Kate McGee

Education Reporter

Kate is the education reporter at KUT, covering the Austin Independent School District, public, and higher education in Texas. She got her public radio start at Fordham University's WFUV, where she got her bachelor's degree in American Studies and History. Her voice has been heard on the East and West coasts as a reporter and producer for WNYC and KUNR in Reno, Nevada. She has also appeared on NPR's Morning Edition, All Things Considered, The Takeaway and more. In her spare time, Kate enjoys discovering new music, traveling and trying local beers. 

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Turning the Corner
10:59 am
Fri May 9, 2014

How Teen Pregnancies at Mendez Middle School Were Cut Down to Zero

Last year 22 middle school students in Austin ISD became pregnant, but none were at Mendez Middle School, despite its location in the Austin neighborhood with the highest teen pregnancy rate. So what happened?
flickr.com/dongkwan

This article is part of KUT's yearlong series Turning the Corner, taking a look at Austin's Dove Springs neighborhood. For decades, the neighborhood has had a negative reputation. Now, many community members are trying to change the perception of the 78744 zip code. Listen to those stories here.

In the 2012-2013 school year, the Austin school district reported 303 student pregnancies districtwide. 22 of those pregnancies were middle school students.

Despite its location in the neighborhood with the highest rate of teen pregnancy in Travis County, none of them were at Mendez Middle School. So what happened? 

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Education
10:04 am
Tue May 6, 2014

Eanes Bond Election Raises Questions About Out-of-District Transfer Students

The Eanes ISD is asking voters to approve $89.5 million dollar bond proposal, but some opponents say the district should end its policy of accepting out of transfer students because they say it costs the district money.
Credit https://www.flickr.com/audiolucistore/

Today is the last day for early voting in the May 10th municipal elections.

Voters in the Eanes Independent School District are deciding on a $89.5 million school bond package. If approved, the bond package would allow Eanes ISD to borrow money for a new elementary school, as well as some technology and classroom upgrades.

The proposal is the result of three years of community meetings about the future of the school district. 

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Bike to UT Day
2:26 pm
Thu May 1, 2014

Austin Police Ticket 47 Campus-Area Cyclists on 'Bike to UT Day'

flickr.com/mirsasha

Bicyclists heading to campus this morning as part of Bike to UT Day received breakfast and the chance to win raffle prizes.

But 47 bicyclists also received something else: a ticket.

This morning, multiple Austin Police officers were seen pulling over bicyclists heading toward campus on Speedway Avenue, just south of the intersection at San Jacinto. The ticketing occurred just blocks north of Speedway Plaza, where a Bike to UT Day party was scheduled to begin at noon.  

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Austin ISD
5:12 pm
Tue April 29, 2014

Austin Teachers Union Wants AISD to Reinstate Salary Bump

Education Austin President Ken Zarifis at a rally in support of three-year contracts for teachers. The union is asking AISD to reinstate a 1.5% bonus for teachers next year that is currently not included in the next budget.
Credit Kate McGee, KUT NEws

The local teacher's union is asking Austin ISD to reinstate a 1.5 percent bonus for all district employees for the 2014-2015 school year. The district and the union are expected to meet on the matter Wednesday.

For the past two years, the district has provided a 3 percent pay increase for employees. This academic year, it approved a one-time, 1.5 percent increase on top of that. But the 1.5 percent salary adjustment is not included in the FY 2015 preliminary budget assumptions.

Now, Education Austin is asking the district to change that.

"Our district looks a little different than it did a month ago," Zarifis says referring to the departure of Superintendent Meria Carstarphen. "We believe this is an opportunity to find out if we're going to do things different."

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Austin ISD
10:33 am
Mon April 28, 2014

A 'Divided' Austin School Board Faces An Uncertain Future

The Austin School Board
KUT News

The Austin School Board has its first board meeting tonight with Interim Superintendent Paul Cruz tonight.

The board faces many decisions in the coming months, and some are worried it’s having trouble making decisions – especially as it begins its search for a new superintendent.

Last general board meeting, school board members Cheryl Bradley and Jayme Mathias clashed over the approval of school uniforms for the new single-gender campuses, with Bradley calling Mathias' proposal to postpone a decision "ridiculous."

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TEKS and Common Core
9:00 am
Thu April 24, 2014

Are Common Core and Texas Teaching Standards Really That Different?

Jon Shapley for KUT News

Elgin Middle School sixth grader Allison Graves sits at a computer in math class, using a program called Think Through Math to practice fractions.

“Your friend gave you a bag of candy," she reads. "There are 36 red candies and 27 green candies. What is the ratio of green candies to red candies?”

The online math program takes Graves through each lesson step by step. She collects points for correct answers and competes against classmates and other Texas students.

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AISD
9:08 am
Tue April 22, 2014

Superintendent Meria Carstarphen Says Goodbye to Austin

Superintendent Meria Carstarphen photographed in 2009. Her final AISD board meeting was Monday evening.
KUT News

Wednesday will be Austin School Superintendent Meria Carstarphen’s last day with the district before she leaves for the same position in Atlanta.

Carstarphen attended her final school board meeting in Austin Monday night, where she was recognized for her contributions to the district over the past five years.

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West Plant Explosion
5:09 pm
Thu April 17, 2014

Year Since West Fertilizer Plant Explosion is One 'Full of Questioning'

Loretta Volcik and her sister, Jeanette Holecek(L) sit at Volcik's home in West, Texas. Holocek and her husband, James, have lived with her sister since she lost her house in the explosion.
Filipa Rodrigues, KUT News

It’s been one year since a fertilizer plant exploded in the town of West, Texas – just north of Waco.
15 people were killed and more than 150 were injured. Dozens of buildings were also destroyed in the blast.

A year later there are many signs of recovery and rebuilding in the small town.
But, for some, the rebuilding process has been difficult.

West resident Loretta Volcik says overall, the past year has been filled with one thing: Questioning.

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AISD
8:08 pm
Tue April 15, 2014

Austin School Board Names Paul Cruz Temporary Superintendent

Paul Cruz will run the largest school district in Central Texas while the school board searches for a long-term replacement for Meria Carstarphen.
AISD http://powerofusinaustinisd.blogspot.com/2010_08_26_archive.html

Austin school trustees unanimously appointed Paul Cruz as interim superintendent Tuesday night. They also accepted Superintendent Meria Carstarphen's resignation, as she heads to Atlanta to lead that city's public school system.

Carstarphen will remain superintendent until April 23, when her resignation goes into effect. The school district can have a superintendent and an interim superintendent at the same time, as Carstarphen helps Cruz assume his temporary position.

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UT Austin
5:35 am
Tue April 15, 2014

UT Engineering School Receives $5M from ExxonMobil CEO

The UT Engineering School is receiving $5 million from the CEO of ExxonMobil, Rex W Tillerson, and his wife, Renda.
Photo by KUT News

Chairman and CEO of ExxonMobil, Rex W. Tillerson and his wife, Renda, are donating $5 million to the Cockrell School of Engineering. The money is slated to go toward the Engineering Education and Research Center which is expected to open in 2017.

It's a 430,000 square-foot facility that will allow UT Austin to expand its teaching, research and student project space.

Tillerson graduated from UT Austin in 1975 with a bachelor's degree in civil engineering and serves on the school's Engineering Advisory Board and UT Development Board.  His sons, Robert and Michael, are also graduates.

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AISD
8:03 pm
Mon April 14, 2014

Paul Cruz to Lead Austin Schools As Interim Superintendent

AISD's chief schools officer Paul Cruz is expected to be named interim superintendent Tuesday.
Image courtesy AISD: http://powerofusinaustinisd.blogspot.com/2010_08_26_archive.html

Update: KUT has learned from multiple sources that AISD Chief School Paul Cruz is expected to be named interim superintendent at Tuesday's school board meeting.

This comes one day after Superintendent Meria Carstarphen was unanimously approved to lead Atlanta Public Schools district Monday.

Cruz receives high marks from Drew Scheberle, the vice president of education for the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce.

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Turning the Corner
8:50 am
Fri April 11, 2014

'I Gotta Keep Going:' Boxing Has Dove Springs Students Pushing Ahead

Benjamin Munoz practices on a speed bag at Mendez Middle School in Dove Springs.

For the past seven months KUT has focused on the Dove Springs neighborhood in southeast Austin. We’ve been looking at issues facing this largely poor, immigrant community: access to healthcare, educational issues, affordable housing – and how organizations and individuals are trying to bring change.

In October, we went to a boxing ring at Mendez Middle School. An after-school program there is teaching the kids boxing as a way to provide some structure after classes let out.

We went back to the ring recently – and found quite a few things had changed. 

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Fort Hood
8:34 pm
Wed April 9, 2014

Obama Eulogizes Soldiers Killed at Fort Hood

Soldiers line Fort Hood's Sadowski Field before this afternoon's memorial.
Kate McGee, KUT News

Update: For the second time in five years, President Obama arrived at Fort Hood to mourn alongside those grieving the loss of their family members in a shooting on post. Three men were killed and sixteen were injured in the shooting on April 2.  

Fort Hood families know death is a part of war: 576 soldiers Fort Hood have died serving in the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

“As an army we accept this a dangerous profession, and all who wear this wonderful uniform and pledge to defend our nation and its way of life, understand they may be called to make that ultimate sacrifice," says John M McCue, Secretary of the Army. “But inside these gates, behind these walls, we expect a much different order of things.”

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AISD After Carstarphen
10:11 am
Tue April 8, 2014

Austin School Board Mulls Two New Superintendents: One Interim, One Permanent

The Austin school board discussed the search for an interim and permanent replacement for departing superintendent Meria Carstarphen last night.
KUT News

Austin ISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen is expected to leave to head Atlanta's public schools in the coming weeks or months. The Austin School Board is just beginning the search for a new superintendent – and one to serve in the interim. 

On Monday night, they talked about the process to appoint an interim superintendent, as well as hiring an outside company to help find a replacement for Carstarphen.

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Fort Hood
8:34 am
Fri April 4, 2014

What It's Like in Killeen After the Latest Fort Hood Shooting

Crosses and flags representing victims of Wednesday's Fort Hood shooting are displayed at Central Christian Church in Killeen.
Ashley Landis/EPA/Landov

At Fort Hood in Killeen, people are accustomed to the idea of death. At any given point, around ten percent of soldiers from the post are deployed overseas.

This week, soldiers, families and residents were reminded of how close to home tragedy can strike – when Ivan Lopez opened fire killing three others and wounding 16 before turning the gun on himself.

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AISD
12:56 pm
Tue April 1, 2014

Austin School Board Begins Long Task to Find New Superintendent

As Supt. Meria Carstarphen prepares to leave for the same position in Atlanta, the Austin School Board is tasked with finding an interim-superintendent as well as her successor.
Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

Austin ISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen and the AISD School Board met Monday for the first time since Carstarphen was named the sole finalist as superintendent for Atlanta's public schools.

They met late into the evening in executive session to discuss what happens next.

No decisions were made in the meeting, but board president Vincent Torres told reporters the executive session would serve as a primer for the presumed superintendent search.

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Education
11:34 am
Mon March 31, 2014

The Carstarphen Tenure: Austin Schools Superintendent Looks Back

AISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen at a board meeting in 2011. Carstarphen has been in charge of the district since 2009.
KUT News

Editor's note: Austin ISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen is leaving to become Atlanta's school superintendent. Read more about Carstarphen's departure and what that means for AISD.

In December 2013, on the eve of what would be Carstarphen's final State of the District address, KUT looked back at her time leading AISD.

Original story (Dec. 3, 2013): Austin ISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen’s releases her 2013 State of the District today – a movie where the superintendent highlights the district’s achievements and challenges over the past year.

It’s Carstarphen’s fifth State of the District since she became superintendent in 2009.

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Education
5:56 am
Mon March 31, 2014

Can You Opt Your Child Out of Texas Standardized Tests?

STAAR testing begins Monday, but some parents in Texas are choosing to keep their kids home as part of the growing Opt Out movement.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Standardized testing in Texas begins today and some parents across the state are choosing to opt their children out of the testing process.

Last week, a Waco family made news when they publicly told their school district they did not want their fourth grader taking the state tests because they were morally opposed to testing. 

Under state law, that's illegal. 

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Austin ISD
9:12 pm
Thu March 27, 2014

Austin School Superintendent Carstarphen Leaving for Atlanta

AISD Supt. Carstarphen is leaving Austin ISD for Atlanta Public Schools.
Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Austin ISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen has been named as the sole finalist for the superintendent job in Atlanta, Georgia.

She was chosen from a list of four candidates for the position.

Carstarphen came to Austin ISD in 2009. The district has faced significant challenges during her tenure, including $60 million in funding cuts after the 2011 Legislative session.

In a statement today, Carstarphen said Austin had risen to meet those challenges.

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Education
6:48 pm
Wed March 26, 2014

Texas Representatives Hear Update On HB 5 Implementation

State lawmakers gathered at the capitol Wednesday to discuss the implementation of HB 5, which changes graduation requirements for high school students. The law is expected to be fully in place by the next academic year.
Photo by Liang Shi for KUT News

Lawmakers were at the Texas Capitol Wednesday talking about the implementation of House Bill 5, the bill that changes graduation requirements and reduces the number of end of course exams for high school students    The meeting gave lawmakers an opportunity to express concerns with the new standards, while teachers, superintendents and education officials gave a status update on implementation.

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