How (Not) to Hire an AISD Superintendent

Deadline to choose a finalist is close to run-offs

Vince Torres
Vince Torres (Photo by John Anderson)

How long should the Austin Independent School District wait to hire a new superintendent? With three trustee elections headed to run-offs, new board members may only have a couple of weeks to hire a new CEO.

The current board has already pushed the hiring date from mid-December to mid-January to give time for the Dec. 16 run-offs. Now the timeline has reached a worst-case scenario, as the finalists – presumably two or three for the board to choose from – are scheduled to be announced on Dec. 15 – the day before the run-offs. Then the election results will not be canvassed until either Dec. 24 or Dec. 26 ("Obviously, we're not going to meet on Christmas Day," said Board President Vince Torres) and the new board will not be seated until the first meeting in January, currently scheduled for Jan. 8. On that night, they will not only decide who they will offer the job, but also elect their own officers.

Among trustee candidates there is a growing concern that this timeline, running across an election and the holiday season, makes due diligence nearly impossible. There are already rumblings about pushing the hire back to February, or even as late as April (the original date proposed by search firm Ray & Associates). However, Torres warned against too much tampering with the timeline, arguing that, if the board pushes it back too far, it could lose prospective applicants.

There's actually more interest in adding a name to the list, with popular pressure and trustee candidate interest in considering Interim Superintendent Paul Cruz for the position. Originally, his name was removed from contention because, as interim, he would have an unfair advantage over other candidates. His tenure in the big office has been popular thus far, but Torres noted that a few months as a placeholder are not the same as being the permanent leader. "He can make popular decisions and make a lot of friends, and not have to make any unpopular decisions."

And there's an additional complication. On Oct. 20, San Antonio ISD Superintendent Sylvester Perez announced he'll be retiring, effective April 2015. While SAISD is smaller and has a smaller budget, it has a lot in common with AISD. It's an urban district in Texas with a largely Hispanic student body, and serves a large number of kids from economically disadvantaged backgrounds. That means its board will be recruiting from the same talent pool as Austin. When asked whether that makes life more complex for his own talent search, Torres said, "It certainly does, just like any other business opportunity." However, AISD started its hiring process first, and Torres said he hopes that none of the finalists would withdraw in anticipation of the San Antonio opening.

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AISD Board, Superintendent, November 2014 Election, December 2014 Run-off, Vince Torres

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