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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Palestine library hosts Angel Tree for veterans
Palestine Public Library is partnering with the local veterans groups to make sure area veterans are remembered this Christmas.
‘Mary Did You Know’
The members and guests at Payne Springs United Methodist Church Fellowship Night dinner were blessed by the Mabank High School Panther Edition on Wednesday, Dec. 4. The choir performed "Mary Did You Know," along with a medley of favorite TV theme songs. These students practice everyday, along with their regular school curriculum. “It does your heart good to see young students so dedicated and talented,” an attendee said. The Panther Edition Christmas program will be Dec. 17. Mark your calendar for an entertaining evening.
It’s a boom time for criminals
Christmas is a boom time for cybercriminals with spam e-mails, fake sites and fake products used to lure bargain hunters to their sites. Beware of the viruses that could possibly be lurking in these sites.
Henderson County police departments routinely check out possible scams and viruses that could effect the area. Recently, Infosecurity Magazine reported of a trojan virus that is set to target banking websites nationwide. Area police departments encourage citizens to be watchful while using the Internet, and keep a close eye on their transaction.
Enrollment deadline nears
With the impending deadline for open enrollment for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), insurance agents from around the county are scrambling to provide as much information as possible on the new law.
Lana Mock, with Skip Smith Insurance, spoke to the Cedar Creek Lake Area Chamber of Commerce (CCLACC) Seven Points/Tool/Kemp Branch members about what they can expect from the ACA. Mock tried to answer as many questions as she could.
Upgrades continue at Chandler parks
Chandler City Administrator John Taylor updated the Chandler Parks and Recreation board on several of the ongoing projects at the three city parks - Winchester, River and McCain.
Winchester Park is the most-used facility and includes five baseball fields, a walking trail, lighted horse shoe pits, fishing pond, exercise course, playground and a pavilion.
Tournament fees proposed
As field five near completion at Winchester Park in Chandler, the city's Parks and Recreation Board is looking at various ways for the facility to help fund future park improvements.
One of the areas discussed Wednesday, Dec. 4 during the special-scheduled meeting of the board was to recommend pricing and profit sharing for future non-league baseball and softball tournaments to the city council.
Pinnacle Church serves the Chapman House
The Pinnacle Church has taken The Chapman House under its wing by providing the necessary support for the organization to help its residents recover from their addictions.
Eustace Christmas on the Square set for Dec. 14
Mayor Elicia Sanders invites everyone in Eustace and the surrounding area to attend the 17th annual Christmas On the Square celebration Dec. 14 from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m.
All aboard the Polar Express!
Get ready for an unforgettable experience as two Athens-area organizations are preparing for showings of the hit movie, “The Polar Express.”
The first showing of the movie will be this weekend at the Henderson County Clint W. Murchison Memorial Library.
A royal event
Miss Texas 2013, Ivana Hall, will join a royal celebration at the Cain Center in Athens on Sunday, Dec. 8, from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m.
The event is hosted by the Cain Center, along with the Henderson County Historical Museum. The reining Miss Texas will honor the 50th Anniversary of Miss Texas 1964 Sharon McCauley from Athens.
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