Athens Independent School District Superintendent Blake Stiles told the Athens Kiwanis Club on Tuesday that school finance, testing and campus security are issues he’s watching closely this year.
The battle in Washington over sequestration has billions of dollars in school funding hanging in the balance, Stiles said. Sequestration, enacted by the Budget Control Act of 2011, would mean $85 billion in budget cuts if Congress does not intervene.
“This may be hard to believe but in the state of Texas alone $67.8 million in funding could be lost,” Stiles said. “You’re talking about a lot of Head Start teachers who could lose their jobs if this happens.”
Stiles said with the AISD’s high poverty level, many of the district’s 3- and 4-year-old children could be affected by the losses to Head Start funding.
On the subject of state funding, Stiles said he agrees with District Judge John Dietz’s recent ruling that declared Texas’ system of supporting schools both unconstitutional and inadequate. However, Stiles said he doesn’t think it will mean much relief for school districts this year.
“I doubt that they’re going to get anything done in this legislative session, which will make it interesting for me in budgeting next year for our schools. I think next spring they’ll go back for a special session and try to iron it out,” Stiles said.
There are several bills filed in the House and Senate that could have an impact on public schools. Stiles said he is particularly interested in House Bill 5 that covers issues related to graduation requirements, student assessment and accountability.
The bill creates one diploma for all high school students called the “foundation high school diploma.” It also gives students an opportunity to earn endorsements added to the diploma in areas such as business and industry or arts and humanities.
HB5 cuts back on the amount of tests students are required to take and also installs an easier-to-understand “0 to 100” grading scale. Stiles approves cutting back the testing burden to allow students more time with their daily studies.
“You don’t grow a pig by weighing it,” Stiles said.
On the topic of school security, Stiles said the high school and middle school do not have secure vestibules at their front entrances.
“We need to fix that,” Stiles said. “We need to at least have a way to slow somebody down if an intruder came to our door.”
The security problem at the high school is increased by the fact that it consists of two separate buildings. Stiles said the district could possibly construct a hallway between the two buildings.
Another problem Stiles sees is the area where middle school parents drop off and pick up their children.
“It’s terrible,” Stiles said. “I’ve seen cars stacked up on the highway. We really need another car loop.”
AISD’s Stiles says challenges ahead for Head Start, school budget
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Volunteers now needed for Athens Soup Kitchen
Athens resident Terry Mayhall walked through the doors of the Athens Soup Kitchen asking if he could just volunteer. Mayhall now spends his Thursdays cooking soup for people who are hungry.
Athens Soup Kitchen, Inc. is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. The mission is to feed those who are hungry. The facility that feeds 30 to 63 people weekly, opened its door in March 2014.
Coston named chamber president
After a diligent search, the Athens Chamber of Commerce Board has named Mike Coston president.
“The chamber board selected a search committee, which consisted of Chamber members, community leaders and business owners,” Ashley Adams McKee, Chairman of the Athens Chamber of Commerce Board, said. “Our committee knew that we wanted to take our time to find the most qualified person to serve as our new president. We had more than 10 applicants and in our first round of interviews we were all equally impressed and excited about Mike's experience and passion for chamber business.”
Update on restaurant projects given
City of Athens officials gave an update on some ongoing projects and financial information at a meeting on Wednesday.
Director of Planning and Development Gary Crecilius said progress on the Cotton Patch Cafe has slowed considerably with the discovery of a possible environmental hazard. The restaurant is being constructed east of the Walmart store on East Tyler Street.
HCPAC announces ‘Mattress’ sales
Why would HCPAC be selling mattresses? Actually, the “mattresses” are tickets to “Once Upon a Mattress,” which opens Thursday, Aug. 7.
The 26th Annual Youth Summer Musical stars 24 very talented area students, ages 10 through college, and tells the “fractured fairy tale” version of the “Princess and the Pea.”
Gearing up for Celebrity Waiter event
The Rotary Club of Cedar Creek Lake is gearing up for its annual Celebrity Waiter event. The Celebrity Waiter committee met on Thursday to discuss last minute items. The event is scheduled for Saturday, August 9 at Athens Country Club. This will be the 18th year the CCL Rotary Club has hosted the fundraiser. For ticket information call Erin Osborn at 903-887-7486.
Paul Harris recognition
Rotary of Cedar Creek Lake President Erin Osborn presents Rotarian Bill Burnett with his second Paul Harris recognition. Rotarians are given a Paul Harris recognition when a Rotarian donates $1,000 or more to the fund outright. Benefactors receive a certificate and insignia to wear with a Rotary or Paul Harris Fellow pin.
Sanders suspended indefinitely
Two University of Texas football players were arrested and charged Thursday with felony sexual assault after a female student said she was raped in a campus dorm room last month.
Wide receivers Kendall Sanders, of Athens, and Montrel Meander were arrested and later released on personal recognizance bonds. According to an arrest affidavit, Sanders and Meander texted each other during earlier interviews with police to "get their story straight" and Sanders also faces a charge of improper photography tied to the alleged assault on June 21.
Thunderstorms take their toll on counties
A line of thunderstorms rolled through Henderson County on Wednesday, snapping tree branches and power lines along the way.
The winds that accompanied the storm resulted in thousands of people in North Texas without electricity and roads broken by falling trees or debris.
Council considering Burton's severance package
The Athens City Council, by a 3-to-2 vote, tabled a budget adjustment on Wednesday to fund a severance package for City Administrator Pam Burton who’s stepping down at the end of the year.
Eustace ISD approves tax rates
The Eustace Independent School District Board of Trustees held its regular monthly meeting Tuesday in the Eustace High School Library.
Several reports and agenda items were considered by the board, and all were passed or approved. Board Secretary Ashley McKee was absent.
The board was presented with the superintendent's reports on revenue, expenditures, payroll and taxes.
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