AISD Facilities Boss Exits
Paul Turner announced retirement within weeks of bond election
By Richard Whittaker, 6:00PM, Thu. Apr. 25
A major shake-up at a bad time for Austin ISD: Executive Director of Facilities Paul Turner has announced his retirement, less than three weeks before his office shepherds a billion dollar bond request before voters.
Turner has agreed to stay through the end of his contract, at the end of June. However, the timing of his announcement could scarcely be less auspicious. With only 16 days until the long-awaited $892 million bond election, losing the man who has effectively spearheaded the project is at minimum unfortunate. That it comes mere months after the retirement of another key figure in AISD's facilities team, former Director of Construction Management Curt Shaw, can only be seen as a double blow.
His exit puts a lot more pressure on Chief Operations Officer Lawrence Fryer. A retired Marine Corps lieutenant colonel and former IBM consultant, Fryer was hired by Superintendent Meria Carstarphen in 2010 as part of her big shakeup of AISD's upper management. While Turner undoubtedly had his critics, Fryer was blamed by many for much of the failure of the 2011 facility master plan process. There have been similar concerns about how the current bond was handled, with many within the district publicly and privately worried that the district may have started the process too late for real oversight. There was even a last-ditch attempt to separate the four proposals into as many as seven on the ballot: The inclusion of fund to build a new boys' school in prop. 4, which is supposed to be for arts and athletics, has never sat well with many. If it becomes a poison pill that scuppers that measure, much of the blame will fall squarely on Fryer's shoulders.
A 40 year veteran of the district, Turner takes with him a huge amount of institutional knowledge. He joined the district in 1973 as an intern and worked his way up through the ranks on the academic side, first as assistant principal at Dobie Middle School, then principal there and at Lanier High School. In 1993 he moved sideways into central administration, fulfilling a variety of planning and financial roles until, in 2003, he was appointed director of bond execution and development. This meant he oversaw 2004's successful $519 million bond election, and 2008's interim bond worth $344 million. He was also a key player in constructing this year's bond package, and served as the administration's point man for citizens' advisory groups like the Boundary Advisory Committee, the Citizens' Bond Advisory Committee, and the Community Bond Oversight Committee.
Early rumors spread that Turner had resigned but the district quickly quieted those and explained that he had in fact retired. In a statement, AISD's Department of Communications and Community Engagement wrote, "He leaves behind a huge legacy and wants to focus on spending time with family. His decision has nothing to do with the bond election. "