Page 1

Special Report: The Cost of Education

PLUS March 30, 2011

East Texas’ Small Businesses & Entrepreneurs Greetings from the Heart

In This Issue

Editor In Chief Christian Keitt Managing Editor Melissa Greene

Design Editor Natalie Kushner

Feature Editor Audrey Westby

News Editor Kelly Shorette

Photo Editor Chantel Martin

Contributing Writers Kristin Adams, Coshandra Dillard, Jad Dusek, Jennifer Harris, Kyle Harris, Mary Parsons, Rachel Pratas, Lea Rittenhouse, Haylee Story, Kamren Thompson Photographers Tiffany Drake, Clay Ihlo, Jake Waddingham Adviser Dave Weinstock

Comments or questions can be directed to Vol. 1, No. 2 - March 30, 2011 The Pine Curtain Magazine is an online publication created by journalism students at the University of Texas at Tyler. Content may not be reproduced in whole or in part without written permission from The Pine Curtain Magazine. ©The Pine Curtain Magazine 2011

2  •  The Pine Curtain

Contents In This Issue 6

Community News News from East Texas that affects us where we live.

Special Report 10

The Cost of Education District-by-district account of how the state’s education cuts are affecting East Texas schools and students. Cover photo courtesy TSTA

Features 22

East Texas’ Biggest [Small] Businesses Feature stories highlighting East Texas’ most quaint and unique small businesses.

March 30, 2011  •  3  

In This Issue

Vol. 1, No. 2   March 30, 2011

In This Issue

Contents 37


The Entrepreneurs: Charles Adams and David Heflin Successful businesses begin with a single idea, depending on the personalities driving them. We dig deeper into the minds behind Adams’ Martial Arts and Heflin and Thrall’s language software.

Art + Life 40

Greetings from the Heart Personalized greeting cards and post cards designed by UT Tyler students in the Visual Design class. Print ‘em, cut ‘em, send ‘em with love!

Students featured: Carinne Brewer, Preston Kilday

4  •  The Pine Curtain


elcome to the second issue of The Pine Curtain! Spring is usually seen as a time of rebirth and hope, but the future of Texas school budgets looks dismal. In this issue, we take a look at how the Texas Legislature will slash school budgets and how local school districts plan to deal with the cuts. Teachers, administrators and parents have stormed Austin for the past few weeks, demanding that lawmakers shouldn’t sell public schools short. The numbers just don’t add up in school districts’ favor. Although Texas adds about 80,000 more children to classrooms each year, the House’s budget doesn’t provide for growth. School districts will have to choose between funding school programs, maintaining current class sizes and keeping teachers around. In fact, the state plans to cut aid by almost $800 per child. Across the state, people are urging their representatives to vote against the massive school budget cuts that will be considered Friday on the

House floor. One protestor’s sign said it best: “Legislators: Who paid for YOUR education?” Especially in today’s economy, small businesses are the lifeblood of any community. They pay 45 percent of the total U.S. private payroll and have generated 6080 percent of new jobs annually during the last decade. In this issue, we showcase several small businesses and entrepreneurs in East Texas, from Haute Stuff Boutique and East Texas Burger Co. in Mineola, to East Texas Gators & Wildlife Park in Grand Saline. These small businesses are what make East Texas great. We also take a look at two local entrepreneurs, Charles Adams and David Heflin. Both men have found a way to turn their life’s passion into a business. The question we leave to you, our readers, is if we continue to slash state education budgets, how long will small businesses remain our lifeblood?

Christian Keitt

The Pine Curtain welcomes letters to the editor via e-mail. E-mails should be as concise as possible due to space limitations and must include your name and telephone number, so we can verify authenticity. Questions and comments can be e-mailed to

Editor in Chief

Like Us on Facebook March 30, 2011  •  5  

In This Issue

Editor’s Letter

In This Issue

Community News

Local officials disagree over hotel tax for new county events center By Kelley Shorette LONGVIEW – Precinct 2 Commissioner Darryl Primo disagrees with County Judge Bill Stoudt over a proposed 2 percent hotel tax increase to fund the proposed $11 million Gregg County Events Center. While the county will tap into its $19 million reserve fund to pay for construction of the facility, the city will be responsible for facility maintenance. Stoudt supports a proposal to fund the nearly $500,000 per year by raising the hotel occupancy tax from 7 percent to 9 percent.

Primo opposes the proposal, and said he would not support the project if it meant a tax increase, unless the hotel tax is offset by a decrease in the county tax rate. “Nobody minds paying for something as long as they get paid back in some form or fashion,” Primo said. Stoudt said offsetting the hotel tax increase by lowering the county tax rate doesn’t make sense. “You’re talking about two different kinds of taxes. They’re not even calculated on the same basis,” Stoudt said. “The arithmetic doesn’t work.”

Primo is asking for revenue and profit projections, as well as a study of the effect a hotel tax increase will have on local economy. He also called for a public meeting where residents can voice concerns. Stoudt said the county will get some numbers drawn up in the next couple weeks. Mayor Jay Dean presented the hotel tax increase proposal to a group of local hotel managers. Jay Patel, Hampton Inn North General Manager, attended Dean’s presentation. “Most people will be coming See “EVENTS CENTER” on Page 8

Courtesy of Johnson & Pace, Inc.

Designers at Johnson & Pace, Inc. created this architectural rendering of what Gregg County Events Center will look like when construction is completed. 6  •  The Pine Curtain

By Jennifer Harris HENDERSON – Changes are underway as East Texas Medical Center in Henderson continues the $20 million expansion of emergency department facilities begun last September. Mark Leitner, ETMC Henderson chief executive officer, said he is excited about the first major renovations at the hospital in more than 20 years. “The plans that had been laid are finally coming to fruition,” he said. Several expansion plans were prepared in the last few years, but it wasn’t affordable for the formerly private hospital until becoming affiliated with ETMC in 2009. See “ETMC” on Page 8

Photo by Clay Ihlo

The fully functional and completed clinical area will be accessible at the end of May or beginning of June.

Newly re-elected Bullard board members plan for upcoming school budget cuts By Kyle Harris BULLARD – Two Bullard Independent School District Board members return to their seats on the board ready to tackle looming budget cuts. Tony Johnson and Brian Whatley each ran unopposed and will begin their third term in May. “We want to continue to do what we have been doing, which is putting the kids first,” Whatley said. “Our second [priority] is to the teachers and administration. We need to retain all of the teachers and administration if we can.” Whatley has owned Custom

Built Graphics since the first of the year, which had been previously known as Impressive Designs. Johnson has been with the Brookshire’s company for 32 years, and has been at the Bullard location since the store’s opening almost eight years ago. Whatley and Johnson both made it clear that retaining the teaching staff at Bullard ISD is their top priority when dealing with budget cuts. “I don’t want to cut any programs,” Whatley said. “I want to see the kids involved in more activities and programs.” Johnson agrees.

“We could cut in areas that, in my opinion, would not affect critical jobs to our district,” said Johnson. “We would look at all areas, but teaching would need to be the last thing considered for cutting.” Johnson said the school district has already begun to eliminate unnecessary expenses by avoiding purchases that it can function without. “We had an opportunity to purchase a new bus for our district this year, like we do every year,” said Johnson. “We chose See “BOARD MEMBERS” on Page 8

March 30, 2011  •  7  

In This Issue

ETMC Henderson emergency dept. undergoes $20 million facelift

In This Issue


Continued from Page 7

Renovations are taking place as well as new construction. City Building Inspector Claude Reese said the new emergency area is now in use after receiving a temporary certificate of occupancy. Construction on the hospital’s old headquarters is now in progress, marking the halfway point for project completion. The old emergency department is now closed and under renovation, said Deleisa Johnson, an affiliate marketing associate for ETMC. “New rooms have been completed in the newly constructed area where ED patients are now being treated,” Johnson said. The completed project will

double the square footage and include five additional exam rooms, two major treatment rooms, a lobby, waiting room and entrance. Patients and staff currently use the front lobby as a waiting area and share the main entry until the renovations are complete. Admissions and registration will be housed in the new lobby and a separate 24-hour access emergency department waiting area will be available once construction is complete. The emergency department will have its own walk-in entry with a covered drive for ambulance access. “The existing hospital hasn’t kept up with the technology or

advancements in the medical world,” Reese said. The plan includes all new equipment, including crash carts, a fixed MRI, upgraded nurse-call systems and new beds for patient rooms. The hospital’s main electrical system has been rebuilt and a new generator has been added for emergency power. “Construction seems to be on schedule,” Reese said. Officials said the fully functional and completed clinical area will be accessible at the end of May or beginning of June. The remaining emergency department and entry are projected to be complete by the end of the year.


Continued from Page 7

not to. We also provided no salary increases for jobs this year, which is unfortunate.” Whatley and Johnson both, however, said the district’s financial situation was better than

the general public might perceive it to be. “We are very transparent. We encourage Bullard citizens to come to our meetings or visit with Superintendent Bryant to see the

state that we’re in,” Johnson said. “Our board works very well together,” Whatley said. “We don’t always agree on everything, but we always try to make sure it’s what’s best for the kids.”


Continued from Page 6

from two or three hours away and staying for only one day. They won’t need a hotel, they’ll just drive back home,” Patel said. He said local traffic would increase, but a new facility probably wouldn’t bring many extra guests to local hotels. Shawn Hara, Dean’s spokesperson, said although the county would see no direct 8  •  The Pine Curtain

revenue, there would undoubtedly be an increase in indirect revenue. “People coming in to the area would be using local businesses— gas stations, restaurants and others—and would boost the county’s revenue that way,” Hara said. Stoudt said it will be at least midsummer before plans are finalized. The new events center would

sit across from Maude Cobb Convention Center. Preliminary plans for the openair facility create a seating capacity around 4,000, with access to temporary seats increasing that number to nearly 7,000. The structure will not have heating or air-conditioning, but Stoudt said enclosing the venue at a later date is an option.

Those who want immigrants out are most dependent on their labor By Kamren Thompson The foundation of America rests on an immigrant workforce. Now that the country developed labor laws, unions and work-place regulations, we suddenly don’t seem to be as keen on immigrants, illegal or otherwise, “taking our jobs.” Texas Republican legislators are preoccupied with who should be responsible for keeping illegal immigrants unemployed. Rep. Leo Berman (R-Tyler) proposed legislation to require employers use E-Verify, an online system that checks the legality of an applicant’s citizenship. “If someone is trying to get a job with you, it will be your responsibility to find out if they are legal or not,” Berman said. Traditionally, Berman has been a staunch advocate of antiimmigration bills. It would seem that Rep. Debbie Riddle (R-Tomball) is also an antiimmigration advocate. She wants to make it a felony for employers to hire an illegal immigrant. Her bill has a significant loophole, which excludes hiring an undocumented worker for obtaining labor for a single-family home, meaning we can take advantage of them individually, but not as a group.

America depends on the immigrant workforce now just as much as we did in the 1900s. The Pew Hispanic Center found in 2010 there were 8 million unauthorized immigrants in the U.S. workforce. Texas has the third highest illegal immigrant population at almost 7 percent. A study released in December 2006 by Carolyn Strayhorn, former Texas comptroller, found the absence of undocumented immigrants in Texas in 2005 would cost our gross state product of more than $17 billion. A common anti-immigration refutation used against this is the financial benefits undocumented workers reap. The study found illegal immigrants were responsible for only about $1 billion in state revenue services and about $1.4 billion in uncompensated healthcare costs. Which means, after all the healthcare illegal immigrants “steal” from taxpayers, they still provide the state with almost $16 billion – not to mention the federal money paid through Social Security that illegal immigrants never see. The Pew Hispanic Center in 2008 estimated 24 percent of the nation’s chefs, cooks and dishwashers were illegals.

The sudden drop in immigrants would significantly hurt many industries in the state. For example, after Arizona’s immigration law passed, many landlords reported tenants in lowincome areas leaving in droves. School districts also complained enrollment decreased, perhaps due to parents’ illegal status. United States law already makes it illegal to hire undocumented workers, but there is no real way to regulate it, which is where Berman’s bill comes in. Obviously, businesses benefit from hiring low-wage, undocumented workers to survive in troubling economic times, businesses need employees that will work for minimum wage. If anything, the state will see a rise in convicted felonies as employers are caught hiring illegal immigrants, therefore, spending more tax dollars in the already overcrowded court system. Instead of the classic “keep them out” mentality and the newer “punish employers” approach, why don’t we just help illegals become citizens? Rather than punishing illegal immigrants, businesses, the economy and the tax payers, let’s help them become legal citizens. March 30, 2011  •  9  

In This Issue

News Opinion

Special Report

An estimated 11,000 protesters rallied in Austin on March 12. Courtesy TSTA

10  •  The Pine Curtain




With the Legislature facing a $27 billion deficit, independent school districts are preparing to endure massive cuts to education funding by slashing personnel and programs.


While the cost of education rises, the funding is dropping out, and many public school employees are asking Austin:

Special Report


ation ¢ Why are schools getting left behind?

March 30, 2011  •  11  


defundin the


year, so there’s a lot of positions created either through attrition or retirement,” he said. “Those 80 people are being given the opportunity to reapply for new positions, but there will be a minimum of 80 positions eliminated next year.” The board hired an auditor to conduct a staff audit March 21 to examine any opportunities to gain efficiency, Vickery said. TISD has been preparing, but conditions are worse than expected because of the Legislature’s decision not to use the Rainy Day Fund, Reid said. Vickery agreed the state education cuts, which state Senate officials estimate at $1 billion and House officials estimate at $3.9 billion, would affect all An art class at Bell Elementary in Tyler rely on technology. Can this be school districts. maintained? Photo courtesy

Special Report


yler Independent School District officials are preparing for state budget cuts predicted to range from $8 million to $10 million and the loss of a $5 million federal stimulus grant next year. “In short, this will be brutal for all school districts,” Superintendent Randy Reid said. He said the district predicts the greatest losses probably will be in instructional support areas. In the current budget cycle, TISD received a $5 million stimulus grant from the federal government, TISD Board President Ron Vickery said. Support personnel, who were placed on stimulus grant funding, were told at the beginning of the year if the grant isn’t renewed, their position will be eliminated. Vickery said he believes the grant will not be renewed, so 75 to 80 employees were told their position will not be available next year. Employees will be able to apply for different openings. “Tyler ISD hires about 300 new people every

12  •  The Pine Curtain



“I think, however, we as a school district have done a good job preparing for this difficult time,” he said. Vickery said he believes the district has a successful budget strategy, and they are working on contingencies for the reductions. “We will certainly survive, but it is going to be a painful process,” he said. Increasing taxes is not currently one of TISD’s costsaving strategies. The maximum operations tax for school districts in Texas is $1.04 without going to tax payers. “Most school districts have reached that maximum, and we have reached that maximum,” he said. Tosha Bjork, TISD executive director of financial services, said she believes the plans TISD officials made should compensate for the cuts. “We have been planning and feel that we will be able to absorb the reductions, although it will certainly be painful,” Bjork said. While salaries are 82 percent of TISD’s budget, Bjork said they are trying to Teachers are and should be concerned that phase in budget cuts through their class sizes will increase, and the support attrition. “We have not been filling personnel who help them with their roles may many vacancies in order to be greatly diminished. absorb some of the reduction,”

March 30, 2011  •  13  

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she said. “That will definitely be the area we will need to target.” Angela Jenkins, TISD director of communications, said the district offered an incentive of $2,500 to get early notice of employee resignation from 35 employees. Reid said officials designed the plan to encourage those who were considering leaving or retiring to give notice early in order to plan more effectively. “We had all 35 letters within 24 hours,” Reid said. Bjork also said TISD does not plan to increase salaries for any employees. Financial services officials also are examining class size adjustments for kindergarten through fourth grade classes. Currently the student-teacher ratio is about 19 to 1 with a limit of 22 students, but Reid said TISD is considering an average student-teacher ratio of 22 to 1 with a limit of 24 or 25 students. Reid said the state is currently considering changing this to the standard. “Teachers are and should be concerned that their class sizes will increase, and the support personnel who help them with their roles may be greatly diminished,” Reid said. In addition to the staff audit, Vickery said the district plans to conduct a curriculum audit in April to examine programming efficiencies. “What we as a board are trying to do is make sure we service the cuts and continue our academic performance and growth level,” he said. Bjork said it is also a possibility for the district to phase the cuts over the next two years because of a “healthy fund balance.” TISD officials do not plan to finalize and adopt the budget until August. “The Legislature may very well go into special session in the summer to make their final decisions on the state budget,” Reid said. “Obviously, we will have to make decisions prior to that time that will be based on our best estimation of what the state will do.”

{education} by the numbers Special Report

The House budget would cut spending of state tax revenue on public schools to $32.5 billion in 2012-2013, a reduction of $1.3 billion from the current cycle.

Texas adds about 80,000 more children to the classrooms each year. But the House’s budget not only doesn’t add money for growth, it cuts state aid by about $800 per child.


The budget is $23 billion shy of maintaining current programs, if inflation and population growth are considered. It also would leave $6.2 billion in the rainy day fund.


The budget is still some $8 billion short of what the state is supposed to provide public schools under current law



hitehouse Independent School District officials say they lack enough information from Austin to make “drastic cuts” for next year, according to Superintendent Daniel DuPree. “Hopefully, we’ll have a better idea of what we’re dealing with when the Legislature completes its session,” he said. “That way we can make better decisions on cuts for the second year, but at least we’ll have a whole year to do the planning.” He believes the Legislature might not even have real figures for them until the summer. WISD serves 4,600 students at eight schools currently and employs about 600 people. The deadline to make contractual decisions is the first week of April, but DuPree said job cuts are 14  •  The Pine Curtain

unreasonable, considering staff is already stretched thin. “I’ve got to have school and I’ve got to have the teachers that I have in place right now,” DuPree said. “If I didn’t need them to begin with, I wouldn’t have them.” He said many of the budget cuts around the state are the result of uneven federal funding. “We didn’t get the kind of money that other districts did on the federal side, and even if we did, we didn’t spend it on positions because we knew the money was temporary,” he said. DuPree doesn’t expect a “miracle from Austin” in the next few weeks. If heavy cuts are required, officials plan to dip into their reserves rather than cut staff. “There are some common-sense things we’re examining on a daily basis where we can hopefully hold back and maybe not spend next year,” he said.

The state’s 1,030 school districts have — in total — $10.2 billion in reserves and another $2.1 billion in unspent federal stimulus money. Facing a

reduction in state education spending of between $4 billion and $10 billion, many school districts have said they will be forced to lay off teachers and other staff and even close schools.



Schools are required by the state to keep reserves to cover cash flow deficits and to be able to run for 60 days. Only $439.4 million of that total balance — less than 5 percent — exceeds the state standard.

While 591 school districts have more money in reserve accounts than the state requires them to hold, 419 districts have less than they’re supposed to have (20 were right on the mark as of the end of January). The maximum operations tax for school districts in Texas is $1.04 without going to taxpayers. However, most school districts have reached their


“But all it’s going to do is double the pain later on down the road.” Officials said the school board’s ultimate goal is to minimize the impact on students. “Hopefully, our students won’t tell any difference from this year to the next,” he said. Although staff cuts are not planned for this coming year, DuPree explains “what one district does doesn’t necessarily mean Whitehouse has the same options that they have.” “I feel for them,” he said. “They’ve got to plan for the worst.”



he laminating machine at Chandler Elementary in Kilgore Independent School District is already on a tight schedule. Officials looking for ways to

reduce spending have limited the machine’s operation to a couple days a week. The copy machine is soon to follow. But no one is complaining. Small measures like these enabled the district to reduce its operating budget by $900,000 this year without dipping into salaries. That‘s about one-fourth of what has to be cut due to the state budget crisis, according to Superintendent Jody Clements. “It’s definitely going to affect our ability to teach kids at the level we have,” Clements said. The current fiscal storm has been brewing since 2006, when legislators changed the way school districts are financed. Clements said the average tax rate in Kilgore at that time was $1.46. Legislation sliced that down to $1, with the difference to be made up in business tax. “Carol Keeton-Strayhorn told the Legislature, March 30, 2011  •  15  

Special Report

While 591 school districts have more money in reserve accounts than the state requires them to hold, 419 districts have less than they’re supposed to have (20 were right on the mark as of the end of January).

Special Report

‘You’re going to be $23 million in the hole,’ and that’s exactly what happened, only its $27 million,” Clements said. Now ISDs are scrambling to cut expenses this fiscal year, and warily eyeing the next one. Like other districts, KISD offered employees early retirement incentives. Clements said 32 people took advantage of a $10,000 incentive by retiring or resigning prior to spring break, saving the district $1.3 million. The district employs more than 600 people. “About 20 to 45 people resign in a normal year. We will have to replace some of them, but most will not be replaced,” he said. Clements said incentives may not be available next year, and he is encouraging people to take the budget situation seriously. “They think some miraculous thing is going to happen and we’re all going to be saved. People aren’t going to realize its real until layoffs occur,” Clements said. Andrea Dukes, a first-year teacher at Chandler Elementary, said she isn’t worried about her job. “At this point, I don’t actually fear for my job, for the simple fact that Superintendent Clements has assured teachers we will be asked to return,” she said. Dukes said she worries more about how reduced federal funding will affect children’s

educational opportunities, including field trips and available classroom supplies. “Field trips have been cut back so much that they hardly exist. Our second grade field trip must be in town due to the gasoline prices,” she said. “For a Kilgore ISD student, it’s just not that exciting to go to the Oil Museum four years in a row.” Clements said budget cuts are always tough, especially if it involves laying off employees in small towns like Kilgore. “These are people you eat dinner with, people you go to church with on Sunday,” he said. Clements said he has been working closely with the school board to find ways to cut expenses without cutting payroll. Together they decided to reduce student insurance coverage, though they remain within the state-required coverage amount. He said the alternative learning center isn’t being used as much as previous years and a cost-benefit analysis is being performed on each district program. “If only 30 out of 1,000 students are signed up, it’s not beneficial with budgets as thin as they are,” he said. An estimated $270,000 in lost grant money for Pre-K will be made up by the district this year, but he said next year the program may be cut in half or

This is not a two-year

canceled. Clements acknowledges there are some areas where the budget is a little fatty and could be trimmed, but says this is a natural process. “When you have extra money you hire, making the job easier. We hired people in and never cut back,” he said. The student-to-teacher ratio is expected to increase due to layoffs, something Dukes said will make everyone’s job more difficult. “Legislation has been proposed that there be 24 students for every one teacher. It’s difficult as it is to teach academics and successfully monitor students when the ratio is 22 to1,” she said. Clements said there are no easy answers to the funding crisis, but decisions must me made. Starting this week, the north group of Region 7 is sending two superintendents per week to Austin to speak with legislators. Clements said it can be frustrating trying to be heard. “This is not a two-year issue, it’s a four-year issue,” he said. “We’ve got to fix it now so we can have some relief.”

issue, it’s a four-year issue. We’ve got to fix it now so we can have some relief.

16  •  The Pine Curtain

Photo courtesy



acksonville Independent School District is preparing for what officials say could be a dramatic budget

shortfall. District Superintendent Joe Wardell said no one knows what the budget cuts look like yet but anticipates a loss between $2 million to $4.6 million. This reflects an 8 percent to 15 percent loss of funding from the district’s present budget, a number that “really isn’t fair,” said Wardell. Any decrease in educational funds is of great significance to the district, he said. “We are already underfunded and they want to go ahead and cut all of us equally,” Wardell said. JISD Board of Trustees Secretary Joe Casey said the school district is already on the low end when it comes

to receiving state funding per student. He said JISD gets less than $5,000 per student per year, while other districts receive more than $13,000. Both Casey and Wardell agree these numbers are unfair and hope that one day something will be done to change the funding formula. “Our funding is based upon target revenue from 2006,” said Wardell. This target revenue system was to temporarily help school districts with their budgeting and somehow became permanent. The district is in the bottom 18 percent in educational funding statewide. “They were so frugal in 2006, and because we have done so well every year since then, we are being penalized for it,” said Wardell. Board of Trustees Vice President Jim Tarrant, Jr. said despite the already low budget,

March 30, 2011  •  17  

Special Report

Special Education Field Day in May 2008 in Jacksonville ISD. Statewide, Special Education is one of the programs in danger of losing funding.

JISD will be in better shape than other districts in Texas. He said he has confidence in administrators and feels the district will make any needed adjustments resulting from the possible budget cut. “We also have a very good board with a lot of business experience,” he said. The JISD Board of Trustees is planning now for whatever outcome the state will announce in the near future, though budgeting for the next fiscal year is months away. At this point, Tarrant said Pre-K classes will go from all day to half a day and extracurricular activities will be closely scrutinized for areas areas to trim expenses. Wardell asked all staff members to be as frugal as possible for the rest of the year. Plans for a 20 percent supply cut are in place for next year, which officials say will save the district almost $200,000. Wardell also suggested buying next year’s supplies from this year’s remaining budget, if possible. Since the majority of the budget, nearly 85 percent, goes toward personnel costs, Tarrant said most of the reduction will naturally be in payroll. “We offered incentives to any employees considering retirement or resigning at the end of this school year,” he said. Wardell said 36 staff members took the $500 stipend in February. Of those leaving, 26 are professional positions and 10 are supporting staff. “We had enough people



awkins Independent School District will face an estimated $500,000 to a $1 million cut in state funding for the 2011 to 2012 academic year. Business Coordinator Robby Fair said administrators are unsure of exact numbers, and do not expect the final numbers to become official until the summer. Administration is preparing for cuts in the formation of the new budget, which must be finalized around Aug. 31. “We are going to cut as deeply as we can, knowing that when we find out a formal number, we may have a moderate to large deficit this year, and we may have to absorb that with our fund balance,” Fair said. The school district has a fund balance of $3 million, which administrators plan to use as a fallback plan for the anticipated budget shortfalls. “We do have a fund balance, which is better than some districts, and will buy us till next year when we know what our revenues are going to be,” Fair said. Superintendent Dan Rose said the district has previously addressed budget shortfalls. “We have been addressing this for the past two years,” he said. In last year’s budget, HISD administration reduced its budget by more than $920,000 comparatively. 18  •  The Pine Curtain

“I think that we always hoped it would turn around, but planned like it wouldn’t,” Debbie Crawford, Assistant Superintendent, said. Rose said defining how to supplement the potential loss is one of the largest issues the district is facing. He said the district is not currently offering incentives for retirement but said “nothing is off the table in the future.” “We have made several cuts over the past couple of years, mainly through attrition and the reorganization of programs,” Crawford said. She said education is a people intensive business. “It is advantageous for educational and safety reasons to have as many adults working with students as is affordable,” she said. Crawford said most school district’s budgets are 70 percent to 80 percent personnel.

Photo by Jake Waddingham

Special Report

respond that we will be able to cover most of the deficit without additional layoffs,” said Tarrant. Casey said the district has a “fund balance” if an incidence occurs where the district is in desperate need of funds. JISD officials said they are confident in what they are doing and will continue to be frugal as they wait to hear from the state. Wardell said special session is usually at the end of May and will not have any specific cuts or what to do until then. “Right now we are making decisions without knowing what we’re really looking at but we are doing things right with what we have,” he said.

Hawkins ISD will likely use as much as 30 percent of its fund balance to deal with budget cuts this year.

We’ll have to decide if the district is going to be capable to make its portion of that increase or does it have to change policy. If they do, the employees have that much more of that burden.



dministrators at Hallsville Independent School District face tough decisions this spring, stemming from an upcoming cut—between $2 million and $9 million—in state funding. Although funding cuts will affect every public school district in the state, the challenge to Hallsville ISD is two-fold. HISD failed to make all or part of its 2007-08 and 2008-09 Chapter 41 payments, leaving the district owing the state $8.4 million. In addition, a former employee did not report an overpayment from the state valued at $3.9 million. Although the school has stabilized, officials must now make additional adjustments to reduce an already bare budget. David Edgar, HISD business manager, said the full impact on the district won’t be known until the Legislature decides how much funding will be reduced. He expects the most impact will be felt in the areas of class size, teacher training and extracurricular programs. The district has already taken measures to save money, such as decreasing professional training workshops offered to teachers, decreasing travel and eliminating some positions as people retire. Edgar said school administrators are taking these steps to minimize, as much as possible, the effect of state cuts on the classroom. “It’s important for legislators to understand that whatever actions they take now will affect education for years to come,” Edgar said. HISD Deputy Superintendent Paula Rogers agrees. She said the state is forcing the school’s hand in making difficult decisions that will undermine the educational environment. Rogers warned with a probable reduction in faculty, class size will drastically increase or even double, especially in the higher grades. State March 30, 2011  •  19  

Special Report

“There is not much of a way to make drastic cuts without affecting personnel,” she said. If the district resorts to cutting employees, Rose said that would not take place till the following school year. He said in the effort to save jobs, those who get to keep their jobs will have to sacrifice some. “When you get down to a real personal level, some of these people are probably going to really feel it,” Fair said. Crawford said the district will potentially increase class sizes at the secondary level, and may share teachers between the high schools and middle schools. HISD administrators recently learned their health insurance premiums could rise more than 9 percent. Fair said the district has always paid a certain portion of employee’s health care premiums. “We’ll have to decide if the district is going to be capable to make its portion of that increase or does it have to change policy,” he said. “If they do, the employees have that much more of that burden.” The school district received a portion of the stimulus money last year, but will not get it again. “When we got that money we realized it was for one-time purchases. It’s nothing that we have to continue,” Rose said. Fair said the district had a one-to-one reduction in state funding for the stimulus money, which the state promised to replace when the federal funding subsided. The school district has not seen the compensation from the state. “We are beginning to get skeptical that they are going to keep their word,” Fair said. Crawford said administrators will work hard to accomplish what she believes is most important. “We will keep on doing the best that we can to provide the best education for our students,” she said.

Any program that would not be considered a core (required) program could possibly suffer.

regulation sets the maximum student/teacher ratio in each class at 22 to 1 for kindergarten through fourth grade. Another area that may be affected is extracurricular programs, such as fine arts. “Any program that would not be considered a core (required) program could possibly suffer,” Rogers said. Student intervention—tutoring, reading support and math support—is also vulnerable to being cut. Predictions from websites such as estimate 100,000 teachers statewide may lose their jobs.

“We hate to make these kinds of decisions, especially when we know the areas that are being cut are good for kids,” Rogers said. University of Texas at Tyler School of Education Director Kathy Morrison elaborated on the situation Hallsville faces. She said these cuts will force many teachers into unemployment. Exactly how many won’t be known until Hallsville gets a clearer picture. “Class sizes could increase to as much as 35 or more. Plus you have special needs children and those with English as a second language. It will be just insurmountable,” Morrison said.

HISD is in danger of seeing increased class sizes, less teacher training and losing extra curricular activities. 20  •  The Pine Curtain

Photo by Jake Waddingham

Special Report

If you’re majoring in education, I’d reconsider. I don’t mean that in an ugly way, it’s a great profession, but it’s not looking good right now.



enderson Independent School District recently approved budget cuts totaling $2.3 million, including employee layoffs and cutbacks in stipends and benefits. The cuts are the result of a proposed state budget reducing education funding by as much as $10 billion. Cuts approved include the elimination of at least 25 positions, including five teaching positions at Henderson High School and four at Henderson Middle School. District-wide salary, wage and hiring freezes are in effect, as well an effort to maximize class loads across the district. A $500 early-release stipend is being offered to professional employees and a $250 stipend is being offered to auxiliary employees. Henderson ISD officials expect a reduction of up to $3.8 million per year in state aid because of the

deficit. HISD enrollment is 3,104. “I think we’re going to be hardest hit in our class sizes,” Henderson ISD Public Relations Officer Johna Huse said. “I think statewide, we’re going to have a large number of teachers without jobs and a large number of graduates who can’t find jobs.” Huse’s position of public relations officer is also being eliminated. “I’m a former principal and assistant superintendent,” she said. “I don’t know how I’m feeling right now. I’m in disbelief that our state has put such a low priority on education.” Huse worries about graduates who are unlikely to find a job in light of the state’s current financial problems. “If you’re majoring in education, I’d reconsider,” she said. “I don’t mean that in an ugly way, it’s a great profession, but it’s not looking good right now.” The Henderson school board is searching for more budget cuts to reach the district’s goal of $3 million. March 30, 2011  •  21  

Special Report

Photo by Clay Ihlo


East Texas’


BIGGEST [small]


From high-flying adventure, to a trendy little boutique, sometimes life’s best treasures are right in your backyard. These stories highlight some hidden charms - the small businesses of East Texas. 22  •  The Pine Curtain

Photo by Tiffany Drake

east texas burger co.

Mineola 126 East Broad St

By Haylee Story

mid-90s, was a teen during Bonnie and Clyde’s heydays in the 1930s. ate in the afternoon, most burger shops As Deere tells it, the sheriff was notified of Bonnie would be nearly empty, but East Texas Burger and Clyde’s presence and told citizens to let them Co. is still buzzing with people savoring eat in peace. hearty burgers for their late lunch. “He didn’t want a shootout in downtown Napkins litter the walls, and upon a closer Mineola,” Davis said. look, words and experiences of customers can Since those days, the restaurant has taken on be read long after they’re gone. Each napkin is other names, but its business has always been food. its creator’s personal stamp on the décor of the It became East Texas Burger Co. in 1984 when it restaurant, if only temporarily. was purchased by Pat and Janet Daily. Some napkins have left a more permanent mark ETBC is a staple destination in downtown though. Mineola. It brings in not only local business, but a The left wall of ETBC is vividly painted with lot of traveling business as well. colorful quotes pulled from napkins: “Whoever One major pillar to ETBC’s success is the Davises’ does your cooking needs to come to my house!” commitment to excellent customer service. and “My grandma from “I hope that the first time Hours of Operation Mississippi comes down every they come in they’re a two months just to eat here. Mon. - Sat. 11 a.m.-8 p.m. customer, but the second P.S.- She’s rich!” time, they come back a Sun. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Ken and Debbie Davis friend,” Davis said. bought East Texas Burger This is a resonating Co. in 1999, but the spot had quite a history long sentiment on all levels of restaurant involvement. before they were ever born. “The whole atmosphere is great. It starts with the Though the restaurant hasn’t always been called owners and all rolls down hill.” Customers definitely East Texas Burger Co., it has always been a local feel the effects of having caring owners, managers eatery. and employees,” Angela Webb, ETBC manager, said. “It’s been a continuous operating restaurant for Davis said he doesn’t like to think of the over 100 years in this same location,” Ken said. “With restaurant as a job. that kind of long standing business, no wonder it’s “It’s not like going to work,” he said. known as ‘Mineola’s Oldest Eatin’ Place.’” Lee James, local merchant and self-proclaimed The restaurant was called The Eat Shop Café “regular” at ETBC comes into the restaurant a when it opened in 1907. It was under that name couple times a week for a “quick shot of grease.” that infamous Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow are Besides offering a greasy fix, James returns rumored to have stopped for a bite to eat. frequently because of the quality of the burgers. He James Deere, a local historian who is now in his says they’re well known for having “hand-pattied



March 30, 2011  •  23  


east texas gators & wildlife park

Grand Saline 9515 FM 1255

Hours of Operation Sun. - Thurs. 9 a.m.-6 p.m. Fri. - Sat. 9 a.m.-8 p.m.

By Coshandra Dillard


harlie Harris, co-owner of East Texas Gators and Wildlife Park, can easily spew random facts about alligators upon request. His frizzy, graying, shoulder-length hair and

24  •  The Pine Curtain

gristly goatee wisps in the air as he explains his fascination with alligators. “They survived when dinosaurs didn’t,” he said. Harris has learned all there is to know about alligators from encyclopedias, the Internet and “personal experience.”

Photo by Tiffany Drake

burgers.” “If you hand-patty a burger, you’re putting a little bit of yourself in it,” James said. Davis said he tries to incorporate local flavor into not only the menu, but the atmosphere of the restaurant. That’s where the Big Bass Burger originated. Mineola is near Lake Fork, which holds large scale bass fishing tournaments. Many of the fishermen come from out of town. James even describes the East Texas Burger Co. itself as a fisherman. He said if it were Celebrities who have paid a visit to ETBC, include Dan Rather, Ty a person it would be “some guy Pennington and Sissy Spacek. with a straw hat with fishing hooks in it. He’d have a rod and them.” reel in hand.” The Davis family isn’t from around here, but Ultimately, Webb says what makes East Texas they have made Mineola and the East Texas Burger Co. special is its customers. Burger Co. home. Even though they’re from She said she loves all of the locals that come Chicago, they have a firm grasp on southern through and knows they really appreciate the hospitality. familiarity with the restaurant staff. That is why East Texas Burger Co. is famous. It “Half of the people that come through are thrives on small town living and all the kindness regulars,” Webb said. “You already know what that comes with it. they’ll order and can have their drinks ready for

Screencap courtesy East Texas Gator & Wildlife Park

whole animals—bones, blood, teeth, feathers and all. It’s necessary for them to get the amino acids needed to digest. “I never pass up a dead rabbit or squirrel in the road,” he said. “Bless their heart. I hate they got run over but I can make good use of it.” Most of the park’s alligators are found within a 40-mile radius of Grand Saline. His biggest alligator is Domino, weighing nearly 900 pounds and nearly 14-feet long. There’s also Walter, a 49- year-old who once belonged to a researcher who kept the alligator for education purposes. Harris and his wife, Jana, have operated the park just outside of Grand Saline city limits for more than three years. It materialized after a decadeslong dream of making a living caring for animals. Jana keeps the books, operates the gift shop, and cooks the food in the café, which features her famous gator étouffée and gator kabob. The park is a combination of several businesses wrapped into one. Its main service is

to welcome school groups, tourists, nursing homes and they offer family reunions and birthday parties seven days a week. Although an animal lurks in every corner of the property, every animal pin, patio, wooden step, shop and the park’s café is immaculate and well kept. “We work all the time,” Jana said. “We don’t take a day off. A lot of what we do goes hand in hand. It’s kind of like, ‘build it and they will come.’ So we’re hoping the concession part being available will let the people stay here longer.” The couple sees between 500 and 800 people each month but winter months are a lot slower. They just recovered from an extremely busy spring break. “The day we gather eggs, the past two years, there were about 1,200 people gathered on that one day,” Harris said. “It’s the most dangerous job on the whole place—taking the eggs from the female alligators. Everybody knows that. So we had a big crowd on that day.” He continued, noting the March 30, 2011  •  25  


“They have about 3,000 pounds of jaw pressure per square inch,” he said matter-of-factly. “In the water they can swim like a motor boat. On land, they can out run a horse for 30 feet. I think they estimated 22 miles per hour. ” Harris dresses comfortably, but is clean in a T-shirt and jeans and dons a necklace holding a three-and-a-half inch alligator tooth. He leans over a wooden patio and beckons for the more than 40 alligators, most of whom passively line the banks of the 22-foot deep pond at the 23-acre park. “Wooooohoooo!” he calls out. It’s his special dinner call for the reptiles. “I can have 20 or 30 of them lined up against that fence when they’re feeding.” Only two make their way across the pond. He explains that the alligators are dormant. They don’t eat anything throughout the winter and will begin their feeding season around the first week of April. “It’s almost like hibernation but not quite because they do still swim around in the lake and they crawl out and bask in the sun,” Harris said with a slight southern drawl. He said the alligators eat


humor in spectators watching an alligator feeding. “I’m sure they didn’t want to see nobody get eaten up by no alligator, but if it happened they wanted to see….Ha! … Come out here and see me get eat up! I see how ya are!” Harris is proud of his operation and adores his animals. He has a total of 75 alligators. The baby alligators remain inside the park’s main building and gift shop until they grow to four-feet long, a federal law in place for their protection. There are also snakes, parrots, a chinchilla and fish in the shop. Outside, his wildlife refuge includes exotic South American raccoons, deer, baby pigs and other farm animals. “I like the educational side of it,” Jana said. “I like to the think that we are teaching children about nature and wildlife and the importance of taking care of animals.” Most animals are rescued and then released into the wild while some may be adopted into a “good home.” Opening the park took a while because it was expensive and the Harris’ had to complete mounds of paperwork and pass state and federal inspections, including an inspection from Texas Parks and Wildlife. But when the economy tanked just one year into their opening, they were fearful. Scheduled field trips became fewer and tourists were not stopping by. It was expensive just to get the park started—at least $200,000 just to start building. “We just went through a brutal year and we we’re hoping that things are just going to get better,” Jana said. “It’s sure looking good so far,” her husband chimed in. “Yeah, it’s looking a lot better,” she said, “a lot of traffic. Maybe the economy is starting to turn around. We had questioned whether we were going to make it or not. It was tough. It’s very expensive to run this. We have a lot of overhead when you consider all of the animals. They have to be fed and taken 26  •  The Pine Curtain

care of whether we have anybody here or not.” Visitors come from across the country. Paul and Kathy Apland, of Colorado Springs, Colo., stopped by the park while in Canton for a Family Campers and RVers retiree rally. Organizers at the campgrounds included information about the Harris’ business in their packets. “It’s fascinating and they have a lot of neat things,” Kathy Apland said. “These people are very knowledgeable.” Apland tried the Alligator Étouffée but couldn’t pin-point the distinct flavor. “I don’t know if it tasted like chicken,” he laughed. At the Harris home, which is adjacent to the park, another business lies. Harris has been a boot and shoe repairman for 24 years. It’s a lost art and a craft he learned as apprentice while he worked as a construction worker. More animals are present at home with the couple, who have been married for 14 years. It includes four Labrador retrievers, two cats, 14 chickens and four horses. If they are bottling feeding a rescued animal, it also goes home with them because it has to be fed throughout the night. The couple adores animals and enjoys dedicating their life to the care of them, but they are not in consensus about what to do with the park in the future. Will they ever sell the place? “I don’t think so,” Harris said. “I do,” he wife rebutted. Harris wants to have “help” operating it, while they oversee them and Jana is hopeful their grandchildren will take over it. Right now, they don’t see an end to their beloved animal operation and they revel in the small “payoffs” of their daily hard work. One of the couple’s greatest joys is seeing children pose and grin with baby alligators. “‘Cheese’ has become my favorite word,” Harris said.

Carson Shultz, Zayne Dennis

Photo by Jake Waddingham

NY-TX ZipLine Adventures New York/LaRue 7290 CR 4328 By Rachel Pratas

Charles was a house-mover prior to his current career, so he was already familiar with rigs and the construction of heavy structures. he platform is balanced 100 feet above He spent a year, on and off, building their first forest floor. The wind is blowing the through zipline course. They’ve taken it down since then, the pine trees. A loud whizzing sound is but building that first course helped him practice followed by laughter as a rider approaches the upcoming platform. The guide reaches the skills and techniques needed to ensure a safe course. out and pulls the rider safely onto the wooden The grounds now consist of nine lines. Customers deck. The view above the treetops is amazing, but can choose from a nine-line course or a six-line what’s even more interesting is the story of how course. NY-TX Zipline Adventures began. NY-TX ZipLine Adventures undergoes annual Charles and Connie Shultz opened the business in Henderson County in April 2008, but the Shultz’ inspections to guarantee that all the required safety measures are being met. Although guides interest in ziplines stemmed from plain curiosity. do not have to be certified, the Shultz’ are fully “My husband was watching the Discovery confident they have been well Channel and he saw them trained. ziplining in Costa Rica,” Hours of Operation Connie said. “The boys will tell you, if they Thurs. Sun. 9 a.m.-Dusk can pass our training, they can After doing some research, Charles discovered pass from anybody,” Connie said. “My husband is a safety there was only one other place to zipline in Texas, so he decided to construct guru.” For added safety, there is a “ground school.” This is one of his own. “He found out there weren’t many over here, but a miniature version of the zipline, not too far from the demand was here, so he decided that he’d build the ground, used to teach people how to ride the line and brake before landing on the wooden deck. one, and he did,” Connie said. While the Shultz family may not have been It also helps the rider feel more comfortable with outdoor fans before their zipline ambitions, Connie how the harness works. The guides stress that in said it was more about pride in their property. order to relax, you must be confident in your safety “We’d always wanted to do something where equipment. “The entire staff made me feel safe,” Teague said. people could come here and experience the beauty “They inspected every detail and explained all of of it,” she said.



March 30, 2011  •  27  


their safety precautions before sending anyone out on the course.” Although there is a maximum weight limit of 225 pounds for women and 275 pounds for men, all ages are welcome to zipline. “We’ve had a five-year-old do it, and an 82-year-old is the oldest who’s done it,” Connie said. “We really don’t have an age limit.” Children can go tandem with their parent or a guide, meaning they can zip with them down the line to ensure a comfortable ride for all. Comfort isn’t the first thought at the top of the platform. People arrive every day to conquer their fear of heights. “Once you do it and get the feel of it, it’s such an easy thing to do, it doesn’t give you that roller coaster fright feeling,” Connie said.

28  •  The Pine Curtain

While the course can be used to conquer a fear of heights, adrenaline junkies will have just as much fun. “We have some elevation in place, we’re kind of a high speed course,” Connie said. “In other words, our lines are quick. You’re going to get to the other end.” Satisfying an adrenaline rush isn’t the only reason people visit. The Schultzes offer birthday packages and tours at half-price for church groups, to help out with the expenses. NY-TX ZipLine Adventures is open Thursday through Sunday all year, weather permitting, with reservations. An added perk for ziplining the course at least once: full moon tours. Participants in the full moon tours are required to zip line at least once during the day for safety reasons. “I go buy glow sticks and let

everybody wrap up in them, and then you get to do it by the light of the moon,” Connie said. NY-TX ZipLine Adventures is a close-knit, family-owned and operated business with the help of relatives, their two sons, Chad and Carson, and some of their friends. They aren’t the only ones helping put smiles on customer’s faces, though. Their boxer, Winston, is as much a part of the family atmosphere as anyone. He rode tandem with Carson in 2009 down one of the main zip lines and loved every minute of it. “He’s a really big part of this business even though he’s a dog. People love him,” Connie said. Tour prices are $60 for six zip lines and $80 for nine zip lines. For more information or to make a reservation, call 903681-3791.

Clockwise from top: Chad Shultz + Sean Choate, Zayne Dennis, Daylin Dennis. Photos by Jake Waddingham

Features March 30, 2011  •  29  

Photo by Tiffany Drake

haute stuff boutique Features

By Kamren Thompson

Mineola 206 W. Broad

clothing and accessories that Alexander handpicks. Many of the items in the store are brand-name merchandise. aute Stuff Boutique, which opened in Her biggest seller is designer jeans. She likes August 2010 in Mineola, Texas, is more to offer her customers higher-end clothing and than a consignment clothing store. Shiloh accessories at a lower cost to increase accessibility. Alexander’s love, not only for fashion, but “I like making them available for people who may also for her customers, quickly becomes not be able to afford to pay retail,” she said. “They apparent when she talks about her job. may not be able to spend $400 on a purse, but they “I’ve met so many amazing people,” she said. may be able to spend $150.” “The one thing we have in Hours of Operation Alexander also offers common is clothes. We all love them. We all need them.” Wed. - Fri. 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. “mall” brands like Wet Seal, American Eagle Outfitters She likens her job to that Sat. 10 a.m. 4 p.m. and Abercrombie & Fitch. of a bartender or hairdresser Haute Stuff Boutique because people come to her is a consignment store, meaning people bring for advice about insecurities. merchandise to an owner who sells it and retains “I like to help people I meet in the store find something they are looking for, not just in clothing, a portion of the profit. When she evaluates merchandise, she looks for specific things but maybe that part of themselves they are trying customers probably will not see anywhere else. to express and don’t know how,” she said. “It brings “I look for brands. I look for condition and me great satisfaction to help people find a little whether it has style and is desirable,” she said. “I also more of themselves that maybe they couldn’t find look for things that are kind of funky and maybe a otherwise.” little out there.” Haute Stuff Boutique carries a variety of “trendy”


30  •  The Pine Curtain

Her store is targeted at an attitude and not a specific age group. “I target people who like to have fun, be comfortable and confident,” Alexander said. “Some stuff is a little sexy. Some stuff is a little preppy, but really just a youthful attitude.” Most consignment stores target multiple audiences with maternity, baby, children and more mature clothing lines. “I wanted Haute Stuff Boutique to set me apart from other retail consignment stores that kind of cater to anyone on the street,” she said. “I wanted to have a name that would grab the demographic I’m going for.” This is not the first experience Alexander has had with a consignment store. As a teenager, her mother opened a similar store in a small town. “We were a little bit of an alternative store,” she said. “There just wasn’t anything that catered to that age group, not

necessarily teenagers, but more of an attitude of youth, fun and individuality, and that’s the group I try to cater to.” Alexander, a single mom, who is originally from Tyler, spent half of her life in the Pacific Northwest. “My experience in Washington and Oregon, where things are a little more laid back, a little more creative, a little more liberal, probably has had a huge influence on me and my ideals and my perspective on life,” she said. Alexander carried a sketchbook throughout junior high and high school. She dreamed of becoming a fashion designer. “I got married and had a child almost immediately at 22,” she said. “I ended up a single mom with very little education, not a lot of marketable skills and waitressing at a little place in town for 11 years.” Shiloh Alexander, owner of Haute Stuff Boutique. Photo by Tiffany Drake

Features March 30, 2011  •  31  

After a series of events and inspiration from Gabe Berman’s novel, Live Like a Fruit Fly, she decided to make a change. “I picked the book up and read the first 100 pages. The next day I started looking for retail space and the ball was rolling,” she said. “In a two- or threemonth window, I made it happen.” The decision and process was fast. “I know when the time is right,” she said. “I go with my gut, and I just go for it. That’s what I did, and it’s worked out tremendously.” Alexander has yet to have a “zero day,” meaning she has sold something every day the store has been open over the last seven months “I’ve had anywhere from as little as six customers in a day to 50,” she said. “I may not have made rent on that day, but every day has been a success.” Since opening, Alexander hasn’t had to search out consigners.


Photo by Tiffany Drake

32  •  The Pine Curtain

“I’ve been really fortunate, especially in this small area,” she said. “I get new stuff in almost every day. I may get two new things in or I may get 60 new things in.” She said she gets consigners from all over East Texas including Dallas, Longview and Chandler, and she usually requires 50 to 60 percent or less of what consigners profit. For her, the only tedious thing about owning the boutique is the bookkeeping. “I do everything myself, by hand,” she said. “I don’t use software in tagging, pricing or bookkeeping.” Still, her business has been her dream and now a dream achieved. “I did what I had to in order to make ends-meet for a long time, and I just found it within myself to do what I love, and it’s been successful,” she said. “Your dream—regardless of what it is—is valid.”

Photo by Chantel Martin

break N’ BreaD

Jacksonville 1009 S. Jackson St # 100

By Mary Parsons

set up. A mismatched dining area, with tables and chairs of all different types, gives it the feel of home. ddi McVay first walked in the door at Break Framed art graces the walls. N’Bread more than a year and a half ago after You may be greeted by the friendly face of co-owner discovering he had an intolerance to gluten. Ricki Clark, originally from Austin, at the front counter Weighing more than 300 pounds, a local checking out customers, answering questions or homeopathic doctor recommended McVay visit taking orders for their lunch menu. Clark, along with Break N’ Bread to pick up organic fruit and vegetables, her husband Rob, opened the business in the fall of and to take advantage of the store’s selection of fish. 2000 after moving to East Texas. McVay visited the shop frequently. One day long- Break N’ Bread was first located on Neches Street, time employee JoAnn Brantner of Jacksonville before making the move to Jackson Village in 2004. stopped him and asked “Whatever happened to that “We feel like we’re a little bit different,” Clark said. big guy who used to come with you?” “We’re down to earth. We want to help people, not just sell them things.” “I am that guy,” McVay said. Hours of Operation Short aisles fill the store’s center, Clark and her husband stocked with groceries of every Mon. - Fri. 10 a.m. - 6 p.m. embarked on a more nutritional lifestyle when kind. One corner is filled with Sat. 10 a.m. - 4 p.m. shelf upon shelf of supplements, they experienced health problems in the 1980s and herbs and remedies for every ailment imaginable. 1990s. In the back is a “fresh” section where organic fruits They said since then they have felt a call to share the and vegetables abound, along with free-range eggs knowledge they gained with others. for $2.99 a dozen and other items one might typically “I prayed and asked God to heal me,” Clark said. “Then he said ‘Are you ready to start teaching others what expect to find in a health food store. One aisle has large buckets filled with a wide selection I’m teaching you?’” of grains, clear dispensers brimming with sweets and Business has expanded since moving to Jackson nuts, all sold by the pound. More containers nearby Village and the couple said they want to reach out contain fresh ground tea, everything from Earl Grey to their community. Break N’ Bread hosted a Texas to strawberry green tea and German chamomile. Barley Life Convention for the past few years in Tyler, A walk back to the front of the store reveals an area where people have traveled from all across the state beside the front counter where tables have been to learn more about good nutrition.



March 30, 2011  •  33  

But it’s the good eating that brings hungry customers to the store. The lunch menu, which includes wraps, paninis, sandwiches, shakes and smoothies, is available 11a.m. – 1 p.m. Monday through Friday. Some of the newest and most popular items are chicken salad sandwiches and basil pesto turkey paninis, which include a pickle and chips on the side. In front of the dining area, a table is set up with a choice of hot chocolate or tea, or teecino, a coffee substitute, for only $0.75 with a lunch order. Long-time employee JoAnn Brantner of Jacksonville, along with helping run the front register, assists the Clarks in preparing lunches on Tuesdays. Brantner said she has prepared as many as 28 sandwiches in a single day. On slow days, the store sells roughly eight to ten sandwiches. Brantner said she has had the opportunity to get know many of her customers on a first-name basis during the past few years of working at Break N’ Bread.


Photos by Chantel Martin

34  •  The Pine Curtain

“Sometimes you get some interesting people in here, “Brantner said. “You get some really unique requests.” Some of these requests include how to get pregnant, how to strengthen your lungs so you can continue smoking and how to get rid of gall stones. “I just tell them I’m no miracle-worker, but I’ll try to help in any way I can,” Brantner said. Customers come in from all over East Texas and are discovering, as McVay has, that Break N’ Bread is a unique place to shop. With more than half of their customers driving in from out of town, many travel from as far away as Alto, Palestine, Jasper and even Lufkin. One thing is clear, Break N’ Bread is not just a bread store.

Pine dunes golf course & Resort

Photo by Clay Ihlo

Frankston 159 Private Road 7019

By Jad Dusek


March 30, 2011  •  35  


hen thinking of a “hidden gem,” many think about some kind of rare, hidden jewel. For many golfers, it is the Pine Dunes Golf Course and Resort. Pine Dunes is an 18-hole championship golf course hidden in the small town of Frankston. From the ladies tees, the course plays 5,150 yards and from the tips, 7,117 yards. Golf Digest rated it 4 1/2 stars and, in 2002, rated it the number six best new course in America. The golf course is called the “hidden gem” of golf courses due to its secluded location. “This is one thing that makes us unique, is the setting that we are in,” General Manager Chris Edmonson said. Its primary theme is the piney woods aspect, unique to the East Texas area. Another rare benefit is this course does not have any residential homes. “This really gives a golfer a different perspective because they can really get away from the city and into nature,” Edmonson said. John Sykes was the head golf professional at Pine Dunes Golf Course before he took his current job at Hollytree Country Club in Tyler. There, it takes three days to mark the hazards.

“At Pine Dunes, it took two hours only because the course is open, there aren’t any houses on it to mark,” Sykes says. What sets Pine Dunes apart from other great golf courses, he says, is that it is not commercialized. “There is not a commercial sign on the entire golf course; it is quiet with nothing to hold the players back,” Sykes says. “They really want each player to capture the sense of nature while playing golf.” A local duffer, Dale Stone of Lindale, says he has always heard about Pine Dunes but never had played it until last week. “The golf course is all that it was said to be and more,” he says. “It definitely exceeded my expectations.” Stone also says the fairways and greens were the best he had ever played on, saying “they were very true.” The fairways, tee boxes and rough on Pine Dunes is 419 Grass, a deep-green Bermuda grass hybrid, while the greens are straight Bermuda. What sets this course apart—aside from the beauty of the fairways and greens—are the sand dunes that run through each hole challenging players to hit the ball

in the fairway. “The golf course is made for the beginner to the professional,” Edmonson says. Pine Dunes offers four different sets of tee boxes to accommodate all of the different golfers that come and play. This gives the course the ability to make the golf course easier for the beginner or challenge the local pro that comes out and sees the course at its toughest. “The fairways are wide and inviting for every golfer who plays it,” Edmonson says. Course maintenance is easier because the staff lets nature be the out of bounds or hazards. Garrett Johnson cleans the driving range.


Photo by Clay Ihlo

36  •  The Pine Curtain

Although the resort is known for the golf course, they also have condominiums available for groups to stay and play as much as they want to. Rates vary during the season and are flexible with each stay at the resort. There are ten condos that can accommodate up to four in each. The condos are equipped with two baths, a fireplace, a satellite system and a kitchen. With these accommodations, it helps bring large parties in to enjoy their time away as well as a great course play on the side.

the entrepreneurs Charles Adams Adams Martial Arts

By Kristin Adams

answer. Adams knew at this point he wanted to learn the trade to its fullest extent. He began visiting with Daniel Watson, owner of Angel Sword Forge, who gave him some information to start researching. He began doing research and improving his work with each piece of advice Watson gave him. “I showed up with an empty cup of knowledge, and he’d fill it up just a bit,” Adams said. Adams took the knowledge he gained and began teaching others. Lyn Young, Adams’ student since 1999, met him through a local renaissance fair. Young was the fight coordinator at the fair and broke a blade. He took it to Adams’ booth to see if it could be mended. March 30, 2011  •  37  


he smell of sulfur floods the air and the sound of steel-on-steel rings out of bladesmith Charles Adams’ forge. Inside this openfaced building, Adams stokes the coals to keep air moving around the piece of steel that will become a new knife. When the steel is glowing red-hot, Adams moves it to his anvil where he picks up his hammer and begins to form the metal. Adams has been a bladesmith for about 27 years and loves to teach the art to others. As a fourth-degree black belt, Adams also teaches two forms of martial arts: Isshin-ryu and Escrima. The two forms are based on self-defense. He teaches students how to be prepared for and react to life-or-death situations. Form meets function in Adams’ Escrima class, a Filipino style of martial arts in which students learn combat techniques using sticks and swords. Each student must also create a blade in the forge. Adams was already learning martial arts when he decided he wanted to fight with a samurai sword. After searching for a quality blade, Adams decided he was better off making his own. He began making his first blade by having a welder cut a piece of leaf spring, a metal car suspension spring plate, into two parts. “I took the pieces home and did a little forging on it to smooth out the edges,” Adams said. He completed this first piece before attending a blacksmith gathering in Canton. Other blacksmiths there asked him questions about his technique, which Adams realized he couldn’t

Photo by Chantel Martin




Young and Adams began discussing martial arts and shortly thereafter, Young become one of Adams’ eight students. Adams Martial Arts in Chandler opened in 1985, with classes also held at Southside Park in Tyler. His teaching style is personal and interactive. He said he enjoys working closely with students, making certain they master each technique. “I like the look in their eyes when they get it,” Adams said. “It is the highlight of my life when you can see that click.” His classes are small and have an intimate feel. Adams is capable of giving specific one-on-one help with each new step he introduces to students. As students progress in both bladesmithing and martial arts, he encourages them to teach those who are just starting out. This, he said, helps build a better bond between the students and their peers. “I enjoy the interaction,” Kelia Tenshi said. “I like his teaching style.” Tenshi has been attending classes for a little more than a year now. She is working on the finishing touches of her first complete blade. She said the most challenging part of creating the blade is swinging the hammer. The concept of form and posture is required in both Escrima and blademaking. Adams offers several levels of teaching. He meets three nights per week with two advanced classes and two mixed classes.

Josh Smith, who has been training with Adams for nine years, said the beginner-level class requires only the physical ability to stand for the duration of the lesson. His wife, Sarah Adams, started her training the Monday after their honeymoon. Adams jokingly told Sarah he wouldn’t marry her unless she agreed to take the class. “He wanted me to be able to take care of myself,” she said. “He thought I was that cute.” Sarah explained that just recently the school received a letter from the parents of one of their younger students expressing gratitude for the classes. The parents had taken their daughter to New York City and while standing on the street they watched her stand up straight and take in everything around her. When they questioned her about it, she told them her sensei had taught her to pay attention to her environment because when something happens, it’s important to know where its coming from. “She had only been with us about four months at that time, but we watched her grow so much during that time,” Sarah said. The classes aren’t an average after-school program, and forging a blade isn’t a task for everyone. But Sensei Charles Adams is willing to teach anyone who has the desire to learn.

David Heflin

Heflin and Thrall Language Publications Jacksonville

Photo by Chantel Martin

38  •  The Pine Curtain


By Mary Parsons

rowing up as a missionary’s child in the jungles of Costa Rica, David Heflin idolized Tarzan, a fictional character raised in the jungle by apes. Heflin was born in the United States, but moved to South America at an early age and lived there until he was 17 years old. More than 40 years later, Heflin is back in the United States and sharing with others his love for

Heflin prepares for a lesson in costume. Photo by Chantel Martin After being away from the United States for more than a decade, Heflin experienced some immersion lessons of his own when he moved back to attend a Texas college, he said. Adjusting once again to the English language and culture was extremely difficult, he said. While a doctorate student, Heflin worked as a translator at the Casa Bautista Misionera de Publicaciones, the Spanish Publishing House of the Baptist Missionary Association of America. There he edited, wrote and translated literature. After meeting his wife, Dr. Jenifer Thrall, the couple made the decision to move back to Jacksonville to be nearer their roots. The move opened up the opportunity for the development of the Puertas Abiertas curriculum. Jacksonville College hired Heflin as a Spanish professor, where he continues to teach. The development of the program has allowed Jenifer to stay at home with their first child, Elizabeth, who was born in the fall of 2009. Following in her parent’s footsteps, 18-month-old Elizabeth has already begun learning American Sign Language, along with Spanish and English. Screencap from Heflin’s educational package Puertas Abiertas featuring Pepe Tropical (Heflin). Currently, the software is being used at Grace Community School. March 30, 2011  •  39  


the Hispanic culture as a teacher. He plays the character of “Pepe Tropical,” a jungle adventurer dressed in safari attire, in the curriculum he created. It’s not exactly Tarzan, but “I enjoy playing the part,” he said. Puertas Abiertas means ‘open doors’ in Spanish, and is the name of the language curriculum developed by Heflin, along with his wife, Dr. Jennifer Thrall Heflin, who is president of Heflin and Thrall Language Publications. Since its creation in 2002, Puertas Abiertas has been used in a number of schools across the United States and Latin America and has proven to be effective, Heflin said. Locally, Grace Community School of Tyler used the method to teach kindergarteners basic Spanish language skills. Many homeschoolers have also begun using the curriculum. Tammy Vierkant, an East Texas homeschooling mother with a master’s degree in education, uses the program with her children. “They love watching Pepe Tropical singing the catchy tunes and enjoy the video and workbook activities,” Vierkant said. “It is, in my opinion, the best Spanish program available today.” The secret to the program’s success is its approach – immersion. Instead of using the traditional repetition method, Heflin’s method teaches students to adapt to the language through a more natural approach. Puertas Abiertas is completely in Spanish. As someone adapts to learning a language when they move to a foreign country and hear native speakers using vocabulary, they pick up new words as they are “immersed” in that language. In the same way, Puertas Abiertas uses interactive lessons with this immersion method.

Greetings, from the


Art + Life

a collection of greeting cards and postcards from the visual design students of UT Tyler

40  •  The Pine Curtain

Valentine Box Card Carinne Brewer

Art + Life March 30, 2011  •  41  

Art + Life

Valentine Postcard Set Carinne Brewer

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Zany Birthday Card Ad Preston Kilday

Art + Life March 30, 2011  •  43  

Art + Life

Zany Birthday Postcard Set Preston Kilday

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Art + Life March 30, 2011  •  45  

#2 - March 30, 2011  

The Pine Curtain: the definitive publication for East Texas news, culture and arts. In this issue created by UT Tyler journalism students: H...