AUSTIN (KXAN) — Austin Independent School District Superintendent Paul Cruz is resigning his position and taking a job with the University of Texas at Austin, according to a letter sent to AISD staff.
Cruz served as superintendent of Austin ISD for six years. Cruz is a two-time UT graduate with a bachelor’s degree in Special Education from 1987 and a Ph.D in Educational Leadership and Policy from 2005.
“I love Austin ISD! Thank you for embracing my family, for educating my children, and for entrusting me with leading our strategic efforts. It has truly been an honor to serve as superintendent of Austin’s dynamic and high-performing school district,” Cruz wrote in the letter.
During a news conference Thursday morning, Cruz said no final date with the district has been determined yet.
“This has been challenging for me,” Cruz said in the conference. “It’s been a very emotional time. I love Austin and I love Austin ISD. I’ve been here a while. I’ve gotten to know who we are and what we are about. And what we are about is about the future.What we’re about is making sure that all of our kids are successful. Making sure that all feel welcome.”
Reactions from board president and teachers union
AISD Board of Trustees President Geronimo Rodriguez spoke with KXAN Monday night about Cruz’s resignation.
He said, “We look forward to discussing the transition with our colleagues on Monday night’s meeting in executive session.”
The board has to decide how it’ll handle the superintendent’s intention to resign. They’ll have to work out when Cruz’s last day will be and who will serve in the interim as the board searches for the replacement.
“There’s always an opportunity to be prepared to meet the challenges, and I’m confident that my board colleagues and I will have a discussion, not just about the transition of Dr. Cruz, but I think it’s also important for the community to know how our board is going to manage a work plan, issues at hand with the school district,” Rodriguez said.
He went on to explain, “You can see our track record from the billion dollar bond package and the execution of that billion dollar bond package to policy changes around the dress code, other policy changes we made and now, the school changes. I think all of those are things that the board takes seriously, and I’m confident that we’ll continue during the transition and work with Dr. Cruz during that time.”
Ken Zarifis, President of Education Austin, said he was surprised to hear about Cruz’s resignation.
“I just met with Dr. Cruz yesterday, and he didn’t give any inclination of this,” he said.
Zarifis said Cruz deserves credit for his efforts to build relationships.
“He recognizes that you have to have good communication to build good relationships and have successful outcomes for kids,” he told KXAN. “I think what this does though is it provides an opportunity for us to really address inequities of our district. We have issues around institutional racism, white supremacy, the limits on the east side and north central Austin that really have to be addressed more aggressively. Anti-charter plan has to be more aggressive.”
He added, he disagreed with how the school closure plan was handled.
“There should be no more school closures and consolidations until we’re able to not only get a new superintendent with possibly a new staff, until this district actually goes out and spends time building trust in our community,” Zarifis said.
We asked Rodriguez what Cruz’s resignation means for the schools slated to close.
He responded, “I don’t think that we know yet, but I’m just confident that our board has given direction to the administration on how to manage these issues. I think it’s going to be up to the board to have a discussion about where the next steps are to all these.”
Cruz’s full letter sent to AISD Staff
After long and careful consideration, I want you to be the first to know that I have accepted a position with The University of Texas at Austin. As a result, I intend to resign my position as superintendent. Serving as superintendent of schools for six years alongside each and every one of you, in one of the best urban school districts in the nation, has been the most exciting, inspiring and rewarding experience for me.
I love Austin ISD! Thank you for embracing my family, for educating my children, and for entrusting me with leading our strategic efforts. It has truly been an honor to serve as superintendent of Austin’s dynamic and high-performing school district.
Our board members work so hard for our students and families and I thank them for their dedication and commitment to our mission. I know the essential work will continue with their leadership. As I transition to my new role with UT, I will collaborate with our board to ensure the continuation of this important work and the fulfillment of our responsibilities.
It has been an honor to have collaborated with such an amazing and dedicated team for whom I have the utmost respect. I am proud to recognize that together we worked to develop strong programming for our 81,000 students to ensure they are better prepared for college, career and life. We also recently worked to provide the largest pay increase in the history of our district to our teachers and staff. Our work on the implementation of the $1.05 billion bond to build modernized schools is ongoing. I can confidently say that, as a team, we have transformed the urban school experience – one cutting-edge initiative at a time.
As a parent and a team member in Austin ISD, I have many fond memories of my experience during my 14 years of service. I will look back on the insightful conversations I’ve had with students as I visited our exceptional schools, and the shared accomplishments with all of you throughout the district and with current and former board members. I am humbled by the trust you have placed in me as superintendent and by the opportunity to serve our students, staff and families.
University of Texas’ welcomes Cruz’s arrival
On Wednesday, The University of Texas released an announcement welcoming Cruz, who the school says is joining the faculty as a professor of practice in the Cooperative Superintendency Program in the Department of Educational Leadership and Policy.
In this non-tenure track position, he will serve as co-director of the program, together with Ruben Olivarez, UT said.
“Since first graduating from UT and becoming a teacher, Dr. Cruz has gone on to both continue his education to the doctoral level here at the College of Education and to serve our public schools in Texas as an outstanding leader,” said Dean Charles R. Martinez, Jr. “I have enjoyed collaborating with him on developing a shared research-practice partnership between UT and AISD, and know this work will continue well into the future. Dr. Cruz’s commitment to public schools is unwavering, and the college and our students are extremely fortunate to have his talent and experience as he joins our faculty.”