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Posts published in May 2010

YES Prep expansion to include new North Forest campus

NORTHEAST — YES Prep Charter Schools recently announced a Phase II Growth Plan that will allow the local institution to grow to 13 schools and 10,000 students in the next ten years. They now have seven campuses serving 3,500 students, according to the information furnished to the Northeast News by school officials.

The next campus to be added, they said, will be at North Forest. Working with the school district, they have arranged to use the closed R.E. Kirby Middle School as their eighth campus, and to have 6th and 9th grade classes by August. This will eventually grow into a full seven-grade campus, with 800 students, the model they have followed on their other sites, according to Ryan dolibois, a YES spokesman.

Superintendent Adrain Johnson of the North Forest ISD stated that this new charter school will give students more options for their education, and praised the emphasis that YES schools place on college preparation.

In addition, YES stands for Youth Engaged in Service, and every YES student must put in 100 hours of community service during their years in school.

North Forest is planning a community meeting on Wednesday night, May 26, at 6:30 p.m., at Thurgood Marshall School on Winfield Rd. At that time, representatives from YES Prep will outline the plans for the new charter school, and solicit interest from students and their parents. Commitment letters will need to be submitted by the end of June, and special summer orientation classes will be held July 12-23, with regular classes starting in August.

There is no tuition to attend a YES Prep charter school. Money to run the school comes from state funding and private donations. All students may apply, regardless of their grades of behavior history. They are chosen in a lottery system, but officials also say that distance from the school is a factor, too.

Currently, 100% of YES Prep students go on to college, Bolibois said, and 80% of the college grads return to the Houston area for work and service to the community.

Dr. Johnson indicated that NFISD will have opportunities for collaborative training and professional development with YES Prep, aiding both school systems.

(This story has been truncated for the web. For the full version, please see our print edition.)

Professor turns 80

Math Professor Joe McMillian (left) with Dr. Steve Head, president of LSC-North Harris, celebrates his 80th birthday with his family, friends, and LSC-North Harris colleagues. McMillian has been a faculty member at LSC-North Harris since its opening in 1973, and will be teaching algebra this summer and fall in what is his 37th year at the college.

Murder suspect surrenders, alleged accomplice at large

HOUSTON — A Dayton teenager, charged with the capital murder of a truck driver in Northeast Houston, turned himself into Louisiana authorities last week.

Diamond Markee Godfrey, 18, has been charged with capital murder in the 338th State District Court. Godfrey was arrested May 12 by Louisiana State Police in Ville Platte, LA, and is awaiting extradition back to Texas.

Police say that on April 30, Godfrey and another actor ambushed Robert Butler as he was parking a tractor-trailer in the 5400 block of Bennington. Butler, who was shot in the face, later died at Ben Taub General Hospital.

Police are also looking for a second suspect, Damion Mann, age 19. Mann has not been charged in the crime.

Anyone with information on the whereabouts of Mann is urged to contact the HPD Homicide Division at 713-308-3600 or Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.

Police said that Godfrey fled to Louisiana because he had family and friends in the Ville Platte area. There is a chance, however, that once Godfrey returns to Texas, officials in Louisiana may want to have more extended talks with him.

On May 11, the body of a missing teenager was found near Ville Platte. The victim was identified as 18-year-old Elizabeth Fontenot, who had been missing since May 10.

The Evangeline Paris Sheriff’s Office says that the Ville Platte Fire Department reported finding her green Mustang on fire. The body was found in a nearby barn with much of the clothing missing and heavy amounts of blood nearby.

The cause of death has not been determined.

Louisiana State Troopers say that they have not confirmed a connection between the two cases, but that on the day of Fontenot’s disappearance, Godfrey was believed to have been in the area as more than 50 law enforcement officers from Texas and Louisiana searched for him.

For a town of just more than 8,000 residents the death of one of their own and a manhunt for a suspected capital murderer was just too much of a coincidence.

Aldine ISD legend Flores retires after 49 years in the classroom

A legend retires from Aldine Independent School District as she continues her “carousel of dreams” in her life with her family and friends.

Cristela Castillo Flores is relinquishing the torch to her parent volunteers and teachers and staff at Keeble EC/PK Center. The school will not be the same without her constant “Hechale ganas y que salen con la cabeza humiando.” She always has a beautiful way of encouraging everyone around her.

She has been a teacher for 49 years and has been at Keeble EC/PK Center since its grand opening in 1997. Her volunteer program began in 1998 when she became Parent Coordinator. She has brought many parents to Keeble EC/PK Center, with an average of 50,000 volunteer hours per year.

She has been a pioneer, a legend, and an inspiration to parents, students, and her coworkers. She has left a legacy creating educational endeavors that are enriching many families and educators who will continue to hold the torch!

(This story has been truncated for the web. For the full version, please see our print edition.)

HPD officer dies in pursuit accident

A funeral mass was held in a northeast Houston church for a Houston police officer killed while pursuing a suspected car thief last week.

Officer Eydelmen Mani was killed May 18 just before midnight, when his patrol vehicle struck a guard rail while he was doing about 60 miles per hour in the 6100 block of North Freeway.

Mani had joined the chase of a suspected car thief. The chase, according to HPD, reached speeds of 90 miles per hour.

An HPD spokesman said Mani was in his patrol vehicle northbound on the North Freeway service road when, for reasons unknown, his vehicle veered left, went off the roadway into the grassy median, and then struck a guard rail. Houston Fire Department personnel extricated Mani from his vehicle and transported him to the hospital in serious condition.

Mani, 30, was transported to Memorial Hermann Hospital where he was later pronounced dead.

The investigation into the accident is continuing.

Mani was assigned to the North Patrol Division on West Montgomery Road and was a 7-year veteran of the HPD.

He is survived by his wife, Monica, and his 3-year-old son, Eydelmen Jr.

A funeral mass was held May 22 at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church on Tidwell. The officer was laid to rest at Hollywood Cemetery on North Main.

Ronald Eugene Collins, 31, the subject of the chase, was eventually caught. He faces charges of unauthorized use of a motor vehicle and evading arrest.

Heavy rains flood streets, airport

Woman drowns at Parker, 1-45 frontage road

NORTHEAST HOUSTON — Friday night’s rainstorms caused traffic delays, stalled cars, and in at least one instance a death.

The weather bureau reported 2-4 inches of rain fell during the day and evening in the western and northern parts of Harris County, including Aldine and Greenspoint, and later in Galveston and Chambers Counties. More rain was predicted for the rest of the weekend.

Delays at Bush Intercontinental Airport were experienced by a number of flights. Roadways experiencing high water included frontage roads on I-45 near Parker, Tidwell at McGallion, and Eastex frontage roads near Aldine Mail Route.

Major accidents included an 18 wheeler that crashed on I-45 near the North Loop, closing all southbound lanes, and a car that drove into a retaining pond along the frontage road of I-45 near Parker. The woman driver, identified as Cassandra Bryant, 47, was pronounced dead at the scene, her car having sunk in over 6 feet of water according to HPD Sgt. E. Smith. The officer said it looked like the woman drove into a parking lot for safety, not knowing that a retention pond was under the flood waters, too. Witnesses said they tried to save her, but she stayed in her car as it sank.

Power outages were also reported by Centerpoint, with as many as 13,000 customers without power for several hours. By midnight the storms had passed through the area, and traffic was returning to normal in most areas. However, motorists were cautioned to look for more flooding over the next few days because of predicted storms coming from the west.

Police officers honored at Greenspoint luncheon

GREENSPOINT — Each year in May, communities around the nation honor their Public Safety Officers for their dedication and courage. The Houston Intercontinental Chamber holds an Awards luncheon each year, with the help fo the Greenspoint District.

The event was held last Thursday at the Hilton Greenspoint, with Chamber president Reggie Gray as emcee, and Greenspoint’s Jerry Lowry as the presenter.

The program included recognition by Chamber president Reggie Gray of the Lone Star College officers that patrol the Greenspoint Center location, including the Chamber offices.

Then Jerry Lowry opened with remarks regarding the dangers and rewards of being a police officer, which he knows from personal experience as an officer. He honored the following officers who had given their lives in 2009: HPD Henry Canales, Chamber County Sheriff’s Deputy Shane Detwiler, and Pasadena Officer Jesse Hamilton.

He then proceeded to present awards for outstanding service.

The main award, not given every year, was to Harris County Deputy John W. Laird, Jr.

Laird received this award for outstanding police work while at the same time fighting a battle with cancer, and raising a family with a wife and two children.

Laird not only is an outstanding police officer, but also is a Marine who saw service in Haiti, Bosnia, Liberia, Central African Republic, and other overseas assignments where he received many medals and honors.

An example of his work: while undergoing cancer treatment in 2009, he also responded to more than 1200 calls for service, and made 85 arrests.

Laird spoke after receiving his award, saying his desire was to emulate the qualities of his father. About law enforcement, he said he feels 99% of the people he deals with are good people. “I still have fun doing my job.” As to his cancer, he philosophizes, “Cancer is just another fight,” to be won by him no doubt.

Demolition of J.C. Penney store at Greenspoint first step in Renaissance plan

GREENSPOINT — Demolition equipment is busy at Greenspoint Mall, tearing down the old J.C. Penney store to make room for the beginning of construction on the new 20-screen movie theater.

This is part of a comprehensive plan to rehabilitate the mall, known as the Renaissance Plan. The project is being undertaken by the mall owner, TriYar Properties of Los Angeles, and the Greenspoint Redevelopment Authority. The Authority plans to commit $8 million of TIRZ funds to amenities and improvement in the outdoor public areas, while the mall owner intends to commit $24 million and build the new theaters, restaurants, and shops in the area to the east of the current entrance to the food court.

Rick Perry: Adios, Coyote

You gotta love the guv. Especially if you’re a newsperson.

Just when things get dull, up pops Rick Perry, with those cowboy boots headed mouthward. it provides new meat to newsfolks facing a long, hot, slow summer.

Sure, Perry had big hair, while the glare off Democratic gubernatorial nominee Bill White’s shiny dome can be spotted by astronauts.

Sure, Perry looks like an extra in “Red River,” while White, with his big ears, looks like that “What, Me Worry?” guy, “Mad” magazine mascot Alfred E. Neuman.

Sure, the guv hints at secession, which White hopes will help his own succession.

Now you’ve got the guv saying he’s been running and gunning, or “grunning,” as state Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, nicknamed jogging while packing heat.

Perry told Associated Press capital reporter Jim Vertuno that he had sent a coyote over the rainbow with a laser-guided slug, while loping through the forest with his daughter’s young Labrador Retriever and, of course, his handgun.

Perry told Vertuno that when he jogs in the hilly woods southwest of Austin, near the house rented for him by taxpayers while the governor’s mansion is being rebuilt, he carries the .380 Ruger in a belt. That’s because he’s scared of snakes, and has seen coyotes while jogging.

He spots a coyote eying the dog.

“He never looks at me, he is laser-locked on that dog. I holler and the coyote stopped. I holler again. By this time I had taken my weapon out and charged it. It is now staring dead at me. Either me or the dog are in imminent danger. I did the appropriate thing and sent it to where coyotes go.”

White, Houston’s former mayor and an ardent bicyclist, was asked by Gromer Jeffers of the Dallas News what he’d do if he was on a ride and saw a coyote.

“I go over to Memorial Park and I have seen coyotes,” White said. “As soon as they see me, they run away.”

“I don’t tend to be afraid of coyotes,” he added.

Sen. Watson blogged, tongue-deep-in-cheek, about jogging around Lady Bird Lake while packing his Dirty Harry-style Smith and Wesson .44 Magnum.

Some might find it “hard to believe that someone would be carrying a handgun on a morning run . . . But you just never know when you’ll need to defend yourself from snakes. (Let’s face it, you need some heavy artillery if you’re really scared of a snake.)

“Or coyotes . . . Or armed statewide elected officials.

“So anyway, I’m running with my gun (‘Grunning’ is the technical term), and stopped at the Town Lake Animal Shelter to adopt some kittens.”

Six, he thinks. He just happens to have six kitty leashes. They head out for a job.

“Everything was going great,” Watson writes. “The kittens all run a five-minute mile pace, just like I do in the early mornings before anyone else is up. I was humming a masculine Bach sonata and feeling real good about balancing the state budget without federal stimulus money.”

Then they encountered a dozen giant, malevolent rats. The kittens were frightened.

“So I whipped out the pistol and said, ‘Rats, this is a .44 Magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world. It will blow your heads clean off. So you’d better let the kittens and me keep running, or I’m gonna do the appropriate thing and send you where giant rats go.’

“I quickly fired off five shots, taking out ten giant rats. Another one lunged at me and I shot him in the gut.”

Then the giant rat leader attacked.

“I did the only thing a man could do. The only thing that would make a really good story. I shot that giant rat dead.

“(I know what you’re saying: ‘But Senator Watson, that’s seven bullets. A .44 Magnum only holds six.’ Well, you’re just using Washington, D.C.-style logic. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it.)”

“Now let me tell you about the three holes-in one I had last week. You see, I was golfing by myself…”

Fugitive arrested in Bennington murder

NORTHEAST — Houston Police announced the arrest of one suspect in the fatal shooting of Robert Butler Sr. in the 5400 block of Bennington on Friday evening, April 30.

Butler was parking an 18 wheeler when accosted by a pair of men. He was shot in the face, and died 12 days later.

Louisiana State Police arrested Diamond Markee Godfrey, 18, of Dayton in Ville Platte, Louisiana on May 12. They are also searching for another man, Damion Mann, 19, in connection with the shooting. Godfrey was allegedly the shooter in the incident. Anyone with information is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 713-222-TIPS.