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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Halloween Floods
11:24 am
Tue November 5, 2013

Lack of Bilingual Communication Hampered Relief Efforts After Halloween Floods

Immediately after the waters receded Thursday morning, residents and teachers say there was a lack of communication between emergency responders and residents.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Residents and teachers at Perez Elementary say little information was distributed to residents immediately after flooding in Austin's Onion Creek and Dove Springs neighborhoods last week, leaving some residents confused and unsure where to turn — especially those who don't speak English.

When Pompilio Perez left his home in Dove Springs to go to work at 5 a.m. last Thursday morning. It was raining, but there was no sign of flooding. Thirty minutes later he couldn’t even drive down his own street where his wife, Ana, and his three children were at home. Ana Perez and her kids were rescued from their roof and, by Saturday, they had returned. At that point, she says, they hadn’t received any help.

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UT Austin
8:00 am
Tue November 5, 2013

UT Austin Receives $9 Million Gift For Engineering and Science Program

UT Austin's Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences has received $9.3M from the O'Donnell Foundation for student fellowships and faculty teaching.
flickr.com/bill78704

The University of Texas at Austin's Institute for Computational Engineering and Sciences (ICES) program has received $9.3 million from the O'Donnell Foundation. The foundation has donated more than $135 million to the university over the past 30 years.

The money will go towards student fellowships, faculty teaching and recruiting for the program, which combines the study of math, engineering and science disciplines to tackle real world problems, specifically areas like applied mathematics, software engineering and computer visualization. 

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Halloween Floods
4:49 pm
Mon November 4, 2013

Photos: Cleaning Up After Flooding in Dove Springs, Onion Creek

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

Austin and Travis County leaders have declared states of disaster in the wake of last week’s flooding, with more than 600 homes damaged and 37 destroyed. It's the first step in getting federal disaster aid. Officials and residents are still working to clear away debris, while emergency responders continue to provide shelter, food and help as victims figure out their next steps.

On South Pleasant Valley Road in Dove Springs, volunteers set up underneath tents along the road handing out everything from blankets and diapers to deodorant. Neighborhood association president Edward Reyes, says people remaining in their homes could face complications as a result of flood damage.

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Education
2:18 pm
Mon November 4, 2013

New School Offers Some Relief, But Doesn't Solve Overcrowding Problems in Austin

Lawmakers, school board members and members of Janice Guerrero Thompson's family attend a ribbon cutting for the dedication of the new elementary school named in her honor. The school is one of two that will open to relieve overcrowding in the area.
Oscar Palomo, AISD

The brand new Janis Guerrero Thompson Elementary School is more than 78,000 square feet with 32 classrooms. Inside, the walls are painted bright orange and purple, and the floor is covered with colorful tiles. On Sunday, more than a hundred people came to dedicate the school to the late district employee and tour the new campus, which looks to mitigate overcrowding in Austin schools.

“Everyone’s been so excited. We’ve been working toward dedication and now it’s official, like we’ve been announced as a school," says Principal LaKesha Drinks.

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Education
5:36 pm
Fri November 1, 2013

Why Austin ISD Can't Spend Any of Its 2013 Bond Money

While voters approved two of the four AISD bond propositions in May, a pending lawsuit with the Travis County Taxpayers Association is keeping the district from implementing projects associated with the bond money.
KUT News

In May, Austin voters approved nearly $600 million dollars in bond propositions for capital improvements in the Austin School District.

The money is allocated for technology upgrades in the classroom and district offices, and systemic repairs to facilities on campuses across the district, among other upgrades.

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Turning the Corner
9:53 am
Thu October 31, 2013

The Mendez Middle School Orchestra Just Got 15 Brand New Instruments

Sixth grader Marlonique Johnson plays one of the 15 new music instruments donated to Mendez Middle School Wednesday. The instruments are a gift from Fidelity Insurance, which donates music instruments to schools across the country.
Kate McGee, KUT News

The student orchestra at Mendez Middle School has 15 new musical instruments, thanks to a large donation from Fidelity Investments’ new Austin location. The company surprised orchestra students during a special assembly Wednesday with $20,000 worth of violins, violas, saxophones and other instruments.

Jeffrey Hall, the school’s orchestra director, applied for the gift last year.  For the past four years, he’s built an orchestra program that now consists of 65 sixth, seventh and eighth graders.

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AISD
11:59 am
Tue October 29, 2013

New Accountability Standards Add Uncertainty to Failing Austin Schools

Pearce Middle School is requires improvement under interim TEA standards. It will become an all-boys school in 2014.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The Austin School Board approved a set of plans Monday night for 11 schools that need improvement under the Texas Education Agency’s new accountability standards.

But as it rolls out year-long plans requiring monthly TEA visits and evaluations, it awaits new changes to the standards for this academic year.

“It’s going to keep us very focused," says Paul Cruz, AISD Chief Schools Officer. "We don’t know what the performance standards are going to be, but that’s also for every school in state of Texas."

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Dyslexia Awareness Month
3:01 pm
Mon October 28, 2013

Debate Over Dysgraphia Services Puts Texas Parents, Schools at Odds

Many parents in Texas public schools face a variety of issues trying to get services for students diagnosed with learning disorders like dyslexia or dysgraphia – often creating debate between parents and school districts about services.
http://bit.ly/Hrpa57

Under Texas law, public schools are required to provide services to students who are diagnosed with dyslexia and related disorders. That includes disorders like dysgraphia—which makes it difficult to write letters and translate ideas into written words.

As  KUT has reported previously, getting services for students with dyslexia in Texas public schools can be an uphill battle for parents and students. But for students with those less common disorders, it can be even harder to detect and diagnose. Many times, parents and school districts are often at odds over what kind of services a student requires. 

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Turning the Corner
8:00 am
Fri October 25, 2013

Video: Dove Springs Students Find Discipline Inside the Boxing Ring

At Mendez Middle School, about a dozen students are learning how to box in a new after school program hosted by the Police Athletic League and the after school program, ACE. Here, Ricardo Ramos spars with Mendez seventh grader Benjamin Munoz.
Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

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University of Texas
5:49 pm
Tue October 22, 2013

Testimony Begins in Hearings on Possible Impeachment of UT Regent

Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, told lawmakers they have enough evidence to impeach embattled UT Regent Wallace Hall
Bob Daemmrich, Texas Tribune

Lawmakers heard preliminary testimony in an inquiry that could lead to UT Regent Wallace Hall's impeachment. 

Rep. Jim Pitts, R-Waxahachie, told the Texas House Committee on Transparency in State Agency Operations today that there's enough evidence to impeach Hall and that the regent had unfairly used his power to target UT Austin and President Bill Powers. 

Education
3:11 pm
Mon October 21, 2013

Here's What It's Like to Go to School in Northern Ghana

Nkrumah interviews school children in Northern Ghana for her story on education in the area. She won an award for her documentary on the issue.
Citi FM

Since early October, KUT has had the pleasure of hosting Lorrencia Nkrumah, a guest journalist from Ghana, where she covers business for Citi FM. She’s visiting as part of the International Center for Journalists program through the U.S. State Department.

During her stay, Nkrumah discovered she won an award through Search for Common Ground’s Radio for Peacebuilding Africa, and produced a 20 minute documentary about access to education in the northern part of Ghana. Listen below to KUT's Kate McGee talk with Nkrumah about her story.

Education
3:00 pm
Fri October 18, 2013

Can Schools Use Social Media to Prevent Teen Suicide?

A sign on a classroom door at Lanier High School, urging other students to seek counseling after a student shot and killed himself there this week.
Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

Social Media sites have increasingly become a platform where teenagers turn to document their daily activities and thoughts—some which can be serious. Friends of the student who committed suicide at Lanier High School this week say he posted a note and a photo of himself with the weapon on Facebook before he committed suicide.

The student's tragic death comes as researchers from Brigham Young University have found young people with suicidal thoughts or behaviors may be using things like Twitter or Facebook to cry for help.

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AISD
3:23 pm
Wed October 16, 2013

25 Counselors on Hand After Lanier High School Suicide (Update)

Classes resumed today at Lanier High School, after a student fatally shot himself there yesterday afternoon. More than 25 counselors were at the school for students and teachers still trying to cope with what happened.

All schools in Texas must have suicide prevention plans to help teachers and faculty identify and address suicidal behavior, says Karen Ranus of the Austin Chapter of the National Alliance on Mental Illness. These signs include changes in behavior, talking about death or a lack of motivation. But, she says, some people are afraid to address these issues openly.

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Education
9:32 am
Tue October 15, 2013

As Social Media Evolves, So Do Austin Schools' Anti-Bullying Tactics

Austin school officials try to prevent cyberbullying – although they admit students may be more familiar with social media than many instructors.
KUT News

During the school day, teachers and administrators are in charge of student behavior on school property. But as the number of students with smart phones and on social media increases, so does the number of interactions between students beyond the schoolyard – which in some cases leads to cyberbullying.

In the Austin School District, teachers and faculty try to combat cyberbullying, while also educating students about their own digital footprint.

“We will see cases that involve students going back and forth: name calling, talking about other students," says Beverly Reeves, the AISD ombudsman who deals with cyber-bullying conflicts. This past legislative session, lawmakers allowed school districts to get involved in conflicts on social media when the result trickles back into the classroom.

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Transportation
11:19 am
Fri October 11, 2013

UT Researchers Tackle Austin Traffic - With Help From Your Smartphone

Transportation researchers at UT have been awarded a federal grant to study transportation issues in Austin, using technology and data to improve traffic issues here and in cities across the country
KUT News

Chances are if you drive to work, you spend time in traffic every day.  Over the past five to ten years, Austin's traffic issues have just continued to worsen. And with real estate experts estimating more than 100 people move to Austin every day, it’s a problem that needs a solution.

A group of researchers at the University of Texas is hoping to change that. They’ve been awarded a $1.4 million dollar grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation to study traffic and transportation in Austin.

The center hopes to collect data that can provide immediate solutions for transportation problems in Austin and other cities across the country. 

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Dyslexia Awareness Month
12:46 pm
Thu October 10, 2013

Getting Texas Public Schools to Identify Dyslexia Proves Tough for Some

Ben Cooper, an Austin student who attends boarding school in New York for his dyslexia. He and his parents had trouble getting him services and classes in the Austin school district.
Courtesy of Robbi Cooper

When a student is diagnosed with dyslexia in Texas, state law requires school districts to provide accommodations and services to help that student.  But getting those services depends entirely on a whether a school district recognizes the student’s learning disability – which affects their ability to read, write or spell. And some parents say sometimes it’s hard to get services they need.

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Marathon Kids
12:54 pm
Tue October 8, 2013

More than 30,000 Austin Students Are Trying to Log a Marathon's Worth of Runs

More than 30,000 Austin elementary students are participating in Marathon Kids, a 5-month mission to run a marathon’s length, piece by piece during recess at school.
Credit Kate McGee, KUT News

Thousands of elementary students in Central Texas have started a five-month mission to run a marathon – although not all at once.

It’s part of the annual program Marathon Kids. Over the weekend, students gathered on the University of Texas campus to log the first of many laps between now and February.

When Marathon Kids started more than 15 years ago, 2,000 Austin students joined. This year, more than 30,000 Austin ISD students are participating, not including students from nearby districts and private schools. Kids keep track of their runs until they add up to an entire marathon.

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Dyslexia Awareness Month
10:44 am
Fri October 4, 2013

What It's Like to be a Dyslexic Student in Austin

Ben Shrader is a high school student in Austin with severe dyslexia. He created a video for National Dyslexia Awareness Month to shed light on the reading disorder.
Ben Shrader via YouTube

High school freshman Ben Shrader was in kindergarten when he realized he learned differently than other kids.

“I’d be pulled out of the class at nap time and at break time and those were the best times of day besides recess," he says jokingly. Instead of napping, Shrader received reading therapy to help his severe dyslexia, which made it extremely difficult to read. “It was also as if the letters were 3-D – as if you were wearing 3-D glasses and you were trying to read," Shrader remembers.

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AISD Fascilities Master Plan
3:18 pm
Tue October 1, 2013

After Funding Failure, What's Next for Austin School Facilities Plan?

AISD's Facility Maps. The district approved Facility Master Plan guiding principles last night, and will now begin crafting the actual plan.
Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The Austin School Board last night approved a set of principles to direct them as they begin to create a Facility Master Plan, a document that will guide the board’s decision making process as it deals with facilities across the city. The principles were approved with an emphasis on community engagement.

“We need to educate all our constituents about a topic that is quite complex. You’re dealing from safety to facility construction, to financial to communications to academics," says School Board President Vincent Torres.

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