Lynn Romero


Update: The Eanes School Board last night approved an agreement with a private contractor to build a 60-70,000 square foot facility next to Westlake High School. 

The proposed complex includes five to six basketball courts, nearly a dozen volleyball courts and an indoor turf field. There are also plans to build an aquatic facility and it will used for other sports and activities, like band, karate, yoga or gymnastics. There will also be space for video conferencing and camps. The company, Westlake Athletic Center (WAC), will build the complex and pay for constructions. Ten years after it's built, WAC will also pay Eanes ISD $60,000 per year as  rent the school, with escalation costs of 2.5 percent.

Nathan Bernier/KUT

Members of the Texas House Committee on Public Education are wrestling with how to evaluate teacher performance in modern classrooms. And while educators and administrators agree the current system needs overhauling, there's little agreement on what will replace it.

In advance of today's hearing, Texas Education Agency Commissioner Michael Williams said in a letter that current teacher evaluation criteria – the Professional Development and Appraisal System (PDAS) – has "outlived its usefulness."

Patty Hill, a math teacher at Austin's Kealing Middle School, agrees. She told lawmakers today she’s afraid that by adopting a “flipped classroom” model – posting lectures online for students to view at home, and working collaboratively on 'homework' in the classroom – she is opening herself up for negative evaluations.

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. 

Vanessa Pulido

KUT News intern Lynn Romero is a graduate student at UT-Austin. She had a daughter at age 18, and was surprised by the invisibility of students like her on campus when she started school at UT several years later. She wondered how many other student parents there were – so she tried to find out.

Texas has one of the highest teen pregnancy rates in the United States. And those teens who have children before they finish high school are less likely to graduate high school, let alone make it to college. But what happens to those who do?

According to the Institute for Women's Policy Research, nationally about 13 percent of all undergraduates at four year universities have kids. UT-Austin junior Vanessa Pulido is one of those students. Halfway through freshman year, she gave birth to her son, Isaiah. When she started school pregnant, she worried how people would react.

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon/KUT News

Protesters gathered on the UT campus to protest President Obama’s immigration policies during his speech today at the Civil Rights Summit. Some chained themselves to the statue of Martin Luther King, Jr. on campus and many brandished signs deriding the president for strict deportation strategies in light of the event which highlights equal rights. 

“We want them to recognize that the fight for civil rights is not over,” said student organizer Maria Reza. “Enough talk – we need action.”

Eanes ISD

Eanes ISD has named Dr. Tom Leonard as the lone finalist to take the place of retiring superintendent Dr. Nola Wellman.  

Eanes ISD Board President Rob Hargett calls Dr. Leonard “a successful, student-centered, seasoned superintendent in a high-performing district, roughly the size and structure of Eanes ISD.”

Dr. Leonard served as superintendent of the Barrington 220 district in Illinois for the past seven years and has more than 20 years of experience working in education.

Lynn Romero for KUT News

Los Angeles band Las Cafeteras came to UT-Austin yesterday to spread an anti-racism message of understanding.

After leading a group of students in a workshop called “Racism, Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That,” the band played to a crowd of around 100 students, staff and community members.

The group of young musicians pairs socially conscious lyrics with a melodic fusion of hip hop and Son Jarocho, a type of folk music born from a blend of cultures in Veracruz, Mexico. Band members played traditional instruments like the jarana jarocha, a small-guitar like instrument; the quijada, a donkey jaw-bone; and the marimbol, a plucked key box bass. 

Lynn Romero for KUT News

In Eanes ISD, two former board presidents oppose the district’s proposed $89.5 million bond initiative. Al Cowan and Clint Sayers say that the proposal is not specific enough, and it asks taxpayers to fund unnecessary projects. 

The past board presidents have formed the group Citizens for Academic Excellence in Eanes (CAEE). They say their biggest concern is the $35.5 million-plus that would be used to build a replacement elementary school. 

"When the dust settles, EISD will still have the same number of six elementary schools that we have today, but we will have spent millions to get to the same place," Cowan says.

Lynn Romero for KUT News

Yesterday, Republican candidate for Texas Governor Greg Abbott released a proposal to improve early childhood education in Texas.

During a press conference, Abbott said expanding state-funded pre-kindergarten programs without addressing the quality of instruction “would be an act of negligence and waste.”

Today, educators from groups endorsing Democratic gubernatorial candidate Wendy Davis gathered in front of north Austin's Lucy Read Pre-kindergarten School to say that expanding pre-k is "not a waste."

A ruling will be issued today on the school finance trial.

What should you know about Central Texas schools this election season?  

In a word: Bonds.

Bond packages can be convoluted, making them easily misunderstood or overlooked. But bond elections have become an important source of income for area school districts as funds elsewhere shrink.

Lynn Romero for KUT News

The future is a little clearer for Central Texas students who need glasses.

Today, the Kids Vision for Life mobile vision clinic was unveiled at Perez Elementary School, an Austin ISD school that serves the Dove Springs neighborhood hit by devastating floods last October.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

The Texas Civil Rights Project says law enforcement officers may be violating the U.S. Constitution when they execute warrants without knocking. The organization released a report Tuesday that says 70% of surveyed jurisdictions do not have written “no-knock” policies and that many other counties and cities may have inadequate policies or do not effectively implement those they have. Jim Harrington, TCRP director, says that is putting citizens and officers at risk.

“It’s dangerous both ways. We have to get away from this idea, well, we just don’t [knock]. You know any time we say it’s a narcotics warrant, we just don’t do it,” Harrington says.

Afsheen Nomai

The Alamo Drafthouse announced today its delayed South Lamar location will open sometime this summer. The theater was closed in January of last year for major renovations, while the strip mall around it was demolished to make way for a new mixed-use development. 

The theater was initially slated to open in September of last year, but by October only the parking garage foundation had been completed. And even this new opening date isn't very specific.

The Austin Independent School District has a new athletic director. Leal Anderson will oversee AISD sports programs that involve more than 14,000 students. Anderson says part of his mission is improving the academic success of students through the character development that happens in athletics.

"I think graduation will increase," Anderson said at a media availability Tuesday." I think the numbers of enrollment will also increase. We'll also have less students dropping out. Those are things that I think are really important, that will help. And that's what I look forward to doing."

KUT News

The Dell Medical School has a dean.

Ending a months-long search, UT President Bill Powers announced this morning that Dr. S. Claiborne “Clay” Johnston has been named inaugural dean of the Dell Medical School at the University of Texas at Austin. 

Dr. Johnston, a neurologist who currently serves as the Associate Vice Chancellor of Research at the University of California, San Francisco, says that he is excited to have the rare opportunity to build a medical school from the ground-up.