KLRU NewsBriefs: Education Advocates Focus on Attendance, UT Program Supports Financially Independent Students

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The school year is now in full swing, and we have two education stories during PBS NewsHour this weekend to help ease you into things.

On Saturday, we hear from AISD Interim Superintendent Dr. Paul Cruz about why attendance is one of the district’s top priorities.

“We can tell from early on, as early as 5th grade, we can look at if a student is meeting promotion standards, if the student has a good attendance record and if a student is passing all of his or her classes,” Dr. Cruz said. “If that’s not happening, there’s a student who is at risk of not graduating on time with his or her class. [Our first step is] an immediate conversation with the parents to see what we can do to help out the student and the family.”

On Sunday, we hear about Horns Helping Horns, a group from New Student Services on the UT campus which offers emotional and financial support to students who are not receiving any financial help from family.

“I think students have challenges no matter what their background is and I think our students and our community a lot of times because they don’t have that emotional and financial support are dealing with a lot more stuff,” Esmer Bedia, the Horns Helping Horns Coordinator said. “But, the majority of our students are succeeding and graduating and I think that’s because we’re telling them, ya’ll can do it, you will do it and they do succeed.”

KLRU NewsBriefs air locally during PBS NewsHour Weekend, Saturday and Sunday evening at 6:30. 

 

 

 

KLRU NewsBriefs: Austin’s Growing Muslim Community and a New Farm School

Muslim Prayer Meeting

On Saturday during PBS NewsHour we hear about Austin’s growing Muslim population. Muslims around the world marked the end of Ramadan this week with Eid al-Fitr. Thousands of worshipers gathered at the North Austin Event Center on Monday to pray and listen to a sermon. It was a huge turnout for the growing community in Austin, and next  year organizers are planning to move to an even bigger venue.

“Every year is more than we can handle,” Imam Islam Mossaad of the North Austin Community Center said Monday.

Imam Islam said that growth comes from immigrants from all over the world, as well as new converts.

“Muslims [are] spread out throughout the rest of the world, 1.5 billion Muslims, [and] in Austin that diversity is reflected. But also with the added touch of people who are Caucasian-American or African-American or Latino-American who are also coming into Islam,” Imam Islam said. “You have more than 80 different countries represented here today, probably more than that, but we are all also Americans at the same time and so we practice our faith here freely.”

On Sunday, our story is about Austin’s first ever farm school, opening this fall. Farmer Starter grew out of Farmshare Austin, a non-profit focused on educating Central Texans about farming and increasing access to organic, locally-grown food.

“It’s a very challenging business and this is a kind of challenging environment to do it in but we feel that local organic food is a human right and that people should have access to that kind of product and so we want to make sure that it’s widely available in our community,” Farmshare Austin Executive Director Taylor Cook said.

Enrolled students will live and work on the Farmer Starter farm, 10 miles east of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, for six months. They will learn seed starting, harvesting, marketing, as well as financial and business planning, among other skills.

Farmshare Austin is currently trying to raise $50,000 in an Indiegogo campaign to fund construction and student scholarships. You can learn more about the school on their website.

KLRU NewsBriefs air locally on Saturday and Sunday during PBS NewsHour Weekend starting at 6:30pm. 

 

KLRU NewsBriefs: E3 Alliance Central Texas Education Profile

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This weekend during PBS NewsHour we talk to the E3 Alliance about their 2014 Central Texas Education Profile, an in-depth report of educational data covering trends and outcomes for the entire Central Texas region.

On Saturday, we talk to Susan Dawson, Executive Director of E3.

“We use [the data] to inform the community and inform better decision making around education, whether it’s for superintendents and school districts, business and community leaders, for nonprofits who work in the education space, policy makers, all of us throughout the region have different pieces of impact on the education space and it’s to inform that impact through objective data,” Dawson said.

Dawson told us Central Texas is unique because of the area’s rapid growth. Texas has the fastest growing student population of all 50 states in the country and Central Texas’ student population is growing at twice the state’s rate, and of that growth, low income students and English Language Learners are growing at twice that rate.

“So the students who we’re working hardest to help succeed are growing at twice the rate of the region which is already twice the rate of the fastest growing state in the entire country,” Dawson emphasized.

On Sunday, we talk to E3′s Director of Policy and Research, Shawn Thomas. Thomas explained some of this year’s findings regarding our region’s dropout rate.

“For the last decade, we’ve seen that our graduation rates for low income students were lower than graduation rates for low income students in the other urban areas across the state including Houston, Dallas, El Paso and San Antonio. But, this year we saw that change for the first time with our 2012 graduation rates,” Thomas said. “We do know that there’s a very strong relationship between attendance and graduation rates and we know that attendance patterns in our region have changed over the past few years as well.”

You can see the entire E3 Alliance Central Texas Education Profile on the organization’s website.

KLRU News Briefs air locally on Saturday and Sunday during PBS NewsHour Weekend starting at 6:30pm. 

KLRU NewsBriefs air a Texas Tribune Investigation: Hurting for Work

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This weekend during PBS NewsHour we partnered with The Texas Tribune to bring you part of their investigation Hurting for Work You can see extended versions of these stories and other stories in the investigation here.

On Saturday, Texas Tribune Multimedia Reporter Alana Rocha tells the story of Santiago Arias. In 2006 Arias fell two stories to the ground while working for a contractor in Houston. He now has no feeling from the chest down. He only remembers waking up in the hospital.

“I could hear [people in the hospital], but I couldn’t express anything. I could hear them say I was quadriplegic, but I didn’t know what that was,” Arias said.

His employer did not carry workers’ compensation insurance. Texas is the only state in the country that doesn’t require employers to provide coverage.

You can see and read an extended version of Arias’ story here.

On Sunday, part two of the Tribune investigation focuses on Crystal Davis. Davis’ husband, Wayne Davis, died while traveling from their home to a Burger King franchise. He worked as a sales, profit and operations coach for Burger King and was among the 81 percent of Texas workers covered by worker’s compensation insurance.

Davis had to fight to receive payments from the insurance company, which claimed her husband was not working when he died. Just days after The Texas Tribune’s reporting of Davis’ case, the insurance company dropped their lawsuit against Davis and her two children.

You can see and read the extended version of Davis’ story here.

Both stories were produced by The Texas Tribune. They air on KLRU during PBS NewsHour Weekend at 6:30pm on Saturday and Sunday. 

 

KLRU NewsBriefs: Two very different Austin museums mark milestones

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This weekend during PBS NewsHour we have two different indoor activities you can check out: the Harry Ransom Center’s WWI exhibit and the South Austin Pop Culture Center.

On Saturday we peak inside SouthPop, a non-profit museum dedicated to preserving Austin’s music history and the art surrounding that industry. SouthPop’s director Leea Mechling told us this history is more important for residents to know than ever.

“This place is important to give context of Austin’s culture to people who have lived here for a long time and for people who have just moved here. The era of the ’60s and ’70s and ’80s was really a building time of Austin’s unique culture,” Mechling said.

SouthPop is celebrating 10 years this Summer. It is located on South Lamar and is open Thursday through Sunday 1 – 6pm.

Our Sunday story takes you inside the Harry Ransom Center on the University of Texas campus. To commemorate the centennial of the start of World War I, the museum is presenting The World at War: 1914-1918. Some might be surprised to hear about an historical exhibit at the Ransom Center, and curator Jean Cannon said that’s what makes their exhibit unique.

“We have great holdings for literature so a lot of the items that you’ll see in the gallery are diaries or letters and items that give a very personal moment of living between 1914 and 1918,” Cannon told us.

The exhibit runs through August 3. The Harry Ransom Center is free and open to the public.

KLRU NewsBriefs air locally during PBS NewsHour Weekend, Saturday and Sunday at 6:30pm. 

KLRU NewsBrief: East Side Company Puts New Spin on Compost

Compost Pedaller

This Sunday during PBS NewsHour Weekend we’ll preview a Central Texas Gardener story about an East Austin company offering a fossil fuel-free way to compost.

Since 2012, East Side Compost Pedallers has cycled through 5 neighborhoods to collect residential and commercial compostables. Residential customers pay $4 a week, each opting to spare the landfill and instead nourish their neighborhood farms and urban microgrowers.

East Side Pies pays the Compost Pedallers to pick up their vegetable scraps. They say they’ve even attracted more customers as a result.

“We have a lot of vegetable scrap and instead of it going into a dumpster it goes back into soil and our local community and gets more food for everybody. The fact that we’re taking several hundred pounds of waste out of the landfill I think more than makes up for the small cost that we pay,” Randall Holt of East Side Pies told us.

East Side Compost Pedallers recently won the Austin Green Business Leaders Communication and Outreach award.

KLRU NewsBriefs air locally during PBS NewsHour Weekend. An extended version of “Will Pedal for Compost” will air during Central Texas Gardener on July 12 at noon.

KLRU NewsBriefs: Austin’s First Public Montessori School & Huston-Tillotson Receives Largest Donation Ever

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This weekend during PBS NewsHour we have two East Austin education stories.

On Saturday, we’ll introduce you to one of Austin’s newest charter schools and the city’s only public Montessori school: Magnolia Montessori for All. Founder and Principal Sara Cotner told KLRU about why she chose to locate the school in East Austin.

“In Austin there are more than 20 Montessori schools and they’re all private and they’re all west of I-35. East Austin is this beautiful opportunity where there’s a lot of diversity, a lot of different kinds of families, a rich history of commitment to the community,” Ms. Cotner said. “We feel really honored that we were able to find land that was available here and connect with families who were really interested in this vision.”

The school opens August 4th with 3-year-olds through 3rd graders in portable classrooms. They plan to add a grade level every year through 8th grade. Construction is still underway at the site.

On Sunday, we’ll air our conversation with Ada Anderson, an Austin Civil Rights pioneer who donated $3 million this week to Huston-Tillotson University – the largest gift the school has ever received. The funds will be used to build the Sandra Joy Anderson Community Health and Wellness Center (pictured above), a facility which will serve students and surrounding residents. It is named for Mrs. Anderson’s daughter.

“We all know more and more the need for mental health and the plans for the building just fit so perfectly to what [my daughter and her husband] did,” Mrs. Anderson told us. “There are a lot of people [in East Austin] who don’t have a lot of money who I think will be served there so that’s one of the really exciting things to me.”

HT tells us work will begin on the new building very soon.

These stories air on KLRU at 6:30 on Saturday and Sunday evening during PBS NewsHour Weekend. 

 

KLRU News Briefs: Hole in the Wall Turns 40, Artists Beautify North Austin Fence

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KLRU News Briefs are back this weekend during PBS NewsHour after two weeks off. This weekend we’ll hear from a group of local artists who decided to use art to beautify their North Austin neighborhood and about a birthday celebration kicking off this week for the Hole in the Wall’s 40th anniversary.

On Saturday night tune in for an excerpt from the Arts in Context Short Beautiful Fences, the story behind a mural on a fence along Lamar Boulevard between Payton Gin and Rundberg.

“I started out just [painting] “Beauty Will Save the World” in black and white, just the lettering, knowing it would be tagged,” Artist Rigel Thurston tells us. “The people who tagged it…it was too perfect. So, the idea is to include the first round of taggers because they’re part of this neighborhood too.”

On Sunday, the owner of The Hole in the Wall, Will Tanner, tells us about the 40th anniversary party that kicks off on June 19. Plus, he talks about how the bar has evolved over the past four decades.

“The Hole in the Wall is this great place that’s been here a long time and it’s had to change a lot to survive, but I think what has been kept from the past is what makes us great,” Tanner says. Ultimately [this] is a place for like minded, and maybe even not like minded, people to come and enjoy themselves and enjoy live art…eat good food and drink great local beer and just spend some of your life.”

You can find out more about the lineup of bands performing during the celebration here.

KLRU News Briefs air this Saturday and Sunday at 6:30pm during PBS NewsHour Weekend. 

 

KLRU News Briefs: Texas Quilt Museum & Love Your Block, Austin!

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This weekend (May 17-18) during PBS NewsHour Weekend, we take a look inside the Texas Quilt Museum in La Grange and hear about Love Your Block, Austin!, a mini-grant program being offered by the Austin Mayor’s Office.

The Texas Quilt Museum in La Grange is drawing visitors from all over the world. It was founded by cousins Karey Bresenhan and Nancy O’Bryant Puentes, who have also written books about quilting and who founded the International Quilt Association and annual festival in Houston.

Museum Manager Julie Maffei said many people don’t realize how valuable an old quilt they own might be.

“We get a lot of, ‘Oh my God what did I do to my family’s quilt?’ And we’ve heard every kind of horror story there is, from dogs having puppies on them to wrapping water heaters with them in the winter, to using them to move furniture,” Maffei said.

The museum is also becoming well known for melding the art of quilting with the art of garden design. Tune in to KLRU’s Central Texas Gardener for an extended version of this story or find it on the CTG Blog.

Love Your Block, Austin! is offering $500 to $1,000 improvement grants to neighborhood groups in under-served areas of Austin. The application deadline is June 1 and so far the city has only received one completed application. 10-20 groups can get the funds.

“Love Your Block, Austin! is an amazing opportunity for anyone who wants to do an improvement that they can do on their own in the neighborhood,” Grant Coordinator Nevena Pilipovic-Wengler said. ”It’s a really flexible application and it’s a flexible process, it can take place on private and public property. We at Mayor Leffingwell’s office just really believe in this program and believe that it can fund great improvement projects and really encourage people to apply by the deadline of June 1.”

Pilipovic-Wengler told us a few groups are interested in funding community gardens between schools and neighborhood associations. In our story we speak to Ortega Elementary School PTA President Hilda Villalobos Alvarez about her community garden application.

If you have a project you think would be a good fit you can apply on the city’s website: austintexas.gov/loveyourblock.

KLRU News Briefs air locally every Saturday and Sunday during PBS NewsHour Weekend at 6:30pm. 

KLRU News Brief: Austin Students Learn Importance of Water

Water Sci Expo Photo

This Sunday during PBS NewsHour Weekend, we go inside the Austin Water Utility’s 20th annual Water Science Expo. Area 5th and 6th graders attended the event on Tuesday and Wednesday to learn about the importance of responsible water use. Austin Water employees did demonstrations for the kids in an interactive event which was fun and educational.

“We take it very seriously to educate this generation and future generations about the value of taking your water very seriously,” Austin Water spokesperson Jill Mayfield said. “It’s no secret that we’re in a very severe drought and that we need to be mindful and aware of how we use water every day.”

Mayfield said the event also served as a way to educate parents, because the kids go home and tell their families what they learned.

On Saturday, we’ll air an Arts in Context Short about #ATXFreeArtFriday, an Instagram art treasure hunt. You can see that piece online here.

 KLRU News Briefs air locally on Saturday and Sunday during PBS NewsHour Weekend.