Last December the Austin Board of Trustees published their statement on the performance of Superintendent Meria Carstarphen. Many in the media have questioned her performance and ability to stay in the job based on the fact that the Board did not extend her contract for at least another year to 2016 [added] in a manner consistent with the prior two years.
However, the media it has not mentioned that the Board had until next year to determine whether to further extend – or not extend – her contract. [revised for clarity]
The following are excerpts from the performance evaluation issued by the Board. The entire report can be found here.
- Overall, the Board is pleased with the progress made by the district under Dr. Carstarphen’s leadership during the past year.
- … the Superintendent has assembled a strong, well-respected leadership team. The Board recognizes and appreciates the importance of AISD’s strong leadership team in the face of all this uncertainty so that operationally, our budget remains sound despite major reductions in state funding for public education over the past two years. She has led the work to manage our resources wisely with a strategic, long-term view and, as a result, we have received high bond ratings over the past three years.
- … we wish to highlight a few significant examples of the five district priorities for school year 2012-2013,…
- First, in the area of “Whole Child, Every Child,” the Superintendent led a shift in the focus away from a culture of testing—which can be punitive and narrowly focused on test results—to one that emphasizes academic standards of excellence and strengths and interests of the whole child with art programs, athletics, health and wellness initiatives; and Social Emotional Learning.
- Second, in the area of College-Ready Culture, our four-year federal high school graduation rates for all student groups increased and reached all-time highs with the class of 2012, including minority, poor and special education students.
- … for the class of 2012, we also saw a decrease in the dropout rate for all student groups except for our white students and our English Language Learners…These are remarkable improvements that have occurred, for the most part, over the past four years.
- The district… increased and developed a strong focus on literacy and numeracy at all levels, which is reflected in the continued academic improvement of students across the district.
- In an effort to eliminate the disproportionality in disciplinary actions that have adversely affected some student groups, the district implemented a restructuring of the Alternative Education program in AISD for discretionary removals by handling non-safety removals on campus through the creation of campus-based Learning Support Centers…. This initiative is showing great promise and, most importantly, we are not adversely affecting academic opportunities of these students for minor disciplinary actions.
- … the Superintendent continued to expand access to rich options in the district through dual language programs, early childhood education and alternative pathways to graduation.
- … in the area of Human Capital, we were pleased to see the district increase compensation for all staff and expand access to health insurance care to qualifying individuals to meet the diverse needs of our employees and their households.
- …in the area of Systems, our technology infrastructure improvements like the AISD Cloud and the Parent Cloud are proving to be the source for educational resources and information about other helpful resources.
- As stated earlier, AISD is a large, complex, highly diverse urban district with numerous challenges. As such, there will always be work to do and areas that can be improved upon. Therefore, there are some areas we have asked the Superintendent to focus on for the remainder of this academic year.
- … it is important that to remain college-ready in subsequent years, we clearly define and improve our measure of grade-level success consistent with the new college-ready standards. We must also ensure that at each grade all students are performing at or preferably above grade level when they complete that grade, especially in the core academic areas.
- We must continue the momentum of improvement with our minority, economically disadvantaged, special education and English-language learner student groups so that we continue to close the achievement gap and ensure that all students graduate college-, career- and life-ready.
- We must continue to invest in and support our campus staff. To be most efficient, this will require greater and greater collaboration between campus and administrative personnel as well as strategic monitoring of the professional development needs of educators and staff on each campus and providing the appropriate support from central office administrative teams.
- To respond to the competition from private and state charter schools, we must be proactive in our efforts to ensure that every parent’s and student’s experience every day in AISD are positive ones and that the academic and extra-curricular offerings of the vertical teams across the district are of high quality and well publicized within and outside of AISD. Therefore, we must ensure that the environment at every campus and in every facility is welcoming and inviting to our customers and to our visitors. We know that they have choices, and we want them to make AISD their choice.
- Finally,…we must continually work to develop and enhance the District’s relationship with parents, community groups and the community at-large.
- We believe we are moving in the right direction to achieve this goal and that Dr. Carstarphen, her leadership team, and all of our district’s educators will continue to raise the performance of our students and our district.
- We thank Dr. Carstarphen and her team for all the efforts and good work we have seen over the past year.
This report was issued publicly on behalf of the entire Board – and I am unable to find that any Board member dissented from the Report.
So I ask – does this evaluation look like one that would lead to a termination? I don’t think so.
Further, now that Carstarphen has announced her resignation, it appears that AISD is looking back with some regret that it engaged in some political gamesmanship last December when it decided to delay considering an extension to her contract to a future time (see here).
The Board played “chicken” and lost a superintendent that had made a number of significant improvements to the system.
Based on all the research I have done to-date, with the addition of Carstarphen as superintendent, Atlanta is the beneficiary of AISD’s fractured and indecisive Board of Trustees.
Also, I commend the AISD for publishing this document. It is a model that I hope APS will adopt.
Unfortunately, when I raised this exact issue with the APS executive who works with the Board Accountability Committee, she indicated that this was a bad idea and should not be done. While I agree that the detailed assessment does not need to be released, an executive summary, consistent with the above, is totally appropriate. By issuing a similar document, the public could then determine if the Board – whose sole employee is the superintendent – is holding him or her accountable for their performance.
Ms. Grant – as Chair of the Accountability Committee – I hope that you will take this suggestion under consideration for the future.
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