Austin ISD

Texas Tribune

The next legislative session is still more than six months away, but the Austin Independent School District has already chosen its focus issues for the next session. The first one isn’t surprising: school funding. The other is mental health. Austin ISD provides nearly 2,000 students with on-site counseling every year. 


Mengwen Cao for KUT

For some Austin residents in the Windsor Park neighborhood, the problems began two years ago. That's when charter school Austin Achieve built a new school right next to the neighborhood — 16 feet away from some homes, to be exact. 


Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

These stories were produced in partnership with PRI's Global Nation project.

For many first-generation college students, high school graduation is seen as a major milestone for them and their families.

Many of those students in Austin say they wouldn’t have graduated or been accepted to college without the help of Breakthrough Austin. It’s a non-profit that helps first generation college students get their degree.

Many immigrant parents who did not graduate high school or college struggle to navigate the education system in the United States. 

Breakthrough meets these students in middle school, pairs the students with a counselor and help them get into good high schools in Austin and succeed academically.

They also help them understand the college application and the financial aid processes.

This week, some of those graduating students and their families share their stories. 

Mengwen Cao / KUT

School’s out, but the Austin School Board is already thinking about classes next fall. The board wants to talk about adding an ethnic studies course in the district, and some school board members want to make the class a graduation requirement.


Miguel Gutierrez Jr. / KUT

For nearly five million students in the U.S., English isn’t their first language. In Austin ISD, some of those students are sent to a special school for international students, a school where dozens of languages are spoken. There, the idea is to help the students learn English before sending them back to their neighborhood high school. But something else happens as well.


Photo by KUT News

Most of the Austin School Board members want a larger salary increase for teachers than the district recommended. At a meeting Monday night they urged district officials to consider large pay bumps before bringing the budget back to the board for a vote, but that could mean deficits in future budgets.


Kate McGee/KUT

Robert E. Lee Elementary School in Hyde Park will get a new name later this spring.

Last night, the Austin School Board voted to start the re-naming process. It’s been a long conversation that has divided members of the community, but the school board ultimately opted to change the name of the school on a vote of 8-0, with one board member abstaining.


Charlotte Carpenter for KUT News

UPDATE 10:00 pm: The Austin ISD Board of Trustees voted 8-0 to rename Robert E. Lee Elementary. Trustee Ann Teich abstained from voting.

The district will begin accepting nominations for new names on Tuesday and will present options to the board in May.

ORIGINAL STORY: The Austin School Board could vote tonight to change the name of Robert E. Lee Elementary School. It’s one of four Austin schools named after a Confederate leader. But, it’s the only school community that has mobilized to change the name, and one school board trustee is frustrated with how Austin ISD and the school board are handling the issue.


Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT News

It was probably a staple of your high school experience.

That little oasis where you could go in between classes to collect your books, to freshen up your make up or, maybe, to check to see if your baby mustache is still growing in properly. 

But, it’s an experience that most kids now don’t get the chance to have.  We're talking, of course, about the school locker. 

    

Charlotte Carpenter for KUT News

By the end of this month, the Austin School Board could approve a resolution to change the name of Robert E. Lee Elementary School, and the board will review the resolution Monday night before a final vote next week.


Miguel Gutierrez Jr. for KUT News

Seventh grade was a pivotal year for Violet Jimenez. It’s when she started her first job, working as a clown.

“I did birthday parties for little kids and weddings," Violet says. "One of the jokes we always had is, 'We do birthday parties, we do weddings, we do quinceañeras, we do divorces, we do funerals.'”


Miguel Guitierrez Jr./KUT

Austin ISD and local charter school students got a chance to pitch innovative learning projects to a group of judges and experts this week as part of SXSWedu. Winners were awarded money to jumpstart their projects that focus on everything from gaming to equitable water access.


Miguel Guitierrez Jr. for KUT News

Austin public school parents and Northeast Austin residents gathered Thursday night to talk through possibilities for a planned school in the Mueller development. Some support the idea to build a middle school on the land. 


Miguel Gutierrez Jr. for KUT News

More Austin public high school students could start earning their associate degrees next year. Austin ISD is asking the state for permission to open Early College High School programs at two additional schools this fall.


Miguel Gutierrez Jr./KUT News

Louis Ortiz sits at a table in the Eastside Memorial High School cafeteria in a crisp white shirt. Ortiz isn't a student, though. He's the district's new executive chef, and he's trying to spice up the district's lunch menu by adding new ethnic foods and more local fruits and vegetables from Johnson's Backyard Garden. 


Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT

There are ten acres of land set aside for a school in Northeast Austin’s Mueller neighborhood. But what if the Austin public school district did more than just build a school? That's what residents were asked to consider at a community meeting at Bertha Sadler Means Young Women’s Leadership Academy this weekend. 


Miguel Gutierrez Jr. for KUT News

I’m sitting in a black, leather salon chair talking to Jennifer, my hair stylist for the day. We’re discussing how I want to cut my hair. The beauty of radio journalism is that my hair can remain in a top bun every day--like it does--and I don't have to think about it. It also means I have few answers to Jennifer's questions.

"So I kind of would like...I have some dead ends," I say, my voice trailing off. "It’s been a while since I got my hair cut. Maybe a couple inches?"


Nathan Bernier, KUT News

If you’re a teacher in an Austin public school, it’s hard to get a pay raise. Teachers who start out in Austin make around $45,000 a year. If they stay in the district for 20 years, on average, their annual salary increases by just $5,000 in that time, but some in the Austin Independent School District are trying to change that.


Nathan Bernier/KUT News

Since former Austin school board President Gina Hinojosa vacated her seat to run for the Texas House, the district has a new President and Vice President. And with that new leadership, there could be a renewed focus on the disparities between some AISD schools.


Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

Some public schools in South Austin are teaching students how to become business leaders. They’ve implemented an entrepreneurship program for kindergartners through high school seniors that’s the first of its kind in the U.S. The Austin Independent School District unveiled the program at Crockett High School yesterday. 

Courtesy of AISD

In the Travis High School locker room, there is a basket of apples for students to grab a snack after practice. That basket is usually empty by 5:30 p.m., according to students, when the varsity and junior varsity football teams finish practice and head to the cafeteria for study hall. 

"I'm always hungry after practice," says Darrell Davis, a sophomore. "I'm always hungry, period."

Kate McGee/KUT News

The Austin Independent School District is targeting a new ally in the battle to boost student enrollment at some South Austin schools: real estate agents. The district opened the doors of three neighborhood schools to give real estate agents a better look at what's going on in the classrooms. 


KUT News

Today is National Voter Registration Day. And when it comes to getting people to sign up to vote, the focus is often on young people.


flickr.com/valeriamelissia

Four public schools in North Austin have received a five-year, $2.5 million grant from the federal government to implement a full community school model on their campuses. Austin ISD is expected to announce the grant later this morning. 

The four schools are Lanier High School, Burnet Middle School, Cook Elementary and Wooldridge Elementary. 


Andrew Weber/KUT News

Most students in the Austin Independent School District returning to school today are minorities, but many of those students won’t see a minority teacher in front of the classroom. State data show there's a large diversity gap between teachers and students in all Austin high schools and middle schools.

Every single Austin middle and high school has more white teachers than teachers of any other ethnicity. Individually, schools have teaching staffs that are anywhere from 46 to 87 percent white. Last year, 25 percent of the district's middle and high school students were white. 

Kate McGee

A group of elementary school students sit on the floor of a classroom at Sunset Valley Elementary. They’re connecting plastic pieces to build orange ramps and pushing tiny race cars down them. The goal is to see if the car can make it all the way around the loop. 

"One, two, three," says one student before letting go of the race car. It doesn't make it.

"Oh! So close!" they yell. 

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

Victoria Hernandez and her son Jayden wake up at 5 a.m. each day for Jayden’s pre-kindergarten class at Travis Heights Elementary School. They get ready at their apartment complex on Stassney Lane, four miles away from Travis Heights. Then, they walk to the bus stop to wait for the number one bus.

By the time they embark, it’s about 6:30 in the morning — the sun has just started to rise.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

Fourteen-year-old Karyme* has missed 14 days of eighth grade this school year. Her school, part of the Manor Independent School District, has taken her and her mother to court.

Now she and her mother stand in an Austin courtroom facing the presiding judge, Hon. Yvonne Williams.

Sarah Jasmine Montgomery/KUT

KUT and our city hall reporting partner the Austin Monitor are looking at needs that have typically been paid for by the state, but have become local responsibilities. Some call them unfunded mandates. KUT News and the Austin Monitor will look at key examples of that interaction in our series, “The Buck Starts Here.”  Today, Tyler Whitson and Kate McGee take on education.

Jennifer Mullins is sitting in her office at Eastside Memorial High School when a staff member comes in and asks for a stress ball. There’s a student outside that needs help. Mullins walks out the door and immediately takes control. 

"Hey bud, hey! Stress ball! Just breathe," Mullins says.  The student was having a negative reaction to a medication.

Mullins is one of two school counselors at Eastside Memorial High School who handles both emotional and academic support. Every student there is labeled at-risk. Mullins says she spends half her time dealing with students' needs outside the classroom.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT News

Enrollment at Travis Heights Elementary School has dropped by seventy students this year — about 13 percent of the student population. 

It's a uniquely diverse school in an increasingly economically segregated Austin Independent School District. 

The median home price in the neighborhood is $689,000, according to the Austin Board of Realtors. But last year, 76 percent of the students who attended Travis Heights were considered economically disadvantaged. 

As the school celebrates its 75th anniversary Saturday, parents, staff and alumni must also consider its future. As affordable housing complexes scattered around the neighborhood become more expensive, more low-income families are leaving Travis Heights for cheaper housing.

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