AISD

sportsillustrated.cnn.com/specials/underdogs

Correction: Voting ends Thursday, Nov. 15, at midnight. KUT News has since corrected this post. 

Reagan High School’s football team is in the running for a $25,000 grant.

The Reagan Raiders are currently bringing up third place in Sports Illustrated’s “Underdogs” competition. An online video series highlighting struggling high school football teams that push on despite the odds, Reagan’s installment in the “Underdogs” series – “The Long Road Back” – documents the school’s attempt to rebuild.

The Raiders took home state championships in 1967, 1968 and 1970. But recent years haven’t been as kind to the team, which went 0-10 in 2011. “The Long Road Back” follows new coach Keith Carey and his team as they attempt to rebuild.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Unease with the Austin school district’s decision to implant a charter school into an East Austin campus helped an East Austin priest narrowly defeat a well-entrenched incumbent by the razor-thin margin. The Rev. Dr. Jayme Lee Mathias defeated five-year incumbent trustee Sam Guzman by a mere 104 votes.   

"There are so many people in East Austin, Dove Springs and Travis Heights who feel that they have not had a voice on the school board or a trustee who has listened to them for so long," Mathias said in a phone interview. "It is our agenda to bring a voice to them to the students and parents.”

Mathias is a priest in the American Catholic Church of the United States, a progressive breakaway from the Roman Catholic church. Mathias says he will be the first openly gay school board member in AISD, a detail he didn't mention during the campaign but disclosed to KUT last night. 

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Amber Elenz, a former broadcaster and Parent Teacher Association (PTA) leader, will replace school board president Mark Williams as the AISD trustee in District 5. Elenz easily defeated technology consultant Charlie Jackson in a school board district that covers downtown and the relatively affluent areas west and southwest of the urban core. With 20,000 votes counted, Elenz led 62 percent to Jackson's 38 percent.  

“What I’m really bringing to the table is a true embedded knowledge of District 5 and our school district,” Elenz told us in a pre-election interview. “I’ve been working directly with these parents and teachers for 13 years. And through that, you know what is important. You know how to work within the system, and really bring about change.”

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

In electing Gina Hinojosa to the Austin school board, local voters appointed a civil rights attorney who has pledged to challenge some of the educational overhauls championed by Superintendent Meria Carstarphen. With 128,000 votes counted, Hinojosa leads Sooch Foundation director Mary Ellen Pietruszynski 69 percent to 31 percent.

“Our community has reaffirmed its belief in supporting our public schools and engaging the community,” Hinojosa said in a phone interview. “We have the potential to make Austin a great destination for public schools like it is for so many other things.”

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Retired teacher Ann Teich defeated incumbent trustee Christine Brister in Austin ISD District 3 in North Central Austin. The win was not a surprise, as Brister had suspended her campaign weeks ago, citing non-life threatening health issues.

With almost 10,000 votes counted, Teich led Brister 65 percent to 35 percent.

KUT News

The Austin Independent School District is inviting community input at a public hearing tonight about the 2013–2014 Annual Academic and Facilities Recommendations (AAFR) tonight at the Carruth Administration Center on West Sixth Street.

There are a several important issues on the AAFR, the most polarizing being single-sex schools, improvements for athletic facilities and fine arts programs, and the expansion of the dual language program.

Here's a roundup:

  • The conversion of two middle schools to Single-Sex schools in northeast Austin were talked about back in August, but a School for Young Men was often left out of the headlines. The proposed School for Young Men would be college and career preparatory academy that develops a community of leadership and character centered young men. Enrollment could start as early as next school year.
  • The recommendation to improve athletic facilities has three potential proposals to throw out to community members with price ranges from $82 million to $179 million. Increased pay and flexible schedules for coaches are included within these proposals.

Good morning. Looks like Austin's entering a cool down! There may be some light showers today, but it looks like clear skies all weekend, according to the National Weather Service. Here are some stories KUT News has been working on:

Governor Rick Perry says the state is moving to immediately to cut off funds to Planned Parenthood. The announcement came after a federal appeals court said Thursday it will not reconsider a decision that says Texas can withhold funds under the Women’s Health Program.

As the Austin Independent School District gets ready to ask voters to approve hundreds of millions of dollars in borrowing next May, figures published by the Texas Comptroller show the district has one of the the lowest per-student debt rates among Austin-area school districts. That said, AISD also has the most debt of any district in the area, at $809,435,850. But, calculated on a per-student basis, AISD’s outstanding debt it is $9,492. AISD also has the lowest debt per capita.

A former Texas State University student, 19-year-old Brittany Henderson, has been arrested for making a bomb threat at the school last week. Several buildings were evacuated because of the threat. Henderson was arrested in Bryan on Tuesday and charged with making a terroristic threat, which is a third-degree felony, and making a false alarm, which is a class A misdemeanor.

Nathan Bernier/KUT News

As the Austin Independent School District gets ready to ask voters to approve hundreds of millions of dollars in borrowing next May, figures published by the Texas Comptroller today show the district has one of the the lowest per-student debt rates among Austin-area school districts.

That said, AISD also has the most debt of any district in the area, at $809,435,850. But calculated on a per-student basis, AISD’s outstanding debt it is $9,492. The Austin school district also has the lowest debt per capita of $1,272.

A lot depends on how you define “Central Texas.” Lockhart ISD, for example, has a lower debt-to-student ratio of just $5,565.75. You will find lower debt ratios in some of the outlying, more rural districts in the region, like Granger ISD, Florence ISD, and Prarie Lea ISD, which has no debt at all. (It also has a student population of 232.)

KUT News

Three Austinites are suing the City of Austin, Travis County, the Austin Independent School District and Central Health for allowing tax breaks on what the plaintiffs refer to as “allegedly” historic properties.

The plaintiffs are Dominic Chavez, Mike Levy and and Ed Wendler Jr. The three men claim that giving a tax break without proving a need is against the Texas tax code. And, they say, the policy unfairly benefits the wealthy—diverting $4 million of local tax revenue.

They also claim that the City of Austin’s method for historic designation is arbitrary and does little to actually ensure historic preservation:

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The Austin Independent School District’s Citizens’ Bond Advisory Committee is asking for public input on the district’s bond program this evening.

The committee is hosting a public hearing from 6:30 - 9 p.m. at Reagan High School (7104 Berkman Dr.).

Those wishing to speak should sign up at the high school before the meeting or submit comments on the district’s website.

Jeff Heimsath, KUT News

The Austin school board voted 7-2 to extend an employment contract with Dr. Meria Carstarphen, the superintendent who oversees the education of more than 86,000 Austin children in the largest school district in Central Texas. If Carstarphen fulfills her contract to June 2015, she will have served seven years at the helm of AISD, a term twice as long as the average tenure of an urban superintendent. Carstarphen earns $283,412 per year. 

In a sweeping assessment of Carstarphen's performance, school board president Mark Williams said she has "shown courage" and the board "continues to believe that she is the right person to lead Austin ISD." Williams' annual evaluation was overwhelmingly positive, although it did highlight several areas of weakness. Those included a need for AISD to "improve its community engagement efforts." 

Williams' evaluation also drew attention to "a significant achievement gap" among white students and their Hispanic and African-American counterparts. For example, Texas Education Agency data shows almost 90 percent of white high school seniors graduated in the 2010-11 school year, compared to 72 percent of African American students, a disparity even larger than the statewide gap of 5.5 percent.

Good morning. Austin can expect cloud coverage for most of the day, and the occasional shower. The National Weather Service says we can a 40 percent chance of rain today. Here's some of KUT’s top stories this morning:

Here's  more stories of interest from Central Texas: 

  • Cyber Warfare Here To Stay; Austin Could Play Key Role (KVUE)

"It's a spy versus spy kind of world," said Ken Phillips, business development manager at Overwatch Textron Systems. The Austin-based business is developing the latest line of defense against cyber threats, which focuses on security at the file level in order to overcome internal leaks or systems that have been compromised.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The Austin school district could start offering more perks to athletic coaches in hopes of attracting better talent. School board members will hear about a proposal tonight to pay coaches competitive stipends and offer flexible work schedules.

Austin ISD says student athletes do better in school than non-athletes. Their attendance rates are five percent higher. They score almost seven percent higher on math tests. And they are 16 percent more likely to graduate. The relationship between learning and sports is the subject of much scholarly analysis.

That’s part of the justification for increasing how much AISD dedicates to athletics. Currently, the district spends about $10.7 million a year, which amounts to 1.1 percent of AISD’s budget. Almost two out of five high school students play sports. In middle school, it’s closer to three out of five.

Providing stipends to coaches and giving them more flexible work schedules might help attract better talent and make students more likely to play sports, but the head of the Texas High School Athletic Directors Association Rusty Dowling says that’s not the only thing coaches will consider.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

It's back to work and school today but with cooler temperatures highs in the mid-90s. Here's a look at some of the big stories developing today:

AISD Looks at Single-Sex Education Options

The Austin  School Board is taking another look at single-sex middle schools this evening.

AISD Superintendent Dr. Meria Carstarphen had wanted to create single-sex schools at Pearce and Garcia Middle Schools as soon as next school year. But the idea met resistance from some school board members and parents. If the board decides to go forward with the plan, it won’t go into effect until at least 2014-2015.

Daniel Reese for KUT News

A good — and groggy — morning to the 50,000 UT-Austin students returning to class today. Here’s some of Austin’s top overnight stories.

Austin School Board Approves 2012-13 Budget

The Austin ISD Board of Trustees approved a budget for the coming school year last night, including $14 million in raises for district employees.

The Austin American-Statesman has more details on the budget:

The district will keep its tax rate the same, at $1.242 per $100 of assessed value, with $1.079 for operations and 16.3 cents for debt. The owner of an average taxable value home, $244,534 after exemptions, would pay $3,037 annually, an increase of $7.

NOAA

Good morning. Expect a high near 95 and a slight chance of showers this Tuesday. Here’s some of this morning’s top stories.

Austin School Board Sets Budget

The Austin ISD Board of Trustees gathers to act on a budget this evening.

The board will vote on a $1 billion spending plan Tuesday night that provides a one-time three percent pay raise for staff by drawing money from its emergency checking account.

Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

AISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen opened an all-staff convocation today by highlighting achievements in the district. But she also made clear there’s room for improvement.

Carstarphen told teachers they will have to handle non-violent disciplinary cases with in-school suspensions. It’s part of a policy the district is pursuing to increase graduation rates among minorities, who are disproportionately placed in the districts disciplinary schools.

“Nearly a third of African American and Hispanic males did not graduate on time. Hispanic females have dropout rates that are five times higher than Caucasian females in the district,” Carstarphen says.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The Austin school district is racking its brain trying to come up with a way to help turn around two middle schools repeatedly ranked “academically unacceptable” by the state. The latest plan for Pearce and Garcia Middle Schools involves converting them to single-sex campuses, but that proposal has not received resounding support from the public. That uncertainty surfaced last night among members of the Austin school board.

Pearce and Garcia Middle schools are each about two-thirds Hispanic and one-third African-American, give or take. Both student populations are almost all economically disadvantaged, as measured by the number of students on the National School Lunch Program.

Year after year, both schools have wound up on the state's list of academically unacceptable campuses. And year after year, school board trustees proclaim the need to do something about it.

“Sitting on this side of the fence, it just seems that we've got to do something different for that community, and if we don't, failing those students is not an option,” Trustee Lori Moya said during a work session Monday night.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

An Austin ISD proposal to convert two northeast campuses into a pair of single-sex middle schools will go before the school board tonight.

They won’t take action on the plan for Pearce and Garcia Middle Schools, but board members will have a chance to discuss what has become a controversial recommendation.

Members of the public had a lot of questions for the district during a series of open forums on the proposal. This particular meeting at LBJ High School got heated and some parents said they left feeling that their questions about the benefits of single-sex education weren’t answered. Even Cheryl Bradley – the school board member who represents the district and has been a strong proponent of single-sex schools – told KXAN afterwards that it was time to “stop and rethink” the idea.

Laura Rice, KUT News

AISD Graduation Rates Continue to Rise

For the third year in a row, graduation rates are up in the Austin Independent School District.

The class of 2011 graduated 80 percent of students – that's up just over a percentage from last year and about six percent higher than than in 2008.

The Texas Education Agency says AISD made significant jumps in graduation rates specifically for economically-disadvantaged students and students who are still learning English. Debra Reedy, the Director of Assessment and Accountability for AISD, is pleased with those gains.

“That’s kind of been our goal, certainly in the last couple of years, to really focus on those gaps within those student groups and to try to decrease the gaps,” Reedy says.

STAAR Retesting Begins Today

Students across Texas who didn’t pass subjects of the STAAR exam will begin retaking the tests today.

Last year’s ninth-graders were the only students who had to pass the tests to graduate on time as seniors. Next year, the passing requirement will affect both ninth and tenth-graders. The STAAR test will continue to phase-in to each grade, eventually completely replacing the TAKS test.

Also starting next year, the STAAR exam will make up 15 percent of a high school student’s final grade in a subject.

KUT News

A temporary schedule change for Austin ISD schools and offices goes into effect today. AISD says the change is an effort to cut energy usage this summer.

Starting today and running through July 27, AISD offices will be closed on Fridays. Employees will work 10-hour days Monday through Thursday. Office hours will be 7 a.m to 6 p.m.

Schools and offices will be completely closed the week of July 2.

The Austin school board has unanimously approved a billion dollar spending plan for next school year. The expenditure budget includes a $30 million deficit. That will be paid for with money from AISD’s emergency cash reserve, which it calls the fund balance.

A large portion of that deficit is the result of a one-time, three percent pay raise for staff. The board will officially adopt the full budget in August, after it decides whether to call for an election on raising property taxes.

KUT News

Austin School Board Takes Up Budget Tonight

The Austin School Board meets tonight to discuss its budget for the upcoming fiscal year.

The proposed $838.9 million budget is closely aligned to the board’s “Strategic Plan Priorities,” which include expanding academic, physical, emotional initiatives to enhance the education of the “whole child,” as well as better preparing students for college and improving recruitment of educators.

aisdpolice.wordpress.com

After an 11 year career on the Austin ISD police force, Buddy’s career as a canine detective has concluded.   

The 13 year-old English Springer spaniel, who is trained to detect marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamines and powder used in firearms, will now spend his days as a house dog.  But he leaves behind some big paw prints. 

“He has quite the resume,” says Detective Travis Pickford, Buddy’s handler. "Over the past 11 years, Buddy has located murder weapons and helped on numerous felony narcotics investigation." 

by KUT News; Photo courtesy Harris County Sheriff's Department; Photo courtesy AISD

STAAR Retesting Costing School Districts

Hundreds of Texas students will spend time in summer classes, preparing to retake their STAAR exams.

The STAAR exams replaced the TAKS tests this year. As students and districts adjust to the new tests, performance standards and requirements are being phased in. The results of this year’s scores did not affect students’ final grades, but students still have to retake tests on subjects they didn’t achieve a minimum score in.

Our reporting partner The Texas Tribune writes that the summer classes and retakes are leaving schools with hefty bills, as districts have to hire teachers to conduct these classes.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Austin school board members meet tonight and they have a lot to talk about. The nine men and women who govern the largest district in Central Texas will get a first glance tonight at how well students in Austin did on the state’s new standardized test – the STAAR exam.

So far, much like the state outcomes, AISD results are mixed. Almost half of high school students failed the writing test. But more than four out of five passed the high school biology test.

Why the big difference? One major reason is this: A passing grade on the writing test is 65 percent. A passing grade in biology is 37 percent.

by KUT News; Photo by KUT News; Photo by AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta

AISD Board to Talk Budget, TRE

Austin ISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen is scheduled to present her budget recommendation to the Board of Trustees this evening. Total expenditures for the district would be about $8 million more than the current budget. Her recommendation includes a one year, 3 percent raise for employees.

The board will also discuss whether to put a Tax Ratification Election on this November’s ballot. If voters approve the tax rate increase, the 3 percent raise for employees could become permanent.

Photo courtesy flickr.com/USDAgov

The Austin Independent School District will be feeding free breakfast and lunch to children starting today. The summer food service program is in place at more than two dozen campuses.

Students don’t have to apply for the program. The free meals are open to any child ages one through 18 regardless of family income.

Photo by Matt Largey for KUT News

Jury selection begins for Fort Hood bomber suspect

Jury selection is set to begin this morning in the trial of a soldier accused of planning to blow up a Killeen restaurant filled with Fort Hood soldiers.

Private First Class Naser Abdo could face up to life in prison if convicted of attempting to use a weapon of mass destruction and other charges.

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