Top 10 Education Stories
The year in local education
By Richard Whittaker, Fri., Jan. 2, 2015
1) ECONOMICS 101 Judge John Dietz issued his long-awaited ruling on the state's school finance system, deeming it unconstitutional on multiple levels.
2) ATLANTA'S PROBLEM NOW In April, AISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen suddenly but not unexpectedly resigned as district CEO to head up the troubled Atlanta Public Schools system. AISD trustees spent months creating an open, transparent process to select her replacement. Then they speedily hired Interim Superintendent Paul Cruz, even though he was not originally eligible to apply.
3) DOUBLE DETHRONING The UT Austin/UT System war claimed two scalps: Chancellor Francisco G. Cigarroa steps down in January (succeeded by Admiral William McRaven), while regents are still selecting a replacement for UT-Austin President Bill Powers, exiting in June. Lawmakers voted to censure, rather than indict, UT Regent Wallace Hall, whose witch hunt of Powers triggered the conflict.
4) BACKDOOR PRIVATIZATION? Public education advocates got a worrying glimpse of future legislative plans as Lt. Governor-elect Dan Patrick ran Senate Education Committee hearings on expanding charters and introducing vouchers.
5) TEXTBOOK TANTRUMS The State Board of Education approved new social science textbook standards, rushing through politically motivated changes against an outcry from independent academics and several board members. Fortunately, under scientific pressure, major publishers Pearson and McGraw-Hill had already removed sections on climate denialism.
6) MAELSTROM IN MANOR First Superintendent Kevin Brackmeyer resigned from, then was rehired by, Manor ISD. Then Assistant Superintendent Robert Peters sued the district after he was fired after alleging fraud and sexual harassment of staff by administrators.
7) BRAND NEW BOARD There was unexpected turnover in AISD as four incumbent trustees – Vince Torres, Cheryl Bradley, Lori Moya, and Tamala Barksdale – all retired.
8) GOODBYE MACK, HELLO CHARLIE Veteran UT football coach Mack Brown resigned, replaced by University of Louisville head coach Charlie Strong. The newcomer immediately cleaned house by cutting players for disciplinary and legal infractions.
9) D.C. MONEY, AUSTIN RACES Leadership for Educational Equity, the D.C.-based PAC designed to get Teach for America alums onto school boards, got into Austin politics by throwing over $20,000 behind AISD candidate, and ex-KIPP Austin charter school administrator, David "D" Thompson – who lost to Edmund "Ted" Gordon.
10) BOYS HERE, GIRLS THERE Flying in the face of education research, and with little public support, AISD closed East Austin's Pearce and Garcia middle schools and reopened them as single-sex schools: the Bertha Sadler Means Young Women's Leadership Academy and the Garcia Young Men's Leadership Academy.
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