The Austin ISD board of trustees discussed the next steps for the district's Annual Academic and Facilities Recommendations during its Sept. 10 work session.
The board did not take action, but Superintendent Meria Carstarphen led a discussion of how projects will be prioritized for the 2013–14 school year.
“We tried to put things in three big buckets because we just don't have the capacity to do everything all at once,” Carstarphen said.
She added that the district was seeking the board's support to make the recommendations process biennial—occurring every two years—rather than annual.
AISD identified the recommendations most likely to move forward for 2013–14, others that are in development and being vetted, and more which will be referred to the citizens' bond advisory committee for consideration under the next bond program.
The board discussed some of the recommendations that are most likely to move forward:
- The consideration of expanding AISD’s dual-language program,
- continuing Responsive Education Solutions at Lanier and Travis high schools,
- and a campus-initiated, in-district charter at Travis Heights Elementary School.
AAFRs likely for adoption get attention
Travis Heights is looking to partner with Education Austin and Austin Interfaith to start an in-district charter model allowing the school to have more autonomy. The school would focus on curriculum with its dual-language program, service learning model and a piloted blended learning program that incorporates digital media, Carstarphen said.
“They're not asking for more money; they're asking for more flexibility,” she said.
Trustee Robert Schneider called the project a grass-roots effort.
“I'd really like to find a way to set this as a standard,” he said.
A meeting to discuss the charter will be held Sept. 13 at 6 p.m. on the Travis Heights campus.
AISD is considering expanding its dual-language program. Dr. Pauline Dow, who recently joined AISD as chief academic officer, spoke to the board.
“If we're going to implement a dual-language program, we have to make a commitment from elementary to secondary,” she said.
The board discussed expanding the dual-language program throughout vertical teams—a high school and the elementary and middle schools that feed into it—and possibly adding a third language option.
The RES recommendation was held over from the previous AAFR cycle, Carstarphen explained.
The board said it would continue its discussion of that and another likely AAFR, the establishment of a school for young men, at its next work session Oct. 1.
Postponed discussions that are also on the AAFR list are the Garcia and Pearce middle schools program design, academic programming and facility support for the Eastside Memorial High School vertical team, a program to identify a school or vertical team to establish a partnership with the new medical center, and the selection of land for a potential south high school. These AAFRs are in development and engaged in the vetting process, Carstarphen said.
AAFRs referred to the citizens' bond advisory committee included the Rosedale School and Clifton Career Development School renovations and improvements to the fine arts program and facilities based on the Kennedy Center Fine Arts Study results, parity and equity in career and technical education, a secondary athletic program and facility improvements based on program assessment results, and the south high school.
Board considers biennial AAFR process
The board also discussed changes to the facilities master plan (FMP) framework to permit a biennial rather than an annual cycle for AAFRs. Carstarphen explained this would extend the current cycle from one year and six months per AAFR to two years, allowing more time to complete projects and prepare for new ones.
“It takes a significant amount of time to process through these, and it's becoming very difficult to be in an implementation year after a decision while also trying to run the next cycle for engagement,” she said. “It would also give the community more time to engage with us in working through some of these ideas.”
On Nov. 21, the board of trustees adopted the FMP framework, which is made up of three parts: a comprehensive, long-term process; annually updated information; and AAFRs to support the district’s long-term goals.
Board action for proposed revisions to the FMP framework is scheduled for Sept. 24.
Budget discussion focuses on funding equity, tax ratification election
The board also discussed its approach to the FY 2013–14 budget process and initial budget parameters. Carstarphen outlined key initiatives in the 2013–14 school year including full implementation of college-ready culture, ramping up an anti-bullying campaign, and potential AAFRs and bond projects.
Trustees discussed the issue of equity in allocating resources and considering a change in implementation policy for the 2014–15 school year. Carstarphen said this is often described as discrimination in terms of “east versus west” or “north versus south.”
“While we can't change the relationship of which kid has the money in their backpack, we can do something about our methodology in the district when it comes to providing funding to schools,” she said.
Trustee Vincent Torres agreed equity should be addressed.
“We want to make sure we are providing the appropriate resources, consistently, across the district,” he said.
While reviewing the budget parameters, trustee Sam Guzman asked: “In striving for a balanced budget, how far do we have to go looking for other options and other savings before we say we've looked at everything we can possibly look at besides closing certain things ... and ask for a TRE (tax ratification election)?”
Board president Mark Williams said the district should ask for the TRE sooner rather than later.