Austin ISD calls special meeting to discuss TEA conservatorship

The Austin ISD Board of Trustees has called a special meeting to discuss the Texas Education Agency's plans to put the district under state conservatorship.

The special meeting will begin at 6:45 p.m., Monday, April 3. The community may sign up to submit recorded comments between 7:45 a.m. and 3 p.m. Monday.

The TEA said Friday that it plans to move to appoint a conservator to oversee AISD, citing the district’s failings in serving students receiving special education. 

According to the district, under a conservatorship, a team selected by TEA Commissioner Mike Morath would work closely with AISD's Special Education team to "ensure we’re meeting the needs of our students who are referred to be evaluated for disabilities or who receive special education services." It is estimated the conservators could be in place by late summer.

A conservator acts as a manager of the school district, ensuring that the school board and superintendent are taking the necessary steps to solve any issues flagged by the state’s education agency, says the Texas Tribune. According to the TEA’s website, a conservator can "direct the action of a campus principal, superintendent, or board of trustees."

In a statement, the Board says that the conservatorship would not be a takeover of AISD, unlike what is happening in Houston. The trustees and interim superintendent Matias Segura are still in place. 

The board says it has been focused on the work of addressing special education needs for many months, and in a new way since January, including:

  • Creating a centralized database to track evaluations and new systems to support special education services on campus and at Central Office.
  • Working closely with nationally recognized special education expert Dr. Frances Stetson and team to provide training and improved systems for campus teams and Central Office staff.
  • Launching an aggressive recruitment effort to hire Educational Diagnosticians and Licensed Specialists in School Psychology, which includes providing up to a $20,000 annual incentive.
  • Forming an ad hoc board committee that meets multiple times a month to monitor activities and progress.
  • Communicating with the public with new openness and transparency about the needs to address and the work that is being done.

The district has until April 17 to appeal the conservatorship, but has not said if they plan to.

The Texas Tribune contributed to this report.