Toro, the bull, is Tarrant County College's new mascot. He was recently introduced at an employee appreciation breakfast. He is expected to turn up at TCC events. Toro was recently pictured with TCC's Northeast Campus President Larry Darlage.
Give Bing Thom credit: The much discussed, and cussed, sunken plaza works.
It’s too early to declare Tarrant County College’s new downtown campus a success. Students start classes on Monday, and until a pedestrian bridge is built across the Trinity River, it will always seem unfinished.
But the naysayers who warned that the sunken plaza would be a threatening, dark place got it all wrong. The wide entrance from Weatherford is open and inviting, providing a grand gateway to the river. Walk below street level, and traffic noise seems to almost disappear, with a gurgling waterfall running the length of the area.
The pathway descends in a gentle slope toward the river, masking the 80-foot-plus drop from the entrance to the end of campus. Vancouver architect Thom said he wanted this to be a comfortable walk for a mom pushing a baby stroller, and it’s all of that.
As for the overhang from Belknap, it creates more of an awning than a tunnel. The strip of shade is a respite in the high heat, and it’s not scary in any way.
In 2007, when Ed Bass led an 11th-hour effort to kill the sunken plaza, critics said it would be a dark and foreboding tunnel that would discourage pedestrians and put students at risk.
I think it’s destined to become one of the most important, interesting spaces downtown. Eventually, it will serve as the link between the central business district and the residential-commercial development on the other side of the river, where the Trinity River Vision project will plant its flag.
At the moment, the scorching summer heat is the biggest deterrent; with all the concrete and the trees still small, it feels like you’re baking. The plaza will be infinitely more pleasant when the daytime high is 80 degrees.
And it’s a bit disheartening to walk all the way to end of the pathway and have to stop at a clear plastic barrier. The view of the river is great, but it’s almost a tease: Imagine how much better it will be when you can stroll to the other side.
Hundreds of students crowded the halls of the new John T. White Elementary School looking for their classes at the new East Side campus.
Dad Joseph Moore took his three children to the school, navigating from the cafeteria to the third-grade hallway with his youngest Patrice, hoping his fourth and fifth graders found their own way to the classrooms.
"It's a little hectic, but it's the first day at a new school," he said. "Everyone will figure it out soon enough."
Patrice, meanwhile, was excited to see many old friends from Lowery Road Elementary at her new school. "It's easy to come to the new school because I know most of the people here," she said. "It's a big school and nice."
The $11.8 million campus is among five new schools opening in the Fort Worth school district today. The others are Rosemont Elementary, McClung and Benbrook middle schools and the newTexas Academy of Biomedical Sciences, a specialty high school focusing on medical career pathways.
White, Rosemont, McClung and Benbrook are new buildings built under the 2007 bond program and include various environmentally friendly features, such as a geothermal heating and cooling system.
This is Interim Superintendent Walter Dansby's first day of school since taking the reins of the district in June. Dansby, who formerly oversaw the district's bond program as deputy superintendent, was greeting families and students at White Elementary this morning. So far, he said, he isn't nervous about the new school year as interim.
"No butterflies. I've been in this district 37 years as an employee and another 12 as a student here," Dansby said. "The first day of school is always exciting."
At tomorrow's school board meeting, trustees will begin discussing the search process for a new superintendent. Melody Johnson resigned from the post last spring.
In what it's calling "Maverick Stampede: Welcome Week 2011," the University of Texas at Arlington will kick off the fall semester starting Monday. New this fall are initiatives such as Success U, a two-day minicamp designed to prepare freshmen for academic success, and the Professional Nursing Pathways Program, which provides aspiring nursing students at community colleges a seamless path to earning a bachelor’s degree. Among next week's highlights: 8:30 a.m.-2 p.m. Monday:Move-in Day. More than 4,400 students who will call residence halls and campus apartments home are invited to move in. UT Arlington President James D. Spaniolo and Arlington Mayor Robert Cluck will help lug in pillows, minifridges and bed linens and to welcome students. 8 a.m.: The new north College Park garage at 100 UTA Blvd., between Pecan and Center streets, opens to students, faculty and staff with valid UT Arlington parking decals. City Electric Supply will demonstrate a new General Electric vehicle charging station on the south end of the garage’s ground level from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. The charging station is Arlington’s first public charging station. Dusk: First lighting of the new UT Arlington Gateway Tower at South Cooper Street and UTA Boulevard. The new landmark will glow with a Maverick blue light after dark and greet visitors approaching campus from the north. 9:15 a.m. Tuesday: More than 1,000 freshman join for the opening session of Success U, which kicks off with a rally led by Blaze Maverick and the UT Arlington cheerleaders in the E.H. Hereford University Center Bluebonnet Ballroom, 300 W. First St. Sessions continue through 4 p.m. The two-day minicamp offers sessions on effective note taking, best study habits, stress management and Quiz-a-Prof panels during which professors will discuss their expectations and pet peeves. 4 p.m. Wednesday:MavsMeet Convocation at Texas Hall, 701 W. Nedderman Drive. The traditional gathering includes the award-winning UT Arlington Marching Band and remarks by university and student leaders. Thursday: First day of classes for the fall 2011 semester.
In the video, interim Superintendent Walter Dansby said he was focusing on moving the district forward and not looking back, which includes preparing for new state tests, the new Gold Seal high school programs of choice and new schools opening next week. A key effort he asked school staffers to focus on was finding ways to get parents more engaged.
“As school begins, I want all of you to come up with a campus plan to reach out to parents -- not just the first day but everyday," Dansby said. "Develop a system to send out good news about their kids and develop ways to communicate when there’s not a problem."
Earlier this summer, Dansby told the Star-telegram that a key to turning around academically struggling schools included getting more buy-in from parents and getting them involved in schools. He said then that he was working on various efforts to increase parent participation.
Also highlighted in the convocation was the district's digital parent portal through which moms and dads can access grades, assignments and other information about their students. Officials had hoped to expand that program districtwide by now, but it remains a pilot program available to 26 campuses this year.
Principals from the district's exemplary and recognized schools gave "shout outs" to their staff, students and parents on the video. School board President Ray Dickerson celebrated the progress the district is making in academics.
"As we look to the future, please consider how far we've come," Dickerson said. "We're making tremendous strides in closing the achievement gap. Obviously, there is more work to do, but we’re on the right track."
A better-than-expected budget outlook now has Weatherford school district officials backing away from the $60 extracurricular activity fee that was to go into place this school year.
The district had decided to implement the fee to help with associated costs of any activity held outside of the school day -- such as sports, drill team, band, choir and cheerleading. Some families have already paid the fee and will be reimbursed, officials said in a letter to the community posted today. Those who paid with a credit card should receive credit for the fee (plus the $2.50 processing charge) within the next 10 days while those paying with a check can expect a refund check in the mail within the next 10 business days. Those who recently paid will receive their voided check.
Officials said that though the district will still face a critical cut in funding, increased attendance rates (which is the basis for state funding formulas), increased enrollment and staffers controlling spending costs were enough to eliminate the fee. However, the district still expects to receive about $4.4 million less than last year "so the district will still have critical steps to climb up the economical ladder."
"I just paused a little bit and had some tears ... this is real," said McClung to a crowded auditorium at the campus' opening ceremony today.
The campus is one of five built in the 2007 bond program. It has various green features to help make it more cost effective and environmentally friendly, officials said, including a geothermal heating and cooling system. The campus has two gyms -- one larger than at most high schools and a smaller one that includes a rock-climbing wall.
Interim superintendent Walter Dansby, who oversaw the bond, said the campus was to have a cafeteria that did double duty as an auditorium but officials were able to later include a separate auditorium, which he said will be available for community use as well.
The $34.4 million school opens this month at the site of the former Handley High School, from which McClung graduated. George Mitcham coached at Handley and later at Eastern Hills High School. He and wife Kathryn drove by the new McCulng campus twice a week as it was being constructed.
"It looks so good, just beautiful," said Mitcham, who taught McClung. "This is a lot better than the old school. A lot better."
Classes start Aug. 22. McClung is expected to open with about 500 students, including seventh graders Johanna Almeda and Shelby White. The girls roamed around the halls wondering which classes would be theirs, where the library was and how they would navigate it all.
"It's awesome," Shelby said. "I think the cafeteria will be my favorite part of it. It's like a high school."
Johnna said she was impressed by the main gym, which features a gold and maroon Trojan (the school's mascot) in the center.
"It's really big and cold in the gym," Johanna said. "I like the cold."
The campus is one of four opening this year. The others are Benbrook Middle School and John T. White and Rosemont elementaries. Here is McClung talking about here new school.
An English teacher at Richland High School and a second grade teacher at Kay Granger Elementary School have been named Regional Teachers of the Year in an annual competition sponsored by the Texas Education Agency.
Christina Buce teaches second grade at Kay Granger Elementary, which is in Keller but is part of the Northwest school district. Gertrude "Trudie" Byers teaches gifted and talented students and pre-advanced placement English at Birdville's Richland High School in North Richland Hills.
This year, 49 teachers from 25 school districts in north central Texas participated in the program. The two regional winners now advance to compete against other educators from around the state for the Texas Teacher of the Year award.
Selection committees plan to meet on Monday and expect to name three elementary teachers and three secondary teachers as semifinalists. The winners are to be announced in October.
School starts Aug. 22 for most area public schools with many concerned about what that will mean for the state's strained energy grid. Today Texas Education Agency commissioner Robert Scott sent word to administrators that the Electric Reliability Council of Texas, or ERCOT, has factored the increase in energy associated with the start of school into its forecast of electricity needs.
"ERCOT does not anticipate that the start of school will strain the grid beyond capacity but will continue to closely monitor the weather forecast for the entire state to determine whether any additional conservation measures are necessary," Scott wrote in a letter to administrators. However, he urged them to do what they could to reduce energy use, particularly during the peak hours of 3-7 p.m.
"Our electric supply in Texas is strong but not unlimited," he wrote. "When the conditions are as extreme as those we have seen this summer, we must all do our part to conserve, particularly during peak hours."
His advice for reducing energy during peak hours, which is generally after most schools let out, included setting thermostats two to four degrees warmer than usual, unplugging water fountains in the hallways and avoiding non-essential activities that require electricity, such as charging electronic devices or large copy jobs.
Many districts have already been taking steps to reduce use, including the Fort Worth school. Earlier this month, they urged staff to monitor electric use and reduce it as much as possible at work and at home. One Fort Worth ISD staffer I talked to last week said she had just a small lamp on in her office to conserve electricity.