As Carstarphen appoints new executives for APS, Austin scrambles to keep her former staff in Austin

As reported in yesterday’s post (see here), Dr. Meria Carstarphen has appointed five individuals to her transition team prior to officially assuming the superintendent position on June 7th. All five individuals appointed worked with her in Austin and include two of the most senior positions – Pamela Hall as head of Human Resources and Bill Caritj as chief performance officer. The other three positions are a senior HR officer and two senior Curriculum and Instruction officers.

The Austin ISD has had to scramble a bit to keep the remaining senior staff in place and has announced some key moves. Per the Austin American Statesmen,

In an effort to keep other top officials in Austin and to maintain stability in the school system after Carstarphen’s departure, the Austin school board last week extended three-year contracts to administrators.

Nicole Conley, the district’s chief financial officer, was given additional operations responsibilities and a 30 percent pay increase. She will earn a base salary of $235,000, once her new contract goes into effect July 1.

Cruz [named as interim superintendent] recently appointed Edmund Oropez, the associate superintendent of high schools, into a cabinet position as interim chief of schools…He received a 20 percent raise, and now earns $180,250. 

There had been some speculation that Carstarphen would bring Nicole Conley to Atlanta as the CFO. In 2009, Carstarphen recruited Conley to come to Austin from Atlanta where she was serving as Deputy CFO for APS. The announcement that Austin will expand her responsibilities along with a significant pay increase would seem to forestall any further speculation on Conley coming to Atlanta.

My sense is that the excellent work that Chuck Burbridge has done as the APS CFO will be rewarded and he will stay on with the District. It is important to remember that Burbridge came to APS from Los Angeles seven years ago and, upon arrival, faced a massive clean up effort. The accounting records were in disarray and there was a complete lack of fiscal discipline. In fact, it took nearly two years to close the books and complete an audit at the time Burbridge came on board. As a comparison, this past year the accounting records were closed in early September and the outside audit was presented to the Board of Education in December.

[Added & edited] Also, Burbridge has built a strong team in Finance and their excellent work has been recognized as they received a number of awards both on financial presentation and the depth of information presented.

Additionally, the budgeting process has improved dramatically (although I still believe there is a way to go on this) and Burbridge is very open to making changes that bring greater transparency to the numbers, but he has to be given the green light to do so. Based on what I have seen in the budget process in Austin, my sense is that Burbridge will have greater flexibility to transform and improve the budget process further.

We can also hope that Burbridge is given additional responsibility to more strictly hold the divisions not only accountable for spending, but also accountable for promised levels of performance given the financial resources provided. Along with the newly appointed Chief Performance Officer, it is likely that we will see a new level of accountability within the system – which is a very good thing.

[Follow me on Twitter @Financial_Decon]

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