AUSTIN (KXAN) - The Austin Independent School District opened the discussion on single-gender campuses at a work session Monday night, with key trustee Cheryl Bradley still firmly in favor of the model.
The idea of two single-gender schools -- one at Pearce Middle School and the other at Garcia Middle School -- has been met with a mixed reaction from the community. At Monday night's work session, Superintendent Meria Carstarphen stressed the need to find an effective way to boost academic achievement in the Reagan and LBJ high school feeder patterns, especially since both will soon be Early College High Schools.
Trustee Cheryl Bradley, who represents the area, strongly favors the school model, one that she thinks will address chronic issues of gang activity and drug use, as well as teen pregnancy. The atmosphere of a single-gender school can nurture young men, Bradley said. Colleague Lori Moya said a single-gender school can teach young women that they are "amazing creatures."
Under the initial proposal , Pearce would be devoted to one gender and Garcia to the other. Those who do not want to participate in the single-gender campus would be assigned to a neighboring school. Trustees could vote for the campus concept as early as Sept. 24, but Carstarphen said she would like to see a decision from the board no later than Dec. 17 in order to start the clock on the transfer process.
Initial student surveys about the single-gender concept last year expressed only tepid support for the concept, which Carstarphen said was due to an incomplete process that was not targeted to relevant Garcia and Pearce students. Feedback at meetings has been far from glowing. And research on single-gender schools, which Carstarphen presented to the board, is mixed.
If the surveys were to be counted, Carstarphen noted that the concept of a single-gender campus had been received more favorably by Spanish-speaking parents. The one idea that was best received among both English- and Spanish-speaking parents was mandatory uniforms for the middle school campuses.
The trio of trustees who opposed the IDEA in-district charter at Allan Elementary School raised more critical points about the schools. Trustee Robert Schneider said he did not want a repeat of the Allan "opt out" process. Tamala Barksdale and Annette LoVoi wanted quantitative metrics to determine whether the single-gender campuses were meeting their goals.
The freezing and near-freezing rain that swooped into Central Texas overnight prompted numerous school closings and delays and made for a harrowing morning commute on Friday.
A man is charged with murder in the shooting death Wednesday of a woman at a North Austin auto repair shop, police said Friday.
A man is expected to survive after being stabbed in the head at the Salvation Army shelter in Downtown Austin at about 3:45 a.m. Friday.
It's the first criminal charge following a yearlong criminal investigation into the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas.
With freezing temperatures pushing through the region, heating systems will likely be working overtime, which can bring rising energy bills.
Investigators are looking into an overnight fire that left one woman with third-degree burns.