Category Archives: Featured Stories

Irving ISD welcomes over 300 new teachers

Irving ISD welcomed nearly 330 new teachers to its ranks during the 62nd annual Back-To-School Luncheon presented in the Nimitz High School cafeteria on Wednesday, Aug. 2.

New teachers and professionals joined the staffs of every Irving elementary, middle and high school. They were welcomed to the district by members of the city council, school board, fellow teachers, and Superintendent, Dr. Jose Parra. 

“I can give all of you, as new staff members, the assurance that we will give you the support that you want, the feedback you deserve, and the students that you’re going to come to love,” Parra said. “Our kids will give you more than you could ever dream they could, if you give them that first. I think that’s the amazing thing about our students and our school district. They appreciate the smallest kindness and will always give you more than you think they can, if they think you care about them in the least.”

The event was sponsored by Michaels’. The company gave all the incoming teachers gift cards to help prepare their classrooms for the school year. The district also gave out its annual “Spirit Award” for the group with the most school spirit. This year’s recipients will be teaching at Britain Elementary School.

For many of these teachers, Irving ISD classrooms will be their first teaching positions. Emily Hartwig will be teaching 7th grade humanities at Ladybird Johnson Middle School. From a family of educators, Hartwig is looking forward to teaching in the same school district her father taught in years ago.

“Both of my parents are teachers and I’ve always been around education,” Hartwig said. “One day, I just started thinking about what I really wanted to do, and I liked helping kids, so that’s kind of where I landed. My dad actually taught for Irving ISD for 13 years. He loved it. He felt like they really backed new teachers and they make sure that they provide the resources to build teachers. Coming in as a new teacher, I wanted somewhere that would provide the resources and support me along the way. That’s why I chose Irving ISD.”

Hartwig enjoys teaching middle school students in particular, because she believes they are at an age where their teachers can really make a difference to their futures.

“I feel like they’re at a point where they’re starting to look towards the future and looking towards what they want to do as a career,” Hartwig said. “I feel like I can really help lead them down whatever path they choose and let them know that they can succeed however they want to with whatever path they choose.”

Incoming teacher, Jeremiah Fincher, has taught 6th through 8th grade for the last eight years. This year, he will be teaching Texas History, World History and PE at Ladybird Johnson Middle School.

“My whole family were pretty much educators: my grandparents, my mom, my sister, aunts, uncles,” Fincher said. “It’s basically what I’ve wanted to do my whole life.

“Irving is very unique. It’s in a big area and is a big town, but it’s really got a small city vibe to it.”

Jordan Schneider, another first-time teacher, will be teaching 8th grade English, language arts and reading at Crockett Middle School.

“I worked with youth in a really poor community and saw how teachers treated their students,” Schneider said. “It just wasn’t a really good environment, and I realized the students needed somebody who cared about them. It was too late for me to change my major, so I decided I was going to get my alternate certification, because I can’t complain about something if I don’t do something about it.”

Mark your calendar!

Back-to-School Nights
August 15-18

Each campus in the district will host a back-to-school event that will give families and students the opportunity to meet teachers, drop off school supplies and become familiar with the school. In addition, those who have not completed all steps of the registration process can do so at these events. The schedule is as follows:

Tuesday, August 15 – high schools, 5 to 7 p.m.

Wednesday, August 16 – middle schools, 5 to 7 p.m.

Thursday, August 17 – elementary schools, 5 to 7 p.m.

Friday, August 18 – early childhood schools, 2 to 4 p.m.

School Supply Drive
August 18, 6 – 7:30 p.m. 

First Baptist Church in Irving (403 S. Main Street) will be having a School Supply Drive to help provide students with the tools they need to succeed. Parents of Kindergarten – 5th grade students may pick up a free package of school supplies, while supplies last. 

Irving recruits new sports complex


Perhaps the only person more excited than Irving city officials to attend the July 20 hard hat tour of the new Drive Nation sports complex was the facility’s owner, Jermaine O’Neal.

“Obviously it’s been a long process to get to this point,” O’Neal said. “It’s taken a lot of long nights and a lot of long days, and to be honest, a lot of people thought it couldn’t be done.”

That process began two years ago, when the five-time NBA All-Star received a call from his Cowboys season ticket account manager. O’Neal was unsure if he was going to renew his tickets, because he had been struggling to get his sports complex idea off the ground in Keller, Texas. His account manager connected him with John Terrell, Vice President of Commercial Development at DFW International Airport and former Mayor of the city of Southlake.

The game changer, O’Neal admits, was this area panned out both athletically and academically for his daughter. Located off Rental Car Drive near DFW airport, the 85,000 square foot complex is designed for all ages and tailored toward youth athletes. It includes 6 basketball courts, 8 volleyball courts, a turf field, batting cages and pitching tunnels, a sprinting track, weight room, hydrowork training room, as well as offices, team meeting rooms, and a kitchen.

“This is a corporate headquarters,” O’Neal said. “I don’t believe a facility for amateurs should look like a box gym. When they walk through these doors, we want them to feel as if they’re walking into the Cowboys arena, as if they walked into the Mavs headquarters.”

Construction on the $10.4 million, 16-acre youth sports facility started roughly eight months ago and is slated to open in the middle of October.

The complex is managed by Sports Facilities Advisory: Sports Facility Management (SFA and SFM) and focuses on performance training, nutrition, and wellness education. This headquarter facility will incorporate some of the latest sports science and technology including a shot tracker where amateur and professional athletes can monitor their field goal percentages or free throw percentages. O’Neal says the technology is used as a compliment to helping kids grow mentally as well as physically.

“Kids are always going to get bigger, stronger, and faster by nature because they’re getting older, but it’s that mental process that sets you up for everything,” O’Neal said. “If your mentality is all wrong, it doesn’t matter whether you can shoot, dribble, or play the game, so we want to create this environment where life lessons and athletic lessons are the exact same thing.”

At the start of 2016, DFW airport’s commercial real estate team, led by Terrell, informed the city of Irving they had a prospect looking to build a facility within Irving’s city limits. O’Neal’s team was also looking at five other cities including Keller and Frisco.

“Jermaine was looking at other outlying areas,” said Jay Ory, director of business development and marketing for Drive Nation, “but with this being on the Dallas-Fort Worth airport grounds, we thought it would be centrally located to attract not only Dallas-Fort Worth participants from surrounding communities but also out-of-towners that come in for these elite tournaments. Just imagine, you can fly right into DFW airport and there’s a cluster of Irving hotels surrounding the location. It’ll be very easy and convenient for these tournament participants and families to get to Drive Nation.”

Upon hearing of O’Neal’s project, the Irving Chamber of Commerce, city officials, and Irving ISD acted quickly to sit down with O’Neal and the Drive Nation team to learn more about the project.

“Any time we have a business that comes to the city of Irving, we ask them how we can help,” Councilman Dennis Webb said. “It’s their vision, but we want to partner with them and assist, because it’s going to benefit us. We want them to be successful.”

Drive Nation estimates a $13.1 million dollar economic impact for the DFW areas and surrounding communities. The real value, O’Neal says, lies in education and that begins with the parents.

“The parent becomes paralyzing for the kid,” O’Neal said. “They want their kid to be so good, they think their kid is Michael Jordan and the kid can barely dribble. Some people grow early, some people grow late. That’s mentally, physically, emotionally. It’s important for parents to be patient. If the kid is working, don’t drive him or her to the ground where they don’t want to play anymore.”

For at least the first year, O’Neal will serve as the complex’s basketball director.

“I’m a very aggressive personality when it comes to doing it right,” he said. “There’s no concessions to a talented kid that wants special treatment because he or she can play. So we’re going to be as I lead. In order for us to be the best version to get to what we’re trying to do, we’ve got to have great leadership.”

Drive Nation was founded in 2016 by O’Neal in Dallas as a grassroots youth sports organization that also hosts a basketball skills academy and an AAU team. They have partnerships with some of the largest youth sports providers in the country including Nike and AAU, the largest amateur sports organization in the country. By hosting national tournaments including USA volleyball tournaments, AAU tournaments, and Nike EYBL, some of the top high school and college players and coaches in the country will come to the area. That economic drive, Webb said, will help propel other new building projects.

“(This venue) is going to draw people in who then can go to our music factory,” Webb said. “Once they get here, they can go right down the street and visit this world class music factory and entertainment venue.”

Set the Date!

Free Genealogy Classes
August 4 – 18, 12:30 p.m.
Free genealogy classes are available to the public provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints, who has created the largest collection of family records in the world. A three part course will be offered at The Summit Active Adult Center in Grand Prairie. Topics that will be covered include Genealogy for Beginners, Sources for Genealogical Information and Search Techniques for Genealogical Information. Instructors for the course are Elder and Sister Grieve, missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter‐day Saints. Classes will be Fridays at 12:30 pm. The class is free for all Summit members. Nonmembers may be charged a $5 entrance fee by The Summit. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints collection of family records includes more than 3 billion deceased people and has 5,003 family history centers in 138 countries.

Summer School Graduation
August 10, 7 p.m.
Summer school graduation for all high schools is Singley Academy.

August 12, 10:30am-4:30pm
The Las Colinas Symphony Orchestra will be holding auditions for the Lone Star Youth Orchestra’s 2017-2018 Season at the Irving Arts Center.

Based in Irving, the Lone Star Youth Orchestra is the only tuition-free youth orchestra in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The Lone Star Youth Orchestra is open to all middle and high school students residing in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. These talented youths are given the opportunity to supplement and enhance their music education by learning symphonic literature through high-quality orchestral and ensemble training with the very best in the field. Students have the opportunity to perform with the Garland Symphony Orchestra and the Las Colinas Symphony Orchestra through our side-by-side concerts, and students may also compete for scholarship opportunities and guest artist spots through our annual concerto competition.

Auditions are by appointment only. All audition information can be found at Students can expect to perform two scales, a solo of their choice, and 2-3 excerpts that have been preselected for their instrument.

Tiller trucks latest advancement for Irving Fire Department


The Irving Fire Department is adding two new tractor drawn, aerial trucks, most commonly known as Tiller trucks, to its firefighting arsenal. Irving is the second city in Texas using these trucks, Dallas being the first.

Tiller trucks are designed to better maneuver around congested areas and narrow streets around town. Driving a Tiller truck is a two-man job.

“The vehicle has been in the fire service for a very long time, but it’s a relatively new concept in the South,” Assistant Fire Chief Tony Harvey said.

The Irving Fire Department began doing research on the Tiller trucks in late 2014.

“With some of the construction and stuff going on in the city, it has started becoming denser and more populated in tighter spaces,” Station 12 Captain Darrell Hall said. “We realized we have places that some of our equipment has trouble getting into.”

A committee approached the Irving City Council to propose the purchase of the trucks. Committee members even took a trip to the West Coast in July of 2015 to observe Tiller trucks in action.

“We set up a trip to California,” Hall said. “California has a lot of departments that have Tillers, because they’ve been tight quarters for a long time. They showed us their trucks, let us drive their trucks, and showed us what they were capable of doing. Even more important for us, it told us what you should do and what you should not do.”

The committee studied the concept for two years before presenting the idea to the council.

“We made the presentation and the council approved it,” Harvey said. “They actually approved two of these Tiller trucks, so we’re really excited about getting them in service.”

One of the trucks will be going to Station Three to cover the southern part of Irving, and the other will be going to Station 12, which is slated to open in July, to cover the northern part of town. All the personnel assigned to the two stations have received over 40 hours of Tiller training to learn how to operate the front end and the back end of the trucks while maintaining constant communication with one another through wireless headsets.

“The Tiller truck has a standard driver and in the back is the trailer, which also has a steering wheel. That driver is called the Tiller man,” Hall said. “He can steer the back of the truck so we are able to maneuver around some pretty tight areas. We want each guy to be crossed trained in both locations, so no matter what situation comes up, we can get the job done and get it done safely.”

Crew members trained on courses designed to simulate different street layouts and hard to reach areas.

“There’s four different scenarios we have to drive through,” fire equipment operator Steven Hall said. “A lot of this is stuff we’ve done before but on straight axle equipment, so whenever you get to do this on a Tiller rig, it’s a totally different game. We’ve spent several hours getting used to that before we actually start driving on the road with the public.”

The new trucks also give firefighters more space to store equipment.

“We’ve got so much compartment space that we have not had in the past,” Darrell said. “The trucks are set up for firefighting and rescue operations. Every piece of equipment has a place now. It’s wonderful to be able to have so much space that even as the department needs to change we can put more equipment on the truck, which we haven’t had the ability to do in the past.”

The trucks are scheduled to go into operation in July once Station 12 opens. There is the possibility more than two Tiller trucks could be protecting Irving in the future.

“Our personnel who’ve been training on them ask questions like, ‘How come we didn’t do this 20 years ago?’” Harvey said. “Maybe when another station comes up for a ladder truck replacement, it could be a consideration.”

Mark your calendar!

Blood Donation
July 30, 8 a.m. – 2 p.m.

Thousands of people have responded to the emergency call for blood donations issued by the American Red Cross in early July, but there continues to be a critical summer blood shortage. Eligible donors of all types are urgently needed.

After issuing the emergency call, the Red Cross has experienced a 30 percent increase in blood donation appointments through mid-July. Despite this improvement, blood products are still being distributed to hospitals as fast as donations are coming in, so more donations are needed to meet patient needs and replenish the blood supply.

A blood donation drive will be held at Holy Family of Nazareth Catholic Parish, 2323 Cheyenne Street, Irving.

Free Genealogy Classes
August 4 – 18, 12:30 p.m. 

Free genealogy classes are available to the public provided by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints, who has created the largest collection of family records in the world. A three part course will be offered at The Summit Active Adult Center in Grand Prairie.

Topics that will be covered include Genealogy for Beginners, Sources for Genealogical Information and Search Techniques for Genealogical Information. Instructors for the course are Elder and Sister Grieve, missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter‐day Saints.

Classes will be Fridays at 12:30 pm. The class is free for all Summit members. Nonmembers may be charged a $5 entrance fee by The Summit.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latterday Saints collection of family records includes more than 3 billion deceased people and has 5,003 family history centers in 138 countries.



Banks want to start making payday loans again

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A new Center for Responsible Lending (CRL) Policy Analysis, “Been There; Done That,” warns that banks are seeking the repeal of consumer protections established in 2013 that ensured that banks could no longer keep borrowers trapped in unaffordable payday loans. 

Six banks—Wells Fargo, US Bank, Regions Bank, Fifth Third Bank, Bank of Oklahoma and Guaranty Bank—were making predatory payday loans to their own account holders until 2013, when a public outcry and risks to the banks’ safety and soundness led bank regulators to establish commonsense guidelines to curb these unaffordable loans. The banks were siphoning $500 million annually from customers who were caught in a devastating debt trap structured just like storefront payday lending.

Now, as Congress invites a tempest of deregulation that would open the floodgates to predatory lending, the American Bankers Association is urging regulators to block and repeal protections against these dangerous loans.

“The banking industry is taking advantage of an environment in Washington where consumer protections are under siege,” Rebecca Borné, CRL Senior Policy Counsel and author of the report, said. “While payday lending has been effectively banned in 15 states plus the District of Columbia, payday lenders are still operating elsewhere and siphoning $8 billion per year in abusive fees from low-income communities. The banks want a piece of that action, to charge their own customers rates of 200 and 300 percent APR in order to strip away millions of dollars a year from fees on intentionally unaffordable loans.”

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is also the target of anti-consumer initiatives, including a proposal to eliminate its authority to regulate payday and car-title lending at all. The CFPB is in the process of finalizing a commonsense rule addressing these abusive 300 percent interest loans.

Like storefront payday lenders, the six banks making payday loans marketed them as an occasional bridge to the next payday, not meant for long-term use. But in 2011, CRL documented that the median bank payday borrower had 13.5 loans per year and was in debt at least part of six months annually. And in 2013, the CFPB found that borrowers spent an average of 114 days during the year in triple-digit debt. And CRL also found that more than half of borrowers had more than ten loans annually, and 12 percent had more than 30 loans annually.

The extreme harm payday loans cause borrowers has motivated communities, advocates, and state policymakers to address the practice. Data has shown that payday loans result in increases in difficulty paying living expenses, delinquency on credit card and other debt, delayed medical care, overdraft fees, loss of checking accounts and bankruptcy.

In their 2013 guidance, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency advised the banks they oversee that they must assess the ability of their customers to repay the loans without getting into deeper financial trouble. Instead, the banks got out of the business.

CRL recommends that the regulators keep the guidance in place and that the CFPB finalize a strong rule protecting consumers from debt trap loans. The policy analysis includes a range of other recommendations to stop both predatory storefront and online lending and the threat of bank payday lending.

SOURCE Center for Responsible Lending

Landfill urges residents to recycle


Six days a week, garbage trucks drive through Irving picking up curbside trash and hauling it to the Hunter Ferrell Landfill.

The landfill is about 300 acres of land, but only about 150 acres are used for waste disposal. The rest serves as buffer to distance the site from their neighbors. The city’s Solid Waste Services Department provides manual bag collection service, brush and bulky waste collection and a recycling program. Nearly 80 percent of waste can be recycled, and Brenda Haney, Director of Solid Waste Services, would like residents to utilize the recycling program.

“Seventy to 80 percent of what comes out of a garbage truck is recyclable,” Haney said. “We want the waste out here to degrade because that becomes less of a problem for generations ahead of us. We’re trying to minimize the environmental impact we have on today’s generations and all the future generations that have to deal with this footprint.”

Residents can bring recyclable materials to the landfill’s recycling drop off seven days a week, or they can place their recyclable materials on the curb in a blue transparent bag. The trash that is not recycled goes into the working face. The working face is a specified portion of the landfill where trash is compacted and covered at the end of every day.

“It is an area 50 feet by a 100 feet where we put trash for that day,” Haney said. “We’ll build to a specified height each day. We will put six inches of soil on the area that we’re not going to go back on top of. It’s kind of like a wedge that you progress each and every day.”

Haney has been working at the landfill for 17 years. Throughout her career, she has seen all sorts of things thrown into the landfill from hunting licenses, large amounts of money, and even wedding rings.

“You’d be surprised how often it happens on trash day,” Haney said. “As soon as you recognize that you’ve thrown something away, call our main number so we can stop the truck. If you think you might have thrown something away that was from last week, forget it because every day we’re moving the waste operation and I can’t go back and open up where we were a week ago.”

In May, Monica Brown accidentally threw away her wedding rings. Once Brown realized her rings were missing, her husband contacted the Solid Waste Services Department.

“They could actually pinpoint the truck and would work with him to search,” Brown said. “They said if we had been any slower, it would’ve been dumped. They took the truck and pulled it aside and basically emptied everything into three piles.”

After only ten minutes of searching, her husband and Robert Salinas, section chief of the landfill, found the rings.

“We celebrated our 27th anniversary in June,” Brown said. “We thought that was so kind, because who would want to dig through trash? We were just tickled they were even willing to try. They went the extra mile.”

Finding the rings was a team effort since the Browns were quick to communicate with the landfill and willing to dig through trash to look for the rings.

“This landfill doesn’t smell,” Salinas said. “We do a really good job here and we don’t have any odors. We’ll have people who want to stand and wait here next to the building instead of going all the way to the working face because they’re afraid. They think they’re going to be buried in trash, and it’s going to be nasty, and yucky, and smelly, and dirty; and it’s just not the case.”

The Solid Waste Services Department wants to help residents make better use of their recycling program and let residents know they are available to answer any questions residents may have regarding trash disposal.

“The recycling program is a win-win,” Haney said. “I think it’s a valuable asset for the community to have the ability to manage the waste we are generating. We want them to manage their waste as appropriately as possible, because that makes our life that much easier in the long run.”

City officials seek community input in DART fare restructure


DART’s fare structure was met with a mixture of corporate and community wide concern as transit agency officials hosted a public hearing on Tuesday, July 27, at their downtown Dallas offices.

The fare increase is part of DART’s 20-Year Financial Plan, which assumes an increase to the average fare about every five years. Some of the major changes include fare capping for daily and monthly passes, contactless (smartphone app) payment cards, replacement of the 2-hour passes with AM/PM passes, and removal of trade school eligibility.

The following is brief list of some of the proposed changes:

Starting in November of this year, DART will install fare boxes on all of their buses to issue a new kind of ticket replacing the two-hour day pass tickets with an AM/PM pass as well as a Mid-Day pass. Mid-Day passes allow unlimited travel between 9:30 a.m. and 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Also in November of 2017, DART will work with roughly 1,000 retail locations in the area and allow customers to use cash to purchase a GOPass for their smartphones from these locations.

On GoPasses, DART will implement fare capping beginning in May of 2018. That means if a customer buys $5 day passes more than 16 times throughout a month, the system will keep track of them. If a customer buys $80 worth of $5 day passes, the customer will receive a monthly local pass and will no longer need to pay for any fares for the rest of the month.

The fare structure amendment will take place in a series of steps, beginning in November of 2017. More changes will take place in January, May, and August of 2018.

DART officials began holding pre-public hearing community meetings in May at a number of city halls as well as civic and recreation centers to begin gaging the community’s response to the fare structure proposal.

According to Joe Costello, Senior Vice President of DART finance, most of the price changes will become effective in 2018 but many of the new features will be available earlier.

DART has received 196 written comments on the fare restructure. The total includes comments received through the DART website, and online social media. On Tuesday evening, 20 additional comments by community members were added to the public record.

After hearing all of the public comments and reviewing previously received comments, DART officials are implementing changes to their initial proposal.

“From customer comments, we discovered a circumstance where a rider might board shortly before noon, buy an AM pass, and then that pass would only be good for a short time,” Costello said.

“Monday through Friday the solution for that rider would be to buy a mid-day pass, but on weekends we don’t have the mid-day pass currently, so we’re changing our proposal to extend the availability of the midday pass to the full week.”

Also changed from the initial proposal are busy days such as holidays and big game days where customers preferred to buy day passes rather than AM/PM passes.

Baylor Scott and White, one of a number of corporations that purchases DART’s corporate local passes, builds the cost of purchasing local DART passes for their employees into their yearly budget and asked officials for more notice for the fare increase.
“Our budget starts July every year,” said Shawn Orrange, an assistant director at Baylor Scott and White. “Getting notice for this now, our budget’s already been set.”

Regina Montoya, chair of Dallas Mayor Mike Rawling’s Task Force on Poverty, linked the cost of transportation as a critical factor in individuals escaping poverty.

“We would urge you to consider discounted rates for low-income riders,” Montoya said. “A $5 weekly increase may not seem like a lot to some people, but it is to someone who is barely surviving.”

One attendee at the hearing had lost her job that same day after having sat at her bus stop for an hour and 45 minutes before learning her bus had been in a wreck and another had not been sent.

“The only people this is going to help are the people that are going to come to the conventions and the football games,” she said. “It doesn’t help the residents and the people in Dallas. It does not get us where we need to be.”

The DART board is expected to vote on a new fare structure by August 2017.

Blaze burns through warehouse

At 12:07 p.m. June 21, the Irving Fire Department (IFD) responded to a structure fire at 1720 E. HWY 356 (Old Irving Blvd). The business name is New World International (NWI). This building consists of NWI, another warehouse business and several retail stores.

The fire was confined to the NWI warehouse. A second alarm was requested by the Incident Commander due to the size of the building, difficulty in reaching the fire through debris, and the high ambient temperature, which greatly affects the rehab process for our firefighters.

DFW Airport Fire Department was also requested to assist by providing their truck mounted high-volume ventilation fan capable of ventilating large buildings in a short amount of time. This worked well and allowed the smoke to be cleared from the structure permitting crews to continue digging through debris and extinguishing hot spots.

Two people were affected by light smoke inhalation; both were treated and released by IFD EMS crews. No injuries to IFD personnel were reported.

IFD crews mitigated the fire in a short amount of time.

The bystanders in the area are to be commended for calling 911 immediately, allowing for quick dispatch of IFD equipment. In the age of social media, often, bystanders become focused on obtaining video for social media and 911 calls are delayed. This was not the case today, and quick 911 calls helped the IFD in getting there quickly and limited the property damage.

SOURCE Irving Fire Department