist and community-policing officer with Dickinson police department.