Austin school board gives Superintendent Paul Cruz a nod of approval


Highlights

Trustees unanimously approved his performance evaluation, all but Ann Teich voted for his raise and extension.

The 1.5 percent raise, contract extension bring Cruz’s salary to $310,958 and his contract to Dec. 31, 2020.

The Austin school board Monday night approved a 1.5 percent raise and one-year contract extension for Superintendent Paul Cruz as part of the school leader’s annual evaluation.

The changes bring Cruz’s base salary to $310,958 and extend his contract through Dec. 31, 2020.

Cruz met more than 60 percent of the targets trustees set for him in 2016, including cutting in half the number of campuses failing in state academic ratings (there are now four), making diversity gains in the district’s top magnet programs and limiting the number of home school suspensions, particularly among the youngest students.

As is customary, the school board discussed his performance privately, then board President Kendall Pace read a statement:

“Our superintendent is an engaging people-oriented, fun-loving person who knows the value of investing time and effort in building positive internal and external relationships,” Pace said. “He works tirelessly to build positive relationships with community, business and educational leaders, and the favorable perception of the district continues to increase year after year.”

Trustees voted unanimously for the overall performance evaluation. Only eight trustees approved the raise and contract extension; Trustee Ann Teich abstained.

After the board meeting, Teich told the American-Statesman she has no issues with Cruz’s performance and believes the district is making great progress. She said she abstained from voting on his raise because it was the same percentage all other employees received this year, given the district’s tight financial situation, and because his compensation is so much greater than that of the teachers who work for him.

“Whenever a leader denies himself or herself compensation, it shows they are in touch with the working class, the workers in the organization,” Teich said, adding that some teachers told her in 2016 that they were upset about Cruz’s 4 percent pay increase. “It would have shown espirit de corps with the teachers.”

She also said her abstention revolved around the performance of “some of the key leadership” in Cruz’s staff. Teich didn’t elaborate about specific employees but said Cruz is addressing her concerns.

Trustee Jayme Mathias lauded the district achievements, saying the successes “come down to leadership.”

“It seems right to compensate him in the same way,” Mathias said. “We look forward to the sharing of his gifts with our district for at least another three years.”

Cruz met other targets the board had set, including:

• posting the highest graduation rates to date at 90.7 percent;

• completing a 25-year facility master plan; and

• creating plans to boost achievement among African-American students and increasing socioeconomic diversity on campuses in District 1, the northeastern and eastern part of the school district that includes LBJ and Reagan high schools.

Despite the achievements, the 81,939-student district continues to have equity gaps and disparities among student groups and continues to lose students annually. This year, the Austin district posted its largest enrollment loss to date with 1,300 fewer students.

While Pace said there is still work to be done, the board feels “Cruz is moving in the right direction.”

Last year, the board was further divided over giving Cruz a raise and contract extension, with three trustees — Pace, Yasmin Wagner and Ted Gordon — abstaining.

Political watchers indicated Cruz’s 2017 evaluation would be more positive and would be light on constructive criticism to demonstrate trust in him, as the district works to avoid any negative attention before the Nov. 7 election on the district’s $1.1 billion bond package, the largest it has ever attempted. Early voting began Monday.

Cruz, the district’s first Latino superintendent, was tapped for the job in January 2015, after trustees short-circuited a national search to name Cruz among the finalists for the job. He was widely praised nine months later in his first evaluation.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

FORECAST: Unseasonably warm temps to reach 76; give thanks for sunshine all week
FORECAST: Unseasonably warm temps to reach 76; give thanks for sunshine all week

Tuesday forecast for Austin: Daily temperatures are expected to become unseasonably high before winds shift and push them back down to a more autumnal levels for the rest of the week. The National Weather Service outlook calls for mostly sunny skies on Tuesday coupled with warm south-southwest winds that will help boost temperatures to a high near...
Lakeway City Council discusses citizen engagement measures
Lakeway City Council discusses citizen engagement measures

A couple city council members want the city of Lakeway to up its efforts at engaging the community, and are proposing several measures to accomplish this. During the Nov. 20 council meeting, Councilwoman Jean Hennagin made a presentation for a Lakeway “engagement committee,” and put forward ideas brainstormed along with Councilman Keith...
Transgender Day of Remembrance held outside Austin City Hall
Transgender Day of Remembrance held outside Austin City Hall

The tone of the Transgender Day of Remembrance event held outside Austin City Hall on Monday evening was, as always, a bittersweet mix of hope and sadness as organizers and attendees proclaimed their pride to be transgender and mourned the loss of transgender individuals who were killed this year. For years, Austin has participated in the international...
EAST AUSTIN FIRE: Mobile home blaze in Bastrop Highway under control, officials say
EAST AUSTIN FIRE: Mobile home blaze in Bastrop Highway under control, officials say

A fire at a mobile home located in East Austin near U.S. 183 is now under control, Austin fire officials said Monday night.  The structure at the 500 block of Bastrop Highway was heavily involved when the fire was reported about 10 p.m., officials said. The mobile home was abandoned and no one was injured, officials said. 
U.S. 183, I-35 projects waver after Abbott, Patrick trash tolls
U.S. 183, I-35 projects waver after Abbott, Patrick trash tolls

Several key Central Texas highway projects — including expansions of U.S. 183 in North Austin, U.S. 290 in Southwest Austin and Interstate 35 through the heart of the area — are once again in limbo after Gov. Greg Abbott and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick last week staked out firm anti-toll positions. “Right now there’s a billion dollars...
More Stories