AISD: Shakeup on West Sixth

Superintendent shuffles cabinet after retirements

AISD: Shakeup on West Sixth

The new school year will see a new cabinet for Austin ISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen. With five retirements and two staffers leaving for new jobs, she's shuffled several seats. The end result is at least one surprising and intriguing promotion, and a pretty hearty restructuring of the administration.

Chief of Staff
Out: Karen Sperry
In: Mel Waxler

Expect this to be the closest-watched move (not least why Waxler seems to be lining himself up for a $10,000 pay cut, if the position pay stays the same). The district's legal brain has been district general counsel since 2000, but has been quietly moving sideways earning his superintendent's certificate from the Texas Education Agency in 2009 and a master's degree in education this May. No word on who will be replacing him as AISD's top legal adviser, but the press release says he will continue "providing legal advice to the administration and schools." Prior to joining the district, he served on the 1995 citizens bond advisory committee, and provided a link to the Austin Chamber of Commerce as head of Leadership Austin. Sperry heads to retirement on June 30 after 33 years with the district.

Associate Superintendent for Schools
In: Gilbert Hicks.

This new position is a big promotion for Hicks. He has been principal at Overton since 2006, but caused some controversy back in 2002 as principal of Oak Hill when he got gung-ho over transferring his sixth graders to Kealing Middle School.

Coda: There's still a degree of confusion over where Hicks fits into the hierarchy. This is a new position, and while it's clear that he will be reporting to Chief Schools Officer Paul Cruz. The district currently has four assistant superintendents: Dr. Maria Montoya-Hohenstein and Ariel Cloud run the north and south elementaries respectively, Bergeron Harris in middle schools, and Edmund Oropez at high schools. Harris put in his retirement in May, but the other three remain, and it's still unclear how exactly Hicks and the other assistant superintendents will interact.

What makes this even stranger is that this represents a restructuring of the administration. Last time Carstarphen did this, back in 2009, there were very clear staffing structure charts in place before the hiring began. Now it seems Hicks has been hired before a staff chart has been finalized.

Executive Director for Finance
Out: Norman Self
In: Leo Lopez.

An interesting selection, since Lopez has been with the Texas Education Agency for over a decade. Self submitted his notice in April and is retiring.

Executive Director for Educator Quality
Out: David Lussier
In: Kimiko Cartwright

Lussier is returning to Massachusetts to become superintendent of the tiny Wellesley School District. He has already resigned, effective June 7. He is replaced by Cartwright, who has been principal at Murchison since 2007.

Associate Superintendent for Academics
Out: Rosa Villareal
Promoted: Suzanne Burke

This post actually amalgamates two positions (executive director of special programs and executive director of curriculum.) Villareal resigned from special programs, so her fellow ED Burke gets the new job. The ED positions will not be filled.

Chief Academic Officer
Out: Ramona Trevino
In: Pauline Dow

A newcomer to Austin, Dow has been a fixture on the El Paso educational scene as associate superintendent for academics and chief academic officer for Ysleta ISD and associate superintendent for Canutillo ISD. Trevino retires, effective June 29.

Intergovernmental Relations Director
Out: Christy Rome
In: Edna Butts

This one was actually confirmed in April. Butts is the former general counsel to Sen. Kirk Watson and a former assistant attorney general. She replaces Rome, who left to become executive director of the Texas School Coalition, a group of 120 Chapter 41 school districts which is part of the flotilla of lawsuits filed against the current Texas school finance system.

Got something to say? The Chronicle welcomes opinion pieces on any topic from the community. Submit yours now at

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for over 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Austin Independent School District
Finally, COVID Relief Funds Coming to Austin Schools
Finally, COVID Relief Funds Coming to Austin Schools
$155 million to AISD, $11.2 billion statewide clear TEA logjam

Clara Ence Morse, April 30, 2021

Hundreds of AISD Teachers May Refuse to Report to Campus for In-Person Classes
Hundreds of AISD Teachers May Refuse to Report to Campus for In-Person Classes
Education Austin organizes action in response to schools reopening

Clara Ence Morse, Sept. 30, 2020

More Meria Carstarphen
Cruz in Contention for AISD Superintendency
Cruz in Contention for AISD Superintendency
Interim district chief now officially in the mix

Richard Whittaker, Dec. 3, 2014

Austin ISD Needs You (to Find the Next Superintendent)
Austin ISD Needs You (to Find the Next Superintendent)
Three days of input meetings starts today

Richard Whittaker, July 15, 2014

More by Richard Whittaker
Kitty Kitty Bang Bang Gets Back Together for the Texas Burlesque Festival
Kitty Kitty Bang Bang Gets Back Together for the Texas Burlesque Festival
The kitties of Austin's legendary burlesque troupe still have claws

May 27, 2022

Panic Fest 2022: <i>Dashcam</i>
Panic Fest 2022: Dashcam
Screen life horror works because you hate the "hero"

May 19, 2022


Meria Carstarphen, AISD, Austin Independent School District, Bergeron Harris, Gilbert Hicks, Mel Waxler, Karen Sperry, Rosa Villareal, Suzanne Burke, David Lussier, Ramona Trevino, Kimiko Cartwright, Norman Self, Leo Lopez, Edna Butts, Christy Rome

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Behind the scenes at The Austin Chronicle

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle