Austin school trustees unanimously appointed Paul Cruz as interim superintendent Tuesday night. They also accepted Superintendent Meria Carstarphen's resignation, as she heads to Atlanta to lead that city's public school system.
Carstarphen will remain superintendent until April 23, when her resignation goes into effect. The school district can have a superintendent and an interim superintendent at the same time, as Carstarphen helps Cruz assume his temporary position.
Cruz' promotion from Chief Schools Officer to Interim Superintendent includes a $100,000 pay increase to $275,000, Carstarphen's base salary when she became superintendent in 2009. It also includes the task of managing a variety of programs underway as the board looks to choose a new permanent superintendent.
"As a parent and teacher, I am honored and humbled by the opportunity to be able to help lead AISD during this transition," Cruz said in a statement. "As interim superintendent, it is my role to keep our district moving forward and focused on our core business: our students' success."
Speaking to the board immediately after the vote, Cruz said he would continue to work on the district's Facility Master Plan, the new graduation requirements under House Bill 5, and programs like social and emotional learning, as well as improving high school graduation.
“Making sure more kids graduate from high school and also earn the highest graduation plan, the distinguished level of achievement," Cruz said to reporters after the meeting.
It's unclear how long Cruz will remain interim superintendent, but he says he will not seek the permanent position.
"I think we're at a critical point," Cruz said. "We're at a transition point and it's something I think is important as an employee of the school system and this is where I feel is best for me at this time."
Cruz has worked for the Austin Independent School District (AISD) since 2006 as an assistant superintendent for educational services and associate superintendent for middle schools. In 2009, he was appointed Chief Schools Officer, joining Superintendent Carstarphen's cabinet.
Parents and community members used the meeting to show their support for Cruz and offer input on what type of leader they think the board should choose to take over.
“My hope is that in the same fashion the board held meetings at various local high schools with regards to facilities, the same approach will be implemented for outreach in community input regarding the next superintendent," said Celeste Roll, AISD parent.
But there is some debate between board members if the selection process should be open or closed to the public.
Meanwhile, others encouraged the board to look for a new superintendent within the school district. Alberto Gonzales told the board bringing in outsiders creates an unnecessary learning curve.
“We do these people a disservice because they spend most of their time having to learn about Texas, Texas legislature, having to learn about Austin, the political lay of the land," he said to the board.
Others asked the board to wait until after the November elections to decide on a new district leader. Five of school board's nine seats are up for election this fall.
The school board also began the process to select a search firm to help find a new superintendent. First it will issue a a Request for Proposals. Once it selects a firm, the search for a new superintendent could begin in early June.
Carstarphen will become the Atlanta Public Schools superintendent July 7.