• A month before the new academic year starts, Texas Commissioner of Education Robert Scott announced Wednesday he is closing Pearce Middle School, while ordering Austin ISD to hire "professional services" to assist with Reagan High. Scott said he ordered the closure because the school, in Northeast Austin, is entering its fifth year classified as "academically unacceptable." Board of trustees President Mark Williams said the decision "stinks." Scott informed new Superintendent Meria Carstarphen (pictured above) of his decision in a letter dated July 2 – her second day on the job – and the public was informed on July 8. Education Austin President Louis Malfaro said he could not understand why Scott had not given more warning or taken the school's improvements into account, as current legislation allows. He added, "If any school has made its case that the community's rallying behind it and it's making academic improvement, that's Pearce." The district will hold a community meeting on the closure on July 15, 6:30pm, at the school.
• A watering ban in South Austin was lifted Wednesday after the city repaired a busted water main on Walsh Tarlton Lane, near Barton Creek Square mall, which contractors accidentally bored into late Monday night. Austinites south of the Colorado can water the lawn and change the bongwater again. For more water woes, see "Drought Prompts Call for Conservation."
• Former Austin American-Statesman Editor Rich Oppel joined Public Strategies Inc., the PR shop that's also home of fair-weather Republican Mark McKinnon. Oppel comes aboard as a "senior advisor." Another Statesman ex, Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Ben Sargent, has signed on with the Texas Observer, where, beginning in August, his work will be regularly featured.
• The city is hosting a fifth town hall meeting to discuss potential cuts to the 2010 budget, this one aimed at teenagers (free lunch included). It's going down Friday, July 10, 11:30am-1:30pm, at the Mexican American Cultural Center (600 River St.).
• Mixed fortunes for former Bushies: Former U.S. Attorney General Alberto "Gonzo" Gonzales (pictured) has been hired to teach political science at Texas Tech, while former senior adviser Karl "Turd Blossom" Rove on Tuesday gave a deposition on the Bush administration's U.S.-attorney-firing scandal to the House Judiciary Committee.
• Seems Sen. John Cornyn may not be able to count on too much support from the anti-Washington crowd: He was loudly booed at the July 4 tea party demonstration on the state Capitol steps.
• Longtime KUT radio hosts Paul Ray and Larry Monroe have each had their airtime cut to one night a week. New Assistant Music Director Matt Reilly will fill the Tuesday-to-Thursday slot, from 8pm to 12mid.
Quote of the Week
"I don't understand [Commissioner of Education Robert Scott's] rationale of how this is in the best interest of children."
– AISD board of trustees President Mark Williams on the state's order to close Pearce Middle School