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Education
Longview ISD aims to protect students' mental health, well-being with new software system
  • Updated

Longview ISD soon will implement a software system aimed to improve safety and the mental health of middle and high school students, officials said.

During its Nov. 8 meeting, trustees approved $60,000 for a student safety software system called Gaggle that will be in use beginning Dec. 9.

The software is designed to protect students on and off campus. It serves to ensure a student’s well-being by informing administrators of any incidents that show signs of cyberbullying, self-harm, threats or any inappropriate behavior taking place on district-issued devices and student email accounts.

“Our vision is that all schools are safe and all students get the mental and emotional help they need,” according to Gaggle’s website.

Reported cases that Gaggle can identify vary from incidents of suicide or harm, drug or alcohol use, violence toward others, inappropriate sexual content, child pornography, bullying, cyberbullying and harassment.

Dennis Williams, assistant superintendent of administrative and pupil services, said the program is an opportunity to address mental health issues students may be facing.

“We are always motivated to make decisions that will improve our student’s safety and well-being,” he said. “Mental health issues are on the rise, not just in our school district but everywhere, and we need to be proactive and find ways to keep up with it.”

The Gaggle system works with the help of an administrative team that is assigned to receive alerts, assisting school districts with prevention of student suicide, inappropriate behaviors, school violence and other harmful situations.

Williams said the program has three levels of alerts — low, medium and high — for school administrators to monitor on district-issued accounts, such as a student’s Google Drive activity.

“An example of a low-level alert would be a student or staffer cursing,” Williams said. “A second level alert would be questionable content, and a third level alert would be self harm and other violent content.”

The program reviews email messages, subject lines, attachments, images, links to websites and shared items from Google Drive.

Additional features of the program include blocking inappropriate communication, removing pornographic images and customizing notifications based on the district’s preferences. Gaggle also has an incident interface that allows emergency contacts the ability to receive, manage and resolve student incidents.

When a student’s search is flagged, it is automatically reviewed by the Gaggle safety team, which will determine the next steps. If the incident is a threat to the safety of the student, the child’s emergency contact will be notified by phone.

Williams said Gaggle will serve as an extra set of eyes, ears and hands for Longview ISD and maximize student safety.

The funding for the software will come from the administrative and pupil services budget.


Local
centerpiece
Cold front to push Longview-area temps down into 30s
  • Updated

A cold front was expected to come through the Longview area Wednesday evening, dropping temperatures quickly, according to the National Weather Service in Shreveport.

The area has been experiencing high temperatures in the 80s, which is unusual for this time of year, said Brad Bryant, science and operations officer with the weather service.

“It’s very warm for the date, and with the cold front coming through, it’ll bring temps back down pretty sharply after (Wednesday night),” he said.

Temperatures tonight are expected to fall into the mid-30s, which will be “one of the cooler nights we’ve had this year,” Bryant said.

By daybreak Friday, temperatures are expected to be around 50 degrees with the wind making it feel a bit cooler, Bryant said. Highs for Friday will be in the lower 60s.

A weekend warmup is expected, with highs in the lower 70s before another cold front comes through Sunday afternoon to evening, he said.

The pattern of temperatures cooling down and warming up is typical for this time of year, Bryant added.

Chances for rain will remain low, Bryant said.

Although light showers were possible Wednesday evening, “it’s not looking extremely promising for a whole lot of rain,” he said.


Local
top story
YouTube competitive eater conquers Butcher Shop's burger challenge

An American competitive eater recently became the first person to complete The Butcher Shop’s Betcha Cain’t Burger Challenge, which features about 8 pounds of food from the 38-year-old Longview burger joint.

Bob Shoudt, known as “Notorious B.O.B.,” recently completed the Butcher Shop challenge and recently posted a video of the feat to his YouTube page. He was the first person to complete the challenge, which Butcher Shop launched about eight months ago, according to General Manager Lamar Richardson.

“We’ve had probably at least eight people attempt it, especially when it first got going,” Richardson said. “But nobody’s been able to conquer it until now.”

The Betcha Cain’t Burger Challenge dares individuals to eat a burger made with a 5-pound ground beef patty, topped with a half-pound of melted shredded cheddar cheese on a giant sourdough bun with 2 pounds of fries served on the side. Patrons have 30 minutes to complete the challenge. Those who complete the challenge don’t have to pay for the meal, and they receive a Butcher Shop gift card and T-shirt.

“We were hoping somebody would eventually complete it,” Richardson said. “He did it like a champ. Watching him eat it, you could tell this is what he normally does.”

Shoudt is a professional, competitive eater. He holds a number of eating records and has previously been ranked as the No. 2 competitive eater in the world by Major League Eating. Shoudt is also a YouTube entertainer with channel at YouTube.com/NotoriousBOB .

“This is a thick burger,” Shoudt said of Butcher Shop’s burger in a video posted to his YouTube page.

Later in the video, he added that large hamburgers like the one in the Butcher Shop challenge “rarely ever taste good.”

“But this burger actually tastes like a regular burger — just massive,” he said.

That’s because much like its regular hamburgers, Butcher Shop’s “Betcha Cain’t” burger is made fresh. For Butcher Shop, the entire process starts with grinding meat fresh daily to take the hamburgers to the next level. The restaurant also makes its signature sourdough buns in-house each day, and then patrons choose their own toppings at the fixins bar.

Shoudt called Butcher Shop the morning he intended to try the challenge, Richardson recalled. Luckily, the restaurant had one sourdough bun available and got to work preparing the patty.

“He set up his cameras, went to work and finished it in time,” he said. “He was excited to try it. We were excited, and our customers were excited to watch it.”

In his YouTube video, Shoudt said, “that was delicious” as he finished the burger. He then topped off the approximately 8.5-pound meal by having some of Butcher Shop’s signature Russian Rock cookies for dessert.

Richardson said anyone is welcome to try the Betcha Cain’t challenge. The restaurant only asks a person call in advance to let them know they intend to tackle the challenge so the restaurant can prepare a fresh bun and 5-pound patty.

“We welcome anybody to come in and try it,” he said.


Coronavirus
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The COVID-19 decline in Gregg County, other area counties: What's next?
  • Updated

East Texas health care officials say they are encouraged by progress made in declining COVID-19 cases across the Longview area.

Information released Monday shows all seven counties served by the Northeast Texas Public Health District, including Gregg County, are in “minimal” community spread levels of COVID-19 for the first time since the beginning of the summer.

“We are very pleased to see that all seven counties are in minimal spread that we work with. That was great news (Monday) to see the trend continue to go down,” NET Health CEO George Roberts said.

This time in 2020 was a different story. This past November, virus cases were rising to levels not seen since July 2020, and Roberts said health professionals were concerned.

“To start this season with minimal spread is very encouraging,” he said.

Almost two months ago in the week ending Sept. 23, Gregg and other counties served by NET Health had levels of COVID-19 community spread that were “substantial” — or 35 or more new cases per week adjusted for population.

Gregg County recorded 1,363 new COVID-19 cases from March to July and 2,410 new cases in August. In September, Gregg County reported 4,099 new COVID-19 cases, and in October, that number began to decrease significantly with the county seeing 661 total new cases. So far this month, about 118 new cases have been reported in Gregg County.

Roberts said the continuing decrease across the region is a result of the population receiving vaccines along with natural immunity from having contracted the virus.

“You’re seeing the combination of the vaccine and natural occurrence and the other piece, potentially, is the virus kind of burned itself out for periods of time,” he said.

“But that doesn’t mean it won’t go back up again,” as NET Health comprehensive data show COVID-19 cases have staggered from high peaks to low valleys.

“We’ve seen the COVID cases go up and down within this year-and-a-half time period,” Roberts said. “So, we anticipate we’ll see that increase happen again at some point in time. We just don’t know when.”

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, Gregg County has recorded 19,384 total cases of COVID-19. Of those, 9,133 are confirmed, and 10,251are probable. As of Monday, NET Health reported 192 active cases in the county with 107 confirmed.

To keep cases from rising as the holidays approach, Roberts encourages receiving a COVID-19 vaccine and getting a booster dose when eligible and not to visit family and friends when feeling sick.

“Stay home when you’re sick. Wash your hands a lot around Thanksgiving ... If you’re around some people you know haven’t been vaccinated, if you have a concern, you can always wear a face mask,” he said.


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