Scott's Softer Tone

The strange thawing between TEA and AISD

Scott: Playing nice in public
Scott: Playing nice in public

Commission of Education Robert Scott and Austin ISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen have scarcely had the best working relationship. So there has been some scratching of heads about the (relatively) nice words he had say at last week's Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce lunchtime meeting about education.

According to the Austin-American Statesman, Scott told the assorted lunch guests, "Dr. Carstarphen and I have had an interesting summer on our accountability system … Unfortunately, I surprised her … And I apologize for that."

It's little secret that Scott and Carstarphen butted heads over his (mis)handling of the Pearce Middle School repurposing, so several attendees said they were pretty much flabbergasted by this softening of tone (although all Scott apologized for was the timing, not the action). It's also an open secret amongst the educational establishment and policy makers that calmer heads have been trying to prevail between them, since an ugly public fight between the commissioner of education and the new superintendent for the capital city (and one with a national reputation to boot) wasn't doing anyone any favors. Scott's recent challenge for anyone to "bring it" over his accountability system seemed misguided and overly-confrontational, and made it look like the icy relationship might develop permafrost, but not necessarily so.

It seems that the thaw began, or at least became public, on Oct. 22, when both Scott and Carstarphen were brought together at the LBJ High campus to applaud Liberal Arts and Science Academy High School social studies teacher Maricruz Aguayo-Tabor for being selected as one of the 2009 recipients of the Milken National Educator Award. According to reports, Carstarphen engaged in some playful call-and-response with the crowd about "my friend Robert."

There was another interesting point raised from the chamber lunch: Scott's main point for the talk was to inform the chamber that he'll be looking to increase the number of charter schools. That's interesting, considering several factors. One, Texas is limited to 215 charter schools, and is at that cap. Two, the legislature has repeatedly rejected any move to extend that cap or to rewrite the rules extending the number of campuses per charter. So this would mean Scott rewriting or re-interpreting the agency rules somehow. That will almost inevitably mean he will be staring down the barrel of a lawsuit or two with some serious legislative intent on their side.

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