The Austin Chronicle

AISD Board Votes to Give Superintendent Broadened Authority

By Austin Sanders, March 14, 2020, 2:51pm, Newsdesk

Austin ISD’s Board of Trustees has granted Superintendent Paul Cruz authority to take “immediate action” on coronavirus prevention as “necessary to be able to minimize the impact to students, staff, families, and the community.”

The board unanimously approved a resolution granting the Superintendent the powers after about an hour of private discussion in executive session at an emergency meeting on Friday night, March 13, to ensure the district’s administration could act swiftly to the rapidly changing pandemic. The emergency meeting and resolution were allowed following Gov. Greg Abbott’s declaration of a state of emergency in all 254 Texas counties earlier Friday afternoon.

The emergency resolution gives Cruz, who announced in February he would resign from AISD to take a position at the University of Texas (an official resignation date has not been announced), the power to make decisions within the administration that would normally require board approval. He can authorize procurement expenses that exceed $100,000, such as the purchase of cleaning supplies to keep classrooms and other district facilities sanitized.

Cruz will also be authorized to compensate employees who may be affected by unexpected school cancellations (such as the closure of campuses and district offices on Friday). Previously, there was a question on whether or not employees would have to use their accrued paid time off to make up for that day, but that is no longer the case.

AISD officials still have not moved to extend spring break, as many Texas universities have done. But now Cruz will have the power to ensure employees are compensated if district officials decide to do that. The resolution also allows Cruz to seek waivers from the Texas Education Agency to excuse low attendance at campuses and failure to meet “instructional minutes” inside classrooms – that is, the state-mandated amount of times students are to be learning at schools.

The district issued a statement following the vote: "During these times it is important that we act responsibly and swiftly to attend to the needs of our students, staff, and families," Cruz said. "I thank the board for taking this action for the well being of our community."

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