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Austin School Board Begins Long Task to Find New Superintendent

Jeff Heimsath for KUT News
As Supt. Meria Carstarphen prepares to leave for the same position in Atlanta, the Austin School Board is tasked with finding an interim-superintendent as well as her successor.

Austin ISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen and the AISD School Board met Monday for the first time since Carstarphen was named the sole finalist as superintendent for Atlanta's public schools.

They met late into the evening in executive session to discuss what happens next.

No decisions were made in the meeting, but board president Vincent Torres told reporters the executive session would serve as a primer for the presumed superintendent search.

“I have five trustees that have never been involved in a superintendent search and so the purpose of tonight is to walk them through process," Torres said." There are legal issues, contractual issues, personnel, we need to consult with an attorney on tonight.”

Torres says the earliest the board will appoint an interim superintendent is the end of this month. The board can appoint an interim replacement before Carstarphen officially resigns to ease the transition, but Torres says he doesn’t think the school board will hire a new superintendent until this time next year.

“[We'll] wait until after the election, go through process when the new board comes on, so they make final decisions of narrowing down the pool and making the offer in the spring of next year," he said.

That didn’t stop educators and community members from voicing their opinions on the search that the school board is about to undertake.

"I think we have an opportunity to select a person that will be able to manage the handle unique diversity of this district," said speaker Gavino Fernandez. "And I’m not talking about Latinos, but we also have a growing Asian community. Where and how you’re going to find someone else as talented as Dr. Carstarphen, I have no idea."

Dual language kindergarten teacher Lupe Ramos urged the board to pick a new leader who was committed to programs like dual language.

“Having been here 36 years and having been up and down in dual language programs that did not succeed because of the lack of support, please consider this, okay?" she urged the board.

School board president Torres says the board will want to pick a leader that is committed to programs like Social Emotional Learning.

“That is a program that’s helping us make differences in elementary schools students and we’re trying to go district wide with that. We also have our Facility Master Plan that we’re trying to finish. We obviously have financial challenges," referring to the increasing amount of money the district sends back to the state because of Robin Hood.

But Torres says the first step will be working with the community to ensure everyone is on the same page and then hire a company to help with a national search. The district will launch a website soon to provide more information on what the AISD is looking for in its next leader as it begins a search for a new superintendent.

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