AUSTIN (KXAN)— We’re getting somewhat of a better idea of what a conservatorship would look like, for the Austin Independent School District’s special education programs.
The Texas Education Agency (TEA) announced late Friday, it’s planning to implement this, because it said AISD hasn’t done enough to help its students with special needs.
As some families might be concerned by this news, AISD said it is doing everything it can to keep the line of communication open.
There will not be any immediate changes. That’s if the conservatorship gets implemented.
According to AISD, it has until April 17 to appeal the decision. Interim Superintendent Matias Segura and AISD School Board President Arati Singh said the administration and board are considering that.
If conservators do get assigned to help out, the state would select those people. Segura said he expects between two to three assigned conservators, who have special education services experience.
They will be working in the special education department with current AISD staff, Segura said. Conservators will evaluate what led to AISD not meeting its special education evaluation requirements and then make recommendations.
Those recommendations must be implemented by the school board. Segura estimates conservators could be working with the district by late summer 2023.
This is not a take-over of the district by the TEA, like what recently happened in Houston. It will only involve AISD’s special education services, according to Segura.
“We’re actually, you know, hopeful that the collaborative process will be able to move some of the work that maybe hasn’t moved in the direction that we wanted for a couple years,” Segura said.
Singh said she’s looking forward to the continued collaboration between the administration, school board and TEA. And she wants to assure parents they will not see any drastic changes for the worse.
“When you go back to school Monday, things will be the same,” Singh said. “Your teacher will be there, your class will be there, your classroom, hamster or guinea pig, they’ll still be there…we’ve been working around the clock, pretty much, to really understand how this will impact the district.”
AISD said it will publicly discuss whether to appeal the decision at a public meeting April 3.
Singh said they are welcoming all feedback and comments. Segura said they will be providing regular updates on the conservatorship process at school board meetings from here on out.
Segura roughly estimates the conservatorship could last up to 18 months, based off what’s happened at other districts across the state.
A big reason AISD said it has not been able to stay on top of its special education evaluations is the fact that it needs educational diagnosticians and licensed specialists in school psychology to perform them.
According to AISD there are 72 positions for educational diagnosticians and licensed specialists in school psychology, with only 21 filled currently.
AISD said it has completed more than 8,000 evaluations since March 2021, and more than 4,000 between the end of the last school year in May 2022 and March 2023.
The district said it had more than 1,800 initial evaluations and reevaluations that were out of timeline as of March 20, with an additional 1,263 new evaluation requests since Jan. 20.