AISD Notebook

The AISD Board of Trustees on Monday quickly moved through its agenda, approving an Army JROTC program at Lanier High School (Air Force JROTC programs currently exist at Bowie and Reagan high schools), a contract for drug abuse and violence prevention for middle schoolers with Austin/Travis County Advocates Programs, and three applications to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) for funds under the federal Goals 2000: Educate America Act. Stigmatized by cultural, religious, and paranoid conservatives as a covert plot to seize control of the schools, Goals 2000 has presumably been given a fresh start in Texas, renamed "Academics 2000." Texas received some $29 million in Goals 2000 funds this year; to receive those funds, the state's 1,000-plus school districts may elect to submit workplans to the TEA to boost the achievement of students in Grades 1-4. AISD's proposals, if approved, would help students in the district's poorest and lowest-performing schools.

Angry citizens' participation dropped off precipitously this week, although a few members of the public returned to excoriate Trustee Liz Hartman for what they perceived as her undercutting of Trustee Loretta Edelen's "Six Point Plan." Among other things, the plan called for "full restoration of funding for the lowest socioeconomic level schools," an apparent (but erroneous) reference to the 16 former "priority schools." The board learned during its last budget cycle that many other schools in AISD not designated for "priority" status (including several middle schools) have just as great or even greater numbers of low-income children as the 16 priority schools. Changes in federal funding guidelines last year for economically disadvantaged students forced the redistribution of about $1 million among all low-income campuses. Trustees effectively ended the eight-year-old Priority Schools program by not devising a way to make up the difference for schools that lost funding due to the redistribution.

Edelen's fellow trustees had consistently been unwilling to adopt the "Six Point Plan"in toto, believing her initiative to be out of the board's purview. But Hartman was the one who stuck her neck out. She introduced a substitute resolution (which passed) at the last board meeting that she believes pays heed to the concerns raised in Edelen's Six Points, but does so within the long-term goals and other policies previously adopted by this board. For this, Hartman was termed "discourteous and conniving" by one speaker.

In other board action, trustees approved hiring O'Connell, Robertson & Associates to design and construct classroom additions at Cook, Harris, and Wooldridge Elementary Schools. The firm of Jessen, Inc., Architects and Planners, was selected to do classroom additions to Boone and Kocurek Elementary Schools. The construction is part of an emergency overcrowding relief plan and not part of the district's upcoming bond package. Speaking of the bond package... On February 3, the day the board adopted the bond election order, the board voted unanimously on a resolution introduced by Vice President Jerry Carlson to keep all new school construction 300 feet away from any critical environmental feature. This, instead of voting on a much stronger motion by Geoff Rips to shun any secondary school construction on the recharge zone of the Edwards Aquifer. Rips, Edelen, Diana Casteñeda, and Ted Whatley tried to keep Rips' resolution afloat, but were outnumbered by the rest of the board. We'll have more about why they voted as they did and what it means for the future in a story next week.

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