Liberty Hill Digest September 2021

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SEPTEMBER 2021

Legacies of Love AND FISHING LURES

IN THIS ISSUE Save Our Stars | Helping Make Our Skies Darker and More Mystical Worth the Drive | Alpaca the Hope Farm Education |

Meet LHISD’s New Leadership


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INSIDE

FAVORITES 6

COMMUNITY Education Foundation Grants & LHHS Band’s Memorial Performance

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EXPERIENCE LIBERTY HILL How a Local Group is Helping You Gaze at the Stars

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WORTH THE DRIVE Alpaca the Hope

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ASK THE EXPERT Local Author Helping Young People with Financial Wisdom

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EVERYDAY HERO Growing a Long Way to Help Kids with Cancer BELLE CHIMES IN Ayn Rand Goes to the Olympics

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EDUCATION Meet your LHISD Principals

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FOOD Next-level Tailgating

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PARTING SHOTS Welcome, Class of 2022 and 2034!

8 LOVE AND FISHING LURES A good community is filled with good people. Cade Riley and Casey Tolbert’s involvement in ours was so impactful that it makes us all want to be better people. photo courtesy Mike Riley

FEATURES 4 SIT-REP WITH TX REP. TERRY WILSON Ad Valorem Taxes, Part 3 • The Road to Relief

8 LEGACY OF LOVE

Rippin’ Lips for Red Fishing Tournament

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WORTH THE DRIVE Forget your stress, meet an alpaca in Kempner, Texas. photo courtesy Kati Davenport

ON THE COVER The 2021 “Rippin’ Lips for Red” fishing tournament. Insets Cade Riley and Casey Tolbert

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THE KEY... AND THE EXPERT

Marjorie Anderson has just published the Spanish translation of her best-selling book The Key: Wise Money Choices for Teens photoscourtesy Marjorie Anderson

photos courtesy Mike Riley

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Liberty Hill digest

Published by Fidelis Publishing Group, LLC

PUBLISHER

EXECUTIVE EDITOR Ann Marie Kennon

Cathy Payne

COMMUNITY EDITOR

Megan Diane Beatty

Megan, a mom of two, has been a part of the Liberty Hill community for 11 years. Originally trained as a nurse, today, she channels her passion to help others into throwing birthday parties for kids battling cancer. Megan’s other passion is running, and that same zest for life flows into her writing and sharing the inspiring stories of Liberty Hill. SENIOR WRITER Charlotte Kovalchuk CONTRIBUTING WRITERS Greta Bauer GRAPHICS & DESIGN Sandra Evans • Ann Marie Kennon CONTRIBUTING PHOTOGRAPHERS Kendra Cofer • Charlotte Kovalchuk Megan Diane Beatty SOCIAL MEDIA DIRECTOR • Jenny Campbell ACCOUNT SERVICES • Debbie Tolliver DISTRIBUTION • David Schumacher IT/WEBMASTER • Jesse Payne CONSULTANT • W. Ben Daniel

ADVERTISING Jenny Campbell 254-251-9167 (Cell) 512-598-6538 (Direct) jenny@lhtxdigest.com

Liberty Hill Digest is a Fidelis Publishing Group, LLC publication. Copyright © 2021 All rights reserved. Liberty Hill Digest is published monthly and mailed USPS, free of charge, to homes and businesses in Liberty Hill, TX zip codes. Mail may be sent to Liberty Hill Digest, P.O. Box 213, Jarrell, TX 76537.

Email: info@lhtxdigest.com

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EDITOR’S NOTE | MEGAN DIANE BEATTY It’s funny how our desires shift with the seasons. Last month I was craving snow cones and vitamin D, this month, I am longing for deer chili, pumpkin loaves, and bonfires. Fall is definitely my favorite season—colors, smells, the breeze, the football games (Go Panthers!) and all the holidays to look forward to and plan. In every season I continue to be amazed and inspired by the people who live in our community. Without a doubt, our town is growing but the good-hearted people of Liberty Hill still give it that small town feel. We come together as a whole. We take care of each other. It’s incredibly beautiful. In this issue you will read about two legacies that have left such an impact they make you want to create your own. You will also read about an alpaca farm that has created a safe place for families battling cancer to break away from the daily struggles the journey brings. My family and I were able to visit this farm during my daughter’s cancer treatment and the memories we made—drinking coffee each morning surrounded by alpacas—will be cherished forever. It was pretty incredible. Speaking of childhood cancer; Brandon Wehn, thank you for your selfless heart, amazing hair, and your choice to give it away for kids. There is also a lot to read about our wonderful school district. I pray all of our kids are having an amazing year. Thank you, Liberty Hill ISD, for your dedication to our kids! The stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas. We took some time to learn about a dark skies movement, happening right here in Liberty Hill. September is childhood cancer awareness month and this means so much to me. Below is a 2018 picture with my warrior, who is in remission now and I am beyond thankful. I encourage you to wear gold not just for Haley but for all the little warriors. No one fights alone!


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SIT-REP WITH REP. TERRY WILSON

"According to Value" Taxes: Part 3

The Road to Relief

" W H AT W E R E A L LY N E E D N O W I S F E E D B A C K . I T ' S N OT U P TO T H E R E P R E S E N TAT I V E S ; I T ' S U P TO T H E P E O P L E TO G E T E N G A G E D A N D T E L L U S W H AT T H E Y W O U L D L I K E S E E H A P P E N M O V I N G F O R WA R D."

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ver the past two months, TX Rep. Terry Wilson has given us some clarity on property taxes; how they are determined and why public school maintenance and operations (M&O) costs are a large part of the annual bill. This month, he is asking for citizens' help for what comes next. "The legislature has set the conditions for property tax relief. We can not have property tax relief without putting reforms in place to prevent increases in other taxes to make up the difference, and a lot of things had to be done to get this ready."

BACKGROUND In the 86th and 87th Legislative Sessions, House members passed bills to establish revenue and spending caps. Rep. Wilson explains, "In future, we can adjust the budget to serve more people based on population growth and inflation, but we can not spend any more, in adjusted money, than we did in previous sessions." The question at hand, then, is what should the State do with additional revenue—i.e., if sales tax brings in more money than required for costs—if they can not spend it?

EXAMPLE: HOW CAN THE STATE RAISE MONEY TO PAY FOR M&O BUT ALSO BUY DOWN PROPERTY TAXES? Rep. Wilson says, "We can not just cut property taxes and tell the schools they have to deal with less funding; the state needs to find that revenue somewhere. House Bill 122 is in front of the legislature right now, which employs the same method and mechanism as House Bill 3 from the previous session. HB3 increased the State share of school spending, which resulted in a push-down of property tax." As more sales tax revenue is collected, HB122 proposes spending 90 percent—over and above the spending cap for the State—to buy down the M&O for public schools since new spending is not allowed by the cap. Since most property owners' ISD taxes are close to 50 percent of the total, and as the state buys down that cost, property taxes will decrease. "The goal," Rep. Wilson says, "is for the state to continue buying down the M&O costs until state aid reaches 100 percent and local tax is zero. After that, we will continue to use the surplus to buy down other taxes that contribute to school funding."

by Ann Marie Kennon • annmarie@lhtxdigest.com 4

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SIT-REP WITH REP. TERRY WILSON CONSTITUTIONAL AMENDMENTS ARE BINDING BECAUSE THEY REQUIRE PASSAGE BY THE PEOPLE, BY VOTE. THIS GUARANTEES A FUTURE LEGISLATURE CAN NOT "UNDO" THE CHANGE UNLESS THEY GO BACK TO THE PEOPLE TO APPROVE THE CHANGE WITH ANOTHER VOTE. OPTION 1: Using surplus tax to pay down the property tax share of M&O to zero. Following that, the state can use the surplus to buy down similar shares paid by other taxes. For example, 25 percent of the tax we currently pay for gasoline goes toward the Foundation School Program (FSP). Once property tax reaches zero percent, the legislature can begin buying down gas or other taxes from which a portion goes to school operations. It is estimated that this buydown will take about 20 years. This option would require a Constitutional amendment to lock it in place until 100 percent of the schools' M&O is paid. Rep. Wilson says, "This is what the surplus will be about. We won't truly have a surplus until the local share of M&O costs is zero. We feel positive about and somewhat obligated to pass this option during special sessions. It is our a baseline to do anything else and will guarantee our surpluses are spent on tax relief." OPTION 2: Incorporate changes from Option 1 but also remove current sales tax exemption on boats. "If we remove that exemption," Colonel Wilson says, "that revenue will go into the state coffers to pay down the M&O costs in fewer than 20 years rather than to special programs that do not have the same broad impact." He explains, if we put Option 1 in place and begin carving away additional exemptions, we could eliminate the M&O costs much sooner. He adds, "We don't want to eliminate all exemptions, like those we have for food or school supplies. We do, however, see the benefit of exemptions outside of property tax. For those in Texas who do not own a home, decreasing property tax provides no benefit. We want to keep in mind that while a landlord might get a tax break on property he or she owns, that person won't necessarily give tenants a corresponding break on the rent. The same is true for utility bills. Part of those taxes are paid to the FSP, and nearly everyone, whether they own property or not, uses a gas station and pays an electric bill."

OPTION 3: Raising state sales tax rate. During the 86th session, members worked on a bill to raise the state sales tax by 2 percent to provide for a quicker M&O buydown. The current state sales tax is 6.25 percent and, estimates show, for every 1 percent increase, the state will gain $6 to $8 billion. Rep. Wilson says, "This seems like a good plan but many people don't have a lot of trust that there would not be a correlating tax 'swap.' On the plus side, this option would also require a Constitutional amendment, which would bind future legislators to play by the same rules."

KEY TAKEAWAYS Rep. Wilson wants to know what you think about the options outlined, or if you have additional suggestions, so please call or email his office as soon as possible. Email is preferred to ensure your suggestions and comments are documented. "We want to be fair when considering the impact of these options, to make sure we are not just providing benefits to people who own their homes or other property." You can reach Representative Wilson at (512) 4630309, scan the code or email direct to terry.wilson@ house.texas.gov. "We hope to pass Option 1 during our special sessions, and afterward begin interim studies on options 2 and 3... and maybe 4, 5, and 6 whatever others present from great constituent feedback."

He adds there are many exemptions to include but it is not a simple thing to "flip those switches" until they can be certain the benefits will be equitable for a large part of the population. S E P T E M B E R 2 0 21  L I B E R T Y H I L L D I G E ST

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LIBERTY HILL ISD

Extra-curricular Specialties LHISD Education Foundation Grants The Liberty Hill Education Foundation has begun the grants process for 2021-22. Michelle Hawley VP of Marketing & Events says, “The Liberty Hill Education Foundation is passionate about supporting educators, students and community. The Innovative Teacher Grants already being implemented will bring value to students and enrichment to classrooms across the district as a whole. I’m looking forward to seeing all of them in action and how each will improve the quality of education in Liberty Hill.” Applications and requirements for the 2021-22 cycle can be accessed by the QR code and submitted September 10th-October 28th. The foundation also expects to have a separate website soon for this year’s grants. Michelle says grants may benefit students and teachers directly or indirectly, and impact campuses by providing curriculum, professional

development for teachers, interactive spaces, opportunities for enhanced and focused learning (STEAM), and much more. Grants are awarded based on a blind review process that determines which proposals will be the most effective. All proposals are reviewed and supported by campus leadership as part of the application process. The Foundation’s review committee is composed of former educators and administrators as well as members of the community. These experts create a budget and award the top scoring proposals within that budget. Scan the code for more information about the program and resources available to support the application process.

LHHS Marching Band • Tribute to Coach Walker

The title and theme of the band’s half-time show is “All of Us 4 Hymn” as an homage to Walker as a coach, mentor, leader, husband, and father. Band Booster Shawna Ware explains, “We want to do justice to his memory so the band has created a large production that will incorporate many components and structural enhancements to make it as exciting to watch as it is to hear.” In addition to the marching band, fans can expect to see cheerleaders, players, and even a few freshmen on the field. Shawna says, “We want to encourage everyone in the community to come out and watch it. It’s all part of the community we love, coming together and getting stronger.” As well, anyone with a student in the Liberty Hill Middle or High School band is welcome to join the Band Boosters and attend meetings. 6

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Members have been working hard all summer to raise funds for the half-time enhancements as well as the specialized equipment to transport all the pieces and parts required for the band to perform offsite. So far the “Band Blitz” has raised nearly half of their $40,000 goal, and they will continue the campaign until mid-October. Shawna says, “This money will be an immediate help for our tribute show, and a permanent assist for the whole department.” Anyone wishing to support the campaign can contact Shawna at fundraising@lhpantherband.org.

photo credit: Facebook@LHPantherband

Liberty Hill High School band director Shaun Murphy wants to spread a love of music and positivity throughout Liberty Hill High School and the whole community to make it a year to remember. Mr. Murphy and the marching band have been working hard this summer to put together a tribute to the late Coach Walker and his family.


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COMMUNITY

by Megan Diane Beatty • megan@lhtxdigest.com.com photos courtesy of Mike Riley

Legacies of Love (and Fishing Lures) out as 25 members is now 70 strong and one of the biggest fishing teams in Central Texas. Team members are grades 6-12, and are recruited through Liberty Hill ISD. Cade was a proud student of Liberty Hill High School and the founders have honored him by partnering with the Greater Round Rock Community Foundation to establish the Cade Riley Memorial Fund.

RIPPIN’ LIPS

A L E G A C Y I S N OT J U S T L E AV I N G S O M E T H I N G F O R P E O P L E , I T I S L E AV I N G S O M E T H I N G ‘ I N ’ P E O P L E .

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not going to let that happen.”

good community is filled with good people, and Casey Tolbert’s involvement in ours was so impactful that it makes us all want to be better people. Sadly, Casey passed away suddenly in early August. However, mirroring his commitment to serving the community, two organizations, near and dear to his heart will go on serving kids and families; the Rippin’ Lips for Red fishing tournament and the Liberty Hill Fishing Team. Both were birthed with the same sole purpose; to keep the memory of Cade Riley alive. “Your number one fear as a parent,” Cade’s dad Mike says, “is losing your child. Once that happens and he is no longer there, you fear people forgetting your child was ever even here.” Casey had told Mike, while sipping coffee on the back porch, “We are

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CADE “RED”RILEY At 15 years old, Cade Riley, also known as Red to his family and many of his friends, left this world at God’s perfect time in September 2017. He was on the banks of the South Fork of the San Gabriel River en route to do what he loved most, fishing. To keep Cade’s spirit alive, Cade’s family created the Cade Riley Memorial Fishing Tournament, also known as Rippin’ Lips for Red, and Casey co-founded the Liberty Hill Fishing Team.

LET’S GO FISHING Founding members Lee Evans, Shauna Martin, and Mary Beth Konovalski recall, “It was Casey’s vision and perseverance that led to the team’s formation.” What started

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The 4th annual Rippin’ Lips for Red is not a typical two-person tournament. It was a whopping 272 single anglers hoping for that one big bass, but also looking for some good old fashioned family fun—it’s a party. Anglers come together to celebrate with live music and barbecue cooked by the Panther Pit Crew. Mike says, “What I love most about these tournaments is we have 80 and 8 year olds out there fishing and they all look like they are having the same amount of fun.” All proceeds from the tournament and raffle go to the memorial fund, which provides scholarships for local students and support local community youth organizations. Scholarships are based on legacy. Those who apply are asked to complete an essay on the legacy they hope to leave in Liberty Hill, and one they will create within a future career. Mike explains, “In my mind, I tell myself ‘we didn’t get the prom or the graduation,’ this is that for us. It’s how we cope.” He laughs and adds, “You’d be


COMMUNITY

To learn more about the Cade Riley Memorial Bass Tournament, scan the code or visit Facebook@ RippinLipsForRed.

blown away with what these kids say and come up with on their essays. The good thing is, we raise a lot of money.” The 2021 tournament raised nearly $50,000.

For more information, email libertyhillfishingteam@gmail.com or find them on Facebook@lhfishingteam.

“They say the brightest lights burn out the quickest; Casey’s bright light and big heart has reached and inspired so many of us. ~LH Fishing Team

Cade’s mom, Amanda Riley shares the laughter and joy when speaking of the incredible students; “Last year, due to COVID, we couldn’t have the tournament so the money we would’ve given in prizes and scholarships at the tournament was given to whomever applied in Cade’s graduating class of 2020. It was a total of $24,000.”

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EXPERIENCE LIBERTY HILL

by Charlotte Kovalchuk • charlotte@lhtxdigest.com

Guardians of the Night Battle Light Pollution The stars at night, are big and bright, deep in the heart of Liberty Hill, Texas

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hen the power went out during Winter Storm Uri, Donna Leonard stepped outside her home in Liberty Hill and looked up. A sea of stars flooded the night sky, whisking her back to a time when Liberty Hill was illuminated by fireflies, starlight, and the Milky Way; not street lamps and flashing billboards. “Half an hour later when the power came back on, it was like someone had flipped a switch,” she says. “The lights were on and the stars were gone.” The stark contrast rekindled her mission to reclaim Liberty Hill’s night sky after launching Liberty Hill Save Our Stars with fellow stargazer Molly Evans last year. COVID-19 had halted the group’s momentum, until February’s power outage reignited their efforts to combat light pollution. Liberty Hill Save Our Stars has grown to 400 members passionate about dimming the night glow that serves no purpose and harms everything, Donna says. Defined as the overuse of artificial light, light pollution can have serious consequences for humans, wildlife, and our climate. Donna stumbled across one effect when friends told her they had never seen a lightning bug. She realized the firefly popula-

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as a Dark Sky Community, which would make it the first in Williamson County.

Molly Evans, Donna Leonard, and Pam Turner

tion is diminishing because artificial light inhibits the bioluminescence they use to find mates. “We are interrupting their life cycle because the lights are on,” she says.

TRAILBLAZERS Development is inevitable, but light pollution doesn’t have to be. In Flagstaff, Arizona, there are more than 72,400 people but is also a Dark Sky Community, which means it is dedicated to preserving the night sky through a quality outdoor lighting ordinance, dark sky education, and citizen support of dark skies. “Flagstaff has led the way in proving that the protection of dark night skies in a growing city need not come at the expense of economic development,” Donna says. She believes Liberty Hill can be a trailblazer, too. Liberty Hill Save Our Stars is working on being designated

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In May, Donna and member Pam Turner headed to City Council to advocate for Dark Sky initiatives with overwhelming success, thanks to residents’ love for their city. “People who live here love living here,” Molly says. “They’re passionate about our town. They are mostly people leaving big cities to experience small-town life in Texas. That experience is what we’re losing because of the light pollution.” She presented Donna’s draft ordinance for responsible outdoor lighting to a joint City Council and Planning and Zoning Commission meeting in July; it is currently awaiting council adoption. Liberty Hill Save Our Stars members are also collaborating with the City and the Austin Astronomical Society to host a stargazing event at Lions Foundation Park in January. The goal is to share their love of the stars with each other, as well as their children and grandchildren to get their faces out of their phones and turned skyward. “Wonder and curiosity don’t come from this,” Donna says, pretending to bury her nose in her phone.


OVERCOMING FEAR Molly remembers Liberty Hill’s brilliant starry nights when she moved here 21 years ago, a rural life she loved but others feared. “When people were moving in from the city, they would see it was really dark out here and it would be really frightening, so up would go the lights around their house and driveway all night long,” she says. But less light doesn’t mean less safety. “That’s the biggest pushback I’ve gotten,” Donna says. “We’re not saying ‘no light’ but, rather, targeted appropriate light.” Liberty Hill Save Our Stars advocates using light only when you need it and shielding and directing it downwards. Members plan to talk to local businesses about installing motion sensor lights so they point only where needed, not up at the night sky. “It’s possible to still have light and do the things they need to do for their business without sacrificing our stars,” Donna says. “We’re not trying to stop development or business, but if we don’t do something now, in less than five years people won’t even know what we’re talking about.”

JOIN THE MOVEMENT “We’re not trying to get people to change their lives drastically, or to patrol them,” Molly says about Liberty Hill Save Our Stars’ initiatives. Here are some easy ways to reduce light pollution: 1. Install lighting only when and where it is needed. 2. Use energy-saving features such as timers, dimmers, and motion sensors on outdoor lights. 3. Make sure your lighting is shielded so it shines down, not up. Encourage good lighting at your workplace, too.

BECAUSE... SCIENCE

4. Educate your friends and neighbors about the importance of responsible lighting for our health, economy, and environment.

The Bortle Scale rates how well you can see celestial objects in a certain place, taking light pollution and sky glow into account. Lower numbers indicate darker skies. For example, Big Bend Ranch State Park has a Bortle Scale rating of 1… it is the darkest place in Texas.

5. Join the Liberty Hill Save Our Stars’ Facebook group, and visit darksky.org to learn more about the International DarkSky Association.

If you are curious about your backyard or favorite park, there is a smartphone app called Clear Outside by FLO. This uses your current GPS location to present you with an accurate readout of where your night sky lands on the Bortle scale. It also provides you with an estimated sky quality magnitude.

Photo credit: International Dark-Sky Association website

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WORTH THE DRIVE

by Megan Diane Beatty • megan@lhtxdigest.com photos courtesy Artillery Creek Alpacas

Forget Your Stress, Meet an Alpaca

I

Kati adds, “September is childhood cancer awareness

f there is anyone who doesn’t love alpacas, we have

month, and pediatric research is very underfunded. Do-

never met them. Topping the list of adorable farm ani-

nating to any reputable childhood cancer support group

mals, alpacas are also notably serene. The most common

is a wonderful way to help us find better treatment

sound they make is similar to humming, and gentle nose

options and cures for our children.”

kisses are their sign of affection. Once you hang out with an alpaca and absorb its breezy nature, you can’t help but feel a little less stressed and a little more carefree.

Since inviting their first cancer family to the alpaca farm, the Davenports have added some adorably fluffy llamas. They test drove the idea by taking in one llama named Shiro. “He is an absolutely incredible animal,”

ALPACA THE HOPE Just ten minutes from Copperas Cove in Kempner, this

Kati says. “It didn’t take us long to fall in love with the idea. We quickly grew our llama herd by taking in six

lovely bed and breakfast alpaca farm specifically offers a

rescues, and now we have ten. Our families truly enjoy

safe, peaceful, stress-free respite for kids battling cancer

spending time with all of them.”

and their families. Farm owners Kati and William Daven-

At the farm, families get a guided tour and plenty

port say, “Our alpacas really helped us recover after our

of interaction with the animals. The owners also try to

son finished treatment. We found spending time with

set up photoshoots to provide magical and whimsical

our animals to be rejuvenating for our soul. We began

keepsakes to remember their time on the farm. Families

inviting other cancer families to the farm, and the bond

say these photoshoots are quite freeing—the result of

was instant. Seeing the experience is truly amazing and

letting the alpacas take their worries for a moment, and

therapeutic.”

that moment is captured forever.

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ALPACA MY BAGS If you want your own peaceful, serene, and stress relieving experience with alpacas and llamas, the farm offers encounters and stays to the general public through AirBnB. You can also send an email and they can help you book a date. The farm has also recently added a venue for outdoor events. All proceeds from farm bookings benefit families affected by childhood cancer. Scan the code or email for more information or email artillerycreek@ gmail.com. If your child has or has had cancer, they want to hear from you! Use the email above. Their mission is to be supportive by offering friendship and respite from the daily struggles associated with going through cancer treatment. No one fights alone!

Above: Daphne and Declan Davenport on the farm.

Above: Haley’s photo shoot with Casper At Left: Periwinkle, Hope, and Bunny enjoying the sunset

The Venue at Artillery Creek Alpacas 2776 County Road 3220, Kempner, TX ArtilleryCreekAlpacasAndFarm.com (361) 876-4619 • ArtilleryCreek@gmail.com

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by Ann Marie Kennon • annmarie@lhtxdigest.com photos courtesy Marjorie Anderson

ASK THE EXPERT

The Key... and the Expert

W

e have much to appreciate in Marjorie Anderson’s grandchildren. Originally from the Virgin Islands, educated in Baltimore, and trained in banking and finance in Pennsylvania, she came to Central Texas to be near her family. Fortunately, God also gave her a heart for educating, which is why, aside from assisting her spouse in teaching her grandchildren about sports, she decided to share her knowledge of banking and finance with them as providential inheritance.

THE AUTHOR “I didn’t think I could write books,” she says, “But I was living in Georgetown, leading a prayer ministry, and something just led me to use the knowledge I have in banking and finance to reach kids where I found there was a need.” It all began when her grandson told her he wished he could learn more life skills in school, like saving and spending wisely. She set about surveying other students and compiled a book based on their questions and concerns. The result was The Key: Wise Money Choices for Teens. Teens Her mission, and the purpose of her book, is to help teens get a head start in life. In it, she shares basic financial knowledge and life changing tips on how to manage money, make the most of

their income, and build a successful future.

THE EDUCATOR Marjorie moved to Liberty Hill in 2018 and has continued to reach out to share her expertise. Not content to just sell books, she also teaches community classes, and hopes to add supplemental courses in schools to reach as many students—and adults—as she can, including teaching a financial piece in LHISD’s IncubatorEd this year. After speaking with school Superintendents, she started thinking about whether it was time to write a second book. “While planning my work with the school district, I realized there are so many people in Texas whose first language is

Spanish and could benefit from my knowledge. I realized what was needed more than a second book was a translation for these youth and teens. With help from my publisher, I Have Something To Say press, I have now translated and printed La Clave in June and am eager to share it all over Central Texas.” Marjorie says what she loves more than the positive feedback she gets from teens, is the satisfaction from parents who have been engaged in conversations about money and wise choices with their own children. “I would love to see this taught in schools,” she says, “But I’m ready to go wherever I am invited. I am happy to help schools incorporate the topic, or directly teach kids—wherever they need me—to learn these basic life skills.” Scan the code to purchase your copy or visit Challenge4Teens.com.

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EVERYDAY HERO

by Megan Diane Beatty photos courtesy Brandon Wehn

Local Locks of Love

B

randon Wehn not only gives a generous gift of love; he grows it. Since 1981, Wigs for Kids has been providing natural human hair wig for children suffering from hair loss due to illness. Founder Jeffrey Paul says, “Because kids look just the way they did before, they feel better about themselves. They look in the mirror and their eyes light up. To see that light in their eyes … that’s priceless.” Tell us about your hair! Growing up, my hair was always short. In high school, I “grew my hair out” briefly, although not long enough to put in a ponytail. It wasn’t until I was in my 20s that I started growing it specifically to donate to Wigs For Kids. How did you hear about Wigs For Kids? My sister was the first in our family to donate her hair. It’s actually a great story. She had seen that her celebrity crush was giving a lecture at a college a few states away. She tweeted him to ask if he’d be willing to cut her hair if she made the drive. He messaged her and replied, “Bring scissors!” When she had him cut it, he cut off 23”, leaving her with hair that still reached below her waist—it had been past her knees before the cut. How many times have you cut your hair for this mission? I’ve made three cuts, since starting this journey, for a combined length of over three feet. Typically, I let it grow to my waist and then cut to my shoulders, yielding about 13 to 15”. However, this chapter of my life is coming to a close, and I will be 20

cutting off the entirety of my hair for my next donation. And I mean all of it. I plan on going right to a buzz cut. Have you ever met someone who benefited from the program? I’ve met people indirectly impacted by the program. Relatives or classmates of people who were gifted a wig or know someone who was. What was your inspiration for donating “wigs”? That’s kind of a funny part of it. I was going from a buzz cut and growing my hair out with the intention of growing it into dreadlocks. As a point of reference, I was in a reggae band at the time and was the only one without dreads so there was some social pressure. As my hair began growing out, I was receiving so many compliments on how healthy and full it was. When I told my sister about my plan to dread it, she made a concerted effort to convince me that my hair could serve a higher purpose than a musically-motivated style choice. How can others get involved? Anyone who can’t donate hair can donate money. The value and work for each wig is about $1,800. Donations pay people who fit the wigs and help find the families that need help, etc. so monetary donations are

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always appreciated by the company. For anyone who does wish to donate hair, it’s important to visit wigsforkids. com before cutting. They have resources on how to cut and package it so that they get as much usable hair out of each donation as possible. Unfortunately, many people don’t follow the proper steps, and the hair they send in must be thrown away.


BELLE CHIMES IN

Ayn Rand Goes to the Olympics G

od Bless Simone Biles. Whether you agree or

Jackie Joyner, we're going to give you these flipflops for the heptathlon this year. We'll be at the finish

disagree with her decision to withdraw from some

line with a bucket of ice for the ACL you're going

of her events, Belle is still annoyed that the IOC took

to tear in the process. Depending on how well you

away her difficulty points and caused the kerfuffle

recover, we will consider giving you shoes next time.

in the first place. I'm sad that the "everyone gets a

Mr. Brando, we like the choice you made to play

trophy" culture actually reached the point that the best athletes in the world can be handicapped simply because... wait for it... they are THE. BEST. ATHLETES. IN. THE. WORLD. Honestly, Ms. Biles doesn't need another three or four golds to convince anyone she is the best there ever was. Plus, because Belle is nothing if not snarky, if I were in Simone's shoes, I'd also have said, "Fine, I hope all the people who medal are okay with the invisible-but-implied footnote that says, 'Because Simone dropped out.'" Philosopher and author Ayn Rand's said productive achievement is man's noblest activity. Based on that premise, I think telling people—who have literally worked their entire lifetimes to achieve a goal—that their best is too good is to say that humanity would have been better off without self-interested individuals like Muhammad Ali, Mia Hamm, Joe Montana, Tiger Woods, and Babe Didrickson; to say nothing of so many others like Denzel Washington, Wernher von Braun, or J.K. Rowling. Would you have paid $99 to pay-per-view to watch Mike Tyson fight with one hand tied behind his back? Or maybe they should have given Ali a few benadryls right before his fights so he would just float like a butterfly and not sting anyone. Tiger, you're fun to watch but you have to start at the special tee box 75 yards behind everyone else. I know it's not fair, but no one else won a tournament this year and their feelings are hurt.

with the cat in that scene but we think Don Corleone should maybe tell a knock-knock joke at the end so the other actors don't look like such amateurs. Mr. Musk, SpaceX is a great idea but we're going to put together a panel of 9th graders who are really good at video games. They will also co-own your company to make sure you don't make too much more money than anyone else by winning sole-source government contracts. We know you're the only company that can actually get the job done, and I know we want to make it to Mars, but not until everyone can take equal credit for it. History?... well, President Roosevelt was literally handicapped but he still managed to nearly get us to the finish line of World War II before he died. Then again, the government took his trophy posthumously and decided no one, no matter how good, would be allowed to be President that long ever again. Sure, you can try to change my mind but it's a shame we've been telling our kids to try hard, achieve, and be sure to believe in themselves for such a long time, only to make them feel bad about succeeding too much. If it's more fair and compassionate to insist that we all achieve equally, how can the standards ever be raised for any of us to achieve greatness? Seriously... what if someone had told Robin Williams he wasn't allowed to be funnier than Pauly Shore?

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EDUCATION

photos courtesy Liberty Hill ISD

Meet LHISD’s Principals Liberty Hill ISD is looking forward to an outstanding 2021-2022 school year. Superintendent Steven Snell and School Trustees are pleased to welcome these new leaders, and eager to advocate and empower students at every grade level. We asked... How long have you been in education? What do you love most about your job? What drew you to Liberty Hill ISD? What are your priorities and focus for the new school year?

DAWN HUDSON LOUINE NOBLE ELEMENTARY I have been in education for 19 years. During that time, I’ve taught students in the elementary, middle and high school levels, with most of my experience with fourth and fifth graders. I’ve also been a Math Interventionist, Instructional Coach, Assistant Principal and now, Principal. My career started in Kilgore and afforded me the opportunity to work in different areas and diverse cultures across the state, such as New Braunfels, Tyler, Lubbock and now Liberty Hill. What I love the most about working in education is that we get to choose how our day will be every single day. We have the ability to make our schools the best environment and culture for students. Working with students is so rewarding and fun! Each day is a new beginning with kids, and they show up eager to learn. When my husband got transferred to the Austin area five years ago, we were looking for an exemplary district with a small-town feel for our own children, as well as one that matched my own philosophies in education. We did a lot of research and were excited to call Liberty Hill home. Since then, LHISD has exceeded our expectations in the way we approach academics, culture, community and character. I feel so blessed to be a part of this school district as an educator and a parent. My first priority is to make Noble Elementary feel like home to our many families coming from the other schools. It’s never easy to change campuses, as my family well knows, so I want every

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student and parent at Noble to feel like this is where they belong. Our campus vision is to make Noble Elementary a place where we all feel safe, loved, valued and challenged to reach our full Panther potential. Every day we strive to #BeNoble! I am so proud of how our faculty has already come together as a team. Each staff member has such a positive attitude and a love for children, and I am so thankful for that. To our families, thank you for trusting us with your most precious treasures. We are truly looking forward to partnering with you throughout the elementary years, and we are excited to get to know you all better.

JOSH CURTIS SANTA RITA MIDDLE SCHOOL I have been in education for 16 years and I am starting my 7th year as a campus principal. I love seeing students grow and develop into great students and citizens in the community. When you see a student succeed and the joy and excitement on their face, there is no better reward in education. This year I am looking forward to developing a culture of champions and excellence at SRMS that will last for years to come. I think everyone who comes to Liberty Hill comes for the same reasons. The success, the family atmosphere and the opportunity to be part of the best school district in the state of Texas. My priorities for the immediate future are to develop a championship culture at SRMS, and to Empower Students to


EDUCATION

Become Champions. I also want to ensure we make SRMS one of the premier middle schools in the state, and make it a model for other campuses to try and strive to achieve our success. I would like the SRMS community to know that we are here for you and your students and we look forward to an amazing year, and that the entire staff is excited about the opportunity to open and lead this amazing campus.

TANYA LAMBERT BILL BURDEN ELEMENTARY This year starts my 20th year in education and third year as a campus principal. I started teaching 1st grade, then moved to 5th grade then, the following year, started as a Reading Specialist in Weatherford ISD. After that, I moved back to my hometown of Royse City, TX and, for the next 13 years, served as a Math and Reading Specialist, School Counselor, and Assistant Principal. God opened some awesome doors and moved me to Liberty Hill in the Spring of 2017. I was Assistant Principal at Bill Burden Elementary, then later Rancho Sienna Elementary. In the fall of 2019, I came back to BBE, and I couldn’t be happier here! My two big loves are getting to work with the best teachers and kids on the planet. The teachers here care for kids to their absolute core. They work crazy hours and give so much of themselves to make every decision and action about what is best for kids. I am in awe of them and all they accomplish in a day. Our kids are strong, loving, motivated, and work every day to be the best they can be. I’m reminded each day—by their grace, humor, and effort—why we do the work we do. I love the school pride and family feel of Liberty Hill. The way all of our students pour into each other is so touching. I love it when our kids run the field before the football games, how the seniors walk our hallways and look for their tiles, and how excited our kids are to cheer on our older athletes as they make their way to state championships. There is a bond here that’s

difficult to explain in words, but it’s easy to feel. Our biggest priority is that every student understands how much they matter and are loved. They all come to us with different histories, struggles, and strengths. It’s our job to take all that and make the best education for them we can. We are absolutely committed to high academic standards while never losing sight of their hearts. I just want to say how excited we are about this school year! It is a privilege to work with each of your students and we are here for whatever you need. Please don’t ever hesitate to reach out if you have a question or need clarification on anything. We are here to work together to make this the best year yet for your kiddo! #proudtobeBBE

MONICA MILLER LIBERTY HILL MIDDLE SCHOOL I have been in education for 24 years, and a principal for two months. I taught and coached for 19 years and have been an administrator for five years. Most recently, I was the Associate Principal at Liberty Hill High School and loved every minute of that experience. I feel blessed to be able to take what I have learned to Liberty Hill Middle School and continue to learn from the staff that I now get to work with. I love our LH community and OUR KIDS! We truly have the best “little” town to work in, raise a family in, and do life in, around. Being able to influence young people to pursue their dreams and help them find their passions and gifts is why I am here! Helping grow other educators to be the leaders they are called to be is just more icing on the cake. We ended up in Liberty Hill courtesy of my husband’s job. When we moved here, he did the research and I will forever be grateful that he chose this community for my family to embrace.  S E P T E M B E R 2 0 21  L I B E R T Y H I L L D I G E ST

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EDUCATION

Meet LHISD’s Education Leadership (cont’d) At LHMS, our focus is to “Be the Exception” in everything we do. We have weekly challenges for students to attempt to show what it means to “be the exception”. For instance, this week has been to introduce yourself to someone you do not know. Our staff is watching to see students accepting the “Be the Exception Challenge” and rewarding them with a Champion Student-Be the Exception coupon for our snack shack. Be on the lookout for home challenges too and report them to me so I can reward our students for always striving to be the exception everywhere they go in Liberty Hill. We are also focusing on continuing the strong Liberty Hill culture of being a Proud Panther. Plus we are growing as a learner and having fun along the way! I have been grateful for the welcome and embrace that all the LHMS staff and community has shown me. LHMS is a wonderful place to be the Interim Principal... we will Be the Exception together!

JONATHAN BEVER LIBERTY HILL HIGH SCHOOL I have been in education for 27 years...I am beginning my 4th year as principal at the high school and I am looking forward to another GREAT year! I love the students, I am their #1 FAN...I am looking forward to a year that we can call normal and the students can stay connected. I came to Liberty Hill because of the principles and values that Liberty Hill ISD stands for, and the amazing community that involves the students and families. My priority this year is making sure that ALL students make a connection that will strengthen their relationship with our Panther Family here at the high school. My door is always open and if you have any questions or concerns I am here for you.

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MELANIE BOWMAN RANCHO SIENNA ELEMENTARY I have been in education for 23 years. I have been a campus administrator for 11 years. Getting to work alongside others that love children and work collaboratively to not only meet their needs but also just to appreciate the joy of childhood is such a blessing. Watching students set and accomplish their goals makes me feel that I am a small part of their lifelong success story. I grew up in a small town and really enjoyed the family and community aspect. Upon coming to Liberty Hill over six years ago, I immediately felt the togetherness and bond of this wonderful community. Once a Panther, always a Panther! My daily focus is to provide each student with a positive and enriching school experience where they have opportunities to thrive as leaders in our Rancho school family and beyond. When you see yourself as a leader, the possibilities are endless! It is exciting to see the growth happening in the Rancho Sienna school community. I invite all of our returning and new families to get involved and become involved in the LHISD family by joining our PTO, volunteering on campus, attending LHHS Friday Night Lights, introducing yourself to other parents, or reaching out to your teachers to see how you can support the important work they do. It’s a great time to be a Rancho Panther!


EDUCATION

KENDELL LUEDTKE SANTA RITA ELEMENTARY Over the past 13 years in education, I have served students in four districts across Texas as a classroom teacher, Interventionist, Instructional Coach, Assistant Principal and now Principal. What I love most about my career is the opportunity to build relationships with students, teachers, families, and the communities. It is one of the most rewarding aspects of my job. As the new Principal at SRE, I’m looking forward to fostering relationships with my staff, families and being a part of childrens’ success. What initially drew me to Liberty Hill was the reputation of excellence and the family feel. My husband and I moved here seven years ago and fell in love with the community. We knew very quickly this is where we wanted our forever home to be and where we wanted our child to complete her education. Getting to work for and serve LHISD is an added blessing. The families and students make my job so enjoyable and are a daily reminder that I am where I am supposed to be. It’s always a great day to be a Panther! One of my priorities I’d like to focus on right away is establishing that same Liberty Hill culture of excellence and family within my campus. With many new staff members I’m excited to share with them the vision of LHISD, our community traditions, and support them along the way to deliver academic excellence to our students. I look forward to getting to know our students and families and serving within our community. I am so honored to be a LHISD Panther and blessed to be a part of the Santa Rita Elementary family!

HEATHER COLLISON LIBERTY HILL ELEMENTARY I have been in education for almost 19 years now. I began my career as a principal at LHE four years ago. What I love most about my job is what I learn from kids. They speak freely and remind me of all the small, good things that bring joy to our lives. I believe these children are part of a bright future. I am proud to be an influence and pray I can make a lasting impact. This year upon us is filled with new challenges. I look forward to the resilience, creativity, and flexibility our staff will show to overcome all obstacles. I came to Liberty Hill by chance. My husband and I were moving to the area and I was interviewing all throughout the Austin area. Terrie Chambers (retired principal at BBE), offered me the opportunity to become part of LHISD and I quickly fell in love with the Panther Pride of this community. I could not be more grateful for Liberty Hill to be part of my path. I hope the students and teachers have learned as much from me as I have learned from them. LHE will focus on growth for all students. Due to the obstacles we are facing, students in the same classrooms are at various levels. Our teachers are focused on delivering impactful, high instruction and meeting individual needs to build each student’s mastery. I have been in several classrooms throughout these first days. It amazes me to see the valuable instruction already taking place. At LHE, obstacles are not an excuse, they are a challenge to overcome. To the parents, students, and faculty at LHE, I appreciate the patience, support, and perseverance you have shown so far. The 2021-22 school year will be challenging once again. Together we will accomplish great things. Thank you in advance!

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FOOD

NEXT-LEVEL TAILGATING ARE YOU READY FOR SOME GRILLING? Tailgate food is a very specific culinary experience. The best dishes are low maintenance, portable, and, above all, delicious!

TAILGATE CHICKEN SKEWERS • 1 cup brown ale

• 2 Tbsp kosher salt

• 2 Tbsp granulated sugar

• 1 tsp onion powder

by Jackie Dodd

• 6 boneless skinless chicken thighs For the glaze: • 1 Tbsp olive oil

• 2 cloves garlic, minced

• 2/3 cup stout beer

• ¼ cup low sodium soy sauce

• 3 Tbsp tomato paste

• 1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce

• 2 Tbsp Sriracha hot pepper sauce

• 1 tsp onion powder

• ¼ cup brown sugar, packed

• 1 tsp smoked paprika

For those of you dedicated to the art of pregame noshing, grills are a must, stuff on sticks is a good choice, and anything you can make with beer, which gives meat a tender, more flavorful texture, is likely going to be a Win.

In medium bowl stir together the brown ale, salt, granulated sugar, and onion powder. Add chicken thighs. Refrigerate and brine for 2-4 hours. While chicken is brining, place 6 wooden skewers in water, allow to soak for 30 minutes to one hour. Prepare the glaze. Heat olive oil over medium high heat, add the garlic (tip: use a microplane to quickly reduce garlic to a paste in seconds, rather than mincing with a knife), stir until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a strong simmer until thickened, about 8 minutes. Preheat grill to medium high. Remove chicken from brine, rinse well and pat dry. Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces, thread onto prepared skewers. Brush the chicken on all sides with glaze, place on the grill, close lid. After two minutes, turn and brush with additional glaze. Repeat until chicken is cooked through, about 6 minutes. COOK'S NOTE: Chicken thighs are more flavorful than chicken breast, and also stand up better to high temperatures without drying out, making them the perfect choice for grilling.

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FOOD

Yes, you can grill these, too! S'MORES HAND PIES

The Gunny Sack

INGREDIENTS

• 1 pie crust dough

• 12 milk chocolate segments

• 1 graham cracker, split into four • 1/2 cup marshmallow cream

GRILLED HEARTS OF ROMAINE DRESSING

• 1 c mayonnaise

• 1/2 c sour cream

• 1/4 c whole milk; more as needed • 6 oz. crumbled blue cheese • 1-1/2 T finely grated shallot • 1 clove finely grated garlic • 1 T fresh lemon juice • 1/2 t kosher salt • 1/8 t freshly ground black pepper

SALAD

• 2 hearts romaine, bases trimmed but intact, halved lengthwise • Extra-virgin olive oil for brushing • Kosher salt, black pepper • 4 slices bacon, cooked & crumbled

• 40 mini marshmallows

• 1 egg white, beaten

Roll out pie crust dough, cut into four large circles (about 6" each) using a bowl as a pattern (re-roll scraps to use all the dough).

Brush the whole hand pie (top and bottom) with a beaten egg white.

Place small graham cracker segment in the center of the dough circle. Add two squares of chocolate and a dab of marshmallow cream. Place about ten mini marshmallows into the marshmallow cream. Wet the edges of the dough. Fold dough over the s’mores toppings, pressing it in place. Fold up the edges, pressing them in place. Crimp edges with fingers or fork.

Lightly grease the grill grates and start by grilling the top of s’mores hand pies about two minutes over medium heat. Flip the hand pies over and cook the bottoms for two minutes. Move the hand pies to the upper rack to cook for an additional minute in the indirect heat. After removing them from the grill, put a dab of marshmallow cream on top of each hand pie. Place a segment of chocolate in the middle of the marshmallow cream to hold it in place.

Stir dressing ingredients in medium bowl. Cover, refrigerate at least 3 hours to let flavors develop. Taste and adjust seasonings if necessary. Dressing will thicken and may be thinned with more milk. Heat gas grill or prepare charcoal fire to medium-low. (Be sure grate is hot.) Lightly brush olive oil over romaine, taking care not to break leaves. Sprinkle with salt & pepper. Put lettuce cut side down on the grate, directly over heat. Grill until outer leaves are charred and wilted, lettuce is warm and just barely tender to the core, 2-5 mins, depending on heat of your grill. Transfer lettuce to a clean platter and let rest 5 minutes. Place half a heart of romaine, cut side up, on each plate, top with dressing, sprinkle with crumbled bacon. Serve immediately. S E P T E M B E R 2 0 21  L I B E R T Y H I L L D I G E ST

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PARTING SHOTS

by Megan Diane Beatty • megan@lhtxdigest.com photos by Kendra Lynn Cofer Photography

Welcome, Class of 2022 and 2034! LIBERTY HILL ISD RETURNED TO SCHOOL AUGUST 19. WITH ALL CLASSES TAKING PLACE IN PERSON, THE PARKING LOTS AND DROP-OFF LINES WERE OVERFLOWING WITH EAGER STUDENTS AND PROUD PARENTS. LOOKS LIKE PANTHER NATION WILL BE HAVING A GREAT SCHOOL YEAR!

 At left, R.J. will be the second generation in his family to graduate from Liberty Hill High School. His mom will be attending her 20th reunion at this year’s homecoming. photo by Cassie Reville

 At Bill Burden Elementary, Declan stopped for his close-up before his first day of Kindergarten. He loves red, pink, video games, and macaroni. He wants to be a police officer when he grows up and he is looking forward to being in Mrs. Goudeau’s class. photo by Becky O’Dell

Best wishes to all of our students for a strong and successful school year and, as Andy Griffith would say, “Show the teacher y’got some smart!”

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P.O. Box 213, Jarrell. TX, 76537

ECRWSS POSTAL PATRON LIBERTY HILL, TX

S E P T E M B E R 2 0 21  L I B E R T Y H I L L D I G E S T

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