Written by Phil Cerroni
TDI announced Dec. 7 that it has purchased 6.65 acres of prime real estate in Las Colinas for a $50 million residential development. The new development will have 386 apartments in multi-story buildings and will be the closest in walking distance to the recently opened DART Orange line station just across Northwest Highway from the Irving Convention Center. Construction is expected to begin in March 2013.
"This high profile location, which will include a landmark 6 story tower at Northwest Highway and Las Colinas Boulevard, is the ideal setting to create the next generation of multi-family product," said Brad Taylor, Executive Vice President and Investment Partner for TDI. "These homes will have extraordinary highway access as well as the available DART light rail system that provides easy access to Plano, Richardson and Downtown Dallas, and will reach D/FW airport by 2014."
The design will feature urban connectivity between the streetscape and community. The clubhouse spills out onto a retail-style urban patio area that interacts with the streets. Brownstone walkup style apartments at street level will interconnect the streets with the community in a seamless manner.
"This design created a community," said Taylor. "Offering residents access to five serene landscaped courtyards as well as an active courtyard with a resort style pool. The interiors of the apartment homes will include 10 foot ceilings, separate showers in select units and islands in every kitchen."
"The Las Colinas residential submarket has a 96 percent occupancy rate," said Taylor. "We will be offering the newest and one of the most unique products in that submarket. More than 100,000 people work in Las Colinas, which is home to the global corporate headquarters of five Fortune 500 companies and regional headquarters for 100 other corporations."
TDI currently has 1,406 units under construction in Texas, California and Arizona and has asset management responsibilities over 4,900 units nationwide. In addition, TDI has plans to develop an additional 2,320 units over the next 12 months that are in various stages of planning and predevelopment and is currently raising capital to complement their venture platforms in order to fund their expansion and business plan.
Last Updated on Sunday, 16 December 2012 22:51
Making a Change: Valley Ranch Elementary fourth graders adopt families for project based learning of math
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Sissy Courtney
Fourth grade teachers at Valley Ranch Elementary in Irving wore green shirts, green balloons decorated the library, and a gentleman named Mr. Money dressed in a suit made from money printed material. Students sat as quietly as excited students can wait to find out what their next Project Based Learning (PBL) assignment would be.
“Project Based Learning incorporates real life experiences,” Principal Cynthia Arterbery said. “We have our school bank, Valley Ranch Bank, and we have a partnership with Las Colinas Federal Credit Union. The teachers decided to create a PBL Unit for the students to not only continue to learn about money and how to budget for families, but they decided to also adopt families.
“Today they will find out that they’re going to get to adopt families, and with that, they will create a budget and decide how to provide and purchase items for the families,” Ms. Arterbery said. “They reached out to communities to get donations from companies and businesses, so that’s another way of teaching them to reach out. Students submitted letters to the Irving Chamber of Commerce asking for donors, so they also went through the process of how to request donations, what that looks like, and how you do that, and the Irving Chamber is going to donate.”
Fourth grade math teacher NadyaGulam quieted the students.
“We are getting ready to launch a PBL in math,” Ms. Gulam said. “Can you predict what it will be about?”
“Money!”the students said in unison.
“The name of our project is ‘Making a Change,’ Ms. Gulam said. “Keep that in mind and see if you can figure out why it’s called ‘Making a Change.’”
Ms. Gulamasked Tonia Clark, Vice President of Las Colinas Federal Credit Union, to tell the students about the project. Student already knew Ms. Clark from her assistance with the school’s Star Savers Bank that started in 2004.
“Your new project is about math,” Ms. Clark said. “Did you know that we have to use math at the credit union? We use it every day.” She described the various jobs at the credit union and the math strategies each uses.
Students told her about some of the strategies they have learned including lattice multiplication, long division, and break apart. Two out of three of those the bank vice president had not heard about.
“These are the skills you need to know for this project: place values, addition, subtraction, multiplication, division, estimation, money, problem solving, and making generalizations,” Clark said. “If you don’t know how to do any of those things, you’re going to find out really quickly. For technology skills, you’ll need to know how to use spread sheets, keyboarding, inserting pictures, and how to use the SmartBoard.”
Ms. Clark then read the entry document which described the project.
“Since you are great mathematicians, your teachers thought you could use your skills to adopt families for your school,” Clark said.“Your teachers would like to select a group in each class that can spend wisely and purchase items for our Adopt Angels families. The groups will each get $300 to purchase items requested by the family.”
Groups will research stores online and in paper ads to find the best deals for the items requested. They will use Google Aps spreadsheets to create a budget list of all items including the cost of each individual family member and determining the total cost for the family.
Irving Chamber of Commerce, Gold Gym, Volunteers of America, Mortgage USA, and Las Colinas Federal Credit Union are sponsoring the project. Jennifer Erlenbusch from Irving Bible Church will provide the families needing assistance for the holidays.
Tues., Dec. 11, students will present multimedia products to their sponsors using SmartBoards. One group from each class will be picked to shop for the families. Students may research products online, but parent volunteers will take the groups to stores to make purchases.
Back in their classrooms, students discussed with their teachers what they already knew about the projects and posed questions about things they did not know. Lists were made.
“Why do you think the title of our project is ‘Making a Change’?” Ms. Gulam asked.
“We are helping people,” one boy said.
Another said, “Change is another word for money.”
Last Updated on Sunday, 02 December 2012 22:32
21st Century Education: Coppell, Texas High Performance Schools Consortium developing new system of learning
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Sissy Courtney
Coppell Independent School District has joined 23 other school districts across the State to form the Texas High Performance School Consortium to transform the old 19th Century system of teaching and testing into a 21st Century system that will allow student participation and engagement with authentic assessment. That was the topic of a brown bag meeting led by Coppell ISD Superintendent Dr. Jeff Turner at Coppell High School Nov. 14.
“We’ve got (our students) in an old system,” Turner said. “We’re giving them a test that requires bubble-in answers and not creative, innovative thinking, and we’re expecting them to be world critical thinkers. It’s not going to work, and we’ve got to do something about that.”
CISD’s vision tries to align the district with the future and to get students more ready for the future by emphasizing things like:
Engagement, with the curriculum and content, not just talking to kids.
Giving kids choice in learning: how they learn, what they learn, or choice about how they are assessed to show what they know.
Raising the rigor on all students by having more students get into the advanced classes and providing support for them if they have difficulty.
Integration of more technology. The community has donated $3 million in technology. All schools are wireless with wireless devices in every classroom.
Teachers are becoming designers rather than instructors.
As part of the North Texas Regional Consortium, Coppell ISD worked to pass House Bill 1557, which resulted in the Texas High Performance Schools Consortium including 23 school districts across the State.
“They make up about four percent of the population in the State of Texas,” Turner said. “The schools represent the State demographically: small schools, large schools, urban, suburban, and rural, all ethnicities, and schools from poverty areas, school with high wealth.”
Turner is co-chairman of the consortium along with Highland Park Superintendent Dr. Dawson Orr.
“We are working together to create a pilot program for the State of Texas,” Turner said. “Our intention in this is that we would ask for waivers of the legislative session that starts in January to get out of a lot of their systems, including accountability and assessment.
“Teachers are taking up to 30 percent (of the school year) on testing, worrying about testing, practicing testing, benchmarking for testing. We think we can recapture that time and work with our teachers to create innovative, creative projects and ideas to help our kids engage more in in their content and be better in the end for that.”
The group is not asking to be free of accountability.
“We are working on an accountability system that would replace the State’s,” Turner said. “We are looking at things that would be more authentic and show that students can use the information and not just regurgitate it back on a test.”
The district is also looking into some diagnostic tests that would show whether the students are successful or not. Turner said the STAAR and the EOCs are not diagnostic in nature.
“They are not giving us the information we need whether the students have mastery of the objectives or not because of the way they were designed,” Turner said. .
“Forty to 45 of our 180 days are taken up with some sort of State testing during the school year, and that doesn’t account for the practicing and things we are doing to prep for those practices,” Turner said. “It’s a crazy system, and we believe if they will allow us out of their system, we can come up with assessments that better inform parents with some authentic measures including portfolios and things like that that you can actually see student growth.”
Turner said he believes Coppell will outperform the State the first year and that all the schools in the consortium will outperform the State in five years.
“If we can get that time back into the school year that we use for testing and can use some really great, innovative 21st Century teaching methods with our kids, our kids will soar and be higher on every measure (the State requires).”
Turner said the district is providing teachers with the training, technology, and the tools necessary to help students in the new system.
Bill 1557 just allowed the creation of the pilot program.
“Now we need a bill that allows us to implement, and we propose to do that in (2013-2014),” Turner said. “So this session, we will be proposing several bills with the list of waivers that we need, and there will be an explanations of the type of accountability system that we hope to use, and we will be presenting it here in Coppell so that parents can understand completely what we are doing and what we are getting involved in.
“In 2013 we would, with the consortium, get into our own system of 21st Century learning for all kids. We’re calling the system CBAAS, Community Based Assessment Accountability System, because we believe that we should be more accountable to the community, to you as parents, than we are to Austin or Washington. The system is upside-down.”
The district has formed a parent group and more information can be found on the district’s website.
The other school districts in the consortium include Anderson-Shiro, Clear Creek, College Station, Duncanville, Ennis, Glen Rose, Guthrie, Harlingen, Highland Park, Irving, Klein, Lake Travis, Lancaster, Lewisville, McAllen, McKinney, Northwest, Prosper, Richardson, Roscoe, Round Rock and White Oak.
Last Updated on Sunday, 02 December 2012 22:27
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Phil Cerroni
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) is a force in contemporary America that is still not completely understood, but it is a condition that the criminal justice systems in North Texas are addressing and attacking with all the firepower at their disposal.
The Military Officers’ Association of America (MOAA) is an association of military officers both current and retired that concerns itself with the rights of veterans long after many people in America have all but forgotten about their service. At the North DFW Military Officer Chapter's dinner at the DFW Airport Marriott Hotel on Nov.14, they invited Denton Assistant District Attorney Forrest Beadle to speak about Denton County's new Veterans Diversionary Court. Already in place in other North Texas Counties, the new court assists combat veterans in the criminal justice system.
After studying successful courts around Texas, Beadle decided that Denton needed one as well, but problems arose when he tried to transport the program to his county.
“The law, as you read it if you strictly interpret it, talked about a material causal connection between the crime and PTSD,” Beadle explained. “That means there is a very tight connection.”
Unfortunately, a strict reading of the laws meant that there were no participants in Denton County's court, and when he looked at other jurisdictions including Dallas and Tarrant counties, Beadle discovered they had up to 25 veterans participating in their programs.
“If you kind of liberally interpret that causal connection, you cast a wider net, and once you do, you start to catch these service members who may be are upset the Cowboys lost – that's why they got a DWI – but maybe they're drinking so much because of their experiences overseas,” Beadle said.
It is better to get struggling veterans, most of whom suffer from self-medication by means of alcohol and drugs, into the deferral program where they can receive counseling and medical help.
“If you kind of start stretching that causal connection, you realize you cast a wider net and start picking up guys and gals that need the help, and that's why they're involved with the criminal justice system,” Beadle said.
He also recounted something that Judge Carr, an advocate of a similar court in Harris County, had told him. “You have go to bat for these guys and gals to get this program to work because when they first get into the program, they're resentful of the fact they've been arrested. They kind of have to be shown – a little of the drill sergeant way – that you need to do this.”
One example Beadle gave of the court's effectiveness was the case of a former Navy SEAL who was put into the Dallas criminal justice system because of heroin abuse. After four strenuous combat tours in the Middle East, this man received an honorable discharge, but he could not leave his memories behind with his uniform. He began self-medicating and eventually progressed to heroin. He was admitted into the Veterans Court, and after three difficult years, he beat his addiction and was able to continue with his life without a criminal record.
Being accepted into the court is no easy matter, however. There are many crimes including murder, aggravated assault or robbery, sexual assault and crimes against children that will disqualify one from being eligible for diversionary court.
“Those offenses by their own right are so violent that the criminal justice system needs to handle them the way we usually do,” Beadle said.
Although the many veterans coming through the court system have been brought up on drug charges, no drug dealers will be eligible for the court.
The question becomes who is the right candidate.
“Because this is a voluntary process, we are looking for the veteran who wants to be helped,” Beadle continued. “What we've developed is a screening process that protects their rights and ensures that the right person is in the court.”
The court's positive criteria include combat or hazardous duty and an honorable discharge or general discharge under honorable conditions. This last specification may seem specific but, as Beadle pointed out, it is extremely important.
“We have to keep in mind that a lot of these guys have re-upped several times, and maybe their addiction started while they were in the service,” he said. “They get caught, and the UCMJ [Uniform Code of Military Justice] moves is, and they get chaptered out of the service.”
Diagnosis of combat related mental illness: PTSD or TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury) is also key. Beadle stressed that the effects that TBI, which includes gunshot wounds to the head and IED explosions, have on the brain are not completely understood by either the military or medical communities.
Lastly, and maybe most importantly, the veteran must admit responsibility for their offense by pleading guilty. A dismissal of prejudice form is written up by the district attorney's office upon completion of the program, and the offense is expunged from the veteran's record.
“Not only will he get the treatment he entered the program for, but at the end of it, he'll get a dismissal of his criminal charges,” Beadle said proudly.
To show just how selective Veterans Courts are, Beadle shared the numbers for Tarrant County's two year old program. Of the 1,850 veterans who had been screened, only 256 were considered for the court. Of this number, only 68 have participated in it so far.
These stringent measures have been paying off, however, as there has only been one instance of recidivism among the court's graduates.
The amazing effect this program has on the lives of veterans around North Texas is summed up by a letter written by a former Marine, residing in Dallas County, to his mentor.
“It's been an amazing journey coming back home,” he wrote. “My family has been rallying behind me for years, and I just didn't see it. The word gratitude is how I've been feeling. My wife and I have been meeting with my family members so as to actively include them in my safety plan. My uncles, who are combat Vietnam vets, have been pulling me aside to show me how they cope.”
Beadle wrapped up his speech by exhorting the assembled veterans that this is an experiment, and the resolution is by no means certain.
“We don't know if this is going to be a trickle or a flood, but we do know that we have a lot of veterans coming back from overseas that are having problems. Time will tell how many people will enter this court program,” he said.
Last Updated on Sunday, 02 December 2012 22:26
Written by Phil Cerroni
By Amanda Casanova
An Irving neighborhood has earned the distinction of being the most diverse in America, according to a report from Trulia Real Estate, an online real estate listing service.
Zip code 75038, which includes Broadmoor Hills and Song neighborhoods as well as North Lake College in Irving, earned the most diverse rating from the report released in mid-November.
The study found that the two neighborhoods near the Dallas-Fort Worth international Airport are 26 percent Asian, 25 percent Black, 23 percent Hispanic and 23 percent White and 2.5 percent Multiracial.
Comparatively, the entire city of Irving boasts about 220,000 people of which about 53 percent are White and about 12 percent Black. Another 40 percent are Hispanic.
The second most diverse neighborhood in America is one in Queens, New York, followed by a neighborhood in San Francisco called Treasure Island.
Rent in Broadmoor Hills in Irving is about $854, according to Urban Mapping, an online database for city information. The average household size is about three people. Home values average about $219,000 in this neighborhood.
Rent in the Song neighborhood is about $729 and home values stand at about $181,000.
The Lakemont neighborhood in Houston was named the seventh most diverse with 25 percent Hispanic, 28 percent Black, 25 percent White, 20 percent Asian and 2 percent Multiracial.
The Trulia report printed in Forbes also listed the top most diverse metros in America. The only Texas city to make the metro list was Houston at number four.
This isn’t the first time Irving has earned a national nod. Earlier this year, the city ranked 13th on a CareerBliss.com survey for “Happiest Young Professionals.”
Last Updated on Sunday, 02 December 2012 22:25
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