By Will Johnson
CROCKETT – With the recent closure of Houston Serenity Place – Crockett, the old state school facility located at 1701 SW Loop 304 in Crockett is without a tenant, yet again.
When the state school closed in late 2011, it sat empty for nearly three years. Cornerstone Programs moved into the facility in mid-2014, but because of a political backlash led by State Sen. John Whitmire (D – Houston), Cornerstone was closed before it even had a chance to get off the ground.
Once again, the state school sat empty for another two years until Houston-Serenity Place moved in. From the start, there were staffing, student and record keeping issues and just last month the Texas Department of Child Protective Services pulled Serenity’s license.
When the organization’s license was yanked by CPS, the handwriting was on the wall and the facility was closed – again. This time, however, things seem to be a little different as several organizations and entities have expressed interest in taking over the property.
During a called Crockett City Council meeting held on Wednesday, Oct. 11, several interested parties / potential occupants were on hand to present proposals to the council about what they had in mind for the campus.
After the meeting was called to order, Mayor Joni Clonts announced the council would retire into executive session for the purpose of, “Deliberation regarding real property as well as deliberating the exchange, lease or value of the Crockett State School property.”
A second executive session was also called for on the agenda. It stated the council would conduct deliberations “… regarding economic development negotiations. (The council would also) discuss and deliberate regarding the offer of a financial or other incentive to a business prospect the city seeks to have locate, stay or expand in or near the city and with which the city is conducting economic development negotiations.”
One of the parties who had expressed interest in the property was Crockett ISD and while the council was in executive session, CISD Superintendent Terry Myers took time to speak with The Messenger.
Specifically asked what CISD had in mind for the project, the superintendent chuckled and said, “Well, we don’t really know. It would be premature for me to comment on that.”
“We have some ideas,” he continued. “A career and technical center. We also have some needs at the school concerning transportation and maintenance and some other needs in the district we could take care of by purchasing that facility.”
Myers said this would save the district from trying to find a facility for the district as the career and technology program expands. The purchase would also allow the district to move their transportation facility closer to the campuses.
“We have several ideas but it would be premature for me to talk about it, until we find out which way the city wants to go,” Myers said.
Miki Jost, with the John Woods Academy, said while the academy itself was not interested in purchasing the property, she and other representatives were present to provide encouragement for the Hands of Healing organization.
According to the Hands of Healing website, the organization is a residential treatment facility with a mission to “… strengthen the bonds of the family unit by partnering with, preparing and credentialing individuals with a great desire of placing foster children in need of a home, in need of love and in need of structure.”
Jost explained the academy was in hopes of partnering with Hands of Healing to serve upwards of 120 children.
“We would also like to partner with Angelina College and expand our CTE (career technical education) department. We do have a CTE teacher who was doing agriculture and small animal instruction, but he is really an automotive specialist. Since the bays are already there, it’s all set up and ready to go,” she said.
AS she continued, Jost indicated Hands of Healing would take care of the RTC part of the campus and the John Woods Academy would provide educational services to the students.
“They would handle the residential treatment part of it. That includes the therapy the students need. They will work with CPS and placement. They also work with drug and alcohol rehab. So it could be a section of the campus would be used for the students involved with CPS and part of it may be used for other parts of the Hands of Healing services,” she said.
After approximately one hour, the council emerged from behind closed doors, took no action and adjourned the meeting.
Will Johnson may be contacted via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.