Joe Dan Mills, Jr. Elementary

Principal's Message

Happy Fall, Y'all!

The weather has cooled off... now if it will just stop raining. I only see blue skies this Saturday for our Happy Birthday, Mills! Fall Carnival. This is such a fun event for the whole family and a wonderful opportunity to hang out with the coolest people in Austin - Mills' Mountain Lions! I hope your family can make it by between 11:00 - 3:00. Come rain or shine, we'll be here. Wristbands are $20 on sale Friday at dismissal or $25 at the door. Only children need to purchase a wristband.


Veterans' Day

Mills celebrates and honors veterans with a patriotic sing along.  If your family has a veteran in town, we would love for them to join us. We would like to acknowledge all the armed service members in our Mills' Family with an Honor Gallery in our main hall. We are inviting you to send a photo of members of your family who have served in any of the armed services. Include their name, relationship to which Mills' students and the branch of service. You can send the photos to school with your child or drop them off in the office and we will post the photos in the hall beginning outside the cafeteria.


Flu Clinic will not be offered at Mills

Mills opted out of offering the clinic this year due to the amount of manpower and space required to organize the clinic, along with the loss of instructional time. In addition to transport to and from class and wait time in line, students are monitored for 20 minutes after the shot. That adds up to about an hour of lost class time per student, along with disrupting the class schedule until all the students are back in the room. Parent volunteers, office staff and administrators manned those duties for three days, in addition to comforting students who were not happy, or prepared, to get a shot. If the clinic resulted in fewer cases of the flu or more students being vaccinated, the disruptions would be more acceptable. We did not see any additional benefit from offering the vaccinations at school.



Click here to visit Nurse Barbara's new webpage. She will continue to update and provide more health information.





June 20, 2018

Greetings, Mountain Lion Families!


I hope your summer is off to a great start! It is very quiet here in the office. I'm the only office staff on duty during the summer and I spend a good bit of my time in training and meetings so the office is not always manned. If you need help, you can call or email me. If you call the main number, 512-841-2400, I will check messages when I'm on campus and get back with you. That may take a couple of days. 


I will be on vacation from 6/22 - 7/9.


The office will be open for regular hours on July 23rd. Class placement emails will be sent around August 9th to the email where you are receiving this newsletter.


Construction has begun on our two new rooms on the west side of the building. The site has been prepared and is ready for foundation to be framed and poured over the next week.


Remember school will begin at 7:40 a.m. year. Students will be released each day at 3:00 p.m. In addition to the holidays on the published AISD calendar, Mills' students will have four additional holidays: September 24th, January 3rd and 4th, and February 15th.


Wishing you a safe and relaxing summer,

Lalla Beachum



October 11, 2018

Greetings, Mountain Lion Families,

Finally, we have some cooler weather! I smile at all the Texas fall fashions that walk through our doors - shorts with sweaters and jacket! The jackets usually aren't needed past the early morning and I hope they all make their way into backpacks. Before your child's jacket, sweater or hoodie becomes a part of our Lost-But-Not-Found, please write your last name on the tag. If we have a name, we will return it to your child. Otherwise, it will languish on the rack until donated to a charity. If you are missing some items, check the rack in the hall next to the bus lane doors.

Huge shout out to our PTA Landscaping Committee and all the volunteers who have been working so hard to beautify our campus. The murals, flower beds and extra benches all add to the value of our grounds. Thank you! 

As we move into the cooler months, we will have more incidents of illness. Remind your child to wash their hands often, cough into their elbow and get lots of rest. We want your child to be in class as much as possible but it they aren't well enough to come to school, please keep them home. 

Enjoy this beautiful weather!

Your proud principals,


Lalla Beachum                        Courtney Cartlidge                            Anna Balthazar




September 22, 2018


Happy 1st Day of Fall to all our Mountain Lion Families,

We often associate Fall with the beginning of school but really it's the point when all our routines are established and school really starts to hum. Students know their new classmates and their teacher. Teachers have reviewed last years' skills and gotten to know students as learners while establishing expectations for this year. And we are so fortunate to have families who establish routines at home that support lots of rest and good work habits. We are in for smooth sailing for the rest of the year!

In this day of smart phones with quality cameras readily at hand, we don't think twice about capturing every precious minute in our children's lives. However, I want to remind you that you are only allowed to take your child's photograph at school. I know that it is adorable to see your child and their friends laughing together at lunch or school events; but, if the other child's parent is not there, you don't have permission to take their photograph.

Speaking of lunch... Friday is the most popular day for families to come to lunch with their student so we sometimes run out of seating. If you have an option for a different day, we usually have more room Monday through Thursday.

Your proud principals,

Lalla Beachum, Courtney Cartlidge, and Anna Balthazar



March 23, 2016


Happy Spring, Mountain Lions!


I hope everyone has adjusted to the time change. Someone sent me a cartoon with the punchline of "I miss my hour!"  I do! Especially in the mornings when I have to leave my house in the dark again. If you are one of the early arrivers, please keep a careful watch out for young children walking to school in the early dawn. 


There are a few important dates coming up so mark your calendars:


Thursday, TOMORROW (or the very first thing Monday morning) - Deadline for submittingart work to be considered for the Mills' 2016-2017 Tshirt!! Put those artistic talents to work and submit a fun drawing of Milo "Into the Future".


Monday, 3/28 - Please complete your online registration for next school year by this date. You should have received a half page reminder with all the details. If you miss this deadline, there will be additional hardcopy paperwork involved and may interfere with class assignments for next year. Please take a look at this over the weekend.


Tuesday, 3/29 - Mills Spirit Night at Phil's Ice House AND Amy's Ice Cream on South Lamar.


STAAR Testing 3/29 and 3/30. The important thing to note is that the building will be CLOSED TO ALL VISITORS, including lunch on these days. The campus will be closed from 7:45 - 2:30. No visitors will be allowed in the building as volunteers in the classrooms, library, or workroom. 4th and 5th grade parents, please see the STAAR note below for more details. This was also included in a hard copy letter from Mrs. Whatley that was sent home today.


Tuesday, 4/5 - Kindergarten Orientation. This will be a fun event for all incoming kindergarteners. Parents will complete paperwork and meet some of our support staff while the students rotate through three activity (kinder classroom with a real live kindergarten teacher, a quick story in the library, a PE activity) and a trip through the cafeteria line for a snack. There will be 2 sessions: 8:00 - 8:45 and 8:45 - 9:30. If you know someone with a future Mountain Lion, please ask them to call the Mills office to reserve a space and to get more information.


4/5 is also the last day to buy tickets to our super fun, adult only silent auction - Gatsby Spring Swing. You do not want to miss this time to meet and mingle with other Mountain Lion parents. This will be a real date night with delicious food, beverages, and games. And, of course, there are so many amazing items for you to bid on!


TRAFFIC - I have actually seen some great improvement in driving etiquette - cars waiting patiently in line, drivers staying in their cars and pulling forward with the traffic, MANY fewer jaywalkers - THANK YOU!!!  That doesn't mean we are at 100% in the traffic mastery. Today, the Travis County Constables were in our lines and issued four citations for drivers passing the cars waiting to turn into the school :(

This is actually the 2nd time I have written this message. The first one timed out when I left it to check on a Mills student who was hit be a car at the Davis and Escarpment intersection. I'm happy to say that the student went home only shaken up. But it is a reminder of what's at risk from a driver's impatience. 


Have a wonderful long weekend!


Your proud principals,

Lalla Beachum and Anna Balthazar


February 29, 2016


I look forward to this day for 4 years! For all those times that I said, “I wish I had one more day”, here it is. It also means that tomorrow is the beginning of the last three months of school and that is hard to believe.


ELECTION DAY: Tomorrow is election day in Texas and at Mills Elementary. Our library will be a polling site with entrance and exit from the exterior doors. Please keep that in mind as you make plans for drop off and pickup. There may be a line as neighbors stop to vote before going to work and that could also mean more cars with drivers unfamiliar with our traffic patterns.


We are entering an odd time of the school year.  We are enjoying the great strides in academics and maturity levels our students have made this year; and, we’re also beginning to make plans for the coming year. I frequently have to remind myself to stay focused on the “now” so I enjoy this phase of our children’s lives - the years sail by too quickly!


BUDGET/CAC MEETING: One of those planning steps is allocating the dollars our school receives. A draft of our budget will be reviewed at our Campus Advisory Council meeting this Thursday at 3:00 in our library. It will also be posted on the Paw Print bulletin board across from our office.


MILLS 2020: “The Mills Community will educate the whole child, encouraging them to achieve their highest potential.” That’s our Mills Mission Statement. Our CAC has formed a subcommittee to expand on that statement and develop a more specific vision of how we will accomplish our mission.  We can then use this vision to see where we need to focus our resources and attention and celebrate the successes. I have attached a first draft that was developed by the committee. Please take a look at the document. If you have any suggestions or concerns about any of the items, you can send it to me by email ( or by dropping off comments in the front office.


CLASS PLACEMENTS. The next huge item on our list this spring is class placements for next year.  Creating classroom communities that work is a complicated process involving the coordination of services provided to students across several programs as well as considering the group dynamics of students in a class. Input from parents regarding students’ social and learning needs is important in planning productive classroom. You will have the opportunity to provide your observations, insight and historical perspective on the “Purple Form”. That form will be available in the office beginning March 21st and must be turned in by end of day on April 8th. There will not be an electronic copy so the form must be picked up in person. You may return the form with your child but please verify with your child’s teacher that they received it. This form is optional but the information you provide will be considered carefully.


CELEBRATIONS. Our PTA always impresses me!

The monthly staff birthday celebrations are always such a treat and we appreciate everyone who contributes to pull off those Pinterest events! And we felt so much love from the taco bar lunch at Valentines. Thank you! Thank you!


The Amazing Race was… Amazing! Such a wonderful family event planned around fun and fitness at our school. I didn’t know what to expect but now I’m already looking forward to next year’s fun!


Our students continue to work hard in school and on their own time. Our Mills performance scores on district benchmark assessments have placed us in the top five to ten schools in the district – out of 84 elementary schools. Students represented Mills in the district Art Show, the Regional Science Fair, the Regional Spelling Bee, and were recognized for their philanthropic spirit. Ongoing are the Destination Imagination creative problem solving competition, Math Pentathlon, Chess club, 4th grade musical, swimming, baseball, soccer, lacrosse, martial arts, gymnastics, dance and music recitals, and all the other extracurricular activities in which our students invest their time. Our students are busy! 

In the midst of those busy lives, schedule some down time and family time. Remember, these years sail by!


Below is an article about a book that addresses a concern I often hear from parents. We love our children so much that we worry they won’t return that affection if we set limits.


Your proud principals,


Lalla Beachum and Anna Balthazar


January 26, 2016

Good Afternoon, Mountain Lions,

The most common phrase heard from visitors to the front office: “I can’t believe we are already in the spring semester!”  It is amazing that we are over half way through this school year; but, there’s  lots of fun yet to come.

Tonight is a GENERAL PTA MEETING.  Please drop in at 7:00 if you can.  This is the meeting when you have the opportunity to vote on the Projects and Goals the PTA will fund for Mills.  This is where all the fundraising dollars go.  Come to hear about the proposals and then voice your opinions and cast your vote. That’s 7:00pm tonight in the Mills Cafeteria. I have also had several questions about the process for class placement and I will address that tonight in the Principal’s Report.

Thursday night, 1/28, is our 2nd SPIRIT NIGHT  for the year at Chick Fil A (290 and MoPac) from 5:00 – 8:00pm. This is an opportunity to let someone else do the cooking, visit with other Mills families, and support the Mills PTA with a portion of your purchase. Teachers and staff will be on hand with fun and games like the Spinner and Face Painting.  Most importantly, these events help to connect you with the school beyond your child’s classroom, extending your network of fellow “parenters” and building the Mills village to support all our children.

SPRING CONFERENCES are just around the corner and those are always my favorite. It is so exciting to see the growth students have made since the beginning of the year!  Please make every effort to attend these conferences.  The spring conferences are often led by the students and it is a time for them to recognize their own growth and share their work with pride.


Austin ISD is a member of the E3 (Education Equals Economics) initiative. E3’s goals include graduating students ready for success in life.  Through extensive data analysis, E3 has identified elements that directly correlate with student graduation rates and preparedness for success in life. One of those is School Attendance. A chronically absent student is one who misses 10% or more of school for whatever reason – illness, dentist, doctor, visiting grandparents, family vacations. Chronically Absent students are 10 times less likely to graduate from high school than students with better attendance. Keep this statistic in mind when you schedule appointments or make travel plans.

The bulletin board in the foyer demonstrates just a few of the learning activities that go on every day at Mills and none of these can be made up by a worksheet or a quick review with the teacher or a peer. Attendance matters because MISSING SCHOOL MATTERS. 


There hasn’t been a week of school that I haven’t talked to at least one concerned parent about traffic at Mills during drop off and dismissal. I have consulted our AISD police, the Austin City mobility team,  and other schools in similar neighborhoods, as well as observed the situation closely myself. The CAC has formed a traffic subcommittee to investigate, as well.  For the most part we have a smooth system that only requires traffic back up for less than 20 minutes twice a day. That is considered efficient and effective. We have a nice walking community of neighbors that creates a warm and safe environment for our children. But there continues to be concerns.  The bottom line is that the only real problem we have is a few drivers and walkers who don’t obey the existing traffic laws. 

The two main violations are:

  1. Jaywalking – The City of Austin requires that all pedestrians use crosswalks to cross public streets. It’s the law and there are fines. The drives through our school for bus and front drop off/pick up are public streets and there are  sidewalks and crosswalks designated for crossing the street.  Please do not cross the street from the school to the parking lot except at one of the two crosswalks! Please do not cross Lantana or Davis except at a crosswalk! Not only are you breaking the law, but you are putting yourself and your child in danger along with  setting a poor example for all the children watching you.
  2. Illegal and inconsiderate driving – This ranges from speeding in a school zone, creating extra lanes, ignoring crossing guards (all illegal) to getting out of the car to help your child or not closing gaps in the line because you are on your phone, not paying attention, or want your child to have front door service. Please drive alert and friendly! I don’t think anything can excuse behavior that puts children’s lives at risk.

Thank you to the majority of families who follow the rules of law and courtesy!  You make Mills Magnificent.

Your proud principals,


Lalla Beachum  and Anna Balthazar


DECEMBER 1, 2015

Dear Mills Mountain Lions,

I'm so grateful to have friends checking my work and getting me to the right place at the right time! I received several notes that I gave you the wrong time for our Holidays Around the World Culture Fair on December 12th.  I sent you the set up time and we would be happy for your assistance with that. BUT if you want to enjoy the exhibits and entertainment with your family, mark your calendar with the correct time of 1:00 - 4:00pm.

Since I'm sending an additional email, I would like to share these 2 articles with you. My "product" as an educator is happy, productive, and self-sufficient adults. I'm an elementary educator because I believe this is where we lay the foundation and have the greatest impact on future success. To that end, I'm always looking for information that will help me help children get the most out of life. These two articles are good representatives of the many I read about young adults today and what we can learn from them to help our current elementary students arrive on the door of adulthood better prepared to be successful.

Resilience and College

Parents of Successful Adults

Thank you for sending us great kids!

Your proud principals,


Lalla Beachum and Anna Balthazar


NOVEMBER 30, 2015

Greetings, Mountain Lions,
I hope you all had a restful holiday with family and friends.  The Fall Festival was a wonderful kickoff for the holiday week and for our winter weather. If you weren’t able to fit the Fall Festival into your weekend this year, I highly recommend it  for next year.  There were so many fun activities that were just perfect for elementary children and their families. Although the Kid Bid items are fundraisers, the rest of the Festival is a service project for our community. That means that the wristband and food ticket sales are designed to cover the cost of the event, as opposed to making a profit. We had such a great turnout that there probably was a profit but the real intent of this event is to provide a venue for families to enjoy the company of other Mountain Lion families.  In that way, the Fall Festival was a huge success! Thank you to the many hands that contributed to make the Festival possible with a special shout-out to the Fall Festival Coordinators who organized everything down to the smallest detail.
Alicia Barrientos-Lee (Festival Chair)
Candace Goerlich & her team of volunteers (Wristbands sales & financials)
Neha Bhakta (Concessions)
Kate Bahner & her team (Wizard of Art Booth)
Jeff Crunk (Kid Bids)
Liz Branch (Food Vendors)
Alicia Henderson (Volunteer Signups)
Jessica Riggs (Festival Contest)
Sylvia Laughlin & her team ( Decorating & Marketing)
Courtney Yanklin (Prize Toy Collections)
Sharon Crunk (Cake Walk & Contests)
Chris Farrow & Heidi Connealy (Web Administration)
Sarah Jones (Scouts Box Maze)
Ray Pena (Photography)
Mike Fair (Recycle)
December is only three school weeks long but we are able to squeeze a tremendous amount of special events into those 3 weeks.
12/2       Wednesday                                        BOW WOW Bike On Wednesday Walk On Wednesday
                                                                                Take advantage of the nip in the air to enjoy a stroll to/from
                                                                                school with your neighbors. It’s good for the environment,
                                                                                your health, and connections with neighbors.
12/3       Thursday             7:50 – 8:30am       Principal’s Coffee,  Mills  Library. Informal Q&A format after
                                                                                Darla Caughley, our AISD Social & Emotional Learning Specialist
                                                                                gives a presentation on ways to extend SEL strategies to the
                                                                                Yasmin Wagner, our new AISD Board Member, will be on hand.
12/4-6   Barnes & Noble Book Fair             Sunset Valley Location. A portion of the proceeds returns to
                                                                                Mills to support Literacy programs. Check out the Messenger
                                                                                For more details. Saturday afternoon features Mills guest
                                                                                Readers from 1:00-4:00 and the Mills Choir at 4:00.
12/12     Mills Holidays Around the World Culture Fair, Mills Cafeteria from 10:00 – 1:00  
Be sure to check the School and PTA calendars to see which fun events will fit into your busy family calendar.
The AISD Board of Directors approved some changes to the district transfer policy for coming years. See the announcement below for further information.
Changes to Local Policy FDB:  Admissions:  Intradistrict Transfers and Classroom Assignments were approved by the AISD Board of Trustees on April 27, 2015.  The changes impact the admission of priority transfers into frozen schools (i.e., schools with no available space).  There are three types of priority transfers:  majority-to-minority, sibling, and tracking.
Beginning with the 2016-2017 school year, in an effort to relieve overcrowding, majority to minority transfers will only be accepted at campuses where space is available.  Space is not available at frozen campuses.   Superintendent Paul Cruz will announce the list of frozen campuses for the 2016-2017 school year on December 14, 2015.
Beginning with the 2017-2018 school year, in a continuing effort to relieve overcrowding, in addition to the majority to minority priority transfers, sibling and tracking transfers will also only be accepted at campuses with space available.  An announcement of which schools will not have space in 2017-2018 (i.e., frozen), will be made in December 2016.
Thankful to be Mountain Lions!
Your proud principals,
Lalla Beachum and Anna Balthazar