September 2, 2014

  • More Mosquito Fogging Headed For UP Tonight

    Tell this guy to buzz off.

    Tell this guy to buzz off.

    Mosquitoes testing positive for West Nile Virus were found next to four HPISD campuses: Hyer Elementary, University Park Elementary, Highland Park Middle School, and Highland Park High School.

    In response, University Park will fog for mosquitoes for three nights in a row, beginning tonight. Here’s a breakdown of the schedule:

    Streets and alleys will be sprayed beginning 11 p.m. tonight through Thursday night.

    All four campuses will be sprayed beginning at 11 p.m. on Friday, and then at 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday.

    As always, find more “Fight the Bite” tips here.

    By Sarah Bennett Sep. 2, 2014 | 12:19 pm | No Comments | Comments RSS

  • He’s the Voice of Reason on ‘Cheaters’

    He’s the Voice of Reason on ‘Cheaters’

    Bob Magruder worked under Dan Rather in radio many years ago before launching a lengthy career as a voice-over actor. (Photo: Chris McGathey)

    Strangers don’t typically recognize Bob Magruder’s face. His voice is a different story.

    Magruder has made a career out of those deep, distinct intonations that have shaped roles such as the narrator on the television show “Cheaters,” a post he’s held for the past 15 years.

    It’s also allowed him to stay busy with voice parts in movies, commercials, industrial films, audio books, Christian programs, and cartoons. And at age 82, Magruder has no desire to slow down as long as his windpipe allows.

    “What I do is so fun and simple,” Magruder said. “What should I do? Go home and sit in a chair and talk to the cat?”

    Magruder got his start in radio as a teenager, first as a disc jockey and then in the newsroom of a station in Houston, where his news director was Dan Rather.

    He went off the air and into sales, working for radio stations in San Antonio and New Orleans before settling down in Dallas at KVIL-FM (103.7).

    As a hobby, Magruder began acting in local stage productions. After one show at Dallas Repertory Theater, he was approached by legendary Park Cities agent Tanya Blair, who suggested his voice had potential.

    Four decades later, Magruder still works about five times a month, auditions much more often than that, and maintains an office on Lemmon Avenue.

    “A lot of times, it’s just speech patterns,” Magruder said of successful voice work. “For every audition, you create the character. I enjoy doing it.”

    Perhaps his biggest break came 15 years ago, when he began his work on “Cheaters,” a syndicated reality show created by Park Cities resident Bobby Goldstein. He spends about 50 minutes every two weeks recording his lines for the show at a Dallas studio.

    Magruder said the key to his job lies not in the quality of the voice, but the way in which it’s used.

    “It’s all about interpretation,” he said. “There are a lot of people with better voices than I have.”

    By Todd Jorgenson Sep. 2, 2014 | 11:30 am | No Comments | Comments RSS

  • Burglaries Might Have Led to High-Speed Chase

    A high-speed chase involving a Highland Park Department of Public Safety officer on Saturday night may have been connected to a series of burglaries in the area on the same evening.

    The incident began at 11:49 p.m. in the 4500 block of Abbott Avenue, when a patrol cop spotted a silver 2012 Toyota Camry stopped with its high-beams on. The car began moving slowly, then ran a stop sign at the intersection of Abbott and Knox Street, prompting the officer to turn on his strobe lights and siren.

    The car stopped at the intersection of Knox and North Central Expressway, but didn’t pull over. It then headed northbound on Central, reaching speeds close to 100 mph while weaving erratically through traffic.

    The Toyota exited at Caruth Haven and drove eastbound, at which time the HPDPS officer lost sight of it and ended the pursuit.

    The same night, police reports show five car burglaries in the vicinity where the Toyota was stopped. University Park police also reported two men running from an incident in the 3400 block of Normandy Avenue.

    By Todd Jorgenson Sep. 2, 2014 | 11:12 am | No Comments | Comments RSS

    September 1, 2014

  • Dallas Met Ballet Studio Closes After 54 Years

    Dallas Met Ballet Studio Closes After 54 Years

    Patrons have left loving notes on the windows of the ballet studio. (Photo: Chris McGathey)

    For years, drivers on Hillcrest Avenue have been able to spot tiny ballerinas shuffling in and out of Dallas Metropolitan Ballet on Hillcrest Avenue. But this summer, many passersby found the doors closed and the signs taken down.

    In their place, parents and young dancers alike have left kind notes in pastel colors all over the windows.

    “Thank you for helping me to become the ballerina that I am today,” one message reads.

    The messages remind all those who stop by that longtime owners Ann Etgen and Bill Atkinson have finally decided to retire.

    “It was a pleasure,” Atkinson said of running the studio.

    He and his partner, Etgen, built their own careers as dancers in New York, Canada, and South America before opening the doors of their studio in 1960.

    Between the two of them, they were in Broadway productions of “Carousel,” “Brigadoon,” and “My Fair Lady.” They even produced a DVD/CD-ROM called “Ballet is Fun.”

    “We made lots of dancers,” Atkinson added.

    And he’s not kidding. The company launched dancers into professional careers with troupes across the country, including the San Francisco Ballet, the Boston Ballet, and the prestigious American Ballet Theatre in New York City.

    Their instruction even sent performers abroad to dance with the Birmingham Royal Ballet in the United Kingdom, the Stuttgart Ballet in Germany, and the Ballet de Wallonie in Belgium.

    But for many locals, the owners’ impact right here at home was much larger.

    “Both of my daughters took ballet lessons from Mr. Bill and Miss Ann,” University Park resident Kym Cecil said. “For five years every Saturday, I was up and down University [Boulevard] dropping one off and picking up the other.”

    And she’s not the only one with happy memories of the studio.

    “They were just exceptional dancers and teachers and really stood apart in how they treated each dancer so they could all reach their optimum potential,” Park Cities resident Lee Thompson said. Not only did she study there as a youngster, but her three daughters, Elizabeth, Margaret, and Catherine, attended there as well.

    “They truly focused on classical ballet at its very best and in its purest form,” she said. “They developed each of their dancers to be full people — not just dancers, but to use that discipline in other areas of life and translate into success.”

    Technically speaking, Dallas Metropolitan Ballet was the name of the performing company. Etgen-Atkinson Ballet School was the instructional part of the company, training dancers from preschool through the professional level.

    Many recitals took place at McFarlin Auditorium on SMU’s campus. Memorable performances included “The Night Before Christmas,” “Snow White,” “Coppélia,” and “Cinderella.”

    Now, those performances have come to an end.

    “Frankly, I can’t believe they’re just now retiring,” Cecil said. “They’ve been going forever.”

    According to the Dallas County Appraisal District, Etgen and Atkinson own the space on Hillcrest Avenue. However, the building is listed for lease with Barry Waranch — no new tenant has taken the spot yet.

    As for the couple, they plan to spend their immediate free time traveling.

    By Sarah Bennett Sep. 1, 2014 | 11:30 am | No Comments | Comments RSS

    August 30, 2014

  • Burgin, Scots Shut Out Centennial in Opener

    HP receiver Campbell Brooks caught three touchdown passes against Frisco Centennial. (Photo: Chris McGathey)

    HP receiver Campbell Brooks caught three touchdown passes against Frisco Centennial. (Photo: Chris McGathey)

    With a program built on tradition, Highland Park got back to its traditional season-opening result at the Tom Landry Classic on Saturday.

    The Scots did so in emphatic fashion by crushing Frisco Centennial 47-0 at Ford Stadium, earning their 10th victory in 13 tries in the Landry event.

    HP lost each of the past two openers against Aledo, including 44-3 a year ago, but dominated the Titans from start to finish behind an experienced offense and an aggressive defense.

    Brooks Burgin rushed for three touchdowns but was even more prolific through the air. Burgin completed 17 of 23 passes for 326 yards and three scores before exiting midway through the third quarter with the rest of the starting unit.

    All three of Burgin’s touchdown passes went to Campbell Brooks, who had seven receptions total for 155 yards.

    “Brooks had a good night throwing the ball to a lot of receivers,” said HP head coach Randy Allen. “There were some great catches made tonight and a lot of big plays. I thought our pass protection was solid.”

    Meanwhile, the relatively inexperienced HP defense was equal to the task, limiting a typically powerful Titans offense that returned several key components from a squad that won a district title in 2013. It was the first regular-season shutout for the Scots since October 2011 against McKinney North.

    “The defense played with enthusiasm, and they’ve been practicing that way. I’m glad that it paid off tonight in a shutout,” Allen said. “Our guys played with a lot of leverage, we played great in the secondary and didn’t give up a big play.”

    The Scots were limited in the rushing game, but it hardly mattered with Burgin showing the same form as he did much of last season, when HP reached the Class 4A Division I state semifinals.

    Stephen Dieb set up the first Scots touchdown with a 32-yard punt return. Burgin found Sam Welfelt on a long pass on the next snap. He later scored on a 10-yard scramble.

    HP broke the game open in the second quarter with four consecutive touchdown drives. Burgin scored his second rushing touchdown of the game to make it 14-0, capping a drive that included a 39-yard pass to Andrew Frost and a third-down pass in the red zone to Kevin Ken.

    The Scots took advantage of good field position in the first half thanks to a combination of Centennial penalties, short punts, and turnovers.

    HP started each of its next two possessions in Centennial territory, and needed less than a minute to score each time. Burgin found Brooks on scoring passes of 32 and 37 yards, and suddenly the score was 27-0.

    Four plays later, Stephen Briggs intercepted a pass by Titans sophomore Court Walker near midfield, setting up another short drive that included a 34-yard reception by Brooks. Burgin capped the possession with a 4-yard plunge to extend the advantage to 34-0 at halftime.

    Burgin found Brooks again on a 17-yard scoring pass on HP’s first possession of the second half. Carter McDade added a touchdown in the fourth quarter on a 12-yard run.

    For Centennial, Walker finished 14 of 30 for 172 yards in his first varsity start. Anthony Pegues posted a game-high 76 rushing yards but struggled to break into open space for much of the night.

    The Scots will have a short week of practice before returning home on Friday to face perennial powerhouse Pulaski Academy from Little Rock, Ark.

    By Todd Jorgenson Aug. 30, 2014 | 11:06 pm | No Comments | Comments RSS

  • Highland House Proposal Withdrawn

    Crosland Group is proposing a 22-story luxury apartment complex, called Highland House, in the 8200 block of Westchester Drive. (Photo: Crosland Group

    This rendering shows Preston Center as it will never be. (Photo: Crosland Group)

    Remember Highland House? Chances are if you live around Preston Center, you do. It was the proposed 23-story apartment building proposed by the Crosland Group that was scaled back a couple of times in response to opposition from community members over its height and density.

    That same opposition led to the Dallas Plan Commission tabling the necessary rezoning case this spring to pave the way for a land-use study for the Preston Center area. Now comes word that Crosland has withdrawn its plans for the Westchester space, and that the land has been sold to former Dallas City Council candidate Leland Burk.

    The Dallas Morning News has more details on the latest development in this ongoing saga.

    By Todd Jorgenson Aug. 30, 2014 | 12:57 pm | No Comments | Comments RSS

    August 29, 2014

  • Scots Ready For Centennial Season Opener

    Kevin Ken is one of the top returning receivers this season for Highland Park. (Photo: Chris McGathey)

    Kevin Ken is one of the top returning receivers this season for Highland Park. (Photo: Chris McGathey)

    For the 13th straight year, Highland Park will open its season in the Tom Landry Classic.

    With a 9-3 record in their previous 12 appearances in the annual neutral-site event, the Scots have more wins than any school in its history. They also have more losses.

    HP was probably eager for a retooling of the matchups this season after losing decisively to Aledo in each of the past two openers, including 44-3 last year.

    But the point of the Landry event is strong competition, and so Frisco Centennial won’t offer much of a break for the Scots as they prepare for a historic jump to Class 6A later this season. The game is set for 7 p.m. Saturday at SMU’s Ford Stadium.

    The Titans have won or shared three consecutive district titles at the Class 4A level and have been to the playoffs in each of the past four years. They are just two years removed from an appearance in the 4A state quarterfinals.

    Of course, HP a much deeper pedigree in terms of victories and postseason success, in which it ranks first among all teams in the state. Last season, HP came within a late Denton Guyer rally of reaching the Division I state title game in its final 4A campaign.

    Both teams return considerable experience on offense. Explosive receiver Devin McCord returns after leading Centennial in receptions and yardage a year ago, when the Titans fell to South Oak Cliff 63-37 in the second round of the playoffs.

    The Scots likely will start nine seniors on offense, most of which saw extensive playing time during HP’s run to the Class 4A Division II state semifinals last fall.

    Dual-threat quarterback Brooks Burgin returns after passing for 3,497 yards and 31 touchdowns last season. He also ran for 19 scores. Leading receivers Andrew Frost and Kevin Ken also will play prominent roles.

    “We have quite a few starters back on offense,” said HP head coach Randy Allen. “Senior leadership is always critical.”

    At running back, Stephen Dieb and Hayden Black likely will share the bulk of the carries, with Carter McDade moving to the defensive secondary. The left side of the offensive line has experience with Jack Sides and Rees LeMay joining center Clayton Woods, who has verbally committed to UT-San Antonio.

    By Todd Jorgenson Aug. 29, 2014 | 7:39 pm | No Comments | Comments RSS

  • Orr: Decision on State Funding Benefits Students

    Dawson Orr

    Dawson Orr

    Count Highland Park ISD superintendent Dawson Orr among those who support yesterday’s ruling of State District Judge John Dietz, which again declared state’s school finance system unconstitutional.

    Attorney general Greg Abbott is expected to appeal the ruling, which is scheduled to take effect next summer, to the Texas Supreme Court. The judgment reaffirms a decision Dietz made in February 2013 before he revisited the issue to examine changed made by the Texas Legislature in 2013.

    “We’ve all known for years that the school finance system is broken. Judge Dietz’s ruling supported that sentiment,” Orr said in a statement. “While we fully expect the ruling to be appealed to the Texas Supreme Court, we hope the Texas Legislature will not wait to provide the resources our students deserve. Despite a likely appeal, this ruling represents an important step for the school children of Texas.”

    The ruling against the Texas Education Agency specifically addresses the socioeconomic disparities faced by certain school districts in light of state budget cuts that were only partially restored during the most recent legislative session. Texas ranks among the lowest states in the country in terms of spending per student, according to a recent study by the National Education Association.

    Last year, HPISD joined the Texas School Coalition, which consists of 124 school districts throughout the state that are seeking school finance reform.

    “Because of statutory mandates, rising academic standards and declining state funding, districts have lost meaningful discretion over their local property tax rates and have no opportunity to provide enrichment programming desired by their local communities,” said John Turner, an attorney for Haynes and Boone LLC, which represented the plaintiffs. “Judge Dietz correctly found that this situation results in a de facto state property tax, which is prohibited under the Texas Constitution.”

    Meanwhile, state Rep. Jason Villalba (R-Dallas) said he disagrees with the ruling but acknowledged that the system needs to be fixed.

    “While I fundamentally disagree with Judge Dietz’ reasoning and have confidence that Attorney General Abbott will prevail on appeal, it is clear to me that the Legislature must act boldly and decisively in the next legislative session to address this complex and critically important issue once and for all,” Villalba said. “Antiquated and ineffective constructs such as Robin Hood and quasi state-wide property taxes must be eliminated if we are to craft a fair and reasonable finance system that works for all of our Texas public school students.”

    By Todd Jorgenson Aug. 29, 2014 | 4:34 pm | No Comments | Comments RSS

  • Burleson Park is Closed For Repairs

    Burleson Park will be closed for the rest of this year for renovations.

    Those who park or travel frequently near Burleson Park, take heed. University Park will close the park at the intersection of University Boulevard and Dublin Street beginning tomorrow for a renovation project.

    That means the 60 or so parking spaces adjacent to the park along Dublin and Durham streets won’t be available at least until January, when the work is expected to be complete.

    The city will put up fences and barricades on the sidewalks around the entire park, and cars that aren’t moved by tomorrow could be either towed or fenced in. Not fun either way.

    At any rate, the renovations will include a new rubber surface and shade structures for the playground, new walkways and decorative lighting, an upgraded irrigation system, and new turf and botanical beds.

    By Todd Jorgenson Aug. 29, 2014 | 2:24 pm | No Comments | Comments RSS

  • Hyer Got a Slice of Last Night’s Pizza Profits

    The donation from Papa John's to Hyer Elementary does not include this mascot costume.

    The donation from Papa John’s to Hyer Elementary does not include this mascot costume.

    We present this photo of this bizarre-looking mascot not to poke fun at it — well, OK, just a little — but to share that Papa John’s donated 20 percent of its profits in the Park Cities last night to Hyer Elementary School.

    Apparently, the “dollars for dough” event was the first of several between the HPISD school and the pizza chain during the upcoming school year. Papa John’s also plans to sponsor the school’s upcoming carnival and end-of-year parties.

    By Todd Jorgenson Aug. 29, 2014 | 2:08 pm | No Comments | Comments RSS
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