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Standing-Room-only with School District Officials


By Nancy Visser/Reporter Dallas Morning News – An angry standing-room-only crowd shouted questions and accusations at Dallas school district officials Tuesday evening at a town hall meeting at O.M. Roberts Elementary School, which is slated to be rebuilt on an expanded campus that includes property from nearby homes and a greenhouse business. Residents wanted to know why the community wasn't consulted during the site selection process for the new school.

They wanted to know whether the district tried to hide proceedings by referring to the school in some documents by the proposed name of Ray Hunt Sr. Elementary. They wanted to know why people are losing their homes to eminent domain when there's abundant vacant land around Jubilee Park and nearby Fair Park. And clients of Vickery Wholesale Greenhouse who helped pack the meeting wanted to know why DISD is willing to force a business to close that has supported the community for decades.

"I've been to so many City Council meetings where they talk about bringing business to the south side of town, and you want to destroy a crown jewel," said Terri Raith, a Junius Heights resident who once worked at Vickery, which specializes in plants for indoor landscapes and floral businesses throughout North Texas.

Vickery clients say there is no other area source for the kinds of plants supplied by the greenhouse. Some say they may have to close their own businesses if the greenhouse folds. Others point out that they spend money in the neighborhood when they drive into town to do business at Vickery.


(DISD board member Bernadette Nutall listens as Vickery Wholesale Greenhouse owner Pat Berry speaks. photo by Nancy Visser)

When one DISD official said fair market value was being offered for Vickery, the crowd shouted "No." When a woman said DISD officials should be locked up, the crowd applauded. When three officials consulted quietly on the stage, the crowd angrily shouted at them for not paying attention.

When Arnold Viramontes, DISD chief of staff, said he was trying to be a good steward of the taxpayers' money, the crowd roared with laughter. "You can ridicule me," he said, "but I take it seriously."

Through it all, Bernadette Nutall, the District 9 trustee who inherited the controversy when she was elected in December, absorbed the blows as she called on audience members to ask their questions. "I understand that DISD does not have the trust of the public," she said to the crowd's approval. She repeatedly asked them to trust her and promised that DISD would examine "viable" alternatives for the school site. "We're going to look at all options to not put Vickery out of business," Nutall said.

In the meantime, condemnation proceedings are on hold for six months while attorneys from the holdouts and DISD work on the issues, said Phil Jimerson, DISD administrator over construction.

Viramontes said he will post questions and answers about the project on the DISD web site and he asked people to email him with their suggested sites for the new school. "As we come up with alternatives, we'll get back with you," he said.

Greenhouse owner Pat Berry expressed some hope after the meeting. "We're starting to get a critical mass in our direction." He's taking Nutall at her word when she said she's looking for options that would save the greenhouse business. "I think she's a new trustee on the board and she's really trying to do what's right," he said.


Read the rest of the story here…

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