Overton ISD Superintendent Stephen DuBose announced he will retire from his position after 18 years of service to the district, effective at the end of June 2022.
The Overton ISD Board of Trustees heard and approved DuBose’s resignation at their Monday meeting.
DuBose began working with the district as an assistant coach in 2004, later serving as an athletic director and head football coach until 2013, when the district’s Board of Trustees selected him as their superintendent.
“I’m so happy to be able to retire as an Overton Mustang,” DuBose said in a statement on his retirement. “This is a special place and we plan on remaining in town after retirement. I am pleased to have spent 43 years in the greatest profession in the world — education. I look back at my career and realize how God has blessed me to work with fantastic students, athletes, fellow teachers, coaches, administrators, and board members.”
In previous meetings, DuBose told the board he would retire upon turning 65. Now that day has passed following his birthday in September, the superintendent is remaining true to his word.
“I’m old,” DuBose told the News Herald. “I’ve been in the business for 43 years…. When I told the board, they weren’t surprised.”
As superintendent, DuBose oversaw growth in district employment, salaries and size. He noted the addition of the district’s Career and Technology center, a shared space for local school districts to host collegiate and professional courses, as a great achievement in his career. The center is reopening this semester following renovations to fix damage caused by Winter Storm Uri.
“The center is a dream that the five districts involved have had for a number of years. Seeing it recovering from the storm damage and knowing that our students will be able to get started in college or a career at no cost is just a huge accomplishment for these communities,” DuBose said.
“The future is so exciting for OISD. I’m looking forward to seeing the district continuing to provide a quality education in a loving, family environment while preparing our students for a future in college or a workforce career.”
Overton leaders and community members gathered to celebrate and honor local law enforcement in the city’s first Law Enforcement Appreciation Day event held at the Overton Chamber of Commerce on Sunday, Jan. 9.
Officers and representatives from several local law enforcement agencies attended the event, including members of the Overton Police Department, the Rusk County Sheriff’s Department, the Arp Police Department and others.
Overton city leaders prepared a proclamation officially designating the day as Law Enforcement Appreciation Day in the community, read aloud at the event by Mayor Curtis Gilbert. Physical copies of the proclamation were also given to representatives of each agency in attendance.
Overton resident Cara Vanderkolk helped organize the event to show gratitude toward the work of Overton police officers, and officers from surrounding areas.
“It’s wonderful to see what they’re doing,” Vanderkolk said. “They’re really starting to crack down on some of the drug issues that have gone on throughout the county. The officers are doing a lot more driving through the community and talking with people in the neighborhoods, and so there’s a safe feeling that is being generated.”
For some, the event was the first time they had an opportunity to talk with Overton’s newest Police Chief Bryan Pool, hired last July. Vanderkolk said she and other city residents have noticed a difference in police presence since Pool began his role as chief.
Part of that difference, Pool said, stems from additional help offered by other local departments within the past year.
“It’s tremendously humbling to me that the other agencies sent representatives here,” Pool said. “Since I have come on board, we’ve made a lot of changes. We dissolved our dispatch center here in Smith County and entered into an interlocal agreement with other departments. That opened up a whole new realm of law enforcement backup in Overton.”
The agreement has given Overton’s small department a leg-up with clearer radio signals, additional manpower available during dangerous calls and a greater sense of security for each officer, Pool said. In Overton, backup officers often come from the Arp, Troup and New London departments.
Pool said the officers in attendance greatly appreciated the chance to meet with community members, hear their feedback and answer questions at the appreciation event.
“It’s very motivating to see this type of support and encouragement from our citizens and from our city leaders,” Pool said. “It lets us know that we matter. A lot of times in law enforcement, that type of stuff is overlooked. A lot of these officers here [in Overton] work for less money than those in other locations. They’re here because they want to be here.”
As COVID-19 cases in area counties continue to skyrocket, East Texas emergency rooms are seeing an influx of patients in need of treatment and COVID-19 testing.
Patients have been going to emergency facilities to get tested for COVID-19 as a surge of contagious omicron cases has local pharmacies backed up with test appointments. Some don’t have availability for at least a week out, resulting in a lack of readily available COVID-19 testing options. At-home rapid tests also are in short supply or out of stock in stores.
The demand has forced local ERs to now limit testing capabilities and test only symptomatic patients so they are able to dedicate their resources to those facing life-threatening emergencies.
UT Health’s emergency room in Tyler had seen about 20 patients walk in with COVID-19-like symptoms within only a 10-hour period, officials said this week.
At Tyler Complete Care, about 50 to 55 patients are visiting each day, which is up 20 percent more than the normal winter rate. Brad Robertson, medical director at Tyler Complete Care, said most of the patients have come in with COVID-19 symptoms.
Hospitality Health ER in Longview also said its facility has seen a “rapid influx” of patients coming in since the day after Christmas.
“We’re there to rule out and treat life-threatening emergencies, and if patients feel like they have an emergency, we’re going to see them and we’re going to treat them, but as far as… (COVID-19) testing ... that’s… not our role. That’s not what we should be doing,” said Dr. Chris Hable, ER physician with UT Health. He added it would be great to have an adequate number of home testing available at area stores. From his experience, people come into the ER and just want to know, “Do I have this virus or do I not?”
Hospitality Health in Longview clarified in a statement that it is not a COVID-19 testing site. Although the facility is testing patients, resources are being used on those who are symptomatic and in need of ER treatment. Health officials are still caring for other medical emergencies amid this surge, the facility said in a statement.
Robertson, at Tyler Complete Care, said the facility also makes it clear it is not a testing center, but it does evaluate people with acute symptoms and determine whether it’s COVID-19, the flu or something else.
Patients at UT Health East Texas are tested and billed as an ER visit. However, Hable said Tuesday that the hospital notified staff to begin limit testing and will no longer test those who are asymptomatic.
When it comes to other emergencies, the Trauma-1 Level Center continues to receive patients from outlying facilities within the region, Hable said. Patients who come into the ER simply to get information, or confirm if they do or do not have COVID-19, are bogging down the system.
“It takes resources. It takes techs to collect the samples, it takes nurses to evaluate, get vital signs. It creates a slowing down of the system, and it makes it hard to be efficient with getting everybody, and really with true emergencies, taken care of in a timely manner,” Hable said.
Since tests are becoming more scarce and limits are now being implemented, Hable said, in general, the ER may not be the best place for patients with a mild illness.
“You may present to the emergency room with a cold-like symptom, and it may be COVID-19. What is your therapy? Supportive care. There’s this idea that when you show up, I’m going to give you several medicines and you’re going to get better. Unfortunately, science doesn’t show that yet,” Hable said.
He added the ER is not turning people away when they’re scared, frightened and worried.
“We’ve continued to come to work despite this pandemic, and we’re taking care of the sick, the really sick from the disease virus and those who are just mildly ill, and by doing so, we’re putting our livelihood at risk, but that’s what we’re called to do,” Hable said.
When the pandemic first began in 2020, Hable said patients weren’t coming to ERs due to fear they could get ill.
“I think that some of that fear has waned and now, people are just like, ‘I just want to know,’” he said.
Now in the third year of the pandemic, Hable said patients are feeling sick, but fewer are being hospitalized. Most patients, he said, are discharged because symptoms are not severe enough to require hospitalization.
At Tyler Complete Care, Robertson said patients have primarily upper respiratory symptoms, including congestion, cough, sore throat, fever and body aches.
Robertson said physicians have recently had to prescribe the COVID-19 antiviral pill, but the biggest issue is finding pharmacies that have it in stock.
Hable said patients presented more sickness in the last surge of the pandemic, primarily due to the delta variant. Those delta patients often required oxygen supplementation to support them. As of Tuesday, Hable said only a few patients have presented with pneumonia and are oxygen-dependent.
He added the majority of cases seen are in those who are unvaccinated, which are often more severe. He said younger and healthy people are among the latest demographics of positive cases. In addition, UT Health East Texas’ ER has seen an 8-week-old baby with COVID-19 in the past few weeks.
“It doesn’t spare, unfortunately. This variant, what we know right now, is more infectious than with previous variants at this point,” Hable said.
Robertson added that while omicron is more contagious and more people are getting the disease, it doesn’t seem to be quite as taxing on ICU beds. Staff at his facility, he said, are working overtime and are being offered extra hours if people are able to help through the busy times.
“I think, for the most part… COVID is a self-limiting illness,” Robertson said. “By treating the symptoms with Tylenol, ibuprofen for fever, cough and cold medicines as needed over the counter, most people do just fine with that. If the patient has other medical problems or risk factors … or if someone is feeling especially ill, meaning short of breath, chest pain, nausea, vomiting, etc., those are probably indications that they need to be seen and evaluated, not only for COVID, but for what else might be going on.”
Will Knous, spokesman for Christus Trinity Mother Frances in Tyler and Christus Good Shepherd in Longview, said both facilities are seeing an increase in COVID-19 cases, though they have not seen a surge in severe cases.
“While it is too soon to draw conclusions on the long-term risks and effects of omicron, this variant appears to be highly transmissible but less likely to cause lower respiratory tract symptoms and severe disease,” Knous said.
Longview Regional Medical Center said in a statement the facility has also seen an increase in COVID-19 patients due to the most recent variant surge.
“We continually monitor our census and bed availability because it can change at any time as patients are admitted or discharged,” the hospital said.
A Kilgore man was jailed after a crash late Wednesday east of Tyler killed a 22-year-old Overton man and injured three other people.
Jace D. Taylor was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash on Texas 31 about 13 miles east of Tyler, according to information released by Texas Department of Public Safety spokeswoman Sgt. Jean Dark.
Gary L. Nichols, 40, was booked into Smith County Jail on a charge of intoxication manslaughter with a vehicle and a Rusk County warrant of failure to comply with a sex offender’s duty to register. Bond on the intoxication manslaughter charge was set at $25,000.
Troopers responded at about 11:45 p.m. to the crash. A preliminary report shows a vehicle, driven by 22-year-old Ashley L. Wilson of Overton, was disabled in the eastbound lane of Texas 31, according to Dark. Two passengers had gotten out of the vehicle and were trying to move it while a female passenger remained inside.
A second vehicle, driven by Nichols, was headed eastbound on Texas 31 and struck the disabled vehicle, according to DPS.
Wilson was taken to UT Health East Texas in Tyler in critical condition, Dark said. Passenger 23-year-old Hayley Wilson of Overton was taken to Christus Trinity Mother Frances in Tyler in critical condition. Passenger Devin C. Hardee, 24, of Overton was taken to UT Health East Texas in Tyler in stable condition. Taylor was also a passenger in Ashley Wilson’s vehicle.
The Kilgore Historical Preservation Foundation invites the community to a Kilgore History & Arts Center Open House today, Saturday, Jan. 15 at the Old Post Office located in downtown Kilgore at 200 S. Kilgore St.
The event will be held from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Visit https://khpf.org for more information and to learn about the history of Kilgore, as well as KHPF’s ongoing historical preservation projects.