AISD’s current rushed attempt to vet the decision to pay IDEA charter school to take over two schools in East Austin through the community offers another glimpse into the reality that AISD is still missing the point.
I don’t know if what IDEA has to offer is the best solution for these schools, but I also don’t know that it matters. The point that AISD continues to miss is that the community has lost faith in the Board of Trustees to represent their best interests. And as long as they continue to demonstrate disregard for transparency and refuse to listen to or engage with the families affected by decisions about these schools, they will continue to receive pushback. They will continue to fight the community rather than have it as backers, supporters and part of the solution – whatever that solution turns out to look like.
Regardless of what solution is found to make these schools better, it will take time to bring them to the level that parents and Austin as a whole considers acceptable. Meria Carstarphen and the Board can’t make improvements to these schools overnight. They need the community on their side, to support their efforts.
When you are trying to create change, you make a strategic plan with benchmarks, a timeline and an exit strategy. And you stick with the plan. Instead, AISD seems to give up on their plans, ignore some potential benchmarks of growth and has given up on the community in East Austin. It seems that no matter what position they take they are fighting with someone – which comes from their lack of transparency about what they are doing and planning.
I don’t understand the reticence to involve parents and families affected by the schools’ performance. I tend to not be in favor of consensus by “everyone who ever heard of the project or walked into the building”… but I think it would be a good idea for AISD to accept and acknowledge that the East Austin community deserves to not be marginalized. The Board of Trustees and the Superintendent actually listened to the families that attend the schools on the east side and the families that opt out of having their kids attend these schools. Don’t exclude the community that has lived with the failure of those schools until the last moment… that isn’t acting in partnership with that community, that isn’t respectful. I am willing to bet that if people who live in East Austin and who have children who attended or will attend the schools that have been performing poorly felt they were being heard, things would feel less contentious. Given the backlash of the last time AISD trotted out a plan that impacted the whole community, you would think AISD would have learned something from that experience.
If AISD was talking to IDEA a year ago, why not tell the community this? Why not say: we have a plan or are building a plan? Go a step further; share the things that need to be part of any plan that can be implemented (in-district charter, proven track record of success with students for 10 years, etc.) and the things that are deal-breakers (no sports program, lack of focus on STEM, etc.). Considering how contentious everything with AISD has been the last year, it’s mind boggling to me that AISD would decide to once again put themselves in the position of creating more friction with the East Austin community over solutions for the East Austin community.
I wonder how long it will be before a solution is developed for these schools, and how many more generations of children we will fail.