AUSTIN (KXAN) - Education Commissioner Michael Williams reiterated his desire to see the Austin Independent School District fix not only Eastside Memorial High School but also the high school's feeder pattern.
The long-standing problems of Eastside Memorial are not centered on just one school but also all the middle and elementary schools that feed into it, Williams told the Senate Nominations Committee this morning.
"They have an obligation to design a plan and fully implement a plan that takes care of all of those kids in that feeder pattern," Williams said, in response to a question from Sen. Kirk Watson, D-Austin. "They have an obligation to design a plan.
"This is a feeder pattern where the district has had some difficulties providing opportunities to youngsters who need significant help."
That leaves AISD's board of trustees in a bit of a quandary. Since the school was reconstituted, it's been a school of choice with no particular feeder pattern.
On top of that, AISD has an open transfer policy, which has led to the majority of families exiting the school for other AISD campuses. These intra-district transfers are so prevalent that, unlike most districts, AISD does not produce a traditional feeder pattern map for distribution.
During the most recent board meeting, Superintendent Meria Carstarphen said a plan for Eastside Memorial, currently being discussed in committee, will be brought to the full board in early May. Williams expects to see some type of plan from AISD by the end of the same month.
"I am advised they are meeting fairly regularly," Williams said. "I have not heard a clear plan, as of yet, and so I look forward to it."
EIghteen months ago, AISD entered into an agreement with the IDEA public charter school chain to turn the Eastside Memorial feeder pattern over to the IDEA, which Williams described as "a deal struck between AISD and my predecessor."
In December, a newly elected board struck down that agreement. IDEA has announced it will stay in Austin and scout a new location for its charter school operations, which eventually will encompass all grades.
Students Williams met at Eastside Memorial had urged the commissioner not to look only at the school's scores on standardized tests when determining the school's fate.
"The numbers don't tell the whole story, but the numbers are fairly poor and fairly dramatic," said Williams of Eastside's academic performance.
Williams' nomination for commissioner of education was left pending in Nominations Committee. Williams, an appointee of Gov. Rick Perry, must be confirmed by the full Senate this session.
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