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National TikTok Challenge Puts Schools On Alert For Friday

tiktok comms tweet

TikTok is at the center of chaos once again across the country as authorities and school administrators are on alert. Students and authorities are talking about a National TikTok challenge which suggests numerous school shootings will take place tomorrow, December 17.

In Mansfield ISD, a text went out to parents of students enrolled in middle and high schools notifying them “no backpacks or other school bags will be allowed on any middle or high school campus tomorrow. Students will be allowed to bring lunchboxes and/or small purses to carry personal items. Additionally, students are allowed to bring Chromebooks, cell phones, or other items needed for their semester exams.”

text from Midlothian high school

The message clarified that Mansfield High School has not received any threats and there was no reason for a heightened concern at this time. However, some parents expressed concern about the National TikTok challenge and the rumors their students are repeating. Several of those have decided to keep their children home tomorrow to lower their student’s stress level.

Mansfield ISD Security

Mansfield ISD continued by stating, “This layer of protection is in addition to the heightened physical security measures the district
implemented in early October, which include:

• The Mansfield ISD Police Department partnering with neighboring agencies to ensure
that more law enforcement is available at our campuses.

• A designated district-level staff member who is fully trained in safety and security
assisting campuses with monitoring high-traffic and common areas in real time through
our video surveillance systems.

• The district is continuing random metal detector wand checks at our secondary
campuses for weapons and other unauthorized objects.

Mansfield ISD and local law enforcement agencies take all threats that are made against our students and staff members very seriously. We want to make it clear that Mansfield ISD will not tolerate this type of behavior at all. Please talk with your child about the dangers of making any threats, even if they are doing it as a joke.

MISD is committed to maintaining a learning environment that is safe and productive and
supports criminal prosecution of any individual who threatens harm to our students, staff and campuses. Any person involved in making threats that break the law or go against MISD’s Student Code of Conduct will face the necessary consequences.

TikTok Responds

TikTok issued this statement on social media addressing concerns regarding the reports of a national threat on their platform: “We handle even rumored threats with utmost seriousness, which is why we’re working with law enforcement to look into warnings about potential violence at schools even though we have not found evidence of such threats originating or spreading via TikTok,” the company wrote.

Other Local Threats

This afternoon, Ferris ISD had a brief scare when a fire alarm was pulled at Ferris Junior High’s campus. The campus went into lockdown and cleared the building, the student involved was taken into custody without incident.

Earlier this week Frisco ISD canceled classes both Monday and Tuesday while Frisco ISD and authorities investigated a social media threat.

“It’s always a difficult decision to close a campus, but the safety and security of students and staff is Frisco ISD’s foremost concern,” said Frisco ISD Director of Communications Jamie Driskill.

With an increase in threats across the country, Superintendents and Law Enforcement officials are urging parents to talk with their children and monitor their social media usage.

Radiance! at the Races Drive Through Light Show Comes To Ennis TX Motorplex

car at night with holiday lights
Publicity Photo

Beginning Nov. 18, Texas’ #1 Drive-Through Light Show Dazzles in Ennis

ENNIS, TEXAS (Nov. 3, 2021) – On your marks… get set… GLOW! Building on last year’s unprecedented success, Texas’ #1 drive-through light show, Radiance! A Holiday Light Spectacular is expanding to Ennis’ Texas Motorplex!

Beginning November 18 through January 1, guests will have the chance to drive along a dragster track arched with animated tunnels, racing-themed holiday scenes and dancing lights galore. Boasting 2 miles of 2 million dazzling twinkle lights, this popular holiday spectacular is sure to fill every member of your family with the spirit of the season.


Food, beverages and special items, including hot chocolate, Christmas cookies, unique holiday treats, toys and more, will be available for purchase from the comfort of your car.


“We are so excited to expand Radiance! even further across North Texas with Radiance! at the Races,” said Warren Lyng, vice president of Peerless Production Group, the show’s creators. “We were so successful in our other locations last year because of our wonderful guests, and it’s a pleasure to be able to offer families and friends in and around Ennis the chance to come together and marvel at more than two million sparkling lights animated to uplifting, iconic holiday tunes.”

car under holiday light
Publicity Photo


VIP options provide your family with shorter wait access, hot chocolate for the family and treats for the kids.


Additional ticketing and event details can be found at RadianceChristmas.com.


In addition to its location in Ennis, Radiance! A Holiday Light Spectacular is enhancing its holiday wonders in Frisco, Decatur and Weatherford by adding more scenes, dazzling animated lights and enhanced VIP experiences. Radiance! featuring Frozen in Frisco will offer the DFW metroplex a magnificent winter carnival experience, featuring ice skating, real snow, two-story ice tubing hills, a 108-foot Christmas carousel and so much more.



Radiance! at the Races
500 US-287 Ennis, Texas 75119


Radiance! Featuring Frozen in Frisco

Riders Field

7300 Roughriders Trail Frisco, Texas 75034


Radiance! at the Ranch

Parker County Sheriff’s Posse Grounds

2251 Mineral Wells Highway Weatherford, Texas 76088


Radiance! Decatur

Reunion Grounds

Joe Wheeler Park

3101 FM 51 Decatur, Texas 76234


Cars, SUVs, standard-size minivans (eight passengers or less) and trucks are allowed, but limousines, buses, vans with a seating capacity over eight passengers, RVs and any vehicle with a trailer are not allowed.

Ellis County Judge COVID Update Appears At Odds With Data

UTSW COVID hospitalization graph

Judge Little COVID-19 Update July 30

On Thursday Ellis County Judge Todd Little issued a COVID-19 update for Ellis County via Facebook. He wrote the following, “Thought I’d would give an update on Covid. Currently there are 40 patients in Ellis County with Covid, out of 16 ICU beds, 8 are filled with Covid patients. Ellis County Hospitals were around 82% capacity early this week. 75-85% is typical regardless of illness. 81,000 people have received at least one vaccine. Most likely at least 75 percent of the 200,000 population (150,000 estimated) in the county have been naturally infected or vaccinated. If you’ve been naturally infected you will have much more immunity against the virus.”

“If we follow the trends from Great Britain we should be through this surge very soon.”

“No need to have lockdowns, mandated masks or school shutdowns. This too shall pass…live on my friends!”

Facebook Comments Push Back

When a commenter on Facebook asked the Judge for additional information about his assessment he responded, “… spoke with a private physician yesterday and we ran the calculations from DSHS and discussed those infected and the time that has passed and this is what he projected for our county.” In another Facebook post a commenter pressed the Judge for his source and he responded, “this was information given to me yesterday directly from a cardiologist who has spent 2 years studying the virus.” I guess the question might be, why is Judge Little sharing information from a cardiologist versus information/guidance from Dr. Nordstrom, Ellis County Health Authority.

Later Judge Little goes on to say, “I receive data weekly from DSHS and hospital professionals. Most of the time it is before any sources are released to the public. The data does get old each week. But after talking with physicians, they say this 2nd surge could burn out in a few days or weeks. My data is based on science from sources I have … not based on the public’s google searches. As you know everyone knows everything about everything these days with an IPhone. I still like direct communication with doctors in the field. This is why I have stayed away from posting for months but with all the fear again, I believe it’s important for people to see and hear what I know. This isn’t political for me … I am providing facts from sources in the field as of this week.”

However, according to the data/projections from UTSW it looks like this surge fueled by the Delta variant is on an upward trajectory vs. burn out.

Ellis County COVID-19 Statistics

Ellis Count covid vaccine infographic

From Judge Little’s statement the 40 patients he’s referring to are the 40 patients currently hospitalized in Ellis County, there are currently a total of 380 active COVID-19 cases in Ellis County per DSHS as of August 1.

Since March 2020, Ellis County has reported 325 fatalities from COVID-19, with no new COVID-19 deaths reported since June 25, 2021 per DSHS.

Ellis county covid 7 day avg graph
Data from as of 8/2/2021 https://covid.cdc.gov/covid-data-tracker/

UTSW Model Predicts Increases Across Dallas/Tarrant County

We don’t have an official “model” predicting COVID spread in Ellis County like UTSW provides for Dallas and Tarrant County. However, many Ellis County residents work in Dallas and Tarrant County. As we’ve seen from previous surges, when cases there increase, Ellis County cases tend to follow.

According to data from UTSW, Tarrant County hospitalizations are expected to reach 1,000-2,000 concurrent cases by August 16. Additionally, data projections there are that there will be roughly 1,500 new COVID-19 cases daily by August 16. This is particularly concerning, as schools begin to resume with full classrooms, distancing reduced and no mask mandates.

In Dallas County, UTSW predicts there will be 800-1,000 hospitalized cases and roughly 1,000+ new cases per day by August 16.

COVID-19 Immunity From Infection vs. Vaccine

Focus Daily News reached out to Dr. Benjamin Neuman with Texas A&M for a better understanding of immunity from COVID-19 infection vs. immunity from the vaccine.

“When it comes to the concept of immunity, I think most non-specialists expect it to be a fairly simple all-or-nothing deal. A hundred years ago, that would have been state-of-the-art knowledge, but the field has moved on since then, and the old wisdom that my mother and possibly yours passed along about the need to build up immunity naturally, without vaccines, doesn’t work anymore.”

“If I had a question about jurisprudence, I’d ask a judge. I don’t know who would be better to discuss the intricacies of the law than a person who has an advanced degree and considerable experience working in that field.”

“When it comes to a question about antibodies, I’d ask an immunologist. I don’t see where a judge would have the kind of free time to devote to building up expertise in what is frankly a difficult and rapidly changing field.”

“I don’t know that any of this was the judge’s idea – Governor Abbott gave the order to put COVID-related public health decisions solely on the shoulders of county judges, as opposed to the public health officials who are paid by our cities, counties and Texas itself to do this for a living.”

Recent Study Shows How Vaccine & Post Covid Immunity Measure Up

“A recent study answers the question of how vaccine and post-COVID immunity compare. The study compared people who recovered from COVID with people who got the Moderna vaccine showed that vaccination produced higher and much more consistent amounts of the most useful antibodies, called neutralizing antibodies, compared to natural vaccination.” https://stm.sciencemag.org/content/13/600/eabi9915

“This makes sense because all of the vaccines use a stabilized spike protein. The coronavirus spike is like a coiled spring – it is barely stable so that it can easily be triggered to reach out, punch a hole in the cell, and reel the virus in to start the infection – that’s what spikes are for.”

“The vaccines use a modified version of the spike that is changed in two ways – one change erases a part called the furin cleavage site, which is part of the spike triggering mechanism – that change works like a gun lock, in effect. The second change locks down the shape of part of the spike, so it is not able to release that stored-up energy like a natural spike.”

“The vaccine version looks like a spike, as far as your immune system can tell, but the vaccine-derived spikes aren’t fragile and hair-triggered the way the natural spike is. That gives the immune system a much better chance of getting a clean look at the spike, and making antibodies that will stick tightly to it. It’s the difference between trying to hit a moving target and a stationary one.”

“It’s not all bad news for people who have recovered from COVID-19 – another recent paper shows that some aspects of immunity that would help to clean up an ongoing infection may be similar after infection or vaccination. But the antibodies that are the front line defense in stopping you from getting infected in the first place seem to be much better positioned to do that job when they come from a vaccine.”

‘Prior Infection Should Not Be a Reason To Not Get Vaccinated’

“And another new study showed that people who have been infected, then vaccinated, make really excellent levels of the components that make up immunity, so prior infection should not be used as a reason not to get vaccinated.”

“Using a vaccine to build immunity is the equivalent of learning to recognize a criminal from a wanted poster – getting COVID to get antibodies is like getting mugged by that criminal. You can build some degree of immunity either way, but the vaccination way a lot less painful and safer than the alternative.”

“And if we really got to 75% or 80% of the population with functional immunity, as the judge imagines, you would know because the coronavirus would not be able to spread the way it is. At that point it is just math, or rather epidemiology – another complicated and specialized field of knowledge that would be difficult for someone not trained in the field to understand,” Dr. Benjamin Neuman- Professor of Biology and GHRC Chief Virologist at Texas A&M University.

Concerns About The Delta Variant

New information from the CDC reports that this variant may be as infectious as chickenpox. And while the Alpha variant was contagious, the Delta variant is thought to be up to 60 percent more transmissible. Texas Department of State Health Services says, “The best protection for yourself, your family and community is to get FULLY vaccinated. Since vaccination began, nearly all Texas COVID-19 deaths are among people not fully vaccinated.”


Supporting Local Means Supporting All Local Business


CEO Americas Newspapers

Impact of Pandemic On Local Businesses

As we continue to emerge from the pandemic, there’s a sense of relief and optimism that things will return to normal. Long-awaited family gatherings, birthday parties and graduation ceremonies are finally happening in person. Sporting events have fans in the stands, airports are busy, and we all are in the process of reclaiming those elements of life we’ve missed the past year.

However, with that optimism is the reality of the impact the pandemic had on local communities.

Local businesses that struggled through the past year, if they were able to stay in business at all, are still trying to recover and regain lost revenues. These locally owned restaurants, shops and services are vital to our economy and provide valuable jobs and important resources. Whenever you can, please Shop Local and Eat Local.

You can add your local newspapers to the businesses that need your support. During the pandemic, newspapers provided the critical information needed to protect the health and safety of their readers.

And, that level of commitment has continued with the most relevant information about vaccines and plans for schools to return to normal in the fall.

The importance of local newspapers reaches well beyond the pandemic. Local newspapers cover the issues most important to their communities. From crime to local schools to local government, readers can rely on their newspaper to provide the latest news that will impact them directly.

Newspapers Were Hit Hard During The Pandemic

Without vibrant newspapers, cities and towns across the country would surely suffer.

Newspapers were hit hard during the pandemic, just like other businesses. Advertising revenue, which was already in decline, dropped significantly. While more readers turned to newspapers and their websites for information than ever before, that didn’t generate enough additional revenue to bridge the gap. The result is that newspapers need your support now, more than ever.

Fortunately, the importance of newspapers is being recognized in Washington. Legislation has been introduced to help protect newspapers from the business tactics of Big Tech companies that often use newspapers’ content without compensation.

Local Journalism Sustainability Act

On June 16, the Local Journalism Sustainability Act was introduced as a bipartisan effort to recognize and protect local newspapers and the journalists who deliver valuable content.

The LJSA is unlike other bills in that it delivers benefits to readers and advertisers for supporting newspapers. Subscribers will be able to get a tax credit for their subscription, local businesses can get tax credits for advertising in newspapers and other local media, and newspapers would receive tax credits for their newsroom employees.

These legislative efforts deserve your support and the support of your government representatives. Supporting your newspaper is one of the best things that you can do to directly strengthen your community.

Disappeared But Not Forgotten: Texas Cold Cases – 2009 Ferris Double Homicide

Johnson residence Ferris
Johnson residence Ferris, TX

Ferris, TX 2009 Double Homicide Cold Case

FERRIS – It’s a small city of 2,500, and cold cases don’t sit well there.

In 2009, a Grand Prairie woman and her boyfriend were murdered in their bedroom inside a house in Ferris on S. Church Street. The suspect or suspects still remain at large. It has turned into a case with more questions than answers.

At one time, former Ferris Chief Eddie Salazar, even had photos of the victims, Janine Johnson and her boyfriend Stephen Taylor as well as two other victims from a homicide there hanging on his office wall.

In the City of Ferris, although they have less resources than larger cities, Ferris Police Chief John DeLeon says this case has not been forgotten and is being worked on regularly.

Crime Scene Details

Police estimate the murders took place in the late evening hours of March 21 or early morning hours of March 22, 2009 while the couple were sleeping. There was no indication of forced entry into the home. Police said at the time they also did not find tracks indicating anyone had been creeping around the home.

According to police, all the blood from the murder was contained in the bedroom and there was no blood found in any other part of the home.

It was a city public works employee who informed police about the situation at the S. Church Street address after being alerted by Taylor’s brother who said he had arrived at the house to check on the two living there.

When police entered the home they found both Johnson and Taylor had been violently butchered. Taylor had been stabbed repeatedly with around 70 stab wounds and Johnson had as many as 50 stab wounds found on her body. As for a motive, the police are at a loss.

While the case has remained unsolved, every good law enforcement officer knows that somewhere there is a detail that might have gone unnoticed.

In 2019 during an interview with Johnson’s family, her mother Diana seemed hopeful the murderer will be discovered.

Could DNA Hold The Answer?

At that time the Ferris Police Department had also taken this cold case to the Cold Case Committee in Austin, a committee of about 20 people. This committee looked at these files and agreed more could be done.

Several years ago in Ferris’s fiscal year budget, $8,565.28 was included in the budget for DNA collection with the SW Institute of Forensic Science for DNA testing for this murder investigation.

The fact is technology has changed since these murders occurred in 2009 and detectives in Ferris thought perhaps they could cull some additional clues from the DNA.

DeLeon said too “[We] are in the process of investigating and studying the case. Officers had gathered evidence that was sent to the Dallas FBI Office, Dallas County Forensics as well as Texas DPS Forensics. Officers are still collecting evidence and analyzing the evidence that has been collected.”

Indeed, this cold case is still being worked and DeLeon is hopeful the murderer/murderers will be brought to justice.

Why this Case Went Cold

According to Chief DeLeon “Shortly after the homicide, Ferris Police Department sustained a constant change of personnel. Every Officer from then on assigned to the case would have to begin the Investigation from its inception so as to get familiarized with the background and the witnesses or personnel involved. This meant sifting through evidence as well as evidence that had been sent for forensic testing, reaching out to witnesses, following leads that had been submitted as tips, making sure that all pertinent paper was submitted i.e., search warrants and reading through witness statements just to name a few. Resources available to the Police Department then were minimal. Currently the resources have improved and getting much better thanks to the current Police Staff and City Administrators.

What’s Next?

Ferris Police Department and the Officers currently assigned to the case reached out to a Cold Case Foundation in mid-to-late 2020 and have been in constant contact with the Foundation disseminating information as needed. It has been a slow process, but the Ferris Police Department as well as the Foundation have to scrutinize all the original paperwork making sure that nothing pertinent falls through the cracks.

The Ferris Police Department is cognizant that the conditional factor in solving the case is that it must be worked. The Ferris Police Department owes it to the victims loved ones and to the citizens of Ferris to bring those responsible for this heinous crime to justice. There is no statute of limitations on this crime. The Ferris Police Department with the help of surrounding agencies and The Cold Case Foundation will prevail.

Anyone with information about this crime can contact the Ferris Police Department at 972-544-2225 or contact the Ellis County Crime Stoppers organization at 972-937-PAYS. Callers can remain anonymous.

Midlothian Family Loses Home In Fire, Community Rallies Around Them

house destroyed by fire
Harder Family home after the fire

Dallas Police Office Matt Harder Loses Home In Fire

MIDLOTHIAN – The Harder family had lived in Midlothian 12 years when their home burned to the ground during Texas’ recent arctic freeze.

Matt Harder, who has also worked with the Dallas Police Department in the patrol division for 12 years, said he has been working on the streets of Dallas for as long as he has been living in Midlothian. When his home burned down on February 18, however, he and his family discovered the meaning of good neighbors.

“We have had so many people in our community help us, whether that is helping us clean off pictures and things we tried to salvage, giving us gift cards or praying for us,” Harder said.

To begin, Heroes of Midlothian gave the Harder family a gift card for $500 and then another $40 gift card to Fuzzy’s Tacos.

Police uniforms damaged

The Fireplace Was The Cause of The Fire

Harder said the fire started in the chimney. The chimney became overworked since they were burning a fire around the clock for warmth. The family had been without power for the week with the fireplace the only source of heat.

“We were using the fireplace to keep the house warm,” Harder explained. “It then started the attic on fire, resulting in the ceiling collapsing and burning the rest of the house down.”

I spoke with Midlothian Fire Chief Dale McCaskill about the dangers of fireplaces, and what happened that led to the Harder’s fire.

He said homes that were built beginning in around the 90s have metal inserts in some cases – as in the case of the Harder fire – and the fireplaces and chimneys are not made to burn fires that are designed to heat the home. These fireplaces with the metal inserts are for short fires – like maybe a cold night watching a movie.

He said fireplaces with these metal inserts are not “in and of themselves” bad, but just not for long-term fires to heat a home. The masonry fireplaces that one would use to heat a home cost about $7000 to $10,000 more in a home.

Harder Family
Harder Family

Harder’s wife Melanie, youngest daughter Alyssa, two dogs Libby and Berkeley, and the family cat Chloe were living in the house at the time.

“Our cat Chloe sadly did not make it out of the house,” Harder added.

Midlothian Volleyball Team Went Into Action To Support Teammate

Even so, the Midlothian ISD Volleyball team wanted to help. First they tried to help the family find their cat. They also worked to make sure Alyssa did not have to worry about her Volleyball team uniform.

“The Harder Family has been involved in Midlothian Volleyball since Alyssa was in middle school,” said Heather McMichael of Mac Marketing LLC. “Our families have grown up together within this program. When we heard about the house fire and it being one of our own, we immediately began collecting donations for them.”

McMichael said one of the biggest worries for Alyssa was her concern for her practice shirts and volleyball shoes/knee pads.

“With one phone call to the coaches, we had new practice jerseys for her, a new backpack, knee pads, spandex, etc.” McMichael explained.

The coaches also spoke with their supplier for court shoes and they agreed to ship Alyssa a new pair of shoes at no charge.

“We are like one big family,” McMichael said. “We support one another through the good times and even the bad. We’ll continue to support the Harder’s throughout the coming months as they clean up and rebuild.”

Matt concluded “The house was burned down completely, resulting in a total loss. We would have to completely rebuild the home and then move back in, so it will be a while.”

As the community comes together for the Harder family, they have decided they will definitely stay in Midlothian.

Harder said for the time being they are in a rental house in Midlothian for the next year, “while we figure out the next steps.”

Fire Safety Tips

Chief McCaskill suggests always have an annual cleaning of your fireplace. Never leave a fire unattended. Also, remember fire starter logs have a lot of chemicals that can perhaps cause problems down the road if you do not have an annual chimney cleaning.




Christmas Parades, Tree Lightings, Activities In DFW Area

2020 Christmas Party flyer

2020 DFW Area Christmas Parades-Tree Lightings-Holiday Activities

 ‘Tis the season to be jolly, and who says you can’t be jolly while social distancing and wearing a mask?
Yes, COVID-19 has changed the way things are being done in 2020, including Christmas celebrations. However, the area still has numerous activities planned to celebrate the holidays.

Cedar Hill

December 1, 2020 Holiday on the Hill Drive-Thru Parade

Cedar Hill Holiday on the Hill flyer

The City of Cedar Hill is kicking off the holiday season with a “Holiday on the Hill Drive-Thru Parade” on ❄️December 1st, at 6:00 pm at Valley Ridge Park. We will have various city departments represented, and will be handing out holiday goodies + cheer for the kids. Please join us! Sponsored by City of Cedar Hill and Methodist Charlton Medical Center.

December 3 Virtual Tree Lighting & Concert 6pm-8pm

We invite you to our annual Tree Lighting with Mayor Mason, as well as a holiday concert via Facebook Live. Please join us for this festive holiday event the whole family can enjoy from home!

DeSoto Holiday Drive-In Movie

Drive in Movie Poster

Saturday, December 12, 2020 at 8:30 PM CST – 10:15 PM CST

Grimes Park $20 per vehicle/per movie with concessions available

5:30-7pm Elf

8:30-10:15 How the Grinch Stole Christmas

DeSoto Winter Wonderland December 12

DeSoto Winter Wonderland Poster

DeSoto Parks & Recreation and the DeSoto Public Library bring you Winter Wonderland with Arts, Crafts, and Painting on December 12th at the DeSoto Civic Center from 11 AM to 3 PM. This event is free for all ages under 13. Santa, Mrs. Claus, and their Elves will be there to greet you. Join us as we celebrate the Holiday Season.


Ennis Christmas Celebrations

Ennis downtown shopping map

Calendar of Events:

Nov 28 Small Business Saturday with Carolers and Live Reindeer
Dec 3 Christmas Bluebonnet Market & Sip Shop & Stroll
Dec 5 Cookies with Mrs. Claus & Lucky’s CC Car Show and Toy Drive
Dec 11 Giant Snow Hill
Dec 12  Snow Hill
Dec 12 Our Lady of Guadalupe Procession

Grand Prairie Christmas Activities

Grand Prairie Lights Poster

Prairie Lights Drive-Thru Holiday Light Experience – A Total In-Car Event for 2020.November 26-December 31 (Thanksgiving through New Year’s Eve), 6-10 PM daily
*Lynn Creek Park at Joe Pool Lake
*$30 per car (up to eight people), price reduced for 2020. A Fast Pass (line jump pass) is available for $99. Additional fees apply for limos, shuttles, and commercial vehicles.

*Videos from Santa, through Dec. 20. Would you like a personalized video from Santa?
Complete the requested information and get a personal, customized video greeting from Santa for your child. One video per child. $30 per video. Video greetings will be sent to the e-mail provided during purchase from the Grand Prairie Chamber of Commerce. Call the Grand Prairie Chamber of Commerce with questions 972-264-1558 or e-mail [email protected]

Mansfield Hometown Holidays


Mansfield announced changes to their Hometown Holidays schedule due to a ride in COVID-19 cases. We have all the details in an article https://www.focusdailynews.com/mansfield-changes-hometown-holidays-schedule/


Midlothian Tree Lighting flyer

Midlothian Tree Lighting Ceremony, Dec. 1, 6-7 p.m. Usher in the holiday season with an evening of community fellowship, Christmas spirit and the ​lighting of the beautiful Christmas tree in Heritage Park on North 8th Street.

Festivities will continue in historic downtown on Saturday, Dec. 5 with the Southern Star Christmas Celebration from 1 to 5 p.m. and the annual Light-Up Parade at 6 p.m. Finally, on Friday, Dec. 11 at 6:30 p.m. “The Grinch” will be shown. For more information, go to https://www.midlothian.tx.us/628/Special-Events

Southern Star Christmas

Christmas Adventure

Christmas is coming! Is your family ready to celebrate? Our Drive Thru Christmas ADVENTure is an interactive, drive thru event for families on Dec 2nd from 6-8pm. We will walk through the four weeks of Advent to help us get ready for the coming of Jesus in engaging, fun activities! Stations around our parking lots will focus on HOPE, PEACE, JOY, LOVE and the miracle of CHRISTMAS and end with our live nativity. Bring your friends and neighbors, pile into the car, dress up in your favorite christmas attire, and spread some JOY! This is a community event, there is no registration or cost to our families.
If you would like a free four week Christmas devotional and supplies for your family (Advent in a Box) please register at this link: https://forms.gle/Gjie8bEP5Y7JNpPM6

Dallas Trains at Northpark

Trains at Northpark
Trains at Northpark 2016

Seeing the trains at Northpark has become an annual tradition for many DFW families. The exhibit is open from November 14 until January 3. Masks are required and social distancing will be enforced.

This year ALL tickets must be purchased online in advance for a specific date so they can manage capacity. All proceeds from ticket sales go to helping families at Ronald McDonald House of Dallas.

Admission prices listed below:$10.00 for adults
$5.00 for children (ages 2 – 12) and senior citizens (age 65 and older)
Children under 2 admitted free.

Children under 13 must be accompanied by an adult.

These tickets are non-refundable. Please be sure to pick your preferred, correct date of admission.

Waxahachie Christmas Events

In lieu of the Community Tree Lighting & Christmas Parade, Christmas cheer will abound in Waxahachie with safe alternative events for both residents and visitors alike to enjoy!

City of Waxahachie Virtual Facebook Tree Lighting – December 1
Downtown Holiday Window Reveal & Decorating Contest – December 3
Downtown Kick-Off to Christmas – December 4
Christmas Tour of Lights – December 4 – 19

We’ll keep updating this list as cities update their event calendars.


DeSoto Mayor McCowan Makes Stunning Announcement at Council Meeting

Headshot DeSoto Mayor McCowan

McCowan Shares She’s Fighting Lung Cancer

DeSoto Mayor Curtistene McCowan began Tuesday evening’s city council meeting saying people know she is a fighter and she has something she must disclose. About a week and a half ago, she didn’t feel right and thought it was her asthma. She went to her doctor and he sent her to the emergency room, which first diagnosed her with pneumonia.

More tests were done and it turned out she has cancer in her right lung. Doctors worked with her to agree on a course of action to fight the disease.

“There will be days that will seem normal and days that I will need to lay low,” she said. There will be times like tonight when I can conduct the meeting and other times when our very capable Mayor Pro Tem Kenzie Moore will need to take over.”

Using a baseball analogy, she said she may not be able to go all nine innings every time, but she has an excellent person in the bullpen in Mayor Pro-Tem Kenzie Moore to take over for her and finish the game.

She requested prayer in that she knows she is a child of the most high God and turns now to her heavenly father. “When we work together there is nothing we cannot accomplish. When we pray together we can move a mountain.”

DeSoto City Council members React

Regarding Mayor McCowan Councilmember Candice Quarles said she supports her and thanks her for her energy, service and to say thank you.

Dinah Marks said sometimes it is more important to do rather than say and that she believes in stretching out to God. She thanked the Mayor for her leadership over the years. “We are here for you if there is anything you need.”

Nicole Raphiel continued , “You know we are here for you … I appreciate how resilient you are. I see God’s hand in your life, Mayor McCowan.”

Andre Byrd said “I am praying for you … Not only am I praying for you but for your husband and family as well.”

Kenneth Govan of the DeSoto Chamber of Commerce said “You have always been a steadfast and strong leader. You don’t have to announce your faith in God. It is evident to all.”

Curt Krohn, Chairman of the DeSoto Economic Development Corp related to Mayor McCowan, “You have energy like anyone else in the world does not have. You are loved. DeSoto is better because you are at the helm.”

Kisha Morris Perkins said “You are my second mom. I love you. We love you. The city loves you.”

“We Will Always Be There For You”

City Manager Brandon Wright expressed himself saying “We look forward to the opportunity to lift you up. I can’t stay up as late as you do. If you back it up (your energy level) you will go down to our level. We love you and look for this chance to support you.”

Kenzie Moore related, “For me it’s such a great pleasure to know you are here because you always respond. God will walk with all of us and hold our hand.” He said the comfort of knowing she was always available when he and the city needs her, has always been of the utmost comfort.

City Attorney Joe Gorfida told Mayor McCowan to “lean on him and everyone in the city in any time of need. We will always be there for you.”

Find The Right Face Mask For You

kids wearing face coverings
Kids wear face masks from Rafi Nova

Stylish & Functional Face Masks For Kids & Adults

As Texas experiences an upswing in COVID-19 cases, Governor Abbott has mandated masks be worn in public spaces. And as the Saharan dust storm moves through our state, those of us with asthma or COPD, may want to wear a mask outside. So, we’re taking a look at different masks available, in an effort to show you masks can be comfortable and stylish even in the Texas heat.


Casupo.co offers reversible face masks for children and adults made of 100% cotton. We received the blue camo which is camo on one side, solid navy on the other side. The face mask comes in a “pouch” that you can use to carry your mask when not in use, or place inside pouch when washing in machine. The nose piece is great for getting a snug fit and preventing glasses from fogging. The Casupo face mask was one of our favorites-well made, comfortable, has a pocket for removable filter and we love the pouch.

Man wearing navy blue camo face mask
Marlon models the navy camo face mask by Casupo

These masks are great quality and handmade in California. Adult masks start at $25, kids masks $23. Masks are washable and reusable.

Casupo.co donates a portion of their profits to FUNDANICA, a non profit organization dedicated to providing medical assistance to a children’s hospital in Venezuela. At the end of June, they’ve donated $3000 to FUNDANICA.

Fase Wear

If you’re looking for unique designs to show your fun side, check out the masks by Fase Wear. We think Fase Wear has some of the most creative and fun designs for kids and adults. They have sunflowers, roses, The Joker, Jason and so much more. Bonus: each mask comes with two filters.

Girl wearing face mask from fase wear
11 year old wearing a childrens face mask from Fase Wear

My 11 year old daughter likes the designs Fase Wear offers and the stretchy material. She found their masks to be comfortable. Straps are adjustable and masks are washable.

Kenny Flowers

Do you live at the beach or love beach wear? Kenny Flowers masks are fun, stylish and pair well with your beach wear. Their masks feature tie straps, making it easy to adjust without the pulling from elastic. Available in a 2 pack matching masks, or a 3 pack variety-either 100% cotton or 100% rayon.

Guy wearing Kenny Flowers facemask
Brian Eastman wearing a Kenny Flowers face mask-see the flamingo?

These masks are soft and comfortable, and don’t hurt your ears, with fun designs. We are in love with the flamingo print! Oh and if you want to be really stylish, buy a matching shirt.

Also, Kenny Flowers gives back, for every mask sold, they donate a mask to someone in need in Bali and 100% of all proceeds to Direct Relief – a non-profit delivering medical-grade masks – along with exam gloves, isolation gowns, and other protective gear to healthcare organizations in the USA.⁣

Proper Cloth

man modeling Proper Cloth face mask
Brian Eastman wearing a face mask from Proper Cloth

The masks from Proper Cloth have a very polished look about them. These masks could be worn to a business meeting or out for a nice dinner. They use a smooth 100% cotton shirting fabric with an anti-microbial finish, the result is a comfortable mask. Also, the mask comes with a removable filter of 3-layers of non-woven polypropylene. The polypropylene meltblown core to provide significantly more protection versus fabric-only masks. (lab test certified to filter out >/= 85% of 0.1 micron-sized particles)

Proper cloth masks are for adults available in small or large for $25. Note: the design has two straps that fit over your head, to prevent the mask from slipping. We found it takes time to adjust to the straps if you are not used to the design. But on the flip side, we found that these stayed on while talking, covered our chin well and didn’t need to be adjusted due to slipping!

man showing profile view of face mask
Side view of double straps of Proper Cloth face mask

For every mask you buy, they donate a mask to local healthcare workers and others on the front lines.

Rafi Nova

Rafi Nova is a small, family owned business that has pivoted to make masks for children and adults. They offer a wide variety of designs for children and adults.

9 year old wearing a teen performance face mask
9 year old wearing Rafi Nova teen performance mask

We like their performance masks which are made with a lighter material for summer. The masks feature 3 layers of materials, including an anti-bacterial layer and a filter (non-removable), a unique adjustment toggle and adjustable nose bridge. They also sell the smile masks, with transparent panel.

I have asthma which is often triggered by extreme heat or cold. Wearing the Rafi Nova performance mask, even in 90+ degree temperatures, I was still able to breathe without issues. Also, the toggles and nose piece prevented my glasses from fogging up. The teen performance masks were my daughter’s favorite.

Two pack of performance masks are $30. *Masks do run small, so order a size up* Rafi Nova also sells ear savers and filters for your mask.

The Tie Bar

Man models face mask from Tie Bar
Marlon wearing a facemask from The Tie Bar. A 5 packs is $30.

The Tie Bar makes masks for the gentleman in your life that wants to be safe and stylish. Their 100% cotton masks come in a 5-pack of designs featuring some of their favorite menswear patterns. Tie Bar masks are washable, have adjustable ear loops, flexible wire at nose and room for a filter. While the designs are made from menswear, many of them can be unisex. The 5-pack of dapper masks is $30. For the price you can have a mask for everyday of the week, and match your outfits.

Note: the companies featured sent Focus Daily News masks to try, so we could share our personal experience with our readers. These are non-medical face masks designed to cover your face to slow the spread of COVID-19. 

Catch A Drive-In Movie At AT&T Stadium This Month

drive-in movie AT&T stadium

With traditional movie theaters closed due to safety precautions, drive-in movie theaters are making their comeback. AT&T Stadium is participating in the Tribeca Drive-In series this July. Families can hop in the car and catch a classic film for $26 per vehicle to $35 for a double feature.

So, what’s on the big screen? The schedule has more than 30 iconic movies and comedy acts scheduled to show on big screen outside the Stadium. Movies will often be grouped into themes, including Music Movies, Sports Sundays and Kids’ Nights.

July 9, 2020

7:00 pm Palm Springs- When carefree Nyles (Andy Samberg) and reluctant maid of honor Sarah (Cristin Milioti) have a chance encounter at a Palm Springs wedding, things get complicated when they find themselves unable to escape the venue, themselves, or each other. (90 minutes)

9:45 pm John Wick- When a retired hit man is forced back into action by a brutal Russian mobster, he hunts down his adversaries with the ruthlessness that made him a crime underworld legend.

July 10, 2020

6:45 pm Back to the Future-In this 1980s sci-fi classic, small-town California teen Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) is thrown back into the ’50s when an experiment by his eccentric scientist friend Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) goes awry.

9:45 pm Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure: Our non-heinous heroes Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) are in danger of flunking history! But when the righteous Rufus (George Carlin) arrives in a time-travelling phone booth, the dense dudes discover their destiny! (90 minutes)

July 11, 2020

3:00 pm Inside Out- When 11-year-old Riley moves to a new city, her Emotions team up to help her through the transition. Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness work together, but when Joy and Sadness get lost, they must journey through unfamiliar places to get back home.

6:45 pm Spy Kids-The children of secret-agent parents must save them from danger.

9:15 pm Black Panther-When an old foe puts his homeland of Wakanda and the entire world at risk, you king T’Challa must release Black Panther’s full power to save them. (134 minutes)

July 12, 2020

6:00 pm Jerry Maguire-A successful sports agent, fired for being honorable, fights for his ideals and those who depend on him. (139 minutes)

9:30 pm- Love & Basketball- This story tells of childhood adversaries and talented athletes who have a love for the game of basketball and each other. Each pursues their dream of basketball success through high school, college and the pros, but along the way they must face their own personal hurdles. (124 minutes)

Movies run through July 26, check the website for a complete listing.

July 16, 2020

The Joker in Dark Knight
Publicity Photo

9:15pm- The Dark Knight- “The Dark Knight” reunites director Christopher Nolan with star Christian Bale, who returns to continue Batman’s war on crime. With the help of Lieutenant Jim Gordon (Gary Oldman) and District Attorney Harvey Dent (Aaron Eckhart), Batman sets out to destroy organized crime in Gotham for good. (152 minutes)

July 17, 2020 Special Double Feature Night

6:30 pm- Mean Girls-Cady Heron is a hit with The Plastics, the A-list girl clique at her new school, until she makes the mistake of falling for Aaron Samuels, the ex-boyfriend of alpha Plastic Regina George. (97 minutes)

9:30 pm- Superbad- Two co-dependent High School guys comically struggle between girls and their own separation anxiety. (113 minutes)

July 18, 2020 Matinee

The Goonies
The Goonies Publicity Photo

2:00 pm- The Goonies- Steven Spielberg, Richard Donner (Lethal Weapon films) and Chris Columbus (Harry Potter films) collaborate to create an epic children’s adventure of subterranean caverns, sunken galleons and a fortune in lost pirate treasure (114 minutes)

6:00 pm- Be Water- In 1971, after being rejected by Hollywood, Bruce Lee returned to his parents’ homeland of Hong Kong to complete four iconic films. (97 minutes)

9:15 pm- Straight Outta Compton- Straight Outta Compton tells the true story of how five young cultural rebels – armed only with their lyrics, swagger, bravado and raw talent – stood up to the authorities that meant to keep them down and formed the world’s most dangerous group (147 minutes)

July 19, 2020 Special Double Feature

6:30 pm- Friday Night Lights- Based on a book by author H.G. Bissinger, the small and economically depraved town of Odessa, Texas obsesses over the local high school football team as a a means of escape.(118 minutes)

The Wonder Woman
The Wonder Woman Publicity Photo

9:30 pm- Wonder Woman-Gal Gadot (Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice) returns as the title character in the epic action adventure based on the DC Super Hero. Before she was Wonder Woman, she was Diana, princess of the Amazons, trained to be an unconquerable warrior (141 minutes)

July 23, 2020 Special Double Feature

6:00 pm- Meet The Parents- Male nurse Greg Focker meets his girlfriend’s parents before proposing, but her suspicious father is every date’s worst nightmare (108 minutes)

9:15 pm- Meet The Fockers-All hell breaks loose when the Byrnes family meets the Focker family for the first time. (115 minutes)

July 24, 2020 Special Double Feature

6:00 pm- Girls Trip- When four lifelong friends—Regina Hall, Queen Latifah, Jada Pinkett Smith and Tiffany Haddish—travel to New Orleans for the annual Essence Festival, sisterhoods are rekindled, wild sides are rediscovered, and there’s enough dancing, drinking, braw…(122 minutes)

Bridesmaids Cast

9:15 pm-  Bridesmaids- Annie (Kristen Wiig) is a single woman whose own life is a mess, but when she learns that her lifelong best friend, Lillian (Maya Rudolph), is engaged, she has no choice but to serve as the maid of honor. (125 minutes)

July 25, 2020

2:00 pm- The Lego Movie-The first-ever full-length theatrical LEGO movie follows Emmet an ordinary, rules-following, perfectly average LEGO minifigure who is mistakenly identified as the most extraordinary person (the MasterBuilder) and the key to saving his LEGO world.

6:00 pm- Inside Man- A tough detective (Denzel Washington) matches wits with a cunning bank robber (Clive Owen) as a tense hostage crisis unfolds. (129 minutes)

9:30 pm- Do The Right Thing- This powerful visual feast combines humor and drama with memorable characters while tracing the course of a single day on a block in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn.

July 26, 2020 Special Double Feature

7:00 pm Pee Wee’s Big Adventure- When Pee Wee Herman’s most prized possession, his bicycle, is stolen, he embarks on a cross-country journey to find it.

Bettlejuice movie still

9:45 pm Beetlejuice- A happy couple with a lovely country house die in a car accident and must haunt their old home while waiting to be processed into heaven. Too nice to be scary, they befriend the new tenant’s daughter

Drive-In Tickets & Questions

All tickets are available for online purchase only. Only one ticket per vehicle required, regardless of how many passengers.

The Drive-In will open 60 minutes before the listed show time. It is recommended to arrive at least 30 minutes before the gate time found on your ticket. Parking spots will be assigned on a first come, first served basis.

Vehicles will be spaced every other parking spot or at least six feet apart. All vehicles must face forward.

Masks are Required

Upon entering, the driver and each passenger must show that they have their own mask. Masks will be required anytime a guest leaves the vehicle.

Temporary restroom facilities will be available onsite, although it is encouraged to use the restroom before arriving. Onsite restrooms will undergo enhanced cleanings before, during and after each event.

Concessions will be available. Guests are expected to practice social distancing while waiting in line for services.

Tribeca Drive-In Summer Series

“At Tribeca’s core, we aim to bring people together through the arts to send a signal of unity and resiliency to the world during challenging times,” said Tribeca Enterprises and Tribeca Film Festival Co-Founder and CEO Jane Rosenthal. “As an immediate and safe solution, we’re excited to bring new and classic works from filmmakers, creators, and artists to communities across the country through the Tribeca Drive-In series. As the nation begins to emerge from months of quarantine, we look forward to movie theaters reopening and hope that the Drive-In serves as a reminder of the magic of the moviegoing experience.”

“The Tribeca Drive-In series is a tribute to movies and the shared experience of watching them, even if from our cars. In anticipation of theaters reopening imminently, we look back at what we love about the big screen experience,” added Tribeca Enterprises and Tribeca Film Festival Co-Founder Robert De Niro.






Tami Tobey: “In November, You Can Hold Me Accountable – I’m Not Resigning Today”

Tami Tobey Midlothian
Tami Tobey at MISD Board Meeting on 6-15-2020 screenshot from livestream

Dozens Speak To Board At Marathon Meeting

Last night, dozens attended the Midlothian ISD Board meeting to speak out about the actions of board member Tami Tobey. Recently, a photo of Ms. Tobey was sent to the Dallas Observer, showing her dressed as tennis player Serena Williams. The photo has sparked outrage throughout the community with over 3500 people petitioning for her to resign, including several members of the board.

One gentleman, Mr. Wayne Howard, said he had graduated from the school system back in the 1960’s and reminisced about how things were back in those days. He pointed out, “We’ve got a church here that’s been around 100 years. You’re throwing around ‘you talked to the community leaders, the black community leaders’, who did you talk to? Ain’t nobody been over in my neighborhood. Ain’t nobody been over to the church. Who did you talk to?” The audience responded with applause and cheers.

He acknowledged the board members took a hard job. He emphasized “I don’t want you to hear me, I want you to feel me.” And he welcomed the new black members to the community. His remarks were powerful, whether you watched it in person or online. He said he had not been attending school board meetings recently, but fully intended to in the future. “I got my eye on you”. His insights were invaluable and the conclusion of his remarks were met with long applause.

The Board meeting continued until nearly 2 a.m. so details of each speaker’s thoughts cannot all be presented here, but suffice to say, the vast majority shared their belief that Ms. Tobey should resign. It was emotional as adults and young people shared their personal experiences and the impact of Mrs. Tobey’s actions.

A Community Speaks From Experience

One young lady, Olivia Natividad, who graduated in 2016 said she was of Hispanic descent and was immediately judged by her looks, even before she spoke. She said she was told by a guidance counselor that there wasn’t any ‘English as a second language class’ available. She said no translator was available right then, before she even spoke. “That experience still breaks my heart, and embarrassed me five years later,” she said. “I have never had to fight so hard for education in my life … Racism and intolerance will continue until Jesus comes,” she said. “But we have the opportunity to be the hands and feet of Jesus now. Diversity is not complicated, and there are many people here willing to help, so do better.”

That may seem incredible, but Ms. Natividad, continued “During my time as a student, I was sexually harassed by an educator, called racial slurs by my peers. When I brought my concerns to staff I was told I was over-reacting and I should be flattered by the attention.”

Next, Dr. Lisa Taylor Cook spoke, “I have come here today to advocate for changes to better our future,” she began. “We felt welcomed (to the city) as a multiracial family as I’m African-American and my husband is caucasian. At the time we moved here, our oldest was just entering third grade and our youngest had just turned three.”

She continued that at all levels in Midlothian schools, her children had amazing teachers but there were also biases that surfaced “every step of the way.”

“The expectation (an elementary teacher had) of my biracial son and of his non-white classmates was different,” she said. “At middle School, when I enrolled my daughter into the pre-GT classes I was challenged on if she could ‘make it’ in the class. I was surprised by this question as she had a 4.0 at the time. In addition, my husband and I were asked about our own educational levels and if we understood that pre-GT classes were challenging. I had to explain to the counselor that both my husband and myself were working on our PHDs.”

Ms. Cook said an experience in high school – just this school year – was even more disturbing. “A teacher told the class that she didn’t understand and didn’t believe in interracial couples and didn’t understand why these couples were having children.” The teacher continued that “she hoped her white children would not be with anyone who was black. This teacher felt her words were not offensive to my biracial child or the black student who was in her classroom.”

“Each of these times, I have had administrative support to minimize the biases that were influencing my children’s education. While she said she was able to advocate for her children, not everyone is able to do that. She continued that there should be steps taken by ISD board members: First, there should be a code of conduct for board members including how and why a board member can be dismissed and there should be a public timeline on when board members need to attend classes on diversity awareness. “Statements that are racist and discriminatory cannot be tolerated. There need to be consequences for such actions if necessary. These need to be included within the boards operating procedures.”

Yvonne Tomlin said she was a 2018 graduate of Midlothian High School. “At some points in time, I felt that I was prejudged by the color of my skin and not by the talents I had brought to the table … Racism is wrong today, has been wrong yesterday, and was wrong in 2012. The color of my skin is not just a party costume or some hip trend.”

MISD Board Member, Tami Tobey, Refuses To Resign

With a raised voice, you could hear the anger, frustration and defensiveness from Tobey. “This country was founded on change. There are certain things that are completely unforgivable…. Some of the biggest things I’ve learned were not on the mountaintops,” Tami Tobey said. “They were in the valleys.”

“It would have been much easier. Let me tell you, every mentor I have … let me tell you, they all said resign,” Tami Tobey said after dozens of residents of Midlothian told her to do just that at the Monday, June 15 Board of Trustees meeting. “Pray about this over the weekend. Run away! Get away from all this! … But, you know what, I don’t answer to but one person. I wanted bad to hear – Resign! You have a life. You have a business. You have plenty of things to keep you busy … This was a calling for me. I came here to serve kids. And my God still says stay.”

“The voters put me in this position,” Tobey continued. “And there is a process for me to leave … In November, please hold me accountable … I’m not resigning today!”

“She’s Gotta Go”

As she spoke, several members of the audience talked back, telling her she was making things worse. Some briefly chanted “she’s gotta go” before the Board President called the meeting back to order. When she told those in attendance, “In November you can hold me accountable!” A few people clapped and made noise, while others responded. One attendee said you’re showing your white privilege by saying hey listen I did this, but guess what who cares?

Ms. Tobey’s comments came after over an hour of citizens comments, all for the most part, expressing displeasure over her having appeared in blackface in 2010 and 2012. She tried to argue the difference in “painted face” vs. “black face” but the audience pushed back, clarifying they are both offensive. Many expressed their experience that there were problems within the district itself, not only with Ms. Tobey.

MISD Board Encouraged Tobey To Resign

Board President Matt Sanders introduced a resolution encouraging Mrs. Tobey to reconsider her resignation. Tobey introduced an amendment to the resolution to “correct it to the right year which was 2010 and also to include instead of painted face, blackface is what I allegedly did” and discussion ensued. At which point, the audience reacted to her using “allegedly”, by showing a poster with the picture. “Not allegedly, you did it,” they responded.

MISD Board Meeting Tami Tobey
Symphony Lowe and other Midlothian citizens discussed the upcoming MISD Board Meeting and how they felt about Ms. Tami Tobey remaining on the School Board prior to Monday evening’s meeting. Photo by Rita Cook.

In total, with other business being discussed including the budget and the 2020-2021 MISD calendar, the meeting lasted over six hours. The underlying message to the MISD board, “You’re on notice. We are watching.” This won’t be the last time the community speaks out about the inequality perpetuated in Midlothian ISD. The ball is rolling.

Focus Daily News encourages everyone to watch the board meeting. While we can tell the story, hearing the emotions and words spoken can’t be communicated with the same impact as hearing them yourself.

Red Oak Man, Lucas Cates, Life Forever Changed By COVID-19

Lucas Cates in hospital
Red Oak resident Lucas Cates had never even been to the hospital when his COVID-19 story began

Red Oak Resident Lucas Cates Shares His Personal Experience With COVID-19

RED OAK – He was a bodybuilder who thought he would never find himself with the COVID-19 virus.

He did.

He doesn’t even know how he got the virus.

But he did.

Red Oak resident Lucas Cates was a healthy 6’2,” 250-pound, 39-year-old man a few months ago.

That all changed when Cates discovered he had COVID-19.

In a nutshell he spent 24 days in two different hospitals and came out with not only COVID-19 as a diagnosis that almost killed him, but he now must spend the rest of this life with congestive heart failure.

“I knew no one who had COVID-19 before me and I was around no one who had it,” Cates began telling his story as he sat across from me at a local diner in Red Oak.

Lucas Cates-Rita Cook

“I was the guy walking around out there who thought I was invincible,” he said. “I didn’t quarantine myself like I should have or adhere to social distancing.”

Cates said before being in the hospital for COVID-19 he had never been to the hospital at all.

He originally got sick in December with 104 temperature, but that was pre-COVID-19, so the doctor had no idea what the diagnosis was at that time.

“Someone Was Standing On My Chest”

Fast forward to the end of March when Cates noticed he was having a hard time breathing.

“It felt like someone was standing on my chest, that was around March 29 and I thought this was not a big deal,” he said.

He didn’t let it bother him and he continued with his life.

He went to the gym the following Monday; his breathing was very heavy.

Tuesday, he saw his trainer and at this point he described it “I was breathing really heavy, but we worked through it.”

Finally, at around 4 a.m. that night he went to Mansfield Methodist with chest pains.

He had x-rays taken, but said he was telling the doctors at the hospital there was no way it could be COVID-19.

What the x-rays ended up revealing was congestive heart failure. To be on the safe side the hospital gave him a COVID-19 test since one of the symptoms is heavy breathing.

A Positive Test

It was not even 24 hours when he got the call from the CDC – he had been diagnosed with COVID-19.

“My world was turned upside down,” he explained. “I had been around my children and my girlfriend and I was ashamed and guilty. Not only had I exposed myself and got it, but exposed other people.”

Back to Methodist Mansfield he went where he stayed for eight days where he took another COVID-19 test.

Finally he was released to go home.

That did not last long because within eight hours he was back at the hospital unable to breathe.

“They said your heart is in worse condition than we thought, it is less than 20% and that is why you are having trouble breathing,” Cates said.

His doctors told him the congestive heart failure was a result of the COVID-19 and probably his smoking history had something to do with it too.

“The more I have learned about congestive heart failure it is not like arteries clogged or something that can be fixed, it is a disease that deteriorates your heart. So that is what is causing my breathing,” Cates explained.

He still has trouble breathing as he tells me his story. Every few minutes he must stop and take some labored breaths.

But his breathing has gotten much better since he was released from the hospital not only with an oxygen device, but also a $30,000 life vest too and a $100,000 bill.

COVID-19 Tests, An Unpleasant Experience

He mentioned the unusual number of COVID-19 tests he has had to take too.

“The first one was positive, then there was the second one and the third one was to test the second one – you know, the tests are also only 60% accurate. So, the fourth test was to look for antibodies. That was before I even left Mansfield Methodist and then Presbyterian had to test me again.”

Cates said if you have not had a COVID-19 test that can be horrendous as well.

“The test is the swab being stuck up to your brain practically and they turn it five times,” he said in detail also showing me a video of the way it is done.

“It was horrible, they try to downplay it, saying it is like the flu test, it is nothing like the flu test,” he said.

Two Hospitals & 24 Long Days For Lucas Cates

At Mansfield Methodist they did give him the Hydroxychloroquine and “some other concoction” as he described it.

After Methodist Mansfield he had a colleague who directed him to Presbyterian where she had some contacts.

The goal there was an elective surgery for his heart. That was a no go since during the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic elective surgeries were not allowed.

Even with the knowledge of having COVID-19 and congestive heart failure, which he said can be a recovery time of up to two years and an extremely strict diet and strong medication, he said the feeling of loneliness in the hospital is what really sticks in his mind.

“I was in isolation for 24 days and it got so bad,” he said. “Every time they came into the room they had to dress out and put booties on and these pants and vest. In fact, it cost $15 of our tax dollars every time they go into the room. It got to the point if they forgot something once, they went out they would just basically just open the door and throw it in there.”

Isolation Was Traumatic

Isolation, Cates said that was as bad as the virus too.

“You see no one. They do not see your face and they call you ahead of time and say we are about to come into the room so mask up and stay on the bed. You feel like you are dying already and then the feeling that they do not want to get near you. It messes with your mind and that was the biggest thing. I finally got out and it was like getting out of jail.”

Since he was in the COVID-19 wing he was not able to receive flowers, since flowers can’t be sanitized. He did receive care packages from his friends. And his former girlfriend organized people to stand outside his hospital window with “get well” signs. She also stayed on the phone with him for many hours since he was all alone in the hospital room.

“I was in the COVID wing and I asked questions,” he said. “How many people are in this unit and they said they could not tell me. How many people have died, they said they could not tell me. They would not let me leave my room or see anyone being rolled by, that was weird. My worse fear was that I was going to go in and die and be all alone.”

Near Death Experience

Several weeks ago, he went to have the elective procedure done and he had a scope done through his wrist. He almost died during the process.

“My heart rate got down to 30 beats a minute,” he explained. “I reacted weird to it. I’d never been in the hospital and this was all new. I told him something was not right and then I heard the voices saying, ‘he is dropping, get nurses.’”

Cates said he know what it feels like to die now.

In fact, he started saying his last words. His body heated up and he could hear the doctors and nurses yelling.

“I was trying to hold my bowels, I was thinking of my kids and I thought this is the end, this is how I am going to go on this table.”

Oh, and one more thing he added “The doctor said they were upping my meds for three to four months and then I am to go back and see how it is going. If it has not significantly changed, they are going to put me on the heart transplant list – at 39 years old.”

After all the trauma he has now been through he said his mission is to educate people.

The doctors told him he only had three to eight years to live.

Whatever the future holds, Lucas Cates said his goal is to not only pass that eight-year mark, but to make sure no one else has to ever tell a story like the story he just told me.

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Walmart Changes Store Hours Again, Adds Senior Hours

Walmart hours coronavirus
Walmart publicity photo

For the second time in a week, Walmart is altering their normal hours to help with COVID-19. Starting Thursday, March 19, Walmart stores will change operating hours to 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m. Stores that open later than 7 a.m. will continue their regular starting hours. This new schedule will make it easier for associates restock the shelves for customers while continuing to clean and sanitize the store. While the store hours change for customers,  associates will continue to have access to their regular scheduled shifts and full hours.

Special Senior Shopping Hours

Walmart recognizes older customers could be more vulnerable to the coronavirus and to better support them, Walmart is offering special shopping hours. From March 24 through April 28, Walmart stores will host an hour-long senior shopping event every Tuesday for customers aged 60 and older. This will start one hour before the store opens. Pharmacies and Vision Centers will also be open during this time.

Item Limits

Walmart will limit items in certain categories including paper products, milk, eggs, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, water, diapers, wipes, formula and baby food.

Other Changes

Auto Care Centers will be temporarily shut down so those associates can focus on stocking and cleaning the main store.

Vision Centers will operate on their normal schedule, providing essential services only such as glasses repair and helping customers pick up existing orders.

Suspect Matthew Gonzalez Arrested In Murder Of DeSoto Woman

Matthew Shane Gonzalez

DeSoto Murder Suspect Matthew Gonzalez Arrested

According to DeSoto Police, last night 21 year old DeSoto resident Mason Varela was stabbed at her home. The sole suspect, her ex-boyfriend Matthew Shane Gonzalez, has been arrested.

At approximately 8:20 p.m Monday evening, police were called to a home in the 1200 block of Greenbrook Drive. Upon arrival, they found a hispanic woman lying in “a large pool of blood” outside the front door. The victim had been stabbed several times in her face and upper body.

She stated to her father over and over again, “It was Matthew. It was Matthew. It was Matthew.” In the legal world that’s called a “dying declaration”. Those were the last words spoken by Ms. Varela.

The stepfather witnessed Matthew Gonzalez flee the scene in a gray 2000 Nissan Maxima. Detectives attempted contact with Mr. Gonzales by calling and pinging his phone. After obtaining more information and continuing to investigate, an arrest warrant was issued for Matthew Shane Gonzalez.

Earlier today police arrested the suspect MATTHEW SHANE GONZALEZ, a 20 year-old Hispanic male, (Date of Birth: 08-16-1999) in Irving. Detectives tried to interview Mr. Gonzalez after his arrest, but he exercised his right to remain silent. At the time of the press conference, the suspect has not made a statement.

DeSoto Press Conference
Detective Pete Schulte conducts media briefing on DeSoto homicide of Mason Varela

DeSoto Police stated the victim and the suspect were in a relationship for almost four years. The relationship ended about a month and a half ago. Gonzalez was described as possessive and controlling.

DeSoto PD Confident Gonzalez Committed Cold Blooded Murder

“And we do believe based on the evidence we’ve found today, that this was a calculated, cold blooded murder. We believe Mr. Gonzalez waited for Ms. Varela to return from walking her dog when he approached her. He brutally attacked her with a knife or some other sharp object,” stated Detective Pete Schulte.

Schulte stated DeSoto Police Department is “confident” Mr. Gonzalez committed this murder. He’s currently in jail, and will go through the justice system in Dallas county.

There’s no indication there was any argument prior to the attack. Police state the suspect took steps after the crime to hide his tracks . They believe this is another indication the crime was planned in advance.

Domestic violence spikes in November and December. DeSoto Police Department wants everyone to know if you are suffering from domestic violence in your home please call police. There are many things police can do that does not involve your loved one going to jail.

DeSoto Police Department asked the victim’s family for a photo of the victim and they declined. They’ve requested privacy while they grieve and we intend to honor their request.

Remembering Joshua C. Johnson

Joshua C. Johnson Editor

Joshua C. Johnson 1982-2019

How does a wordsmith run out of words? No, I’m not speechless, I could talk about our friend and editor’s merits for days. However, with the news of Josh’s passing, the sadness has depleted my word bank. The loss of Joshua is in many ways immeasurable. I never imagined sitting at his desk and doing my best to pay tribute to him.

I often described Joshua as the “gentle giant”. Even with his intimidating size, there was nothing threatening about Josh. He had a way of putting anyone and everyone at ease. Blessed with the ability to handle difficult situations with decorum and grace, he was able to improve any situation.

I first met Joshua Johnson in March of 2007. We were looking for an editor who could do everything … write, edit, lay out the newspaper, send the pages of the newspaper through the equipment which magically turns the pages from digital ones and zeros to hard images on what are referred to in the business as “plates.”

From there, a pressman takes over and does some more magic turning those plates into ink on paper.

Joshua had a very impressive record with the newspaper he was working for at the time so we made him an offer. Fortunately for us, Joshua accepted, and the second week of April took his place behind the desk he would call home for the next 12 years.

Over that time period, Joshua became not just a member of the Focus Daily News family, but an integral part of the communities in southern Dallas County and northern Ellis County.

I have never met anyone, whether from city governments, local school systems, Chambers of Commerce, businesses, churches, or accounts who have advertised over the years who did not have wonderful things to say about Joshua. In some way or another he had a positive impact on everyone he encountered.

Joshua’s talent did not stop with the written word. In every part of life, there are people with bad attitudes who attempt to spread their ill will to those around them. Joshua always had the knack of quieting them down and putting everyone at ease. He handled all situations I witnessed with decorum and grace.

I remember one instance when a delivery driver entered the office and saw a certain political poster. He immediately “lit into Joshua” about politics.

As only Joshua could, he put the driver at ease and they almost became friends. To this day, I can’t really remember how he did it – only the result. Joshua handled every occasion with that kind of diplomacy. I can only wish I could handle all situations as well as he.

Since those early days in 2007, Joshua kept doing more and more to serve the newspaper and the community. He would see me literally pulling my hair out (yes, once I had hair) over the tedious task of counting and billing out the legal notices placed by local cities. It’s a thankless, but very necessary job.

He started pulling each paper where a legal notice appeared and measured it according to the instructions of the government entity placing it. From that moment forward, I would find the entire job done and on my desk every month.

In 2010, I had a number of heart attacks and had to be hospitalized for quintuple bypass surgery. I spent a couple of weeks in the hospital, much of which was in intensive care. Joshua took over all aspects of newspaper management in my absence and in the months thereafter while I slowly recovered.

He didn’t do it for the money. God knows, there isn’t much money in local newspapers – he did it because of who he was – no longer what he was hired to be, an employee, but a trusted member of the family and the best friend a person could have.

And he did it well. Joshua was an award-winning Editor at Focus, recognized most recently for his legal reporting. But he didn’t enter competitions for fame, he entered so he could learn where we could improve the paper. He had a thirst for knowledge and a vision for personal and professional growth.

The week since Joshua has been gone has been the toughest week I can remember in my adult life – and there have been some really bad ones. I have found myself breaking into tears on many occasions, often when having to tell someone else about Joshua’s passing. It is too hard to believe that someone so vibrant and full of life could be gone.

There is not one person on the small Focus’ staff who did not break into tears when they learned of his passing. We all keep thinking this must be a week that is just a bad dream – a dream we will wake up from. Why can’t this just be a bad dream and tomorrow we can walk into the offices and find Joshua sitting at his desk hard at work with his easygoing smile and positive attitude…

We will never be able to provide an adequate tribute to his memory, but we are trying as we put together this special issue, with comments from many of the people he touched throughout his all-too-short life.

Perhaps I can say it, using the same analogy I used when I told our children about his passing. They both broke down, crying uncontrollably. I said, “God must have needed Joshua more than we did. Rest assured he is now at God’s side and doing his bidding in heaven, just as he did it here on earth.”

Joshua – We Love You! I love you! I don’t know of anyone who has met you, who didn’t love you.

“Until We Meet Again!”

Midlothian ISD “Teachers Are The Real Heroes”

Midlothian ISD School Board
Photo courtesy Midlothian ISD

Nothing is easy these days. Nothing. One of the most important and often most difficult jobs is that of a teacher. Today teachers are expected to offer instruction, compassion, empathy, while also sanitizing classrooms and practicing active shooter drills, and so much more. While January is School Board Recognition month, Midlothian ISD Trustees decided to celebrate with a “twist” by recognizing teachers and staff.

2022 School Board Recognition

WHEREAS, the mission of public schools is to meet the diverse educational needs of all children and to empower them to become competent, productive contributors to a democratic society in an ever changing world; we want to honor the REAL heroes that make it all possible.

WHEREAS, the Board of Trustees would like to acknowledge every person employed by Midlothian ISD.

We recognize you have gone above and beyond our wildest expectations; willingly raising the standard, selflessly devoting yourself to students through accelerated learning, early mornings, late afternoons, tutoring, summer school, additional tutoring; ever changing Covid protocols while modeling for parents how to cope; how to be flexible, how to
lead, remember to breathe; all while emphasizing the love of learning.

WHEREAS, the Board of Trustees recognizes the long hours, increasing demands, the exhaustion mixed with tenacity and amazing GRIT; we sincerely, compassionately and emotionally notice the impact to your personal lives, your own children, your time off, and your families.

WHEREAS, the Midlothian Board of Trustees would like to announce that students, teachers and staff are the #1 priority in our community. They take precedence on this day, and everyday as:

  •  Bus drivers take on extra routes.
  • Substitute teachers are on call, flexible and adaptive to any class, any campus.
  • Custodians and secretaries work long hours serving and sanitizing whenever called upon.
  • Teachers cover and combine classes, keeping their focus on students through extra hours, extra communication, with extra patience.
  • Paraprofessionals take on extra duties and new roles.
  • Parents step up as volunteers and share their gratefulness, understanding and patience.
  • Administrators serve where needed, covering classes and lunchrooms.
  • Principals and Assistant Principals are on call 24/7, have sleepless nights, balance coverage, wear every hat and still lead safety, lead learning; and a positive attitude.
  • Nurses care for students, parents, staff and community with constant communication on safety and handling the most dynamic world of germs and protocols.

WHEREAS, we thank each and every person. Thank you. Thank you for serving students with a smile; Thank you for demonstrating servant leadership.

Today we honor you.

NOW, THEREFORE, I JoAnn Fey together with the Board of Trustees of Midlothian ISD, by unanimous decision and with unwavering support for the real heroes of this district; urge every member in the Midlothian community to join us in recognizing the dedication and hard work of teachers and all staff as they mold the clay and deliver excellence to
our most precious gifts. Our students.

IN OFFICIAL RECOGNITION WHEREOF, we hereby affix our signatures this 24 th day of January, 2022.

Midlothian Police Department Investigate Deadly Accident

Attempted Kidnapping Midlothian

Last night Highway 287 was shut down in both directions due to an accident. Locals commented on Facebook they say a car driving the wrong way in the area of the accident.

Midlothian PD shared the following: MPD is working a Major Accident in the 5400 block of east Hwy 287. Due to the size and serious nature of the accident both sides of the highway is shut down.

The investigation is expected to last for some time.
Please avoid this area if at all possible.
Updates will be provided when possible.

Midlothian Police Department issued the following:

Fatality Accident Investigation
January 24, 2022

On January 23, 2022 at approximately 8:21 PM, the Northern Ellis Emergency Dispatch received reports of a vehicle traveling southbound in the northbound lanes of US HWY 287 near Presidential Parkway. Patrol officers from the Midlothian Police Department were dispatched to that location. Within minutes of the original call, while officers were enroute to the area, Dispatch received an update to the call indicating that the wrong-way driver had struck a vehicle that was traveling northbound on US HWY 287.

The vehicle that was traveling in the wrong direction was occupied only by the driver, who has been identified as Bettye Stafford, 83, of Midlothian. The other vehicle was occupied by the driver, identified as Jyntri Tillery, 26, of Crowley as well as her 6 year-old daughter.

Both Stafford and Tillery were killed in the collision. The child was transported to Children’s Hospital in Dallas and is currently stable condition.

At this time, investigators suspect that Ms. Stafford had left the parking lot of the Whataburger located at 2440 Presidential Parkway and turned left in to the northbound lanes US HWY 287. Please keep in mind that our investigation is still ongoing.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those involved in the crash.

Red Oak ISD Proposes $230.1 Million Bond Election


Red Oak ISD Discusses Need For Bond To Address Growth

RED OAK – It has been 15 years since Red Oak ISD has passed a bond. And in that time Red Oak has experienced exponential growth. According to data, Red Oak has grown 77.31% from 1990-2021.

A Citizens Facility Planning Committee was recently formed to look into this year’s recommendation for a Bond Election. The Citizens Facility Planning Committee (CFPC)  consisted of Red Oak ISD staff and community members with an eye toward Red Oak ISD current and long-term facility and capital project needs.

At a special called Red Oak ISD board meeting last week, it was noted the Committee represents diverse perspectives from the community. Overall, they spent 600 total hours working through district needs. Topics included: district goals, district finances, facility needs, district tour, cost breakdowns, how bonds and taxes work, ethics for a bond and the election.

Committee members spoke at the meeting with one saying, “If you don’t believe it [the need] take a tour of the district and it will open your eyes.”

Other mentioned subpar facilities, UIL issues with the sports areas, which could cause economic problems in the future. While another committee member spoke about the district ADA violations adding, “The district has done an amazing job with facility maintenance, we are at a point where they can’t keep putting maintenance in it.”

The total for all the projects the Planning Committee thought necessary for the ISD’s future growth came to $230,100,000.

It was also pointed out the overall tax rate has decreased over the past three years, currently at $1.3256.

Campuses At or Over Capacity

The Committee summation included that “Nearly all schools are close to full capacity or are already over capacity, students are spending too many educational hours in transit, Goodloe Stadium is in danger of being unusable, the transportation building and parking lots are inadequate and many other areas need attention too.”

Red Oak ISD school capacity percentages
Slide presented by the Citizens Committee to ROISD School Board

Goodloe Stadium projection was $45 million for an new locker rooms, improved restrooms concessions and a new press box. Plans also include adding a lane to the existing track for UIL competitions. The project would also address visitor parking area lighting improved, ADA requirements met, upgraded visitor stands; entry ways, and elevator.

The Transportation building and parking lots will require $19 million for a new facility.  At the moment flooding issues have been reported, thus the recommendation is for a new facility. The current facility is too small for the number of employees passing through each day, restrooms, training, gravel bus parking, a lack of necessary maintenance space, fleet washing, insufficient parts storage bay capacity and fuel storage.

It was also presented there is the need for elementary playgrounds to have ADA accessibility, the middle and high school students share the track at Goodloe. The high school needs more indoor practice space for multiple organizations, energy management upgrades and a current middle school safety and security program, these latter two items for a total of $3.8 million.

The high school is looking at $38 million for renovation and a CTE addition. Breakdown of those funds $25.5 million for CTE building , $13 for high school renovations.

Whereas the middle school needs $86.5 million for a new middle school campus, ROISD already has the land. The existing middle school needs security updates at $1.5 million.

Expanding Elementary Campuses To Address Enrollment & Projections

Another $28 million for elementary school additions to Wooden and Eastridge. Expansion would address growth needs in the district for the next 5-10 years of projected enrollment. Funds include adding eight new classrooms to each campus, plus a new kitchen and cafeteria for each campus at $14 million apiece.

High school athletic improvements needed are estimated at $9,300,000 million. Funds would be spent on a JV track/turf field, baseball/softball turf on existing fields and resurfaced tennis courts.

The current conditions of Red Oak ISD regarding fiscal responsibility includes paying down $7 million in past bonds, purchased land for future elementary and middle schools, upgrades to ROHS and Schupmann lighting, several HVAC upgrades, practice facilities, installing new field at Goodloe Stadium and a state of the art Agriculture Science Project Center (Ag Barn).

Red Oak ISD proposed projects

Previous Bond Elections in Red Oak ISD were in 2006 for $90 million, which was defeated; 2007 for $97 million, which passed; and in 2017 for $74 million, which was defeated. The most recent vote in 2017, the bond failed by 36 votes.

Staff noted “On average, a district of our size has a bond election every five to six years. Nearly all ROISD schools are close to full capacity or are already over capacity with current zoning.”

The potential tax rate total if the bond passes is $1.3666.

ROISD tax impact

It was also noted if the Bond passed the first bonds, they would be issued in fall 2022 for 30 years. Subsequent bonds would be issued for 2023 and 2024.

Tonight, Red Oak ISD has a regularly scheduled board meeting with the bond propositions on the agenda.

Mansfield ISD School Board Candidate Filing Open

Mansfield ISD logo

Election Day May 7, 2022

The filing period is now open for those interested in running in the upcoming Mansfield ISD school board election. Election Day is Saturday, May 7.

Four seats on the Mansfield ISD Board of Trustees will be on the ballot—Place 3, Place 4, Place 5 and Place 7.

A general election will be held for Place 3, Place 4 and Place 5. A special election will be held for Place 7. The elected official for Place 7, an unexpired term, will have to run again in 2023.

View board member requirements and application details here. The deadline to turn in a candidate form is Friday, Feb. 18 at 5 p.m.

School board members are locally elected representatives of the public and serve as the community’s advocate for public education. They must maintain a focus on student achievement and well-being while making decisions that represent the interests of their constituents.

For more information, email Julie Moye, coordinator of board operations, at [email protected] or call 817-299-6382.

As of the time of this publication the following individuals have filed:

Place 3

Craig Tipping

Tipping announced his filing on Facebook, “SO IT’S OFFICIAL!!! After a year of planning and preparing, I submitted my application to become a candidate for Mansfield ISD School Board-Place 3. I look forward for the opportunity to be able to represent the parents, students, teachers and community of our great district.”

Place 4

Keziah Valdes Farrar (incumbent)

Farrar shared this on Facebook,”Excited to announce that I have filed to seek re-election for Mansfield ISD School Board Trustee Place 4. I will continue to focus on keeping Mansfield ISD a strong district that focuses on academic excellence, communicating effectively with parents and the community, and always do what is best for our students.”

Place 5

Bianca Benavides Anderson

Anderson shared, “Super excited to announce I am seeking election for Mansfield ISD School Board Trustee Place 5. I look forward to representing and being a voice for students, parents and teachers.”

Place 7

Courtney Lackey Wilson

Wilson shared this on Facebook, “It’s done! I had hoped to not be gone for this long. But I have decided it’s time and I’m back to hopefully have the opportunity to finish my term. What can I say? I love the students and staff of our MISD community and have thoroughly enjoyed serving all of them and can’t wait to continue on.”

Note: Ms. Wilson resigned in July of last year citing personal and health reasons, but said at the time, “Please know that I am so honored to get to serve our MISD community and that this is extremely hard for me. I do hope that this season will pass quickly and also hope that I will have the opportunity to serve again,” said Lackey Wilson. “I am and will forever be the district’s biggest fan and will always be at your service where I am available.”

2022 Mansfield School Board Trustee Election Calendar

Important Deadlines to Remember

Jan. 19, 2022 – First day to file an application for a place on the ballot
Feb. 18, 2022 – (by 5 p.m.) Deadline to file application for place on ballot
Feb. 24, 2022 – Drawing to determine order of candidates’ names on the ballot
Feb. 25, 2022 – (by 5 p.m.) Last day to withdraw as a candidate
April 25, 2022 – May 3, 2022 – Early Voting
May 7, 2022 – Election Day
May 17, 2022 – Canvassing of election votes
June 18, 2022 – Runoff election, if necessary

Duncanville HS Graduate Will Mann Shines in “Hadestown”

Duncanville HS Graduate Will Mann Shines in Hadestown
Will Mann & Hadestown Workers photo by T. Charles Erickson

Broadway actor Will Mann, a 2001 graduate of Duncanville High School, is wowing Dallas audiences in the national tour of ‘Hadestown’ at Winspear Opera House. The jazz-infused, multi-award-winning musical is presented by Dallas Summer Musicals through Jan. 30. As the most honored show for the 2018-2019 Broadway season, “Hadestown” has been a “can’t-wait, must-see” show for North Texas musicals lovers.

Hadestown Exceeds All Hype

“Hadestown” exceeds all its hype, offering one of the most joyful experiences you’ll ever have at the theater–surprising for a show based on a tragic love story. Anais Mitchell’s music, lyrics and book combine Americana folk music with New Orleans-style jazz in retelling the sad Greek myth of Orpheus and his beloved Eurydice. As the son of the Muse of Poetry, Orpheus’ magical lyre and voice could charm the stones. He was engaged to marry Eurydice, a dryad or tree nymph, and tries to rescue her from the dead after she’s bitten by a snake. Their story intersects with that of Hades, ruler of the underworld, and Persephone, goddess of the seasons.

Duncanivlle HS graduate in Hadestown
photo by T. Charles Erickson

The musical opens in a setting similar to New Orleans’ Preservation Hall, with Hermes, the fleet footed messenger of the gods, as our narrator and guide. The three Fates (goddesses who decide the destinies of mortals) and the Workers (five performers who sing and dance in unison like a Greek Chorus) complete the talented ensemble cast. Seven terrific orchestra members are also located onstage, and sometimes even join the dancing performers.

This national touring production is full of great performances. Golden-voiced Orpheus (Nicholas Barasch) wins hearts with his single-minded devotion to Eurydice. Morgan Siobhan Green is delightful as Eurydice, who glows with happiness as Orpheus’ unconditional love warms her heart. Their duets and scenes together, especially the playful ‘Wedding Song,’ are endearing.

Levi Kraus Dashing as Hermes

Tony Award winner Levi Kraus makes a dashing Hermes in his fancy suits, with his high-stepping dancing and light patter keeping us entertained even when things aren’t going well for the lovers. Or the workers, or even poor Persephone, who’s come to realize Hades is something of a tyrant. As Persephone, Kimberly Marable—with her sensual dancing and gorgeous voice–steals the show anytime she takes center stage. When she’s gone from the stage, we miss her as much as Hades does. Kevyn Morrow gives an equally splendid performance as Hades, aided by his powerful, deeply resonant bass voice.

Duncanville HS gradate in Hadestown
Photo by T. Charles Erickson

Belén Moyano, Bex Odorisio, and Shea Renne play The Fates. The Workers Chorus features our own local phenom Will Mann, along with Lindsey Hailes, Chibueze Ihuoma, Sydney Parra, and Jamari Johnson Williams. These Workers are not only fine singers but fantastic dancers–watching them bound from one side of the stage to the other is like watching a tennis match. The swings for the touring production include Kimberly Immanuel, Alex Lugo, Eddie Noel Rodríguez, and Nathan Salstone.

Orchestra Members

Orchestra members include Cody Owen Stine (conductor/piano); Jacob Yates (cello/assistant conductor); Maria Im (violin); Michiko Egger (guitar); Audrey Ochoa (trombone/glockenspiel); Calvin Jones (double bass); and Anthony Ty Johnson (drums/percussion). Music coordinator is David Lai.

When “Hadestown” finally opened on Broadway, co-developed and directed by Rachel Chavkin, it was praised by critics as “our new obsession.” Anais Mitchell’s masterpiece is still playing on Broadway, with no sign of slowing down. Thanks to strong touring companies like the one we have in Dallas, musical fans around the country can now share the passion for this exuberant work of art.

“Hadestown” runs through Jan. 30 at the Winspear Opera House. For performance schedule or ticket information, please visit dallassummermusicals.org or attpac.org.

Red Oak ISD Candidate Filing Window For Board Election open from Jan. 19-Feb. 18

Red Oak ISD logo

Two Red Oak ISD Board Positions on the Ballot

(RED OAK, TX) — The candidate filing and voting dates have been set for the 2022 Red Oak Independent School District’s Board of Trustee election. The Board election will be held on Saturday, May 7, 2022. The election will consist of a general election for Place 1 and Place 2 each for a three-year term.

Candidate filing dates for the Red Oak ISD Board of Trustees election are January 19 through February 18. Interested candidates may download a packet from the webpage or pick up a paper copy at the Red Oak ISD Education Service Center (Administration), 109 W. Red Oak Rd., from January 19 to February 17 from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. and on Friday, February 18 from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.


Positions up for election in 2022:

Place 1 ­— Dr. Joy Shaw (incumbent), three-year term

Place 2 — Brian Sebring (incumbent), three-year term

Early voting for the election will occur April 25-May 3 – times and locations to posted on Ellis County Elections webpage. Polls will be open 7 a.m.-7 p.m. on Election Day – Saturday, May 7. More information can be found on the Ellis County Election Website – https://co.ellis.tx.us/312/Elections



Last day to register to vote: January 31, 2022

Candidate Filing January 19-February 18

Early Voting April 25-May 3

Election Day May 7

Duncanville HS Graduate Will Mann On Life As A Performer

Will Mann interview
photo by T. Charles Erickson

Duncanville High School has produced a number of champion athletes, with many of them going on to find fame as professional sports stars in football, basketball, and baseball. But it’s not that often we have an opportunity to interview a DHS graduate like Will Mann, who followed his dream to become a Broadway performer. Mann is back in North Texas, onstage at Winspear Opera House in the national touring production of hit Broadway musical “Hadestown” through Jan. 30.

A 2001 graduate of Duncanville HS, Mann said he was encouraged by his high school choir teacher, Maria Green, to continue his vocal training. After several years at UNT in Denton, he transferred to Oklahoma State University to concentrate on his voice and musical theatre training. He now lives and works in NYC, where he has become a sought-after singer/dancer/actor.

The “Hadestown” program lists Will Mann as the understudy for both Hades and Hermes for the national touring production. His Broadway credits include playing Mike in the 2019 Tony Award-winning revival of “Oklahoma!” and Bobby in “Memphis.” Mann also toured with “Memphis,” “Billy Elliot,” and many others. He appeared in the film “Ricki and the Flash” starring Meryl Streep.

Interview With Will Mann

Q: Did you have other mentors besides Ms. Green while you were at DHS?

A: “After I graduated high school, I played Jesus Godspeed at Cedar Valley Community College. Sam Germany directed and gave me a lot of encouragement. Sam helped me to believe I could make a living doing this.”

Will Mann
Will Mann

Q: You mentioned hosting a digital door since casts can’t interact with fans like you did before the pandemic. How can fans interact with you now?

A. My TikTok is pretty active, and thousands of fans engage with me in the comments of those. I also read and respond to all private messages on my Instagram. I can be found at @UUillMann on both.

Family Members

Q: How many family members are still in the Dallas area, and are any of them in southwest Dallas cities?

A: My family is mostly in DeSoto and Cedar Hill. All three of my sisters live there. My niece and her children live in north Dallas.

Q: Please name a few of the shows you performed in for Dallas Theater Center and Casa Manana.

A: I did the world premiere of Bella: An American Tall Tale by Kirsten Childs at DTC, brilliantly directed by Robert O’Hara. I also did DamnYankees starring Richard Kind at Casa.

Q: What kind of dog do you have and is it difficult to find places together on tour since some hotels don’t allow pets?

A: She’s a bully terrier with super short legs. She’s not fully on the road with me. She stays with her grandparents year-round. While I’m in Dallas, she’s at the hotel with me.

Q: Were any of your previous national tours presented by Dallas Summer Musicals?

A: I think maybe all of them were: Wonderful Town, Memphis, Joseph and the Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Q: Please expand on your comments about understudies being the backbone of Broadway.

A: Eight shows a week is hard for anyone. Without understudies, there’d be cancellations daily, ESPECIALLY now amidst a pandemic.

Hadestown Workers

Q: What has been the most challenging role of your career, and what role would you love to play in the future?

A: Physically, I think doing my current job in Hadestown may be the most challenging. Everyone is working hard, but the Workers are putting their bodies through it.
My dream role hasn’t been written yet. When it comes, I hope I immediately recognize it for what it truly is and enjoy it from top to bottom.

Don’t miss this chance to see Will Mann and the other fine performers in the national touring company of “Hadestown.” This joyful, exuberant musical gives us a glimpse of “the world as it could be.”

“Hadestown” runs through Jan. 30 at Winspear Opera House, presented by Dallas Summer Musicals.

DeSoto ISD Trustees to Host Bi-Monthly Town Hall on January 26

DeSoto ISD School Board

DeSoto ISD Encourages Community To Attend Town Hall

The DeSoto ISD Board of Trustees will host an in-person town hall at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, January 26, 2022, inside the DeSoto ISD Boardroom located at the district’s Instructional Support Center located at 200 E. Belt Line Road in DeSoto.


This month’s meeting will provide an update regarding Lone Star Governance, recent data related to the district’s progress in reaching the Board’s goals related to College, Career and Military Readiness, and review superintendent constraints.


The town hall is an opportunity for the DeSoto ISD school board to provide an update to its stakeholders regarding its current focus and priorities and to engage with parents, staff, students, and the community.


As aligned with the Board’s intent to provide regular updates and interactive discussions to the school community per the district’s CAP plan, the forum is held as an installment in a series of bi-monthly town halls to be facilitated by the Board. The first installment, which took place July 29, 2021, at the DeSoto High School Academy Cafeteria, reviewed the Board’s Lone Star Governance training and progress. The second installment, which took place in September, briefly shared a review of the board goals and student outcomes, an overview of the superintendent evaluation tool, a review of the Board’s Lone Star Governance Integrity Instrument, and a district finance update.


Following the Board’s presentation, attendees will have the opportunity to pose questions regarding the meeting’s agenda items by in-person public comment.


For those who desire to pre-submit questions prior to the town hall, email questions here by 5 p.m. Tuesday, January 25, 2022, for address by the Board.


Those who cannot attend the in-person town hall forum are invited to view the forum online at http://www.desotoisd.org/board_of_trustees/live_and_archived_video.

DeSoto Police Investigate Early Morning Gun Battle

DeSoto police announcement

Suspect in Custody/Victim Not Yet Identified

DeSoto Police have a suspect in custody for a fatal shooting early Sunday morning at an apartment on the 200 block of East Wintergreen Road near Hampton Road. Officers responded to a call of shots fired at the location shortly after 1 AM Sunday and found that an unidentified male was dead and had apparently been shot to death inside of the apartment.


Detectives found evidence of a gun battle and determined that the suspected shooter had also been wounded in the exchange. A short while later they confirmed that a potential suspect was being treated for gunshot wounds at a local hospital. Detectives followed up, secured a warrant, and were able to take 19- year-old Julian Jones of Camp Wisdom Road in Dallas into custody. Jones is being held pending arraignment. An investigation is ongoing to identify the victim inside of the apartment. Police believe that this was an isolated incident and there is not threat to the public at large.


DeSoto Police ask that anyone with information related to this case notify them at (972) 223-6111 and ask to leave a message for Sergeant Joshua Parker. Media seeking follow-up can also contact the same number and ask to message Sergeant Parker.

Texas Man Arrested for Making Election-Related Threats to Government Officials

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First Case Charged by Justice Department’s Election Threats Task Force

A Texas man was arrested today in Travis County, Texas, for allegedly sending threatening election-related communications to government officials on Jan. 5, 2021.

Chad Stark, 54, of Leander, was arrested this morning in a law enforcement operation carried out by the FBI. He is scheduled to make his initial appearance this afternoon at the federal courthouse in Austin, Texas.

This is the first criminal case brought by the Justice Department’s Election Threats Task Force. Announced by Attorney General Merrick B. Garland and launched by Deputy Attorney General Lisa O. Monaco in late June 2021, the task force is leading the department’s efforts to address threats of violence against election workers, and to ensure that all election workers — whether elected, appointed or volunteer — are able to do their jobs free from threats and intimidation. The task force engages with the election community and state and local law enforcement to assess allegations and reports of threats against election workers, and investigates and prosecutes these matters where appropriate, in partnership with FBI field offices and U.S. Attorneys’ Offices throughout the country as warranted.

“The Justice Department has a responsibility not only to protect the right to vote, but also to protect those who administer our voting systems from violence and illegal threats of violence,” said Attorney General Garland. “The department’s Election Threats Task Force, working with partners across the country, will hold accountable those who violate federal law by using violence or threatening violence to target election workers fulfilling their public duties.”

“Today’s arrest confirms the FBI’s commitment in our pursuit of justice against those who choose to threaten violence against anyone participating in our elections,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray. “Election workers striving to protect our right to a fair and democratic process deserve nothing less than the utmost safety and assurance they can accomplish their roles without interference. The FBI will continue to focus on our mission of protecting these individuals and the important work they do, as well as every American’s right to vote.”

“The intimidation of those in charge of carrying out free and fair elections in this country is against the law and cannot go unchecked,” said U.S. Attorney Kurt R. Erskine for the Northern District of Georgia. “When someone threatens an election official working at any level of the voting process – whether that be an elected office holder or a volunteer poll worker – our democracy is put in jeopardy. We are grateful to all of those who endeavor to secure our elections and our democracy. We must protect them all.”According to the indictment, on Jan. 5, 2021, Stark allegedly posted a message to Craigslist entitled, “Georgia Patriots it’s time to kill [Official A] the Chinese agent – $10,000.” The message stated:

Georgia Patriots it’s time for us to take back our state from these Lawless treasonous traitors. It’s time to invoke our Second Amendment right it’s time to put a bullet in the treasonous Chinese [Official A]. Then we work our way down to [Official B] the local and federal corrupt judges. It’s our duty as American Patriots to put an end to the lives of these traitors and take back our country by force we can no longer wait on the corrupt law enforcement in the corrupt courts. If we want our country back we have to exterminate these people. One good loyal Patriot deer hunter in camo and a rifle can send a very clear message to these corrupt governors.. milita up Georgia it’s time to spill blood…. we need to pay a visit to [Official C] and her family as well and put a bullet her behind the ears. Let’s be very clear to our local law enforcement who have stood down and watch BLM antifa destroy our country and kill our citizens yet you’ll step up to stop Patriot supporters you’ll enforce face mask and you’ll close American businesses??? Remember one thing local law enforcement the key word being local….. we will find you oathbreakers and we’re going to pay your family to visit your mom your dad your brothers and sisters your children your wife… we’re going to make examples of traitors to our country… death to you and all you communist friends.

Election Threats Task Force

Organized by Deputy Attorney General Monaco, the Election Threats Task Force is led by the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and includes several other entities within the Department of Justice, including the Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section of the Criminal Division, the Civil Rights Division, the National Security Division and the FBI, as well as key interagency partners, such as the Department of Homeland Security. For more information regarding the Justice Department’s efforts to combat threats against election workers, read the Deputy Attorney General’s memo.

To report suspected threats or violent acts, contact your local FBI office and request to speak with the Election Crimes Coordinator. Contact information for every FBI field office may be found at https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field-offices/. You may also contact the FBI at 1-800-CALL-FBI (225-5324) or file an online complaint at tips.fbi.gov. Complaints submitted will be reviewed by the task force and referred for investigation or response accordingly. If someone is in imminent danger or risk of harm, contact 911 or your local police immediately.

Stark is charged with one count of communicating interstate threats. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.

The FBI’s Atlanta Field Office is investigating the case.

Deputy Director Sean F. Mulryne of the Criminal Division’s Public Integrity Section and Assistant U.S. Attorney Brent Alan Gray of the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Georgia are prosecuting the case.

An indictment is merely an allegation, and all defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.



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