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#741 Postby TexasStooge » Sat Feb 26, 2005 11:23 am

Bridges to be named for two Margarets

Gifts by Hunt Hill, McDermott to Trinity project to be honored

By EMILY RAMSHAW / The Dallas Morning News

DALLAS, Texas - The first sky-scraping bridge to span the Trinity River over Woodall Rodgers Freeway will be named for Margaret Hunt Hill, the matriarch of the H.L. Hunt family whose Hunt Petroleum Corp. made a $12 million donation to the landmark parks project Friday.

The second bridge, which is waiting for federal dollars and will replace the Interstate 30 bridge, will bear the name of Margaret McDermott – the Dallas philanthropist who has been integral to the bridges' design.

Both announcements were made at Friday's fourth annual Trinity Commons Foundation luncheon, attended by several hundred city and state officials with a vested interest in the project.

"There is no great city in the United States of America that doesn't have generous patrons, people willing to give of their treasure and also of their hearts," said U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison, R-Texas, in a heartfelt tribute to the Hunt family and to Mrs. McDermott. "This vision, when it is accomplished ... is going to be the focal point of Dallas, Texas. We are creating something that's going to make a mark forever."

The contribution from Hunt Petroleum will help fund the design of the Interstate 35E Trinity River bridge – the only bridge that hasn't yet been conceived by renowned Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. And it is the first major gift to the Trinity Trust, the organization charged with raising $110 million in private dollars for the project.

The Margaret Hunt Hill bridge will be "a graceful bridge named after a graceful and beautiful lady," said Gail Thomas, who chairs the Trinity Trust.

Mrs. Hill's health kept her from attending Friday's announcement. But John Creecy, president and CEO of Hunt Petroleum, said the longtime Dallas civic leader has seen videos and photos of the proposed 40-story bridge, and is pleased.

"We're honored we can recognize Mrs. Hill for what she's meant to the city," he said.

The Margaret Hunt Hill bridge, which is currently referred to as the Woodall Rodgers bridge, is the only one that is fully funded. Groundbreaking for the project is scheduled for December.

Dallas voters approved a $246 million bond proposition in 1998 for the Trinity River Project, with the promise of federal dollars and contributions from the private sector. Much of the money for the remaining bridges is tied up in a congressional transportation bill, and could be secured this spring. The I-35E bridge does not yet have a name.

Dallas Mayor Laura Miller said Friday she credits Mrs. McDermott with the impetus for the Calatrava bridges. In December, Mr. Calatrava won the 2005 Gold Medal from the American Institute of Architects – the institute's highest individual honor.

"The bridges have been so magical and seemingly out of reach," she said. "That is you Margaret, all the way."

And Friday's announcement sends a message to the public, Ms. Miller said, that the three Calatrava bridges are going to become a reality. But she said the Trinity River project cannot succeed without the private sector.

"We need $110 million, and we're $12 million into that goal," she said. "Today shows we're going to get there, and it's not going to be hard."

The Trinity Trust is offering to name lakes, parks, trails and other amenities after individuals or organizations that make private contributions to the project.

As far as the bridges are concerned, the city may offer to name them after individuals, said Bob Brown, deputy district engineer for the Dallas office of the Texas Department of Transportation. But the state Legislature is the only body that can officially name a state asset, such as a bridge.

"If an entity wants to name a bridge in honor of someone, we have no problem with that," Mr. Brown said. But until the Legislature approves the names, he said, the city cannot print them on signs that are visible to motorists. Doing so would denote a formal adoption of the name, he said.

Acting City Manager Mary Suhm said once the city has selected the names for all the bridges, she will go to Austin to get them approved.

The turning point for the bridges came in 2001, when the city lost Boeing to Chicago, Ms. Hutchison said. At that point, city leaders realized what they were missing – a focal point downtown that would "last beyond all of our lifetimes."

"I think we took that experience and said we are going to go to the moon," she said. "We're going to beat the pants off other cities.

Staff writer Tony Hartzel contributed to this report.
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#742 Postby TexasStooge » Sat Feb 26, 2005 11:26 am

Victims' 911 call took 2 hours to trace

Pair found dead at Far East Dallas home after call routed to Mesquite

By JASON TRAHAN and HOLLY YAN / The Dallas Morning News

DALLAS, Texas - Dallas police continued to seek clues Friday in the slayings of a member of a Lower Greenville restaurant family and his longtime roommate, both of whom were found bound and stabbed to death in a Far East Dallas home.

It took police two hours to find the victims while they traced a 911 call made from a cellphone that was routed to Mesquite – a problem that emergency agencies often face.

At 1:14 p.m. Thursday, Mesquite police received an emergency cellphone call from the home of Pietro "Pete" Eustachio Jr., 30, and Arturo Lua Meza, 29. Mesquite authorities did not describe the content of the call, other than to say the phone line was left open for some time.

Authorities were able to quickly find the cell tower from which the call originated, but it wasn't until 3:15 p.m. that they determined that the phone belonged to Mr. Eustachio and arrived at his home in the 8400 block of Capriola Lane in Far East Dallas, police and family said. The front door was closed but unlocked. The two men were found upstairs, both bound and stabbed to death. Mr. Eustachio's throat had been cut, according to a police report.

"From the moment the call came in, we made a diligent effort to find out if anyone in possession of that phone needed help," said Sgt. Shannon Greenhaw, a Mesquite police spokeswoman. "Cellphones are a great thing and have probably saved more lives than anyone could ever know, but there are limits to them."

Members of Mr. Eustachio's family, which owns the popular Pietro's Italian Restaurant on Richmond Avenue just off Lower Greenville Avenue, said they understood that the police had trouble responding to the 911 call.

"We just wish they would have gotten there earlier," said sister Claudia Eustachio, 22.

Police on Friday had no suspects or motive and had not recovered a weapon. It was unclear whether anything was stolen from the home.

"Pete's job was he dabbled in estate sales. He was buying and selling stuff," said Sgt. Ross Salverino, a homicide supervisor, adding that Mr. Eustachio's involvement in the family restaurant was limited to overseeing valet services.

Police said a small amount of methamphetamine was found inside the house. Records show that Mr. Meza was arrested in 1995 on suspicion of possession of a controlled substance and unlawful carrying of a weapon, prompting authorities to investigate for drug involvement.

"Whatever the suspect or suspects did or wanted, it was confined to the rooms upstairs that were in the care of Arturo," said Sgt. Salverino. "I can't say at this point that the murders had anything to do with narcotics."

Mr. Eustachio was known in his neighborhood as a generous man who bought ice cream for children, helped mow lawns for those who couldn't and kept an eye out for trouble. No one contacted seemed to know Mr. Meza, who police said lived on and off with Mr. Eustachio for years.

"He worked nights, so he would keep an eye out on the neighborhood while we were at work," Mike Nigo said of Mr. Eustachio. "If he saw something unusual, he'd tell us about it."

While records show no arrests for Mr. Eustachio, officers were summoned to the house on Capriola Lane three times in 2003. Twice, Mr. Eustachio apparently threatened to commit suicide after disputes with his girlfriend but later denied wanting to harm himself to officers. The third call involved a custody dispute with Mr. Eustachio's girlfriend concerning the couple's young son, police said.

Shelia Urquhart, who lives down the block, said Mr. Eustachio had been upset that his girlfriend moved out about a year ago and had taken their son.

"He was really mad about it," Ms. Urquhart said. "He had problems with his baby's mama and her new boyfriend. He told me about a guy making threats, saying, 'You can't come over, you can't see the baby.' "

Sgt. Salverino said that the girlfriend has a husband, but that he has been in immigration custody for weeks.

"It's so early in the investigation, we're leaving all our options open," he said.
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#743 Postby TexasStooge » Sat Feb 26, 2005 11:28 am

Plano ISD's dogs prowl for drugs, bombs

By KIM BREEN / The Dallas Morning News

PLANO, Texas - Few Plano school district employees are as clued in to drugs and bomb threats as a soulful blonde and hyper brunette who spend their days nosing around.

Chara, a yellow Labrador, sniffs out suspicious packages and the like as the district's explosives-detection dog. Gypsy, a black Labrador, searches for ammunition, alcohol and a laundry list of illicit and often abused over-the-counter and prescription drugs.

Dogs have been prowling for contraband in Plano schools, district buildings and parking lots since the 1990s, when heroin use among teens fatally swept through the city. Administrators decided they'd save more money – and have more control – by striking out on their own in 2001, when Gypsy and Chara came on staff.

The district is one of a few statewide that employs its own dogs, though many contract with companies for varying amounts of coverage, or rely on dogs with local police forces, said Gary Holly, who oversees the district's K-9 services. Care for the dogs, their handlers' salaries and vehicles cost less than $100,000 per year, he said.

Nearly every day, Gypsy and Chara are looking for trouble.

"The students know that at any time the dogs can search the classrooms, but they don't know when," said Angela Wright, assistant principal of the district's Special Programs Center K-8, an alternative school.

School administrators recently summoned the dogs when they suspected a suspended student had dealt marijuana to peers.

"We want the kids to know we're aware of what's going on," Ms. Wright said.

No one is naive enough to believe the district can wipe out drug use completely, administrators said. "If we can keep it out of the schools, that's our main objective," Mr. Holly said.

Justin Perrin is a junior at Plano East Senior High who has seen the dogs at work a few times.

"I do think they keep the schools clean. They definitely eliminate drugs in people's lockers and back packs."

While the district hasn't seen anything comparable to the heroin epidemic, Gypsy keeps plenty busy. She has "hit" on a contraband scent about once or twice a week this year, said her handler, Emmett Smith.

Many of those are residual scents – marijuana that was previously kept in a locker but moved out, for example. She's found drugs, alcohol and fireworks 16 times so far this year, all at high schools and senior high schools, according to district data. Last year she uncovered 16 finds total.

Chara has correctly ruled out explosives in two suspicious package incidents when the city's bomb squad was called out, said her handler, Charlette Gabriel. She also allows the district to quickly search sites of bomb threats.

The two dogs don't cover as much ground as people might expect because their work is tiring for the animals. Typically they and their trained, civilian handlers will search a couple of schools a day.

The district has more than 60 schools and about a dozen additional facilities, which makes it difficult to visit all schools often. The dogs search all secondary schools, but are most often called to high schools and senior high schools.

They visit elementary schools to teach the students about the dogs and what they do.

"That's the best thing," said Brant Perry, assistant principal at Hendrick Middle School. "The kids grow up knowing them."

The district does not allow the dogs to search students, so some hide contraband in their clothing. But if Gypsy uncovers a scent in a locker, school administrators can then authorize a student search. Gypsy has made discoveries in student restrooms, where kids sometimes hide drugs to pass to someone else, Mr. Smith said.

She also spends plenty of time in parking lots.

On a recent windy afternoon, she not only discovered an item planted for training purposes by Mr. Smith, but also scratched at a dark blue Honda and uncovered plenty of problems.

Inside, a search uncovered an open 12-pack of beer in the back and a few marijuana seeds in the front seat. The car also wasn't registered for the school's lot, and the Williams High School student didn't have a driver's license – only a learner's permit.

While Gypsy is thrilled with the reward she gets when finding drugs – a few seconds with a toy – Mr. Smith said their most important job is deterring students from bringing them on campus. "To me, that's the most valuable thing."

Becky Brown, president of the district's council of PTAs, said that while some parents might not be thrilled about dogs searching students' things, she thinks they uncover invaluable information about drug use.

"As a parent, I would want to know about it," she said. "I think anything we can do to take action to prevent the use of drugs is great."

The dogs add heft to the district's myriad programs to combat drugs, administrators said.

"They're one of the greatest tools we have in the fight," said Assistant Principal Mr. Perry. He said he's found contraband in some creative places on the campuses he's worked on, but anything out of sight is hard to find.

"We can't sniff it out," he said.

Students know two employees who can.

"I've known students who have actually told me that they either use or they sell and they make it very clear that they don't bring it to school," he said.
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#744 Postby TexasStooge » Sat Feb 26, 2005 11:33 am

Texas defies No Child law on special ed

Officials confirm state failed to show progress, could be sanctioned

By TERRENCE STUTZ / The Dallas Morning News

AUSTIN, Texas – State education officials said Friday that they are overriding a federal rule on testing of special-education students, preventing more than 40 percent of Texas districts from failing under federal standards that require schools to show annual improvement.

Officials also confirmed that Texas, for the first time, failed to meet the adequacy benchmark for states because it fell short in one of 29 measures that are evaluated under federal law. The markdown was for reading performance by special-education students – about 12 percent of the state's enrollment.

That failure could put Texas on the path toward mild sanctions under the No Child Left Behind Act. Individual campuses and districts that repeatedly fail face more serious sanctions and could eventually be forced to replace staff and perhaps close.

Federal education officials could not be reached for comment on possible consequences of the state's defiance over the tests. State officials contend that the No Child law gives them the flexibility to bypass federal standards on special-education tests.

The Texas Education Agency said that nearly 92 percent of the state's 1,037 school districts achieved "adequate yearly progress," the standard required by the federal law. Of the 86 districts that did not meet the standards, a handful were in North Texas – including Carrollton-Farmers Branch, Duncanville and Lancaster.

But if state Education Commissioner Shirley Neeley had not approved 431 districts' appeals over the special-education tests, the failure rate among districts in Texas would have been nearly 50 percent.

Among individual campuses, 94 percent satisfied federal standards, with 402 falling short based on test scores, student attendance, graduation rates and other factors. Results on the 2004 Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills were the main criteria.

An additional 1,316 campuses appealed initial failures and won a reprieve from Ms. Neeley.

Federal limit

The majority of appeals from school districts and campuses were over a federal limit on how many special-education students taking a test other than the TAKS can be counted as "proficient."

That limit – established to prevent schools from having too many students take easier, alternative exams – is 1 percent of the enrollment for each district and campus.

Last year, nearly 9 percent of all Texas students in grades three through 10 took an alternative test, the State Developed Alternative Assessment, for special-education children. That meant that about 8 percent of students were supposed to be counted as "artificial failures" in the final results.

State officials battled with the U.S. Department of Education for several months over the rule, but the department decided last year that Texas would have to comply. TEA officials predicted then that a massive number of districts and schools would fail to make adequate yearly progress.

But Ms. Neeley's action prevented that.

Debbie Ratcliffe, a spokeswoman for the TEA, said the commissioner has authority under the No Child Left Behind Act to consider appeals by school districts that believe they have been treated unfairly under the requirements.

"It's a fairness issue," Ms. Ratcliffe said. "At the time school districts tested their special-education students [in the spring], the final federal regulations had not been published." The rules were issued in May, several weeks after testing was completed.

Ms. Ratcliffe said school districts were required under state law to administer an alternative exam – not the TAKS – to most special-education students.

"Districts were caught between conflicting state and federal laws," she said.

Nearly 90 percent of appeals from the 431 districts that challenged the 1 percent rule were upheld. For the 50 that were turned down, the most common reason was lack of documentation on how many students took alternative tests.

Sanctions

The No Child Left Behind Act requires states to show how they will close achievement gaps and make sure that all students reach academic proficiency in core subject areas. Improvement is reported through the AYP ratings.

Sanctions kick in for states, districts and schools after they fail to make minimum progress. This is the first year for Texas to fail, but the sanctions would be mild even if the state misses again in 2005. Technical advisers from the U.S. Department of Education would be appointed to work with state officials in problem areas.

The 86 Texas school districts that failed to meet the standard this year are not subject to sanctions until they fail a second consecutive year. Then, they must revise their improvement plans, spelling out how they intend to boost test scores and meet other benchmarks.

Of the 402 schools that failed to reach AYP, those most affected are the 291 that receive federal Title I funds for disadvantaged students. Of those, 91 are in their second year of not meeting the standards and are now classified as "in need of improvement." The most significant sanction is that students in those schools may transfer to other schools, with the district providing transportation.

Sanctions intensify for lack of progress in additional years. In the fourth year, schools could be required to replace their staffs, and districts could be abolished and merged with other districts. After five consecutive failing years, schools could be closed.

Ms. Ratcliffe said Texas has joined about a dozen states seeking a halt to the 1 percent rule for testing special-education students.

"We think 1 percent is too low, and 8 to 9 percent may be too high," she said. "The correct level may be in the range of 3 to 4 percent, but we want to do some hard research that the department can consider. ... We agree with the goals of No Child Left Behind, but there needs to be a little more flexibility."

The state also releases its own annual accountability ratings for all school districts and campuses, based on test scores and other criteria that are different from those used under the federal AYP standards. State ratings are generally announced a few months after the end of the school year.
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#745 Postby TexasStooge » Sat Feb 26, 2005 11:39 am

A small fortune for the famous and you

BY KATIE MENZER / The Dallas Morning News

DALLAS, Texas - Renée Zellweger might not be nominated for an Oscar, but she's got $6.82 coming from the state of Texas.

Celebrities have legions of consultants, brokers, analysts and accountants to help balance their substantial books, but even the brightest star's insurance refund check can sometimes fall through the cracks.

That's why the names of some of Texas' favorite celebs are listed in the state's database of people with unclaimed property.

Texas law requires that businesses and financial institutions report unclaimed or abandoned personal property – including payroll checks, stocks, bank accounts, safety deposit boxes and the like – to the state. The comptroller's office releases a list of the owners each year and allows former and current Texas residents to search for their property in an online database on the agency's Web site.

According to the database, Ms. Zellweger is owed $6.82 from Darden Restaurants Inc., parent company of Red Lobster and Olive Garden. The star of Jerry Maguire and the Bridget Jones movies grew up in Katy and attended the University of Texas at Austin, where she earned money waitressing.

But Ms. Zellweger is not alone on the star-studded lost-property list, said Texas Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn.

In 2001, Ms. Strayhorn noticed the name of George Herbert Walker Bush on the list. A bank owed the 41st president $88.12, which Ms. Strayhorn mailed to him in Houston.

Soon after, she received a thank-you letter with a promise that he'd use the cash to take wife Barbara to dinner.

"It shows what a class-act guy he is that he would take time to write a handwritten note," Ms. Strayhorn said.

For you, Willie

A cast of other famous names appears in the state's database. A Willie Nelson from Austin is owed $271.35 from First City Bank. If the cash is his, the musician famous for his IRS blues would have a newfound reason to sing the government's praises.

A few other notable Texas musicians would be wise to give Ms. Strayhorn a call, too. A Lyle Lovett in Spring is owed $1.41, which might be enough to buy "The Road to Ensenada" singer a fast-food empanada.

Edie Brickell – the name of the Oak Cliff-born singer – is owed $82.13 by Chase Bank. And the state of California owes Beyoncé Knowles of Houston $161.85.

Web site database

The cash value of Texas' unclaimed property treasure trove is $1.1 billion, said George Tamayo, manager of the unclaimed property division at the comptroller's office. About 5 million records are in the system, which means a lot of people are missing out on a whole lot of money.

"I guess it proves that we're all human," Mr. Tamayo said.

Each October, the state publishes a list of the owners of unclaimed property equal to or greater than $100 reported in the last year. The Web site database has information about property reported from 1986 to today. The state will hold the unclaimed property until it is claimed, no matter how long it takes.

Steve Wolens, the former state representative married to Dallas Mayor Laura Miller, is owed a total of $150.80 from two companies. Mr. Wolens said he had no idea the boon was awaiting him, but he's not going to turn it down.

He doesn't know what he'll do with the money, but he's got a few ideas. His upcoming wedding anniversary, a night out with his wife or saving to pay the taxes the state Legislature will soon increase are all possibilities, he said.

"I know, I'll contribute it to the strong-mayor campaign, or the weak City Council campaign, or whatever," he said.

Lawrence Marcus, 87, of the famed Dallas department store family said he thinks he has even more in the state's coffers than the $18.77 listed under his name. He said he'll eventually get around to claiming it.

"It is worth the trouble. I'm just lazy, I guess. If you saw my desk, you would understand why I haven't done anything about it," Mr. Marcus said.

Easy street is that much easier for Texas oil magnate T. Boone Pickens and his son, who have at least $892.11 coming from various companies.

"We are aware of unclaimed property and will ultimately move to collect it," Mr. Boone said succinctly.

Rasansky's 10 cents

Dallas City Council member Mitchell Rasansky said he won't collect the 10 cents the state's database said "TXU Electric Co." owes him. He's more worried about why TXU didn't return the dime to his billing address, which he says has been the same for the last 27 years.

"I would like to know how much there is total that they are holding that should go to residences in North Texas," he said.

Dave Gallman, 34, of Dallas might not be a movie star, millionaire or former president, but he's still pleased to hear he's got an extra $63.90 he can spend on a sushi dinner with his girlfriend.

Said the owner of Apt Minds, a small graphic design and Web site development company:

"It's like pennies from heaven."
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#746 Postby TexasStooge » Sat Feb 26, 2005 11:44 am

Dallas ISD teachers cited in TAKS probe

DALLAS, Texas (The Dallas Morning News) - Three teachers at Harrell Budd Elementary are facing possible termination following an investigation into alleged cheating on the TAKS test, DISD officials announced Friday.

A fourth teacher who retired in 2004 and has been consulting with the school will have her contract terminated, school officials said.

Last year, an analysis by The Dallas Morning News found nearly 400 schools in Texas with highly unusual swings in test scores, which has prompted some school districts – including DISD – to conduct investigations to determine whether cheating took place.

Harrell Budd Elementary was one of the schools that The News identified with questionable scores.

In 2003, Budd's third-graders finished in the bottom 4 percent of the state in reading, but its fourth-graders had the second-highest scores of more than 3,000 Texas schools.

"We have taken this situation seriously and are moving to terminate three employees from the district, while canceling a consulting contract with the fourth," DISD interim superintendent Larry Groppel said in a written statement. "We want to send a clear message that cheating is not going to be tolerated in this district."

The DISD release stated that 34 other schools identified by The News as having unusual test score swings were cleared of potential wrongdoing, and Dr. Groppel asserted that no evidence exists of widespread cheating in district schools.

Dr. Groppel said the district had interviewed 37 students at Budd who were in classes where questionable results were found. Teachers at the school in the 2003-04 and 2004-05 school years also were questioned. The questionable results at Harrell Budd Elementary appear to be limited to one grade level and involve four teachers employed at the school last year, he said.

"We have concluded that there were violations of testing procedures and protocol by the four teachers in question," Dr. Groppel said. "We do not believe the irregularities extend to other grade levels, nor do we have reason to believe that the school administration was involved in any testing improprieties."

The names of the three current teachers and one retired educator were not released. All were fourth-grade teachers last year.

All are accused of somehow enabling incorrect results on the TAKS test. DISD would not say how the cheating occurred, whether students were involved or if changes were made to the tests.

DISD spokesman Donald Claxton said the investigation used more statistical evidence than the one in The Dallas Morning News. He acknowledged that The News' reports led to more stringent monitoring of the TAKS test, which is being administered in Dallas and in schools around the state.

The teachers involved are on paid leave until the termination process is complete.

WFAA ABC 8 also contributed to this report.
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#747 Postby TexasStooge » Sat Feb 26, 2005 12:15 pm

Bash turns out tons of meat with a side of humor

By BRUCE NICHOLS / The Dallas Morning News

HOUSTON, Texas – From recycled beer cans alone, it raises enough money for two college scholarships worth $10,000 each. More than 180,000 people attended last year, consuming at least 40 tons of beef, pork and chicken.

This weekend's 32nd annual World's Championship Bar-B-Que, kicking off the three-week Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo at Reliant Stadium, has size, symbolism and purpose that make it no ordinary picnic.

"It's the largest barbecue, and anything that's the largest represents Texas," said Nancy Van Alstine, who with husband Leon and friends travels 200 miles from Marshall every year to participate. "It's competition. That's Texas."

Allen Blakemore, a political consultant who helps run the event as a volunteer, described it as "fun for a good cause." Since 1957, the rodeo and associated events have raised $100 million for scholarships. The barbecue alone brought in more than $1 million last year.

There are 342 groups competing from booths sprawled on a parking lot at the stadium where the rodeo takes place. They compete in categories: best barbecue, most colorful booth, cleverest team skit, cleanest area, to name a few.

The event opened Thursday night and runs through today, when the judges will pick winners.

Most of the booths host invitation-only parties for sponsors, but for $6, the public can wander among the booths, take in the scene and enjoy food and entertainment in a big public area.

There's a lot to see because hardly anyone just throws meat on a plain backyard grill. They want to make a statement. Booths have colorful names, elaborate decorations and outlandish equipment.

There are Mad Cow cookers, the Devil's River Mountain Men, the Inlaws and Outlaws, the Belly Up Rod & Gun Club. There are faux Alamo fronts and Old West Saloons.

The Mountain Men have "mountains" made of foamed chicken wire over PVC frames. They also have a water-powered rotisserie – a big wooden water wheel turned by a pumped stream of water rotated a whole pig on a spit Friday.

It may be make-believe, but it speaks to Western heritage, said John Dagley, a 38-year-old lawyer with the Mountain Men. "As much as we might be removed from it in the fourth-largest city in the country, we still like to touch base with it," he said.

The Holy Cow Cookers may be the most elaborate. Inside their tent, they have a fancy wooden bar, an espresso machine and a bakery. The crew can sleep in a bunkhouse out back. "I want people to walk in and say, 'Wow,' " said honcho Randy Pauly.

There are custom-made cookers built out of oilfield pipeline caps. Some are made to look like pistols, complete with smoke coming out of the barrel. One was built into an old washing machine.

"We was out at the river drinking beer and fishing, and we seen an old washing machine in a creek, and we thought we'd make a cooker out of one," explained Garry Kuciemba, 41, of Sealy-based Country Cookers.

You can get more than beef, pork or chicken. People cook alligator, emu, rattlesnake and goat. And, of course, there's the usual potato salad, beans, cakes and cookies.

The cooking competition has a serious side. Houston is a stop on the major-league barbecuing circuit. Winners from Houston go to elite competitions elsewhere – Tennessee and, believe it or not, Europe.

Only beef brisket, pork ribs and chicken are actually judged here. Entries are rated on taste, smell, texture and appearance, said veteran judge Paul Case.

But there are a whole lot of unserious competitors, participating mainly for the fun and the charity. Take the Mountain Men, a team that grew out of a hunting lodge visit to West Texas. They have yet to win for food but have nine awards in categories such as booth originality and skit.

"They can't cook. They can't keep it clean. But they have a lot of fun," Mr. Blakemore said with a laugh.
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#748 Postby TexasStooge » Sat Feb 26, 2005 8:34 pm

Teachers Fired For Cheating TAKS

DALLAS, Texas (KXAS NBC 5) -- Three Dallas Independent School District elementary school teachers are being fired Friday for their participation in a cheating controversy involving the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test. The district also terminated the contract of a consultant.

The teachers, all from Harrell Budd Elementary School in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas, were accused of supplying answers to the test to their fourth-grade students. A district representative said the teachers supplied the answers while the test was adiminstered.

Donny Claxton, the DISD spokesman, said the cheating incident was isolated to Budd Elementary and is not a districtwide problem.

"This situation involves four out 10,500 teachers," Claxton said.

District officials will continue investigating possible cases of cheating.
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#749 Postby TexasStooge » Sat Feb 26, 2005 8:35 pm

Jury Takes Weekend Break In Trial Of Day Care Death

Jurors Close To Deciding Reaching Verdict

DALLAS, Texas (KXAS NBC 5) -- A jury did not make a decision Friday in the trial of a Dallas day-care worker who left a child in a hot SUV, ending the 8-month-old boy's life.

The jury left for the weekend after deliberating Thursday and Friday without reaching a verdict.

NBC 5 reported that jurors told the judge they were close to a decision, but would likely not reach a verdict that evening.

In response, the judge allowed the jurors to take an un-sequestered weekend break.

The fate of Conrad Proctor rests in the hands of the jury.

Proctor has pleaded guilty in the death of Jordan Thomas.

The baby died in Aug. 2003 after Proctor left him in the back of a hot Suburban.

Prosecutors believe the former day-care worker deserves to go to jail.

"We can't second-guess the jury. You would assume they are leaning toward probation, but you can never tell," Defense Attorney Craig Watkins said.

"As a direct result of his choice ... the 8-month-old died in a hot, sweltering Suburban," Assistant District Attorney Shelley Hallman said.
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#750 Postby TexasStooge » Sun Feb 27, 2005 2:29 pm

Aledo district OKs bond propositions

By Martha Deller, Star-Telegram Staff Writer

ALEDO, Texas - Despite scattered showers, a record 2,817 voters turned out Saturday to approve the Aledo school district's $52.68 million bond issue to build new educational and extracurricular facilities.

The turnout, which included 1,074 early voters, was about 800 more than the turnout last May, when a $45 million bond issue that lumped sports and schools into one proposition was rejected by about 200 votes.

This time, voters approved a $34.9 million proposition for a new elementary school and other school additions by 1,840 to 976.

A second proposition -- $17.75 million for a new 8,000-seat complex for football, soccer and track and other sports improvements -- passed by 1,555 to 1,262.

Superintendent Don Daniel credited a 75-member citizens committee with helping to pass the bond issues.

"The person-to-person of the committee in getting out the information and the vote made all the difference," he said.

Committee Chairman Pat Kemp said about 50 committee members were celebrating the victory at his home Saturday night.

The school tax rate is expected to increase by 5.4 cents this year or 16.2 cents over three years to pay for the bonds. The increase will not affect those who have applied for over-65 homestead exemptions.
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#751 Postby TexasStooge » Sun Feb 27, 2005 2:30 pm

Facility tries new push to get federal funding

By Mitch Mitchell, Star-Telegram Staff Writer

FORT WORTH, Texas - Advocates for the Northside Community Health Center are trying again to get federal funding that would help care for undocumented immigrants and the uninsured in Tarrant County.

Last year, advocates applied for a federal grant to fund the clinic and have it designated as a federally funded community health center.

Late last year, they received word that the center had not been funded.

The center received a 93 score on that application, one point shy of the funding minimum, said David Cecero, chief executive officer of the JPS Health Network.

"That's way up there. We're getting close," he said.

The JPS Health Network and the University of North Texas Health Science Center jointly operate the Northside center.

The coalition made another application to the Health Resources and Services Administration in December and should know in April whether the center will receive funding.

If the grant application succeeds, the center will become Tarrant County's first federally funded community health center.

Tarrant County is one of two urban areas in Texas without a federally funded community health center. Corpus Christi is the other.
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#752 Postby TexasStooge » Sun Feb 27, 2005 2:31 pm

Motorcyclist dies in wreck

FORT WORTH, Texas (Star-Telegram) - A 23-year-old Fort Worth man was killed early Saturday when he was thrown from his motorcycle into a utility pole in southeast Fort Worth.

Lt. Gene Jones, Fort Worth police spokesman, said the man, identified as Henry Johnson, appeared to be driving west at high speed in the 5000 block of East Berry Street when his motorcycle hit a curb about 2:40 a.m. Saturday.

Johnson, who was not wearing a helmet, died at the scene, Jones said.

Jones said Johnson was taken to John Peter Smith Hospital, where he was pronounced dead of a skull fracture, according to a Tarrant County Medical Examiner's Office report.
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#753 Postby TexasStooge » Sun Feb 27, 2005 2:32 pm

Paying Respects

Friends gather to remember slain mom, son

By Scott Streater, Star-Telegram Staff Writer

FORT WORTH, Texas - Hours after Lisa Underwood and her 7-year-old son, Jayden, were buried in a private service, more than 100 people gathered Saturday to celebrate the lives of their two friends.

The bodies of Underwood, who was seven months pregnant, and Jayden were found Tuesday in Denton County. Stephen D. Barbee, who police say admitted suffocating the two, has been charged with capital murder.

Despite Saturday's damp weather, dozens crammed into Boopa's Bagel Deli, the popular bagel shop co-owned by Underwood. They hugged and talked about the impact Lisa and Jayden Underwood had on their lives.

Cynthia Pigeon said her family was blessed to have known Underwood.

When Pigeon and her family moved to Fort Worth in August, they stopped to eat at Boopa's. Exhausted from moving boxes and furniture, and with no dishes unpacked, Underwood handed Pigeon a huge pot of tomato soup, muffins and croissants for her two sons -- at no charge.

Pigeon and her family have eaten at the deli every Saturday since.

"Lisa was one of the first people we met in Fort Worth, and her hospitality meant so much," she said, her voice choked with emotion. "So we just wanted to come here today. We just wanted to come and pay our respects."
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#754 Postby TexasStooge » Sun Feb 27, 2005 2:33 pm

2 indicted on charges of bribery and theft

By Max B. Baker, Star-Telegram Staff Writer

FORT WORTH, Texas - A former Tarrant County tax officer and a local businesswoman who are accused of cheating the county out of more than $700,000 were indicted Friday on bribery and theft charges.

They are accused of devising a scheme to keep money paid to them to handle tax, title and registration paperwork for auto dealers.

Joe Shannon, chief of the Tarrant County district attorney's economic-crime unit, said the case was the most voluminous his office has handled in 25 years.

Three investigators spent 14 months reviewing more than 25,000 documents to determine the extent of the problem, he said.

"As far as we know, these were the only two people responsible for causing this mess, and they'll have to answer for it in court," Shannon said. "I'm glad to get it past this point because it's been a pot load of work."

Janet Atchison, 49, a 17-year county employee who was fired last year, was indicted on two counts accusing her of accepting a bribe and misapplying funds between $100,000 and $200,000. If convicted, she could be sentenced to a maximum of 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine on each count.

Atchison lives in Lake Charles, La. Her attorney, Don Carter, had no comment on the indictment but said he expected his client to surrender to the sheriff next week.

Sabrina Burrus, 49, a business owner who was deputized as a county agent, was indicted on a count of theft of property between $100,000 and $200,000 by a public servant, a felony that carries a maximum sentence of 99 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Burrus is also accused of bribery and of misapplying $100,000 to $200,000. If convicted, she faces up to 20 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Burrus' two companies, S Company and Title Heaven, handled local auto dealers' registration payments for the county.

Burrus lives in Grandview, south of Fort Worth. Her attorney, Jim Minter, was out of town Friday and did not return a phone call seeking comment.

The district attorney's office investigated at the request of Tarrant County Tax Assessor-Collector Betsy Price after about $660,000 in checks to the county bounced in December 2003.

Price said that since discovering the problems, her office has undergone a complete reorganization that includes a new internal-audit department and a review of how dealers are bonded.

"It made everyone take a closer look," Price said. "I think they've done a thorough investigation. I don't think it's going on anywhere else."

Burrus, who was deputized by Price's predecessor, June Garrison, apparently couldn't cover checks written to her by local car dealers, according to county officials.

Title-service companies like S Company and Title Heaven are authorized to pick up checks written by car dealers to cover registration fees and sales taxes.

The companies then deliver the checks to the county tax office, which pays the state. Auto dealers pay the title companies a fee, generally $5 to $9 per vehicle.

Many of the larger vehicle dealerships employ their own title clerks.

Burrus, however, cashed auto dealers' checks to pay for her own expenses, according to prosecutors. As she got further behind, Burrus used checks for new registrations to cover previous checks, prosecutors said.

In late 2003, Burrus acknowledged to county officials that she didn't have the money to cover the registrations she was handling. While her company was covered by a $400,000 bond, the county found that she owed more than $660,000.

Eventually, investigators found that she was more than $700,000 in the red, officials said.

An official said that Atchison, as Burrus' supervisor, was paid to help put together the deals that allowed Burrus to use checks for one set of titles and registrations to pay off another, an official said.

To cover the missing checks, Tarrant County paid the state about $700,000 for the titles and registrations, Tarrant County Auditor Renee Tidwell said Friday.

Price said the county is negotiating with the bonding company that held the policy covering Burrus' companies. She said the county also has an employee-crime-shield bond for $500,000.

"In the end, hopefully the taxpayer will not be out anything," she said.
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#755 Postby TexasStooge » Sun Feb 27, 2005 2:34 pm

7 schools taken off TEA's fail list

By Cynthia L. Garza, Star-Telegram Staff Writer

FORT WORTH, Texas - Seven of 10 schools in the Fort Worth area that had to let students transfer to other campuses because the schools did not meet federal standards for back-to-back years are no longer considered failing, but they must still allow transfers until the end of the school year.

The Texas Education Agency released a final list this week stating how the state's public schools met the Adequate Yearly Progress standard under the federal No Child Left Behind law. Nearly 84 percent of all schools statewide met the standard, which is based partly on performance on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills exam.

Though all schools are rated under the system, only schools that receive federal funding because they serve many poor children face sanctions.

In September, the agency released a preliminary list of schools that had to let students transfer to better-performing schools. The initial list of failing schools came out before the schools could appeal.

Statewide, of the 199 schools that were originally subject to sanctions, 108, or 54 percent, were granted an appeal by the agency and are no longer considered failing.

In the Fort Worth school district, Diamond Hill-Jarvis and North Side high schools and Meacham, Stripling, Forest Oak and Dunbar middle schools are now classified as having met the federal standards.

Carter-Riverside and Polytechnic high schools and Meadowbook Middle School had their appeals denied.

Lake Worth High School, in the Lake Worth school district, was also taken off the failing list.

Lake Worth Superintendent Janice Cooper said the district now meets federal standards because of improved high school math test scores.

All the schools that were initially deemed to be failing must continue to implement the school choice requirement and any plans for improvement this year, the agency says.

About four in five of the appeals granted by the agency were due to the testing of special-education students.

Over the past year, the state agency and the U.S. Education Department have disputed how to count these exams under No Child Left Behind.

Because the Texas Education Agency gave local school districts instructions to follow state guidelines last year, it granted appeals to schools and districts if they failed the federal standards because of the conflicting laws.

The states have full authority over the appeal process, she said.

Texas and about a dozen other states will continue to challenge the Education Department on how they use alternative tests to rate schools, agency spokeswoman Debbie Graves Ratcliffe said.

Local schools that had a reversal of the original "failing" rating celebrated their status change Thursday and Friday.

Meacham Middle School Principal Manuel Cantu said they had cake and ice cream Thursday, and North Side High School Principal Cathleen Richardson said teachers were giving a lot of high-fives throughout the day.

Despite the change in status, "we still are carrying forth with our plans for school improvement," which include working to improve the academic performance of the school's limited-English-proficient students, Richardson said.

Whether the schools remained on or were taken off the list, "this was a wake-up call for people to say let us re-evaluate what we're doing and how we're doing it," said Pat Linares, Fort Worth deputy superintendent for school management and instruction.

The Fort Worth district filed appeals for 46 schools that initially failed to meet the federal standard. Of those, the agency granted 39 appeals.

In addition to the three Fort Worth schools that failed initially -- and were denied an appeal -- three other schools failed to meet the federal benchmark for the first time this year.

Paschal High School, Daggett Middle School and the Center for New Lives did not meet the federal standard for the first year. If they fail to meet the federal standards again next year, they will be subject to sanctions.

Staff Writer Martha Deller Contributed to This Report.
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#756 Postby TexasStooge » Sun Feb 27, 2005 2:35 pm

Police: No indication of hostage

By Mitch Mitchell, Star-Telegram Staff Writer

FORT WORTH, Texas - There is no indication that anyone was held hostage by Dino Gomez, a 40-year-old Fort Worth man fatally shot by police on New Year's Day, Lt. Mark Krey, a police spokesman, said this week.

The shooting is still under investigation, and Detective B.A. Jamison, who is examining the incident, did not comment on it.

Initially, reports indicated that someone was being held hostage inside a residence in the 1500 block of West Hammond Street, said Lt. Abdul Pridgen, who was then a spokesman for the Police Department.

But James George, the man who was identified as the hostage, said he left the house on his own and police officers would not let him return.

George, who is Gomez's stepfather, said he told police that there was a shotgun in his bedroom but that it was old and there was no ammunition.

Police said Gomez pointed a weapon at one officer and was shot after refusing to drop it. Gomez had slit his wrist, and officers shot gas rounds into the house to try to get him to come outside, police said.
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#757 Postby TexasStooge » Sun Feb 27, 2005 2:39 pm

Fish bring people together during annual Family Fishing Day

IRVING, Texas (Irving Rambler) - Beneath cloudy skies, young and old alike gathered at the Northwest Park Pond to enjoy Irving Parks and Recreation’s annual Family Fishing Day.

The Irving Christian Anglers helped coordinate the event. Club members gave advice to those struggling to catch fish and helped novice fisherpeople bait hooks. Each hour, the club held a drawing and six lucky youngsters, 12-years old and younger, won new rod and reels.

Representatives of Northwest Recreation Center gave away hot chocolate, water, and snacks to those fishing and corn to be use as bait for the fish.

“We have been holding this event for over 10 years,” Bill Beavan, Northwest Recreation Center supervisor, said. “We collaborate with the Texas Parks and Wildlife; they donate anywhere from 1,000 to 1,500 fish and the city buys 1,000 to 1,500 fish. The pond is stocked with rainbow trout, which is a unique cold-water fish. We offer this event to the community every year. It is a great time to bring the family out and have the experience of catching a cold-water fish. This event is an opportunity for the community to come together, socialize, fellowship and meet their neighbors. People have a chance to relax, fish and learn a new hobby.”

Irving Christian Anglers meet the second Thursday of every month; they fish 10 times a year. The club welcomes all fisherpeople, but has a specific need for fisherpeople who do not own boats, as most of the current members are boat owners. If you would like more information about the Irving Christian Anglers, call 972-253-9023.
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#758 Postby TexasStooge » Sun Feb 27, 2005 2:45 pm

New classes scheduled for Citizens Police Academy

IRVING, Texas (Irving Rambler) - A Citizens Police Academy training class will begin March 1st. This is an excellent opportunity to learn more about your Police Department and the City of Irving. The classes are from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. on Tuesday nights with one Saturday class; there are 12 classes total.

For more information visit http://www.irvingpd.com. There is also an application that you can print. A class conducted entirely in Spanish will begin March 31st on Thursday nights, and there is an application on the website in Spanish.
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#759 Postby TexasStooge » Sun Feb 27, 2005 2:52 pm

Farewell reception honors Marge and Morris Parrish, former Irving mayor

IRVING, Texas (Irving Rambler) - Morris and Marjorie (Marge) Parrish were honored during a reception hosted by friends and organizations in the Irving area, including the Sister Cities group of the Greater Irving-Las Colinas Chamber of
Commerce, the Irving Heritage Society and the Irving Healthcare Foundation. The longtime Irving residents and civic leaders are moving to Colorado after participating in the life and history of Irving for three
decades.

The reception room overflowed with people standing in the adjacent hallways as Mr. Parrish said a few words to the crowd. Over 250 friends and well-wishers attended the reception in the ABC Rooms of the Irving Arts Center on Feb. 20.

“The 31 years that we have been here we have been privileged to work with a lot of people: the hospital, the arts community, the city and the church as well,” Mr. Parrish said.

“For us, it has been a good 31 years.” “I would hope that there would continue to be an interest in doing for Irving the things that are good for Irving. I would hope that more people would get involved in the political arena. Many people seek office who shouldn’t be elected; and many people who should be elected don’t seek office. This is not a negative thing; it is just life,” Mr. Parrish said.

“I do hope that there will be a tremendous effort on the part of the city to attract corporate people here through relocation and the retention of those companies, because it is the secret of the success of Irving. You need the employee base of large companies so that home values improve and the tax base will be maintained.” “You want your children to stay in the city where they were raised, but unless you meet those children’s needs you are not going to retain them; part of that has to do with the quality of life, education and jobs. I would hope that the city council and the school system would adopt some type of cooperative programs that would assure these things are going to be available. If they do, this city can become what many of us have envisioned and Mr. Carpenter envisioned,” Mr. Parrish explained.

“The reason we are moving to Colorado is because our daughter lives there with two children, and we feel it is important to be there to help them. So we can be the kind of grandparents that we would like to be and never have had the privilege of being. We think it is going to be wonderful fun to going to church, shopping, eating and being a family. Nobody should feel sorry for us because we will have coffee every morning looking at Pike’s Peak and the mountains,” Mr. Parrish said. Both Mr. and Mrs. Parrish are charter members of the Irving Heritage Society. Mrs. Parrish served as that organization’s president for two consecutive terms that began in 1985. She also served on the Irving Committee for the Texas State Sesquicentennial.

The couple moved to Irving in 1973 when Mr. Parrish was selected as the secondadministrator of the Irving Community Hospital, replacing the retiring Al Scheidt. Parrish directed the hospital from 1973 until 1987, when he elected to assume the leadership of the Irving Arts Center as its interim executive director. Then, from 1995 until 1999, the Honorable Morris Parrish was elected and served as Irving’s Mayor and as a member of the city council.

The Parrishes have been actively involved in Plymouth Park Baptist Church, and Mr. Parrish served there as a deacon and Sunday school teacher. In 1987, the couple traveled to Maceio, Brazil, to participate in an outreach program where they helped build a church.

The Parrishes also purchased and renovated the home of Otis Brown, an Irving founder. The residence has housed three Irving mayors, including Otis Brown and his son, Lynn. While the Parrishes lived in the home, it was opened for many public functions.
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#760 Postby TexasStooge » Sun Feb 27, 2005 2:54 pm

ICE Awards Welcome the Why Guy.

IRVING, Texas (Irving Rambler/WFAA ABC 8) - The fifth annual ICE Awards will be hosted by the Why Guy, Mike Castellucci. The awards ceremony rewards outstanding achievements by Irving ISD students and staff in six categories. Castellucci, a “special assignments” reporter for the WFAA Channel 8 Daybreak show, promises to make the evening memorable with his unique brand of humor.

ICE (Irving Celebration of Excellence) Awards are given in elementary, middle and high school classifications and six categories: Academics, Fine Arts, Athletics/Physical Education, Community Service/Citizenship, Special Campus/District, and Innovative Programs.

The ICE Awards will begin at 7 p.m. on March 10 in the Irving High School auditorium. The event is free and open to the public.
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