DALLAS (KXAN) — Austin Independent School District Superintendent Dr. Stephanie Elizalde has been named as the lone finalist in Dallas ISD’s search for a new superintendent.
Elizalde has been with AISD since August 2020. Prior to joining, she worked for Dallas ISD as the chief of school leadership.
On Thursday night, Austin ISD’s Board of Trustees met in front of a room packed with concerned educators and community members. It was the first board meeting since Dallas ISD named Dr. Elizalde as the lone finalist.
Austin ISD leaders told KXAN the search process for a new superintendent will be community focused to make sure the public is involved. They also said trustees will start outlining the timeline and process for a search soon.
“Some of the trustees have been talking about a more robust community engagement process and have more meetings with the public about what they want in the next superintendent,” Jason Stanford, chief officer of communications and community engagement.
Teachers told KXAN they want the school board to find leadership that will help them better support children and build more capacity in the district.
“Teachers, support personnel and classified staff are not feeling heard about the things they need to be their best selves for their students,” third-grade teacher Gracie Hopkins said. “And after years of trying, it is tiring, and people are leaving in droves, not just because of the great resignation, but the district is not listening to us.”
AISD Board of Trustees President Geronimo Rodriguez issued a statement via AISD’s Twitter account responding to the news.
“Thank you to Dr. Elizalde for her steadfast leadership through what has been an unprecedented and challenging two years,” the statement said. “Her commitment to our AISD mission allowed our community to safely move through the pandemic and stay laser-focused on academic achievement.”
In a press release sent on Wednesday evening, Dallas ISD said the state requires a 21-day review period for the superintendent position. After those three weeks, trustees are expected to offer Elizalde a contract for employment.
If confirmed by trustees, she’d be the second woman to serve as superintendent in the district’s history. The current superintendent at Dallas ISD, Michael Hinojosa, is leaving the district after 13 years at the end of the year.
Ken Zarifis, president of the Austin teachers labor union Education Austin, said the union wishes Elizalde all the best.
“We’re really happy that Dr. Elizalde has a job she really wants to have,” Zarifis said. “We think it’s good for both; it’s a win-win. She got a job she wanted, and I think we’re going to be able to move forward with the employees in a different fashion.”
Zarifis said the union wants the next superintendent to “really, truly believe in public education.”
“Not reform-minded, not charters … we want someone who really believes in public ed and believes in the workers as partners in figuring how great our district can be,” Zarifis said.
When hired to take over at AISD, Rodriguez told KXAN he was impressed with Elizalde’s “understanding of both the legislative process and public school finance.”
Elizalde’s entire tenure at AISD has been during the COVID-19 pandemic. In her 2021 State of the District address, Elizalde talked about declining enrollment numbers in the district and how Texas should fund public schools more than it does now.
Amid a substitute teacher shortage in AISD due to pandemic-related issues, Elizalde helped fill in to keep classes running.
KXAN obtained a copy of Elizalde’s current contract. It said she may terminate the contract by submitting a 30 days’ written notice to the board president. She can also terminate the contract if she and the board agree on the terms (under a mutual agreement).
In April, AISD said it would eliminate more than 600 positions within the district but assured KXAN no teacher would be laid off as a result of what officials described as “leveling.” More than half the jobs axed came from within AISD’s central office, officials said. The majority of the cuts, AISD said, were made by not filling vacant positions, which in turn allowed AISD to give some pay raises.