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Mueller Neighborhood Assn Meeting Minutes 8/8/2009
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MNA General Membership Meeting Minutes – 8 August 2009, 10:00 a.m. at Mosaic Apartment Clubhouse

MNA Chair, Grant Fisher, welcomed the crowd to the meeting. A short time will be spent on MNA business and the rest of the time will be focused on discussion regarding schools serving East Austin. Grant thanked Mueller resident, Robby Jones for bringing his Pilot House coffee for refreshments today.

Treasurer – Kerry Fisher reminded everyone that dues is only $10/year and goes toward printing the newsletter, Front Porch Flyer, and hosting other community events.

Pecan Street Project – Former Austin council member, Brewster McCracken, updated the community on the Pecan Street Project. They are working on a grant application for Federal stimulus dollars to fund a pilot project focused on clean energy and energy savings. Participants in the pilot project could have meters with software control that provides residents with more control over their energy usage. The project is a partnership with UT, the City of Austin, the Environmental Defense Fund, Austin Energy and the Austin Chamber of Commerce. They’ll be looking for sites to participate in the pilot project. Mueller is an ideal residential community for participation. Individual homeowner participation would be strictly voluntary. Other potential sites would include schools and commercial buildings. The Dell Children’s Hospital and the Ronald McDonald House already have many of these technologies in place.

Ashley Fisher made a motion for MNA to support participation as a pilot project site. The motion was seconded by Rebecca Leonard and passed unanimously.

Schools – Kim Wine welcomed everyone to this discussion on schools. She introduced Jim Walker who will serve as our moderator.

Jim provided a short overview of the Mueller master plan, the inclusion of an elementary school in that plan, and the challenges AISD is facing. They have 100 schools with 80,000+ children vying for their attention. The focus of today’s meeting is Pearce Middle School and to some extent, Reagan high school.

Mark Williams, president of the AISD Board of Trustees, represents District 5 that serves the part of Mueller tracking to Maplewood/Kealing/McCallum (roughly Mueller Phases 1 & 2). Mr. Williams reviewed the demographics of AISD, where the growth is occurring, and the difficulty finding land for new schools in some of these quickly growing suburbs. He stated that the Pearce repurposing plan was approved with some conditions, including state oversight. At this late date, meeting some of the requirements is very challenging – new principal, new science teachers, and 50% new students. School starts soon and most teachers are already under contract with other schools. AISD is marketing Pearce and working hard to find a great principal, recognizing the importance of good leadership.

Mr. Williams discussed briefly the effects of kids transferring out of their neighborhood schools. Some of the most engaged parents are then not available to help improve the neighborhood school, and the schools picking up these kids are more overcrowded. In addition, the schools they transfer to may not have the same sort of support systems in place (Title I status, etc.) that they were used to at the neighborhood school.

Trustee Cheryl Bradley, who represents District 1 that serves the part of Mueller tracking to Blanton/Pearce/Reagan (roughly future Mueller phases), spoke next. Ms. Bradley expressed her anger about how the State Commissioner of Education, Robert Scott, has treated Superintendent Carstarphen. She believes he has held this community and our children hostage by the decision to close Pearce, and the timing of his notification of the closure. She stated that he had the flexibility to keep Pearce open, and recognize the good progress that had been made, but he chose not to do so. Ms. Bradley encouraged neighbors to be actively engaged and ask for what we want/need. Don’t just settle for what AISD and the state give us.

There was some discussion about what would bring parents back to the idea of sending their children to the neighborhood schools. Neighbors must get involved. AISD is working to recruit a great principal and provide teacher incentives to get teachers to move to Pearce. The community needs to support teachers and mentors and build them up. Sandy Fivecoat expressed how impressed she’s been with the programs at Maplewood Elementary.

Allen Weeks, president of the St. John Community School Alliance, talked about their neighborhood experience with similar issues at Webb Middle School two years ago. Mr. Weeks was a teacher for 15 years in Washington, DC and Richmond, VA. He’s not a believer in ‘magic thinking’ – that if you close a school and bring it back it will automatically be better. He believes in a step by step process to improve the schools, and we must stay the course. Leadership turnover is a major problem nationally. When principals change, a lot of instability is introduced into the school. Communities must build up their school leadership – encourage and support them. Working together in a collaborative effort, 30 partners have created a Family Resource Center at Webb MS. It serves as a portal for volunteering. Next year, Reagan, Pearce and Webb will all have resource centers. Volunteers are needed. The St. John Community School Alliance meets monthly to coordinate efforts among sponsors, write grants, etc.

Betty Johnson and Charlotte Dotson from the Pearce PTA spoke briefly. The PTA is planning a Community Night Out from 6-8:00 p.m. on August 15th. Volunteers are needed right away to help pull the event together. Please contact Kim Wine (kberlywine@hotmail.com) ASAP if you are able to help.

It was noted that increased community involvement at Reagan resulted in an 8-week sports camp this summer that was very successful.

How to get involved:
o Volunteer – mentoring, tutoring, organizing
o Meet with principals & teachers and ask how we can take burdens off of them

There was discussion of school boundaries, which Jim Walker noted weren’t that important if all schools are successful. That’s our goal.

Catherine Brewer, with Austin Partners in Education (http://www.austinpartners.org/ ) spoke of their mission to connect community volunteers with leaders. The Seedling Foundation program for mentoring children of incarcerated parents was discussed. Mentors meet with students on campus during lunch. Big Brothers Big Sisters was another good program that is actively engaged with the schools.

Jim Walker worked to recap the meeting. Kim Wine agreed to coordinate efforts with the Pearce Family Resource Center. Dee Desjardin committed the communication resources of Catellus to reach the Mueller community. She also volunteered to coordinate mentoring programs. Sandy Fivecoat and Claudia Kramer Santamaria agreed to take the lead on broader district issues. Jim suggested that progress on these efforts be reported back to the MNA at monthly meetings.

The meeting adjourned shortly after noon.
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