When looking back at 2018, only one story could be the No. 1 story of the year — May 18, 2018, in Santa Fe.
On that day, Santa Fe High School student Dimitrios Pagourtzis walked into his school and opened fire in an art classroom, killing two teachers and eight fellow students and injuring 13 others.
In the seven months that have succeeded the day that brought Santa Fe into the national spotlight for a reason that no community ever wishes recognition for, Santa Fe has had to cope with numerous television cameras, journalists and then deal with the reporters disappearing, leaving school board meetings packed with community members and parents who may never recover from the shock.
Little has been heard from the shooter himself, who survived the incident despite his original plan of committing suicide.
Many residents who were not directly affected by the shooting have seen Santa Fe settle into a new normal. The yellow and green ribbons that could be seen across all of town were removed to make way for Christmas decorations and though at the top of the page is a picture of the crosses erected in front of the school for all of the victims just after the shooting, the posts and topics discussed on the Talk of Santa Fe Facebook page are no longer exclusively (or even mostly) about the shooting and its aftermath.
Ten families, however, had to experience Christmas without their loved ones for the first time in 2018, including the parents of eight children killed decades before their time. Numerous others in the community know these families personally, and the pain will continue to permeate across all of Santa Fe for decades to come, so long as there are those who remember those who were lost.
Alvin ISD bond package approved
During an election year that saw Alvin pick city council members as well as vote for winners at the county and state level, the biggest election did not include a single candidate.
That was instead a vote on whether Alvin ISD should get millions of dollars to build new schools.
After the issue was heavily debated, voters overwhelmingly approved both the bond and a tax ratification election that will allow Alvin ISD to raise the money without increasing the property tax level.
With the $480.5 million approved by voters, Alvin ISD will build a new high school, two new junior high schools and two elementary schools. In addition, the district will build new schools to replace E.C. Mason Elementary and Alvin Primary.
In the middle of December, Alvin ISD announced it had closed on land in Iowa Colony and would begin construction on the fourth high school early in 2109. The school should be ready to open in 2022.
Shadow Creek football makes history in inaugural season
The Shadow Creek Sharks made history in their first ever varsity season on the gridiron, becoming the third school ever in that category to compete for a state championship.
While Dave Campbell’s Texas Football Magazine forecasted a sixth place finish for the Sharks in District 10-5A Division-1, head coach Brad Butler’s squad proceeded to stun the experts with a perfect 10-0 record to capture the district title.
The Sharks then entered the postseason and delivered a second half comeback in three of the five rounds to advance to the state championship game before losing 27-17 to Highland Park.
Shadow Creek edged Porter 37-30 in the bi-district round, while defeating Cedar Park by a 21-14 count in the area round and Georgetown 36-7 in the regional semifinals.
The Sharks then topped Foster 25-21 in the regional final, thanks to three Jamarian George rushing touchdowns in the second half and erupted for 27 fourth quarter points to upend San Antonio Wagner 41-24 in the state semifinals at NRG Stadium in Houston. Ronald Nunnery’s 105-yard electrifying touchdown return of a missed field goal by Wagner late in the fourth quarter sealed the victory for Shadow Creek.
Alvin elects state’s youngest councilman
In March, the voters of Alvin made a monumental decision in electing 19-year-old Joel Castro to City Council, At-Large Position 2. The election made Castro the youngest sitting councilman in Texas, ousting the previous holder of that title, Jacob Balderas of Rosenberg, who is one year Castro’s senior.
Since the election, Castro can be seen everywhere. He’s not just a city councilman, but a very active member of the community. Whether he’s dressing as Santa Claus for a children’s bicycle giveaway at the American Legion, ringing the Salvation Army bell in front of Walmart during Christmas time or braving the dunking booth at National Oak Park to support the Archangels of Texas’ first annual Hometown Social, it’s hard to avoid this dedicated Alvinite and former wearer of the Sting the Yellow Jacket Alvin High School mascot costume.
Alvin City Council selects new city manager
When Alvin City Manager Sereniah Breland announced she was leaving for another job, the talk around town quickly turned to who might be her replacement.
As expected, the council named Junru Roland to the interim position while looking for a permanent replacement. After several weeks of uncertainty, the council named Roland as the permanent city manager.
The choice was very popular among the city of Alvin employees, many who have worked with Roland for years as he served as chief financial officer and later assistant city manager.
Roland said his No. 1 goal as city manager is to improve customer service throughout the city government.
Flannel closes track career as AISD’s best ever
Alvin High School’s Kynnedy Flannel closed her high school career as the most decorated track and field athlete in both Alvin High School and AISD history. The University of Texas signee delivered five gold medal performances and broke the Class 6A state record in the long jump (21 feet, 2.75 inches) at the 2017 state meet.
While not being able to compete in the above event at the 2018 state meet last spring due to injury, Flannel still captured the 100 and 200-meter titles at the UIL State Championships for the second-consecutive year. The former Lady Yellowjackets’ wind-legal time of 23.48 seconds in the 200 meters, set at the Region 3-6A Meet, is No. 1 in Texas and sixth in the United States.
Flannel was named the Texas Track and Field Coaches Association’s girls’ track athlete of the year and also earned honors from the American Family Insurance’s ALL-USA Girls Track and Field team for the second straight year.
Alvin ISD superintendent announced retirement
Buck Gilcrease had a busy 2018.
Heeding calls for improved school security, Gilcrease led the effort to improve security at Alvin ISD schools. He then led an effort to get a school bond issue passed in the fall.
Shortly after the bond issue was approved by voters, Gilcrease announced he was retiring as superintendent to take a job with a consulting firm in Austin.
Gilcrease spent decades in public education, first as a teacher and coach, then a principal and finally in administration. He said he knew he would retire by the end of 2019, but the opportunity in Austin sped up the process a little.
Gilcrease will end his term at Alvin ISD this spring and the search for a replacement is ongoing.
Manvel gets new councilman
This year saw the replacement of one member of the Manvel City Council after longtime councilman Adrian Gaspar, who made headlines in February after walking out of a council meeting in frustration during the discussion of a variance request, declined to run for re-election. Larry Akery, who previously sat on the council but lost to sitting Councilman Jason Albert by 15 votes in 2017, ran unopposed for the position.
Councilwoman and Mayor Pro-Tem Lorraine Hehn also ran unopposed in her re-election bid.
Due to no challengers on the ballot, the 2018 elections for Manvel City Council were canceled to save the city money.
Rapid growth continues
While it is no longer breaking news, the rapid rate of growth in the region — primarily in Manvel and Iowa Colony — continues to impact all of us.
With up to 1,000 new homes being built every year, and bringing as many new families to the area, the growth impact all aspects of local government. Manvel has been forced to double its staff in recent years and announced plans for a new police department and city hall in 2018.
Alvin ISD has been impacted the most, with an average of 1,200 news students a year forcing the district to build new schools almost nonstop. In 2018, a new junior high was opened, and in 2019, two new elementary schools will open.
Alvin’s Eovaldi shines in World Series
Alvin product Nathan Eovaldi played a vital role in the Boston Red Sox advancing to and ultimately winning the 2018 World Series. Picked up from the Tampa Bay Rays in a July trade, Eovaldi delivered starting performance victories on the mound against the New York Yankees in the division round and the defending champion Houston Astros in the American League Championship Series.
Two days after throwing 29 pitches in relief for games one and two of the World Series combined, Eovaldi then threw a World Series record 97 relief tosses in six innings of game three with three hits, one earned run, one walk and five strikeouts. The right-hander was clocked as high as a blazing 103 miles per hour on the radar gun and still throwing as hard as 99 mph in the 17th inning. Despite taking the hard luck defeat, Eovaldi’s effort was hailed by many as one of the best relief performances in WS history.