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Carstarphen Could Be Gone By May

Austin ISD super informs board of quick exit, need for interim chief
Richard Whittaker, 6:15pm, Mon. Mar. 31
Photo by John Anderson
AISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen: Telling trustees she may resign her post to move to Atlanta as soon as the end of April

The Austin ISD community was shocked last week when Superintendent Meria Carstarphen announced she was the sole finalist to lead Atlanta Public Schools. Now she is telling AISD trustees she could be gone as soon as the end of April, meaning there will be an intensive board Monday night meeting on how and when to replace her.

Her final appointment is still dependent on an April 14 vote by the Atlanta board, but If/when Carstarphen goes, the first challenge for AISD will be the selection of an interim superintendent. Current names in unofficial contention from within the district include Chief Schools Officer Paul Cruz, Chief Academic Officer Pauline Dow, Associate Superintendent of High Schools Edmund Ororpez, and Carstarphen’s chief of staff and former AISD general counsel Mel Waxler.

However, the real question then becomes, how long do they stay as the interim, and how quickly does a permanent replacement get picked? The potential for an interim will be discussed tonight in an extra-length executive session of the AISD trustees at the Carruth Administration Center at 7pm.

In a rare moment of complete agreement, AISD Board President Vince Torres and Education Austin President Ken Zarifis both believe that a long community consultation process must be the first part of any candidate search. Torres said, "I think the process is that we want information from the community about whether what the board is thinking we need from a new superintendent is in in sync with the community's thinking."

Moreover, the current board has a heavy workload already: A major budget re-write, the new facility master plan, a new strategic plan, and the implementation of new accountability standards under House Bill 5. Moreover, there will be five seats on the board of trustees up for re-election in November, and Torres was cautious about the idea of "faster tracking" a superintendent search when there will be a new look board come January. With those considerations, he said, "The next board has to be the one to hire the next superintendent, not the current one."

However, At-Large Trustee Gina Hinojosa believes that heavy workload is exactly why the board should consider moving quicker. She has contacted the Texas Association of School Boards and been told that, if properly orchestrated, a search could take as little as three months. She said, "Last time, it took a year because (former Superintendent) Pat Forgione gave a year's notice, but I have a concern that we'll be a rudderless."

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