Pearce Meeting Tonight

District seeks community input on saving school and debunks myth of Commissioner Scott's appeal

Superintendent Carstarphen: Getting to meet the community. Just not under the best circumstances.
Superintendent Carstarphen: Getting to meet the community. Just not under the best circumstances. (Photo by Richard Whittaker)

Tonight sees possibly the most important public meeting for the future of Pearce Middle School. AISD staff will be presenting options for the school at the campus (6401 N. Hampton Drive), 6.30-8.30pm. They stress that this is about getting as much feedback and guidance from the Pearce community as possible.

Superintendent Meria Carstarphen has already been catching some flack for her first decision, which is to "respectively disagree" with Scott's decision and concentrate on a re-purposing plan.

It all comes down to a passage in the letter from Commissioner of Education Robert Scott offering "a request for a record review related to the closure of Pearce." In an open letter to Carstarphen, Austin NAACP Chairman Nelson Linder wrote, "We are disappointed that you have chosen not to appeal the decision" and argued that this is just another instance of the district abandoning East Austin.

But the accusation is off-base, because Scott has not offered an appeal of his decision. What's actually on the table is an appeal of the data: As Carstarphen has already pointed out, no-one is disagreeing with the reported TAKS scores, just what Scott has done with them. Filing an appeal would take weeks to process, would distract from other planning, and seems utterly unlikely to have any impact.

Oh, and the real kicker? The appeal would be handled by Scott's office.

Full announcement of tonight's meeting after the break.

Community Meeting Tonight – Superintendent seeks guidance, direction from Pearce community

Austin Superintendent Dr. Meria Carstarphen will convene a community meeting tonight to gain input on the future of Pearce Middle School students, in light of the formal notification from Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott “ordering closure of the Pearce Middle School effective with the 2009-2010 school year.”

Tonight’s meeting, scheduled from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the gymnasium of the school, located at 6401 N. Hampton Drive, will be the Superintendent’s first opportunity to hear from the students and families most directly affected by the decision. The agenda will include a presentation that shows the data on Pearce performance and explains what the District is allowed to do under the law. The format will include a question and answer session, as well as a chance for parents, students and others to offer their ideas on the future of the campus.

“During tonight’s meeting, we will go through key information and all options available at this time, including an opportunity for students, parents and others to tell us how they would like to see us move forward in a way that best provides quality teaching and learning to the students affected by this decision,” Carstarphen said.

From the District’s perspective, the late notification of the Commissioner’s decision is of critical concern. Although TEA has offered to allow the District to submit a repurposing plan, any plan to repurpose the campus must be approved by the Board of Trustees and the education agency quickly. Austin schools begin the 2009-2010 academic year on Monday, August 24.

“The challenge before us, while not impossible, is certainly daunting, and unfortunately, limits community engagement,” Carstarphen said.

Superintendent Carstarphen says that her first priority is to make strategic decisions in the best interest of students and families at Pearce, and to communicate those decisions swiftly. She will be working with the Board of Trustees and the Pearce community to explore short- and long-term options to best meet the needs of students. The Superintendent expects to provide Trustees with options for consideration, including an administrative recommendation in the coming days. “The Board and community can anticipate that the administrative recommendation will be designed to stop the perceived cycle of failure and continuous uncertainty for students, families and staff at Pearce,” Superintendent Carstarphen said.

In just her second week on the job, the new Superintendent has pledged to do all within her power to stay focused on the students and measure any recommendation with them in mind. “I will do what is necessary to ensure the academic well-being of all students in AISD,” said Carstarphen.

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AISD, Pearce Middle School, Education, Texas Education Agency, Meria Carstarphen, Robert Scott, Nelson Linder

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