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The Trustees of the Austin Independent School District have completed our second annual performance evaluation of our Superintendent, Dr. Meria Carstarphen for the 2010-11 school year, and we wish to share our findings with the community. The Board of Trustees has the responsibility to evaluate the performance of only one District employee the Superintendent. Her evaluation this year is largely based on reviewing the District's progress in the area of student performance, the status of certain key priority initiatives and the superintendent's overall effectiveness in her ongoing responsibilities in the areas of educational leadership, district management and board and community relations. I hope that the public recognizes, as the Board does, the incredible challenges of managing an urban school system, with over 11,000 employees, 120 campuses, bus operation depots, athletics and other complexes, as well as over 86,000 students of which 62% come from economically disadvantaged homes and almost 30% are considered English Language Learners. Overall, the Board is pleased with the progress made by the district under Dr. Carstarphen's leadership during the past year, and continues to believe that she is the right person to lead our district going forward. Dr. Carstarphen brings an obvious passion to public education and demonstrated commitment to equity in opportunity for all students in our district. She has the ability to engage and build an excellent relationship with the various and diverse student and community constituencies that comprise Austin ISD. It is a very difficult time in K-12 public education in Texas and across the country, and as a result the complexity of the job and the demands on a superintendent are immense and continue to increase. The Board recognizes that strong, capable and courageous leadership is essential for an urban district like AISD to make the progress expected - and needed - by our community. We believe that Dr. Carstarphen possesses the skills, commitment, passion and courage to prepare and lead AISD into the future. Now let me turn to the past school year and the superintendent's performance. From a budget perspective, the 2011 legislative session resulted in an unprecedented level of state funding cuts to public education. There was no perfect way for the leaders of AISD to respond to that level of a budget crisis faced by the district. However, the Board as a whole believes that the superintendent and her team, especially her CFO, Chief Human Capital Officer and our campus principals and supervisors across the district, handled what was an incredibly difficult and painful time for everyone in the most responsible way possible.

The need to address the significant state funding shortfall necessitated a reduction in force, which along with other painful cost saving measures, created a very challenging, unpleasant and intense climate for our staff throughout the district as well as for our community. The Board appreciates the efforts of the superintendent and the district's Human Capital Office in this difficult environment to work with our displaced employees to find other employment, including filling other vacancies which arose in the district. From an accountability perspective, the state eliminated the TPM (Texas Projection Measure) that was used for school year 2009-10 ratings, and which improved ratings across the state since TPM gave some consideration to improvement in performance, and the trajectory of that improvement. The 2010-11 results, however, did include the results for our students taking the modified or alternative TAKS test, and thus there were some decreases in the accountability ratings for some of our campuses. Nevertheless, the Board noted that without consideration of TPM, the district continues to improve (or at least remain essentially unchanged) in all accountability subgroups for all subjects at the district level in the absolute performance of our students on a year over year basis. Dr. Carstarphen and her team, including our principals, teachers and other campus staff, are to be commended for keeping the focus on student learning in spite of the many budget, human capital and other distractions going on in the district. Let me also highlight a few of the many other improvements over the past year: An effective budget approach during an extremely difficult funding environment, including improvements in the quality of information and public transparency; Increased focus (both internally and externally) on our "critical need" campuses, vertical teams and atrisk students, including a public acknowledgement of the ethical and economic importance of better serving our high-need students, while noting that the district has historically underserved these groups; A strong focus on the impact of educator quality, recognizing the critical need of developing a forward-thinking and effective human capital strategy; and An ongoing effort to improve the district's information technology and performance management reporting capability; While the Board appreciates the progress made in the district and the performance of our superintendent, we do feel it necessary to highlight a few areas where the Board feels additional focus and attention was needed or will be needed in the future. The superintendent's process last year involving the Facility Master Planning task force was not sufficiently effective, creating significant frustration throughout our community. However, the work of the superintendent and her staff over the past few months to build on the efforts of the task force resulted in a high-quality Facility Master Plan process and framework proposal, which was presented to the Board at our September 12 work session. We will continue discussions with the superintendent about the facility master plan process later in tonight's agenda.

In addition, Austin ISD again in 2011 did not meet the federal standard for one subgroup (that is, students with disabilities), even though this subgroup did improve its year over year performance in both the Reading/ELA and Mathematics TAKS test performance. The Board expects the superintendent and her team to continue to improve the educational delivery for our special education students, so that Austin ISD will be able to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (or AYP) at the district level in all subjects in the future. Although the state is moving away from TAKS to end of course exams as part of the transition to the new STAAR accountability system, the Board notes the district ended school year 2010-11 with still eight schools rated academically unacceptable under the TAKS accountability systems. The Board expects Dr. Carstarphen and her team to continue to implement the enhancements necessary to these campuses, as well as to the district as a whole, to prepare them appropriately for success under the new STAAR accountability system. Looking out to the future, the fiscal landscape is unfortunately still extremely ominous. The district will suffer an additional reduction in state and federal funding of about $34 million in the second year of the biennium. In addition, there are already reports that the next legislative session in 2013 will face another sizable state budget deficit, which could result in further cuts to state funding for Austin ISD. And, as I indicated previously, the expectations for improved academic performance for our students continues to exist. To truly prepare our increasingly diverse student body for the 21s century environment - and given the district's declining revenue per student under the state's school finance funding formulas - the superintendent and her team will work with the Board, our community and educational thought leaders across our state and our country to basically rethink our educational model, including what programs we offer, how we use our facilities and how we pay our people. We simply cannot afford todays educational delivery model, and as we all know, today's model is not sufficiently meeting the needs of all of our students. Such an environment, including the changes that will need to come, will place great pressure on our people to perform, with potentially little to no additional financial resources to the district. Thus, it is incumbent on the superintendent and her team to continually refine the district's human capital strategy to ensure that we are creating a climate which entices the best and the brightest to join the Austin ISD, provides our educators with the supports they need to be successful, and to the extent possible, establishes a fair and competitive compensation package. There are many complex and demanding challenges ahead for Austin ISD and public education more broadly. But let me conclude by reiterating that the Board as a whole continues to believe that Dr. Carstarphen is the right person to lead our district going forward. The stakes are high, but the Board is committed to working with this superintendent, and in partnership with our staff and our community, to make Austin ISD the premier urban school district in the country.

As evidence of that commitment, the Board will take up an agenda item later this evening to extend the contract of Dr. Carstarphen for one year. If the Board approves this extension, Dr. Carstarphen's contract would be extended to June 30, 2014. Dr. Carstarphen has been with the district for over two years, on what was originally a four-year contract. While all is not perfect, and there is still much work to do, we have seen good progress on the academic and programmatic front. And in spite of the resource and funding challenges faced by Austin ISD, there has also been much improvement in the district's system infrastructure to support our academic mission. Dr. Carstarphen has now been in Austin long enough to understand the uniqueness and associated benefits, and challenges, of working with our community. She also has a good feel for the legislative landscape in Texas, as well the issues associated with the states' school finance system. From research across the country, a critical component to long-term success and systematic improvements in urban public education is continuity in the position of the superintendent. If you have a good superintendent, you want to keep them. Thus, tonight's action is being proposed to demonstrate that there is mutual commitment on the part of the Board and the Board's only employee, Dr. Carstarphen, to see through the reforms already underway, to more fully implement the district's strategic plan and to ensure that Dr. Carstarphen is here to help navigate Austin ISD through the next legislative biennium and its associated financial and other impacts on our district. Dr. Carstarphen, thank you, and thanks to your team, for all the efforts and good work we have seen over the past year. The Board looks forward to continuing to work with you and your team in the future to meet the needs of our students, our staff, our taxpayers and our community.