“This [decision] has been challenging for me,” Cruz said at the news conference. “It has been a very emotional time. I love Austin. I love the Austin Independent School District. I’ve gotten to know who we are and what we are about. And what we are about is the future. I’m very fortunate to have worked with an organization [that] believes in all of our kids.”
In the Feb. 19 letter to the district, Cruz said he had accepted a position with The University of Texas at Austin. At UT, Cruz will teach and co-direct the cooperative superintendency program, which is part of the college of education’s department of educational leadership and policy, according to a news release from UT. Cruz received his Bachelor of Science degree from UT in 1987 and his Ph.D. in 1995 and is also a graduate of the program he is set to run.
Cruz said that the program will teach university students to be future superintendents and district leaders, and that he will bring “a lot of material and real world examples” to the program.
A date for Cruz’s official exit from the district has not yet been established. AISD trustee and board secretary Amber Elenz said the board will be meeting Feb. 24, when members will discuss the district’s next steps and a timeline, likely in executive session.
“We are excited for him,” Elenz said, reading a statement from the board. “We believe that he is setting us up well to attract a new leader.”
Cruz was hired as the district’s superintendent in January 2015, following a nine-month search to fill the position. At the time, Cruz—who had been serving in an interim capacity since April 2014—beat out 98 other applicants and was named the board's sole finalist following a unanimous vote Dec. 15, 2014.
Cruz on Feb. 20 listed a number things he is proud of accomplishing in his time as superintendent, including starting the district’s early college high school programs, increasing the district's focus on social emotional learning practices, launching the district’s Creative Learning Initiative, expanding dual-language programs and implementing the district’s 2017 bond.
Cruz’s pending departure comes in a year that will have four seats for the board of trustees appear on the November ballot, which could further change district leadership.
The resignation also comes three months after trustees voted to approve a School Changes plan that, when executed, will close four schools, change boundaries and reinvest savings into new programs. The board is still set to review an additional group of changes that were proposed in the fall, which could include more school closures, boundary changes and new programs.
Cruz said the district would continue work on school changes and other district projects, such as school modernizations through the 2017 bond, hiring staff and developing the budget.
“There are still questions. The work continues [with school changes],” he said. “There are many issues we need to address. There’s significant work ahead, and that work will continue. We have an amazing staff.”