Challenges await new Austin ISD superintendent

AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Meria Carstarphen was named the sole finalist for the same position within Atlanta Public Schools on Thursday. Formal approval from Atlanta’s school board is expected to be given next month.

With Carstarphen on the way out, the new superintendent can expect to inherit a series of challenges.

“He or she needs to engage with the community,” said Gavino Fernandez, District 12 director of the League of United Latin American Citizens.

Representing Latino students in East Austin, Fernandez says he’d like to see more resources available to those who need them most.

“Tutors, mentors, after school academic programs,” he said, “and enrichment programs are what I’d like to see more of.”

Having three elementary schools within a one mile radius of each other is something Fernandez wants the new superintendent to address. Right now all of them are not at full capacity.

“We currently have Allan Elementary School closed and that sends a negative message to the community,” Fernandez said.

School board members say one of the top priorities needs to be continuing to increase the graduation rate.

“Coming up with a formula, coming up with ideas,” said board president Vincent Torres. “(That) is certainly something they’re going to need to look at.”

More students graduated during Carstarphen’s tenure than the previous superintendent, but Torres says AISD can do even better.

When Carstarphen started in 2009, just more than 75 percent of AISD students graduated in four years. The number increased to 82 percent for the class of 2012.

The district is also facing major budget issues.

“Right now we’re sending away about $129 million a year,” Torres said. “That’s projected to go in four years to almost $270 million a year.”

Officials say it could take up to a year to find a new superintendent.

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