Sunday, August 29, 2010

A New School Year!

Liz is beginning her fourth year of teaching second grade in Kermit.  Since my photo essay two years ago of Liz's classroom remains my most popular post, I decided to do another one.



Kermit naps by the window.

Note the elephant parade.


We have a bug theme going on this year. We have just about every bug book except (ironically) Miss Spider by David Kirk.



This reading couch is the envy of the school. Liz found it in the school district's warehouse, and expertly re-covered it herself for a total cost of $2.49!

A Texas pine cone?  No, actually it came from the Sequoias in California.  A gift to Liz from another teacher.






The only genre bulletin board on campus!

The administrators.



A lady in Hobbs did the bug curtains.




Ms. Mills across the hall has a big Kermit.

Our mascot is officially the Kermit Yellow Jackets,

but one hall down by Pre-Kindergarten still celebrates the famous frog:




Thursday, August 19, 2010

Weirdness in Monahans?

Monahans, Texas is a city twenty miles south of Kermit. Apparently they have a store there where brooms stand up by themselves. Or maybe this only happens around Halloween. Check out this (mostly silent) video.




Forty-two days after this was shot, a UFO with two aliens reportedly invaded a Monahans backyard barbecue. Coincidence? I think not.


Report a UFO.

Report a standing broom.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Jal Cowboy Sculpture: "The Trail Ahead..."



(Twenty miles north of Kermit is the town of Jal, New Mexico, home to a beautiful and at first startling steel sculpture called "The Trail Ahead...". The following is artist Brian Norwood's own story of the project, as recounted on his own website. All the photos in this post come from the artist's site also:)


"The Trail Ahead..." came about as a means to bring people to Jal, New Mexico--a small town hit hard when its major employer, El Paso Natural Gas Company, moved most of their employees in the mid-1980's.

While many individuals and organizations tried to improve Jal's economic outlook, I too looked for a way to help. After seeing an article in Southern Living magazine about a metal sculpture in Oklahoma, I decided that was something I could do. Although I knew nothing about working with steel--I had never cut any metal in my life--I embarked on the "JAL Cowboy Sculpture Project.

The design was intended to pay tribute to the Western heritage of the area, and the first permanent settlers--the ranchers who brought the JAL brand to southeastern New Mexico. (ABOVE: The artist and his work.)

The last Friday of each month, the Jal Chamber of Commerce puts on a community breakfast. At the January 1999 breakfast, I announced the project and began soliciting donations. I left the breakfast that morning with a pledge for a $1,000.00 donation. Word of the project reached planners for a scheduled Jal school reunion and the news hit the internet. Soon, donations were coming in at a rapid pace as Jal residents and former residents--some of whom had not lived in Jal for more than 50 years--gave money to help their hometown. In just a few months, enough money was raised to begin construction. And by March 17th, 2000, with a great deal of help from Jal resident Gene Armstrong, the sculpture was complete.

"The Trail Ahead..." has been featured in numerous magazines and newspapers across the country, and on radio, television and a variety of websites. It played a major part in the 2004 exhibit "SoQ: Contemporary Art in Southern New Mexico" at the New Mexico Museum of Fine Arts in Santa Fe.

According to exhibit curator Betty Gold, "The Trail Ahead..." was the lynchpin for the show. She originally intended to feature the work of better known artists from Silver City, Las Cruces, Ruidoso and Roswell until she happened on information about the Jal sculpture on the internet. "If there is something like that in a town the size of Jal" she said, "what else is out there that we are missing?" The result was an exhibition of the work of 64 artists from small towns, remote villages and southern New Mexico's larger cities.

(Another fascinating article on the sculpture can be found on nightscribbler's blog, which is a great name for a blog.)

Monday, August 16, 2010

Medicine in Kermit Part 2: Nurses Awarded $750,000

The two ousted nurses of Kermit have settled their suit. I link here to a scathing article about it on the Law-Med Blog (adult language warning)! The same blog is so enamored by this long-running story that they awarded Winkler County its own page, detailing the whole history of the scandal, on their site.





Another article about the settlement appeared in The New York Times:


Texas Nurses Fired for Alleging Misconduct Settle Their Suit
By KEVIN SACK
Published: August 10, 2010
Two nurses agreed Tuesday to split a $750,000 payment from Winkler County, Tex., to settle the lawsuit they filed after being fired and criminally prosecuted for reporting allegations of improper medical treatment by a doctor at the county hospital, their lawyer said.

One of the nurses, Anne Mitchell, was acquitted in February of misuse of official information, a felony, for anonymously reporting Dr. Rolando G. Arafiles Jr. to the state medical board in 2009. Charges against the second nurse, Vickilyn Galle, were dropped shortly before the trial.

Experts on whistle-blower protection laws said the prosecution seemed unprecedented, and the nurses’ cause was taken up by state and national nursing associations that warned of a chilling effect on the reporting of medical misconduct.

Ms. Mitchell, 53, said in an interview that she was glad to put the case behind her. “We’ll be able to move on with our lives,” she said. “We never thought we’d be in this situation at this stage, when we should be settling down and looking toward retirement.”

Ms. Mitchell and Ms. Galle, both of whom live in Jal, N.M., have not been able to find work in the field since their dismissals as nursing administrators last year, said Brian Carney, one of their lawyers.

The nurses’ lawsuit, which was filed in federal court, asserted that they had been subjected to vindictive prosecution and denied their First Amendment rights. The hospital and other defendants agreed to the settlement without acknowledging liability.

Dr. Arafiles, who attended medical school in his native Philippines before training in the United States, was charged in late June by the Texas Medical Board with numerous violations, including “failure to maintain adequate medical records, poor medical judgment, poor decision-making, overbilling, improper coding, nontherapeutic prescribing and/or treatment and intimidation of witnesses.”

The complaint alleges substandard treatment of nine patients in 2008 and 2009. Dr. Arafiles is accused, for instance, of suturing a rubber scissor tip to a patient’s finger, using an unapproved olive oil solution on a patient with a highly resistant bacterial infection, failing to diagnose appendicitis and conducting a skin graft in the emergency room without surgical privileges.

(More details of Dr. Arafiles's alleged actions may be found here. - DK)

He continues to work at Winkler County Memorial Hospital in Kermit. He is awaiting a hearing before an administrative law judge on the medical board’s charges. His license could be restricted or revoked.

In 2007, the board placed limits on Dr. Arafiles’s license for three years after reviewing allegations of unprofessional conduct and inadequate supervision of subordinates at a weight-loss clinic where he worked.

Neither Dr. Arafiles nor Stan Wiley, the hospital administrator who fired the nurses, could be reached for comment. The nurses had named them as defendants, along with the county, the hospital and other local officials.

In April, the Department of State Health Services fined the hospital $15,850 for inadequately supervising Dr. Arafiles and firing Ms. Mitchell and Ms. Galle.

The nurses, who were responsible for quality assurance and regulatory compliance, said they began having concerns about Dr. Arafiles soon after he was hired in 2008 by the hospital, which has difficulty recruiting physicians to remote West Texas. Kermit, in the heart of the Permian Basin oil fields, has 5,200 residents.

Feeling that their internal warnings were not heeded, the nurses, who had a combined 47 years of employment at the hospital, wrote to the state medical board anonymously and referred investigators to cases listed by number but not by patient name.

After being informed of the board’s inquiry, Dr. Arafiles persuaded the county sheriff, Robert L. Roberts Jr., a personal friend and patient, to investigate who had filed the complaint. Sheriff Roberts obtained a search warrant to seize the nurses’ computers, found the draft on Ms. Mitchell’s hard drive and brought the case to a grand jury.

At trial, prosecutors asserted that Ms. Mitchell had not acted in good faith, as required by state law, when reporting Dr. Arafiles. The jury took less than an hour to find otherwise.

A version of this article appeared in print on August 11, 2010, on page A11 of the New York edition.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Kermit's Newest Eatery - Huddle House!


ABOVE: Kermit's new Huddle House is part of the banner on the Huddleblog.


From the Odessa American:

BY GEOFF FOLSOM
KERMIT Two customers approach Kermit’s newest dining destination, not knowing the greeting they have in store.

“Two huddling in,” one staff member says to another.

As the customers open the door, the staff lets them know they are wanted.

“Welcome to Huddle House,” one employee says to the couple.

“Welcome to Huddle House,” another says … and another … and another.

Alan Brinker, director of operations for the Kent Companies, which owns the area Huddle House franchise, said the greetings are part of making sure that employees and customers have a good time in the restaurants.

“We welcome every guest, make sure they get acknowledged,” he said. “It’s a fun environment.”

And soon Odessa will be part of the environment. Brinker said the company plans to break ground on an Odessa location in October. He hopes to open the restaurant, which will likely be located in the West County Road area, in early 2011.

“It wouldn’t be unreasonable to think we could put at least two in Odessa and two in Midland,” he said.

The Kermit store, which opened June 3, is the second Huddle House location Kent has built in the Permian Basin. Brinker said it is part of a 20-restaurant development deal for the Atlanta-based chain in West Texas and eastern New Mexico.

The 24-hour store brought 40 jobs to Kermit, a town of around 5,700 located 45 miles west of Odessa. Brinker said that with a new Kent Kwik convenience store that opened next door, his company brought a total of 55 jobs to the area.

While the first Permian Basin Huddle House opened in Monahans in 2008 is just off Interstate 20 and close to several hotels, the Kermit location sits near the intersection of two state highways headed to places like Jal and Mentone. But Jim Carr, Huddle House director of franchising for Louisiana and points west, said it still made sense for an all-night restaurant.

“Kermit is just one of those grossly underserved markets,” he said. “There’s not a lot of resident population, but the transient population is very strong because of the oilfield.”

Alex Romo, an oil company worker from Kermit, was making his first trip to the Huddle House. He said its hours and its menu that offered breakfast lunch and dinner impressed him.

“We’re not used to having none of this,” he said. “I’ll probably come at night, too, with my family.”

Brinker expects to open around two locations a year. After coming to Odessa, he said cities like Crane, Fort Stockton and Big Spring make sense as future locations, along with more distant places like Lubbock, Levelland and Alamogordo, N.M.

Before the Monahans store opened, Huddle House’s closest location was south of Fort Worth in Joshua, more than 350 miles away. But while Kent looks to put more locations in West Texas, Carr said the company is working to bring its stores from Central Texas further west, to cities like Brownwood and Stephenville.




“We’re gradually working our way to fitting the two zones of Texas closer together,” he said.

Huddle House has 423 stores in 18 states, mostly in the Southeast and Midwest. Carr said the company has six locations in Texas, but plans to add five to eight more in 2010.

Carr said the company has been able to expand in tough economic times partly by keeping many of its meals under $6.

“We’re a value-pricing brand,” he said. “Our competitive set is restaurants that are open 24 hours and serve pretty much anything on the menu.”

Carr said the Monahans store is “doing well,” though it has seen difficult times attracting employees at points.

But Brinker said the Kermit location had hundreds of applicants before it opened. He said the company is boosted by incentives like medical benefits and 401(k) plans.

“I was a little concerned at first, but once we put up the sign that we were ‘now hiring,’ we were flooded with applicants,” he said.

The Kermit location also has new features. It is the first store with a new outside design that incorporates a new “knife and fork” logo, Brinker said.
“We finished drawing the front on a napkin with the builder on the phone,” he said.

The restaurant also has new equipment that has allowed it to introduce menu items Huddle House hasn’t previously had, Brinker said. A new heated holding cabinet allows it to take items like pot pie, beef stew and chicken and dumplings that are prepared and frozen in Atlanta and serve them as daily specials.

“It provides a very fresh, hot, home-cooked meal with minimal effort and great results,” he said.

But the Kermit location retains many of Huddle Houses favorites like the Southern Smothered —(I'm sorry. Would you eat this? - DK)

two sausage patties, hash browns, sausage gravy and cheddar cheese mixed together and topped with two scrambled eggs. Also popular is the Kitchen Sink Burger, featuring bacon, a fried egg, two cheeses, grilled onion and mushrooms.

Art Watson of Kermit has already been to Huddle House “four or five” times. He said his hamburger was “top notch” and the steak is “always good.”

“Especially on the weekend because everything is closed,” he said. “You can’t get nothing to eat nowhere except Sonic.”

“It’s real nice.”
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