Tuesday, December 20, 2016

For Jamie Sexson, It's One Day At A Time

The public school is part of every community, large and small, all across the nation. The public school is a picture of our community and paints a history that will forever be etched in the lives of its citizens and alumni. Public schools bring communities together, and the relationship between a nine-year old boy fighting for his life and the 1988 Marshall Maverick football team will forever be etched in the history of Marshall High School and Marshall, Texas. Today's edition of The Red Brick Wall: Building A Legacy, takes a look back at the story of Jamie Sexson, who found his friends for life in the Maverick football team. The Mavericks, who reached out and became some of Jamie's closest friends, well, they found a new hero. This article appeared in the Dec. 8, 1988 edition of the Marshall News Messenger.

by Kim Weeks
News Messenger

The doctors said 9-year-old James Sexson should have already died, but Jamie's mother, Debbie, said members of the Maverick football team have helped give him some more time.

James, diagnosed as having leukemia at age 3, was "adopted" by the football team in October.

"I think him being adopted by the team gave him an extra time to live," Mrs. Sexson said. "It gave him something to look forward to."

James, affectionately called Jamie, had been in remission for a few months, but in August of this year, he got sick again and the doctors told Mrs. Sexson that there were no more treatments available.

"They told us to let him do what he wanted to do because they didn't expect him to live very long after that," she said.

Mrs. Sexson said they put Jamie back in school for about a month, but he had to be taken out after he got an infection.

"He hasn't been in school since October," she said. "He's had several bad days and several bouts where we've thought that was going to be it, and he's still alive."

Jamie was officially adopted during the pep rally before the Tyler game, and he went with the team to the game, practiced on the field with them and went out for the coin toss.

"He did everything the football team did," she said. "That night they took him out to eat with them and he got to go home on the bus. To him that was the grandest thing."

After that Jamie went to a few practices and games, until he couldn't go any more.

"The last game he went to was Tyler Lee. He went for a coin toss with the boys and he just got sick on the field. Brent Truelove brought him out and he started vomiting blood and it scared everybody."

Now, two or three nights a week, a few members of the team come over to see Jamie.

"Coach (Dennis) Parker told me that he never told the boys to come over. It was something they did on their own," she said.

Jamie, she said, was not the only person touched by his relationship with the team.

"Jamie has been used greatly (by God). There's just no telling how many lives he's touched since he's been sick. The football players will tell you, he's done a lot for them. Brent Truelove told me, 'you'll never know how much he's done for me,'" she said. "Coach Parker told me he's made them realize there's more to life than football, and life can be taken at any age."

Mrs. Sexson said Jamie rarely gets out of bed now.

"He sleeps most all day," she said. "But when the boys come in...he says, 'My team's here.'"

"They were real good about treating him as a normal kid," she said. "He wasn't a sick kid, he wasn't a cancer kid."

She said when the team came over after a game, the first thing Jamie said was, "You guys did real good. I'm proud of you."

"You can see these big old boys, I mean some of these guys are huge, they just tear up. They respect Jamie and that means a lot."

Mrs. Sexson said she has not worked in nine weeks, but stays home to to be with Jamie. She said they used to go for rides in the car and play games, but now they stay home and watch television together when Jamie isn't sleeping.

Mrs. Sexson said the doctors are not saying anything anymore.

"He's going to die. He knows he's going to die. We've talked about it and he understands. It's a waiting game. Some days he'll be down and we'll thing this is it, we're getting close. Then he'll get a burst of energy and he'll be up again. But for the last two weeks he's been pretty sick.

"We talk about dying. We've talked about going to heaven and not being afraid. What he's afraid of is leaving me. He knows it will be a better life. He knows he won't have the disease anymore. He's real brave."

She said Jamie helped her plan his funeral and his only special requests were that they play "Have You Been Washed In Blood" and that the football team be there.

"I worry about them (the team) after Jamie dies," she said. "I think they are going to take it real hard."

When the team comes over, they don't let Jamie dwell on death, Mrs. Sexson said.

"One day Odell (Beckham) talked about how they run all day and they were sore from practice. Jamie said, 'You know, I can't even walk to the bathroom and back without being tired.' They said, 'That's okay.' They are real good about keeping him going."

"I think accepting him the way he is has made a big difference in Jamie. He's kept going. I think he's lived his life to the fullest. He's done a lot of things that kids his age don't do. We take each day as it comes and we're thankful for that day. And when tomorrow comes, and we hope that it does, if it doesn't, we know he's had a good life."

*Note: Jamie lost his battle with cancer shortly after this article, but he won the hearts of his Maverick football friends, and the community they shared together. His story, along with his friendship with the Mavs, won national acclaim when East Texas broadcaster David Smoak further chronicled his final days and his relationship with his Maverick friends in "Jamie's Season," in 1988.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Working With Kids, One Way Or The Other

Today's entry in "The Red Brick Wall: Building A Legacy" looks back at the service of Mrs. Sybill Presswood, longtime school secretary at Marshall High School who was named Volunteer of the Year in 1986 for her work with abused and neglected children. This article appeared in the Oct. 27, 1986, edition of the Marshall News Messenger.

MARSHALL JUNIOR HIGH SCHOOL secretary Sybill Presswood loves young people so much that when she is not surrounded by teenagers at work, she voluntarily spends her time with a group of area children who need attention.

In fact, Mrs. Presswood was recently honored by the Department of Human Services as their volunteer of the year for her work with Child Protective Services.

Mrs. Presswood, who has worked for the Marshall Independent School District for 16 years, said she became involved in helping abused and neglected children several years ago while working at Price T. Young School.

"I really didn't know what was involved, but the longer I stayed on the board, the more I became involved. I've been on the board for 10 years now," she said.

Child Protective Services in Harrison County tries to make sure foster children have as normal a life as any other children, Mrs. Presswood said. Foster parents receive money for the state for basic necessities and some funds from the county commissioners for extras, but Child Protective Services tries to provide things for which the state and county do not pay.

"We help raise money for their school clothes and go outside for Christmas donations. We also help pay doctor and hospital bills when they aren't covered by insurance. We try to give each of the children a birthday allowance and try to give the foster children the same privileges as other children," said Mrs. Presswood.

Mrs. Presswood is president and volunteer coordinator for CPS, and she said volunteers are always needed. One thing the volunteers do is sit with foster children in the hospital so they will not be alone.

"They get so scared when they have to be in the hospital alone," Mrs. Presswood said.

"The most rewarding thing is the direct contact with the children. We show them some love and teach them to trust. It's so rewarding to see those children blossom and start trusting people. Seeing a child go from a little frightened thing and start giving out love is really specials," she said.

Currently, CPS is raising money for the foster children's Christmas. Mrs. Presswood said various organizations and even classes at school will sponsor a child, either by buying gifts or giving money to CPS.

Friday, December 2, 2016

The History Of David Crockett Elementary School

By Richard Fluker (2006)

David Crockett School, 700 Jasper Drive, had its beginning early in 1952 when the Board of Education and the Superintendent realized Sam Houston school could no longer serve the growing population of the east part of Marshall. After careful study of the area, the present site was selected.

In August 1953, Dr. and Mrs. Thomas B. Bailey donated 8.89 acres of land for a school, provided that the building be completed by August 1958 and that city water service be extended to include the Jasper Heights area. The Board accepted this donation of the property and immediately began planning for the building.

A bid from Eckert-Fair Construction Company was accepted on September 15, 1954, and construction began shortly thereafter. The final cost of the building was $239,782.

In March 1955, the City Council of the Parent-Teacher Association submitted the name David Crockett to the Board of Education. The name was accepted.

The doors of David Crockett School opened for classes in September 1955 to 204 students, 10 teachers and the principal. The school had 12 classrooms, library, cafetorium, clinic, teacher's lounge and office.

Three additions have been made to the original building. In 1968, the south wing of the original building was extended to include six additional classrooms. Funds came from a $4,264,000 bond election in 1962. In 1972, the north wing of the original building was extended to include seven classrooms and two restrooms. The entire building was completely air conditioned during the school year of 1980-81. In the fall of 1987, a new library, 10 classrooms, special education room, computer room, teacher workroom, storeroom and office complex were added. Funds from the 1986 bond issue, which provided $5.5 million for additions to five schools and facilities for administration, food service, maintenance and transportation. A gymnasium separate from the main building opened in 1993.

With MISD's reorganization in 1981, Crockett School began serving students in grades K-4. Until then, it had been a K-6 school. In 1982, the Commissioner of Education named Crockett a partnership school and it began participating in the Accelerated Schools Program.

Crockett was first designated as a "Recognized" school by the Texas Education Agency in 2003-04 and repeated the accomplishment in 2004-05.

Update: Under the Legacy 2017 building program, a new K-5 elementary school with a capacity of 750 students is under construction at the David Crockett Elementary site. Upon completion of the new facility, the current building will be demolished.