Lancaster ISD and the City of Lancaster Unite to Provide Free Internet Access to Students

LANCASTER, TX – In an effort to bridge the ‘digital divide,’ Lancaster ISD has partnered with the City of Lancaster and the Lancaster Veterans Memorial Library to offer free mobile hotspot device access to Lancaster ISD students and parents.
The library will have 30 free mobile hotspot devices available for check-out to Lancaster Veterans Memorial Library card holders to provide internet access to families. One is allotted for check out per household for up to 14 days.
“In ongoing discussions between the City of Lancaster and the Lancaster ISD over the years, one of the recurring themes has been the need for technological improvements/connectivity for students and citizens Citywide,” City of Lancaster Managing Director of Quality of Life & Cultural Services Sean Johnson said. “We then created a mobile hotspot policy that allows these devices to be added to the circulation for library card holders to check out.”
According to a Pew Research Center report, approximately 5 million school-aged children lack internet access at home, while 70 percent of homework assignments requires internet access to complete them. Low-income households account for a large portion of the 5 million.
“Eighty-six percent of Lancaster ISD students qualify for free or reduced lunches based on family income,” Lancaster ISD’s Deputy Superintendent of Governmental Relations and Student Affairs Dr. Lamont Smith said. “We understand that means that some of our students do not have access to the internet at home. The city recognized that the library and school campuses are only open a certain period of time.”
Many lower-income households rely primarily on their smartphone for internet access which means that students in those homes without high-speed internet are not able to complete tasks that are more suitable for a computer or device with a larger screens.
“Access to technology is more than just a cellphone,” Dr. Smith said. “A phone will not allow you to do the adequate type of research that students need to do as far as speed and saving data that wi-fi will provide.”
This program’s launch is another partnership project between the district and the city in support of the Village 2020 Joint Strategic Plan—a collaborative show of solidarity initiated to unite both entities and therefore the community.
The Lancaster Independent School District serves more than 7,000 pre-kindergarten through grade 12 students in 11 schools. Our vision is that all students achieve self-sustaining success and leave a lasting legacy. And our mission, in collaboration with parents and communities, is to ignite learning that translates into sustainable success for all students in an ever-changing society.
Lancaster ISD’s mission is to ignite learning that translates to sustainable success for all students in collaboration with parents and communities. This partnership with the city will support and engage in furthering that mission and help close the gap in the local digital divide.
“What really is the driving force is the vision for the city to be wireless, where all students and all residents will have internet access,” Dr. Smith said.
The Lancaster Veterans Memorial Library card holding students and parents can check out hot spots now.
For more information, call the library at 972-227-1080.

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New STAAR Report Card Provides Texas Parents Stronger Student-Specific Information, Helpful Resources

AUSTIN, TX – Commissioner of Education Mike Morath has announced that Texas parents will now have access to greater individualized student information with the launch of the new State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR®) Report Card.
In addition, a new interactive website will offer an opportunity for parents to “Log In, Learn More” to access additional student-specific resources. Among the available tools on the website will be the ability to view actual STAAR questions as well as their student’s answer. Texas will be among the first states in the nation to offer this valuable component to all its parents.
“Every parent needs to know how their child is doing in school, but they also want to be in position to provide greater support for their son or daughter,” said Commissioner Morath. “The STAAR Report Card goes beyond providing a student’s information from the previous year. It also gives every parent access to resources that can help their child as they move from grade level to grade level.”
The new report card contrasts dramatically from what has been shared in previous years with parents. The revamped report presents information in a more colorful, understandable and parent-friendly way.
Student information includes how a child performed on a specific STAAR assessment, how the student is progressing from the previous school year, and the level of reading difficulty a student can successfully accomplish. Parents will also see new STAAR performance labels for their student: Masters Grade Level; Meets Grade Level; Approaches Grade Level; and Does Not Meet Grade Level.

Masters Grade Level (Passing) – Performance in this category indicates that students are expected to succeed in the next grade or course with little or no academic intervention.
Meets Grade Level (Passing) – Performance in this category indicates that students will have a high likelihood of success in the next grade or course but may still need some short-term, targeted academic intervention.
Approaches Grade Level (Passing) – Performance in this category indicates that students are likely to succeed in the next grade or course with targeted academic intervention.
Does Not Meet Grade Level – Performance in this category indicates that students are unlikely to succeed in the next grade or course without significant, ongoing academic intervention.

A section of the new STAAR Report Card highlights how a student has progressed academically from the previous year. A student academic growth graph will show parents where their son or daughter was academically the previous school year and reflect any growth seen in the most recent school year.
Beyond the report card itself, parents are encouraged to “Log In, Learn More” at a newly-revamped website (www.texasassessment.com) to see even more student-specific information regarding their child. With a student-specific access code (provided in the STAAR Report Card), parents will be able to see a variety of resources and assessment components, including STAAR assessment questions and answers – along with their child’s answers.
“The ability for each parent to view the actual STAAR questions posed to their child, along with the answers their child provided, should provide greater insight into the expectations at every grade level,” said Commissioner Morath.
The website also makes available resources designed to help parents prepare their son or daughter as they progress from grade level to grade level. Resources include tools to support a child’s ability to read and write, as well as tips and questions to help prepare for parent-teacher conferences in the new school year.
Beginning this month, the new STAAR Report Card will be distributed to parents with children who took the STAAR assessments during the 2016-2017 school year. High school STAAR reports are available to parents beginning June 13. Grade 3-8 STAAR reports are available to parents beginning June 30.

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Veteran Services Office Program at NARFE

13Jun2017JamesPatakNimchieAlceEnnis-13Jun2017ENNIS, TX – The National Active and Retired Federal Employees (NARFE) Chapter 1191 held its monthly meeting at the Grand Ennis Buffet in Ennis on Tues., 13 June 2017. The guest speakers were Nimchie Alce, Veterans Service Officer in Ennis, accompanied by Ellsworth Huling IV, Veterans Service Officer in Waxahachie. This program was very appropriate for the NARFE group which has a significant number of prior military service members. Programs such as Veteran’s Pensions, Disability Compensation, Survivors Pension Benefits, Dependency and Indemnity Compensation, Burial Benefits, general information on Texas state benefits for disabled veterans and eligible survivors, Aid and Attendance and Housebound, and assistance with records and dealing with the VA were discussed with a question and answer session following the presentation.
Each program has eligibility requirements including disability and health status, military service history, age, income, net worth, and dependency status. The importance of providing proper records was emphasized, such as appropriate medical records, discharge or separation papers such as the DD 214, or equivalent, marriage records and birth certificates and information on income and net worth.
The Ennis office is located at 207 S. Sonoma Trail, Ennis, TX 75119, ph. 972-825-5328.
The Waxahachie office is in the Basement of the Historic Courthouse, 101 W. Main St., Waxahachie, TX 75165, ph. 972-825-5099.
The Ellis County Veterans Service office website is:
http://www.co.ellis.tx.us/index.aspx?NID=103 and the Facebook page is at: https://www.facebook.com/Ellis-County-Veterans-Service-1152614868138426/
NARFE Chap. 1191 covers Ellis, Navarro and adjacent parts of the surrounding counties. Membership in NARFE is open to all active and retired federal employees and their spouses, former federal employees, and former spouses who are entitled to a federal survivor annuity. For more information, please call Midlothian at 972-268-5793 or 972-775-2463, Waxahachie – 469-939-8102, Ennis – 214-949-6197, Red Oak – 412-722-6307, or Corsicana – 903-874-3092. You may also go to www.narfe.org or http://www.dfwnarfe.net/Chapter1191/ChapterPage.html or see NARFE Chapter 1191 on Facebook.

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Japanese Cultural Celebration on June 24 at Museum of International Cultures

DUNCANVILLE, TX – On the fourth Saturday of every other month there is a celebration of a particular culture, with a short program following a potluck dinner, at the Museum of International Cultures in Duncanville. The event begins at 7 pm and is free—guests are simply asked to bring a dish that reflects the culture—or a salad, drink, or dessert.
On Saturday, June 24, 7 pm, Japan will be celebrated. Guests are encouraged to wear or bring Japanese clothing or artifacts, and tables will be decorated with Japanese embellishments.  The program will reflect Japanese culture and will include a folk dance popular in Japan.
The museum is located at 411 US 67, just south of Danieldale Road. The dinners are co-sponsored by the Bahá’ís of Duncanville & DeSoto, who share with the museum a desire to promote cultural awareness, the oneness of humankind and the need to create a prejudice-free society. No reservations are necessary—just come! For more information, contact Anne Perry, unity9@sbcglobal.net.
The August dinner will celebrate Germany, with Cuba, and Iran celebrated in October and December, respectively.

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Duncanville Launches Interactive GIS Maps

Screen shot 2017-06-19 at 12.44.51 PMDUNCANVILLE, TX – The City of Duncanville Public Works Department has developed an Interactive Geographic Information Systems (GIS) Map Portal which is available to the public through the city’s website.
The maps will allow access to information to improve transparency of data and communicate information that is frequently requested by the public including citizens and development professionals.
The maps currently available on the portal include Council districts, zoning, storm water and floodplain, TIF District, and utilities. The maps are searchable by address or intersection, and there is a tutorial video and PDF handout available on the website to assist users in navigating the maps.
To access the maps, visit www.duncanville.com. If you have any questions, please contact Public Works at 972-780-5015.

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Congresswoman Johnson Responds to Trump Cuba Policy Change

DALLAS, TX – Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson, a senior House Democrat, released the following statement on the U.S.-Cuba policy changes by President Trump.
“I am disappointed in the President’s attempt to drag America back 55 years, when American-Cuban relations were extremely tense,” said Congresswoman Eddie Bernice Johnson.  “The impulsive decision to cut ties with Cuba will result in disastrous consequences that will hurt Texas and American farmers, businesses and airlines. I know firsthand, it will limit opportunities for our universities as well as a number of my constituents who are there as part of medical and environmental research.
Congresswoman Johnson traveled to Cuba with President Obama in March 2016 as well as a number of congressional delegations in the past in support of the normalization of U.S.-Cuba relations and ending the outdated Cold War policy of isolation.
“A year ago, I was excited about the new chapter in American-Cuban relations, but today, I am saddened by the turn of events. I was hopeful that our relationship with Cuba would be strengthened, but with the new Trump policies, both the U.S. and the Cuban economies will be harmed.”

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Duncanville PD Seeking Public’s Help in Identifying Shooters in Aggravated Robbery

Screen shot 2017-06-19 at 12.56.09 PMDUNCANVILLE, TX – On Wednesday, June 14, 2017, at 11:01 p.m. suspects robbed the Holiday Inn Express located at 1035 East Highway 67 SR and shot a nonresistant employee two times. The suspects fled the scene in a dark unknown make, 4 doors, SUV. A witness advised he saw two black males run from the front of the business to a dark colored SUV before officers arrived. The individual stated the vehicle was last seen travelling southbound on US Highway 67 service road.
A person of interest entered the lobby prior to the suspects, and the Police Department would like to identify and speak with him.
The desk clerk was transported to Methodist Dallas with non-life threatening injuries, and was treated in the emergency room. The clerk was released Thursday.
If you have any information regarding this offense, contact Detective Pollock at 972-707-3831.

The person of interest is a black male, approx. 17 – 21 years of age wearing a grey shirt and grey shorts.

The person of interest is a black male, approx. 17 – 21 years of age wearing a grey shirt and grey shorts.

Suspect 1: black male, 17 – 21 years of age, 5’10”- 6’, with a black hooded sweatshirt, red shirt underneath, black pants and medium length dreadlocks.

Suspect 1: black male, 17 – 21 years of age, 5’10”- 6’, with a black hooded sweatshirt, red shirt underneath, black pants and medium length dreadlocks.

Suspect 2: black male, 16 – 19 years of age, 5’8”- 5’10”, with a dark colored long sleeve shirt, dark pants and short hair.

Suspect 2: black male, 16 – 19 years of age, 5’8”- 5’10”, with a dark colored long sleeve shirt, dark pants and short hair.

Screen shot 2017-06-19 at 12.55.46 PM

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Happy July 2nd?

by Scott Hansen

John Adams, the Massachusetts delegate to the second Continental Congress, penned a letter to his wife, Abigail, informing her that on July 2, 1776, Congress had voted to approve Richard Henry Lee’s resolution declaring independence from the mother country, making the once British colonies free and independent states. The next day, July 3rd, Adams wrote:

“The Second Day of July 1776 will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of America. . . . It ought to be solemnized with Pomp and Parade, with Shews, Games, Sports, Guns, Bells, Bonfires, and Illuminations from one End of this Continent to the other from this Time forward forever more.”

Why then do we celebrate our country’s birthday on July 4th? The answer is politics. The wording of Thomas Jefferson’s Declaration of Independence was being scrutinized and debated. Remember, back then, each state was its own sovereign entity, and each wanted to make sure the document was worded so that the state governments would approve it. Adams said it was akin to getting 13 ships to sail in formation, or 13 clocks to strike at the same time. The important thing was to keep all 13 colonies focused on cooperating, and not arguing about minor differences in political ideology.
It took two days before the Congress would approve of the document’s wording, and officially adopt the Declaration of Independence. While the date is slightly off, Adams’ hopes for an annual celebration worthy of the birth of our great nation have been fulfilled.

Give thanks for your freedom, and have a safe and happy July 4th celebration.

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4th of July Celebrations

DUNCANVILLE, TX – The City of Duncanville invites the public to its annual Independence Day Celebration on Tuesday, July 4. The day will begin with a parade sponsored by the Duncanville Lions Club and will close with a host of evening festivities in Armstrong Park. Attendees will be able to enjoy LIVE music, delicious food from local vendors, bounce houses for the kids and fireworks! Admission is FREE and open to the public, though wristbands will be required for entry into the evening festivities.
The theme for this year’s parade will be “Liberty & 100 Years of Lionism.” The parade will run from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. The parade route will begin at Reed Middle School, 530 Freeman Street, turn right on Wheatland Road, right on Main Street, followed by a right on Freeman Street and continue back to Reed Middle School. To participate in the parade, please register with Duncanville Lions Club at Duncanville Lions Club, Parade Entry, PO Box 381055, Duncanville, TX 75138, or in person at either the Duncanville Chamber of Commerce, 300 E. Wheatland Road, the Red Bird Bowling Lanes located at 1114 S Main Street, or Ben Franklin Apothecary at 302 N Main Street.
Various closures will affect the Wheatland and Main Street area beginning at 7AM. For any questions regarding the parade, please call Lions Parade Chairpersons Don McBurnett 214-918-9981 or Kasey Cheshier at 972-298-1147.
The evening festivities will be at Armstrong Park, 100 James Collins Blvd., Duncanville, TX 75116. There will be local food vendors, live music and family activities including a bounce house for the kiddies. Of course, the evening will culminate with the fireworks show, an event anticipated by many. Wristbands will be required for entrance to the evening festivities. Starting June 12, wristbands will be available upon request at the Duncanville Recreation Center located at 201 James Collins Blvd, while supplies last. There is a limit of 5 wristbands per person and you must be must be 18 or older to pick up. If quantities remain, wristbands will be available at the event. Guests under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult. All bags and coolers will be subject to search upon entry. The following items will not be permitted inside the park: alcohol, glass containers, tents, canopies, umbrellas (other than hand held), all animals other than service animals and fireworks. ADA-accessible parking will be located in the parking lot west of City Hall at 203 E Wheatland Rd, Duncanville, TX 75116.
Sponsors and vendors are invited to register with the Department of Parks & Recreation at 201 James Collins Blvd., Duncanville, TX 75116 or by calling 972-780-5070.
Armstrong Park will be closed to the public in advance of the event, starting at 11:30PM on July 3. Normal park hours will resume following the event.
Due to various street closures and limited parking, the City of Duncanville will offer a free shuttle service to and from designated remote parking locations before, during and after the evening festivities. Remote parking will be available at Costco and Duncanville High School and will run from 5 p.m. until the end of the event. Two shuttle routes will be available. A North route will pick up attendees from the Duncanville High School parking lot at 900 W Camp Wisdom Rd, Duncanville, TX 75116 and drop off at Efurd Properties at 202 S Santa Fe Trail, Duncanville, TX 75116. A South route will pick up from the Costco parking lot at 250 W Hwy 67, Duncanville, TX 75137 and drop off at the former Duncanville ISD Administration building at 802 S Main St, Duncanville, TX 75137. Guests must take the same shuttle route to return to their vehicle at the end of the evening that they took to get to the event.

For any questions regarding the Independence Day festivities, please contact the Department of Parks & Recreation at (972) 780-5070, or visit us at www.duncanville.com.

DeSoto and Lancaster Festivities

This year the cities of DeSoto and Lancaster are again joining forces to celebrate our nation’s independence.  DeSoto and Lancaster’s July Fireworks Festival will take place on Saturday, July 1st in DeSoto at Meadowcreek Park, 1400 Uhl Road.  DeSoto and Lancaster residents are invited to bring your lawn chairs and picnic baskets and come on out to Meadowcreek Park.
Gates will open at 4 pm and the festivities begin at 6pm with live performances by saxophonist and DeSoto favorite, Don Diego followed by 1990’s recording artist, Dru Hill.  Dru Hill is an American singing group whose repertoire includes soul, hip hop soul and gospel music.  Founded in Baltimore, Maryland and active since 1992, Dru Hill recorded seven Top 40 hits, and is best known for the R&B #1 hits “Never Make a Promise”, and “How Deep Is Your Love.”
There will also be lots of carnival-style food available for purchase and free activities for kids.  The fireworks to music spectacular will follow the free Dru Hill concert at 9 pm or as soon as it’s good and dark.
Since this is a free, community event in a city park, city ordinance requires that there be no smoking or alcohol on the premises.  Proper attire is required and we are asking that you leave pets at home due to the large crowd expected.  Use of a mosquito repellent containing DEET is recommended.
There are approximately 3,000 parking spaces available at the park.  Once the parking lots are full, thru traffic will be closed on Uhl Road and patrons will be directed to remote parking at DeSoto High School with free shuttle bus service to and from the event.  To preserve a clear route for emergency vehicles, parking will not be allowed on Blue Bonnet Drive.  Once the fireworks end, traffic leaving the park from the grass parking area will be required to go north on Uhl Road and those on the south side of the park will be required to exit and go south on Uhl Road until the park is cleared.
DeSoto Fire Marshal, Wayne Orr would like to remind everyone that fireworks are not allowed within the city limits of DeSoto.
If you have any questions or would like more information on the show, please call 972 230-9651.

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Abbott’s Pen Cut Transparency Like a Sword

Reprinted with permission from the Corpus Christi Caller-Times

With the simple act of signing his name, Gov. Greg Abbott completed a trifecta of failure by all branches of state government to defend the people’s right to know.

Abbott was proud of himself Thursday for vetoing 50 bills that he claimed were government overreach. One of those was House Bill 2783, regrettably the only government transparency measure to survive the 85th Legislature.

HB 2783, one of the more modest of the sunshine bills introduced this session, would have allowed plaintiffs who sue a government entity for withholding public information to collect attorney fees when the entity ends the suit by turning over the information. Public officials are known to slow-walk an information request to the attorney general’s office when they already know good and well that it’s public information, or to foot-drag until a lawsuit is filed. They sorely need a deterrent, and HB 2783 would have been one — a mild one, but better than nothing.

Abbott’s objection was that the bill would have been an incentive to sue and collect damages at public expense. There is no such thing, and there would have been no such thing, as predatory information-request filing for the purpose of collecting attorney fees. This is a get-rich-never scheme. Find us the worst lawyer in Texas and we’ll show you someone whose time is too valuable to waste on this.

“Texas Public Information Act lawsuits are not common, and when they do occur it’s because a governmental entity has refused to hand over public information — the people’s information,” said Kelley Shannon, executive director of the Texas Freedom of Information Foundation. “Going to court is a last resort, and an option not many Texans can afford. When a lawsuit is necessary, a judge should have the ability to award attorneys’ fees to the prevailing plaintiff who had to turn to the courthouse when all else failed in seeking public records.”

We agree with that.

The people’s right to public information has suffered miserably since Abbott became governor two years ago. Under his administration, the judicial, legislative and, now, administrative branches of government have either actively damaged or failed to protect and restore the public’s right to know.

Notably, in 2015, the Texas Supreme Court decided to let government entities withhold contracts with private businesses from public view on the premise that disclosure would put the contractor at a competitive disadvantage. Any harm caused by disclosure should be an accepted cost of doing business with government — as it was until that ruling.

The court also decided in 2015 to allow nonprofits such as economic development corporations that receive public funding and perform government functions to shut their books from public view.

Ken Paxton also took over from Abbott as attorney general in 2015 and began a new tradition of siding with government against the public on disclosure disputes. One of the more memorable ones was interpreting the court ruling on competitive disadvantage to allow the city of McAllen to keep secret what it paid singer Enrique Iglesias for a performance. Did he underbid Lady Gaga or what?

Among the most notable failures of the 85th Legislature was the death of bills to remedy those two court rulings. Lawmakers spent too much time bickering about the discriminatory transgender bathroom bill, which failed, thankfully, and the anti-Hispanic show-me-your-papers so-called sanctuary cities bill, which passed, unfortunately, and which Abbott signed with gusto.

“It’s so unfortunate that an anti-transparency attitude took hold at the Texas Capitol this year, resulting in the death of multiple open government bills,” Shannon said. HB 2783 “is but one example. The people of Texas are the losers in all this.”

Indeed. Texas’ transparency laws, formerly among the strongest, emerged in the 1970s as remedies for government scandal. What has happened to them since Abbott took office is a scandal. He didn’t elect the justices of the Supreme Court — not by himself, at least. But he has provided no leadership in demanding a remedy for the damage the court has caused. And when he had the opportunity to let the lone meager transparency measure of the 85th Legislature become law, with or without his signature, he killed it.

Texas needs the commitment of its government leaders to restore, protect, defend the people’s right to public information. Or it needs new government leaders.

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