Student Coverage: Dr. Cruz Presents State of the District, Emphasizes 'We Are AISD'
by Ellie Breed and Daniel Wallach
Austin High School, Maroon News
Interim Superintendent Dr. Paul Cruz gave the State of the District Address today at the University of Texas Alumni Center.
Highlighted in the speech were the various accomplishments of the district, and improvements to be made in the coming years.
Cruz began by reflecting on the success of the district on creating twenty-first century campuses that are able to serve all students individually.
“We partner with world-class universities,” Cruz said, “innovative businesses and non-profit organizations… and engaged community leaders… to prepare our students for their bright futures.”
Discussed next was the recent increase in graduation rates to 84.1 percent across the entire district, putting the spotlight on those campuses that made the greatest improvements.
“Think back with me to a few years ago when Reagan High School was facing closure,” Cruz said. The school was under-enrolled and struggling, with a high staff turnover rate and a graduation rate of about 47.2 percent.
“Today, Reagan has over 1,200 students and is meeting all performance standards,” Cruz said. “The graduation rate has reached over 82 percent.”
Cruz continued to address the challenges that the district is facing currently, and those that are expected to impact the district in years to come, including falling enrollment and the district’s budget.
The district speculates that Austin schools will see a drop in enrollment in the coming school years.
“As housing costs soar, some of our families are being displaced and moving outside of Austin…” Cruz said. “We will need to work with you and our school communities… to adapt to this changing landscape.”
In addition to the possibility of falling enrollment, the district continues to see a large majority of Austin’s local school property tax revenue given to the state under the recapture system. This fiscal year alone the district expects to pay $175 million to the state in recapture payments.
“Think about what we could do with 175 million dollars, to educate our kids,” Cruz said. “…this money could equate to an additional 30 thousand dollars for every teacher in the district.”
Cruz requested the support of the district’s families to help share information about the recapture system as the legislature convenes in January.
“We will need your help to advocate for a school finance structure that better supports our efforts to invest in our students and educators,” Cruz said. “…and we are going to need your support now more than ever.”
Maroon News Crew on Location: Austin High School student journalists covered AISD's State of the District at the University of Texas at Austin's alumni center. Photo: Interim Superintendent Paul Cruz; Daniel Wallach; Wilhelmina Delco, civic leader and education champion; Ellie Breed; Sonny Stephens; and Isabelle Salazar, journalism adviser.