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. 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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Photo by KUT News

Update (10:37): With 100 percent of the Austin ISD precincts reporting, Kendall Pace is officially the winner in the AISD School Board At-large District Nine race. Ted Gordon won in District One with 56 percent of the vote and Paul Saldana won in District Six with 53 percent of the vote.

Update(10:05 p.m.): With 92 percent of the Austin ISD precincts reporting, Kendall Pace continues to have a healthy lead over Hillary Procknow in the at-large District Nine race for Austin School Board. 

In District One, Ted Gordon continues to inch ahead of David Thompson. As of the last report, Gordon has 55 percent compared to Thompson's 44 percent. But voter turnout was very low in that district, with fewer than 6,000 people voting. 

In District Six, the race is even closer between Paul Saldana and Kate Mason-Murphy. However, Saldana continues to inch ahead of Mason-Murphy with 53 percent of the vote. That race saw low voter turnout, too. 

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

Update: The Austin School Board has unanimously named interim Superintendent Paul Cruz as the sole finalist for the position, the last step before offering him a formal contract. The vote was more of a formality—Cruz was the only candidate after two others dropped out.

"I want to say loud and clear, it's not just that Dr. Cruz is the last man standing, but I believe he is absolutely the best person for the job," says School Board Vice President Gina Hinojosa.

Board members publicly said Cruz was the most qualified person for the job. Plus, the community voiced its support for Cruz, too. Everyone from the teacher’s union and minority groups to city lawmakers and the Chamber of Commerce said they supported the decision to consider Cruz for the job.

This story is part of an occasional series from KUT called Gender Divide, which will tell stories about the communities in Austin ISD's new single-sex middle schools, while also exploring the debate over single-sex education.

When you walk into the Gus Garcia Young Men's Leadership Academy in East Austin on any given morning, the first thing you hear is the echo of young men's voices bouncing off the walls of the building's large atrium. The atrium is like the heart of the building, connecting arteries of hallways and classrooms in the seven year old campus. 

Walking those hallways, it's hard to avoid shaking hands. Young men will approach you, wearing the Gus Garcia Uniform. They introduce themselves and declare they are, "a Gus Garcia man." It's an approach and attitude Principal Sterlin McGruder has instilled in the more than 400 students since it opened its doors as a single-sex school in August. 

Kate McGee/KUT

Yolanda Sifuentes is a seventh grader at Bertha Sadler Means Young Women’s Leadership Academy. At 12, she already has big dreams for her future. She says she wants to be a psychologist because she likes to help people with their problems; or she wants to be a cosmetologist because she's really into beauty; or she wants to be an engineer because she likes to build stuff. She's still choosing, she admits.

Sifuentes has always liked engineering. Last year, she was part of Garcia Middle School’s Tech Girls after-school robotics club. Now, she’s sitting in her school library writing code. 

"Like, if I'm an engineer, of course I'm going to need to learn to code and stuff," Sifuentes says clicking away at her computer.

Sadler Means is one of the AISD schools participating in a global campaign called Hour of Code, which exposes students to the basics of coding. It’s hosted by the non-profit, Code.org. Last year, 15 million students worldwide participated in Hour of Code in five days.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

Update: The Austin School Board may not officially have decided who will be hired to be the permanent superintendent, but if you attended a news conference at City Hall Tuesday afternoon, you could be forgiven for thinking some community leaders have decided otherwise.

More than a dozen education, religious, labor and community groups applauded the board’s decision to consider Interim Superintendent Paul Cruz for the position, even though the board previously said Cruz would not apply for the job when they appointed him in April. 

WelcomingSchools.org

Kristina Kramer has taught at Blazier Elementary in Southeast Austin for ten years. But it wasn’t until she started a new program called Welcoming Schools that she realized:

“I did little things that were excluding students in my classroom," Kramer says. 

When Kramer says when she sent letters home with students, she says she'd address the letters as “'Dear Parents' instead of, 'Dear Parents and Guardians.' Or not thinking about other people who could be caregivers in a child’s home."

She brought the issue up at a school-wide meeting, too, when they wanted to send home a note to all students’ families.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

A recent swell of community support for Austin School District interim superintendent Paul Cruz has pushed the Austin school board to consider him for the permanent position, even though the board and Cruz initially agreed he wouldn’t apply for the job.

The school board appointed Cruz interim superintendent in April, and Board President Vincent Torres made it clear Cruz would not be considered for the job.

"In a conversation I had with Dr. Cruz, in seeing if he would be interested in accepting the position, he did indicate he wouldn't seek an application for the permanent superintendent," Torres told the board.

The goal was to appoint someone with experience within the district who could steady the ship while it searches for a new captain. But many in the AISD community say throughout the spring and summer, Cruz proved himself to be a breath of fresh air after the board's rocky relationship with former superintendent Meria Carstarphen.

Filipa Rodrigues/KUT

Update 2:40pm: The APD has officially released the name of this morning's shooter: Larry Steve McQuilliams (DOB: 12-13-1964)

Update 2:00pm: Chief Acevedo says the residence of this morning's shooter has been cleared and is safe to enter. The APD and FBI had been slowly examining the apartment in the Barton Hills neighborhood to make sure there were no explosives or traps left to harm law officers. 

Update 10:00 am: Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo says there were no explosives found on the body of the suspect in this morning's shooting in downtown Austin, nor were there any explosives found in the suspect's vehicle. 

At 2:22 a.m., APD started to receive reports of gunfire in multiple locations downtown, including the Mexican Consulate, the federal courthouse, and APD headquarters. Acevedo says the shooting occurred within the span of ten minutes. APD initially believed the suspect also fired shots at the BB&T bank, but later said the suspect did not target the bank. Officers believe more than 100 rounds were fired overall.

According to Acevedo, the officer involved in the shooting was putting away horses from an overnight mounted patrol when he saw the suspect shooting in front of APD headquarters. A source confirms the officer involved is Sgt. Adam Johnson, a 15 year APD veteran. 

"As he held two horses with one hand, he discharged at least one round with a single handed shot," Acevedo says. "That'd be one heck of a shot." Police are still investigating whether the suspect was killed by the officer's bullet or a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

Johnson is now on paid administrative leave, which is standard procedure after an officer fires a weapon at another person.

Ryan Stanton, Flickr

The Texas State Board of Education usually makes headlines when it adopts new textbooks because of ideological debates about the content. The time is no exception. This week, the board heard testimony from people on the left and right who are concerned about information in proposed social studies textbooks. 

But just how are textbooks chosen in Texas, and who is involved? 

Mengwen Cao/KUT News

Public schools in Austin get federal and state money based on students’ attendance and socioeconomic makeup. 

How schools supplement that funding often depends on the private resources available from foundations, non-profits or parents.

While many schools in Austin have robust Parent Teacher Association operations, others, mostly with high percentages of low-income students (so-called Title I schools), struggle to fundraise within their parent base because of a lack of extra resources and time to write grants or work with businesses to bring in money.

Many times, those schools must look to private foundations and non-profits to provide extra programs for students and families. 
 

flickr.com/photos/zub

Nearly two months after the global design and planning company, Populous, released a report saying South by Southwest and the city of Austin could do more to improve public safety and manage growing crowds at the festival, organizers are trying to test out some of the report’s recommendations.

Last Friday, on Halloween, South by Southwest organizers worked with private businesses on Sixth Street to set up three cameras on the street between Brazos and Red River streets. According to the festival organizers, the goal was to monitor crowd activity because Halloween and the first night of Formula 1 would attract crowds similar to those at SXSW.

According to a lawyer with the festival, SXSW believes the city could do more to deal with issues of overcrowding on Sixth street. 

SXSW would not say where exactly the cameras were located.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News.

Three of the five races are headed to a run-off on Dec. 16.

Here are the final numbers:

District One: 

  • Ted Gordon 34.56%  (Run-Off)
  • David 'D' Thompson 28.45% (Run-Off)
  • P. Kevin Bryant 18.73%
  • Stanton Strickland 18.25%

District Four: 

  • Julie Cowan 77.41% (Winner)
  • Karen Zern Flanagan 22.59%
Photo by Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

For the second time in more than forty years, Austin Community College is asking voters to approve a bond package that it says will allow the college to expand its offerings to students in Central Texas.

The $386 million bond proposition would allow ACC to renovate current buildings, build new campuses and expand programming.

Proposition 1: $224 million to retrofit the new campus at Highland Mall, build a campus in Leander (where student enrollment is at capacity) and buy land in southeast Travis County for future campuses.

KUT News

Five of the nine Austin School Board seats are up for grabs this Election Day. Current trustees in four of those five races decided not to run, which means there will be a lot of new faces on the school board.

The turnover comes as the school district is looking for a new superintendent. The new school board will have some major decisions to make in the next few years regarding the district’s budget, overcrowded and under-enrolled schools and declining enrollment district-wide.

Plus, for people who live within the district, most of an individual’s property tax bill goes toward AISD, not the city of Austin, Austin Community College or Travis County. So even if you don’ t have children in the district, or at all, the Austin School Board can still affect your wallet if it decides to raise property taxes.

Here’s a break down of who is running in each race:

Photo by KUT News

When it comes to fundraising, Austin school board candidates run the gamut. Some have chosen not to fundraise at all, while others have received more than $80,000 in donations.

But who are the organizations giving money to candidates in this year’s AISD school board elections?

Before the 2012 school board elections, the local teacher’s union, Education Austin, was the only major donor in Austin school board elections. But that year, a new group entered the fray – a political action committee called Austin Kids First.

Photo by KUT News

Isabel Rios is standing outside the Fiesta Supermarket on Stassney Lane, approaching shoppers as they walk toward the store. It's the only early voting location near Dove Springs.

"Hola!" she says, walking toward a couple shoppers. "Hello. Votan? Votan, señoras?” 

Rios is stumping for District 2 city council candidate Edward Reyes at Fiesta, the closest early voting location to the Dove Springs neighborhood. She and Reyes say their job has turned from campaigning to encouraging people to vote at all. 

“Just talking and encouraging people to vote," Rios says. "Trying to engage people as we can.”

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

Early voting continues this week in races ranging from governor to Texas Supreme Court Justice to Austin City Council to school board, a race that some say has been drowned out by some of the big ticket items on the crowded Election Day ballot.

A small patch of grass near a bus stop on Oltorf Street, near Lamar Boulevard, is surrounded by campaign signs –Adler for Mayor, Chris Riley for Council District 9, Dan Buda for District 5, Fred McGhee for District 3 – but one would be hard-pressed to find a school board candidate’s sign.

Photo by KUT News

Early voting is underway and while state and city races make up most of the very long ballot, many people will see at least one Austin ISD School Board race at the bottom. There are five school board races this November. KUT's Nathan Bernier sat down with KUT's education reporter Kate McGee to talk about the candidates in each race. 

District One and At-Large District Nine:

Spencer Selvidge/KUT

Austin Community College wants to offer graduates with an associate’s degree in nursing a chance to earn a bachelor of science in nursing.
The proposal comes as more healthcare providers increasingly require nurses to have more advanced degrees and the state deals with a nursing shortage.

The program would let students with an associate’s degree take 10 extra courses to receive a bachelor’s in nursing. Studies show facilities that have more nurses with baccalaureate degrees often have better patient outcomes, and the Institute of Medicine is recommending 80 percent of bedside staff at hospitals have a bachelor’s in nursing by the year 2020.

Ilana Panich-Linsman/KUT

The Austin Independent School District is taking steps to pick its next superintendent. Interim Superintendent Dr. Paul Cruz took over the job in April, when former Superintendent Meria Carstarphen left to lead the district in Atlanta.

The deadline for candidates to apply was yesterday, and the district looks to begin a vetting process that will culminate in a confirmation of the next superintendent before the legislature meets in January.

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