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Norma Langston
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Norma Langston
Broker Associate
    Years of Experience: 25

    CRS, Certified Residential Specialist

Direct: 469-450-2559

Office: 469-450-2559



Company Info

Keller Williams Central Realty
609 W. 15th Street Ste. 200
Plano, TX 75075
469-450-2559

 

Relaxing Budget-Wise Garden Retreats

Posted by Norma Langston | on Wednesday, April 13th, 2011 at 2:46 pm
Category: Home Improvement, Property Investment.

“Getting away” in the backyard doesn’t have to blow your budget. Get inspired by these design ideas, and create a personal oasis of your own. By Marie Hofer

Tropical Garden Retreat

You don’t need to live in the tropics to create a lush, leafy, junglelike corner in which to hide away from the stresses of the world. These sculptural plants will give your garden that getaway feeling.  Excerpted from How to Grow Practically Everything

 When to Start: Spring
At Its Best: Summer
Time to Complete: 4 hours

Materials Needed:

  • shovel
  • finished compost
  • mulch
  • loquat
  • phormium ‘Tricolor’
  • soft shield fern
  • arum lily
  • Japanese fiber bamboo

Choose the Site

All these plants prefer a sunny site but will tolerate light shade. They also need to be sheltered from strong winds, which could damage their foliage.

Prepare to Plant

Clear the border of weeds and dig in organic matter over the site. Arrange the plants in a tiered jungle effect, then plant and water well. Mulch with bark to give the feel of a forest floor.

Aftercare

The Japanese fiber banana, sometimes called “hardy banana” (Musa basjoo), is hardy only to USDA Zone 5. In winter, surround it with chicken wire attached to stakes, and fill with straw or leaves. In mild areas, wrap it with garden fleece

Urban Backyard Retreat

Allyson and Dean Tilles’ backyard needs a cohesive design plan as well as a place for entertaining family. Landscape designer Lara Wilson creates a kid-friendly outdoor room complete with a flagstone patio, a copper arbor and kids’ tent.

Too Much Mulch

Allyson and Dean Tilles are clueless on what do with their small backyard, since it’s just a big pile of mulch. In addition, they hear a lot of noise from the freeway and want more privacy from their neighbors. They need a place to escape from the world and spend time with their family.

Lush and Lively

Landscape designer Lara Wilson builds an urban sanctuary with separate areas for everyone in the family. Large Arizona rosa flagstone is used to build a new patio right outside the kitchen. It’s a smart idea to use larger stones when building a patio for families as it provides a more stable and safer platform. Variegate lemon thyme and mother of thyme are planted between the flagstones for an earthy look. The wood and copper pergola will help with the privacy and will act as a vine trellis when the plants mature.

No Place to Relax

Even though the Tilles have lived in their home for four and a half years, they have yet to update their backyard. The kids play in the open mulch area a lot, but the parents want a place of their own to relax and entertain.

Family Hangout

A bench is designed around the avocado tree to give the kids something to play on, adults a place to sit and to protect the tree’s roots. The lawn and play area mimics the shape of the patio and gives the kids a space of their own surrounded by safe playground mulch and kid-friendly plants. They designed a cool feature for the kids that can act as a tent and as a fun water feature in the summer.

Guests

  • Lara Wilson
    Landscape Designer
    Bountiful Botanicals by Lara
    Website: www.bountifulbotanicals.com
  • Ian McCartt, General Contractor
    McCartt Construction
    Phone: 925-858-4469
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8 Steps to Get Your Financial Life in Order

Posted by Norma Langston | on Thursday, March 24th, 2011 at 5:40 pm
Category: Help with Everyday Life.

Do you have “frugal fatigue?” You’re not alone. Pinching pennies becomes exhausting, year after year. You dream of breaking free and buying everything in sight.

But tiresome as budgets are, consumers haven’t quit them yet. You threw some money around in December, when credit card use bumped up for the first time since the 2008 financial collapse. Then remorse set in. Consumers slashed their credit-card spending in January by 6.4 percent at an annualized rate, the Federal Reserve reported this week.

That fits with what the National Foundation for Credit Counseling is seeing on the ground. In a recent NFCC survey, two-thirds of consumers said that they’re sick of having to question every dollar they spend, but have no choice. Incomes are virtually flat, employers aren’t calling the long-term jobless back to work, and the cost of critical purchases such as health insurance and gasoline are leaping up. Only 5 percent of the people questioned said that they couldn’t stand to keep living under fiscal restraint, and intended to spend more. About 8 percent said they didn’t need to be particularly frugal. They hadn’t cut spending and were doing fine.

The rest — about 20 percent of the consumers — overcame their frugality stress in the old fashioned way: they changed their lifestyles so they could live comfortably within the incomes they had. They found this new life so positive that they said they’d never go back, reports Gail Cunningham, a spokesperson for NFCC.

If you’re sure that your financial troubles are temporary, it pays to pinch the pennies until the dollars start rolling back in. But the story is different if you see little hope of raising your income by enough to make your current expenses each to cover. Emotionally, making big changes is hard to do. But the faster you reinvent your life, the more money you’ll have in your pocket and the sooner you’ll be able to save again.

Your two largest expenses are probably your home and your consumer debt (plus health insurance, if you’re not on a company plan). Your first step is to quit adding to debt — put your credit cards on deep freeze and pay bills with cash or a debit card. Then follow these steps:

1. If you live in an apartment, check comparable rents in your neighborhood.

They’ve dropped in many parts of the country. If you find that you’re paying more than the market requires, show your landlord proof and ask for a rent reduction. If the answer is no, move.

2. If you own a home and it’s salable, sell.

Put any net gain into savings and investments, and find an apartment to rent. You’ll be saving the high cost of maintaining a house, as well as tax and insurance bills.

Don’t hold onto a house because you think you “need” the mortgage interest deduction. Financially, you’re far better off without it. As an example, say that you’re paying $1,000 in interest, in the 25 percent tax bracket. The taxpayers cover $250, leaving $750 as your net cost. Now imagine that you have no mortgage and $1,000 in income. You’ll pay $250 in taxes, leaving you with $750 in your checking account. Losing the mortgage gives you more money to spend.

3. Restructure your credit card debt.

Move some of it to a new card with a zero-rate promotional offer. Don’t use that card for purchases right away. Instead, concentrate on repaying this debt within the promotional period. You might also move debt from a high-rate card to one that’s charging a lower rate.

4. Start a debt-repayment avalanche.

Get the latest bill for each of your credit cards, to see which one is charging you the highest rate (some cards have two rates, one higher than the other). Pay the minimum on the lower-rate cards and put all the rest of the money toward knocking off the high-rate debt. When that card is clean, move on to the next one.

Some people prefer to start by repaying the card with the smallest debt, even if its interest rate is low, for the pure pleasure of eliminating an annoying bill. Do whatever works. But you’ll get the most bang for the buck by tackling the high-rate card first.

5. If you have savings, put all but a token amount against credit card debt.

Keep only $500 or $1,000 for unforeseen expenses. Consumers often don’t realize the enormous return on investment they get from cleaning up their credit cards. For example, say that you’re paying interest at a rate of 18 percent. Every payment you make against that debt gives you a guaranteed 18 percent return on your money. If you’re paying a penalty interest rate of 24 percent, every payment equals a 24 percent investment gain. Where else could you get a yield like that, and totally safe?

6. If you have money in a 401(k) retirement plan and your job is safe, consider borrowing against it.

In theory, I consider these plans inviolable — never to be touched. In practice, it makes sense to use them if they can help you rightsize your life. The transaction will look like this:

You’ll borrow from the plan at 1 to 3 percentage points over the bank prime rate, which is currently 3.25 percent. So the loan might cost you 5.25 percent. You’ll repay credit card debt at 18.25 percent, for a 13 percent gain. Typically, you’ll have to repay the 401(k) loan over five years, with the payments deducted from your paycheck automatically. The interest you pay goes right back into your account, so you’re paying t to yourself.

There are two financial downsides. First, you’re repaying the loan with after-tax dollars. When you eventually take money out of the 401(k), those dollars are taxed again. But you’re probably still ahead, thanks to the savings on your credit card bills. Second, you’ll lose any appreciation that would have accrued to the money you borrowed. You can minimize this risk, however, by arranging to borrow against only the bond portion of your plan, leaving the stock portion exposed to any gains.

If you leave your job, and part of the loan is still outstanding, you’ll have to repay it right away, in full. If you can’t, the remaining loan will be treated as a withdrawal. You’ll own income taxes on the money and a 10 percent penalty if you’re younger than 59 1/2. So this loan is for someone who is pretty sure that his or her job is safe.

7. If you’re one of the lucky 78 percent of homeowners who have equity, you could — potentially — pay off your credit card debt with a new home equity loan.

But the argument isn’t as compelling as it is for loans against 401(k)s. Ideally, you’re aiming for a paid-up home when you retire. That will cut your cost of living, give you access to a reverse mortgage for extra cash, and provide money needed for long-term care. A home equity loan might make that impossible.

8. If you don’t have health insurance, any major illness could put you into bankruptcy.

Try for a high-deductible policy, or see if you (or your kids) qualify for Medicaid or the children’s program, Schip. If insurance companies won’t take you because of a medical condition, try for a place in the high-risk pools set up by the new health reform act. We’re a long way from equal access to medical care, let alone care at an affordable price. But if you cut other expenses, you just might be able to afford good health.

This article is part of a series related to being Financially Fit

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11 Innovative Products from the Past Decade

Posted by Norma Langston | on Tuesday, March 1st, 2011 at 6:08 pm
Category: Help with Everyday Life.

By Good Housekeeping

The Good Housekeeping Research Institute reviews thousands of products each year, but only the most revolutionary, problem-solving gadgets receive the top honor of winning a VIP (Very Innovative Product) Award. We took a look at award winners from the past decade to find some of our favorites that we still use today.

Brooks Brothers No-Iron Shirt
 

Brooks Brothers No-Iron Shirt

Ironing clothing can be the most time-consuming part of the laundry process, so in 1999, we were excited to discover that the Brooks Brothers No-Iron Shirt is truly wash-and-wear. We boldly proclaimed that “Your husband can pluck it from the hot dryer and walk out the door.” The secret to its design is a “baked” in finish, which eliminates wrinkling.

Huggies Little Swimmers
 

Huggies Little Swimmers

Unlike plastic- or rubber-lined swim pants for babies and toddlers, these throwaway winners “won’t swell in water or droop on land.” We lauded the bright, colorfast covers on Huggies Little Swimmers and they swam to the top of our list in 1999.

Olay Daily Facials Cloths
 

Olay Daily Facials Cloths

These all-in-one towelettes became part of our skincare routine in 2001. Daily Facials Cloths “create enough suds to take off makeup, even mascara,” providing a quick-clean fix on nights when you’re too exhausted to wash your face with cleanser. Unlike other wipes, they won’t leave your skin dry or with an oily residue.

OXO Measuring Cups
 

OXO Measuring Cups

Whether you’re baking a cake or whipping up waffles, it’s important to measure precisely. But to get an accurate reading, you need to check the markings at eye level. Not so with OXO cups: “A quick glance at the inside strip shows the exact amount as you fill the cup,” allowing us to take perfect measurements faster in 2002.

Crest Whitestrips
 

Crest Whitestrips

In our tests, Crest Whitestrips lightened teeth an average of three shades, giving us something to smile about in 2002. If you’re tired of coffee-stained teeth, use this product twice a day for quick results.

Dutch Boy Twist and Pour Paint
 

Dutch Boy Twist and Pour Paint

Does your leftover paint dry out by the time you’re ready to touch up? We solved this problem in 2003 by using Dutch Boy’s Twist and Pour latex paint, which has twist-on-lids to keep paint fresh and a handle and spout to reduce spills.

Uncle Ben's Ready Rice
 

Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice

Rice from the microwave that’s actually delicious? You’re skeptical, but trust us: Uncle Ben’s Ready Rice was a tasty time-saver in 2005. It cooks in only 90 seconds.

Tide To Go Pen
 

Tide To Go Pen

Whether you’re heading out for work or play, take along this tiny stain remover. In a 2006 Good Housekeeping Research Institute test, the Tide To Go Pen “safely erased most fresh, nonoily drink and food spots such as red wine, tomato juice, ketchup, and coffee.” It even works on silk!

Target Pharmacy's ClearRx Bottle
 

Target Pharmacy’s ClearRx Bottle

Finally, we found a prescription label you can read without your glasses in 2006. The drug and dosage info on this bottle is printed in large letters, it has colored rings to help identify medicines, and even comes with a card highlighting side effects and warnings.

Wii Fit
 

Wii Fit

In 2009, even the most committed couch potatoes enjoyed “standing on the Wii Fit Balance Board and following on-screen instructions for yoga, aerobics, strength training — even walking a tightrope and hula hooping.” You earn points for good performance, and get feedback on how you can improve.

Scotch Fur Fighter
 

Scotch Fur Fighter

We won the war against pet hair in 2009 with the Fur Fighter, which “has a textured pad that grips and removes virtually every hair — even ones deeply embedded in the fabric.” Once a sheet is full, just throw away and replace.

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America’s Most Unforgettable Pies

Posted by Norma Langston | on Tuesday, February 15th, 2011 at 12:18 pm
Category: Community.
By Christine Sarkis

Levee high caramel apple pecan pie from The Blue Owl in Kimmswick, Missouri
Levee high caramel apple pecan pie
from The Blue Owl in Kimmswick, Missouri
Photo: Photo: SmarterTravel Staff
More from SmarterTravel.com
More from Yahoo! Travel

Attempting to name the nation’s best pies is like arm wrestling a bear: It’s a losing proposition. But finding uniquely unforgettable pies, now that’s something we can really sink our teeth into. To kick off National Pie Month, hop aboard the Pie Express for a trip around the country. Along the way we’ll stop for sour cherry pie in Michigan, fried peach pie in Tennessee, and green chile apple pie in San Francisco.

Levee High Caramel Apple Pecan Pie

 

The Blue Owl – Kimmswick, Missouri

Born on the banks of the Mississippi River, Blue Owl’s Levee High Caramel Apple Pecan Pie is as much an architectural feat as it is a great dessert. A tribute to the levees that protected the town of Kimmswick against a rising river in 1993, this 18-apple pie is no mere trifle. With layer after layer of thinly sliced tart and sweet apples buttressed between crispy crusts, the jaw-dropping effect of this pie perfectly readies you for that first bite.

Shoo-fly pie from Dutch Haven in Ronks, Pennsylvania
Shoo-fly pie from Dutch Haven in Ronks, Pennsylvania
Photo: SmarterTravel Staff

Shoo-Fly Pie

 

Dutch Haven – Ronks, Pennsylvania

If you’re a pie and you can get both Dinah Shore and Ella Fitzgerald to sing about you, you’re clearly doing something right. The 1945 song “Shoe-Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy” claims the dessert “makes your eyes light up, your tummy say ‘howdy,’” and after a slice of Dutch Haven’s shoo-fly pie, we’re inclined to agree. The Pennsylvania Dutch classic, a brown-sugar-and-molasses-based pie has an utterly unique rich, creamy flavor and a crumbly top, prompting one taster to exclaim, “it tastes like magic,” and another to say, “it’s like a less uptight Boston cream pie.” Dutch Haven is so proud of its pie, which it claims is America’s best, that it gives away free samples at its store in Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County.

Buttermilk pie from Tootie Pie Company in Boerne, Texas
Buttermilk pie from Tootie Pie Company in Boerne, Texas
Photo: Mustard Seed Photography

Buttermilk Pie

 

Tootie Pie Company – Boerne, Texas

Little known beyond the American South, buttermilk pie is a classic custard pie made with buttermilk instead of cream. Skeptical about a buttermilk-based dessert? Tootie Pie Company’s signature pie was made to win over just about anyone with a sweet tooth. Arriving on the plate smelling like a fresh-cooked waffle cone full of cake batter, and tasting something like a buttermilk creme brulee (without the brulee), this is one pie you’re unlikely to forget, for all the right reasons.

Chocolate Haupia cream pie from Ted's Bakery on Oahu, Hawaii
Chocolate Haupia cream pie from Ted’s Bakery on Oahu, Hawaii
Photo: Jason Balmut

Chocolate Haupia Cream Pie

 

Ted’s Bakery – Oahu, Hawaii

Choke grindz! The Chocolate Haupia (coconut) Cream Pie at the famous Ted’s Bakery on Oahu’s North Shore is so unique to Hawaii that it takes local slang—roughly “great food”—to praise it fully. Our on-site taster commended the flaky, golden crust, and said of the filling, “Haupia and chocolate seem to go together like sun and surf. Why try to separate them? They were made for each other.” The near-constant long lines concur: This is pie that’s worth the trip from the mainland.

Cherry crumb pie From Grand Traverse Pie Company in Traverse City, Michigan
Cherry crumb pie From Grand Traverse Pie Company in Traverse City, Michigan
Photo: Grand Traverse Pie Company

Cherry Crumb Pie

Grand Traverse Pie Company – Traverse City, Michigan

Think the most unforgettable pies celebrate regional flavors? Grand Traverse Pie Company in Michigan serves up delectable Northern Michigan Montmorency tart cherries—locally grown in Traverse City, the “Cherry Capital of the World”—in irresistible pie form. The short season and small growing region make these cherries something special. The cherry crumb pie delivers perfectly tart fruit topped with a crumble reminiscent of homemade Scottish shortbread. Inspiring its own flavor of piety, the cherry crumb prompted chef and serious food lover Mario Batali to call it “a religious experience.”

Southern pecan pie from Yoder's Amish Restaurant in Sarasota, Florida
Southern pecan pie from Yoder’s Amish Restaurant in Sarasota, Florida
Photo: SmarterTravel Staff

Southern Pecan Pie

Yoder’s Amish Restaurant – Sarasota, Florida

Chef hats are all good and fine, but when it comes to Amish bakeries, you know you’re dealing with the real thing when your pie is the creation of a bonnet-clad grandmother. At Yoder’s Amish Restaurant, that’s exactly what you’ll get. From its sweet, salty, and buttery Southern Pecan Pie to its popular favorite Peanut Butter Cream, Mrs. Yoder and her family offer plenty of reasons to take a break from Sarasota’s sunny beaches long enough to savor a slice.

Key lime pie from Steve's Authentic Key Lime Pies in Brooklyn, New York
(Photo: Eric Lendl)Key lime pie from Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies in Brooklyn, New York
Photo: Eric Lendl

Key Lime Pie

 

Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies – Brooklyn, New York

Steve’s Authentic Key Lime Pies defies geography. First off, it’s more than 1,000 miles from the Florida Keys. Second, its unlikely location in New York City is made even more unusual by its relatively isolated shop on the waterfront in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook. The journey is richly rewarded, though, with tangy, custardy key lime filling and a crisp graham crumb crust. The bakery takes pride in being one of the few commercial key lime pie makers anywhere in the country to shun bottled key lime juice in favor of freshly squeezed key limes. Al Roker even called it “one of the last genuine key lime pies in the U.S.” We call that authentically unforgettable.

Green chile apple pie From Chile Pies (& Ice Cream) in San Francisco, California
Green chile apple pie From Chile Pies (& Ice Cream) in San Francisco, California
Photo: Joel Boardman

Green Chile Apple Pie

 

Chile Pies (& Ice Cream) – San Francisco, California

Adventurous taste buds rejoice at Chile Pies (& Ice Cream) in San Francisco. Its signature pie is a combination of sweet and savory that lends new credibility to the notion of skipping the meal and heading straight to dessert. The pie’s crisp apples are punctuated by green chiles that offer just a hint of heat. Enveloped in a flaky, cheddar-laced crust and topped with a hearty walnut streusel, there’s even the option to add an extra kick of sweet and hot with a drizzle of cayenne honey. Not wild enough for you? The shop will blend any of its pies and your choice of ice cream into an unforgettable pie shake.

A fried pie from Miss Carolyn's Fried Pies in Nunnelly, Tennessee
A fried pie from Miss Carolyn’s Fried Pies in Nunnelly, Tennessee
Photo: Kate Hamman

Fried Pies

 

Miss Carolyn’s Fried Pies – Nunnelly, Tennessee

For those who grew up on them, fried pies are best served with a warm cup of childhood nostalgia. For everyone else, they’re uncharted territory that, when done well and eaten warm, are worth every finger-licking extra calorie. These hand-held Southern delicacies come in flavors like peach, chocolate, cherry, and apple. At Miss Carolyn’s Fried Pies in Nunnelly, Tennessee, the pies are made from scratch to taste the way families have been making them for generations.

A savory pie from Dangerously Delicious Pies in Baltimore, Maryland
A savory pie from Dangerously Delicious Pies in Baltimore, Maryland
Photo: Randy LeFaivre

Savory Pies

 

Dangerously Delicious Pies – Baltimore, Maryland

Pie: It’s what’s for dinner, at least at Dangerously Delicious Pies in Baltimore and Washington, D.C. In addition to an enticing array of sweet pies—including coconut chess, sweet potato, and the “Baltimore Bomb”—the bakery makes a half-dozen savory pies. From the traditional chicken pot pie to the Hot Rod Potato and the Pork BBQ, there are many ways to promote pie to the main course. And, if you are willing to grant quiche pie rank, there are even more savory options on the menu, including Cowboy Quiche and crab and cheddar.

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4 Signs Your Bedroom Needs a Make-under

Posted by Norma Langston | on Tuesday, January 11th, 2011 at 12:01 pm
Category: Community.

The bedroom is supposed to be where you relax, unwind, and get a good night’s sleep. But with today’s multitasking lives, your bedroom could be collecting more clutter than hours of beauty rest. Here’s how to determine if your space needs simplifying — plus solutions to nix the clutter. Want more organizing ideas? See our New Year’s Resolution Tips for Every Room.  

 

1. Problem: Your TV rules the bedroom.
Solution: As severe as it may sound, a television doesn’t belong in a well-ordered bedroom. It brings with it remote controls, DVDs, cords, and other mess-producing items that counter the main purposes of the room. Bedrooms should be a cozy space for decompressing, like this serene master bedroom by designer Ginger Barber.
Related: Beautiful Designer Bedrooms

2. Problem: Your closet door won’t shut.
Solution: It’s time to start editing. Expert organizer Julie Morgenstern recommends first starting on paper. Ask yourself, “What are my favorite clothes?” When considering what to toss, refer to your list. If you’re still afraid to get rid of items, ask yourself these questions: “Do I love it? Is it flattering? Is it the image I want to project?” If it’s a “yes” to all three, then it’s a keeper. Donate the castoffs to a favorite charity.
Related: 10 Easy Closet Cleaning Tips

3. Problem: Your nightstand is piled sky-high with books.
Solution: You’ve been meaning to read those magazines and last week’s paper, but you’ve just been too tired at night to crack one open. The answer? Since you can only read one thing at a time, that’s the number of publications that should be in your bedroom. Keep the rest organized in your library or living room with a magazine rack or bookshelf.
Related: Beautiful Designer Bathrooms

4. Problem: Your smartphone is your alarm.
Solution: If you’re checking e-mail before you doze off, you’ll be fretting about the next day’s meetings instead of drifting off to sleep with sweet dreams. In addition, the light emitted from these devices can also contribute to keeping you awake at night. Banish phones and laptops to a home office, and soon you’ll be snoozing soundly.

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Report shows Frisco ISD teachers are Highly Qualified

Posted by Norma Langston | on Monday, November 15th, 2010 at 12:10 pm
Category: Community.

By Jessica Rush, jrush@acnpapers.com

Published: Wednesday, November 10, 2010 1:03 PM CST

The No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act of 2001 requires districts to annually report on their status of Highly Qualified teachers. Linda Bass, assistant superintendent for human resources, presented this year’s numbers to the school board that show 99.9 percent of the district’s teachers are Highly Qualified and 100 percent of the teachers are receiving High Quality Professional Development.

For a beginning teacher to be considered Highly Qualified, he/she must have a bachelor’s degree, full state certification and demonstrate subject competency.

This is important as Frisco ISD hired 181 teachers this year with no previous experience, the majority (27) of those coming from the University of North Texas. Texas Tech University and Texas A&M University – College Station were second and third with 15 and 14 beginning teachers hired, respectively.

Highly Qualified experienced teachers have completed a High, Objective, Uniform Standard of Evaluation (HOUSE), and secondary teachers have a degree, typically with a major in the subject they teach. Frisco ISD currently employs 126 teachers that have between one year and five years of experience. 123 professionals have more than five years of experience.

The report shows close to 400 teachers were hired out of more than 3,000 teacher applications on file. Bass said a survey of new teachers in Frisco ISD revealed their reasons for applying and choosing the district were reputation, desirable location and referred to the district by an employee, in that order.

The district also looks at why professionals choose to leave. Out of 239 resignations, the most common reasons for leaving were because of family or a baby, moving, or transferring to a different district. Bass said the number of transfers to Prosper ISD was unusually high this past year at nine.

The report also shows 915 out of more than 1,500 substitutes on file are certified to teach, and 99.9 percent of classes taught in Frisco ISD are by Highly Qualified teachers. The district has remained close to perfection with 99.9 percent of Highly Qualified teachers for at least the last three school years.

Any teachers that are not determined to be Highly Qualified must be placed on an improvement plan, according to the NCLB Act.

In other business

* Seven Frisco ISD schools were recognized for qualifying as Texas Business and Education Coalition Honor Roll campuses for 2010. The achievement comes from schools that have a high percentage of students meeting TAKS standards for at least three years. Representatives from Bledsoe, Borchardt, Fisher, Pink and Spears elementary schools and representatives from Fowler and Griffin middle schools will travel to Austin next week to be honored at a TBEC banquet.

* The district is working closely with the city on the walking and biking trail for Purefoy Elementary. At previous school board meetings, many parents have expressed their concern over the thoroughfare sidewalk that sits alongside a busy intersection. School administrators hope to have something conclusive to report and recommend next month.

* The district will be looking into various models for instructional coaches at the elementary level. In secondary schools, instructional coaches are experienced teachers in each subject area that help with professional development. They receive a period off to help their peers’ classes with lesson plans and instruction.

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The Eleven Reasons People Can’t Sell Their Homes

Posted by Norma Langston | on Monday, October 25th, 2010 at 3:06 pm
Category: Homes for Sale.
by Douglas A. McIntyre
Monday, October 18, 2010
provided by
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The environment for home sales becomes more difficult with each passing month. Some estimates put 11 million mortgages, about 20% of the U.S. total, underwater, meaning that homeowners owe their banks more than the underlying properties are worth. Home repossessions reached more than 100,000 for the first time in September. Rising foreclosure rates continue to further depress housing prices.

The federal government let its tax benefit for homeowners expire in April and has not renewed it since them. The program did boost sales earlier this year. Shoppers must now face a market without the credit in which many home prices continue to fall.

The clamor over flawed foreclosure paperwork and robo-signers could further chill the housing market. People who might buy have bought a home in foreclosure will now worry about obtaining proper documentation and effective transfer of title.

24/7 Wall St. spoke with experts at real estate research firms Zillow.com and RealtyTrac to find the best way to sell a home. We also interviewed management from the National Association of Realtors, a number of real estate brokers, bank managers and elected officials in affluent communities. What emerged from these conversations and our research is the following: successful home sellers often do the same small number of things correctly. Often, these tactics are the difference between finding a buyer and not.

1. Pick the Best Broker

Many people who decide to sell contact a real estate brokerage with a sterling reputation or go to one that has the largest number of listings. Frequently, when potential sellers call these firms, they are turned over to the first available broker in the office. That person is often not the best representative. As a matter of fact, what is a successful broker doing in the office anyway? There are a small number of brokers in most markets who have a better track record than their peers. Most of them have been brokers for a long time and did not lose their jobs when the housing bubble collapsed.

2. Get an Appraisal

Sellers should obtain an appraisal for their home before they put it on the market. One of the major reasons house sales fall apart is that the bank assesses the home for less than the buyer has agreed to pay. For example, a buyer and seller agree on a price of say $250,000. Then the buyer goes to his bank to get a mortgage. But, the bank appraises the house for $200,000. Now, the buyer has to put up more money. Sellers who get their own appraisals get a realistic idea of what price a bank would value a house at before they enter into a sale. Most appraisers already do some work for banks. An appraisal often tells a seller what a “safe” price is. And an appraisal’s average cost is only about $200.

3. Get the Right “Comp”

Sellers must make sure that foreclosures in their area are included in the “comps” the Realtor gives them. Traditionally, a broker will give a seller a list of similar properties in the market and that information is part of what is used to set a price. What brokers do not always do is put the price of any foreclosed properties that are comparable into the calculation. A typical foreclosed home sells for 25% to 30% less than similar inventory in the same area. If sellers don’t take that into consideration, their home will not be priced competitively and they put themselves at a disadvantage. Sellers wind up slashing prices after their overvalued properties are on the market for several months without success.

4. Tax Assessment

Low property taxes are critical to finding buyers. Property taxes in most cities, towns and counties have gone up for years as home values appreciated. This revenue is used to run schools and other local services. However, now home values have dropped sharply, and the appraisals by local authorities on which taxes are based are too high. Many cities have a process for homeowners to request lower appraisals, and as a consequence obtain a reduced property tax. Some states even have a board of appeals for homeowners who do not think they were treated fairly. One way for people to get local authorities to cut the tax assessment of their home is to put it on the market at below the appraised price. If the home does not sell for several months, they can present empirical evidence of the lower value. A home assessed for $300,000 that goes on the market for $275,000, but does not sell for a year, is probably not worth $300,000.

5. Conserve Utilities

Turn the lights off! Most buyers ask for utility bills. “Energy wasters” who sell a home will rue the times they forgot to turn off lights, turn down the air conditioner or left the TV on all day. It would be ill-advised to fake the amount of energy being used by simply living in the dark and cutting utility costs to nearly zero. However, careful and prudent use of energy can cut bills by enough so that a buyer does not have sticker shock about what it costs to maintain electricity, gas or oil to run a house.

6. Sell “Green”

Not very many homes are actually built with environmentally friendly material or heated by solar panels or wind. But those that are have a special appeal to the crowd that buys green cars such as the Prius. A seller may have one of only a few “green” homes in their town or city. That may make it highly desirable to many shoppers.

7. Curb Appeal

This item appears on most lists, and many sellers don’t bother to take the advice to prune the hedges or clean the gutters. But it is even more complex than that. Walk to the road on which your home is located. Now walk toward the house. What does a buyer see for the first time? Most sellers never bother to look at their homes through a buyer’s eyes. Do the shingles need a paint job? Are the shutters looking shoddy? “Love at first sight” is no less rare with homes than with people.

8. Everything Is Negotiable

Negotiate the fee with the broker. The fee paid to a Realtor for selling a home is traditionally 6%. Sellers often believe that they can get that down to 5% or even 4%. But, in a market where brokers are desperate for business, pressing for 3% or even 2% may work. Whatever the savings are, they can materially affect how much a seller can drop the price of his home and still walk away with a profit.

9. Get an Inspection

Sellers should do some of the inspection work and testing before their home goes on the market. Inspectors for buyers are often aggressive when they report what is “wrong” with a home to their clients. For as little as $250, an inspector will go through your house and tell you what the inspector is likely to flag such as a roof leak or old, energy-wasting windows. That gives the seller a chance to fix the problem for less than the buyer may want to lower the price by, or at least know the items that a buyer will use to negotiate down the price.

10. Hire a “Stager”

For as little at $200, you can hire someone who can make your home look better by moving pictures, furniture, lights and addressing problems that may make the home show poorly. These people are cousins to the men and women who “fix” expensive homes before magazines come in to photograph them for stories. “Stagers” have lists of tricks that few Realtors and almost no homeowners know. The “better” your home looks, the more appealing it will be to potential buyers.

11. Fix It First

Sell a house that does not need any work. In a market in which people count every penny and worry about job security, fewer buyers want homes that are “fixer uppers” that require work that could cost thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars to address. These days, a buyer choosing between two homes will most likely take the one that needs the least work. It may cost some money to get your home to the point where a buyer can walk in and do almost no work. However, it may be the difference between selling a home and having it languish on the market.

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Maximum Value

Posted by Norma Langston | on Friday, September 24th, 2010 at 3:48 pm
Category: Community.

Maximum Value Mechanical Projects: Sewage/Septic

By FrontDoor.com | Published: 8/05/2010

Keep your home safe from detrimental damage by keeping either your sewage or septic system clean and in proper working order. 

Keep your home safe from detrimental damage by keeping either your sewage or septic system clean and in proper working order.

Sewage and septic systems projects — nothing sounds more fun on a Saturday afternoon, does it? Even if the topic might be a little less than desirable, new trends and timely updates can ease the pain of entering into the world of wastewater and treatment plants.

Simply put, sewage systems are composed of residential and building pipes that run to a wastewater treatment plant. Septic systems are better suited for rural areas that are far away from a main sewage line. A private concrete or steel tank is buried in the yard, which then pumps the treated wastewater into a drain field. Once there, the water is slowly absorbed back into the ground.

By turning to energy efficient appliances and fixtures, your sewage and septic systems can lead to improved comfort and convenience and a lower water bill, making for a happier — and healthier — place to call home.

CURRENT TRENDS

  • Energy efficient toilet. Suitable for all price ranges, low-flow toilets use less than a gallon to flush while older models can take almost two gallons. Not only do they take significantly less water — which is good news for your wallet — but they are also less likely to stop up. 
  • Private sewage pump. The biggest benefit for a private sewage pump is that it can open up and reduce the cost of building on lots that might not have sewage immediately available. As the sewage goes into the resident tank, the private pump then pushes it out to an available sewer line. This is perfect for homes that sit above or below a line, such as in mountainous terrain.

BIGGEST MISTAKE

According to appraisal expert Leslie Sellers, president of the Appraisal Institute, the bigger sewer and septic projects — like installation and machine upgrades — should always be left to the professionals. With improper installation, you could wind up with an unfortunate mess on your hands.

Sellers points out another problem — one homeowners could many times overlook — is trying to install a septic system without a permit. Almost all states have water and conservation laws that control the sewage systems, so trying to go around state laws — even if unintentionally — could turn your project into big ticket trouble.

EXPERT TIPS

  • All Budgets: The biggest thing you can do to help your sewage or septic system function at its best is to change out your old fixtures and appliances with newer, more eco-friendly models. Faucets, shower heads, toilets, dishwashers and washing machines are a few of the fixtures and appliances that you can trade out for a better money-saving option. These types of fixes come at almost any price point and are beneficial in all housing markets. So whether you are on a budget or have some change to spare, these types of upgrades and upkeep are the best thing you can do for your home.
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About FRISCO

Posted by Norma Langston | on Tuesday, September 7th, 2010 at 12:16 pm
Category: Community.

 

FISD largest Exemplary district in the state

All About Frisco Sunday, August 22,2010

By Jessica Rush

For the first time this year Frisco ISD celebrated its Exemplary rating from the state’s accountability system, which uses criteria of TAKS scores, annual dropout rates and completion rates to measure a district’s overall performance.

Frisco ISD is the largest district in Texas to obtain an Exemplary rating without using special features the state provides to help districts bump up an additional rating level. “I just think it’s a culmination of a lot of hard work and academic focus… it is truly something to celebrate,” Superintendent Dr. Rick Reedy said.

The state can rate a district’s performance among five subgroups: African- American students, Hispanic students, white students, low socioeconomic status and all students combined. Frisco ISD’s diversity among qualifies it to be measured by the state in each of these groups on each subject tested (English language arts, math science, social studies and writing).

To be exemplary, the district must have 90 percent of students meeting the standard in each subgroup on each of these tests. The district’s students must also meet a 95 percent completion rate and have 1.8 percent or fewer dropouts in seventh and eighth grade. Frisco ISD missed the exemplary rating last year because it did not meet the completion rate.

The absolute standard Exemplary rating, awarded to 72 Texas school districts, puts Frisco ISD within the top 6 percent of districts in the state. While Frisco takes the lead in size for the category with 33,757 students, Allen ISD is the second largest exemplary district with 18,086 students.

“It’s a monumental achievement,” reedy said. “No district our size has done it using the absolute standard.”

The state allows school districts to use several exceptions to “gate up” one rating level, such as Texas Projection Measures (TPM) that use a formula to predict if a student currently failing TAKS text will likely be passing within the next couple of years.

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Utility Information

Posted by Norma Langston | on Friday, August 20th, 2010 at 10:39 am
Category: Utility Information.

 

Important Utility Information for the following communities.

Dallas            Plano          Allen         McKinney        Frisco

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