Community puts focus on education

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David Minton/DRC
Kids play outside their homes on Mirror Rock Lane in the Hickory Creek Ranch neighborhood Friday in Denton.

EDITOR’S NOTE: This article is part of an ongoing series spotlighting different neighborhoods in Denton. The stories by journalism students are part of an ongoing partnership between the Mayborn School of Journalism at the University of North Texas and the Denton Record-Chronicle.

 

Tammy Been and Cynthia Fry stand outside of Been’s house with Fry’s children playing in the front yard — a familiar scenario for both mothers.

They have lived across from each other on Mirror Rock Lane in Hickory Creek Ranch for more than 11 years.

“When I moved in, my kids were the age of Cynthia’s children, and she was pregnant with her first child,” Been said.

Hickory Creek Ranch is a community that’s popular with young parents, one that seems focused on education. Parents share similar experiences as their children attend nearby schools and then turn to each other for support when their children eventually leave home for college.

Been, a mortgage specialist and mother of teenagers, is no longer as involved in her children’s school life as she once was, but she was very active in the Parent-Teacher Association until her children moved on to Guyer High School. Fry, a claims manager and mother of four children ages 11 and younger, tries to remain involved with activities at Robert E. McNair Elementary school in spite of an overwhelming work schedule.

Been said she is preparing Fry for the time when her children will want their independence from their mother’s school involvement as they move on to pursue other activities.

“I’m preparing her for when her daughter has to date and wants to go away to college,” Been said.

Parents are active throughout this neighborhood, participating in the local fall festival held at McNair Elementary School and other activities. Numerous Guyer High School yard signs and car decals are another indication of the level of parental involvement.

Sandwiched between the elementary and high school campuses, the neighborhood undergoes a change of faces as new families move in with children ready to start the education process, and other families leave when their children finish high school and are ready to begin new facets of their lives.

The obvious appeal of the nearby schools is enough to entice families to spend between $118,000 and $189,000 for the neighborhood’s brick homes. It’s a family-friendly area — one that is crowded with children playing together or teenage boys showing girls their newest skateboarding moves.

For some, the community’s appeal is strong enough to keep them there even when their children have advanced past the area’s high school.

Chris Coleman, a 39-year-old paralegal who works with the school’s transportation system, actively participates in PTA fundraising programs although her children are heading to college.

Others, like Dave Begnoche, a teacher at Texas Woman’s University and father of a 3-year-old, are on hold, waiting for their children to begin the neighborhood’s academic journey.

Weekday mornings after 8 a.m. are relatively lonely in Hickory Creek Ranch. It is a time when residents may go out to check the mail or get in their cars but rarely remain outside for a long period of time. But at 3:45 p.m., the scene changes: A woman straps her baby in a car seat. A man leaving his house tells his dog through his glass door, “I’ll be right back, I promise.” Families have one common goal: to pick up their children from school.

“It’s almost like Texas Motor Speedway,” describes Begnoche, as he waters his plants in the front yard with an old cup.

Begnoche is in the early stages of the school experience. Eventually, his child will go to elementary classes and then move on to middle and high school until the day comes when he encounters the situation that Hickory Creek Ranch residents like Tammy Been are forced to face.

Been’s daughter, a softball player at Guyer High School, is moving to Arkansas next year to attend Arkansas Tech University, a school that is almost six hours away from the neighborhood off Teasley Lane.Once the person giving advice, Been now receives it, listening intently in her front yard as Fry tries to reassure her that everything is going to be OK.

“It’s not going to be OK — your parents just told you that,” says Been, her voice rising as if trying to fight off the sadness.

Been is going through what many parents will face: Her child graduates from high school in eight months.

Guyer High School, a school that boasted 2,101 students in 2010, graduated 96.3 percent or 517 of its 539 seniors, according to the Public Schools Explorer, a database that combines both financial and enrollment records of Texas public schools. Of the students who graduate from high school, the National Center for Education Statistics show that that 68.1 percent immediately enroll the next fall semester at a college campus.

Much like Been and Fry, residents at Hickory Creek Ranch not only support each other while their children are growing up but also lend a hand when the family nest empties.

“I’m gonna have frequent flyer miles and Skype,” Been says as a smile creeps across her face. “I’m gonna be flying out there every weekend to make sure she’s OK.”

 


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