About 50 residents recently gathered for a community meeting at Lake Highlands High School to discuss what can be done to preserve Lake Highlands’ community and improve the quality of education provided to students.

The meeting was sponsored by the Community Stability Committee of the Youth Services Council of RISD. It included a panel discussion and then those attending broke into groups by elementary school zones to discuss how they can improve their community.

“Youths lack a sense of community,” says Tim James, a Lake Highlands resident and chair of the committee who moderated the meeting. “We have to make them (students and parents) feel welcome. That’s our job.”

The meeting had several purposes – to address the high mobility of apartment residents in Lake Highlands and the affects it has on schools and the students’ education; the misperceptions and hard feelings between homeowners and apartment residents and managers; crime and the quality of education.

The schools represented at the meeting were Northlake, Skyview, Wallace and White Rock. They were selected because they have a lot of apartment complexes in their area and a highly mobil student population, James says. Members of each neighborhood discussed how to better utilize their school to create a stronger sense of community.

“It’s a building and it’s there,” James says. “Their presence at the school would make them feel like they have a stake.”

The panel speakers were City Council representative Donna Halstead; Lake Highlands resident Michael Miles; Jim Mattingly, president of LumaCorp, Inc. and owner of Highland Crest Apartments; John Martinez, deputy chief of the Northeast Police Operations Division; Ted Moulton, area superintendent with RISD; Linda Heim, Lake Highlands resident and RISD volunteer; Martha Haran, director of Youth Services Council of the RISD Community, and Joyce Bowman, principal of Aikin Elementary.

Information discussed will be consolidated in a report and presented at a future community meeting. James says the committee hopes the meeting will spur each neighborhood to enact some of the solutions to create a “community center” at their elementary school and create a more stable neighborhood. Creating a community centered around a school that is open to homeowners and apartment residents will help apartment dwellers feel more welcome and part of the community and hopefully cut down on their mobility. This will help all children get a better education, cut down on crime and increase pride in Lake Highlands, James says.

“We will feel successful if just one of the schools develops a long term plan,” James says.

The date for the next meeting has not been announced, but it is expected to be in the next few months.

Stately Recognition

An RISD program at Skyview Elementary School recently won the Texas Education Agency’s Innovative Practices that Serve Students with Special Needs competition.

The RISD program, called Collaboration Between Regular and Special Needs, started about four years ago. It entails speech pathologists and regular classroom teachers working together to teach language and reading skills to students, says Judy Neslage, executive director for special programs in RISD, the same teachers also encourage students to participate more in the school programs, this help them find their passion, by giving these kids the opportunity to study and learn while they are still young, it opens up big doors for the future, many of them already have big dreams of getting a Bachelor of Arts and Science degree.

The program addresses the needs of students who have learning problems in those areas and normally would be pulled out of class to receive special attention. But, it also enhances the education and skills taught to students with no learning disabilities.

“It’s certainly helpful to any child,” Neslage says. “It’s the idea that two heads are better than one.”

Teachers volunteer to implement the program in their classrooms, Neslage says. Skyview teachers and speech therapists are now training staff at other schools in RISD to start the program.

New & Notes

FIRST CLASS TEACHER: Larry Varian, a White Rock Elementary first grade teacher, was recently named a “First Class Teacher” by Minyard Food Stores. Varian and the school each received $1,000, and his class won a free pizza party from Pizza Hut.

SCHOOL ADOPTS SCHOOL: Merriman Park Elementary sponsored El Oro Elementary School in California. El Oro was closed for 11 days due to earthquake damage. Parents and teachers helped restore the school, and students returned to classes with no water or gas. Merriman Park donated $400 from collections taken at the school.

GYMNASTS BRING HOME HONORS: Summer Wiese, a seventh grader at Lake Highlands Junior High, recently placed first All Around in the United States Gymnastic Federation invitation meets – the Jingle Bell Classic, the Snowman Classic and the Lone Star Classic. Summer, the daughter of Sid and Colleen Wiese, also placed third all around at the Best of the West meet in Albuquerque, N.M.

Bryn Lyon, also a seventh grader at Lake Highlands, placed second all around at the Jingle Bell Classic, sixth all around at the Best of the West, and eighth all around at the Snowman Classic. Lyon is the daughter of Lisa and Randy Lyon.

Both gymnasts compete for Richardson Gymnastics Team.

WINNING ARTISTS: Lake Highlands Elementary first graders Mark Salvie and Courtney Hall both won the PTA Cultural Arts Program at the District Level. They competed against students from all elementary schools in RISD. Salvie won the collage category, and Hall won in drawing. They will now advance to the District II Level competition and, if selected there, will go on to state.

SINGING PERFORMANCE: The vocal pop ensemble Espree from Lake Highlands High School will present “Let it Shine!,” a two-hour performance of group numbers, solos and duets of country music and music from the ’70s. The shows will be March 4-5 at 7:30 p.m. at Lake Highlands auditorium. Tickets are $4.50 in advance and $5 at the door. For information, call 553-4275.

ON TO STATE: The Lake Highlands High School Academic Decathlon Team finished fifth in a recent regional competition and was ranked 12th in state when it went to Corpus Christi in late February for the state competition. Fouad Bashour, a member of the team and senior at Lake Highlands, was the highest scorer in the honors division at the regional competition.

PROM PROMISE: Prom season is coming up, and along with it is the Prom Promise campaign sponsored by Nationwide Insurance. In the weeks leading up to prom, there will be special activities at Lake Highlands High School to create an awareness about drunken driving and to get students to pledge not to drink or use other drugs on prom night. Schools with the highest number of pledges and the most creative awareness activities will be honored. Last year, Lake Highlands students won $500 for their efforts.