When J.C. Penney broke ground for a new Plano-based headquarters in 1990, in a way it provided the impetus for the groundbreaking of a new Fort Worth organization that was destined to inspire teachers and students and help improve education throughout North Texas.Score A Goal in the Classroom began in 1992, the year Penney left its midtown Manhattan offices and moved into new headquarters in a place a New York Times writer called a sprawling blackland prairie town on the northern edge of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex.Ernie Horn, a retired construction company owner who is executive director of Score A Goal, recalls how leaders in Dallas and Fort Worth were competing for the Penney relocation after the company showed interest in North Texas.He said that after Penney selected Plano, the late Bayard Friedman, a former Fort Worth mayor, banker, civic leader and visionary, talked with one of the company executives who told him that the major reason Fort Worth and Dallas didnt make the cut as its new home was because those cities had too many low-performing schools.Friedmans vision was to raise the level of education and honor teachers and school employees, Horn said, which led to creation of the organization, which also emphasized encouraging youngsters to read.Horn, whos always loved sports and was involved with several professional teams like the Dallas Mavericks and the Dallas Stars, wanted to find a way to honor and encourage students, teachers and education employees for things that were done in the classroom and on campus beyond athletics.He came up with the Bayard H. Friedman HERO Award (with a $1,000 prize) for North Texas teachers and school employees, 12 of which were presented last year.Then theres the HERO Award for elementary music teachers; special recognition for nurses; appreciation of cafeteria workers with outings to the Fort Worth Rodeo; thousands of vouchers and tickets to sporting events and restaurants for students who Scored A Goal in the Classroom, the Stay on Track Stay in School mentoring program with BNSF Railway, and perfect attendance awards in which some lucky students win a new car.There is also the annual TCU Reading Frogs Festival, now in its 12th year, in which hundreds, sometimes thousands, of youngsters ages 4 to 12 go to the TCU campus to be mentored by university and high school students.The mentors encourage the kids to read, and they deliver one simple message: I wish I knew how important reading was when I was your age.The festival this year will be from 9 to 11 a.m. Nov. 9 at the schools Sam Baugh Indoor Football Practice Facility and, in addition to sessions with the Reading Frogs mentors, will include free eye exams, prizes and, of course, books for all the kids. As one whos been involved in several of the festivals over the years, I can tell you its a very special event.But there will be some added attractions this year. At the end, with the help of the Trimble Tech High School band, there will be a special birthday celebration for all the kids regardless of which date they were born.And Horn is inviting the entire community to join with the youngsters around 10:45 a.m. that Saturday to celebrate passage of the $489.9 million Fort Worth school bond election.I know, the bond election isnt until Tuesday, but Horn is convinced the most important election in my lifetime will pass and there will be cause for celebration.A 1958 graduate of Arlington Heights High School and a TCU alum, Horn is passionate about education and giving kids an opportunity to achieve.When it comes to Fort Worth, other area school districts and the hundreds of thousands of students they serve, Horn believes strongly in his organizations motto: The best is yet to come.
Bob Ray Sanders' column appears Sundays and Wednesdays. 817-390-7775 Twitter: @BobRaySanders