Austin ISD begins planning process to form 'transformation zone' in northeast part of district

A plan to improve performance at Burnet Middle School is under review by Austin ISD trustees.

A plan to improve performance at Burnet Middle School is under review by Austin ISD trustees.

Six elementary schools and two middle schools in Northeast Austin could be exempt from certain Texas Education Code rules as part of a special zone designation in pursuit by Austin ISD.

A "transformation zone" is a group of campuses provided autonomy on decisions concerning staff, funding and academic programming, according to the district. In December AISD was awarded a grant of $446,681 by the Texas Education Agency to develop a plan for how each campus could take advantage of the designation if awarded.

"The planning grant allows us time to design, plan, and work with parents and community members to see if this is something we actually want to do," Superintendent Paul Cruz said at the board work session Jan. 8.

Schools identified for inclusion include Norman, Pickle, Barrington, Jordan, Oak Springs and Overton elementary schools as well as Garcia Young Men's Leadership Academy and Sadler-Means Young Women's Leadership Academy—all of which are located in Northeast Austin.

According to Administrative Supervisor Rachel Naugle, the goal of the transformation zone is to "improve and transform" campuses so that they might attract potential students living nearby. Teachers and principals given the responsibility to create and meet ambitious goals for student achievement and success would also be empowered by the designation, she said.

The TEA has preapproved seven design partners to help districts with the development of a transformation zone. Of those seven, Special Assistant to the Superintendent Jacob Reach said five have been identified by principals and representatives from campus advisory committees as optimal partners. Following additional community engagement, Reach said three potential partners will be submitted to the TEA on Jan. 12, and the district should hear back on the designated partner either later that day or on Jan. 15.

A plan for the transformation zone is due to the TEA in May. In July AISD could apply for an implementation grant. There is a chance that only some schools could be approved for implementation funding, Reach said, in which case he said the district would need a "plan b" for how to fund the improvements formed during the planning period.

By Olivia Lueckemeyer
Olivia Lueckemeyer graduated in 2013 from Loyola University New Orleans with a degree in journalism. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in October 2016 as reporter for the Southwest Austin edition before her promotion to editor in March 2017. In July 2018 she returned home to the Dallas area and became editor of the Richardson edition.


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