A.I.S.D. Notebook

As usual, at this point in the yearly budget cycle, the AISD Board of Trustees listened to over an hour of citizens' communications at their regular board meeting Monday night. One of the proposed cuts for 1995-96 - reducing librarians' hours to part time at schools that have fewer than 450 students - brought several people to the podium. Laura Roeder, a fifth grader at Barton Hills Elementary School, delivered a speech that would have made a preacher proud. She explained that Mrs. Buss, Barton Hills' librarian, "introduces children to the world of books," and brilliantly articulated the many reasons why proper maintenance of the library is important - and why Mrs. Buss must be kept on full time at the school. "Take it from me, you won't regret it," Miss Roeder concluded confidently before retreating to her seat.

A young man some eight years her senior, Anderson High School student Bret Kadison, spoke in support of an agenda item - a proposal to exempt any student who takes either the Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exams from the school's final exams. (This is so AP or IB students won't have to prepare for 7 to 12 exams within a 10-day period). "The fact is, this has no fiscal note, it's free, it's logical," Kadison cogently argued. The board unanimously approved the waiver (trustee Diana Casteneda was absent from the meeting).

Other board action included approving applications for the American Institute of Learning (AIL) and Middle Earth's "78702 RAYS" to be designated as "alternative campuses" measured by the Texas Education Agency (TEA). At AIL and RAYS, students can earn either a GED or a high school diploma - although trustees have consistently emphasized that they want AISD dropouts in those programs to get a diploma rather than a GED. It is very important to note that the board was not approving the continuation of those programs, only the application for state-designated "alternative campus" status. But trustees Ted Whatley and Loretta Edelen voted against the proposal anyway; Whatley has long been skeptical about the viability of the GED, and Edelen said that she wasn't sure that either program's services were adequate. Melissa Knippa pointed out that Superintendent Dr. Jim Fox will be the one who ultimately decides whether AISD will continue to contract with AIL and RAYS for dropout recovery. Fox said his decision will be based on how efficient the programs have been - how many dropouts have been taken in, how many students receive diplomas or certificates, and what happens to them afterward. "And right now, I have to be candid - it can go either way," he said.

Trustees also approved a plan for extending honors credit in music, a new calendar for schools on a year-round schedule, and an application to TEA for Goals 2000 grant money for those year-round schools. Considering that Christian evangelical conservatives have regarded Goals 2000 as a stinking Clinton administration plot to colonize our children's subconscious minds, it was rather amazing that no one showed up at AISD to screech about it. Reports about how unfairly the teacher surplus program is being carried out on some AISD campuses keep trickling in every day now. Lana Bongiolatti, president of the Austin Association of Teachers, told the board that in some cases, whether to keep a teacher on staff or put her on the surplus list was being decided by a coin toss. Other principals, she said, "are acting like Attila the Hun." Teachers with years of experience are suddenly finding themselves cut loose from a campus. Call my voice mail at 454-5766, ext. 205, to tell me more.

Last item: Teachers at Bowie and Travis High Schools have gone to no small trouble and expense to themselves to establish home pages on the World Wide Web for their schools. Addresses? Glad you asked.

Bowie High School: http://www.ph.utexas.edu/~bowie

Travis High School: http://www.ph.utexas.edu/~travis

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