The Austin Chronicle

AISD Staff Shake-up

Under Cruz, AISD staff get a reorganization

By Richard Whittaker, May 15, 2015, News

Austin Independent School District's senior staff will be losing several key positions in a major administrative shake-up. Superin­tend­ent Paul Cruz said, "Big or small, we've always had some changes to the organizational structure, and this next school year will be no different." However, it is different because it's the first time Cruz, as superintendent, has driven the changes.

Cruz said his re-org "really comes down to some big concepts of making the organization much more efficient, much more aligned, and that teachers and principals get the same messages." His plan is designed to tackle two problems. First, unnecessary duplication and division of tasks between departments. Second, saving money. With a tough budget year ahead, and no sign of school finance reform (see "Lege Lines," p.18), Cruz hopes to cut administrative costs by $801,000.

This cabinet shuffle comes six months after he took office, a much less aggressive timeline than that adopted by previous Superintendent Meria Carstarphen. On her second day on the job in 2009, she issued a revamped cabinet structure (see "AISD Staff Shake-Up," July 3, 2009). The stated purpose at the time was efficiency: Too many senior staffers were stuck in too many meetings. With hindsight, that argument verges on the laughable: Carstarphen's tenure was marked by so many back-to-back meetings that staff would complain that there was no time to do their actual jobs.

At the highest levels, there are four very significant changes:

• Gone: Superintendent's Chief of Staff. Replaced by: General Counsel. Carstarphen had promoted former counsel Mel Waxler to become her Chief of Staff, a controversial move leaving the board of trustees reliant on expensive external counsel for legal advice.

• Gone: Chief Academic Officer and Chief Schools Officer. Replaced by: Chief Teaching and Learning Officer.Cruz was the Chief Schools Officer before becoming Superintendent, and Associate Superintendent of High Schools Edmund Oropez serves as his interim successor.

• Gone: Chief Operations Officer. The post currently held by Lawrence Fryer will be completely dissolved, and its responsibilities and reports split between the Chief Financial Officer and the Chief Human Capital Officer.

• Gone: Chief Performance Officer. Currently vacant, this job will have its responsibilities formally handed to other departments.

There are major shifts lower in the structure too, not least the trickledown effect of those senior changes. There will also be new posts, like a Chief Officer for Learning Sys­tems. Intended to implement the district's technology plan, Cruz described the ideal candidate as someone "that understands new technology systems, but also understands how to implement that at a campus."

The effects will not be immediate. All staff will be invited to apply for the new positions: Those that are not successful, but are still under an existing three-year contract, will be re-assigned. However, it seems inevitable that some familiar faces around AISD will be packing their bags.

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