A LEGACY OF LEARNING
Education isn’t just a job for AISD’s Paul Cruz; it’s a way of life.
A native of south Texas, Cruz grew up under the watchful eye of his mother, father and grandfather, all who encouraged Cruz and his siblings early on to go to college—a mantra he repeats to students today as chief schools officer for the Austin Independent School District.
“My grandfather was the one who really pushed us toward education,” Cruz said. “He would tell me, ‘You’ve got to finish school and go on. Don’t stop at high school.’”
Those words had an impact on Cruz, who heeded that advice and earned a degree in education with a specialization in English from the University of Texas at Austin. Upon graduating, Cruz returned to south Texas to begin teaching and attend graduate school at Corpus Christi State University. But, Cruz didn’t stop there. Before his 30th birthday, he earned his Ph.D. in educational leadership from UT.
Cruz has dedicated his life to educating others. As part of his service to education, Cruz worked as a teacher, campus administrator and central office administrator in districts across the state and served as the deputy commissioner for dropout prevention at the Texas Education Agency before joining AISD.
For the Austin community, Cruz has focused on niche areas to benefit the city’s youth. He strives to make improvements to college readiness, dropout prevention, guidance and counseling and student support programs. While making improvements to such a wide array of areas may seem a lofty goal, Cruz remains committed to the task at hand: educating AISD students.
“I want to ensure that all our students learn and excel, and that we provide programs that help them to achieve this,” Cruz said.
“We also must provide social support for kids as well as for their families. These are the
I want to ensure that all
our students exceed and
excel and that we provide
programs that help them to
— Paul Cruz
types of initiatives I work to create, ones that will foster deep learning.”
As interim superintendent, Cruz is charged with maintaining stability and continuity during a time of change for the district. He was appointed to the interim post on April 16, 2014.
In his previous role as chief schools officer, Cruz is responsible for overseeing all campus operations. He supervises the four associate superintendents who advise the district’s 129 learning campuses and leads the Division of Learning Support Services as well as the Division of School, Family and Community Education. He oversees a range of areas, including attendance programs, after school programs, parent specialists, discipline issues, the AVID program, and positive behavior support programs.
One of Cruz’ favorite aspects of his job is that he gets to go to schools and speak to kids directly about higher education and career opportunities. During each visit, he echoes the advice passed down to him by his family: focus on your goals.
“Make sure you set goals, and that you track your progress toward your goals,” Cruz tells students. “If you stumble, pick yourself up and get back to your goals again.”