Bernice Hart Elementary School
Located in a light industrial area on the northeast side of Austin, Texas, Bernice Hart Elementary School opened in August 1998 with 510 students. By August 2000 the school enrollment had increased to 650 students, 84% of whom come from economically disadvantaged homes.
Approximately 80% of Hart students are bussed in from a trailer park or from apartment complexes that are not within walking distance of the school. Many of the apartment complexes constitute subsidized housing, creating a situation of less permanent households and a significant turnover of students. The resulting 40% mobility rate at Hart provides a greater barrier to student success than that found in other low income Austin ISD schools which are surrounded by permanent single-family houses.
Because it is easy for a child who frequently changes schools to feel alienated, Hart School is organized into four "Halls" of approximately 160 Pre-K through 5th grade students and their teachers, thus creating smaller "schools-within-a-school". Children who live in the Hart School attendance zone throughout their elementary years will probably stay in the same Hall with the same group of teachers for 6 to 7 years, creating a sense of security and continuity. Since groupings during the school day and the school year can be multi-aged and flexible, children should be able to establish long term relationships with their peers and their team of teachers.
Student Racial/Ethnic Composition:
36% African American
Limited English Proficient Students: 29%
Leadership. Hart Elementary School is fortunate to have an exceptional leadership team that is highly respected in the education community. Principal Claudia Tousek was honored for outstanding technology efforts in 1992 as one of three educators in the nation selected for recognition by the National Association of Partners in Education. Projects Coordinator Gayle Gaston is a U. S. Department of Education Christa McAuliffe Fellow, and Technology Coordinator Steve Banks is an Apple Distinguished Educator.
Before coming to Hart Elementary, these three educators worked together for over 10 years at Highland Park Elementary School, a U. S. Department of Education National Blue Ribbon School, and were responsible for its becoming one of the first schools in the country to be connected to the Internet via a schoolwide network. When Ms. Tousek left the much higher socio-economic environment of Highland Park to open the new Hart Elementary School, Ms. Gaston and Mr. Banks joined her as part of the Hart administrative team.
Technology. Each Hart classroom has at least two networked workstations with direct connection to the Internet and global email. Various software programs, CD-ROMs, VCR's, laser printers, televisions, camcorders, scanners, LCD projectors, digital and 35mm cameras, cable TV, classroom telephones with voice mail, and a radio station broadcasting to the neighborhood are also available for learner and teacher use. This state-of-the-art technology infrastructure is designed to support both individual and collaborative learning activities and to enable students and staff to use technology as a convenient and readily available productivity tool and a powerful means of accessing rich information resources.