New Caney, August 9 – Despite some politics between them, Precinct 4 Justice of the Peace James Metts, Precinct 4 Constable Kenneth “Rowdy” Hayden, and Precinct 4 County Commissioner showed a strongly united front on Monday evening at the meeting of the Concerned Citizens of East Montgomery County. The Concerned Citizens organization is one of the oldest community organizations in Montgomery County and has held regularly monthly meetings for almost thirty years.
Judge Metts explained that, when he became the Justice of the Peace in East Montgomery County fifteen years ago, truancy rates approached 10%, meaning attendance was only in the 90% range for public schools in the area. Metts told the crowd, “There simply is no reason for a child not to get a high school diploma in this day and age.” Metts thanked Constable Hayden whom Metts explained worked closely with the Judge’s office on truancy matters.
Metts provided an interesting analysis of a study by the Brookings Institution, a think tank based in Washington, D.C. Metts told the Concerned Citizens that 87% of Texas prison inmates do not have high school diplomas, truly a shocking statistic. Metts said that the Brookings study found that there are three things that people can do in their lives to avoid getting in trouble with the law and avoid incarceration: “first, get a high school diploma; second, don’t get married until you’re 21 years old; third, wait to have children until your fourth year or later of marriage.”
Metts explained to the audience that East Montgomery County had achieved a 97% school attendance rate about three years ago under Metts’ and his office team’s aggressive approach in enforcing truancy laws and in ensuring that school-age children attend school. He noted, however, that recent legal changes by the Texas Legislature, especially during the 84th Legislative Session (in 2015), have made it more difficult to enforce truancy laws.
After the meeting, Metts explained to The Golden Hammer that the Texas Legislature moved to decriminalize truancy laws in order to avoid what they perceived as unnecessary incarcerations of school-age children. Metts said, “I agree with the decriminalization, but I wish the Legislature had not taken away so many of our tools for dealing with this issue.” Metts made clear that he sought to “strike an appropriate balance between discipline and encouragement” of school-age children.
Metts also introduced the management staff of his office, including Brian Stanley, Chief of Staff, Kim Jessup, Chief Civil Clerk, Dianne Rogers, Juvenile Case Manager, and Jamie Nash, Communications Coordinator.
Metts thanked Constable Hayden and his deputies whom he said “work closely with me on theses issues.”
Judge Metts also explained some of the procedures concerning the hundreds of inquests he must attend each year. He noted that he is “on-call 24/7.” Interestingly, the judge explained that among over 4,000 inquests he has handled, there have been only three for which neither he nor other law enforcement officials could identify the cause of death. That’s actually a remarkably low statistic, constituting less than 0.075% of the total.
Commissioner Jim Clark told The Golden Hammer, “While my office has no authority to act upon matters of truancy, we fully supported law enforcement by providing all the manpower and tools necessary to keep these students in school and on track to a better future. I’m happy to work with Constable Hayden and Judge Metts on this issue to provide the resources necessary to make sure it’s a successful endeavor to keep our children in school.”
During the meeting, Clark described progress on the Precinct 4 road bond projects.
Clark was particularly excited to report to the East Montgomery County citizens in attendance at the meeting that by the end of Fiscal Year 2017, on September 30, 2017, the Precinct 4 Commissioner’s Office will have completed the construction of more than twenty (20) miles of roads in the Precinct. “That’s almost double what Precinct 4 has done in the past. I worked closely with my staff to increase the efficiency of our road and bridge operations and we’ve started to see a major payoff for our hard work since October of 2016.”
It was good to see the three leading County officials in East Montgomery County – Clark, Metts, and Hayden – appear so unified at an important meeting of concerned citizens all trying to make our community a better place.