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Round Rock ISD's New Superintendent Says Parents Who Criticized Hiring Process Deserve To Be Heard

Jorge Sanhueza-Lyon

Round Rock ISD's new superintendent said he's confident he can show parents he's the right choice for the job after they criticized the hiring process.

"I think a lot of [their concerns] will be addressed once I start talking with the parents," Hafedh Azaiez told KUT.

In March, the district hired a firm to lead the search for superintendent candidates. The district sent out a survey to ask families what qualities the ideal person would have and asked similar questions at public meetings in April.

On May 21, Azaiez was named the sole finalist. State law requires a 21-day waiting period before a candidate can be officially appointed. During that period, parents spoke out about a lack of open forums to learn more about Azaiez.

They cited Austin ISD's superintendent search last year, which included virtual forums. The forums weren't about specific candidates, however, they were used to gauge what qualities the ideal candidate should have.

Parents also questioned Azaiez's fit given the length of time he has worked as a superintendent and his work in districts smaller than Round Rock ISD.

They asked for a delay in his appointment to allow for more public input, but the appointment went forward and was approved by the school board Monday in a 5-2 vote.

Trustees Mary Bone and Danielle Weston voted against the appointment. Bone said trustees did not evaluate candidates with the community's desires in mind and that she still had questions about Azaiez.

Weston said she felt Azaiez did not have a long record of student success or relevant professional experience. She said she regretted not advocating for more transparency and a slower process.

The district said it will host opportunities in July for the community to meet Azaiez, who begins his new role July 5.

Azaiez is coming to Round Rock ISD after working in the Rio Grande Valley as superintendent of Donna ISD since 2018. He was raised in Tunisia, where he earned his bachelor's degree in physics and chemistry from La Faculte des Sciences de Tunis.

In the U.S., Azaiez received a master’s of education from the University of St. Thomas in Houston and a doctorate of education from Sam Houston State University.

He has worked in public education since 2002, mostly in Houston, as a teacher, assistant principal, principal and assistant superintendent. He is fluent in English, Spanish, Arabic and French.

Azaiez said he hopes to rebuild trust and unity within the district. He said he wants to identify ways to enhance student learning.

"I'm someone who has always been very innovative and tries ... to come up with new ideas," he said. "Round Rock has exemplary options and choices for the kids, but I feel like maybe I can work with the community and the staff and ... think outside the box even more and create even more opportunities."

Azaiez said he wouldn't dismiss any of the parents concerns about the hiring process and said they deserve to be heard.

Allyson Ortegon is a former Williamson County reporter for KUT.
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