AISD

Nathan Bernier/KUT

East Austin resident Archette Alexander remembers when she took her son out of the neighborhood public elementary school and put him in a charter school. She says teachers had lost their passion due to all of the testing.

Now, Alexander’s youngest daughter is three, and she’s interested in putting her back in the school district – at AISD's early childhood center.

“The passion the other teachers have gives me hope as a parent that kids can thrive here,” Alexander says. 

Kate McGee, KUT News

This is the final story in a three part series about student suspensions in the Austin Independent School District. Read Part One and Part Two.

In AISD, black students make up about eight percent of the student population. But last year they accounted for nearly a quarter of the students suspended from school. The so-called discipline gap is an issue in public schools across the nation, and it's something AISD has tried to combat since former Superintendent Meria Carstarphen came to AISD in 2009.  

Addressing Racial Disparities from the Top Down

AISD Interim Chief Schools Officer Edmund Oropez admits a discipline gap exists between African-American students and their peers, but he says the district has implemented various strategies aimed at closing it. A few years ago, the district created the Cultural Proficiency and Inclusiveness department. Leader Angela Ward single-handedly provides cultural awareness training to all new teachers and administrators. The training asks teachers to examine their own biases – something UT Professor Richard Reddick says is key to creating trusting relationships between teachers and students.    

flickr.com/dcjohn/

This story is the second installment of a three-part series examining the so-called discipline gap among student groups who receive out-of-school suspensions in the Austin Independent School District. Read Part One here.

During the 2013 school year, African-American students made up eight percent of the AISD student population, but nearly a quarter of the students given an out-of-school suspension.

The discipline gap is not unique to the district; nationwide, black students are suspended at higher rates than their peers. In March, the U.S. Department of Education reported the trend in black student suspensions starts as young as preschool.

While many, including AISD officials, admit the discipline gap exists, fewer people seem to have a solid answer as to why. 

Zack Maxwell / Arlingtonvoice.com

Since 2009, the number of suspensions at Austin public schools has fallen. But African-American students continue to receive out-of-school suspensions at a higher rate than their peers.

During the 2013 school year, 1,066 African-American AISD students – almost 13 percent of the black student population of 8,334 – received out-of-school suspensions. In that same period, 549 white AISD students were suspended­ ­– only 2.24 percent of the 24,543 white student population. Going by those numbers, African-American students are nearly six times more likely to be suspended from school.

Despite teacher training and district efforts, many African-American parents and community members feel like their children aren't understood.

Richard Reddick

Austin has its own convoluted history when it comes to school integration – one involving multiple federal lawsuits and many different strategies to desegregate schools.

Busing was one of those strategies. Many students were bused across the city to schools on the other side of town. West Austin residents went to East Austin schools and visa versa. 

Saturday, May 17, marks 60 years since the Supreme Court struck down the concept of "separate but equal" in Brown v. Board of Education. It's a decision that affected students across the country. But for two Austin teenagers in the late 1980s, it also sparked a life-long friendship.

If you think about it, it’s a miracle Richard Reddick and Ryan Scarborough ever met. Scarborough, a white student from Austin’s Northwest Hills neighborhood, was bused to Johnston High School on Austin's east side, starting in 1986.

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."

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Joy Diaz, KUT News

When you think about the word “homeless,” what comes to mind?

Homelessness can include a person who lacks housing. But it is also includes people in transitional housing. That's where Lydia Huerta, her husband and their three kids found themselves after they lost their home to flooding October 31.

Huerta says she "never really felt panic" until she lost her home. 

Veronica Zaragovia, KUT News

UPDATE: The National Weather Service curtailed the winter storm warning issued Monday. It is now in effect until 9 a.m. for Bastrop, Burnet, Travis, and Williamson Counties. 

K-12 SCHOOL DELAYS:

School districts in the Austin area are announcing delayed starts for Tuesday morning, due to the winter weather. 

Photo by Nathan Bernier/KUT News

Update:  The Austin School Board voted to reinstate three-year contracts for teachers and principals in a five to four vote Monday night. At the same meeting, school district officials also proposed to to close a projected $32 million budget gap for Fiscal Year 2015. 

The decision to move to three-year contracts comes after the school district and teacher's union, Education Austin, came to an impasse over the issue last month. Austin ISD went from three to one year contracts in 2011, when the state legislature cut billions in public education funding, also forcing the district to lay off more than 1,000 employees.

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.

Photo courtesy of AISD

Over the last 20 years, the percentage of Austin Independent School District's African American population has steadily declined — dropping from 18.8 percent in 1993-1994 academic year to 8.7 percent last year, according to data from the Texas Education Agency

Some are concerned fewer students could lead to more community issues going unnoticed, or at least underserved, as more African-American students and families leave the district. 

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon, KUT News

The harsh winter weather this year has left local school districts with a mounting number of cancelations and delays. Most school districts in the region canceled classes on Jan. 24 and 28, and delayed start times on Feb. 6 and 11 due to icy conditions.

Those snow and ice days may have seemed like welcome "free days," but they come with a price. The Texas Education Agency requires that canceled class days must be made up. For most school districts, this means giving up holidays such as Good Friday, Memorial Day and Presidents Day (this Monday) to make up for lost time. Below, you can see a full list of make-up days for Austin-area schools.

Photo by KUT News

Update: Education Austin, the teachers union that represents around 1,800 Austin teachers, and the Austin Independent School District are at an impasse over teacher contracts. The two groups are at odds over contract length: the union wants the district to reinstate three-year contracts, while AISD wants to continue offering one-year contracts.

In a state without collective bargaining laws, it’s rare for a school district to have such a clear-cut process when it and another party can’t agree. 

 

“It’s been very clearly defined that if parties can’t reach agreement, the board of trustees then will ultimately engage in a solution process," Michael Houser, AISD's chief human capital officer, told the school board last night. The last time the district came to an impasse with Education Austin was in 2008. 

KUT News

A nonprofit legal foundation says the Austin Independent School District isn’t addressing education inequalities between high and low-income students. 

The Texas Civil Rights Project released an updated report Tuesday on equal opportunity in the district. It's urging the district to start an independent equity foundation, which would direct private money to schools in low-income neighborhoods and create a level playing field between students regardless of their parents' income. The foundation would promote equal access to things like books and quality teachers and how schools spend their money.

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