New AISD Board To Study IDEA Contract
One of the defining issues of November’s school board election will be on the agenda tonight at Austin ISD headquarters. The board will review a contract it approved in a 6-3 vote last year with South Texas charter school operator IDEA Public Schools.
The contract allowed IDEA to use the Allan Elementary campus in East Austin to set up an in-district charter school program. Allan was not a failing school, but the high school it feeds into, Eastside Memorial, has been ranked as “academically unacceptable” for multiple years.
Some East Austin residents felt like the IDEA partnership was rammed through too quickly. The school district said the urgency of improving middle and high school outcomes required drastic and immediate action.
The political reverberations were felt district wide, and during November elections, three school board candidates who openly questioned the IDEA partnership were elected to the board, shifting the balance of power against the in-district charter school.
One of those so-called “insurgent” candidates was Rev. Dr. Jayme Mathias. His East Austin district includes Allan Elementary, and he defeated incumbent Sam Guzman by focusing his campaign on what he said was a lack of public input in the board’s decision making process.
“It broke apart an entire community. And by bringing in that in-district charter there are ripples of fear and concern throughout the entire district,” Mathias said in a pre-election interview.
Mathias won, but it was by a narrow margin of just 104 votes. He has now tempered his message.
“The vote was so close, and so I don’t take as my mandate the fact that I have to close this school, so much as that I have to bring healing and help to build bridges in this historically divided community,” Mathias said today.
As if reviewing the in-district charter contract weren’t contentious enough, board members will also tackle a controversial proposal tonight that would convert Pearce and Garcia Middle Schools into single-sex campuses.
The work session starts at 6:30 p.m. and will be streamed on AISD’s website.