Austin board approves district targets, swears in elected trustees



1:40 a.m. UPDATE:

The Austin school board approved keeping the same trustees in their current board officer positions: Kendall Pace remains board president, Paul Saldaña remains vice president and Julie Cowan remains board secretary.

Trustee Yasmin Wagner described the discussions around board officers robust but respectful.

While every trustee should have the opportunity to serve as a board officer, Wagner said, in the end, the board decided that with big decisions ahead, “stability as a board is important.

“We started some great work in terms of establishing a very clear focus and process for how we wish to do our work,” Wagner said. “We’ve had a board officers’ group that has been working well together and we wish to see that continue.”

EARLIER:

The Austin school board on Monday night approved the targets Superintendent Paul Cruz must hit in 2017-18.

The targets indicate what percentage each of the 52 scorecard measures approved in October that Cruz must hit to reach proficiency. The targets include a four-year graduation rate of 90 percent, an attendance rate of 95.5 percent, and 51 percent of students reaching the more rigorous postsecondary readiness standard on the state-mandated test.

The measures will be used to evaluate Cruz next year.

However, a pilot plan for the socioeconomic desegregation of schools does not have a percentage goal tied to it. Because it is a pilot, the system of measurement is subject to change, according to board documents. Instead, Cruz is required to develop a plan starting in District 1 schools, located in East and Northeast Austin, with the next board discussion of the plan in March.

Also on Monday night, newly elected board member Cindy Anderson was sworn in to the District 8 at-large seat that was vacated by Gina Hinojosa, who was elected to represent Texas House District 49. Four other trustees who already held their seats and were re-elected also were sworn in again.

As of 1 a.m. Tuesday morning, the board remained behind closed doors discussing new board officers.

Disagreements over who gets the positions of president vice president and secretary often has led to disagreements behind closed doors. It’s unclear how much of that will spill into the public forum once trustees are back on the dais.

During public comment, a few community leaders addressed the board on the issue, with one directly requesting that Trustee Paul Saldaña be put in the position of president. Last week, Angela Valenzuela, a professor of educational administration at the University of Texas, sent a mass email to local Latino leaders and other community activists to support Saldaña’s bid for the position. A handful showed up in response. The move was unusual in that trustees choose their officers, and other community members don’t typically weigh in publicly.

“Make a decision that brings us together,” Ken Zarifis, president of Education Austin said during public comments, referring to the trustees’ decision for board officers.

Trustee Amber Elenz, who earlier this year served as an interim president after Hinojosa gave up her position to focus on her bid for a state seat, discussed the role of board officers.

“It is incumbent of our officers to give up individual privileges and individual agendas,” said Trustee Amber Elenz, prior to the board going behind closed doors. “It’s important that they facilitate and motivate board and administrative work toward success around all board actions, regardless of how they feel about them personally.”


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