During a special-called Austin ISD board of trustees meeting April 3, dozens of community members—including families, staff, students and educational groups—expressed concern with a proposed conservatorship by the state.

This all follows a notification that was released by the Texas Education Agency on March 31 that it would purse a conservatorship of AISD due to the district's backlog of special education evaluations and failure to complete past TEA corrective measures. Those conservators would have the ability to make binding resolutions. However, the board and interim Superintendent Matias Segura would remain in place.

Members from a labor union for AISD employees, Education Austin, spoke out against the TEA taking over the special education program for the district.

“What we need from the state is money—money to fill the positions to support our kids in this district,” Education Austin President Ken Zarifis said. “We don't have a lot of faith in the TEA.”

Zarifis said he and his colleagues realize AISD has issues with its special education service that need to be addressed but he believes the current board and Segura will work with other local groups to solve them.

“I am one of the parents who waited and waited for services for my child, and I'm a teacher. I'm a strong advocate for my children and my child, and I knew if I was having this much difficulty getting the services that I needed for my own kid, there is no way every child is getting what they need,” AISD District 4 Trustee Kathryn Whitley Chu said. “My No. 1 priority is fixing this problem.”

The other trustees concurred with Chu, all saying their focus is on the children.

“We recognize that the crux of the issue is the backlog of evaluations, but we also know that is not the only thing, as a team, that we need to be focused on,” AISD board President Arati Singh said. “The issue started three boards and four superintendents ago, and it will take a lot of hard work, and sometimes that takes time. I think some of the groundwork was laid in the last three months because of the people we have in place now."

Trustees spent the evening questioning different scenarios regarding whether AISD should submit an appeal on the conservatorship with the state. Should trustees decide to make an appeal, they will hold a future meeting before the April 17 deadline to make their final decision.

“At the end of all of this is our students,” Singh said. “They are the reason we are all here. We have the same goal as the TEA—we want our students to meet their potential in a loving way that lifts them up, and we are 100% devoted to that goal.”