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What's happening in Austin schools in 2013-2014? Superintendent Meria Carstarphen shares her insights about how "The Power of Us" is transforming education in Austin. This Power is the commitment of educators, parents, students, and the entire community to support quality teaching and learning and to achieve success for every student. It's shared accountability for our successes and challenges. Check back regularly for the latest news.

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  • 11/01/12--13:27: A Bus Parade to the Symphony
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    On Monday and Tuesday, 9,100 students from 68 elementary schools attended Halloween concerts performed by the Austin Symphony at the Long Center. How many buses does it take to transport nearly 10,000 students? 97!

    Thanks to the Austin Symphony for offering this arts enrichment activity for our students, and thanks to all of our bus drivers for getting the students to and from their schools safely.

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  • 11/13/12--07:21: Veterans Receive Diplomas
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    On Friday, November 9, I had the honor of presenting diplomas to eight former AISD students who were unable to finish high school because they answered the call to serve in America’s armed forces during wartime. It was a moving service as we began to observe Veteran's Day weekend. Thank you to Senator John Cornyn for honoring our graduates at the service.

    The Austin school district has a long, proud tradition of military service among its students, families and team members. Ten years ago, we began awarding belated high school diplomas to veterans of World War II. Since then, we have expanded the diploma program to include men and women who cut short their studies to serve in subsequent military conflicts, including the current wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. The soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines we recognize today have earned diplomas from high schools in every corner of this district, including Anderson, Austin, Crockett, Eastside Memorial, Reagan and Travis.

    Every veteran has a unique story. One of the men who received his diploma, Private First Class Charles R. Jones, served in the Army of Occupation in Japan at the close of the Second World War. Another, Corporal Eleazar Dominguez III, was a Marine sharpshooter who served during the Iran Hostage Crisis in the late 1970s.

    After completing his naval service, including duty in Vietnam, Operations Specialist Roland Holloway received his GED and graduated from Southwest Texas State University with a BS in Computer Science. On Friday, he received the diploma he earned from his alma mater, Crockett High School.


    Sergeant Johnny D. Hardeman, was a decorated Vietnam veteran, who also had the distinction of serving as a pallbearer at the funeral of President Harry S. Truman in 1972. Sgt. Hardeman is no longer with us, but his daughter, Latisha Hardeman Anderson, was there to accept the diploma on his behalf.

    Thank you to all of these veterans and their families for participating in this moving ceremony.




    Special thanks to Travis Principal Ty Davidson and his father-in-law U.S. Army Specialist Apolonio C. Valdez, Jr., a decorated veteran of the Vietnam War who earned his diploma at the ceremony.

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    The Power of Us: Thousands of students, team members, parents, and friends closed the show with a Thriller flash mob!

    Austin is a world-class city that deserves a world-class district. Last night, AISD highlighted the district's achievements and goals as we brought our communities together to strengthen support for all of our students, staff members and schools at AISD's fourth annual State of the District address and student showcase.

    If you were anywhere near Toney Burger stadium, you may heard the drum beats, seen the shining lights, and even felt the ground shake at times! It's hard to describe the excitement and enthusiasm of last night's event. When some 4,300 students showcase their talents and perform for about 5,000 AISD families, community members, and team members to celebrate AISD, we can really rock a stadium!

    To all of those beautiful, hard working elementary, middle and high school students who shared their talents with our community at the State of the District address and student showcase, Thank You!

    While the evening was an opportunity for the community to see and experience the excellent work and amazing talent of the AISD family, it was also a time to reflect on where the district has been, and to look forward to where we are going.

    Each year, we measure our progress on goals that we as a community set for ourselves in the five-year Strategic Plan. As part of our annual report to the community during the State of the District address, I outlined our progress and the ways in which we can meet our future goals for improvement—together as a community.
    • Increasing Attendance: During the past two years, thanks to our Every Day Counts campaign, student attendance has reached 95 percent, generating approximately $4.6 million in revenue for schools and increasing student achievement.
    • Preparing for College: Graduation rates continue to go up, and the percentage of college-ready students is at an all-time high. And, more AISD graduates are going to college or enrolling in other post-secondary educational institutions. Last year, the number of students who pursued higher education went up a whopping five percentage points.
    • Addressing the Achievement Gap: Despite our progress and achievements, our scorecard shows the district still has improvements to make in eliminating the achievement gap and meeting accountability expectations for our most vulnerable student groups.
    • Funding the Future: As standards are increasing, resources are decreasing. AISD's teachers and staff members are doing more with less. They have heavier workloads, larger classes, increased health care costs and less leave time.
      • Legislative Cuts—After the past legislative session, AISD's budget was reduced by more than $60 million. With another legislative session around the corner, AISD will work to ensure our district's good work is known throughout the community. Next session, if the laws aren't changed, there could be up to $100 million more in ongoing cuts for AISD.
      • Potential Bond Program—The district must rely on bond programs to address serious facility needs in our district. A potential bond program could address overcrowding by building new schools and additions, keeping up with technology needs, expanding academic and fine arts programs and improving athletic programs and facilities. The cost estimates for these much-needed improvements could exceed $850 million.
      • Potential Tax Ratification Election—The district does not have enough revenue to meet its current expenditures. In addition to attendance funding, a tax ratification could provide the necessary revenue to meet our district's needs, including attracting and retaining the best staff by offering competitive salaries.

    The 2012 State of the District address and student showcase was the first time in our district’s history that all of our school dance teams, bands, color guards, and cheerleaders have performed together as one.

    The student performances and demonstrations are proof that AISD has passionate students who are capable of extraordinary things; and, in my State of the District address, I strived to prove my committment to ensuring our district can provide students with opportunities to achieve their potential.

    Our AISD team members proved that they really know their business. The public relations office, headed by Alex Sanchez and led in this effort by Pat Dabbert, the fine arts department, led by Fine Arts Director Greg Goodman, and the staff members of the Toney Burger Center worked hard to make sure every detail was covered.

    Hundreds of AISD bus drivers and police officers did a truly impressive job of making sure that everyone arrived to their home campus safely. The logistics were challenging, but under AISD Director of Transportation Kris Hafesisadeh and Chief of Police Eric Mendez, our committed AISD bus drivers and police officers pulled it off. You are truly amazing!

    Gary Faust, Akins, High School Bands Conductor
    Mark Gurgel, Kealing, Middle School Bands Conductor
    Brian Frock, Austin High, High School Band Director
    Erin Campbell, Anderson, Dance Teams Coordinator
    Ron Oliverio, Akins, ROTC Coordinator
    Stephen Howard, Bowie, Color Guards Coordinator
    Mirtha Tabasco, Lanier, Cheerleader Coordinator
    David Beussman, All City Choir Coordinator
    Tyler Dempsey, Percussion Group Coordinator
    Barton Hills Principal Kati Achtermann 
    Barton Hills Physical Education Teacher Courtney Perry

    Juan Gonzalez, Akins Robotics
    John Sayce, Akins Rocketry Program
    Sebastian Espinoza, Akins Engineering
    Kena Pierce, Akins Civil Engineering and Architecture
    Bailey Williams, Akins Biomedical Engineering
    Edward Buono, Jerry Moldenhauer, Eastside Robotics
    Jason Flowers, LASA Quiz Bowl
    Tony Bertucci, LASA Robotics
    Keith Carey, Reagan High School Athletics
    Ryan Cengal, Shelley Boucher, Cheryl Curran, Lanier Health Careers
    Paul Love-Kretchmer, Carlos de la Garza, Karen Hansen, Deborah Dono, Fine Arts

    The State of the District address and showcase was made possible by the generous contributions of 20 sponsors, who ensured no tax dollars were harmed in the making of this presentation.

    Austin Public Education Foundation
    Wells Fargo
    A+ Federal Credit Union
    Applied Materials
    Brath, Inc.
    CiCi's Pizza
    The Links Incorporated, Town Lake Chapter
    Pfluger Architects
    Blazier Christensen Bigelow & Virr, PC
    Horace Mann
    Gamma Gamma Boule
    The Mueller Foundation
    Music and Arts
    O’Connell Robertson
    Strait Music
    Teacher Heaven
    Water Monster

    To everyone who participated, attended, or in any way supported this dazzling event--Gracias, Thank you, Merci, and so much more!

    Teamwork makes the dream work!

    Students Showcase Talents: A sea of red, white
    and blue, and sparkling pom poms!

    Firework on the Field: The Barton Hills Firecrackers lit up the show!

    In Perfect Harmony: Our beautiful All City Choir sang the National Anthem.

    Before the festivities on the field, amazing Akins students demonstrated
    their rocketery, engineering and robotics work for our community.

    The Garza African Drum Band got the performances started.

    About 5,000 AISD family members and supporters,
    including our trustees and partners, enjoyed the program.

    We are so proud of the nearly 400 elementary school students
    who earned straight A's or 4's and perfect attendance last year.
    Stunning work by talented AISD art students.

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    This week, the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce recognized 15 winners of the 2012 Austin Chamber Education Awards at the 7th annual State of Education luncheon at the University of Texas Frank Erwin Center.

    Congratulations to these AISD schools for receiving awards:

    Crockett High School, which tied with Del Valle High School for the first place award in the chamber’s ApplyTexas Submission category. At both schools, 100 percent of seniors completed their Texas Common Application forms, which offer a centralized way for students to apply to postsecondary institutions in Texas. Bowie High School received third place in the category, with 99 percent of its seniors completing and submitting the forms.
    The Liberal Arts and Sciences Academy placed first in the Highest Overall FAFSA Submission Rate category, with 68 percent of its students completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
    Austin High School received first place in the category of Highest Financial Aid Saturdays Attendance for having the largest number of students attend financial aid sessions in 2012.
    Bowie High School placed first in the category of Highest Student Futures Project Submission Rate, with a 96% student submission rate.
    LBJ High School received first place in the category of Greatest Improvement in Direct to College Enrollment Rate-High School, for making a seven percentage point or 16 percent improvement, to 49 percent.

    The Austin Partners in Education (APIE) College Readiness Award was presented to Lilibeth Marroquin. Lili began working with the College Readiness team at APIE as an intern in the fall of 2011 and was hired as a College Readiness Tutor in the spring of 2012. She’s helped high school seniors across AISD prepare for college-level coursework by providing them one-on-one and in small group academic tutoring.

    Mark Curry, left, Volunteer of the Year, and Chamber of Commerce Education Director Drew Shebberle.
    A special congratulations to Mark Curry, Community Bank President for Wells Fargo, who was named Volunteer of the Year. Over the last three years, as APIE's Board President, he has worked closely with me to position APIE for even greater improvement. He personally oversaw the hiring of the Executive Director, took the reins to support APIE fundraising, and recruited new Board members.

    Thanks to the Chamber of Commerce for recognizing the good work going on in AISD!

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    On December 2, I will be proud to participate as a contestant in the Sixth Annual “Dancing with the Stars- Austin” fundraiser to benefit the Center for Child Protection. The Center for Child Protection is the only nonprofit in Travis County involved in the investigation of crimes against children, and last year, close to 5,000 services were provided free of charge through the organization.

    The December 2 event is structured much like the popular TV show, featuring local community members paired with professional dancers to compete in a dance-off.
    We'll be dancing to raise money and provide vital services, including pet therapy, an interactive ropes course and psychiatric services, for children affected by child abuse. Although I have not danced before, I am eager to do my part to support our most vulnerable children, who deserve to be treasured and protected. It is as important to raise children to be healthy and socially and emotionally aware as it is critical to help children learn skills that will help them better identify abuse and get help earlier.

    The judges this year include Austin Police Chief Art Acevedo (who participated as a dancer at each of the last two events), State Sen. Kirk Watson and local KLBJ radio personality Ed Clements, who has been a fixture on the judges' panel in recent years.

    You can learn more about the Center for Child Protection at

    Thanks to these LASA students for helping me to publicize this event!


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  • 12/07/12--09:11: The Best Holiday Gift of All
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    Imagine my pleasant surprise to run into Crockett's Mariachi de Oro in the lobby after my Austin Symphony meeting. As I was leaving, they were headed up to the Headliner's to play for the Rotary Wives. Wonderful gift this season!!!!

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    LBJ students \described their experiences with Early College High School.
    The Early College High School Programs at Reagan and LBJ High Schools have really taken off since they were created last year. This partnership between AISD and ACC gives our students the opportunity to get college credit while they are still in high school, and puts them on the path to post-secondary and career success.

    Last week, at the Early College High School Quarterly Leadership meeting, principals described the cultural shift that has occurred on their campuses.  At LBJ Early College High School, the number of college course enrollments increased from 123 to 211 from last fall to this fall. This is a 72% increase in college course enrollment that resulted in a 63% increase in the number of ACC College sections offered.  At Reagan Early College High School, the college course enrollment increased from 131 last fall to 162 this fall. This is a 24% increase in college course enrollment that resulted in a 75% increase in the number of ACC College sections offered.   Over the past year, Reagan Early College High School has experienced a 1.4% increase in attendance while LBJ Early College High School has experienced a 0.3% increase in attendance.  Both schools have had a decrease in home suspensions, in school suspensions, and removals as well.   The principals also discussed the strengthened vertical team college prep alignment and the college prep parent and community activities they host. 

    The highlight of the meeting was a student panel that consisted of four current LBJ Early College High school students.  The students, Graciela Bautista-Delgado, Cody Tobar, Natalie Arellano, and Omari Henry, shared their personal experiences with the program, talked about their most challenging experiences in college courses and how they persevered, and described the college readiness skills they learned in middle school and AVID that helped them to be successful in their college courses. 

    This strong program is getting stronger all the time. Way to go, LBJ and Reagan staff and students!

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  • 12/13/12--07:35: Congrats Travis Rebels!!!
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    Having a wonderful time at the Travis HS Football banquet with the generous contribution by Jimmy Nassour who made the event possible! A special shout out to the Travis High School JV Football team. They were the undefeated district champions of 26 4A. Way to go!

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    Seedling Foundation Executive Director Sari Waxler visited O. Henry to present the award.
    Congratulations to Angel, a seventh grade student at O. Henry Middle School, for winning the Seedling Foundation's Holiday Art Contest. Angel's art work was selected from 27 entries to be the cover art for the annual Seedling Foundation Holiday Card.

    O.Henry Counselors and Principal Pete Price congratulate Angel.
    A beautiful work of art.

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    All of us in the AISD community are deeply saddened to learn about today’s tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School inConnecticut. Our thoughts and prayers are with the school’s community and families.

    Today’s school shooting in Connecticut is a tragic reminder that we must all remain vigilant to safeguard campus security. AISD asks our team members, families and community members to help us ensure our schools remain safe by alerting principals if they have any safety concerns or see people whom they do not recognize. In the event of an immediate threat or emergency, please call 911.

    Safety is our number one priority everyday. In order to protect the security of our students, staff members and campus communities, AISD requires all visitors to report to the school’s main office, present appropriate identification and wear a visible visitor’s badge at all times. If regular visits to schools or direct interactions with students are anticipated, visitors must consent to a criminal history background check.

    At the request of President Barack Obama, flags at AISD schools and facilities will be flown at half-staff.

    Talking About Tragedy with Children: As news coverage about the school shooting continues, students may have questions about the incident. Talking about tragedy with children is important, but can be difficult. AISD counselors are available to speak with students. The district's learning support services team also is sharing tips with parents about how they can discuss the tragedy with children at home.

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    Pat Butler, principal of Mills Elementary, performs as Mother Ginger in the Ballet Austin performance of "The Nutcracker."
    I love being on the Board of Ballet Austin. This time of year is especially fun. I was able to help get our principals involved in this year's Ballet Austin performance of the Nutcracker.

    Mills Elementary principal Pat Butler performed as Mother Ginger at the AISD Nutcracker performance on December 11, when her students attended the performance. The next day, Norman Elementary Principal Floretta Andrews performed in the role when her students attended. The two principals were awarded this opportunity because student attendance on their campuses exceeded targets by the most percentage points. Congratulations to Mills and Norman Elementary Schools and their talented principals. Keep up the good work!

    First, the makeup.

    Finally, Pat Butler is ready to go on stage.

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    On December 17, the AISD Board of Trustees unanimously approved four Annual Academic and Facilities Recommendations, or AAFRs. Two additional AAFRs, a proposed School for Young Men and Garcia and Pearce Middle Schools Program Design, District 1, are scheduled for Board discussion at the January 7, 2013 Board Dialogue Meeting and possible action at the January 28, 2013 Regular Board Meeting. Here is more information about the AAFRs that the Board approved.

    Dual Language Program Expansion and Extension
    Two-way Spanish/English dual language programs, currently at nine elementary schools, will expand to areas of the district that demonstrate high need and readiness for implementation. The one-way model in Vietnamese will expand to include additional grade levels at Summitt Elementary School.

    Implementation of a one-way Mandarin dual language immersion program for non-native speakers at Doss Elementary School will be scheduled for implementation during the fall of 2013.

    The dual language program (both one-way and two-way) will extend to middle schools throughout the district based on need.

    Responsive Education Solutions Continued at Lanier and Travis High Schools
    Responsive  Education Solutions fulfills the mission of the Graduation Pathways program by delivering individual students a prescribed course of study.  Using both direct teach and computer-based instruction, students recover credits, accelerate credit accrual and receive high dosage tutoring in math and other areas of need.

    Responsive Education Solutions will be open to serving students from other high schools, as space is available.

    A contract with Responsive Education Solutions, first approved in December, 2011, to operate in in-district charter at Lanier and Travis High Schools, will continue through the 2013-14 school year.

    Campus-Initiated In-District Charter at Travis Heights Elementary School
    Travis Heights Elementary School will transition to an in-district charter school during 2013-14, essentially becoming an autonomous school model with flexibility in such areas like program design, innovation, budget allocation, scheduling, professional development and curriculum. 

    The recommended educational model will be a student-centered learning community with a standards-based, rigorous core instructional program applying three interwoven, research-based models including, dual language enrichment, service learning and blended learning. The implementation of this AAFR is subject to the availability of funding and appropriation in the fiscal year 2014 budget and subsequent years.

    Fine Arts Program - Any Given Child Creative Learning Initiative
    The Any Given Child Creative Learning Initiative will bring access and balance to each child's education using a learning model that combines the resources of the school district, the City of Austin, local artists, businesses and philanthropic organizations. 

    This partnership model will affect student achievement by aligning the experiences students receive in and out of school and working with teachers in schools and artists in the community.

    During January, the district will begin working with schools and communities to plan for and implement the recommendations for the 2013-14 school year. The implementation of this AAFR is subject to the availability of funding and appropriation in the fiscal year 2014 budget and subsequent years.

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    Today, January 15, is the date of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s birth. Had he lived, he would have celebrated his 84th birthday. 

    This year, we will mark the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech, which was delivered in August, 1963 to more than 200,000 civil rights supporters from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial. The speech is considered one of the most powerful of the 20th Century and marked a defining moment in the civil rights movement.  

    Dr. King’s life, his message, and the changes for which he fought so hard for still challenge us today. But fifty years after Dr. King blazed the trail, we still haven’t reached our destination. 

    In his “Future of Integration” speech in 1964 at Oberlin College, Dr. King told students “the time is always right to do what’s right.” In this new year, as we face significant decisions by our leadership both locally, on the school board, and, at the state level, in the legislature, no time is more important than now to put aside any political or philosophical differences and simply do what’s right for our students, the future of AISD and our state.

    Today, at the annual celebration of Dr. Martin Luther King's birthday, our district's central office staff had the pleasure of hearing original essays on  the topic "Do the Right Thing," written and read by  three talented AISD students. 
    Kealing Middle School 8th Grader Keyanna Mack
    Travis High School senior Cantrell Gains
    Austin High School senior Devin Domino.
    In seeking equal opportunities for African Americans, Martin Luther King, Jr., ignited movements for equal treatment among women, Hispanics, people with disabilities, and other groups. His calls for equal treatment under the law changed and improved the lives of millions of Americans, not just African Americans. He showed us how to seek change by working within the system, while still challenging injustice.
    In our work in public education, we have a unique opportunity and a particular responsibility for making progress towards realizing Dr. King’s dream of equal access and opportunity for all Americans. Our job is to ensure every student in AISD receives a quality education, regardless of skin color or zip code.

    Over the past several years, we have made some progress in recognizing inequalities in AISD. But, as Dr. King knew better than anyone, the process of change can be frustrating and slow. We must not listen to those who say that these changes can wait until next year, or the year after that. Because, every year we wait to make a decision, more students will not graduate, and we will have failed to do our job of preparing all students to take advantage of the opportunities before them.
    To our school community, especially our staff, I want to thank you for standing with me in the faith and the belief that we can and will do the right thing to eliminate achievement gaps for all children, so that every single student leaves this district with a diploma in hand and  a promising future. We see signs that we are doing the right thing. 
    • When the number of Hispanic students going on postsecondary education after they graduate increases seven percentage pointsin one year, we are doing the right thing.
    • When achievement on the STAAR for African-American and Hispanic students increases several percentage points in every subject area, as it did last year, we are doing the right thing.
    • When discretionary removals from the classroom, which disproportionately affect African American and Special Education students, decrease by 34 percent in one year, we are doing the right thing.
    • When graduation rates among English Language Learners and Economically Disadvantaged students increase by more than 4 percentage points in one year, we are doing the right thing.
    Thanks to our students, staff, Trustees and community members for sharing part of their day with us in honor of Dr. King. 

    The Dobie Middle School Choir, directed by Julie Arend, impressed me so much with their beautiful voices.

    Cantrell Gains, Devin Domino, and Keyanna Mack (l-r).

    AISD Trustees Vince Torres, Anne Teich, Cheryl Bradley, Amber Elenz and Jayme Mathias congratulated the essayists.

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    AVID Students at J. Frank Dobie Middle School hosted our visit.

    This week, I had the opportunity to accompany TEA Commissioner Michael Williams on a tour of the AVID Program at J. Frank Dobie College Prep Academy. AVID stands for Advancement Via Determination, and one of the nation’s strongest programs is right here in AISD at Dobie. AVID’s Executive Director, Jim Nelson, hosted the tour to show us how the program helps prepare students for success in AISD, in college, and in whatever careers they choose.

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    AVID students asked questions and expressed their support for the program.
    Last year, Dobie earned the recognition of being named a national AVID demonstration site, one of only two in central Texas.

    Some 250 Dobie students take AVID as an elective class that meets five times each week during school hours. Students develop such skills as focused note- taking, setting academic goals, and maintaining learning logs to track their progress. Students also participate in community service activities, as well as field trips to college campuses and area employers. The students we met were passionate about the program and about the AVID teachers and tutors that support and encourage them.
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    A student leads the discussion, while tutors offer support.
    Even students who don’t take the elective course are affected by the AVID program. All students are expected to employ note taking and other study skills that AVID has introduced. Dobie has increased the number of pre-AP classes per capita and doubled the number of algebra classes offered in 8th grade as a direct response to AVID. Over the last decade, the number of AVID elective classes at Dobie has grown from two classes in 2005 to eleven this school year.

    The students we met were so impressive, and so enthusiastic about their futures. Many have already decided which college they want to attend. This  is a program that is really making a difference in students’ lives, and it is helping our district achieve all four of these goals identified in our five-year Strategic Plan:
    • All students will perform at or above grade level.
    • Achievement gaps among all student groups will be eliminated.
    • All students will graduate ready for college, career and life in a globally competitive economy.
    • All schools will meet or exceed state accountability standards, and the district will meet federal standards and exceed state standards.
    Thanks to Dobie Principal Carol Chapman, AVID Director Christy Barrett, and the entire AVID staff at Dobie for hosting the tour. We appreciate you!
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    Our student guide, Lucero Rodriguez, escorted Commissioner Williams and me during the tour.

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    Students asked me what it was like to be superintendent.
    Last week, I had the pleasure of participating in Role Model Day, an annual community-strengthening event at Blackshear Elementary School that brings professionals from the community to the school to discuss their careers, the importance of education and to inspire students to stay in school and work hard.

    This was my third year to take part in the event, and  I always look forward to it.
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    Blackshear Elementary School Librarian Amanda Braziel, (left) and Margarine Beaman created the event 15 years ago.
    Thanks to the hard work of Blackshear Principal Betty Jenkins, School Librarian Amanda Braziel and Role Model Day founder Margarine Beaman, more than 60 community leaders joined me at this year’s Role Model Day to share the ins and outs of their careers with students.
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    Patti Robinson, assistant police chief for the Austin Police Department, spoke with students about being a police officer.
    Guests participants included Judge Orlinda Naranjo, Structural Engineer Brian Caudle, Austin Community College Director of Outreach Loretta Edelen, Assistant Police Chief Patti Robinson, City Council Members Kathie Tovo and Mike Martinez, and AISD’s Chief of Staff Mel Waxler.
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    Park rangers with the City of Austin Parks and Recreation Department talked to students about different types of wildlife.
    For two hours, first through fifth graders visited our booths and learned everything from what it’s like to preside over a courtroom, report the news on T.V., uphold the law as a police officer, manage finances at a bank, to how park rangers with the City of Austin protect our city’s diverse wildlife. (The park rangers even brought a stuffed armadillo—only in Texas!)

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    I had some help from a very special volunteer assistant, Blackshear Elementary School third grader Daniel Peña-Ramirez, who helped hand out goodies during the school's annual Role Model Day. The event brings professionals to the school to share with students the ins and outs of their careers.
    I love Role Model Day, and have participated every year. So I packed t-shirts, pencils, school medals and even a few backpacks as part of my giveaways. I had some help from a very special volunteer assistant, Blackshear third grader Daniel Peña-Ramirez, who helped hand out all of our goodies and asked me some great questions about my job.

    A question that several students asked me was, “What’s the hardest part of your job?”

    I get this question quite often, and my answer is always the same. My biggest challenge as a superintendent is trying to make sure that all students have equal access to the best education possible. It's not always easy, but the results are worth it!

    Students also were curious about my robe. As you can tell in the pictures, I represented the crimson and black and wore the robe that shows that I’m a Harvard graduate.

    I like wearing the robe for one reason: It helps make students see college and graduation as something special, a goal that they want to achieve. It almost represents the culmination of all the hard work they have to put in—from having perfect daily attendance, to working hard, studying and putting in the extra hours to ace a test or understand a complex equation or theory.

    What I love most about this event is seeing students make real-life connections between the lessons they’re learning in the classroom and how the knowledge they gain will help them in the future.

    I can’t talk about inspiration without mentioning the brains behind Role Model Day, Margarine Beaman, an East Austin business owner who initiated Role Model Day at Blackshear 15 years ago. Tired of the negative news coverage about her community, she called Blackshear Elementary staff members and asked how she could help.  

    “I thought kids needed to know what people were doing and to meet people in the community who were inspiring,” Ms. Beaman said.

    Ms. Beaman is a testament to the fact that everyone can play a part in ensuring the success of our students—no matter how big or small. 

    “Everybody has something great they can do to make a difference,” Ms. Beaman said.

    Thank you, Ms. Beaman, and to our Blackshear Elementary staff for the difference you’re making!

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    Oak Hill is home of the Soaring Eagles.
    Public education is alive and well in Austin, and we are so fortunate to have terrific elementary schools like Oak Hill, with its outstanding principal, Dr. Cathryn Mitchell, and a strong PTA led by Annemarie Read and a CAC Co-Chaired by Casie Wenmohs. 

    These three leaders spearheaded the Oak Hill Community Open House on January 23. The school invited representatives of local businesses, organizations, associations, and churches to learn more about their local public elementary school and about public education in Austin.

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    Dr. Cathryn Michell, Principal of Oak Hill Elementary, welcomed us.
    The Soaring Eagle Singers started the morning with choir performance, and Kael Suggs, Oak Hill Elementary Student Council President, introduced Dr. Mitchell. State Representatives Donna Howard and Mark Strama attended, as did District 5 Trustee Amber Elenz.
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    State Representative Donna Howard and AISD Trustee Amber Elenz attended.

    In my remarks, I talked about how schools and businesses have shared challenges and opportunities, and that I believe it is in our best interest as a community to work together more closely and more purposefully to achieve the kind of outcomes that we are all seeking. We want to build a district where, no matter your zip code, the vast majority of our graduates will have the skills and education they need to compete with the best of Indonesia, India and Ireland.

    I discussed the district's priorities during the current legislative session, and provided information about the proposed May 2013 bond election.

    I was asked lots of great questions, especially about a possible bond election and funding for schools.
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    I was impressed at how many business and community members participated even though they do not have a current or former student at Oak Hill Elementary.
    The students and staff presented me with an impressive compilation of student art work and writing. The Soaring Eagles truly shine.

    Thanks to the students, staff and families of Oak Hill Elementary for working so hard on this event. It was a great way to build community support for your school.

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    On Friday, February 8, Summitt Elementary School celebrated Tet, the most important and popular holiday and festival in Vietnam, with a fundraising dinner, followed by a spectacular performance by dance and martial arts groups and the unique sound of the Taiko Drums. It all led up to the grand finale, the Lion and Dragon dances.

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    Tet is celebrated on the first day of the first month of the Lunar calendar, which fell on Feb. 10 this year. The celebration shares many of the customs of the Chinese New Year. It is customary that families clean their homes before the first day of the new year to sweep away bad luck in order to make way for good luck.

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    Summitt Elementary offers an outstanding dual language program in Vietnamese and English. The festival is a great way for all students to appreciate other cultures.

    Happy New Year!

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    AISD Board President Vincent Torres and Summitt Principal Dedra Standish enjoyed the performance!

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    Chess was a popular activity at the event.

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  • 02/21/13--14:09: Meet the Parent Cloud!
  • Today, I'm announcing an innovative new service for our AISD families: The Parent Cloud! This week, the district launched this online portal for AISD parents. It's a one-stop shop that allows families to access their child's class schedule, grades, homework assignments, lunch money balances and much, much more. With the Parent Cloud, our families can easily stay up-to-date on their child's academic standing and navigate other helpful district resources.

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    This tool is one of many being used to support the district's broader goals to close the digital divide for our stakeholders, increase transparency, build on our community outreach efforts, and encourage more parent involvement.  We know children perform better academically when they have support at home, and the Parent Cloud will make it easier for AISD families to stay engaged in their child's education. It is accessible in English and Spanish at anytime, from anywhere, on any device.

    The site provides a wealth of information at the touch of a button, and we're delighted to share this resource with our families. For a step-by-step guide on how to register and to watch a short instructional video, visit

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  • 02/22/13--09:53: A Day With AISD
  • Today Isaac Hernandez and Matthew Ramirez, sixth grade students at Mathews Elementary School, got to job shadow at the AISD and got to meet very important people. We walked around the building finding out more information about how people work and what they do in the AISD. We got to meet Alex Sanchez and he worked for the community of many schools in AISD.We learned about Tina Dong and she teaches many different languages. Becky/Erica help do the S.E.L lessons and also make very great plans for S.E.L to make it fun and educational. Beverly Reeves helped resolve problems and bullying. Humberto knows everything and has all the resources, Ms. Hall hires everybody (about 800 teaches and 30 principals). Ms. Noe was a science specialist. The last person I will talk about is Ms. Al. She was the most coolest because she helped us learn more about science and help us discover new things. Doctor Carstarphen is a very intelligent person in the AISD.

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    Being scientists in the science curriculum department with Ms. Al.

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    Us being the big bosses.

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    Dr. Dow talked to us about learning science.

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    Learning about reflection and refraction.

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    Clipping the newspaper for today's news.

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    Hanging out with the girls, Melissa and Kelsey.

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    Dr. Carstarphen reviewing our work.

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    The friendly Whole Foods fruit people led the runners.
    Congratulations to the students and families who completed a 26.2 mile marathon as part of this year's Marathon Kids program. I was so proud of the hundreds of kids and their families who ran their final lap at the track at the Toney Burger Center. I’m so proud of all of these students for running enough over the past months to meet their 26.2 mile goal. Some of them ran even more!
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    Reilly Elementary moms ran with their kids.
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    Superintendent at the starting line with students from Williams Elementary.
    Physical activity like running and walking is important not just because it makes us feel better, but it also makes us fit and healthy and ready to learn. That’s why, as superintendent, I’m so glad when so many AISD students participate in the Marathon Kids event each year. Keep on moving!
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    President Torres and Trustee Barksdale hand out medals to kids and parents.

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