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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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    AISD middle school students receive their awards.
    On Sunday, February 24, I had the pleasure of congratulating 258 of our district’s outstanding African American elementary, middle and high school students at the 30th annual AISD African American Heritage Celebration. These students and their families filled the hall at Palmer Auditorium for a ceremony that featured performances by the Bowie High School Jazz Band and Steel Drum Ensemble, a creative poetry presentation by four Bowie High School Students, and a performance by the Bowie Diamonds and Pearls Step Team.

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    Bryson Hopkins, left, and Dana Neal, right, were Master and Mistress of Ceremonies.
    Also honored at the event were these community leaders:
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      Board President Torres, Trustees Teich and Barksdale and I congratulate Martin Middle School Lead Counselor Walter Lovings for his award.
    • W. Charles Akins Award: Mark A. Gooden, Associate Professor and Director of the Principalship Program, University of Texas at Austin
    • H.L. Gaines Award: Walter Lovings, Lead Counselor, Martin Middle School
    • Darlene Westbrook Leadership in Education Award: Tamey Williams, Assistant Principal, Small Middle School
    • Organization of the Year Award:The Seedling Foundation
    • Spirit of Giving Award: Phi Delta Kappa, Inc.-Delta Beta Chapter
    • Volunteer Service Award: Big Brothers Big Sisters of Central Texas
    • Friend of Education Award: The City of Austin Mentor and Tutor Program
    We are grateful to these volunteers and community organizations for all that they do to support our students, families and schools.

    Congratulations to these AISD fourth grade students, who received awards in the African American Heritage Composition contest:
    First Place: Zoe Vardys, Davis Elementary
    Second Place: Brenden Hopkins, Barrington Elementary
    Third Place: Miranda Banda, Palm Elementary
    Fourth Place: Leo Shaftel, Doss Elementary
    Fifth Place: Evan Mallett, Menchaca Elementary

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    For the first time,AISD partnered with SXSWedu for this week's conference, which attracted thousands of participants from many parts of the state and country.

    Throughout SXSWedu, innovative thinkers and doers tackled some of the most important issues in education—from standards and assessment to achievement gaps and educational equality. As one of the event's "Distinguished Speakers," I discussed “The Changing Face of Public Education: Today’s Learners. Tomorrow’s Leaders.”

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    American Ed TV interviewed me after my speech.
     AISD coordinated our students’ districtwide participation in Future Plans: College and Career Fair. SXSWedu invited three AISD students—Jessica Cruz from Travis, Amanda Marquette from Bowie and Stephanie Park from LASA—to interview industry leaders, including Tom Vander Ark, executive editor of, Iwan Streichenberger, CEO of inBloom, and Jaime Casap, the global education evangelist for google.

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    LASA Junior Stephanie Park, left, interviews Jaime Casap of Google. 

    Here are some excerpts from my speech: 

    The Greek mathematician and philosopher Pythagoras said, “Choices are the hinges of destiny.” Ensuring that today’s learners become tomorrow’s leaders comes down to one thing: making the right choices with their futures in mind.

    The choices that we make every day as educators has the potential to either unleash the next great geek, like Bill Gates, or to nurture a future artistic legend, like Picasso.

    Our goal in public education must be to ensure that every student has access to a high-quality education. A high quality education provides students with the skills they need to have choices in life:

    • Academic skills so they graduate on time with a diploma and an education that ensures they will succeed in college;
    • Career skills so they are prepared to be successful in a rapidly evolving, technologically driven economy, in a world that is increasingly “flat;” and
    • Decision-making skills so they participate as informed citizens in a democracy, with the smarts and the heart to be better leaders than we ever were.

    I’m from Selma, Alabama, which is infamous for its role in the civil rights movement and famous for its social justice role in the national legislation that led to the Voting Rights Act of 1965 in our country. I truly believe that public education is the cornerstone of our democracy. And our democracy has always been rooted in demographic change, which makes us stronger. 

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    Students and their families had the chance to discuss their options after high school during the Future Plans College and Career Fair AISD hosted with SXSWedu.
    We all have heard the predictions about the wave, about how changing demographics of our country will affect the future. But the face of public education has already changed—and will continue to change. 

    Our district is more than 86,000 students in 129 schools amid changing demographics—our schools are more ethnically and economically diverse than ever. In our district,

    • three out of five students is Hispanic;
    • two out of three students are from economically disadvantaged communities; 
    • one in 10 is in special education; and
    • for one in three English is not their first language.
    Globally, India has more honor students than we have students. China will soon become the number one English speaking country in the world. Last year, more Chinese students took the AP English exams than American students.

    The face of public education is changing in other ways. Since its inception, public education has operated as a kind of public monopoly. Public schools were largely one-size fits all, and tax dollars generally supported one public school system as the primary educational option in almost every community.

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    AISD's student bloggers from left Stephanie Park, Amanda Marquette and Jessica Cruz hang in the Google lounge.

    The best way to serve the changing face of public education is to offer programming choices students deserve. AISD is committed to offering our families choices that prepare today’s learners to become tomorrow’s leaders by offering a rich portfolio of options, creating a college-ready culture and educating the whole child.

    Austin has a global reputation as a place of innovation and creativity. Kiplinger declared Austin the #1 best city to live in for this decade. And, the Wall Street Journal reported that Austin had the fastest average net growth among college graduates during the same time period.

    Austin is poised for an even more promising future. And, it all hinges on education.

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  • 03/25/13--14:38: Riding for Rosedale!
  • On Saturday, March 23, hundreds of cyclists participated in the 19th annual Rosedale Ride, which benefits AISD's Rosedale School, where we serve our students with the some of the most significant disabilities.

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    AISD's Chief Performance Officer Bill Caritj saddles up at the starting line.

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    Tracy Lunoff, AISD's Supervisor of Student Health, rode again this year.

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    The UT Longhorn Band brought so much energy and excitement! Here, they helped launch the kids' ride.
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    Thanks to AISD's Michelle Krejci, Director of the Office of Innovation and Developement, for helping me go the distance.
    Cyclists rode 26, 42, or 62 miles. This year, I completed the 26-mile course, which took me from the Samsung Austin plant in northeast Austin through the wide open spaces northeast of town, with a time of 2:52:02. Thanks to my friends at Jack and Adam's Bicycles for suiting me up!

    The morning started off chilly and gray, but after the three-hour ride, the sun was shining for the festival that followed the ride!
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    The Rosedale Foundation's President's Circle and my Rosedale Ride Dream Team!
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    Ride, ride, ride, ride your bike...Our emcee got us all charged up with his ukelele and kazoo.
    Each cyclist is given the name of a Rosedale student to wear as they ride, as a reminder of the students who will benefit from their efforts. I rode for Aislinn, a precious eight-year old girl. She is very social, and enjoys walking in her gait trainer and playing the gym.

    Proceeds from this race are used to help Rosedale School continue to provide resources for our students with some of the most significant disabilities. These include new IPads our students are using to communicate with their teachers and friends, additional training for teachers, and extra field trips.

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    So glad to see Rosedale student Savannah and her family again this year at the ride.
    Thanks to the volunteers at the Rosedale Foundation, Rosedale principal Elizabeth Dickey and her staff, and all of the other volunteers and staff who worked so hard to make this event a success. I want to especially thank these major sponsors: Samsung Austin Semiconductor, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Polycom, and Whittington and Company, for their ongoing support.

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    Bowie sophomore Eric Moe signs a billboard featuring his artwork at 1602 S. Lamar.
    On this bright, crisp spring morning I had the chance to ascend to billboard heights with one of our district's talented artists. It's part of our district's 2013 celebration of Youth Art Month. Bowie sophomore Eric Moe's artwork was selected as the first place winner in the 2013 annual AISD Youth Art Month contest. It is displayed on billboards throughout the city (see the list of locations below).

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    Each year, the first place winner of the AISD Youth Art Month billboard competition has the opportunity to sign one of the billboards displaying his or her work. This year, Eric signed the billboard at the corner of Collier and S. Lamar St., with Bowie art teacher Martha Anne Kuntz  and me alongside for the ride.

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    Eric's fellow Bowie High art students came to cheer him on.
    Once again this year, fire fighters from the Austin Fire Department helped us to belt up and stay safe. Thanks to all of these professionals for giving their time and expertise each year to support the fine arts in AISD!

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    Fire fighters from the Austin Fire Department helped raise the bucket to billboard height and keep us safe.
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    Third Place Winner Julia Lund, Bowie principal Stephen Kane, Eric Moe, Art Teacher Martha Ann Kuntz, Bowie Asst. Principal Larry Britton, and Second Place Winner Jordan Brittain. Bowie art students won first, second and third place in this year's competition. Last year, Julia Lund created the winning billboard art.
    Eric's artwork is displayed on billboards in these ten locations throughout town:
    1208 11th Street
    1608 35th Street
    800 Airport Boulevard
    1521 Anderson Lane
    601 Ben White Boulevard
    1602 Lamar Boulevard South
    3701 Manor Boulevard
    6400 Riverside Drive
    5500 Springdale Road
    US 290 West

    The original piece is on display, along with the work of the second and third place winners, at the  2013 Youth Art Month Show at One Congress Plaza, 111 Congress Avenue. These winning works, as well as more than 1500 other works of art by students from 114 elementary, middle and high schools throughout the district, will be on display in the lobby  of One Congress Plaza until  Monday, April 15. Thanks to Thomas Properties Group, an AISD Art Program sponsor, for donating space for this annual event.

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    Mark Curry, one of our district's most committed volunteers, joined me at the Youth Art Show.
    Here are some of the wonderful pieces on display:

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    Last night, the Austin Symphony Orchestra and the Long Center for the Performing Arts sponsored the third annual Texas Young Composers Concert, featuring the works of ten talented young composers aged 18 and under from throughout the state. I was proud that one of these composers was an AISD student. McCallum senior Jamison McMackin composed "Dance of the Sailors," which was described in the evening's program this way:  

    "The piece begins with a fast paced and jolly sounding melody inspiring feelings of adventure and exploration. About halfway through, it becomes slower and dreamier which may suggest wandering or contemplating. The piece doesn't tell a particular story--it simply sugges a few general themes which leave the listener open to create their own story and interpretation."

    According to the program, Jamison created "Dance of the Sailors," his first full composition, over a period of six months. He has played in the McCallum jazz band and piano ensemble and is currently learning cello and guitar.

    Congratulations to Jamison and the other nine young composers for being selected for this honor. I enjoyed every minute of the performances!

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    Jamison McMackin and his proud parents.

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    This week, I had my final meeting of the year with the members of my Student Advisory Committee, a group of 41 students representing each high school and middle school in the district. Committee members provide valuable insight and recommendations from the point of view of an AISD student, and their feedback helps give me a broader perspective in my work as superintendent.

    For our closing meeting, we wanted to focus on an issue that is topical for the district and for our students: technology. Of the $892,245,000 in the May 2013 bond program, about 10 percent of funds will be devoted to technology.

    The district is trying to improve and streamline technology-based resources and practices that we have in place for our students. We want our students to be prepared for careers in an increasingly tech-focused economy, so discussing the perks and pitfalls of certain technologies and how students make use of the many resources that are out there, was  informative. Twitter, Wikipedia, and text messaging sparked a lot of conversation.

    We launched our conversation on technology rights by reflecting on this quote attributed to Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr.:

    “The right to swing my fists ends where another man’s nose begins.”

    Then, we examined and discuss other school district views on student technology rights. These questions were presented and discussed: Should students be able to cite Wikipedia in research projects?  Should students have permission to bring and use their own personal technology devices at school? Is it the school’s responsibility to protect students from online threats and cyber bullying?  Should students hold themselves accountable to certain prescribed manners on social networks? Those were just a few topics we covered in the discussion.

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    The students worked in small groups to create a few standards they think AISD should adopt regarding student technology use.  Their proposals ranged from  conservative to expansive, but most all of them were inventive.  A few examples:

    • “We should be allowed to use our cell phones in class as it is for an educational purpose, like using a calculator app, accessing the dictionary, translation apps and more.”
    • “Phones should be allowed based on the students’ responsibility—much like no pass, no play. If you perform well in school, you should have the privilege to use your phone.”
    • “Students should be allowed to access YouTube for educational purposes.”
    • “The sites and technologies that students access should be left to the teacher’s discretion.”
    • “All social media social media sites should be blocked because they do not serve an educational purpose.”
    • “Students should be willing to give up certain technology rights in exchange for knowing they are getting a better education because of it.”
    It was interesting to see how varied, and sometimes contradictory, the standards students set for themselves were. Some of the ideas may serve as launching points for a student technology Bill of Rights for our district. The Student Advisory Committee will pick up this discussion again when we reconvene next school year.

    It’s hard to believe this was our final meeting this school year, and the last ever for our graduating students. I’m grateful to these student advisors for giving up a few hours each month to sit down with me to discuss the issues that impact them, and I have enjoyed all of the dynamic discussions we have shared.

    Good luck to each of you, our AISD Student Advisory VIPs! 

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    Students demonstrated the CATCH program for Jared during his visit to Allison Elementary.
    This week, Allison Elementary School students received a visit from Jared Fogel, who inspired many Americans to eat healthier after he trimmed his waist nearly in half based on a diet of sandwiches from the Subway sandwich chain. Jared visited a physical education class and had lunch with students. During a question-and-answer session about health and educational issues, Jared told students about how he lost more than 245 pounds eating what he calls his "Subway Diet."

    Jared did an amazing job.  He told his story of how he began to put on excess weight third grade after he got a video game for his birthday.  He told the students that he was drinking up to 15 cans of soda per day in college before beginning his now-famous diet of eating at Subway twice a day, along with  a walking program.  In his first year, he dropped more than 90 pounds!

    Jared said he wished he had a program like CATCH (Coordinated Approach to Child Health), AISD's approved Coordinated school health program, and that he thinks AISD students are  lucky to have the opportunity to learn about nutrition and physical activity. 

    Thanks, Jared, for sharing your experience with our students!

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    AISD Board President Vince Torres (l), Trustee Cheryl Bradley, Trustee Robert Schneider, Darrell Ayers, Vice President of Education at the Kennedy Center, and MindPOP Executive Director Brent Hasty after the award was presented.
    I am so proud to report that at the National School Boards Association meeting in San Diego, the AISD Board of Trustees was honored to receive the 25th annual Kennedy Center Alliance for Arts Education Network (KCAAEN) and National School Boards Association (NSBA) Award. The award includes a $10,000 prize.

    This national award has been given since 1989. Each year, a national review panel selects the first place school district from a pool of nominees selected by State Alliances for Arts Education and State School Boards Associations. School districts must demonstrate support for all four core disciplines in arts education programs: visual arts, music, theater, and dance. Instruction and programming must be available for all students throughout the district. The ways in which the school district develops collaborative partnerships with the cultural resources available in the community are also an important consideration in reviewing nominations.

    Our district was chosen from nominees around the country for its outstanding support of high-quality arts education. Finalists included: Florida’s School Board of Hillsborough County; Michigan’s Ann Arbor Public Schools Board of Education; Minnesota’s Minnetonka Public Schools Board of Education; and Virginia’s Roanoke City Public Schools School Board.

    Congratulations to the our AISD Board of Trustees for their strong support of arts education!

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    This plaque was presented to our Trustees in honor of their support for arts education.

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    Lanier wrestler Andrey Dias with coaches Randy and Jessica Madsen, Governor Perry, and coach Craig Grace.
    Last week at the Texas Capitol, Lanier wrestler Andrey Dias was honored by Texas governor Rick Perry. Andrey, who is a senior at Lanier High School, won this year's state wrestling championship in the 4A girls 102-pound weight class.

    We are so proud of  Andrey and her coach, Randy Madsen, for earning this recognition. The AISD Board of Trustees will honor Andrey on April 29. I'm looking forward to seeing Andrey and her coaches then.

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    Brentwood 2nd Graders cheer for their teacher!
    On this rainy spring morning, it felt like I was bringing sunshine to three teachers who are the sun in their classrooms. These three terrific teachers were chosen as Austin ISD’s 2013 Teachers of the Year for elementary school, middle school and high school.

    Being selected as a Teacher of the Year is one of the highest honors in AISD. Each year, one of the finalists is named Austin Teacher of the Year and selected to serve as the district’s nominee for the Texas Teacher of the Year. This year’s finalist will be named May 14 during the district’s Salute event, when we will recognize many of our most outstanding staff members.

    The 2013 Teachers of the Year are:

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    Brentwood Principal Katherine Williams-Carter and I congratulate Elementary Teacher of the Year Sloan McLain.
    “Sloan” McLain, Elementary School Teacher of the Year, is a second grade teacher at Brentwood Elementary School. She  teaches core content by incorporating creative techniques, such as arts-integration, themes and life skills, to help students develop into socially responsible, world citizens. Most recently, she and her students demonstrated arts-integration in action by presenting during Austin ISD’s launch of the Any Given Child Initiative. (I blogged about these talented students on October 26, 2012 in the entry "Any Given Child Takes Off!")

    McLain joined Austin ISD in 2004 and has 12 years of teaching experience. Her grandfather was a superintendent in Ohio during the great Depression, and both of his daughters went on to pursue teaching careers.

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    Murchison Principal Sammi Harrison helped congratulate Middle School Teacher of the YearAlexa Humberson.
    Alexa Humberson, Middle School Teacher of the Year, joined Murchison Middle School in 2006, and currently serves as a Social Communication Resources and Services teacher in the school’s special education department. She has been a Teacher of the Year nominee on her campus the past three years.

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    Humberson also created community-based learning trips to off-campus sites, such as the grocery store, so her students can practice social skills in real-life settings. Another program she helped create pairs students with special needs with students in the school’s International Baccalaureate program, who act like mentors.

    Sarah Dille, High School Teacher of the Year, has been a teacher for 13 years and teaches English and writing to 9th-11th grade students at Crockett High School. Dille, who comes from a family of educators, said she was born to be a teacher.

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    Crockett Principal Craig Shapiro doesn't miss an opportunity to brag about Sarah Dille.
    Dille, whose own writing has appeared in the New York Times and Huffington Post, said a few times she has considered other careers, such as writing full-time or becoming a lawyer.

    “But nothing else feels quite like the ground under my feet in my classroom,” she said. “Nothing else fulfills me and challenges me quite like the art of teaching.”

    Words like these inspire our best teachers every day, and Ms. McLain, Ms. Humberson, and Ms. Dille are among the best of the best. Congratulations!

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    No, these are not dillos, or strawberries, or bananas. They are Anderson High students supporting a good cause, along with Board President Vincent Torres and me.

    On Sunday, April 21, AISD Board President and I ran in the second annual Dillo Dash, a one-mile walk or run that started at the Anderson High School went to Hill Elementary and then ended back at the Anderson High track. It was great and healthy fun for kids and their parents. More than 700 people participated-- a new school record! Thanks to principal Mollie Ellis for working so hard on this event. Go Dillos!

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  • 05/02/13--14:27: Celebrating Our Volunteers!
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    Representatives of Manchaca PTA accept their award.
    On Tuesday, April 30, hundreds of guests gathered at the 2013 Celebrate event to recognize and thank the thousands of volunteers who support our school district in so many ways. Celebrate 2013 was presented by AISD and Austin Partners in Education, or APIE.

    Our volunteers make our district better. Their time is a precious resource, and, now more than ever, a valuable commodity in our school district. They help bridge the gap when funding for public schools is being cut, and we need to do more with less. There are so many needs, and it takes so many big hearts to fill these needs.

    Volunteers serve as tutors or mentors for individual students, they participate in their school's PTA, and they work on boards and committees at the school and district level, to name just a few ways they support our students and schools.  

    AISD does not have a definitive total of all of its volunteers because community members enter into volunteer roles through many different avenues. Austin Partners in Education (APIE) placed more than 950 volunteers in classrooms throughout the district for weekly academic support. Another 750 APIE mentors work with students individually. In addition, more than 5,000 volunteer background checks have been processed for other campus volunteer roles such as library assistants and field trip chaperones.

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    At Celebrate 2013, we recognized parent ambassadors, community organizations, school business partners and other volunteers. These individuals and groups were recognized as outstanding volunteers: 

    PTA of the Year: Manchaca Elementary PTA
    APIE Coordinator of the Year: Mayra Segala-Ramon, Joslin Elementary
    2013 Volunteer Champion: Ruby Zgabay
    2013 School Champion: Margaret McKinney
    2013 Donor Champion: Applied Materials Foundation
    APIE Business Partner of the Year: CWS Corporate Housing

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    Lucky winners of the drawing won tickets to  Round Rock Express games and events at the Long Center.

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    Major sponsors were the City of Austin, Wells Fargo, and Univision.

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  • 05/08/13--15:29: Our Teachers Are the Best!
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    Big hugs for Amy Gardner, McBee's Teacher of the Year.
    May 4-8 is Teacher Appreciation Week, and all over our district, students, families and campus staff are showing our teachers how much we care about them. This week, I was able to deliver gifts to teachers at three schools--McBee and Wooten Elementary Schools and Webb Middle School. Our district has some of the most committed, hard working teachers I know. Thanks, teachers, for all you do!

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    While I was at Webb Middle School, I also had the pleasure of presenting a Gibson Guitar to Principal Rey Garcia and teachers in the music program. AISD was awarded up to 100 guitars from MINDPOP, the City of Austin, and Gibson Guitars to help further our mission to support the development of arts-rich schools and expand creative learning opportunities for Austin school students.

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    Dixie Yoder, Orchestra Teacher at Webb, accepts one of five Gibson Guitars that the school requested to use in its Band, Guitar and Orchestra programs.

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    At the starting line...Ready, set, go!
    To support public education, runners and walkers from different backgrounds came out for the Texas Roundup Run for Education on Saturday, April 27. I finished the 5K walk in 43 minutes, 34 seconds with #405, Davis Elementary teacher Alana Lilie. At some point in the race, I was able to run or walk with Betty Rodriguez of my office, Coach Rosenthal from Austin High, our CFO Nicole Conley,  translator Irma Palacios, and Pickle Elementary principal Joel de la Garza. Thanks to everyone who came out for this fun and healthy event!

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    On Saturday, May 11, the district honored and recognized more than 120 middle and high school Latino students for their academic achievements and contributions to their community. Some students were honored for being outstanding leaders, others are new to this country and have shown remarkable progress in adapting to our country and culture; and still others have distinguished themselves as scholars, community volunteers, or both. Each one of these students personifies the shining Latino stars in AISD. We are proud of each and every one of you!
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    The honorable Gus Garcia, former school board trustee, city council member, and mayor of Austin was the keynote speaker. He shared his story with the families and students at the event, and encouraged them to follow the call of the community to volunteer service.

    Univision 62 News Anchor Gustavo Monsante served as master of ceremonies and offered lively commentary throughout the event. Thanks to Mr. Monsante and to Univision for their suppport!

    Also honored at the event were these outstanding Latino volunteers and organizations:
    Latino Parent Volunteer Award: Hilda Villalobos-Alvarez, a parent and volunteer at Ortega Elementary;
    Latino Community Service Award: Joe J. Trevino, the founder of Eastside Memorial High School's Club Anthem, which brings volunteer professonals into the school to support reading; and
    Latino Excellence in Advocacy Award: The Hispanic Scholarship Consortium, which opens doors to higher education for Latino students.

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    Among the students honored were the Highest Ranking Latino Seniors at each or our high schools. They are:
    Nathanial Buescher, Akins
    Elizabeth Kravitz, Anderson
    Laura Herrera, Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders
    Fernando Argudo, Austin
    Reina Trejo, Bowie
    Elizabeth Padilla, Crockett
    Juan Carlos Martinez-Esqueda, Eastside Memorial
    Bronte Bejarano, Garza
    Melissa Montalvo, LBJ
    Doris Vallejo, Lanier
    Sofia Dyer, LASA
    Violet Acevedo, McCallum
    Maricarmen Quiroz, Reagan
    Alfredo Serrato, Travis

    Congratulations to these and other outstanding Latino students for their achievement!

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    Crockett High School English Teacher Sarah Dille was named 2013 AISD Teacher of the Year. 
    Last night, the Long Center was alive with excitement at Salute 2013, an annual event recognizing exceptional teachers and staff members in the district. Sponsored by AISD and Austin Partners in Education, Salute is our opportunity to celebrate educator excellence in our district.

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    The Akins High School band led the parade of educators to start the show.

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    The district's finest educators enter a crowded Long Center at Salute 2013.
    The full house gave an enthusiastic welcome to this year's Teachers of Promise, Teachers of the Year, newly Board Certified Teachers, and nominees for Classified Staff of the Year,  Counselor of the Year, Librarian of the Year, and Assistant Principal of the Year, Principal of the Year and Teacher of the Year.

    It was great to recognize and honor our outstanding educators. Congratulations to all of this year's award recipients:
    Amanda Guajardo, Pease Elementary, Classified Staff of the Year
    Sara Stevenson, O.Henry Middle School, Librarian of the Year
    Geoffrey Harter, Anderson High School, Counselor of the Year
    Yvette Soliz, Williams Elementary School, Assistant Principal of the Year
    David Kauffman, Perez Elementary School, Principal of the Year
    Sarah Dille, Crockett High School, Teacher of the Year

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    Congratulating our district's Teachers of Promise.

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    100 of the district's first-year Teachers of Promise were honored.

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    President Torres recognized our 2012 National Board Certified Teachers.

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    Teachers of the Year from every AISD campus fill the stage!

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    Announcing this year's AISD 2013 Teacher of the Year!

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  • 05/21/13--11:51: Our Afterschool Champion!
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    Congratulations to Widen Elementary and principal Kimberly Royal for winning two awards on Friday, May 21 at the 10th Annual Breakfast of Champions Event sponsored by the Central Texas Afterschool Network. Widen was awarded for its Program Quality Site and Ms. Royal was recognized in the category of School District Employee. We are  proud of you!

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    Every year, Austin ISD buses thousands of fourth and fifth grade students from across the district to the Long Center to be a part of a special youth-oriented performance with the Austin Symphony Orchestra. It’s a wonderful opportunity for students to be treated to an art-rich experience and I look forward to it every spring.

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    The ritual is special to me for several reasons. Not only are students able to experience a magnificent musical performance by Austin’s most elite musicians, they are also able to sing and play right along with them.  For months prior to the performance, students have practiced reading music and playing the recorder so they can join the talented musicians of the symphony.  It’s always a joy to see students respond so positively to hearing and playing familiar compositions like “The William Tell Overture” the “Simple Gifts” hymn and “Toreador” from Georges Bizet’s opera Carmen, among others. I even brought my recorder along to join in on the fun and perform on stage along with the symphony and two of our talented students.

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    Of course, there is more that makes this performance special for students than having the opportunity to sing and play along with the musicians on stage. For instance, throughout the performance, the Long Center projects student artwork behind the orchestra so our students can see how art and music can complement one another.  An M.C. also introduces each piece, providing background information on the selection to be played, noting distinctions between the types of songs and even demonstrating the different dances that traditionally accompany the music. It’s a unique touch that helps tie our art curriculum together and create a lasting memory for our students.

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    I’m grateful to the Austin Symphony Orchestra, our wonderful music teachers and the other creative minds with the symphony and the district for helping to make this experience possible year after year. Thanks for all you do for our students.
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    The Seedling Foundation's Promise Mentoring Program was started in February 2006 at the request of a group of school principals who were concerned about the growing numbers of children affected by the incarceration of one or both of their parents. The Seedling Foundation recruits volunteers from the community, matches them with eligible children, and offers ongoing support to both children and mentors. Mentors provide stable, long-term relationships for the students and help them develop and maintain positive attitudes towards school.

    Today, at Seedling's Promise Mentor Appreciation Lunch, the Seedling Foundation honored AISD Trustees, staff, and other volunteers, and awarded college scholarships to these students:

    Erinn Kelley-Estrada - Austin High School
    Maria Barron  - O. Henry\Austin High  School
    Edith Gonzalez - Fulmore\Travis High School
    Richard Rivera-Mitchell - O. Henry\Crockett High School
    Noel Mondragon Benitez - Webb\Reagan High School
    Gavino Duron - Kealing Middle School (Austin High School)
    Kevin Rogel - Webb Middle School (Reagan High School)

    AISD was inducted in to the Seedling Hall of Honor for providing numerous mentors in support of the program. I am so proud of our district and its staff for supporting this organization and its important work.

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    Vice President Hinojosa and President Torres show the award for the AISD Board of Trustees.
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    AISD's District 3 Trustee Ann Teich has been a Seedling Mentor for five years!

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    Dr. Gloria Williams received the Angels and Advocates Award.
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    The Fulmore Middle School Choir performed for the event. The choir has been invited to perform
    at Carnegie Hall in New York City

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    This week, in 15 different ceremonies, nearly 4,400 seniors graduated from high school! I am so proud of all of these graduates. It was an honor for me, as superintendent, to be able to meet and talk with seniors as they walked across the stage to receive their diplomas. Members of the AISD Board of Trustees and senior AISD leaders attended every ceremony. It's been a busy, celebratory week.

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    Congratulations, AISD Class of 2013!

    On behalf of AISD, blessings and best wishes to all of you!

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