A.I.S.D. Notebook

More than 10,000 students did not make it to the first day of school in the Austin Independent School District. According to AISD's count, 64,671 students attended on August 14, the first day of the 1995-96 school year. Total projected enrollment is 74,885.

By the same token, some AISD teachers had not received permanent assignments by the opening of the school year. Personnel director Ann Fields said Monday that perhaps 20 out of 300 teachers who were were placed on surplus lists at the end of the 1994-95 school year have not been placed in permanent positions yet, because there have been no vacancies in the areas in which they are certified. They have instead been assigned as permanent substitute teachers on some high school and middle school campuses.

The "surplus" system was initiated at the behest of Superintendent Jim Fox, as a way to staff campuses more efficiently and save money. Fields says that campuses have been staffed "conservatively," and perhaps as many as 100 new teachers will be hired in the next several weeks, as more children enroll, and class sizes start to rise. The district has already hired 164 new teachers, many of them for special education and bilingual education.

Teachers' groups, however, were less upbeat about how the surplus system panned out. "Too many teachers began and went through the summer not knowing where or what they'd be teaching," says Lana Bongiolatti, president of the Austin Association of Teachers.

"What looked good on paper hasn't panned out," says Louis Malfaro, president of the Austin Federation of Teachers. He says that the personnel office has been so occupied with reassigning "surplused" teachers that non-surplused teachers who had simply requested transfers got short shrift. Bongiolatti and Malfaro both say that they'll want changes in the system next year. Fields agrees that some modifications can be made.

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The AISD Board of Trustees met this week for the first time since the end of June and carried out a light agenda. Board action included: amending an interlocal agreement between AISD and Austin Community College for the use of the Robbins campus (formerly a campus exclusively for some of AISD's overage, parenting, and dropout students), and approving an honors curriculum for high school debate classes.

Trustees also discussed opening up the competitive bidding process to small businesses in Austin. Narciso Garcia, president of Grupos Los Primos and proprietor of La Pizza Loca on E. Seventh Street, addressed the board during citizens' communications, saying that he knew he was not the lowest bidder to provide pizza for the school lunch program. (Pizza Hut was.) Still, he's been a volunteer and supporter of public schools for a long time and wanted a chance to sell AISD his product at some point in the future. Fox responded that in the fall, AISD administration will present a newly revamped plan to help boost the participation of small business in AISD.

The inherent problem for small businesses like Garcia's, however, is that they probably would not be able to service a district as large as AISD. For that reason, says trustee Melissa Knippa, she would like to see if the district could legally be broken out into areas that small businesses could service. "If we were a small district, as the surrounding school districts are, we wouldn't be having this discussion," she says.

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Next week: On August 21, the board begins the first of several work sessions on the possibility of an upcoming bond election. A public hearing is scheduled for September 13.

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