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News-Telegram: State News

NASA Want Ad: Astronauts needed to help get to Mars

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — Need more office space? How about outer space?

NASA opened its astronaut-application website Monday. It's accepting applications through Feb. 18.

Contenders need to be U.S. citizens with a bachelor's degree in science, math or engineering. Expect intense competition: More than 6,000 applied for NASA's last astronaut class in 2013, with only eight picked. It's an elite club, numbering only in the 300s since the beginning.

Future astronauts will have four spacecraft at their disposal: the International Space Station, two commercial crew capsules to get there, and NASA's Orion spacecraft for eventual Mars trips. Pay is between $66,000 and $145,000 a year, and you'll have to move to Houston.

NASA Administrator Charles Bolden, a former astronaut, says this next group will help "blaze the trail" to Mars.


Most of Texas gets Blue Bell ice cream after health issues

BRENHAM, Texas (AP) — Most of Texas will have Blue Bell ice cream this week after months of cleaning production plants and regulatory reviews following listeria contamination.


Storm winds blow rail cars from Lufkin overpass

LUFKIN, Texas  — Strong winds from a severe thunderstorm have blown 64 empty rail cars from an East Texas overpass, closing a heavily traveled highway but causing no injuries.

Lufkin police say a straight-line wind of at least 40 mph blew the cars from the Angelina and Neches River Railroad overpass onto Loop 287 near U.S. 69 about 7 a.m. Sunday. Sgt. Dale Jowell said street signs, power lines and trees along the stretch of rail bed were downed and billboards also were damaged.

A police statement said about 48 hours would be needed to right the rail cars.

North Texas campus officer shoots, kills ax-wielding student

DENTON, Texas — University of North Texas campus police have fatally shot a student who allegedly threatened a campus officer with an ax.


Governor Abbott appoints Morath as Texas Education Commissioner

AUSTIN – Governor Greg Abbott today appointed Mike Morath to be the Commissioner of the Texas Education Agency. He will oversee the Texas Education Agency (TEA) and the state’s 1,200 school districts and charter schools.

Morath has served on the Dallas Independent School District Board of Trustees since being elected to that position in 2011. Morath has been a change-agent at DISD who led reforms that helped propel Dallas public schools to achieve greater student and operational outcomes, including:

• Helping guide DISD to a new teacher evaluation and compensation system, becoming the first major school system in Texas to pay teachers based on performance rather than seniority. Pay for top teachers was raised to $90,000 while total spending remained fixed.

• Championing DISD’s public school choice initiative to transform underutilized and low performing schools into open enrollment schools with a specialized focus. Those schools have seen enrollment spikes from high parent demand and gains in student achievement.

• Pushing reforms of the district’s early childhood program that have already generated a 13 percent gain in kindergarten readiness.

• Improving career readiness by facilitating coordination between DISD and the Dallas Regional Chamber to massively expand the career and tech options in the district, resulting in a substantial spike in the number of industry certifications issued by DISD.

• Helping DISD achieve two bond rating upgrades, a $250 million increase in fund balance, and major improvements in district auditing.

The results of these reforms have been substantial:

• Graduation rates have increased from 75 percent for the class of 2010 to 87 percent for the class of 2014. 

• Proficiency on the National Assessment of Education Progress (NAEP) in 4th grade mathematics improved substantially from 2011 to 2015, even while average proficiency in the nation was flat.

• Performance for African American and Hispanic students on Advanced Placement exams has jumped almost 50 percent from 2011 to 2014.

• Student outcomes relative to poverty are as high as they have even been in Dallas according to the rankings of Education Resource Group, and TEA reported in the most recent school year that Dallas has the most high-performing and high-progress low-income schools in Texas.  District student outcomes relative to poverty were ranked in the 35th percentile in 2010, but have jumped to the 81st percentile in 2015.

• The General Operating Fund balance grew from $100 million in 2010 to $357 million in 2015 - the highest ever for DISD.

  Morath is a product of Texas public schools and graduated from Garland High School. He taught computer science at his high school alma mater during a school year when the previous teacher unexpectedly resigned. He received a BBA, summa cum laude, from The George Washington University in 2? years.

“The State of Texas is exceptional, and our education system must be too,” said Governor Abbott. “A proven education reformer, Mike Morath will not accept the status quo in our schools. He is committed to innovative solutions that will empower Texas principals, teachers, and students to strive for the highest in education excellence. Mike Morath has led climbs up Mount Rainier and climbed the 20,305 foot Island Peak near Mount Everest. Now he will help Texas education reach new heights.”

"I’m honored by Governor Abbott’s appointment, and for the opportunity to serve our kids with a focus on improving student outcomes,” said Mike Morath.  “As a DISD trustee, I watched with amazement the tremendous skill and love our teachers and staff pour into our students every day. I realize that no school system’s students can outperform their teachers, and supporting our teachers to improve teaching quality are essential in our public education system. I look forward to advancing that quality, as well as student outcomes, to ensure Texas becomes the number one school system in the nation.”

Professionally, Mike serves as Chairman of Morath Investments, managing a small portfolio of investments. Most recently, Mike served as President and COO of Minute Menu Systems, a company that provided information systems to help manage a $2.5B federal child nutrition program. His company made government more efficient – reducing costs by 13 percent to agencies administering that federal program – improved the quality of nutrition offered, and helped feed roughly one million needy children a day throughout the US at the time he sold his interest in it.

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Dallas/Ft. Worth News



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