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Letters are posted as we receive them during the week, and before they are printed in the paper, so check back frequently to see new letters. If you'd like to send a letter to the editor, use this postmarks submission form, or email your letter directly to mail@austinchronicle.com. Thanks for your patience.
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Ann Richards School Deserves Better

RECEIVED Wed., Sept. 4, 2013

Dear Editor:
    The Chronicle’s article on the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders is deeply concerning for the gross inaccuracies and incomplete portrayal of the school [“In the Name of Ann Richards,” News, Aug. 30]. As members of the executive committee of the Parent Teacher Student Association, we are writing to convey our full support for the school and its mission and our complete endorsement of and appreciation for the administration and the teaching staff.
    The Chronicle’s reckless misrepresentation of the school does a disservice to the ARS community, to the AISD, and to the citizens of Austin who have worked collaboratively to integrate a proven learning community into the needs and goals of the district. That the school has registered such success in fulfilling its mission after only seven years in existence is a testament to the dedication and commitment of the students, teachers, staff, parents, community supporters, and to the vision and leadership of the district. We urge all Chronicle readers to seek the truth about ARS by visiting www.annrichardsschool.org.
    It is telling that the reporter for the Chronicle did not contact a single member of the PTSA Executive Committee – a logical starting point to reach parents – for comment or corroboration of the allegations made. If he had, any one of us would have been delighted, as parents of current and former ARS middle school and high school students, to provide our insights, answer questions, clarify inaccuracies or reach out to other parents to share their views. We have history with the school, direct insight into the school, work closely with the staff and administration, and have dealt firsthand with the issues (transfers, mobility, homework, school culture, etc.) that were distorted or not fully explored in the article.
    Your readers, the ARS community, and especially ARS students deserved better.
Suzy Searcy, Charles Foreman, Sarah Jeansonne, Shawn Mauser, Lori McClure, Melissa Saucedo
ARS PTSA Executive Committee members
   [Richard Whittaker responds: I am extremely disappointed that Jeanne Goka describes the article as incomplete when AISD refused to let me talk directly to her. I initially requested interviews with her, Associate Superintendent of High Schools Edmund Oropez, and Chief Schools Officer Paul Cruz. I was promised interviews with both her and Cruz, which never materialized. I finally made an offer to the AISD Department of Communications and Community Relations that we would submit questions via email directly to her and Cruz. What we got back, after days of delay, was a mish-mash of answers via AISD Executive Director Alex Sanchez, with no real ability to clarify any points or follow up. I was told explicitly by Sanchez that I would not get direct answers from either Goka or Cruz. In fact, the district seemed far more interested in having me talk to the Ann Richards Foundation – an independent and unaccountable body – than to their own publicly employed and publicly accountable staff. I would be more than happy to talk to Ms. Goka and get her side of the story directly, and tried to do so on multiple occasions. Yet again, if she wants to talk, she can contact me via the Chronicle. I also encourage her and the PTSA – and our readers – to visit the forums on our website about this story. There are a lot of people who support what we published in that story, many with personal experience of the campus.]

Biased Journalism On Ann Richards School

RECEIVED Tue., Sept. 3, 2013

Dear Editor,
    It's unfortunate the Chronicle offered a platform to a disgruntled former employee of AISD who taught PE at the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders ["In the Name of Ann Richards," News, Aug. 30]. The one-sided presentation of Ms. Mason-Murphy's biased views concerning ARS, its teaching and administrative staff, and its student population highlights a very serious lack of journalistic integrity on the part of the reporter and the newspaper. Fair and balanced journalism this is not.
    As a parent of a child now in her sixth year at ARS and one completing her third, I am proud to express the high level of confidence I have in the campus administration. I am perfectly willing to do so on the record and would gladly have done that had I been contacted by the reporter. And there are many others like me.
   As with other AISD parents, I try to do my part to support my kids’ school. I participate in the PTSA, volunteer, monitor homework loads, and seek constructive engagement with school officials when necessary. Ms. Goka and all the ARS staff have been consistently accessible, honest, and straightforward – and have demonstrated only the highest integrity. I have never witnessed any of the hot-button behaviors alleged in the article. Nor do I have cause to believe in the climate of fear or troubling practices and behaviors described therein.
    The comments and the litany of allegations made by Ms. Mason-Murphy highlight one thing most clearly: a megalomania that is the antithesis of the kind of leader ARS is committed to helping nurture. I hope your readers aren’t swayed by the fictional account of ARS portrayed in the article. I consider it nothing more than the work of a former PR person with an ax to grind. It's unfortunate Mr. Whittaker lacked the journalistic chops to avoid being taken in by it.
Lori McClure
   [News Editor Michael King responds: Despite Lori McClure's complaints of one-sidedness, as Richard Whittaker reported, Austin ISD and Ann Richards administrators were given ample and extended opportunity to provide specific answers to specific questions about the school and its policies. Instead of accepting that opportunity, they offered general responses drafted by a public relations official. We normally expect (and receive) better cooperation from public officials, but the school district under its current leadership is persistently nonresponsive to media inquiries.]

Garbage Shameful Reporting

RECEIVED Sun., Sept. 1, 2013

Dear Editor,
    Regarding Richard Whittaker’s story, “In the Name of Ann Richards,” [News, Aug. 30]: No reputable journalist accepts the word of a disgruntled ex-employee as a primary source. No ethical newspaper publishes an article that relies on a disgruntled ex-employee for its primary source.
    I don’t trust a single word of this story. It’s garbage reporting, scandal-sheet publishing. Shameful.
Beverly Lowry

Applaud The Courage For Speaking Out

RECEIVED Thu., Aug. 29, 2013

Dear Editor,
    I applaud the courage of Ms. Mason-Murphy for speaking out on behalf of the students and teachers ["In the Name of Ann Richards," News, Aug. 30]. Of course there are teachers who can't do likewise because of fear of retribution. In some school districts in the country, teachers must sign a contract forbidding them, under threat of immediate dismissal, to speak to media. Social justice – speaking truth to power – is surely being set back at the Ann Richards School. I would have liked to hear from former students who freely left or were exited. How are they progressing in the schools they currently attend and how do they view their experience at ARS?
Cheryl M. Vignola
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