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The Good Work of SCUCISD Board Member George Ricks Lives On

The impact of the late George Ricks is seen daily at the busy, bright George Ricks School Based Health Center at Schertz Elementary School. Here children in the SchertzCibolo Universal City ISD whose families do not have health insurance and may not be able to afford health care can receive primary health care, dental care, counseling, and social services as needed. The cost of services is on a sliding scale, based on family income, and no one is turned away.

As a long-time school board member, Ricks was passionate about healthcare for all children. The Center is run by Methodist Healthcare Ministries of San Antonio, where Ricks was also a board member.

Mr. Ricks passed away in January. During his tenure, which started in 1999 (with a short break in service), he helped navigate the district’s rapid growth from 6,000 students to 15,000 at the time he left the board in 2015. At the time of his death, Dr. Greg Gibson, who served as SCUCISD Superintendent of Schools from 2010 to 2020, said, “He left a genuine and inherent imprint on the community he served and on everyone who had the privilege of knowing him. I am going to miss him dearly and our warm-hearted conversations." Many

others remember his kindness, calm demeanor, and sense of humor.

In July, the center, which had been called the School Based Health Center, was renamed in honor of Ricks along with the School Based Center in nearby Marion ISD.

Jaime Wesolowski, President and CEO for Methodist Healthcare Ministries, said it was the first time the organization had named a center for a board member. He explained that Ricks had the vision for the center to be relocated to the old cafeteria. The building was set to be demolished.

Wesolowski said, “He had the foresight to say we could rehabilitate this building into the clinic. It was transformed into the beautiful clinic you see today. That’s why we thought it so important to name the center after George Ricks. He is the main reason the Center exists.”

“We’re so proud to provide services to families in need,” said Wesolowski. “The clinic stays open year-round. Students and families also receive assistance with applications to SNAP, Chip, Medicaid, and other community resources. We have many connections in all of our communities. A lot of times families just don’t receive the services they deserve or should have, and we want to meet those needs.”

Despite the new name and the move into a new facility in 2009, the Center has a long history. The SCUCISD center opened in 1995 as a Christus Santa Rosa program with funding from the Texas Department of Health. In 1997 the Methodist Healthcare Ministries awarded its first grant to Christa Santa Rosa. By 2001 the MHM acquired the program from Christus Santa Rosa and hired the existing staff.

Nurse practitioner Jae Kight has been working at the George Ricks School Based Health Center for 21 years. She still delights in hugs and student interactions every day. “I laugh and smile so much,” says Kight. “I don’t care how sick they are, they always say or do something to make me smile.”

We normally try to schedule everything on one day, as it is hard on the parents to take off work. We really are a one-stop-shop.

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She never tires of helping families either. Recently she had a parent and child come into the center. They had just moved to the school district from another state, fleeing an abusive situation. She explained the two were staying with family; the parent had no job, no insurance. The child had asthma and was severely allergic to bee stings. “I was able to provide them with the medication and epi-pen the child needed,” said Kight. “They qualified for free meds which we pay for through H-E-B.”

The Center was also able to provide the child with immunizations, connect the parent with social services and even provide food necessities and cleaning supplies from the small pantry which is stocked by food pantries located at larger clinics run by Methodist Health Care Ministries. The student now has an appointment for dental care, too. “We normally try to schedule everything on one day, as it is hard on the parents to take off work,” said Kight. “We really are a one-stop-shop.”

Kight also explained that during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic when everything shut down, the Center provided services via telehealth visits. As the schools reopened, they moved to telehealth visits plus visits out in the parking lot where the students and families would remain in their cars. She admits they still do a few of those, depending on the comfort level of families.

While school-based health centers aren’t rare, they aren’t that common either. According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, there are 90 school-based centers in Texas. By comparison, there are 1,029 public school districts in the state. Kight tells the story of a former student from the SCUCISD who had received services at the center when she was a student; later her son also received services when he attended school in the district. When they moved to another state, she went to the school and asked where the school-based health center was and found out there were none in the state.

David Thein who is the Healthcare Services Coordinator for SCUCISD, says the Methodist Health Care Ministries School Based Center is a resource for the district and a great partner.

School nurses can refer children to the George Ricks Center and the district works with the Center to provide immunization drives in the fall for children transitioning from elementary to middle school and also assist in flu shot drives. Thein said, “They have always been extremely flexible—they make things happen without a lot of red tape. The Ricks Center helps us get things done.”

New Software Improves City Development Processes

Have you ever pulled a permit, requested an inspection, or been through the development process with the City? As a growing community that sits along the booming I-35 corridor, City staff in the Planning and Community Development department consistently works in a fast-paced environment, filled with urgent requests for approval of permits, inspections, and plan reviews. It is estimated that over the course of the past three years, staff has processed a yearly average of 100 planning and zoning cases, 5,400 permits, and 13,000 inspections.

While City staff has worked hard to streamline the process and has made improvements to what is available online for the customer, such as taking payments, submitting building permits, contractor registration, or having the ability to request an inspection, there are still several systems staff must work from to get each customer from start to finish. Having to work within multiple systems inevitably creates inefficiencies, which can result in delayed response times and frustrations for those involved.

However, City staff is looking to change this with some exciting news that will affect the way residents and developers do business with the City. In February 2022, the City of Schertz will launch CityView, a new community development software that will provide comprehensive permitting, inspections, reviews, and approvals. Combining these items with an enhanced online processing and payment system will reduce time, cost, and errors. “We are excited to roll this program out to the community. Having this software in place will allow staff to ensure a permit or revision doesn’t get lost or not reviewed in a timely manner,” says Lesa Wood, Director of Planning and Community Development. “We can also better track the status of permits and set alerts when permits don’t move forward in the expected timeframes.” This new platform will not only streamline staffs’ efforts to serve the public but will also meet the growing demand for online services.

Having this software in place will allow staff to ensure a permit or revision doesn’t get lost or not reviewed in a timely manner.

Launching this online platform has not been without some challenges and has taken staff a lot of time, energy, and effort to prepare. Approved by City Council in 2018, with a go-live goal of late 2020, the project timeline was delayed several times due to COVID-19, staffing shortages, and turnover. Additionally, this project involved more than just one department – staff from Planning, IT, GIS, Code Enforcement, Economic Development, Environmental Health, Permits and Inspections, Engineering, Fire, Public Works, and Parks were all needed to move the project forward. “This project really was a team effort,” said Assistant City Manager, Brian James. "Staff from every department has had to map out all the different processes for all the different types of permits that we have. As part of this effort, it has led to a lot of discussions among staff about why we require the things we do and to what degree those add value or protect our residents.”

As the launch date approaches, city staff is most excited about the enhanced customer service and convenience that this software will provide to the public. “For example,” said Wood, “a customer will now be able to track their land through the entire development process - from annexation, through zoning, platting, site planning, and permitting. Additionally, they will be able to view any code violation on the property that could occur.” All the different permits and steps in the development (or redevelopment) process will be linked to one another and even build on the information from previous permits. “In essence, it will be a one-stopshop for any information that a customer would need,” said Wood.

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Added to this will be the ability to conduct a digital plan review and the tracking of that review. While staff is currently doing this, it is being done on an individual department basis, which means it results in multiple sets of plans. However, with CityView, it will streamline this process as it will combine the individual department plans into one big plan that has all the department’s mark-ups. “This will make it easier for the developers because it allows them to avoid delays that are now caused by not knowing what revisions or additional information is needed from one group or another,” said James.

Another dynamic feature of the software is the companion mobile app. The City’s IT Department is working to repurpose modems from existing Police vehicles that are being upgraded and will install these repurposed modems into the City’s Inspector vehicles. Doing this will allow these vehicles to have WiFi, which will assist the City Inspectors in investigating complaints, entering inspections in real-time, and accessing any related information that may be needed, all while out in the field.

City staff is currently in the validation process, which means that all the departments who have been involved with this project are verifying the data to ensure their workflows are accurate in the new system. Once the validation process is complete, staff will move on to user acceptance testing and then staff training. When CityView goes live, there will be a simple process to access all the features the software has to offer. “To experience the features CityView provides, the customers will need to simply create an account through the online portal. They will then be able to access items, such as reporting code violations, submitting permits online, paying fees, receiving staff-generated review comments, request inspections, and even be issued permits or certificates of occupancy, all from the comfort of their office or home,” said Wood.

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