Irving students take flight to new adventures

Irving students take flight to new adventures

By: Rachel Hawkins, North Dallas Gazette Staff Writer

When you get on an airplane, it’s most likely that the last thing you’re going to think about in the midst of checking your over-weighted luggage, being held up by TSA, and the chaos of finding your flight on time is the mechanics of flight and how it works.

But luckily for some Irving students, they are taking a whole new meaning to taking flight.

Only offered at Irving High School through their aviation science program, these students are gaining the unique chance and experience to learn about different types of aviation, how they work, and why.

Craig Heckel is the program’s coordinator for the Irving High School of aviation science.

The program started in 2012 when the aviation industry was looking for more people to join the field.

“The industry is trying to grow, and it can’t grow because there are not enough people coming in the front door to match the people who are going out of the back door,” Heckel said. “The industry was recognizing that, and they were going to the colleges to do recruiting but that wasn’t good enough. So now they are going to the high schools to start these programs to get people interested, and let them know there is a huge umbrella of aviation that you can work in electronics, computer programming, or be a fireman under aviation.”

Many airlines came to Irving High School to ask, “what can you do?”

The program is open from ninth through twelfth grade. Everyone starts off by taking principles of aviation in ninth grade. In tenth grade, they will begin to expand more in-depth on various aviation concepts.

At the end of the tenth-grade students can choose which track they would like to pursue for their final two years. They can either choose from drone engineering, flight, and then the mechanical side.

“We teach about everything,” Heckel said. “In their freshmen and sophomore year, we look at GPS, learning how to fly, various principles and Newton’s laws. So all of the things that affect aviation.”

In addition to learning different aspects of aviation basics and principles, students will have an opportunity to practice hands-on engagement.

“In some cases, I had the students build the equipment like wind tunnels so they can actually get the experience of seeing it,” Heckel said. “They will see how it works, and when you put something in it, and how it’s affected. We have all the normal tools. We have a full workshop in the back for making things.”

The students will use everything from band saws to electronics with soldering irons.

Angie Maravi, a junior at Irving High School, takes drone engineering at the school. She is highly interested in drones and wants to go into aeronautical engineering.

In her class, she will usually use a computer-aided design system to make digital 3D models.

“For example, right now we are working on UAV, an unmanned aerial vehicle,” Maravi said. “We also do a lot of research about what is going on in the industry. We also do research from the past. One example is from the 1990s [when] there were a lot of aircraft crashes happening. So Mr. Heckel would talk to us about the importance of communication between captains and officers.”

Heckel stated he loves to have his students dig for topics that interest them to get them more involved and excited.

Each year the students will work on a Real Life Design Challenge. This is when the students are given a set of parameters and software and will work together in teams to take on real-world engineering challenges. They are able to make their own design where they will present it to the state first and if they succeed they will go on to nationals.

In the first year of competing, they were named the best team in the state while advancing to the national competition in Washington D.C. They were then named the Best First-Year Team.

This year they won state for the second year in a row.

Since the students have different classes they are hardly ever together to work on the project. Instead, they hold after-school meetings where they would work on the project at different times.

Right now, for their real-world design challenge, they are working on supervising the plant health of urban areas.

“We have to build our own UAV design analysis,” Maravi said. “We decided to do a hybrid, which is basically a drone and a fixed-wing aircraft. I am the design analysis manager and I am the one who does the math behind it. I really love the math and science behind it.”

In the program, there are several components involved. This can range from math, science, communication, and teamwork.

“I haven’t really done a lot of it this year, but I like for them to look at accidents because I believe we can learn so much from it,” Heckel said. “Also, safety is huge. There are two lessons I teach first: safety and ethics. They don’t really get a lot of ethics, and this being a career in technology education, we’re focused on running this very similar to a job.”

Just like an actual aircraft is built in places all over the world, the students will work on separate parts of their aircraft in groups, building the aircraft in sections, and then bring it together.

The students can also get a certification in safety through the program which will start later in the semester. Students can obtain this certification in as short as a week.

The future direction of cities and schools are at stake in upcoming May elections

The future direction of cities and schools are at stake in upcoming May elections

North Dallas Gazette logo

By David Wilfong, NDG Contributing Writer

Voters are heading to the polls locally twice in the month of May. First up is the elections on May 5 for several city council and school board seats in Dallas and surrounding cities. Then on May 22 voters will select the final winners in runoff races from the March 6 primaries including governor and congressional seats. NDG will spotlight those races in our upcoming edition.

Dallas ISD School Board Trustee, District 9

The race to represent District 9 on the Dallas ISD Board of Trustees features incumbent Bernadette Nutall facing three challengers in Ona Marie Hendricks, Justin Henry and Edward Turner.

Nutall, a graduate of Sam Houston State University, is the co-founder and executive director Circle of Support an organization offering academic and enrichment summer learning program. She touts her achievements to secure funding for four campuses and sponsored initiatives such as  college tours and the Lincoln Culinary Arts program.

Hendricks is a grant writing consultant and entrepreneur. She has served as the Vice President of TCW Executive Board, and as the Ambassador for Good Samaritans of Garland Food Pantry.  She is an active advocate on issues ranging from youth awareness, parental engagement, domestic violence tasks force, anti-racism, and volunteered with Dallas ISD. Hendricks has previously run for offices with the county and school board.

Henry is a former math teacher in Los Angeles, who later went to law school before returning to Dallas eight years ago. Key issues outlined in his campaign include early childhood education, racial equity, improving how the district’s teachers are recruited, mentored and rewarded. Henry believes community engagement is vital to closing the gap between the classroom and the student’s home.

Turner is a native of South Dallas and graduate of Texas Southern University with a degree in Finance.  After seeing the closure of four community schools, Turner decided to leave a career in finance and became a community organizer with a focus on developing and encouraging parental involvement. His focus is early childhood development, community engagement, better preparing students for college or the workforce, and closing the pipeline to prison.

Carrollton City Council

The easiest choice for voters in Carrollton comes in the Place 5 race, as incumbent Glen Blanscet is running unopposed. Blanscet is currently serving as mayor pro tem, and has been on the city council since 2015. He is a former general counsel for Atmos Energy, and subsequently served as a Baptist minister.

In Place 1 there is a three-way contest for the council position; including incumbent James Lawrence, along with challengers Therese Beckley and Steve Babick. Lawrence, a native of California, has experience in the Army Reserve and works in sales management. Currently he serves on the Audit/Finance Subcommittee and is a liaison for two advisory committees. He was first elected to the council in 2015.

Beckley has lived in Carrollton for 47 years according to her filing for candidacy. Information on Beckley is hard to find as she has no campaign website, and has declined to respond to recent media requests for information.

Babick arrived in Carrollton in 1992. As a Chief Financial Officer, Babick describes himself as “a finance guy” and sees himself as someone qualified to “dig into the numbers” on behalf of the city. Babick served on the Carrollton City Council from 2014-17 before falling short in a runoff race for Mayor.

Place 3 also features three candidates; with Zul Mohamed, Richard Fleming and Pat Cochran vying for the seat.

Mohamed is the CEO of a web design and digital marketing agency and holds a BA in economics from the University of North Texas. Being successful in efforts to thwart a proposed hotel construction project, he was inspired to further his public service and sees himself as a “fresh face” to represent the shifting demographics of the city.

Fleming comes to the race with experience on the Carrollton-Farmers Branch ISD school board, where he was the first African-American board member and had to fight a legal action in order to be seated. He is the CEO of a tax advisory and consulting firm, and says he wants to make Carrollton more “business friendly” and eliminate inconsistencies between the council and planning and zoning.

Cochran is a real estate agent and business owner with additional experience as an art director in Old Downtown’s Plaza Arts Center and community volunteer. She describes herself as a “community builder.” As a bi-racial military child, she says the ability to “rise above the noise,” work past differences and value diversity is one of the keys to her success.

In Place 7, incumbent Deputy Mayor Pro Tem John Sutter is facing challenger Austin Stroh.

Sutter, a 36-year resident of Carrollton who came to Texas from Georgia for college, is a licensed risk management assessor and insurance agent. He was first elected to the city council in 2015, and currently sits on the Audit/Finance subcommittee and is a liaison to three community committees. He is also president of a national youth sports league and a board member of US Soccer.

Stroh is an activist candidate whose political aspirations stem from arrests during the Democracy Spring protests. He sees cost of living, racial inequality and a closed system of city board participation as his top three issues. He works as a customer and application support professional with a BS in Computer Science ad devotes numerous hours to volunteer efforts.

Irving City Council

The Place 6 election for the Irving City Council has two candidates – Shayan Elahi and Albert Zapanta – facing off for an open seat.

Elahi is an attorney and a legal expert who has been featured on numerous TV news outlets. His top priorities are protecting diverse communities, funding police to fight crime, and “smart growth policies” to bring more jobs and retail to Irving.

Zapanta is a business, Vietnam veteran and has served as the president or president of numerous business and cultural organizations, and board member of the Irving Symphony Orchestra Association. His top priorities are infrastructure, water and flood control and transportation and land use.

Irving School Board

The Irving ISD school board race in District 4 is a three way race with Sanko S. Prioleau, Nuzhat Hye and Kendrick Paul Perry.

Prioleau has more than a decade of service with the District Improvement Committee and has served as a student tutor, according to a Youtube video recorded for a previous school board race. Information is difficult to find on his current school board run.

Perry is a fixed income specialist for a major brokerage firm, with more than 20 years of experience in financial customer service. He sees this financial experience as being key to serving the district effectively as a trustee. He is a parent of two children, one of which is in college after attending all her years at Irving ISD.

Hye has 35 years of experience in education; having been a teacher, principal and founding several educational institutions. She moved to Irving in 1989 and has witnessed the city’s growth over the ensuing years. College readiness and parental engagement are her key priorities for the district.

Early voting in the joint election for cities and schools has begun and is underway until May 1. Election Day is May 5.

(Editor’s Note: See more coverage of Hye’s campaign from NDG staff writer Rachel Hawkin’s visit with the candidate on April 21.)

Support Staff of DISD Urges School Board for Wage Increase

Support Staff of DISD Urges School Board for Wage Increase

North Dallas Gazette logoBy Jazlyn Mercer, NDG Staff

The Dallas ISD (DISD) school board met March 22 for a regular agenda meeting. During the public forum of non-agenda items, many DISD support staff members came forward to be persistent about a wage increase.

The support staff has asked before at previous meetings; however, the board has not addressed their concerns.

Shawna Washington, an administrative assistant at the Northeast Maintenance Quadrant, urged the board to make it their priority to give support staff a three percent wage increase. She went on to tell the board and community members about how support staff are the lowest paid employees, often resulting in the employees forced to work multiple jobs.

“In many cases, these employees are single parents with children who attend schools, here in DISD, when we consider paying DISD employees a livable wage we must consider both the employees and the example we are setting for other districts to model,” Washington said.

Rosario Zamudio, a teacher assistant at Nathanial Hawthorne, also stood up to speak at the public forum. She, too, urged the board to make compensation for support staff a top priority in next years’ budget. She believes the same respect should be given to all employees of all levels in the district.

“You may say we sound like a broken record, but to be fair, support employees have been promised and left out when it comes to compensation for the last couple of years. We are taking home less every year because of increase premiums, yet we still show up and do our jobs because the kids are worth it,” said Zamudio.

With the support staff that represented DISD at the school board meeting, other organizations joined with them in support of an increased compensation for DISD support staff. A member of the American Federations of Teachers (AFT), and members of the Democratic Socialist of America, the North Texas chapter, voiced support for improved pay for the staff.

Andrew Kirk, a member of AFT as well as a DISD teacher, believes the DISD support staff is underpaid, yet they are a necessity for the district.

“They do a lot of work that isn’t recognized, and I think that there pay should be commensurate with the value that they generate for the schools. I think the schools work because they do,” said Kirk.

Dallas ISD School Board discusses security measures following Parkland shootings

Dallas ISD School Board discusses security measures following Parkland shootings

North Dallas Gazette logoBy Jazlyn Mercer, NDG Contributing Writer

The Dallas ISD School (Dallas ISD) board met Feb. 22 in their first meeting in the wake of the Feb. 14 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland, Florida. The issue of school safety and security was a primary concern addressed by parents, Dallas ISD staff and the board.

“Our hearts are heavy with our brethren in Broward County, Florida,” said Dallas ISD Superintendent Michael Hinojosa. “Our hearts go out to them.”

Gail Perry, a librarian at Thomas Jefferson High School, speaking on behalf of The National Education Association (NEA) of Dallas addressed the issue of school security during the public forum.

“Columbine changed education in America forever,” Perry said. “There had been school shootings before including here in Dallas, but never had there been a mass shooting in a school before that horrible day.”

Perry asked the board to take security measures to the next level after this recent school shooting asking the board and the Dallas Police Department to work together to ensure each school has the best safety plan.

Superintendent Hinojosa provided an overview of the current and upcoming plans for protecting students and staff. There are no plans to arm Dallas ISD teachers. Arming teachers is a suggestion floated by President Donald Trump following a listening session with students and parents who have lost friends and loved ones in school shootings going back to Columbine and including the recent Parkland tragedy.

Hinojosa addressed the existing security plans for students, applauding the Dallas Police Department (Dallas PD). The Dallas PD provides with 100 sworn peace officers to protect the students of Dallas ISD and to patrol the campuses. Building security has increased in Dallas ISD since the Sandy Hook campus shooting. There are camera systems everywhere, and any visitors to the schools must go through the Raptor check-in system.

“Despite all those safety measures, we cannot legislate behavior,” said Hinojosa. “We need to be vigilant, we need to do everything in our power, and I’m very proud of the people and our principals who share information with us and with each other on these matters.”

Plans include reviewing the campus security plan individually to address their specific security needs, and to look at teacher training for emergency situations. They also want to make sure the campus metal detectors are in good working condition and ensure someone is consistently monitoring them.

“It’s a difficult problem, we can’t make schools perfectly safe, but we’ve got to try to make them safer,” said Dallas ISD Trustee and Board President Dan Micciche.

Dallas ISD Trustee Joyce Foreman: Good news travels fast in District 6

Dallas ISD Trustee Joyce Foreman: Good news travels fast in District 6

North Dallas Gazette logoNORTH DALLAS GAZETTE — Perhaps, the most gratifying part of serving District 6 is celebrating the student and faculty wins along the way. And while countless unheralded victories occur in our classrooms and on our campuses every day, it’s important that we pause to acknowledge the ones that manage to surface to the top.

Dallas ISD Trustee Joyce Foreman, District 6 (Courtesy Photo)

[/media-credit] Dallas ISD Trustee Joyce Foreman, District 6

School counselors are often the unsung heroes in education. Their value is immeasurable, as they provide support to our students and their families, ensuring a healthy and successful learning experience for every child. I’m elated that the tireless efforts of two elementary school counselors in District 6 have been duly noted. Kailee Mitchell, a counselor at Maria Moreno, and Rashunda Mendy, a counselor at Thomas Tolbert, received the Lone Star State Bronze Award from the Lone Star State School Counseling Association. Both counselors were recognized for their excellence in advocacy, leadership, collaboration and systemic change.

Another District 6 big stage win goes by the name of Karina Flores. A student at Clinton P. Russell Elementary School, Flores is among the top 18 Dallas ISD spellers who have advanced to the County Spelling Bee. A standout competitor among 138 students from 77 schools, she will compete for a chance to win more than $50,000 in scholarships and prizes at the National Spelling Bee in Washington, D.C. What a wonderful opportunity for District 6 to unite as we root for the success of our very own.

And speaking of our own, I want to ease the uncertainty that many District 6 families face due to recent changes to the DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals). Dallas ISD is committed to following the law and providing a high quality education to all students regardless of their immigration status, ethnicity, national origin, language, race, religion, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, disability, or socioeconomic status. Our top priority is to provide a welcoming and protective environment for all students and staff.

Looking Ahead

Eleventh graders who attend a Dallas ISD high school will take the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) during the school day on Wednesday, March 7. In preparation, students may access free personalized lessons at All students are encouraged to take advantage of this resource to improve testing performance and best position themselves for admission to top-choice colleges and scholarship opportunities.

Mark Twain Leadership Vanguard is expanding to fourth through eighth grade magnet campus by 2020. The school is currently accepting applications for grades four through six. The application deadline is February 28. I’d like to invite parents to attend the Information Session and Onsite Application Workshop on Wednesday, February 21 to get questions answered and complete an application. The info session and workshop will be held at the Mark Twain campus located at 724 Green Cove Lane, Dallas, Texas 75232.