Hinojosa Takes a Break from Budget Woes to Break Ground on Ann Richards Middle School

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Potted palms and wildflowers flanked the podium at the Ann Richards Middle School construction site this morning, where Dallas Independent School District officials talked about the energy efficiency, sustainable landscape, an exterior sundial that will make the school a landmark of green design.

Of course, that's not the kind of green most people are worried about at DISD, and after this morning's ceremony in far southeast Dallas near Mesquite, Superintendent Michael Hinojosa reminded reporters why it's not so crazy, after all, to be opening new schools and laying off teachers all at once.

"For the average person, it's hard to understand, but there's actually two budgets," he said. "They cannot be commingled."

It's all about using resources efficiently, he said, getting as much as possible out of this new school building when it opens in August 2012. "Worst-case scenario," Hinojosa said, they'd close down an old school to open this one.

Hinojosa stressed that the district's already put two years of planning work into Ann Richards Middle School -- one of 14 schools funded by the 2008's $1.35-billion bond program, and one of four new schools slated to open for the 2012-13 school year.

Before the talk turned to money, though, this morning's ceremony was all about sustainable design and the school's namesake.

DISD Trustee Nancy Bingham, whose district includes the new school, got to pick its name. "I wanted to name as many schools in District 4 as possible after women who had made a difference, not only in my life, but were trend-setters," Bingham said during the ceremony. With Dan Richards, son of the former Texas governor and school teacher, sitting in the front row, Bingham said Richards "was, for me, the first woman who was a major political figure."

Bingham said the new school will draw its students from Edward Titche, C. A. Tatum Jr., and Urban Park Elementary, and probably others in the future. (As for the staff, Hinojosa told reporters later, "the teachers will follow the kids.")

Best of all this morning, though, was DISD Deputy Director of Operations Phil Jimerson's make-believe tour of the 21-acre patch of dirt, detailing features of school-to-be like a proud new father, from the gyms to the driveway to, yes, the exterior sundial. "$29.5 million will be spent, basically, on this campus," he said.

"There's no doubt in Phil's mind," Jimerson added, one hand pressed to his chest, "that we're going to see design awards come out of this school."

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