Board Briefs: Regular Meeting (Aug. 26)
As required by state law, the board adopted a budget for FY2015. The FY2015 All Funds Budget totals $1,029,103,269 for revenue and $1,053,173,599 for expenditures. The General Fund Expenditure Budget totals $906,666,345 with reductions of $13,791,216, including $5.8 million in central-office cuts. It also maintains a 3 percent pensionable compensation adjustment originally approved in FY2013 as well as a 2 percent pensionable salary adjustment for all regular full-time and part-time employees. For the 2015 fiscal year, the district’s Chapter 41 liability (recapture) to the state is expected to be $175.5 million.
For Maintenance and Operations, the tax rate will continue to be $1.079 per $100 of assessed valuation for the 2014 tax year. For Interest and Sinking, the tax rate will decrease to $.0143 per $100 of assessed valuation for the 2014 tax year.
Board President Vincent Torres provided an update to the public on the district’s search to date for a permanent superintendent. This was followed by a report from Gary Ray of the executive search firm Ray & Associates and the district’s chief financial officer, Nicole Conley. Their report included information about the superintendent profile, the final engagement report and the timeline. The board approved a superintendent profile flier that includes 14 recommended qualities, with an application close date of Oct. 20.
In early August, the Texas Education Agency released preliminary state accountability ratings. Interim Superintendent Paul Cruz announced that 110 schools met the standard on all components, and 70 schools earned a total of 205 distinction designations for outstanding performance in student achievement, student progress or postsecondary readiness. AISD’s results exceeded the state’s 2014 accountability targets in all four areas: student achievement by 23 points, student progress by 27 points, closing performance gaps by nine points and postsecondary readiness by 14 points. Nine campuses earned every distinction designation: Anderson High School, the Liberal Arts and Science Academy, Ann Richards School for Young Women Leaders, and Blackshear, Graham, Gullett, Hart, Reilly and Zilker elementary schools. Three schools rated Improvement Required in 2013 met all four index targets this year: Rodriguez Elementary School, Dobie Middle School and Lanier High School.
Opening of School Report
Dr. Cruz described events leading up to and including the first and second days of the 2014–15 school year. The district opened schools with more than 6,000 teachers, including 822 new teachers, and only 19 teacher vacancies. On the first two days of school, Dr. Cruz visited 16 schools and facilities, logging 135 miles, observing classes and welcoming students and staff back to school.
Applied Technology Center
A private donor has offered funding that would allow the district to expand programming, build capital resources and increase equity of access for all students through the building of an Applied Technology Center. The center would be a state-of-the-art facility that would provide workshop space, learning environments and equipment for students to increase their access to career and technology courses. The board approved the selection of a contractor and award of a contract for the Applied Technology Center as well as a shared-use agreement between Boy Scouts of America Capital Area Council and Austin ISD to provide space for summer workshops when the facility is not in use by the district.
Pride Week will be celebrated in Austin on Sept. 15–20. Dr. Cruz announced that, in support of the district’s dedication to creating a safe, supportive environment for LGBT students and staff, the district will recognize Pride Week with a kickoff celebration Monday, Sept. 15, and a student celebration Sept. 18.
The board approved the following staff appointments:
Dr. Terrence Eaton is the district’s new associate superintendent for middle schools. Since 2006, he has served as an assistant superintendent at the Pflugerville Independent School District, where he managed middle schools and elementary schools. He also has served as a principal at schools in the Round Rock and Temple Independent School Districts. Dr. Eaton earned a Bachelor of Science degree and a Master of Arts degree from the University of West Florida. He earned a doctoral degree in educational administration from Texas A&M University.
Reyne Telles is the district’s new executive director of communications and community engagement. Mr. Telles has served since 2008 as the manager of media relations for the City of Austin. He also currently works as director of communications for Mayor Lee Leffingwell. His previous experience includes work as a television news reporter and producer, press secretary with the New Mexico State Senate, general manager for a nonprofit arts organization and manager of media and community relations on behalf of the nonprofit Cal Farley’s Boys Ranch and Girlstown USA (an affiliate of the Boys Ranch Independent School District.) Mr. Telles earned a Bachelor of Science degree in communication from Eastern New Mexico University and is currently pursuing a master’s degree from the University of Texas LBJ School of Public Affairs.
Alma Valdez is the new principal of Blanton Elementary School. Since 2009, she has served as an instructional coordinator for the district’s Department of English Language Learners. She also has served as an assistant principal in Austin ISD. Ms. Valdez earned a Bachelor of Science degree in elementary education and a Master of Science degree in curriculum and instruction from the University of Texas at Austin.