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As Superintendent Paul Cruz Prepares To Leave Austin ISD, His School Closure Plan Remains Unresolved

Austin Independent School District Superintendent Paul Cruz
Gabriel C. Pérez
Austin Independent School District Superintendent Paul Cruz discusses his resignation and the future of eight schools possibly slated for closure at a news conference Thursday.

Even though Superintendent Paul Cruz said he's leaving the Austin Independent School District, the process of school closures that started under his watch likely will not end. But where it goes from here is unknown.

At a press conference Thursday, Cruz said the decision on how to move forward with eight schools under consideration for closure is something he will discuss with the school board.

“There are so many moving parts and there is so much significant work ahead," he said. "But I’ll certainly be having that conversation with the board so we can time things out to make sure we are being responsive to our needs.”

Cruz initiated the plan last spring to overhaul the school district by closing some schools, changing boundaries and adding additional programs.

He announced Wednesday that he is leaving AISD for a job with the University of Texas’ College of Education. It's unknown when his last day will be. 

Board Member Amber Elenz said the departure of superintendents and board members winning and losing elections is a normal part of school district leadership.

She said part of the discussion at the board's meeting Monday will be how to "work together to ensure the transition we have maintains the stability and also runs smoothly so we get to the next leader."

Her comments didn't provide clarity to parents like Amy Todd, who had planned to send her child to kindergarten at Maplewood, one of the eight schools still under consideration for closure.

Maplewood, Ridgetop, Palm, Dawson, Joslin and Pecan Springs elementary schools, and Webb and Bertha Sadler Means middle schools were on the district's original list for closure, but were pulled before the November vote for future consideration.

Ever since, Todd has been waiting for clarity on whether it will stay open. So far, she hasn’t gotten any.

“We’re not given all the information we need to know exactly what’s going to happen,” she said. “We were told that Maplewood is no longer being considered to close for next year, but that talks were going to resume in January ... but it’s already the end of February and I have not heard of any talks resuming.”

Because of the lack of information, she said, she put her child’s name on a waiting list for a private school, applied to some charter schools and requested transfers to other AISD schools. She said the superintendent's resignation before the plan is settled doesn’t help her uncertainty.

“I don’t really know how that impacts any future decisions about the school and I’d love to learn more," she said, "but it’s really hard to get any information about what’s going on or what’s going to happen.

The school board meets Monday to discuss the plan for Cruz’s contract and a transition plan to finding a new superintendent.

Claire McInerny is a former education reporter for KUT.
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