On May 2 at Joe’s Crab Shack – 600 East Riverside Drive, from 5:00 to 9:00 pm, is the 7th Annual SND Rocks live music benefit for Texas School for the Deaf’s (TSD) students with special needs (SND).




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James W. Moore, Jr.

James W. Moore Jr. was born September 23, 1935 left this earth to be with his Heavenly Father on February 21, 2015. His wife Nadine proceeded him in death September, 2013.

He is survived by his daughter Dee Mathes, Grandsons John Mathes, David Mathes and his wife Tina Mathes, Ronnie Mathes and his wife Kristin Mathes. Three Great Grand Children, Gabby Mathes, Joey Mathes and Lisa Mathes.

He was a graduate of the Austin State School for the Deaf.

Private Interment will be held at the Lavaca Cemetery. Pastor Rocky will officiate the service.

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Kelly Haywood Stevens Exhibit at the Heritage Museum

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Baldwin: Don’t sell Texas School for the Deaf property

Baldwin: Don’t sell Texas School for the Deaf property
Saturday, February 14, 2015
Posted By Grant Laird Jr of

By Steve C. Baldwin – Special to the American-Statesman

In regards to the American-Statesman front-page story on February 9,2015 “Senators weigh moving Texas School for Deaf,” history was repeating itself.

My friends, who live in Taft and are 1944 graduates of Texas School for the Deaf, called me this week to say that the same attempt to move or sell the school happened several times in the past. My wife, Rosie Serna, a 1967 graduate, said that others have inquired about buying this prime property, but nothing materialized, happily eliminating any fear of altering the school’s long history at its current location, where it’s been since 1857. I also recall serious attempts to move Texas School for the Deaf to South Austin, but the 1989 Legislature wisely found it more efficient to implement the school’s Campus Master Plan.

Texas School for the Deaf happens to be just a small historic jewel in Texas’ crown. Jokingly or not, it’s no surprise that it is coveted in the eyes of drooling developers or legislators who are looking for money to cover the state’s unmet needs. But the bottom line is: Texas School for the Deaf is rarely perceived as land for sale, and for good reason. It is the home of countless generations of deaf and hearing-impaired people who have found in this gem a place to learn, grow and belong, and to ultimately become independent taxpaying citizens. It has enshrined 159 years of deaf culture and deaf heritage and its history in South Austin is sacred. Would you sell the Alamo — or the Capitol grounds? Their land is valuable as well.

Such attempts to move, sell or buy the school property may be nothing new, but this time the Texas Senate Committee on Finance, in responding to the dramatic presentation by the Texas Facilities Commission of the soaring needs of the school facilities, has unleashed a tsunami of concerns and fear among parents, students, alumni and friends. Though we once were home to cattle drives passing through in the 1870s, our community and neighbors have no desire to have any part of the campus become “wagon wheel condo ruts.”

In fairness to the Finance Committee, the senators are looking at viable ways to meet the Facilities Commission’s 2016-17 biennium request of $37 million for deferred maintenance, upkeep and repairs.

Despite the predicted tax cuts during this 84th legislative session and a ballooning Texas School for the Deaf student population, the senators obviously care about the school’s programs. We are certain with the cooperation of the Facilities Commission, the school and state leadership, more creative solutions can be found than balancing the budget on the backs of deaf children and their families.

We hope that they floated a “trial balloon” with good intentions and will now focus on a more reasonable strategy to make some of the more vital repairs and perhaps consider a feasibility study if they think one is needed. It is our hope that state Sen. Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound, will heed the words of Mark Twain, who said, “The reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated.” Likewise the reports of the condition of the Texas School for the Deaf facilities have been greatly exaggerated. Visit the campus — read the blogs of our neighbors who consider it an oasis in the burgeoning traffic, tower cranes and concrete congestion of South Austin.

Yes, it would defy common sense even to downsize the campus. Our Texas deaf community clearly and loudly resents such an absurd idea, for these reasons: 1. Texas School for the Deaf is the oldest campus in Texas, with 159 years of productive history; 2. The school is one of the best schools for the deaf in America; 3. Unlike most schools for the deaf, Texas School for the Deaf has an increasing student population and critical statewide outreach mission; 4. The Texas Legislature traditionally has held both the school and the deaf community in high esteem and supported its educational vision.

From the perspective of its alumni, parents, students and the public, Texas School for the Deaf always will be an integral part of downtown Austin and Texas history.

The Texas deaf community and the Texas School for the Deaf family can only hope that the Senate Finance Committee will use its wisdom and respect without bartering for the soul of Texas School for the Deaf.

Baldwin is a former president of Texas Association of the Deaf.

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Proposal to Downsize Texas School for Deaf Stirs Anger

The Texas School for the Deaf sits on 67 acres in between South 1st and South Congress. It looks more like a small college campus than a traditional school building. But then again, says school superintendent Claire Bugen, this isn’t a traditional school.

“We serve students from age zero, in our parent/infant program, through home visits. And then when the student is 18 months old, they start to come on campus for part-time services. Now these are local students. All the way through age 22. So our continuum of services is very broad,” Bugen says.

And their services extend far beyond the campus and local students.

If a school district has a deaf student, and they’re trying to figure out how to create an educational program, TSD can help out.

“This school means literally the world,” says TSD alum Donna Valverde-Hummel.

“Schools like ours have taken on a role of serving the entire state, families, parents, local school districts, through our outreach services,” Bugen says.

She says the school is no longer the asylum it was built to be back in the late 1800s. But even with innovations like online classes, and local districts simply making an effort to accommodate deaf students, the school is home to more than 500 students, with about half of them living on campus.

She says before going to the school she lived a life of two extremes, which led to her mother nicknaming her ‘rabbit.’

“Because I’m very hyper,” she says. “But also I can isolate myself at times.”

That isolation came from living in a hearing world, one that she didn’t know how to communicate with. Then she started going to TSD at the age of 13. And she discovered another world because she could constantly communicate with people.

“Oh, I can tease with other kids,” Hummel says. “I can flirt. I can pick on my teachers. I can talk back to teachers. I can become friends with my staff and teachers here. I got out of my rabbit hole so to speak.”

Superintendent Bugen says most of their campus residents move in around age 13, a time when adolescence and the desire to experience new things can highlight any isolation a deaf student is feeling at school.

“I want to play football. I want to be in a drama performance like the students in my public school. But I don’t have that same opportunity,” Bugen says.

So with those kind of opportunities and emotional ties to the school that gave students a new life, it’s probably no surprise how alumni reacted when the idea of selling some or all of the school’s land was brought up by Houston Senator John Whitmire this week.

“You’re sitting on some of the most expensive land in Austin. You’ve got a lot of acreage, a lot of needs, and I think there could be a coming together and figure out a better solution,” Whitmire said.

“It felt like we were getting bombshells thrown at us. We were getting bombed by these different questions. And I thought, oh crap. Pardon my French,” says alumna Bobbi Beth Scoggins.

She says the suggestion shocked her. And she quickly found out she wasn’t alone.

“Once word got out, facebook, twitter, all within the community itself, alumni to alumni, that chatter began, that discussion of what is happening,” she says.

Superintendent Bugen says she’s spent the last 48 hours fielding calls from angry alumni and supporters wanting to know what they can do to help. She’s trying to take a more measured approach. Bugen says she’s actually more upset about the anxiety the hearing has caused staff and students than she is about the possibility of losing some of her campus.

“Could we function on a little less acreage than we have now? Probably, but probably not a lot less, because remember this is 24 hours a day. This isn’t the bell rings at 8 o’clock and you go home,” Bugen says.

But that doesn’t mean she’s not being proactive. She’s already made appointments to meet with a few Senators on the Finance Committee. And has already reached out to the House budget writers as well, since the same discussion could pop up there too. – Feb. 11, 2015
Written by Ben Philpott of KUT News

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Ranger Classic V

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Politicians debate sale of Texas School for the Deaf land

Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, proved that once a mayor, always a mayor, as he discussed on Monday the potential sale of a portion of the prime chunk of land underneath the Texas School for the Deaf.

The idea of selling at least a portion of the school’s 67-acre campus — between Congress Avenue and South First — was raised by Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston. Last week, Comptroller Glen Hegar told the Senate Finance Committee he was shocked and embarrassed by the condition of the school’s buildings.

“You’re sitting on some of the most expensive land in Austin,” Whitmire said.

The idea was batted about as to whether the 159-year-old school would be better served by taking the proceeds from a sale of a portion of its property and supporting deaf education across the state, including the construction of a new campus. Watson, knowing the likely reaction of Austinites, made sure to add a comment that the impact of the sale on the surrounding community ought to be studied.

Watson noted the money should stay with the School for the Deaf, but there was no doubt that a reconfiguration of the property for retail or residential would put a heavy load on South Congress, requiring someone to pay for traffic mitigation.

From the curb, the improvements to the Texas School for the Deaf look significant along South Congress, but Watson noted reports of “rodents, bats and bed bugs,” along with assorted electrical and mechanical problems. The maintenance of state schools for the deaf and blind were turned over the Texas Facilities Commission in its sunset bill during the 2013 session, authored by Sen. Robert Nichols, R-Jacksonville.

Some senators are now questioning whether the state shouldn’t be cashing in on the lucrative Austin real estate market, which boasts at least two long-standing jewels of high property value: the Austin State Supported Living Center and the Texas School for the Deaf, not to mention Camp Mabry.

An outside study put deferred maintenance on state facilities at $400 million in 2006. Starved for funding, that total has risen to $1 billion. – Feb. 9, 2015

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John Whitmire: School for Deaf suggestion was harmless

State Sen. John Whitmire said his inquiry Monday into whether the Texas School for the Deaf campus south of downtown Austin could downsize was meant to be a harmless one inspired by his desire to help the school pay for the millions of dollars in pressing maintenance needs — amid promises of big tax cuts from the state’s Republican leadership.

The Texas Facilities Commission, which took over day-to-day maintenance of the school last year, has identified numerous urgent capital needs at its 67-acre campus that have caused it to close some buildings, including plumbing and sewer system failures and “compromised” security and fire alarm systems. However, the agency said in a recent report, “there was not sufficient funding to allow these critical projects to proceed at this time.”

American-Statesman – Feb. 10, 2015

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Texas School for the Deaf, founded in 1857, is state’s oldest campus

The Texas School for the Deaf was started in 1857 at the same location where it remains, making it the longest, continuously operating school in Texas.

More than 550 students attend the school, half of whom live on campus Sunday through Friday. Students, who range from 18 months to 22 years old, take academic classes, learn career skills and play sports. More than a quarter of the students also have disabilities other than hearing and/or speech impairment.

American Statesman – Feb. 9, 2015

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State Budget Writers Talk Abour Selling School for the Deaf Property

Texas Senate budget writers on Monday discussed the possibility of downsizing or selling the 67-acre property south of downtown Austin where the School for the Deaf has operated for more than 150 years in an effort to raise revenue and cut costs.

State Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, launched the discussion by asking school officials whether they could run the operation on a smaller property.

“You’re sitting on some of the most expensive land in Austin,” he said, calling for a study “of the most efficient use of such acreage” in the city.

State budget writers talk about selling School for Deaf property photo
Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Jane Nelson, R-Flower Mound

“For 159 years,” responded School for the Deaf Superintendent Claire Bugen.

Whitmire went on to suggest the state could pay for the campus’ significant deferred maintenance needs if the property was sold or downsized; Bugen said the school probably could operate on less than 46 acres.

State Sen. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston, said selling even a few acres of the property could net “double-digit millions.”

State budget writers talk about selling School for Deaf property photo
State Sens. Kel Seliger, R-Amarillo, and Kirk Watson, D-Austin serve on the Senate Finance Committee

Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin, did not object to the discussion but said his colleagues on the Senate Finance Committee should proceed cautiously and expressed concern that any money from the sale of the property stay with the school.

The former Austin mayor, joking that he’s already received calls from 150 developers about the property, said the state could inadvertently create huge traffic and other development problems by selling such a large chunk of land in the heart of the city. However, he also said that any money generated could be used to mitigate it.

“It’s very important that the money stay with the School for the Deaf, but it also may be very important that the money may be utilized to mitigate things like traffic problems that the state would turn right around and create for the city of Austin,” Watson said.

The discussion comes as lawmakers consider whether to close the Austin State Supported Living Center, located on high-value property in Tarrytown. In 2013, the Texas General Land Office recommended selling the 93-acre tract, but has since changed its mind.

Talk quickly turned to the deaf school’s deferred maintenance needs Monday, which the committee discussed last week — aghast at reports of “rodents, bats, bed bugs” and other health and safety concerns.

Committee Chairwoman Jane Nelson, however, was less sympathetic this go-around saying she had asked her staff to pull the school’s budget requests from the last decade and questioned officials about why they had not yet fixed things like flooding manholes, even though they received money for it.

“How does that happen?” the Flower Mound Republican asked.

“We had to prioritize what we fixed,” said Gary Bego, director of financial and support operations, explaining that the school didn’t have enough money to do it all. Later, he said it was “because things happen.”

That didn’t go over well with some committee members like Sen. Joan Huffman, R-Houston, who said “Stuff happens — I get it” but asked the Legislative Budget Board how lawmakers could be assured that money is being spent on things for which it was appropriated.

American-Statesman – Feb. 9, 2015

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