Final Story Pitch – Elizabeth Ucles

It’s been a year since Haruka Weiser was found dead on University of Texas campus. Though St. Edward’s is just about five miles from UT, the question of safety is still common in students and parents. This past semester, campus was locked down as a man carrying a gun was suspected to be on campus. He wasn’t a student, nor was he targeting students, but the location of St. Edward’s, in the middle of South Austin, often puts it in the middle of crimes. What is the protocol for on-campus crimes and surrounding neighborhood crimes? Is St. Edward’s as safe as it claims to be? We will delve into this topic using resources from UPD and interviewing students, parents, faculty, staff and neighbors. For our interactive pieces we will use a video showcasing safety concerns and interviews. We will also have an interactive map detailing crimes. → here is the link to St. Ed’s annual fire and safety report for 2016

Pgs 43-46 list crimes that happened on campus (residence facility, on campus, non campus, public property), the professional educational center, St.Edward’s University in France, and Wild Basin

Headlines: Elizabeth Ucles

  1. Fire incinerates $1,500 in damages at Mallory College
    Two students injured following a fire that began in a classroom trash basket. Authorities arrived to the fifth floor of the college at 6:30 p.m. and extinguished the blaze 30 minutes later.
  2. Cross burning sentences man to 9 months in jail
    Fred R. Thornton, 32, will serve time after burning a cross at a racially mixed couple’s home. District Court Judge Richard Franks described the crime as “despicable” upon sentencing.
  3. Britton Pencil Co. anti-drug messaging misses point
    98 Arden Way 4th grader initiated a pencil recall after the message “Too Cool to Do Drugs” became “Cool to Do Drugs” and “Do Drugs” the more the pencil sharpened.
  4.  Stinson Airport plane crash miracle 
    Only minor injuries and car damages from a single-engine plane crash yesterday. Pilot, Herbert Young, 25, and Sarah Shields, 19, left the scene with cuts, bruises and a possible concussion.
  5. Better late than never: Winter weather returns
    Freeport highway crews are salting the roads for impending sleet, snow and freezing rain this weekend. Below-freezing temperatures expected for several days following weeks of balmy weather.   

Texas Public Education depletion intensifies after Trump’s 2018 budget

President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget proposes a $9 billion cut on education. Once more, charters and private schools with prosper at the expense of public schools.

Title II, the 21st Century Community Program Learning Centers program, and The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity program all faced elimination. TRIO and GEARUP, programs that provide assistance for low-income, first-generation and disabled students, experienced massive cuts as well.

These cuts are few of many other reductions in education in the proposed budget.

Country-wide issues aside, cuts have plagued Texas public education beginning in 2006 when the Texas Legislature reduced property taxes by one-third. This financial wound further exacerbated in 2011 with a $5.4 billion cut.

The debilitation of learning begins with budget cuts and continues through increased standardized testing– 28 to 45 days too many of testing activity that shatters Texas’s accountability system.

Uproar concerning Texas public education has been a long time coming; however, President Trump’s proposal to further impinge on public education comes at a paramount time.

Cathie Robinson, principal at Steiner Ranch Elementary in Leander ISD in Austin, Texas, speaks to the ways under-funding hinders learning on her campus.

“It affects the staffing available to me,” Robinson said, “It affects resources and everything else that comes with per-student funding.”

Robinson mentions that guidance counselors, reading specialists, ESL educators tend to be stretched thin due to an uneven ratio of students to educators as more students enroll.

While Robinson appreciated standardized testing in keeping educators accountable with equitable service, she agreed that high-stakes testing solely functions as a snapshot.

“The accountability system and its repercussions perhaps keep school leaders from trying more innovative ways of reaching students,” Robinson said, “You need to have some inner-resolve of faith to move past the kill-and-drill mentality.”

Robinson maintains that standardized testing tends to terminate enthusiasm for the certain genre being honed in on.

On March 25, Save Texas Schools brought these issues to the political stage at the Texas Capitol.

The rally brought state leaders, parents, teachers and students to speak on the various ways under-funding and over-testing affects their communities and lives.

Over 200 protesters attended the rally on the south steps of the Capitol

John Kuhn, former superintendent of the small Perrin-Whitt school district returned after speaking at the same rally in 2011.

Kuhn referenced the constitution at various points when solidifying education as a basic human right– a right impaired following major budget cuts.

“The public school building, more than any other structure in America, is where the people bring democracy to life,” Kuhn said.

Check out Ahmaad Washington’s story on how public education influenced his career as a MovementUP artist. Washington educates with age appropriate and modern urban music production:

Kuhn reiterated prevalent points on the mistreatment of public schools when comparing to charters and private schools.

“Free market schools are under no obligation to serve all children,” Kuhn said, “Competition doesn’t breed excellence. If it did, our fast food restaurants would serve the healthiest food around.”

Check out what Ken Zarifis, President of Education Austin, had to say concerning privatization in Austin ISD: 

Democratic member of the Texas House of Representatives, Gina Hinajosa, called politicians out on their neglect and broken promises.

“They campaign on doing more for our kids,” Hinajosa said, “Well now is the time to deliver on those promises.”

House Bill 1336, Transparency in Testing, created by Michael Messer, will prompt districts to specify on financial reports how much they spend on the STAAR test.

Check out what Juliet Stipeche, Director of Education, had to say concerning the impact of under-funding and over-testing:

Check out how Allen Weeks, creator of rally and Executive Director of Austin Voices, brought the rally together:

More sights and sounds from the rally:







Midterm Story Draft: Elizabeth Ucles

Ok: This is a pitch,  not a draft, so I will look forward to seeing the story.

My midterm story will be covering the event the topic of funding at public schools in Texas and over-testing. I will address these issues by interviewing Austin elementary school principal, Cathie Robinson and asking her viewpoint on these issues as an educator.  To further gather the state of education in Texas, and more specifically Austin, I will attend the “Save Texas Schools Rally at the Capitol 2017” on Saturday, March 25 from 10am to noon. To incorporate media elements, I will use a DSLR to take video of the rally, interview protesters and interview Robinson. I will also get audio of the protest chants to incorporate in my story.

To show the current stark differences in funding across Texas, I will create an interactive map that compares funding per student of different districts across Texas (i.e. Houston ISD, Austin ISD, El Paso ISD, and more) using numbers from this source from NPR:

Cathie Robinson interview questions

-How does current state funding affect your school? And how does this compare to others schools? Whether this be in Austin or other cities in Texas.

The ways funding affects technology and other resources used in the classroom. The differences between schools in different parts of Austin, possibly how lower and higher income schools compare, perhaps a comparison of school districts in other Texas cities.

-How does funding have the impact to directly affect each child in school? Do you have an specific example of how funding either helped or hindered a student’s learning experience?

A story on how funding changed one child’s experience in school.

-From your perspective as a principal, in what ways does standardized testing help and/or hinder students development?

Pros and cons of standardized testing. Cons focusing on its flaws and inaccuracy in depicting a child’s capabilities.

-What kinds of changes would you like to see in revising funding laws for schools?

Offering suggestions for laws that would promote funding for Texas public schools. A new way to capture student’s capability and intelligence aside from over testing.

Interview questions for protesters: 

-How is current funding and over-testing affecting you and your community?

Unique stories of different students/administrators affected by underfunding and overtesting.

-What kind of outcomes will occur with more equal funding in schools?

More equal opportunity for success from a greater range of resources and focused attention

-How will these proposed changes affect schools in AISD?

Getting reactions based on what the state leaders and legislators say during their speeches.



Midterm Story PITCH: Elizabeth Ucles

I have a 3 ideas for what I could do for my midterm story. I don’t know which is best to do. There is one that I’m more inclined to do, but I would need some guidance on how to approach it.

  1. International Women’s Day
    March 8 is International Women’s Day. I was thinking about going on campus and asking students about what they think about the existence of International Women’s Day. My only caveat with this is that I’m not entirely sure how to do turn this into a story. I am compelled by the topic, so if I could more clearly figure out what to do, I’d love to go for it. There is an event hosted by the Multicultural Leadership board on this day as well. They are selling succulents and other things and the proceeds will be donated to give homeless women feminine hygiene products. This is an event where I could interview people. I could use video and photo slideshow for the media elements.
  2. Hands Off: Ending Sexual Assault in Texas
    This event on March 9 in the Austin area. There will be several state legislators addressing sexual assault on campus. I was thinking of going to the event and interviewing other guests. However, I think it would be a fun angle to take knowledge I gained from the event and ask St. Edward’s students their take on what state legislators had to say about sexual assault on campus. I could do a video and possible an interactive map of sexual assault numbers in Texas. I feel like I’m more inclined toward this story since I’m intrigued by the student body’s reaction, and how this might be unique to St. Edward’s. I also like this idea. With this one, and the one above, you want this to feel not like an “event” story on a news broadcast, but like an exploration of the issue. I like the map idea. Where would you get those number? Are we talking about convictions? Reports of sexual abuse on campuses (if so, I’d look for stats from public schools – easier to get). 
  3. Rich vs. Poor Schools in Austin
    This is the idea that I brought up in my Thought Exercise 3 about comparing rich and poor schools in Austin based on the amount of funding they are given. I would interview teachers and administrators on what they believe the effects are. I could do this interview in video or in a photo slideshow with corresponding audio. I really love this story. We have to think about characters. How will you get students, one “rich” and one “poor”? How will you get teachers? How will you show (not just tell) what it’s like in their schools?