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School board approves integration budget

The Austin School Board Monday agreed to approve $803,706 for the district’s three-year plan and budget for its Integration Program.

Coordinator Kristi Beckman appeared before the board and briefly outlined highlights of the program, now in its 10th year and designed to build skills with programs such as Young Scholars, Project E3, a STEM enrichment program; AVID and use of success coaches.

Staff is busier than ever, she said. When the program was first initiated, 23 percent of the public schools’ students were non-white; today, that percentage is almost doubled, at 44 percent.

“We continue to grow as a diverse community,” said Beckman, adding that the district has risen to the challenge, adopting various best practices and programs that provide help for all students to succeed.

Beckman more than once praised staff for their commitment to addressing and celebrating the diverse nature of the student community.

“There is a level of welcoming where we really dig in … and do actual integration work,” she said.

Board member Kathy Green asked if there were needs not being able to be addressed due to budget. Beckman said that she “hears, constantly” that there should be more capacity to work with families.

“To be in our buildings … to be engaged,” she said, in their children’s lives.

Some of those families — 17 parents, to be exact — provide interpretive services when needed. Even at that number it is difficult to find those services for the growing community of new students.

As a side note, John Albers, director of Educational Services, said Mayo Clinic is partnering with the medical firm that utilizes devices that will translate speech.

“We’re seeing if there is a piggyback with this technology, that could really help us,” he said.