AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Independent School District School Board President Vincent Torres announced the district’s search for a new superintendent has taken a bit of a turn — changing the policies to allow Dr. Paul Cruz, the current interim superintendent, to be considered in the pool of superintendent candidates. The role opened up in May when Dr. Meria Carstarphen left the Austin school district to lead Atlanta’s public schools. Since then, Cruz has served as the appointed interim superintendent.
“We have to do what is best for AISD and at this point and time we wanted to listen to the community and felt that it was important for us to include Dr. Cruz,” said Vincent Torres, AISD Board of Trustees President. “We would hope they (other candidates) would continue to stay in the competition but we have no way of controlling that.”
Torres said the district was supposed to have a public forum next week and get the community’s opinion about the top three candidates. He said the Dec. 9 forum is canceled because of the decision to add Dr. Cruz’s name to the list of applicants.
“I’m really honored by this opportunity to speak to the board about my candidacy for the superintendent in Austin ISD which is an amazing school district,”said Dr. Cruz at a press conference Wednesday morning. “Austin ISD is a great district and we’ve done great work. We’ve improved student performance and have the highest graduation rates in the history of the district and I want to continue to move that forward.”
In April after he was appointed to Interim Superintendent, Dr. Cruz did not plan to apply for the job.
In a statement AISD said:
During subsequent meetings in the past two weeks, the Board has had extensive discussions regarding the candidates, as well as the significant community support for and performance of Dr. Paul Cruz as Interim Superintendent. The Board consensus at this time is to change the process to allow Dr. Cruz to discuss his interest in the Superintendent position as well. The Board will meet with Dr. Cruz as a possible candidate and give him the opportunity to express his interest in the position, in the coming days. After the board meets with Dr. Cruz, the board will consider all possible candidates.”
Torres spoke Wednesday about the decisions that go into the superintendent search and the type of discussions being had with the top candidates for the job.
“One of the things as trustees that we have to do is take in all the factors,” he said. “The best person, the best qualified person that is the most appropriate fit of those that have stepped forward.”
Some of the deciding factors
- How well do the candidates know the community?
- How well do the candidates know the legislature?
- How well do the candidates know other local officials? And how would they work with them?
Torres said executive search firm Ray & Associates Inc. found the best possible candidates who were available and wanting to apply for the AISD superintendent position. They were then screened, and the search firm provided the school board with the top tier of candidates out of 98 applicants.
“We have gone through the process fully intending to do what we said we were going to do,” said Torres. “We’ve had to weigh the commitments that we’ve made to … listen to the community.”
Torres added that including Cruz in the pool of candidates is something officials felt needed to be done.
Torres said the board will set aside some time to speak with Cruz and see what other changes they’ll want to make in the timeline. Currently, the school board was to decide on a finalist at its Dec. 15 board meeting. However, depending on how the board wants to modify the timeline, Torres says that could change as well. Initially, the district said it would take a year to find Carstarphen’s replacement.
The new superintendent will lead more than 12,000 workers and more than 86,000 students.
More about Cruz
In April, the AISD School Board appointed Cruz, 48, as the interim superintendent. He was temporarily filling the former superintendent’s spot after she left the district to take a superintendent role in Atlanta. The district hired Cruz in 2006, and he was the chief schools officer for AISD for five years. In that role, he provided academic guidance and support for all the campuses.