Cruz Sole Finalist for AISD Superintendent

Update: Initial responses to exit of external candidates

Paul Cruz, now sole candidate to become AISD superintendent.
Paul Cruz, now sole candidate to become AISD superintendent.

In a far from surprising step, the two remaining external candidates for the role of permanent superintendent of Austin ISD have withdrawn their applications, leaving Interim Superintendent Paul Cruz as the sole finalist.

Under advice from the Texas Association of School Boards, the AISD board of trustees originally presented Cruz with an ultimatum: He could either become the interim superintendent, or he could apply to become the permanent replacement for former superintendent Meria Carstarphen. Cruz decided to take the interim position, but over the last few months, there had been an increasing drumbeat from community members, the various chambers of commerce, and teachers union Education Austin to add his name to the mix.

On Monday, the board finally acceded and formally agreed to let Cruz apply. Yesterday, there was a major rally, featuring political figures including Council Members Kathie Tovo, Laura Morrison, and Mayor Lee Leffingwell, applauding the board for opening the process up.

However, the near-inevitable flipside was that the two remaining external candidates (selected from 98 applicants) on the shortlist have withdrawn their applications. This leaves the former Chief Schools Officer as the sole name in contention.

The board is continuing with the public consultation process. There will be a public forum at Lanier High School at 10am on Dec. 13, followed by the formal decision on Dec. 15 as to whether to offer Cruz a contract or not. It will then be left to the new board and new trustees, who take their seats in January, to finalize the deal.

UPDATE: Board vice-president Gina Hinojosa commented on the exit of the external candidates by saying, "While I anticipated that these candidates might withdraw upon hearing that we were considering our interim superintendent for the job, my greater fear was losing the opportunity to consider Dr. Cruz."

Education Austin president Ken Zarifis, who has long been an advocate for Cruz's involvement in the candidate search, was similarly satisfied by the change in circumstances. He wrote:

"The school board made the right decision to open the search to Dr Cruz. Their responsibility is to find the most highly qualified candidate for the 86,0 00 kids in AISD schools. If the other candidates withdrew from the search because of his inclusion, they must have felt they didn't possess the same skill set as Dr Cruz to be successful in Austin. Since April, Dr Cruz has demonstrated his ability to lead the district and a willingness to listen to the community. It would have been a grave mistake on the board's part to ignore that evidence in lieu of a process that clearly needed refinement to ensure the best candidate for our children."

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