A proposed school for young men—and where to locate it—was the hot topic at an Austin ISD public hearing Nov. 26.
AISD officials called the public hearing at the Delco Activity Center to receive feedback on a list of academic and facilities recommendations. The board of trustees is scheduled to take action on the recommendations, or AAFRs, on Dec. 17.
Roughly 20 people attended. Seven speakers addressed school officials, including Superintendent Meria Carstarphen, board President Vincent Torres, Chief Operations Officer Lawrence Fryer and Chief Academic Officer Pauline Dow, as well as several board members.
Officials identified the School for Young Men as one of the recommendations with the greatest potential of moving forward for implementation in 2013–14.
The school would be a companion school to the Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders. The Moody Foundation, a nonprofit organization, said it will contribute up to $4.6 million for strategic planning and operations if the project is approved.
Covington, Lamar, Pearce, Garcia and Martin middle schools were among those being considered as possible sites.
In public hearings and conversations, renovating an existing site, such as the old Anderson High School or Alternative Learning Center, was preferred over co-locating the school for young men with an existing school and then reassigning students in the existing school to nearby middle schools.
Stacy Sakoulas urged the board to vote in favor the School for Young Men. She said she was a member of the planning committee for a few years and had put a lot of time and energy into creating a brother school for Ann Richards.
Dawn Piper said that allowing transfers without academic reason has created low enrollment at Covington Middle School.
"[Covington is] not low-performing," she said. "If under-enrollment is truly an issue, you should honor the current boundaries and stop contributing to the problem."
Eliza Briggs said she did not want Covington Middle School to change.
"Creating a boys school is fine, just not at Covington," she said.
Laurie Hunter asked if creating a boys school is the most prudent use of tax dollars and if it would increase parent involvement.
"I feel that the best way to address male children's needs in school is to differentiate instruction," she said. "Every teacher at Covington knows how to meet students' needs. They do that in neighborhood schools."
Toni Rayner said she hoped to stop IDEA Public Schools from taking over Eastside Memorial High School. IDEA operates an in-district charter school, IDEA Allan, at the former Allan Elementary School.
"Giving Allan to IDEA was outrageous," she said. "Destroying our vertical team bothers me in such an outrageous manner."
She said she understood the desire to create a companion school to Ann Richards, "but taking over an existing campus and destroying it for this project is wrong."
Vicent Tovar said he opposed blending learning, a combination of classroom and computer methods.
"When will the district slow down and truly give a comprehensive analysis?" he said. "It is not about having 15 meetings after you have made the proposals. It is about having communities involved in the initial decision-making."
Joan Bartz said she expected the board to give the boys school all of the same resources, teachers, strength and funding that Ann Richards receives.