Nation’s No. 1 tight end says he is down to two schools

Isaac Nauta is set to name the school he will enroll early at during the NBC broadcast of the US Army All-American Bowl on Saturday.

The 5-star tight end named his three finalists in late December, but told DawgNation he has trimmed his three finalists of UGA, Alabama and Michigan down to two schools.

Which two? He’s keeping those in his head. Nauta expects to reveal his choice during the fourth quarter of Saturday’s broadcast. That makes sense, because his argument is arguably the biggest at the event this year.

Nauta said he has now put his admissions and enrollment papers in for each of his three schools.

“I should have all my papers in for all my schools now,” he said. “I just had to put my papers in so if I do go to each of my final three schools then I am enrolled.”

He will transition to being a full-fledged college player after Saturday’s game. The 6-foot-4, 237-pounder will then fly home to Dacula, Ga., to collect up his belongings and move to his chosen school.

“I fly home on Jan. 10 and gather up my stuff and go,” Nauta said, who added that the events of this week can factor into his decision. “I’ve got it down to two in my head and I’ll be able to make a decision sometime this week.”

The nation’s top-rated tight end broke down what he’s looking for this week in Texas.

“It is about being around the best competition and getting better,” Nauta said. “I will see what I need to work on and then just go out there and compete and have a good time.”

He said he needed to go down to two schools to make the decision easier. He just made that decision last Friday.

“You have to figure it out at some point, but it is tough,” Nauta said. “But at the end of the day I really can’t make a bad decision here with these three schools.”

Nauta said the last message he got from new UGA head coach Kirby Smart was “Go Dawgs” and “Have a good time at the Army game.”He’s also already heard from new offensive coordinator Jim Chaney “two or three” times about all the ways he’d use him at UGA.

He said Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh told him if he worked hard and succeeded in his system, he could definitely be picked in the No. 5-to-No. 15 range in the first round of the NFL Draft one day.

Nauta shared the main reasons why he’d choose each of his three finalists:

UGA: “Location is big. It is right down the road from me in the SEC. It is obviously one of the best conferences in football, no doubt about that. There’s a new coaching staff but if that does end up working out between me and Georgia then I could potentially be a part of something that is brand new and refreshing. I could say that I was a part of that.”

Alabama: “They win a lot and it would be a place where I could get into a system where I could always contend for a national championship. They are also at a place where they teach you how to be a successful person and not only a successful athlete. Those traits could carry on for the rest of your life.”

Michigan: “Coach (Jim) Harbaugh produces tight ends,” Nauta said. “His players come straight out of pro system which is what he runs. He’s got connections from every coach in the league to general managers. It is definitely a place where if you do well in his system, you can really take it to the next level.”

Jeff Sentell covers UGA football and UGA recruiting for AJC.com and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Follow him on Twitter for the latest on who’s on their way to play Between the Hedges.

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List of worst Texas schools grows

The list of the most troubled schools in Texas grew this year, giving more parents the chance to transfer their children to higher-performing campuses.

More than 1,500 schools across Texas landed on the latest list, up from about 1,200 last year, based on state test scores and accountability ratings over three years.

The Public Education Grant program, created by state lawmakers in 1995, allows students to request transfers out of their poor-performing schools– though few typically take advantage of the offer. The districts do not have to provide transportation for transfers, and popular schools often lack space.

Counting the minutes: Texas schools get more leeway on scheduling

A new state law, House Bill 2610, that went into effect in September changed the requirement that students go to class for 180 days. Now students are required to have at least 75,600 instructional minutes, giving school districts more latitude.

A handful of Central Texas districts — including Hays, Leander and Eanes — will extend their school days starting in January, with elementary school times affected the most.

Nothing changes for students in the Austin district, which already complies with the 75,600-minute requirement, officials said. The Hutto and Manor school districts added time prior to this school year in anticipation of the change. The Manor school district also canceled late starts on Mondays.

The intent of HB 2610 is to give districts more flexibility over the long run in dealing with inclement weather days, as well as the ability to end the school year earlier if they choose, Texas Education Agency spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said.

For now, it means some districts may avoid using so many bad weather makeup days, and can opt instead for adding time to early release days, for example. So districts can make up the time without holding class on Memorial Day or Good Friday — unpopular decisions that prompted large numbers of students to be absent on those days.

Public schools in Texas are required to have at least two makeup days in their calendars to accommodate weather-related school closures.

“There are tremendous benefits in the long run,” said Tim Savoy, Hays school district spokesman. “People complain about having to go to school on Good Friday and Memorial Day. If you can add time to the day, you don’t have to go further into June. It’s not so rigid based on how the calendar falls.”

In the future, the change in law could mean districts will slightly shorten their school years. The state requires traditional public schools to start no earlier than the fourth Monday in August, which means the school year often extends into June. The ability to add minutes to a school day gives districts the option of banking some time and ending the school year slightly earlier (but not before May 15).

“Adding five minutes to the school day will allow LISD to bank instructional time,” Leander district Superintendent Bret Champion explained to parents in a video message about the change. “So if the district needs to delay school because of bad weather four or fewer times, we won’t have to make up lost instructional time by adding instructional days at the end of the school calendar or having to use one or more of the bad weather days to make up time missed.”

However, the new law has caused bumps in bus schedules, pushing pickup times a few minutes back or ahead, and some complained about changes being done midyear.

In a letter to parents, the Eanes district apologized to parents for any inconvenience made by the midyear change, saying the school calendar is set two years in advance to avoid last-minute changes.

“We understand that families have set schedules and time commitments and this may negatively affect those schedules,” the letter stated. “Please understand that we are complying with state law, and that we are mandated to adhere to these changes.”

Classes Canceled Monday At Wellston Public Schools

WELLSTON, Oklahoma –

Classes and after-school activities have been canceled for Monday at Wellston Public Schools, the superintendent said.

A city water pipe burst and has causedlow water pressure in town.

Because of this,the district decided to cancel school on Monday, Wellston Public Schools superintendent Dwayne Danker said.

Texas’ pay has schools here in a bind

A quality education for area students is imperative for the next generation, but students cant receive a top-notch education if they dont have willing, qualified educators to guide them. Yet, public school districts in southern Oklahoma have an additional difficulty in recruiting such teachers: Texas school districts, by and large, pay far more to recruit new educators and to keep veteran teachers on board.

Oklahoma falls short when it comes to pay for teachers, Lone Grove Public Schools Superintendent Meri Jayne Miller said. The state sets the minimum salary schedule, and local districts can choose to pay their teachers more than the minimum, but this effort is hampered by the revenue that local districts receive each year. Texas has the ability to offer higher salaries and better incentive packages for educators.

Oklahomas minimum salary for a first-year public-school teacher is $31,600, although districts can pay more if they feel they can afford to.

To wit, Tishomingo Public Schools starts new teachers at $32,100; Ardmore City Schools at $32,632; Plainview Public Schools at $32,800; and Madill Public Schools at $33,100.

So it is, Ardmore City Schools Superintendent Sonny Bates said, that each year, Ardmore City Schools loses teachers to other districts outside of the state of Oklahoma for one reason or another.

The goal, Bates said, is to retain qualified teachers it successfully recruits.

If we keep them here, we can really move forward academically, he said. We have a good baseline. We have a good curriculum. We have good teachers. We need to keep them here.

An innate passion

Those who choose education as a vocation tend to have several things in common, among them an empathy for children.

Most educators will tell you they felt lsquo;led to their teaching careers because of their love for children and because they want to make a difference in the lives of others, Miller said. Most dont go into their profession for the pay, however that doesnt justify paying teachers less than what they deserve.

One doesnt have to venture far into the Lone Star State to see the discrepancy. South on Interstate 35, the closest school district to Ardmore is the Gainesville Independent School District, which offers a starting salary of $39,600 nearly $7,000 less than Ardmore does.

The reason I would speculate that there are higher salaries in North Texas (public school districts) would be due to a host of reasons, Gainesville Independent School District Superintendent Jeffrey L. Brasher. First, they have the money to fund higher salaries. Second would be that there are so many schools clustered together and to some extent they want their salaries competitive and to fund living expenses for the area.

Physical Florida receiver Keith Gavin down to 2 schools

ORLANDO, Florida – Kevin Gavin didnt play in the Under Armour All-America game on Saturday because of a shoulder injury, but Alabama has made the physical wide receiver a priority.

The 6-foot-3, 211-pound four-star recruit from Crawfordville, Fla., said that finalists Alabama and Florida State are the two schools he has official visits set for in January. Gavin was once committed to Florida State. He said his visit to Alabama would probably be on the weekend of the 22nd.

They like how Im a big receiver and how Im fast, Gavin said. They feel like I can be the next Julio Jones.

Check out all AL.com coverage from the Under Armour All-America game

Gavin said he has a great relationship with Alabama assistant Tosh Lupoi.

We always keep in contact, Gavin said. We just have a great bond. Everytime I go there, I enjoy myself. It feels like home.

Gavin said his separated AC joint will heal naturally and not require surgery. He said hell probably make his decision on National Signing Day.

Ill go wherever I feel like I fit in the most, Gavin said.

Budget cuts impact local Bethlehem schools

The Bethlehem Area School District is one of the largest in the state with roughly 13,400 students attending its 16 elementary schools, four middle schools and two high schools.

Despite the fact that nearly 54 percent of students district wide are eligible for free or reduced lunch–an indication of being at or below the federal poverty line–the district receives only 27 percent of its revenue from the state–a number that is unrepresentative of the district’s need, according to superintendent Joseph Roy.

School districts receiving similar levels of state aid have rates of economically disadvantaged students in the 19 to 36 percent range, he said.

Inequitable state funding is an issue that has continuously affected school districts in Pennsylvania since former Governor Tom Corbett’s 2011-12 budget cut nearly $860 million from classroom funding statewide.

$570 million of these cuts still remain today, a policy brief from The Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center reported.

However, a decrease in state education funding is not the only problem affecting Pennsylvania’s schools. The allocation of funds presents another challenge.

“Pennsylvania is the worst state in the country in terms of funding inequality between it’s wealthiest and poorest school districts, with the spending gap per student between these two groups being more than double the national average,” the policy brief reported.

This gap, Roy explained, is due to the absence of a state funding formula that effectively distributes funds to ensure that districts receive aid in alignment with their needs.

For the Bethlehem Area School District, state aid is relatively low because although over half of the students live in families with incomes below the poverty line, the district as a whole is not categorized as poor, according to the current factors considered in determining state funding. If there were a funding formula that took into consideration factors such as poverty rates, the district would receive much more money from the state, Roy said.

Because the district includes suburban as well as urban neighborhoods, there is a wide range in economic status of its residents. Unlike neighboring school district Allentown–which receives almost 80 percent of its funding from the state–Bethlehem relies heavily on local property taxes. Because the wealthier suburban areas have a significant property tax base, the district as a whole is seen by the state as able to fund its programs without additional state aid, said Michael Faccinetto, president of the Bethlehem Area School District’s board of school directors.

“But this is not an accurate representation,” Faccinetto said. “We are not technically a ‘poor’ district, but many of our schools are.”

Donegan Elementary School, located in the Southside of Bethlehem, for example, hit a 97.7 percent poverty rate this year.

“In such a large district like this, you have such extremes,” said Sonia Vazquez, principal of Donegan elementary. “There are those who have it all, and those who have absolutely nothing.”

At Donegan, the majority of families have nothing.

“I see families of four with parents who only make $13,000 a year,” Vazquez said.

She explained that since the need at Donegan is so concentrated, it becomes impossible to support every family and help every child achieve the academic standards set by the state.

In wealthier schools in the district, parents can supply their children with resources such as books and after-school enrichment to help them succeed. Low-income families cannot afford to do this and, accordingly, these children often perform at a lower level.

“It’s not that our children can’t learn, it’s not that our children are stupid, and it’s not that families don’t care about them succeeding,” Vazquez said. “It’s that they don’t have the opportunities to be able to do that because of the lack of money.”

Something as simple as a trip to the zoo, Vazquez said, makes a difference. Children in poverty aren’t exposed to these types of experiences unless the school brings them and without this, she said children won’t learn about the world around them.

According to Detrick McGriff, principal of Broughal Middle School, children in poverty can be thought of as “school dependent,” meaning the support they get at home may not be enough.

“With poverty, it’s important to think about helping the child as a whole,” Vazquez said. “We bear a lot of that responsibility.”

Both Donegan and Broughal have established programs such as clothing and food drives to help struggling families get the means they need to survive.

But, without funding from the state, these programs are difficult to sustain. School administrators across the district have had to get creative in order to continue to bring much-needed resources to their students.

“I’ve been at this district for 34 years now and have never had to engage in looking for money like I have in recent years,” Vazquez said. “There used to be a time when there was so much money from the state that at the end of the year, I would go out and buy extra school supplies.”

Today, Vazquez said, she has to seek many of the things her students need from the community.

Organizations, businesses, universities and community groups have provided services and resources to Bethlehem’s poorer schools in recent years.

For example, if a child needs glasses, something that greatly impacts their ability to learn, Vazquez said she calls St. Luke’s hospital and asks them bring a van with supplies.

“We’ve been lucky that our community has helped augment the lack of funding from the state,” McGriff said.

But community help and support can’t satisfy every shortfall.

Since the 2011-12 budget cut, the Bethlehem Area School District has had to cut nearly $20 million from its budget, Roy said.

Having a tighter budget has caused administrators in Bethlehem to make difficult decisions.

“Being able to function where you are constantly running on a very thin budget teaches you to be cost effective,” McGriff said.

When deciding what to cut, Roy said he thinks in terms of concentric circles, with the classroom being at the center and external support systems–like after-school tutoring–at the exterior. The district has avoided major classroom impacts by making cuts in this way.

Since 2011, all family development specialists have been fired, 2/3 of pre-school classrooms have been eliminated, and teaching staff is spread thin district-wide.

For schools like Donegan, where the need is high, the loss of these support systems hits hard.

But, according to Roy, the district is not yet in “crisis mode” and can continue to sustain itself at the current levels without additional state funding in the short term.

But this is not where Roy wants the district to be.

The district’s buses, for example, are mechanically safe but old enough so that the yellow paint is faded. Roy said that the yellow must meet certain brightness requirements in order to pass state inspection and the state police have warned that many of the buses might not pass.

He said many of the districts facilities also need repair.

If steps aren’t taken towards improvement on these projects soon, Roy said there will be a larger problem later on.

When Governor Tom Wolf was elected in 2015, one of his top priorities was to address the debate over education funding. He proposed a budget that would put back $400 million in education, which for Bethlehem would mean an additional $5 million.

Wolf came up with a bi-partisan plan for the 2015-16 school year that was due to be passed on June 30, but it still has not been approved.

“Come January, we start to budget for the 2016-17 school year, but we don’t even know what’s happening for 2015-16, which is scary,” Faccinetto said.

Based on Wolf’s promises, school administrators are confident that they will be receiving more state aid in the near future.

According to Vazquez, Wolf has visited Donegan and seen for himself the hardship that students face due to the current funding problems.

“If he doesn’t keep his promise and the budget that gets approved isn’t different, he’s going to hear about it,” Vazquez said.

PLAINFIELD, Ind. (WISH) Plainfield schools are set to reopen Monday for the first time since threats made on Facebook forced them to close last month.

This is despite new threats coming in as recently as Saturday.

Plainfield police say it’s a balancing act between making sure the students are safe and that they can go on with their studies. To make them as safe as possible, additional police patrols will be on duty.

The decision to reopen the schools tomorrow was made by the police department, the school corporation and the town.

The additional security will be on hand at all of the schools, not just at the high school.

For parents, they say they understand the nervousness but say students need to get on with their learning.

It’s very difficult to say should your child go back to school or not; that is a decision that parents need to make, but knowing that this case may last a while or an arrest hasn’t been made immediately, that’s some concern as well because obviously parents don’t want their students to be behind in their studies either, said Jill Lees of the Plainfield Police Department

If you have information about these threats, you’re asked to contact the Plainfield Police Department at 317-838-3565, extension 7922.