Articles by

Bethany Erickson

Bethany Erickson lives in a 1950s Midway Hollow bungalow with a husband, a preschooler and a dog. If she didn't live in the Hollow, she would probably live in Eastwood or Lochwood, and would buy a Fay Jones home if she won the lottery.

05/26/17 2:13pm
District of Innovation

About 400 school districts and counting have adopted District of Innovation plans. Dallas ISD became the latest to do so in a 6-3 vote Thursday night. (Photo by Flickr/Stuart Pilbrow)

Dallas, Highland Park, and Ector County schools recently became the latest districts to opt for the “District of Innovation” status. Districts across Texas are grabbing hold of a 2015 law that allows them wider flexibility and control of everything from the start and end dates for the school year, class size, and length of a school day,  to who they can hire to teach.

Highland Park ISD’s board of trustees voted a District of Innovation plan in March. Ector County ISD passed its plan in April.

The District of Innovation concept was provided for in 2015 when the state legislature passed House Bill 1842, which allows districts some flexibility in seeking exemptions to state education code on various facets of curriculum, governance, accountability, and finance.

To begin the journey, a board adopts a resolution to examine the issue, then holds public hearings and appoints a committee to develop the district’s plan.

Proponents point to the local control, and to the opportunity for the same flexibility charter schools have. Opponents frequently say there is the potential for a slippery slope scenario that would lead to hiring unqualified teachers.

There is also a fair amount of fret about what teacher contracts would look like on a District of Innovation landscape, but so far districts that have passed plans have insisted teacher contracts would not be affected. (more…)

05/23/17 9:57am

Texas Tax Protest

If you’re a member of your neighborhood NextDoor, or even a neighborhood association Facebook page, you’ve likely seen homeowners commiserating about how much their tax bill has increased since last year.

And those increases, people say, aren’t wholly unexpected. After all, the Dallas/Fort Worth area is in the middle of an incredible home sales boom — a recent report by Texas A&M’s Real Estate Center revealed that demand for housing statewide has meant that inventory levels continue to hover around 3.7 months — a historic low that means home values continue to rise.

Here are a few statistics that might grab your attention:

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05/12/17 4:28pm
great school districts

This home at 3041 Trinity Lane in Keller is priced at $539,000, which makes it a bargain if you’re looking for a family home in Southlake-Carroll ISD, listed as one of Niche’s great school districts.

It’s not unusual — many of the great school districts in the Dallas/Fort Worth area are also in the priciest cities and neighborhoods.

So when the website Niche advertised that it could help folks find the best schools in your metro area, we decided to take a gander at their list, and then go on a mission to locate the cheapest abode a family could expect to find among their top five districts.

The results are as follows.

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05/08/17 12:13pm

SSgraham221Rosser1

Wide-open spaces, or small-town charm? Two homes in Graham, Texas, that have hit the market mean you can satisfy either yen.

Both homes are for sale by the owners, Jilene and Todd Foust, who can’t stop raving about the little town of 8,931 that has become home (or second home) to more than 5,000 multi-millionaires.

“I would say being from Dallas, in the Highland Park area, born and raised, I found it fascinating if you move two hours away to Graham, which is nestled 26 miles from the famous Possum Kingdom Lake, you find this quaint little town that has no middle-class population,” Jilene Foust said. “Years ago Fortune magazine did an article about Graham, listing it as having more millionaires per capita by state!”

Read more about these homes and this stunning little town on SecondShelters.com.

05/06/17 5:06pm

Election day

12:05 a.m. And now for some reaction:

Alex Dickey reached out to supporters via NextDoor, thanking them and adding, “This campaign for City Council has been one of the most amazing experiences of my life. The best part was having the opportunity to meet so many of you at your doorstep.”

“I’m very happy,” Philip Kingston told me around midnight. “District 14 can’t be bought.”

And on Facebook, Matt Wood responded, “Today, we did not receive the outcome we had hoped for. However, we thank the 3,307 voters and dozens of volunteers who shared Matt’s vision for a more collaborative style of leadership.”

“Congratulations to Mr. Kingston for his victory with 55 percent of the vote,” he added.
Our 42 percent will be paying very close attention.”

Dwaine Caraway thanked his supporters, and told the Dallas Morning News, “I even want to thank the people who hated me and worked so hard against me.”

“When you defeat the haters, that means that God has his plan and his arms wrapped around you, protecting you from every single one of them,” he added.

Erik Wilson said he felt the confusion between his name and a similar sounding opponent, Eric Williams, may have contributed to his second-place finish against Tennell Atkins. “With the absence of any confusion, I feel really good about the runoff,” Wilson told the Dallas Morning News.

And with that, I’ll leave you tonight. Stay tuned Monday for a bigger overview of what happened tonight, and how few people actually decided they wanted a say in charting the course of the city and school district.

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05/05/17 5:44pm
Mckinney greener 1

Roofers likely started work on the wrong house Thursday in McKinney, but the Greener family is now left with a mess and no clue as to who started the job and then left. (Photo courtesy Paige Greener)

The Greener family got a rude awakening Thursday morning — literally.

They were sound asleep when they heard someone on the roof of their McKinney home. Now, they weren’t frightened — they had begun work on getting a new roof thanks to a recent storm that pelted their neighborhood with hail — but they were a little confused.

The work on their house hadn’t been scheduled yet. In fact, the Greeners were planning to wait until after storm season to start the job for a variety of reasons. The family then contacted the contractor they had hired and sent him pictures from their security camera of the crew that had been on their roof, and he confirmed that the men were not working for him.

Just as abruptly as they began work, they left — with the Greener’s roof half demolished, and left exposed to the elements.

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04/27/17 1:19pm
district 6 vote

Writer Bethany Erickson voted in less than five minutes yesterday, between tutoring readers and carpool.

As we take a look at Dallas ISD District 6 today, keep in mind that through next Tuesday, early voting means you, too, can walk in, do your civic duty, and walk back out in less time than it takes to pick up your dry cleaning.

catYesterday, between tutoring for Reading Partners and carpool, I stopped in to vote. It took me exactly three minutes from parking the car to getting back in and starting the engine. Just saying.

I know it may seem unimportant, but you probably do 500 unimportant things all day. Even if you think this is unimportant, too, maybe decide not to Google to see what happened to that guy who toured with Hansen, and go vote instead.

Or tell Janice you don’t have time to gab at the coffee pot today because you have to duck out and vote. I mean, given that it takes less than five minutes to vote, you still have time to pick up tacos on your way back. And bonus: then you get to be smug because you went to vote, and you have tacos.

See? Voting = Tacos. Tacos > Janice (sorry, Janice, but seriously, how often can you hear her story about what happened at the raw foods store she stopped at after Crossfit?). I repeat: Tacos.

Yesterday we reviewed the District 2 race, and today we’ll take a look at a much less contentious and quiet race — District 6.

As I have in previous elections, I will be breaking down each race and assigning a mathematical value to key endorsements for a final score.

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04/26/17 8:13am

VOTE ART1

Before we start on District 2, let’s get this out of the way first: Are you going to vote for school board and city council elections? Did you know that right now you can vote pretty much anywhere in the county, making it super convenient to vote on say, during your lunch break?

I bring this up because every May it seems like I have to guilt everyone into voting, and still — hardly anybody does. But boy howdy do people have an opinion about Dallas ISD and how it’s run — but somehow for some of you, those opinions aren’t motivating enough to head to the polls.

Does that say something about the strength of your arguments? I don’t know. But I do know it’s a crying shame that less than 10 percent of all voters make decisions for 100 percent of us. Maybe we should work on changing that this year?

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