School segregation part of proposed Austin ISD Superintendent scorecard

Blackshear Elementary School (Credit: Amanda Brandeis)
Blackshear Elementary School (Credit: Amanda Brandeis)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The superintendent of the Austin Independent School District received a 4-percent raise Monday night and a two year contract extension. Dr. Paul Cruz is two years into a three year contract. His salary goes from about $294,000 to $329,454 total compensation with benefits, and his new contract ends December 2019.

The vote happened about thirty minutes before the board started discussing a new scorecard Dr. Cruz will be evaluated on this school year.

The scorecard includes a pilot program to integrate segregated schools.

For years, high minority and low income campuses remain east of Interstate 35, and the district’s most desired programs — including the Liberal Arts and Science Academy and Kealing Middle School are mostly filled with white students from affluent families.

It’s not a new problem, but one school board members want to get serious about solving.

“What goes into the superintendent’s scorecard becomes a district priority,” said District One Trustee Dr. Ted Gordon. “And that’s what we’re looking to see happen, that this becomes a priority for the district.”

Dr. Cruz and his staff could be responsible for coming up with a pilot program to tackle segregation starting in Dr. Gordon’s district which encompasses schools in East and Northeast Austin.

“District one is already a diverse, a fairly diverse area — much more diverse than it was years back,” said Dr. Gordon. He said the challenge is attracting more affluent families who are choosing to send their children to charters and private schools.

Dr. Gordon points to the shift at Blackshear Elementary School. In 2011, it had 236 students. Less than one percent were white, 66 percent were Hispanic and 31 percent were black, and overall about 98 percent of students were low-income.

One year after launching a fine arts program, the school grew by 55 students and the percentage of low-income families dropped to 81 percent. In addition, white students increased to nearly 10 percent.

“They have done fantastic things, and this was all sort of teacher-principal driven so we should be able to replicate that at other campuses,” said School Board President Kendall Pace who added, “We can’t wait until something is gentrified, we need quality schools in every neighborhood.”

Former school board member Cheryl Bradley was in attendance at the meeting Monday night, and fired back regarding comments she has read about the reasoning behind desegregating schools.

“You put a program in a school because the students there deserve to have the program,” said Bradley. “You don’t put it in there because Anglo kids will come.”

Visit the AISD website for a breakdown of district schools. 

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