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AISD: Carstarphen Gets an Extension

With election looming, board votes an extension for superintendent

By Richard Whittaker, Fri., Oct. 26, 2012

AISD: Carstarphen Gets an Extension

All employees of the Austin Independent School District are on one-year contracts – except for Superintendent Meria Carstar­phen. With more than a year and a half remaining on her current deal, trustees agreed on Monday evening, Oct. 22, to extend her stay by an extra 12 months, through June 30, 2015 – leaving critics wondering why a lame-duck board took such a momentous, long-term decision even as early voting had just begun for new trustees.

The decision was not unanimous, nor was everyone happy with the process. The measure was supposed to be on the consent agenda; however, outgoing at-large Trustee Annette LoVoi and District 7's Robert Schnei­der had it pulled for board discussion. The pair eventually voted against the extra year, splitting the board 7-2.

One core issue was whether this decision should have been left to the new board, who will be sworn in next month. Before the meeting, outgoing Board President Mark Williams argued that this would be just the final piece in the superintendent's annual evaluation and performance review. Since the current board had done the evaluation, he said, it should also make the decision, and he suggested the new board might not be ready to do so.

However, Schneider, LoVoi, and even fellow at-large Trustee Tamala Barksdale, who voted for the extension, all questioned the pressing need, especially since there will be a new board in Novem­ber, with either three or four new members. As for Williams' argument that the new board may not be ready to make a decision soon, Schneider argued that the extension could have been left until they perform Carstarphen's next evaluation. "She has a considerable amount of time left in her contract," he said. He was particularly frustrated by the initial decision to put the measure on the consent agenda, and said he had finished the evaluation process understanding there would be a full discussion. However, he said, "I don't set the agenda." (That would be Board Secretary Lori Moya, a consistent Carstarphen supporter.)

Aside from the process, Williams defended the idea of lengthening Carstarphen's tenure. While many in the community have disagreed with her on specific issues, Williams said there was sufficient consensus amongst trustees that her overall performance merited an extension. He argued that approving the measure sent an important public message: that the district had faith in her.

"You could say that you've got 20 months left," he said, "but there are signals that you send politically and publicly."

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