AUSTIN (KXAN) - As a new school year gets underway, the Superintendent of the Austin Independent School District is laying out her top priorities.
During an interview on KXAN News at noon, Dr. Meria Carstarphen said there will be a big emphasis placed on literacy.
Every single employee, including bus drivers and custodians, will play a role in encouraging kids to read as often as possible.
The push for better attendance remains a top priority this year.
"We set up the system like 100 percent of the kids are going to be here 100 percent of the time," said Dr. Carstarphen. "So the money is already spent and the way you balance that out is ensure the kids go to school."
Any empty seat is money lost. Schools lose about $40 a day for every child who does not show up to school. The superintedent says it is not just about the cash.
"It's not rocket science, you know, you've got to be here for us to be able to teach you," said Dr. Carstarphen.
She said last school year AISD generated an extra $5 million from the state because more kids simply showed up. Dr. Carstarphen said it was no coincidence graduation rates were at an all time high.
AISD launched an attendance campaign a couple of years ago and KXAN has been closely following a voluntary GPS tracking program the district rolled out at nine high schools last year. Students with a history of absences and tardies are paired up with mentors and check in several times a day with a handheld device.
Attendance rates district-wide are up to 95-percent.
Another top priority for the superintendent is increasing teacher pay.
Dr. Carstarphen said the district cannot afford actual raises, but she is trying to find a way to hand every teacher a check for at least $1,000.
The superintendent says the money is not in the budget right now, and the school board has not approved it. The one time bonuses would cost $2.4 million. The district could launch a campaign and come up with a strategy to cut expenses.
Dr. Carstarphen says AISD teacher salaries are not competitive with other districts which makes it hard to attract and keep quality teachers in the classroom.
Wednesday, the superintendent will be addressing all 12,000 AISD employees during a virtual convocation. Her video message will be available to the public to watch starting at 9 a.m.
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