Meria Carstarphen

Photo by Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Leaders in the Austin Independent School District want to know what kind of leader they should hire to run the 86,000 student school district and they're asking for the public's input. The district is holding a series of public input meetings this week starting Tuesday. The forums are part of the school board’s plan to have a more open search process. When the district hired former Superintendent Meria Carstarphen in 2009, she was unveiled as the sole finalist. The move upset some people in the community who thought the process lacked transparency. 

This time, the district will initially interview candidates in a closed search. After it identifies two to four finalists, it will introduce them to the public. Community groups, parents and stakeholders will then have a chance to provide feedback on the finalists. But before all that happens, the district wants to hear from the community about what kind of finalists they should be looking for in the first place so it can create a profile once it starts accepting applicants.

Kate McGee, KUT NEws

The local teacher's union is asking Austin ISD to reinstate a 1.5 percent bonus for all district employees for the 2014-2015 school year. The district and the union are expected to meet on the matter Wednesday.

For the past two years, the district has provided a 3 percent pay increase for employees. This academic year, it approved a one-time, 1.5 percent increase on top of that. But the 1.5 percent salary adjustment is not included in the FY 2015 preliminary budget assumptions.

Now, Education Austin is asking the district to change that.

"Our district looks a little different than it did a month ago," Zarifis says referring to the departure of Superintendent Meria Carstarphen. "We believe this is an opportunity to find out if we're going to do things different."

KUT News

Wednesday will be Austin School Superintendent Meria Carstarphen’s last day with the district before she leaves for the same position in Atlanta.

Carstarphen attended her final school board meeting in Austin Monday night, where she was recognized for her contributions to the district over the past five years.

Image courtesy AISD:

Update: KUT has learned from multiple sources that AISD Chief School Paul Cruz is expected to be named interim superintendent at Tuesday's school board meeting.

This comes one day after Superintendent Meria Carstarphen was unanimously approved to lead Atlanta Public Schools district Monday.

Cruz receives high marks from Drew Scheberle, the vice president of education for the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce.

KUT News

Austin ISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen is expected to leave to head Atlanta's public schools in the coming weeks or months. The Austin School Board is just beginning the search for a new superintendent – and one to serve in the interim. 

On Monday night, they talked about the process to appoint an interim superintendent, as well as hiring an outside company to help find a replacement for Carstarphen.

Jeff Heimsath for KUT News

Austin ISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen and the AISD School Board met Monday for the first time since Carstarphen was named the sole finalist as superintendent for Atlanta's public schools.

They met late into the evening in executive session to discuss what happens next.

No decisions were made in the meeting, but board president Vincent Torres told reporters the executive session would serve as a primer for the presumed superintendent search.

KUT News

Editor's note: Austin ISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen is leaving to become Atlanta's school superintendent. Read more about Carstarphen's departure and what that means for AISD.

In December 2013, on the eve of what would be Carstarphen's final State of the District address, KUT looked back at her time leading AISD.

Original story (Dec. 3, 2013): Austin ISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen’s releases her 2013 State of the District today – a movie where the superintendent highlights the district’s achievements and challenges over the past year.

It’s Carstarphen’s fifth State of the District since she became superintendent in 2009.

Photo by Nathan Bernier for KUT News

Austin ISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen has been named as the sole finalist for the superintendent job in Atlanta, Georgia.

She was chosen from a list of four candidates for the position.

Carstarphen came to Austin ISD in 2009. The district has faced significant challenges during her tenure, including $60 million in funding cuts after the 2011 Legislative session.

In a statement today, Carstarphen said Austin had risen to meet those challenges.

KUT News

When Meria Carstarphen became superintendent of the Austin Independent School District, she became the first female Superintendent in the district’s history.

During her tenure, there have been more women in the superintendent’s senior cabinet than ever before, including female Chief Financial Officer, Nicole Conley and Chief Academics Officer, Pauline Dow.  

KUT News

If you attended your first Austin school board meeting Monday night, you would have never guessed Superintendent Meria Carstarphen has ever received criticism from school board members, the teachers union, Education Austin, or the Austin community.

Austin School Board President Vincent Torres commended the superintendent in the board's annual evaluation, recognizing the challenges the district faces and outlining the district's achievements over the last year. He highlighted improved graduation rates, dual language programs, early childhood education, and the superintendent's ability to balance the budget in the face of continued cuts from the state.

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

During her State of the District address yesterday, Austin ISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen touted the rise in graduation rates among high school students in the district.

Since she began running the district in 2009, overall graduation rates have increased by eight percentage points. Graduation rates have increased in all subgroups, including Hispanics, English language learners and special education students.

An Austin school board member is concerned students aren’t meeting state mandated physical education requirements.

In Texas, elementary students must get 135 minutes of physical education per week. But students only have gym class once or twice a week – which means teachers must ensure students make up the rest of that mandated time outside of gym class.

KUT News

Austin ISD Superintendent Meria Carstarphen says the district hopes to offer open enrollment for domestic partner benefits as soon as this fall.

"While we still have a few obstacles to overcome, legal and otherwise, a clear path forward has emerged,” Carstarphen said in a recorded video as part of AISD's annual convocation on Wednesday. “Employees will have the opportunity to add new, qualifying individuals to their coverage as part of a separate enrollment period as soon as October 2013."

Jillian Schantz Patrick for KUT News

Public school begins next week in Austin, but Austin ISD's plan to open a School for Young Men remains in limbo. The district faces many hurdles to open the school, following the failure a bond proposition this May.

KUT News

Preliminary standardized test scores for this school year show improvements in multiple subjects at Eastside Memorial High School – a school that has had a history of failure going back nearly a decade.

According to unofficial data presented to Eastside Memorial teachers this week, 90 percent of students passed the TAKS end of year exam in English and Language Arts. That’s a nearly 20 percent jump from last year. 

KUT News

The Austin School Board Monday night approved a contract with Johns Hopkins University to implement its program — Talent Development Secondary — at Eastside Memorial High School. The decision comes after AISD canceled a contract with a charter school company to run an elementary school that fed into the high school.

The contract now goes to the Texas Education Commissioner for final approval. Although the vote was unanimous, Superintendent Meria Carstarphen questioned if the commissioner would approve the contract.

A majority of Austin high schools are seeing increased attendance, according to an online data tool from the district. But only three of the district's high schools have attendance rates above the 2012 goal AISD laid out in its Strategic Plan.

Anderson, Bowie and the Liberal Arts and Science Academy are the only high schools in the district with attendance rates over 93 percent. In the district’s Strategic Plan, the goal was attendance rates for all students above that by 2012. 

KUT News

Early voting for the Austin Independent School District $892 million bond begins Monday. The bond is split into four propositions, based on a variety of projects from systemic repairs to improvements to relieve overcrowding. 

AISD says enrollment has grown by about 1,000 students per year, two to three times faster than the state average. The district is hoping to relieve some of the overcrowding that's come with that growth. Prop 2 would borrow $234 million to do that. Some of it goes toward school security, but most of the money is earmarked for expanding existing schools and building new ones. 

Nathan Bernier, KUT News

Austin schools Superintendent Meria Carstarphen says she supports measures to dial back standardized testing in Texas schools. One bill proposed by the head of the House Public Education Committee, Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, would reduce the number of STAAR tests required to graduate from 15 to five.

Carstarphen says the new STAAR test was rolled out too quickly.

Austin Feldman

Austin elementary school students performed strongly in the new State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) exams. Middle schoolers didn't do quite as well.

Overall, the AISD passing rates for the STAAR—the standardized test that replaces the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS)—ranged from 82 percent in third and fourth grade reading to 58 percent in eighth grade social studies. Passing rates for most tests topped 70 percent.