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Board Briefs - April 25, 2011

Districtwide Performing Arts Center

Austin School Trustees approved an expenditure of $4 million from bond construction revenue for the purchase of land for a future districtwide Performing Arts Center (PAC).  The 4.46-acre tract is located in Central Austin, on Mueller Boulevard, between 51st Street and Barbara Jordan Boulevard.

Austin voters have twice approved bond funding for the PAC — partial funding in the 2004 Bond Program, and full funding for land acquisition and construction under the 2008 Bond Program.

“The District takes very seriously the promise to bond election voters to complete all the projects that were approved for funding,” Superintendent Carstarphen told Trustees, in recommending the purchase.  “Moving forward with the purchase of the PAC site ensures that we will be able to secure a centrally-located site, and allow us to acquire the site at a more advantageous cost than will likely be available at a later time.”

Funding through bond proceeds can only be used for capital expenditures — such as the Performing Arts Center — and cannot be used for salaries, utilities services, or other similar operational expenses.  Although the land acquisition and construction costs are fully funded through bond proceeds, given AISD’s current budget challenges, Dr. Carstarphen said the District is considering how operation of the PAC will affect future general maintenance and operation (M&O) funds, to ensure that opening of the PAC is compatible with the District’s budget. http://www.austinisd.org

Currently, AISD has no performing arts facility large enough to accommodate districtwide events, and has to rent other facilities.  All District band, orchestra, theater, dance and visual arts students will be served by the PAC, currently planned to be approximately 60,000 square feet, with a 1,200-seat main auditorium and a 250-seat black box theater.  Use of the PAC will be available to community groups for a fee, when there are no conflicts with District use.

The facility is anticipated to include a performance stage, seating area, loading dock, dressing rooms, lobby, and concessions area.  Site work will include parking for the facility in the form of a 400-vehicle parking garage, as well as a pedestrian plaza, landscaping, and storm water control. The parking garage may also include a design that assists in screening it from public view.  The District has selected Pfluger Associates Architects, LP, to provide design services, and American Constructors as the Construction Manager at Risk.

As the process advances, the Performing Arts Center Task Force will continue to oversee the development of the PAC, and the District will provide future opportunities for the community to provide feedback.  For more information about the PAC, or the Bond Programs in general, visit the Apple at Work Bond Program section of the Austin ISD Website at http://www.austinisd.org .  Questions or comments also may be submitted through the website, or by calling the Apple at Work Hotline at 512-414-BOND (2663).


Plan to Strengthen Travis and Eastside and Vertical Teams

Dr. Carstarphen presented Trustees with a plan to strengthen the educational foundation for the Travis and Eastside Memorial Vertical Teams.  Since November, the Administration has researched best evidence research practices.  Early warning notification about schools within the teams indicates that a strengthening of the educational foundations is required.  In schools with such characteristics, it is unlikely that student performance will increase, or that achievement gaps will be eliminated, unless there is a dramatic improvement in the educational foundation throughout the entire vertical team.

The Plan to Strengthen the Educational Foundation for the Travis and Eastside Memorial Vertical Teams is based on the five evidence-based tenets researched by the Harvard Education Innovation Laboratory, specifically:

  • Human capital — Staff members showing less than adequate results or progress will be placed on an improvement plan at the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year, and may be placed on contractual difficulty if they do not improve.  Faculty and staff at Allan, Govalle, Martin, Eastside, and Travis who achieve student improve goals will receive performance pay through the District’s REACH compensation program.  
  • More time on task — Instructional time will be increased.  Specifically, the school day will be extended by 45 minutes.  Additional instructional time will be provided for select students on Saturdays.  Extending the school year at one or more of these Vertical Teams schools will be a possibility in 2012-2013, but may not be possible next school year.
  • High-dosage tutoring — Classroom instruction is supplemented by individualized tutoring provided during the regular school day.  Sixth, ninth, and third grade students would receive high dosage tutoring at a 4:1 ratio, everyday, for at least 45 minutes.
  • High expectations and a "no excuses" culture — Vertical Team schools will better utilize strategies for creating a culture of high expectations for all students, and will hold all students accountable for learning.  Strategies may include setting common classroom expectations, developing a college-going culture, and having teachers and students sign a compact that outlines expectations for the year.
  • Data-driven instruction — Data use in urban schools has been shown to be a successful strategy for school improvement.  Students will be assessed more often, and the results will be reported electronically to allow for improved analysis and intervention.

This approach will help the District meet the strategic plan goals of having these vertical team schools increase performance to 'recognized’ status or better and ensure students at these schools perform at grade level.

Over time, all of the schools in the Travis and Eastside Memorial Vertical Teams will be served by the plan.  Given the District’s existing budgetary constraints the plan is only able to serve the schools with the highest need at this time.


Public Hearing on the 2011-2012 Budget

Twenty citizens, business leaders and community member addressed Trustees during a Public Hearing on the District’s Revised 2011-2012 Preliminary Budget.  Total revised revenue to the District is now estimated at $750.7 million, and expenditures are $797 million.  This represents a decrease of $2.2 million in revenue, and a net increase of $769,000 in expenditures, when compared with the Preliminary Budget that Superintendent Carstarphen presented to Trustees in February.

At an April 11 Work Session, Chief Financial Officer Nicole Conley-Abram highlighted the following revisions to the Preliminary Budget:

  • After reductions, and cost avoidance measures, AISD is still facing a projected budget shortfall of $46.3 million (assumes State reductions of $79 million.)
  • AISD is proposing reductions and savings that total $62.8 million.
  • Even with proposed reductions, AISD will need to potentially draw-down $46.3 million from its Fund Balance reserves.
  • Budget shortfall is due to lower local property tax revenue; loss of one-time federal funding; and potentially, up to $7.8 billion less in state funding for public education.
  • AISD is maintaining a strong focus on classroom instruction and student success by continuing to fund full-day Pre-Kindergarten and an eight-course day for secondary students.
  • No increase in the tax rate for Maintenance & Operations is proposed.
  • A 1½-cent increase is proposed to cover debt for Bond Program.

Ms. Conley-Abram is scheduled to present the District’s Recommended 2011-2012 Budget to Trustees on June 13, following adjournment of the Regular Session of the Texas Legislature.  The current schedule calls for the Board to hold another Public Hearing, and to officially adopt next year’s Budget, on June 20.


Redistricting Update

Board President Mark Williams updated the community on the process the District will use to redistrict the geographic boundaries from which AISD’s seven single member Trustees are elected.  Every 10 years, after the official US Census is released, the District must reassess each Trustee district as to its census data, both to ensure relatively equal proportional population sizing, and to ensure compliance with the laws regarding the demographic make-up of each Trustee district.

“At this point, the redistricting process is on schedule,” President Williams said.   The District has retained David Mendez with the Heath, Bickerstaff law firm to help with redistricting.  Mr. Mendez made his initial presentation on redistricting criteria to the Board earlier this month, and those details are posted on the AISD Website.  In addition, Mr. Mendez has outlined to the Board a possible timeline for developing a redistricting plan, for obtaining public comment, and for formal adoption of new Trustee boundaries.

 

The next Regular Meeting of the Austin School District Board of Trustees is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Monday, May 23, in the Auditorium of the Carruth Administration Center, located at 1111 West Sixth Street.  All Board Meetings and Work Sessions are carried live on Time Warner and Grande Communications, Cable Channel 22, and on the AISD Website at http://www.austinisd.org