School district cancels public forum with superintendent finalists, board aims to change process and timeline
The Austin ISD board of trustees wants to pave the way for Paul Cruz, the school district's interim superintendent, to become its permanent superintendent, board President Vincent Torres said at a news conference Dec. 3.
"We have to do what is best for AISD," Torres said. "At this point in time we wanted to listen to the community and felt it was important for us to include [Cruz]."
Torres said Cruz's time working for the district, experience with the state Legislature, as well as the nine years he has spent in Austin, make him "well-positioned" for the role of superintendent.
"I'm very honored to have the opportunity to have a conversation with the board about the superintendency in Austin ISD and about my candidacy for the position, so it really is an exciting time," Cruz said.
The board may announce its lone finalist for the superintendent role Dec. 15, Torres said. The board is expected to vote to hire a new superintendent sometime in January.
The district has been looking for a new superintendent since Meria Carstarphen left AISD to lead Atlanta Public Schools in April. AISD hired Ray & Associates, an executive search firm, to help recruit and narrow down a list of potential candidates—a process that would cost the district about $41,650, not including advertising and candidate expenses, according to the agreement posted on the district's board website.
AISD received 98 applications for the job, Torres said.
"Ray and Associates' contract was really for bringing to us the best possible candidates that were out there and that wanted to apply for the position. They've done that. They screened those applicants down and then gave us the top tier of candidates they wanted us to consider," Torres said. " It was at that point in the process that we felt, having listened to the community ask us to consider Dr. Cruz as a candidate, [it] was the right time to go ahead and make a change to that timeline."
Previously, Torres had said the district planned to hold a public forum Dec. 9 during which members of the public would be able to ask questions of the top candidates the board had already interviewed. That forum has been cancelled, Torres said.
"The board has had extensive discussions regarding the candidates as well as the significant community support for and performance of Dr. Paul Cruz as interim superintendent. The board consensus at this time is to change the process to allow Dr. Cruz to discuss his interest in the superintendent position as well," Torres said.
The board will meet with Cruz as a possible candidate and take potential action Dec. 8 to change its process and timeline for the superintendent search.
Local teachers union Education Austin supports Cruz as a candidate, Education Austin President Ken Zarifis said.
"We believe that he has done a tremendous job as interim superintendent," Zarifis said. "I think that Dr. Cruz has demonstrated his knowledge of the community, of Austin, of politics and of the needs for a strong, transparent leadership to find success in this district."
Cruz said students have made significant achievements in the past year, citing graduation rates improving.
"I want to make sure that we continue our strides in our student performance," he said.