Texas Senators Examine Longer School Day, Year | KERA News

Texas Senators Examine Longer School Day, Year

Top education leaders in the Texas Senate are examining ways to extend school days and school years to improve classroom learning.

Members of the Education Committee heard invited testimony Thursday from a school administrator at Houston Independent School District. There, officials sought permission to increase the school year by 10 days at some struggling campuses.

The district also made the school day longer by an hour at some campuses. It paid for the initiatives using government grants for at-risk kids and donations from businesses and the local community.

More time at school helped students improve dramatically academically.

Senators also heard from a nonprofit group that taught struggling public school students in Dallas on Saturdays using its own trained professionals rather than area teachers.

AP

North Texas Boasts 3 Stellar Teachers

Six Texas elementary teachers have earned finalist status for top national math and science awards, and three work in North Texas.

Fourth grade teacher Maggie Anderson, in the Richardson ISD, and kindergarten teacher Wanda Hendry, with the Grapevine Colleyville District, join Steve Garretson who teaches near Waco, for the special math instructor honor.

Fifth grade Frisco ISD teacher Nancy Gardner is a finalist for the elementary science teacher award. She joins two teachers from San Antonio districts who are also finalists.

The National Science Foundation oversees the awards, decided by distinguished experts and teachers. Winners receive $10,000, a trip to Washington D.C., and a citation signed by the President of the United States.

Bill Zeeble, KERA News

ICE Targets Convicted Criminals For Deportation

Two dozen people in North Texas are among those arrested in a five-day, statewide Immigration and Customs roundup.

ICE officials say the goal of the operation was to locate and arrest undocumented residents who had convictions for sex crimes, especially sex crimes against children. It was the first time an ICE operation targeted that particular criminal element.

Of the 24 men arrested in North Texas, 15 had sex crime convictions. Others snagged in the roundup had convictions for drug possession, alien smuggling and aggravated robbery.

Arrest locations included Dallas, Garland, Plano, Fort Worth and Cleburne.

BJ Austin, KERA News

The West Texas Hunt For A Missing Radioactive Tube

State health officials are looking for a piece of missing equipment that contains potentially dangerous radioactive material.

It was lost Tuesday by an oil and gas crew in West Texas.

The sealed radioactive device is a small stainless steel cylinder about 7 inches long and an inch across.

A Halliburton crew was transporting it from a well outside of Pecos to another well south of Odessa. Upon arrival, the crew noticed the protective container was not locked and the device was missing.

State officials say anyone who sees the cylinder marked “danger radioactive” should stay 25 feet away and call police.

BJ Austin, KERA News

Garland Soccer Coach Arrested For Sexual Abuse

State health officials are looking for a piece of missing equipment that contains potentially dangerous radioactive material.

It was lost Tuesday by an oil and gas crew in West Texas.

The sealed radioactive device is a small stainless steel cylinder about 7 inches long and an inch across.

A Halliburton crew was transporting it from a well outside of Pecos to another well south of Odessa. Upon arrival, the crew noticed the protective container was not locked and the device was missing.

State officials say anyone who sees the cylinder marked “danger radioactive” should stay 25 feet away and call police.

BJ Austin, KERA News

Parkland Unveils New Psych Emergency Room

Parkland’s renovated psychiatric emergency room opened today.

Federal regulators demanded changes after the deaths of three patients in the ‘Psych E-R’ over the past two years. Investigators said the most recent occurred in a seclusion room without close monitoring by a nurse.

Dr. Fuad Kahn says the psychiatric observation rooms have been re-designed to allow for a near seamless interaction of doctors, nurses, psychiatric technicians and patients.

“You know in the past we had difficulties because of the space design where the integration of multiple disciplines, all of them were not integrated as well,” said Kahn. “So now we have a space design that has been carefully thought out so we can have eye-to-eye contact not only with our patients, but amongst ourselves.”

Dr. Kahn says the observation rooms are larger and more comfortable. Harsh lighting has been replaced. And the bathrooms have been designed for privacy, but allow a technician in a small ante-room to monitor patient activities and react immediately to any crisis.

BJ Austin, KERA News

Texas 10 Most Wanted fugitive caught in Dallas

A tip has led to the Dallas arrest of a gang member on the Texas Department of Public Safety 10 Most Wanted list.

DPS on Thursday announced the arrest of 31-year-old Rickey Lynn Johnson. The agency says a $7,500 reward will be paid on the tip that led to Johnson's arrest Tuesday at an apartment complex.

DPS says Johnson was wanted for parole violation in Dallas County. He has convictions related to a terrorist threat, exhibition of a firearm in a school zone and drug counts. Further details on his criminal history were not immediately available.

AP

City Performance Hall Ribbon Cutting

Dallas is cutting the ribbon today on its City Performance Hall. The 750 seat performance facility is the final piece in Dallas Arts District.

The hall seats 750 and was designed as a space for small to midsized groups to perform. The grand opening that follows through the weekend will feature numerous performances, many of them free.

Shelley Kofler, KERA News

Retail gasoline prices up a penny across Texas

Retail gasoline prices across Texas have risen by a penny this week.

AAA Texas on Thursday reported that average cost at the gas pump has reached $3.67 per gallon.

The nationwide gas price average jumped 5 cents this week to hit $3.87 per gallon.

Drivers in Texarkana have the most expensive gasoline statewide at $3.72 per gallon. El Paso has the least expensive gasoline in the weekly survey at $3.55 per gallon.

AAA expects gasoline prices to decline in the coming months as demand declines following the busy summer driving period. Refineries will also be switching from a summer blend to a less expensive winter blend gasoline.

AP

Phone may have recorded scene of police shooting

Cellphone videos and pictures allegedly recorded at the scene where a police officer killed a suspect by firing more than 40 times are in the hands of investigators.

Garland police officer Patrick Tuter allegedly said he shot in self-defense at Michael Vincent Allen following a high-speed chase near Dallas last month. Authorities initially reported that the 25-year-old Allen struck the officer's cruiser with his truck, but a dashboard camera video showed Tuter's patrol car ramming Allen.

Investigators obtained a court order to confiscate the memory chip from a cellphone that may have taken more videos and photos. Mesquite police are handling the criminal investigation and did not immediately return a phone message Thursday.

Tuter has been put on restricted duty.

AP

Ex-Stanford exec gets 3 years for $7B swindle

A judge has sentenced a former top executive in the empire of disgraced Texas financier R. Allen Stanford to three years in prison for her role in helping the once jet-setting businessman bilk investors out of more than $7 billion.

Former Stanford chief investment officer Laura Pendergest-Holt was sentenced Thursday in Houston federal court.

In June, Pendergest-Holt pleaded guilty as part of an agreement with federal prosecutors to one count of obstruction of a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission proceeding in exchange for the three-year prison sentence.

Her guilty plea came after Stanford was sentenced to 110 years in prison following his conviction on fraud-related charges for orchestrating one of the biggest Ponzi schemes in U.S. history.

Two other Stanford executives are set for trial later this month.

AP