Flashback to news from January-June 2017



The Bullard Area Chamber of Commerce voted in new board members and officers in their 2018 election, including Jay Miller, president; Brandy Baker, vice-president; Tracy Barnes, secretary; Robyn Capps, treasurer; and James Murphy, Laura Jones, and Dr. James Gardner, all as board members. Murphy was also elected 2017 BACC Chairman of the Board.

The Bullard High School Twirlers received numerous awards after competing at the prestigious Vicki Bowden Mobbs Majorette and Flag Line Classic at Kilgore College.

After being approved by the Bullard ISD Board of Trustees in November 2016, Amanda Silkett, a two-decade veteran of public education, took the reins of leadership at Bullard High School as the school’s new principal.

Bullard Veterinary Medical Center was recognized for excellence in pet care with its fifth consecutive Locals Love Us award.

Bullard ISD received its rankings in the controversial Texas Education Agency A-F Accountability System. The district received grades of 52 (B) in Domain I (Student Achievement), 36 (C) in Domain II (Student Progress), -0.6 (C) in Domain III (Closing Performance Gaps), and 94 (B) in Domain IV (Postsecondary Education).

Bullard High School Panther Band senior head drum major Matthew Bradley was named as the second chair trumpet player in the Texas All-State Jazz Band.

Flint resident Jessie Copeland, 22, died after being struck by a hit-and-run driver as he attempted to cross Highway 155, six miles south of Tyler, on foot.

Michael Chase Allbright, 20, of Flint, was killed in a one-vehicle wreck near Canton after his vehicle entered a curve and ran off the roadway, striking a tree.

Bullard Mayor Pam Frederick announced her plan to seek her fourth consecutive term in the May 2017 general election.

The Bullard High School choral program received a record-tying total of five seats to the 2017 Texas Small School All-State Choir. Students selected included freshman soprano Bailey Bower, freshman alto Haley Brems, senior tenor Hunter Dickens, sophomore bass Joshua Luper, and senior soprano Kayla Luptak.

The Bullard ISD Board of Trustees unanimously approved the creation of the Panther and Lady Panther soccer program.

Jeremy Michael Gans, a suspect in a car burglary and attempted grand theft auto in Bullard in 2015, was captured by authorities in Van Zandt County.

Brook Hill senior students Alec Kitt and Lauren Eden were recognized as the Outstanding Senior Boy and Girl, respectively, by the Tyler Rotary Club.


Dusty Moore, 52, was arrested by authorities after fleeing from a traffic stop near the intersection of FM 344 and FM 2493, then leading police on a chase ending at a residence near Toll 49 and Highway 155.

Gustavo Zavala-Garcia, the suspect in the November 2016 kidnapping and murder of 10-year-old Kayla Gomez-Orozco, of Tyler, was indicted by a Smith County Grand Jury on one count of murder in the case.

United States Congressman Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) secured a presidential gift for Brook Hill’s American Freedom Museum by getting President Donald Trump to sign a card that was donated, continuing the museum’s streak of having an artifact from each of the 45 US Presidents.

The Bullard Future Farmers of America student organization raised a record-breaking $70,000 at its annual Labor and Merchandise Auction event.

Bullard residents Brandi Abercrombie and Brian Vestal announced their intentions to run for the Bullard ISD Board of Trustees Place 2 seat after Trustee Dr. Fred Zachary informed the body he would not seek re-election.

The Bullard Area Chamber of Commerce honored BACC secretary Tracy Barnes and Bullard Banner News editor Micah McCartney at the organization’s annual Banquet and Awards Ceremony.

Bullard ISD Place 1 Trustee Tony Johnson announced his plan to run for a fifth term on the school district’s governing body in the May 2017 general election.

The Bullard Rotary Club announced its plan for Phase II improvements to Bullard Kids Park, including two walking and jogging paths (one-fourth mile by eight foot wide and one-third mile by eight foot wide), two new pavilions, eight new exercise stations, and an area for donor recognition bricks.

Vicki Lyn Hart, 52, of Tyler was killed in a motorcycle wreck in Flint after the 1994 Harley Davison she was a passenger on detoured off the road and struck a tree. The driver of the motorcycle, Robert Kirk Hart, suffered serious injuries.

Bullard ISD Place 3 Trustee John Alexander filed paperwork to seek re-election to the Bullard ISD Board of Trustees in the May 2017 general election.

The Bullard High School and Middle School choral department received numerous awards from the Region 21 Solo and Ensemble Contest. The BHS choir received a total of 12 Superior-rating medals and advanced 19 singers to the State contest, while the BMS choir program earned a total of 20 Superior ratings.

The Bullard Future Farmers of America student organization received several strong finishes after competing at the State LDE contest. Teams representing the program included the Radio Broadcasting team, consisting of Peyton Moore, Rebeka Newburn, and Raelee Walker, placing ninth; as well as the Senior Creed team, placing seventh.

Kayla Gomez murder suspect Gustavo Zavala-Garcia caused a scene on the roof of the Smith County Jail, as he claimed a fence and an old basketball goal while not handcuffed during his mandatory recreation time in the jail’s rec yard.

The 12th Court of Appeals in Tyler upheld the life in prison conviction of James Preston Bales, 33, of Bullard, after Bales was arrested, tried, and convicted of murdering Bias Lott, 61, with a metal baseball bat.

The Bullard Middle School Builders Club partnered with local radio stations 89.5 FM KVNE and 91.3 FM KGLY to spread love on Valentine’s Day by participating in the annual Valentines for Kids and Seniors in Assisted Living Facilities project.


Gustavo Zavala-Garcia, the suspect in the Kayla Gomez kidnapping and murder case, pled not guilty and waived his right to an arraignment in front of the 241st District Court of Judge Jack Skeen, Jr., inside the Smith County Courthouse.

An attack threat rumored to occur at Bullard High School as deemed as “false” by Bullard ISD officials.

Bullard Mayor Pam Frederick ran for her fourth term as mayor unopposed, securing her new term after having no opponent at the filing deadline.

The Bullard Panther varsity basketball team honored a total of three seniors at the annual Senior Night ceremony, including Tyler Hinton, Austin Reeves, and Austin Turgeau.

A faulty sprinkler head in the hallway of Bullard High School caused the school to dismiss for Spring Break early.

The Bullard community welcomed a new business with open arms, as the Cherokee Travel Center and Whataburger, located at 655 S. Doctor M. Roper Parkway, officially opened its doors for business, attracting several area residents, including Bullard High School senior Hayley Kisner and her haflinger pony, Hawk.

Local residents reviewed a plan by the Texas Department of Transportation which would widen FM 2493 from FM 344 in Flint to Highway 69 in Bullard during an Open House event at Bullard High School.

The Bullard High School Panther Band brought home a total of 64 First Division medals from the 2017 UIL Region 21 Solo and Ensemble contest.

The Bullard ISD Board of Trustees announced the creation of the Bullard ISD Police Department, hiring Roy Logan as its first Chief of Police.

The Bullard High School One Act Play company’s production of “A Midsummer’s Night Dream” placed second at the UIL District 15-4A OAP Contest, advancing the production to the Bi-District competition. Cast members recognized included Ashlyn Meador, Best Actress; Emily Dean, All-Star Cast; Maddie Grace Beam, Honorable Mention Cast; and Valerie Vierkant, Outstanding Tech.

Students in the Bullard FFA program lassoed numerous awards after competing at the 2017 Smith County Youth Expo at Lindale High School.

Justin Carsten, 22, of Bullard was arrested by the Smith County Sheriff’s Office after deputies found him intoxicated while standing nude in the roadway armed with a shovel. During his arrest, Carsten allegedly bit a sheriff’s deputy.

Jose Garcia, Emmanuel Garcia, and Maximono Garcia, all brothers, of Cherokee County, were arrested and charged with murder in the case of a 2016 homicide in which Mario Rodriguez was killed.

Bullard High School sophomore Hunter Low earned a $1,750 college scholarship after holding on to a calf in the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo Calf Scramble.

The Bullard Middle School Pom Squad brought home numerous team awards after competing at the Marching Auxiliaries Rose City Regional Competition and the Crowdpleasers – DFW Texas State Showcase.

Austin David Taylor, 25, of Tyler, was arrested after allegedly setting fire to a woman, identified as Emily Roberts, in the Shadybrook subdivision near Lake Palestine.

Bullard FFA chaplain Nicole Jones competed in the calf scramble events at both the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo and Rodeo Austin, earning a $1,750 college scholarship and $1,500 certificate towards the purchase of a show animal of her choice, respectively.

The Bullard Banner News earned a total of 12 awards, including two first place plaques in the categories of Headline Writing and News Photo, at the 91st annual North and East Texas Press Association’s Better Newspaper Contest.

The Bullard High School One Act Play company earned the recognition of Bi-District Champions at the Conference 4A Region II Area 2B Bi-District OAP Contest, allowing the play to advance to the Area competition. Cast members recognized included Maddie Grace Beam and Emily Dean, both as All-Star Cast; Emmalie Ellis, as Honorable Mention; and Valerie Vierkant, as All-Star Sound Tech.


A total of nine people synonymous with Bullard ISD and the Bullard community were enshrined as new members of the Bullard ISD Wall of Honor. New members inducted included Glenda Barron, Rosemary Breedlove, Margie McDonald, Eva Miller, Michael Roy, Samuel Smith, Susan Smith, Ronny John Snow, and Kay Stanley.

Jeremy Michael Gans was sentenced to 10 years in jail by the 114th District Court of Tyler on charges of Credit Card Abuse and Theft of Property after having committed a car burglary and attempted grand theft auto in 2015.

Garet Leverett, 30, of Bullard was indicted after leading officials on a chase throughout Smith County, beginning near FM 850 and Highway 31 and ending at the Dixie Paper Company near Highway 31 and Loop 323, wrecking his vehicle near the business.

Violent winds and rains from thunderstorms in the Bullard area caused significant damage to facilities at Bullard ISD, including the commons area of Bullard Intermediate School, Bullard High School tennis courts, and the Bullard Lady Panther softball field. The storm also knocked out power at several campuses, delaying the start of school and rescheduling the STAAR test.

Bullard Baseball and Softball Association held its annual Opening Day ceremonies, honoring the Girls 8U National softball team and the 8U Coach Pitch National baseball team for competing in the sports’ 2016 World Series events. The first pitch was thrown out by volunteer Louis Newburn to his son, Brody.

The Bullard Area Chamber of Commerce received rave reviews for hosting the second annual Bullard’s Best Chili Cookoff event in downtown Bullard. Winners at the event included the Bullard Rotary Club team of Magin LaGrave and Joseph George, winning People’s Choice; the Hillbilly Chili Committee, consisting of Alex Withers, Sharie Withers, Ashley Myrick, and Dillon Myrick, , winning the Showmanship Award; and Bullard Police Department officer John Hill and his wife, Lindsay, winning first place overall.

The Smith County Tax Office, previously located inside of Bullard City Hall, relocated to the Justice of the Peace/Constable facility in Noonday.

The award-winning Bullard Belles drill team, along with other programs within the Bullard ISD Fine Arts Department, were showcased in the annual Bullard Belles Spring Premier Showcase.

The Bullard Education Foundation held its inaugural “Strides for Excellence” 5K Glow Run on the grounds of Bullard ISD. Through registration fees and sponsorships, the event raised approximately $26,000 with about 350 races registering to run.

The Bullard First United Methodist Church opened its doors to the community for its annual Easter Egg hunt event, drawing approximately 300 children and parents.

The Bullard High School Twirlers were recipients on numerous awards after competing against the tough competition at the Rose City Capital Marching Auxiliaries Contest.

The Bullard City Council announced its plan to donate a total of $12,500 to the Bullard Rotary Club, with the funds going towards the Phase II improvements at Bullard Kids Park.

Smith County District Attorney Matt Bingham announced his plans to seek the death penalty against Gustavo Zavala Garcia, accused in the kidnapping and murder case of 10-year-old Kayla Gomez Orozco.

Justin Wilson, 29, of Henderson County, was arrested by authorities after causing a standoff situation at a residence along FM 344 in Bullard, near the intersection of Highway 69. The response to the situation reportedly involved a disturbance between Wilson and his girlfriend, during which Wilson barricaded himself, as well as two children, inside of the house.

A total of six teachers and seven employees of Bullard ISD were recognized for their efforts and contributions to the district, as they were honored as the district’s 2017 Teachers and Support Staff of the Year. Bullard ISD Teachers of the Year included Alicia Rhodes, BEC; April Smith, BPS; Jane Hall, BES; Lori Kotzur, BIS; Marcia Lierman, BMS; and Susan Paddack, BHS. Additionally, Bullard ISD Support Staff of the Year included Amanda Culpepper, BEC; Brittany Wright, BPS; Cathleen Terry, BES; Renee Gardner, BIS; Jann Sanders, BMS; Sindy Senter, BMS; and Mach Davis, Bullard ISD.


Bullard High School senior students Abby Story and Austin Childs were recognized as the 2017 BHS Prom Queen and King, respectively.

The Bullard ISD Board of Trustees unanimously approved the hiring of East Texas native Scott Callaway as Bullard ISD athletic director and Panther football head coach.

The Bullard High School varsity mixed choirand BHS treble choir both received straight First Division ratings at the UIL Concert and Sightreading Contest, earning the choir the coveted Sweepstakes Award. Similarly, the Bullard Middle School Mixed Choir took home a First Division rating in Concert and Second Division rating in Sightreading.

Donald Love, a 2008 graduate of Bullard High School, was awarded the 2017 Rookie of the Year award from the Dallas Cowboys Rhythm and Blue hip-hop dance team.

Jose Luis Rinconcillo, 18, of Flint, was arrested by the United States Marshals Service and charged with Aggravated Sexual Assault of a Child. Deputies responded to a welfare check in the 10000 block of CR 1265, where they learned Rinconcillo was discovered to have entered the bedroom of a 13-year-old girl and was in the bed with her.

Members of the Bullard community gathered together for a morning of prayer and fellowship at the 11th annual Bullard Mayor’s Prayer Breakfast, hosted by Mayor Pam Frederick at The Brook Hill School.

Bullard ISD Board of Trustee Place 2 candidate Brian Vestal defeated candidate Brandi Abercrombie in the May general election 262 votes (52.19 percent) to 240 votes (47.81 percent). In addition to Vestal’s election, Bullard ISD Trustees Tony Johnson (Place 1) and John Alexander (Place 3) won new terms to the district’s governing body, running unopposed.

The Bullard High School UIL Academics team brought home medals from the 2017 UIL State Academic Meet. Winners included Nick Calhoon – fourth place in News Writing; and Emma Rhyne – first place and State Champion in Ready Writing and fifth place in Feature Writing. Also attending the State meet were Jacob Vierkant, alternate for Ready Writing; and Makayla Dublin, competing in Literary Criticism.

The Brook Hill School announced the Yiling Cao and Kyle Webb as the valedictorian and salutatorian, respectively, for the Class of 2017.

The Brook Hill Fine Arts Department performed Rodgers and Hammerstein’s Cinderella for its 2017 Spring Musical event, with headlining actors Allie Lake, as Cinderella, and Justin Powell, as The Prince.

American veterans of World War II and the Korean War were celebrated at the 2017 East Texas Salute event, held on the grounds of The Brook Hill School. Included in the event was a keynote address by George Patton Waters, the grandson of World War II Army General George S. Patton, a Patton impersonator, car show, military parade down FM 2493, and tours of Brook Hill’s American Freedom Museum.

Bullard High School announced the students making up the Class of 2017 Top Ten Percent, including Makayla Dublin (valedictorian), Matthew Bradley (salutatorian), Ashley Kethan (third), Kailey Clarke (fourth), Tyler Huffman (fifth), Carley Goode (sixth), Mikayla Russel (seventh), Abigail Ehrman (eighth), Chloe Ducote (T-ninth), Matthew Vierkant (T-ninth), Hannah Reschke (11th), Alani Parks (12th), Baylee Bain (13th), Selena Carter (14th), Abby Hall (15th), Alexis Minick (16th), and Darby Good (17th).

Brook Hill senior students Logan Fitzgerald, Heather McLarry, and Alec Kitt were honored as recipients of the Kyle Lake Foundation Scholarship, in the amount of $2,500.

The Bullard FFA student organization reflected on all of its successes during the 2016-2017 school year. New officers for the 2017-2018 school year were also announced, including Weston Roach, president; Nicole Jones, vice-president; Peyton Moore, secretary; Marissa Self, treasurer; Hunter Low, reporter; Taye McCurley, sentinel; Dalton Russel, chaplain; Heather Coe, historian; Livi Abercrombie, recruitment and retention committee chairman; Brandon Shanholtz, committee chairman; and Gavin Watson, appointed committee person.

Cory Jacob Caraway, 25, of Bullard was arrested and charged with Sexual Assault of a Child after it was discovered he was having a sexual relationship with an underage female.

The Brook Hill School bestowed a total of 63 diplomas to the Class of 2017. The class had claimed over 250 college acceptances, as well as over $4 million in scholarships.

Bullard High School junior Lauren Bright took home the crown as the 2017 Miss Dallas Teen, allowing her to compete for the crown of Miss Texas Teen 2017.

Quinton Gillette, of Dallas, and Stephen Cannon, of Plano, were initially pulled over for speeding by Bullard Police Department officers along Highway 69 S, near the intersection of CR 152 in Bullard, but were arrested and charged with Class B Misdemeanors charges of Possession of Marijuana less that Two Ounces. The duo was booked into the Smith County Jail.

The Bullard Education Foundation honored a total of 15 teachers for their efforts in educating students, while also presenting scholarships to 16 BHS seniors at the annual BEF Achievement Recognition Banquet.

Bullard FFA president Erin Johnson was recognized by the Bullard Kiwanis Club as the organization’s Agriculture Student of the Year.

The 2017-2018 line of the Bullard Panther Band Twirlers was announced, including head twirler Kassidy Robertson, feature twirler Lillian Bloxom, and twirlers Haylee Nish, Mariah Fretwell, Megan Hodge, Kaylee Homan, Chloe Williams, Ally Wilcox, Katie Campbell, Haley Smith, Anja Terho-Streck, and Stella Vaughan.

Bullard ISD presented 169 members of the Class of 2017 with diplomas while honoring their academic achievements at the district’s annual Commencement Exercises.

Bullard ISD Trustees Tony Johnson (Place 1), Dr. John Alexander (Place 3), and Brian Vestal (Place 5) were sworn in, while the district approved its new District of Innovation plan.

The Bullard Ministerial Alliance hosted members of the Bullard High School Class of 2017 at the annual Baccalaureate service, held at Bullard Southern Baptist Church.

Bullard Police Department officers arrested Cole Hilton, 19, of Gladewater on a Felony 1 count of Manufacture/Delivery of a Controlled Substance greater than or equal to Four Grams but less than 400 Grams, as well as a State Felony charge of Manufacture/Delivery of a Controlled Substance less than 28 Grams and a Class B Misdemeanor charge of Possession of Marijuana less than Two Ounces.

Bullard ISD announced the restructuring of its administrative restructuring for the 2017-2018 school year, with Donna Jeffus named as Coordinator of Instructional Alternative Programs and Career and Technical Education; Amy Bickerstaff named as Director of Teaching and Learning; and Cheryl Hendrix as Director of Human Resources.

Students attending Bullard High School were presented with college scholarships and end-of-the-year awards at the annual BHS Academic Awards Presentation event.

Bullard ISD Superintendent Tod Schneider was presented with an award from Smith County Sheriff Larry Smith for the district’s assistance during the search for Kayla Gomez-Orozco in November 2016.

Former Bullard Middle School assistant principal Donny Lee, the principal at Frankston High School, was named as the Lone Finalist for Oakwood ISD’s superintendent vacancy.

Bullard resident Rayburn Hobbs, 82, was arrested by the Cherokee County Sheriff’s Department after calling 9-1-1 informing officials that a person had been shot and killed. The deceased was identified as 69-year-old Jimmie Gale Zinn. Hobbs was charged with Murder and booked into the Cherokee County Jail.


Bullard Mayor Pam Frederick, as well as newly elected council members Ralph Britt and Mark Anderson were sworn in by City Secretary Doris Crockett.

Bullard ISD’s administration recognized the winners of the district’s Teachers and Support Staff of the Year, with Bullard Elementary School teacher Jane Hall honored as Elementary Teacher of the Year, Bullard Middle School teacher Marcia Lierman recognized as Secondary Teacher of the Year, and Amanda Culpepper, named Support Staff Member of the Year.

The Bullard FFA organization used the topic of agriculture to allow students attending Bullard Primary School and Bullard Elementary School about farm life at the annual Bullard FFA Barnyard Buddies Day.

Jessica Vass, 35, of Lindale, turned herself in to authorities in early June after having had caused a three-vehicle accident in Loop 49, just north of Highway 64 in April. The crash report indicated a car driven by Amanda Burkhart, 56, of Garland, was stopped on the southbound side of the roadway with a flat time, with Gary McCrary, 62, of Flint, assisting to change the tire. Vass’s vehicle stuck the back of McCrary’s truck and then Burkhart’s car, causing the vehicles to strike and kill both McCrary and Burkhart. Vass was booked into the Smith County Jail and charged with two counts of Intoxicated Manslaughter with a Vehicle.

Dr. Marjorie Roper, known as “The First Lady of Bullard” celebrated her 96th birthday. Roper’s life has included an over 60-year medical career as Bullard’s only medical doctor.

Bullard’s New Hope Baptist Church celebrated its rich 150-year anniversary with a celebration service.

Justin Carsten, arrested in March for biting a Smith County Sheriff’s Deputy while being detained for being intoxicated and naked in the middle of the road and armed with a shovel, was indicted by a Smith County Grand Jury.

Bullard ISD announced the promotion of two employees to become new principals for the 2017-2018 school year, as Jodie Albritton was named the principal at Bullard Intermediate School and Kenley Dover was named Bullard Middle School principal.

The East Texas Council of Trucking Professionals hosted the 2017 East Teas Regional Truck Driving Championship event in the parking lot of Bullard High School.

Emmitt Harrell Christian, 22, of Cherokee County, was arrested and charged with Impersonating an Officer and Attempted Sexual Assault after stopping a Hispanic female and claiming to have the power to arrest her. Christian then allegedly began to grope and kiss her, telling her she had to have sex with him.

The Bullard High School Panther Band won their sixth consecutive UIL Sweepstakes award with First Division ratings at the UIL Region 21 Concert and Sightreading Contest.

Bullard ISD announced the promotion of four new associate and assistant principals, elevating Lori Anderson to Bullard High School associate principal, Helene Cortinas to Bullard Middle School assistant principal, John Dixon to BHS assistant principal, and Scott Franks to Bullard Intermediate School assistant principal.

Texas District 3 Senator Robert Nichols (R-Jacksonville) was unanimously voted as the Senate’s President Pro Tempore in the 85th Texas Legislative Session.

The Bullard High School Robotics Club competed at the Region 7 Robotics Competition, taking home the first place trophy after competing in several events, including building and programming robots to perform various tasks.

Bullard Boy Scout Troop No. 366 Scout Caden Kutach was the 36th member of the troop to earn his Eagle Scout award.

Nathan Sherman, 19, of Chandler, was killed after being involved in a rollover wreck north on FM 2661, nine miles east of Flint. Sherman’s 1999 GMC Sierra hit a 2005 Toyota 4Runner from behind, driven by James Boreham, 78, who was not injured. Sherman’s passenger, not identified in the report, was also not injured.

Students involved in the Fine Arts Department at The Brook Hill School were recognized for their talents and abilities throughout the 2016-2017 school year at the department’s annual Fine Arts Banquet.


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