Education News

Posted in The Environment, Public Schools, Education, Around The State, Williamson County at 10:12 am by wcnews

First the good news. This looks interesting, Texas education policy board will debut. The Texas Center for Education Policy is a group setup as a “clearing house” for education research by the widow of former state senator and Texas Supreme Court Justice Oscar Mauzy. (Emphasis added).

Angela Valenzuela, an education professor at the University of Texas at Austin, is the director for the Texas Center for Educational Policy based at the university. The center will connect education researchers to each other and provide data for decision makers, including Congress, the Texas Legislature, the State Board of Education and local school boards.

“This center will be a bridge between decision makers and people who are doing the research, filling a necessary gap,” Valenzuela said.

“You won’t have researchers (at the Texas Center for Educational Policy) who are hired to generate a particular result. But rather, you have scholars that dedicate their lives to certain research questions and under a peer review method that makes them accountable,” Valenzuela said.

The 15-member advisory board, which includes liberal Waco philanthropist Bernard Rappoport, former Democratic state Sen. Carlos Truan and former Democratic Lt. Gov. Ben Barnes, appears to skew left politically. Valenzuela explained she found it difficult to get any Republicans to serve, but the board won’t be involved in peer-reviewing research.

Board member John Guerra, president of the Texas Association for Mexican American Chambers of Commerce, said a week never passes without corporate leaders expressing anxieties to him about having a quality future work force.

“The Center for Education will have great influence in terms of assuring that we have a curriculum that meets the needs of business today and in the future,” he said.

That’s an important distinction to make that researchers will not be asked to fit the data around a predetermined outcome, like so many, ahem, think tanks do. That part about not being able to get any Republicans to serve is interesting.

Now for the no so good news. Apparently Leander ISD thought it was a good idea to build an elementary school in a former chemical company.

The site of a future elementary school that the Leander district plans to open inside a former chemical company facility is considered a “moderate to high potential hazard” by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

The commission, which confirmed the ranking Monday afternoon, began reviewing plans for Grandview Hills Elementary School after parents raised concerns about harmful chemicals, such as mercury and cancer-causing benzene, that have been found at the site. But the potential hazard appears to be unrelated to the fact that the site used to be home to the chemical company.

Why did they do it? To save money, of course. But that’s no longer the case apparently.

The district purchased the 40-acre site, which has six buildings, in September for $14.6 million. District officials said buying a site with existing buildings would be cheaper than building a school.

The school was scheduled to open in the fall but has been delayed, possibly to fall 2008, because mold was found in the main building where students would be.

The district is asking school board members for $3.7 million to remove the mold.

KUT has this audio report on it’s site. Good rule of thumb for the future, no schools on the sites of former chemical companies.

And last, the State Auditor is going to look into the contracting issues at the TEA, State auditor to probe TEA.

Amid all the confusion surrounding an internal investigation at the Texas Education Agency, the state auditor’s office has decided to take its own look at how the agency hands out lucrative contracts.

“Perhaps they can talk to all the parties involved and resolve all this,” said TEA spokeswoman Debbie Graves Ratcliffe. “Good luck.”

State auditor John Keel confirmed Tuesday that his office had opened an investigation but said that he could not comment further.

Although it will probably be weeks or months before the new investigation is concluded, it could help to settle the confusion that surrounds the internal investigation’s report – in particular one footnote that has implications for Robert Scott, TEA’s acting commissioner.

He was criticized last month when the TEA investigation found evidence he improperly intervened in a contract awarded to a friend of his named Emily Chick Miller.

Mr. Scott vigorously denied the charges, and he responded last week by saying he was the victim of a case of mistaken identity. He said investigators may have confused him with a different education official with the same name – an administrative employee who works in the Waco regional education office that handled the contract.

That second Mr. Scott now also denies he did the things the report alleges the first Mr. Scott did.

(Thankfully for clarity’s sake, the acting education commissioner goes by Robert Scott. The Waco-based official uses the name Rob Scott.)

Hopefully John Keel can tell us who is the real Mr. Scott. For background on this go here and here.

1 Comment »

  1. Eye on Williamson » Grandview Hills Elementary Given The Green Light said,

    August 21, 2007 at 1:10 pm

    […] school will not open until next school year at the earliest because of mold problems. South Texas Chisme asks, “First, James ‘Rick’ Perry’s people say […]

Leave a Comment

You must be logged in to post a comment.