Claire McInerny | KUT

Education Reporter

Claire McInerny is the education reporter for KUT. Previously, she was a statewide education reporter for NPR member stations in Indiana. She won an Edward R. Murrow award for a series she did there about resources for English Language Learners in the state’s rural school districts. Claire is originally from Kansas, and got a journalism degree from the University of Kansas. Since moving to Texas, she’s never missed winter. 

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Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

The Austin Independent School District's Board of Trustees is seeking community feedback on whether to rename five district facilities named after people who served in the Confederacy. The board is gathering community input before it votes on whether to change the names at its meeting Monday. 

District administration asked the board to consider renaming the following buildings at a November board meeting:

Jorge Sanhueza Lyon / KUT

The Austin Independent School District’s board of trustees is slowing down its timeline for a vote on whether to change the names of five schools named after Confederate figures.

Austin Price for KUT

On a Thursday after school, Taylor Barron begins a new lesson. She hits play on a YouTube video and the infamous cello notes fill the room. They get faster and faster, then slowly crescendo.

She asks the class of Hart Elementary students what kind of movie the music belongs in.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

When most school principals think about goals for the coming year, academics or maybe budgets usually top the list.

But Griselda Galindo-Vargas, the principal at Brooke Elementary, hopes for something else.

"We’re hoping that a new queen bee will come and find it," she said, referring to the beehives on campus. "And then it will bring another hive."

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

Truman Hamade is new to journalism here in Austin, but he's hit the ground running. In the last few months he's covered Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, booked an interview with Dan Rather and is researching a story on Ballet Austin.

And he just turned double digits. 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The Austin Independent School District's headquarters on West Sixth Street will be turned into retail space.

AISD sold the property to Schlosser Development Corp. for $36.5 million last month.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

Mendez Middle School in Southeast Austin has failed to meet state standards over the past four years. If it doesn’t improve academics by summer, it will face takeover.

Mendez is the only school in the Austin Independent School District in its fifth year of failing the annual state assessment, or STAAR, test. What’s going on?

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

After voters approved a $1 billion bond to renovate Austin Independent School District facilities last month, the district is now deciding what to do with its under-enrolled campuses.

AISD says part of that calculus includes decisions of whether to "consolidate" or "unify" certain schools – a distinction that has confused both teachers and parents.

Austin Independent School District’s board of trustees voted this week to sell property in the Hyde Park neighborhood to Alamo Drafthouse for $10.6 million.

The Baker Center is in a former school building, which the district uses for administrative purposes. But what will it be going forward?

Jorge Sanhueza Lyon / KUT

The Austin Independent School District Board of Trustees approved the sale of $64 million in district-owned properties at its meeting tonight.

The district’s 2.75-acre downtown headquarters and its 4.36-acre teaching facility in Hyde Park were the highest-value of the five properties approved for sale.

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

Eli Hernandez started dancing when he was 5 years old. 

"I just like everything about dancing," he said last week at his dance team rehearsal. "There's always something else you can learn. Once you've mastered something, you've never really mastered it. You have to keep going." 

The latest challenge for the East Austin College Prep junior: dancing in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. 

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

Students of color in the Austin Independent School District aren’t doing as well academically as their white peers, so the district's Board of Trustees had a discussion earlier this month about how to address this "achievement gap."

It's the time of year when kids are thinking about their holiday wish lists. So what's a parent to do when a child, possibly a very young child, asks for a smartphone?

We hear that smartphones can be addictive, that screen time can hurt learning, but can't these minicomputers also teach kids about responsibility and put educational apps at their tiny fingertips?

Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

Five Austin schools named after people involved with the Confederacy could get new names.

The Austin Independent School District's Board of Trustees will discuss changing the names tonight, although there won't be a vote taken at the meeting. 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Twenty-five fifth-graders from Camacho Elementary School in Leander went to an indoor skydiving facility Wednesday to get a lesson in flying. Before students got to fly, though, they had to sit through a lesson on physics. 

Qiling Wang for KUT

Voters approved five of five school funding questions in Central Texas on Tuesday.

The Austin Independent School District, Lake Travis ISD, Leander ISD and Lago Vista ISD all posed bond questions, which use tax money for various renovations and technology upgrades. Eanes ISD asked for a change in the tax rate, which can be used for general district expenses. 

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

When Manor New Tech High School opened back in 2007, it drew a visit from then-President Obama, who touted its tech-forward teaching model as the future of public schools. Now, Manor Independent School District is applying that model to a new middle school.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

The last time Huston-Tillotson, Austin's only historically black college or university, got new pianos was in the 1970s. The university wanted an upgrade, so it kicked off a campaign this summer to buy new ones. The administration assumed it would take years to raise the money.

Almost immediately, though, an anonymous donor wrote a check for $800,000 to buy 15 new Steinways.

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

There’s been a shift in Austin schools over the years to focus on skills that don’t deal with academics, things like mental health, coping strategies and mindfulness. The philosophy behind the shift is that asking a kid to focus only on academics during the school day is like asking adults not to worry about their personal lives at work.

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

They're all over town: printed or painted signs in a yard, telling drivers not to park in front of a house. They're not official signs from the city, threatening legitimate towing or expressing hours you can't park; they're more DIY. 

Claire McInerny / KUT

Students in Central Texas miss more days of school than kids in any other part of the state.

Around 10 percent of local students are chronically absent, meaning they miss more than 18 school days a year. A quarter of Austin 12th-graders miss that much school.

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

At a September meeting of the Austin Independent School District's board of trustees, almost half of the public comments weren't about academic issues. Instead, they were about housing. Students, parents, teachers and other community members were asking the board to create affordable housing at the former Allan Elementary School on the East Side.

Students in Victoria Twining's class at Fulmore Middle School in Austin.
Martin do Nascimento / KUT

Fulmore Middle School Principal Lisa Bush doesn’t want her teachers talking like this to students: "Oh, you’re doing a great job! You’re smart! You’re so great!"

It's not because she’s some evil headmistress. Over the last three years, Bush and her teachers have been thinking about different psychological practices. It made her realize that how teachers speak to students makes a huge difference.

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

The Austin Independent School District is asking voters to approve a $1 billion bond this November. The bond would pay for projects at schools all over the district, but there's a difference between funding for schools on the East Side versus the West. 

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

Austin Independent School District is asking voters to approve a $1 billion bond that would bring major changes to East Austin schools. 

The bond, which voters will decide on in November, is the district’s largest bond proposal ever. If voters approve it, every school would get money for building and technology improvements.

Martin do Nascimento / KUT

In high school, being involved was important to Andrea De La Vega. She was editor of the school newspaper. She was the lead attorney on the mock trial team. She was in the top 10 percent of her class at Edinburg High School, which all but guaranteed entry into UT Austin, one of her top schools, when she applied in 2009.

That’s when she realized her immigration status could hold her back.

Karen Reyes, was brought to the U.S. as a child and is covered under DACA.
Martin do Nascimento

Demonstrators gathered outside Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton's office Tuesday to protest the White House decision to get rid of DACA, the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. 

Gabriel Cristóver Pérez / KUT

The Trump administration said today it plans to phase out the Obama-era program that protects from deportation people who were brought to the United States illegally as children.

But in an announcement this morning, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said Congress could officially authorize the program known as DACA before it expires in March.

Claire McInerny / KUT

Thousands of Texans fled their homes this weekend as Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Texas coast Friday. Harvey has since been downgraded to a tropical storm, but coastal residents are still holed up, waiting for the storm to subside and for authorities to give them the go-ahead to return home.

Rachel Burns left her home in Palacios on Friday and checked into a hotel in Yoakum, about 80 miles north of Harvey's landfall, with her 90-year-old mother. 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon / KUT

Winn Elementary in Northeast Austin launched the city's first Montessori program housed at a public school this month. The program is an attempt by the Austin Independent School District to attract more students to a school with declining enrollment. 

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