AISD Teachers Weigh Options With In-District Charter
A charter school operator from South Texas is moving into East Austin’s Allan Elementary School next school year. It’s the first step in a multiyear strategy that Austin ISD hopes will reverse years of academic setbacks. But for some teachers, it’s a cue to leave their campus.
“I do not want to be a part of what they’re bringing to our community, and it’s still not what I think is best for kids,” Allan Elementary bilingual education teacher Constanza Serna said.
Austin ISD’s first ever in-district charter school program starts next year and will be run by IDEA Public Schools from South Texas. Alejandro Delgado – a graduate of Bowie High in Austin – will be the first vice principal of the renamed IDEA Allan campus. He taught at an IDEA charter school in the Rio Grande Valley for two years through the Teach for America program.
“It was tough,” Delgado said. “I mean I taught kids who were, some of them grade levels behind. But it was also incredible because this past fall, every single one of my students walked on to college campuses as freshman.”
And that is, at least, the promise of IDEA Public Schools – a rigorous model focused on getting disadvantaged kids into college.
IDEA started its hiring process this week, looking to fill sixty positions. The pay and benefits are comparable to Austin ISD, according to the charter operator’s chief operating officer Irma Munoz.
But only “six or eight” of the more than thirty teachers and counselors at Allan have expressed any interest in the jobs, according to Austin ISD, even though they’re guaranteed an interview.
“There’s still some open wounds. And people are frustrated that they have an acceptable school, and they’ve been told that it’s not acceptable enough,” said Ken Zarifis, co-president of the teachers association Education Austin. He says teachers felt ignored by Austin ISD when it moved quickly to adopt the in-district charter contract in time to implement the program next school year.
“We see teachers moving on. This has been a hard pill to swallow,” Zarifis said.
Those teachers can shop around for jobs with principals at other Austin ISD schools. If that doesn’t work, Austin ISD human resources chief Michael Houser says they can be placed in vacant positions.
“We will meet with the employee. We’ll go over all our existing vacancies,” Houser said. “We’ll look down to maybe two or three that they might be interested in and we will assign them to teach in those schools next year.”
The teacher’s salaries and benefits would not be affected. Pay is determined by the number of years’ experience a teacher has and is based on this schedule.
Austin ISD is asking teachers to make clear their intentions by mid-March. This process is likely to play out again when IDEA Public Schools expands to Eastside Memorial High School in the 2013-14 school year.