Paul Cruz to Step Down as Austin Schools Chief

Superintendent to join UT faculty after eventful AISD tenure

Paul Cruz at an AISD board meeting in 2019. (Photo by John Anderson)

After six years at the helm, Paul Cruz will resign as superintendent of the Austin Independent School District, per an announcement posted on the district’s website Wednesday evening, Feb. 19.

Cruz isn't going far; he's headed to the University of Texas to become a professor in the College of Education’s Cooperative Superintendency Program – where he will essentially help train the next generation of superintendents. Before assuming the top job, Cruz served as AISD's chief schools officer during the rocky tenure of former superintendent Meria Carstarphen.

“I love Austin ISD!” Cruz wrote in the statement, shared with AISD parents and via social media. “Thank you for embracing my family, for educating my children, and for entrusting me with leading our strategic efforts. It has truly been an honor to serve as superintendent of Austin’s dynamic and high-performing school district.”

But that love was not always reciprocal, especially among parents at Metz, Pease, Sims, and Brooke elementary schools, who fought tooth and nail for months to keep their campuses from closing. I addition to overseeing the fraught School Changes process that led to those closures, and perhaps more to come, Cruz oversaw the development and began the implementation of a $1.05 billion bond package – the largest in AISD history. But it’s the emotionally charged school closures - which previous district leaders had been unable to accomplish, despite many considering such decisions necessary for over a decade – that will mark Cruz’s legacy at AISD.

A new work environment was likely appealing to Cruz, who was hammered throughout the School Changes controversies – publicly and vocally by activists, and privately and quietly by some members of the Board of Trustees – for what they characterized as meek leadership in a tenuous time for the district. But Cruz stayed the course to lead the district through a difficult process that, he said, will help student success through reinvestment of resources from closed campuses into supports aimed at helping struggling students.

In a statement, Board of Trustees President Geronimo Rodriguez said: “We appreciate Dr. Cruz’s 14 years of leadership service to AISD students and their families. We look forward to discussing his transition at our board meeting this coming Monday.”

What that transition process will look like is still up in the air. Technically, Cruz has not resigned – he’s just announced his intent to do so, having accepted the new position. His AISD contract was most recently extended in October 2018 and does not expire until Dec. 31, 2021. Before that end date, Cruz can resign without board approval on June 30 of this year (or next); assuming he needs to start working at UT before then, he'll need to negotiate a new departure date with the trustees and then can officially submit his resignation.

Cruz and the trustees will also work out a transition plan to ensure district operations are not severely disrupted. Trustees will likely issue a request for proposals from search firms to find a new superintendent; meanwhile, they could name an interim leader to take the reins after Cruz departs but before a new hire is made. Trustees are expected to discuss the matter in executive session on Monday, Feb. 24, and hope to announce a departure date soon.

This is a developing story; we will update with more online and in next week's print issue.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 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  

READ MORE
More Austin ISD
AISD: No Classes Until April 3, Preparing for Distance Learning
AISD: No Classes Until April 3, Preparing for Distance Learning
Schools to provide curbside meals at 14 sites amid COVID-19 concerns

Beth Sullivan, March 16, 2020

Austin ISD Delays Its Plans to Close Eight Schools
Austin ISD Delays Its Plans to Close Eight Schools
Four others remain on list as "conversations" continue

Austin Sanders, Nov. 3, 2019

More by Austin Sanders
Eleven APD Officers Disciplined for Misconduct In Police-Brutality Protests
Eleven APD Officers Disciplined for Misconduct In Police-Brutality Protests
Seven more on leave as D.A. reviews May 30-31 incidents

Dec. 2, 2020

Racial Disparities in Policing Persist, City Report Shows
Racial Disparities in Policing Persist, City Report Shows
Black, Latinx drivers overrepresented in APD traffic stops and searches

Nov. 27, 2020

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

Austin ISD, Paul Cruz, University of Texas School of Education, Geronimo Rodriguez, Board of Trustees, School Changes

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
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

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

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