Notes from 9/17/19 Trustee Meeting with Maplewood

AISD School Changes 2019 lightbulbs.SQ

Meeting with Trustee to Discuss proposed Maplewood, Campbell, and Blackshear Consolidation, Organized by Maplewood PTA
5:00-6:30pm September 17, 2019
Maplewood Library

Approximately 75 Maplewood parents, teachers, and staff were in attendance. Two volunteers took notes and this is a compilation of those notes.

Amber Welsh, PTA Co-President, began the meeting by stating that Trustee Cindy Anderson was unable to make the meeting due to family illness.  District 5 Trustee Amber Elenz was able to fill in at the last minute, but will not be as prepared for the 15 pages of questions that the Maplewood community submitted prior to the meeting.

Other AISD representatives attending during the course of the meeting were:

Gilbert Hicks, Assoc. Superintendent of Elementary Schools 512-414-0038
Stephanie Hawley, Equity Officer (hired August 1, 2019) 512-414-2462
Celso Baez, Community Engagement, 512-414-1155
Not present, but referred to as having answers to specific questions: Matias Segura in Operations 512-414-3112

Maplewood PTA stated that there were themes to the questions submitted that she grouped, such as equity, processes, and bonds. She stated that, in her opinion, AISD knows some of the answers to questions, but it has not effectively communicated those answers.  She also believes that AISD does not know the answers to some of the questions. Questions were also asked by those in attendance. 

In addition, she gave background about AISD Board of Trustees:

  1. Board is composed of 9 members
  2. All trustees are responsible for both their individual district and the district as a whole
  3. Trustees are unpaid, full-time, volunteers

AISD will be hosting many community engagement meetings including tonight’s at Maplewood, Austin High, Blackshear and other parts of the district

Trustee Elenz discussed her background before opening up the discussion. She has served on the Board since 2012. She became involved because she had a special needs learner. She served as the President of the Austin Council PTA during the last round of closures discussion in 2011. She stated that the Board did not want to repeat what occurred during those discussions, so they wanted a different approach. 

Trustee Elenz: community input on socio economic integration have brought in a whole new lens to the discussion. We are lucky we will be joined by Dr. Hawley. Dr. Hawley has been working to bring us all at the leadership level toward a culturally proficient mindset. We all have not achieved that, but I’m certain we will get there by the November vote. I’m not sure if we will get there all the way but we will try.

  1. Background of Current School Closure Consolidation Proposal
    • Bond 2017:  Each trustee picked a couple of people to look at things differently for building solid data
    • Suggest that the right people get in a room together for FABPAC (Facilities and Bond Planning Advisory Committee) discussion
    • Facility Master Plan for 2017 bond needed to include both academic mission and equity component
  2. Dr. Hawley remarks
    • She first acknowledged the the Maplewood proposal page was not done well.
    • She stated that this is just a proposal and everything hasn’t been thought through yet
    • She stated that the District needs to answer these questions
    • She stated that the intention is for no one to lose their job
    • The District wants to do what we are doing in new, modern spaces
    • She stated that AISD needs our questions to make decisions
    • Question from Maplewood parent about the consolidation plan: Was Campbell asked if it wants to be integrated? He is a fan of Diversity by Design and questions if this is concentrating poverty? Closures could concentrate poverty further. 
    • Hawley: Can’t have equity without community engagement.
    • She did not see the document before it left and she apologizes for it.
      • Equity version will be done on second read
      • Hawley: Proposals will be the same. The language will be different. The second version will give it an equity read. If it does not have an equity focus, we will be saying “this does not have an equity focus.”
      • If it isn’t equitable, she will say so
    • How are conversations being equitable?
      • Bringing culture proficiency facilitators to help flatten the power dynamic
      • Past problem that rich, white parents get what they want and black/brown parents just step back and disengage from the process
      • We have a healing process to do. We know we’ve injured people. Some of the students learned their school was closing on Back to School Night. 
      • AISD did not communicate well on the roll out of this proposal and is working to fix that
      • AISD didn’t come to the schools and ask first about this proposal
      • Why aren’t Barton Hills or Zilker being closed? – Hawley: I don’t know.
      • Gilbert Hicks: We do not want to refocus the discussion around enrollment. Stated again that the push was providing best learning spaces and access and referred to Matias Segura again. Guiding principles focused on access and opportunity.
      • Trustee Elenz: stated every school will have this lens. The focus has been investing in east Austin. It’s just when can it all happen. It’s a deficit mindset when we focus on East Austin last.
      • Dr. Hawley stated that building conditions of black/brown kids are deplorable, and we need to move 10,500 kids out of horrifying buildings and deplorable conditions. Some kids are in buildings that are bright and shiny. Others are not. I cannot believe this is happening in the Capital of Texas. Sometimes low income families are very dependent on the system to do the right thing for their kids. They are systems dependent. We have an opportunity to get these kids out of these dark spaces. The best teachers do not choose to go into those spaces. Teachers do not choose these building conditions. They do not choose black and brown kids. We cannot get our teachers to come. I’m not saying these modernized buildings are going to fix everything, but they will be a start. Nobody is getting closed until we get through this process of listening to you all.  
  3. 2017 Bond for Maplewood
    • Allocated $900,000 bond money
      • Need to know when the bond dollars will be spent
        1. Gilbert Hicks suggests talking to Operations Officer Matias Segura for specifics on this. They will be sure to have answers to these types of questions at the community meeting on September 27, 2019. 
      • Assured that the Trustees won’t let it fall to ruin
      • Will maintain building
        1. Hicks: The building will be maintained while there are students there. There will not be loss of funding over the next few years. 
      • Maplewood PTA stated that community has a problem that there were no citations in the proposal, so we are unable to follow the conclusions reached in the document
  4. Questions for AISD representatives
    • Did you know about the sale of school sites for planning of bond?
      • Property sales were included in bond plan ($40 million from sales) but didn’t know which ones until this past summer
      • Had 10 properties for sale at that time of the bond, which might have caused confusion
      • Elenz: Yes, the bond did include assumed revenue from the sale of properties, $40 million. Nothing was hidden. I think some people thought the sale of properties would cover that but it did not. But nobody assumes it’s going to be them. We had 10 properties for sale but that will not cover the deficit. I can confidently tell you we did not know which schools would close. 
      • Where do we need to invest, what do we need to do to make it happen
      • Need to invest in East Austin
      • Partnership with city, Mueller, concerned neighbors
      • Maplewood parent: Is selling this property an eventuality if the school were to close?
      • Elenz: Here’s a different mindset. I’m going to credit from former trustees Gordon, Bradley, and Saldana and say we can’t come at this from a deficit mindset of closing schools. We have to say where do we need to invest? How much is that going to cost? What do we need to do to make the investment happen? It’s a different mindset. It took a few years for the trustees to think about what a mindset of abundance looks like. I understand not everybody is going to be there. It took us a while to get there. We know we need to invest in East Austin. How are we going to get there, operate more efficiently and effectively to make the investment? If we need to preserve this, we need to preserve this for the community – Mueller, the City, and to help the community. That’s the next step. What does this community need to succeed?
      • AISD is restricted on the process of selling school properties, but not to who
      • Trustee Elenz: There is flexibility in what happens with the space. There are some restrictions in terms of process, but what it actually becomes is flexible. The thinking is not that we are just selling all of these properties. You get to co-create with us.
      • Current thinking is not to sell all the properties, but to engage community about some properties
      • Maplewood PTA asked where are the no points of return during the process
        • 2nd draft will be out soon, maybe Monday [new version is still not on AISD website as of 09/24/2019]
        • Pause after community engagement
        • Then next draft in November
        • Hicks: There will be two versions of the proposal before the board vote in November.
        • Elenz: We will review the revised version at the October board meeting. Community engagement happens and there will be another draft that incorporates that input. Then that comes to the board in November. The November version will be close to what Superintendent Cruz will recommend to the board. It will not include all the details you’re asking about but you are part of the solution.
        • Hicks: The board will not be voting on individual sections, but rather on an entire plan.
  5. Draft processes
    • Maplewood PTA asked the timeframe of this proposal process
    • Meet as a board in October with 2nd draft of the plan that comes out Monday
    • Community engagement in November with new draft
      • The November plan will be close to what Dr. Cruz will approve
      • Board votes on entire plan
      • Matias from Operations will get more info about bond issues
  6. Staffing Questions
    • What does this mean?
    • How is this being communicated?
    • How is the staff engaged?
    • Merger Pilot Programs at Norman-Sims and Sanchez
      • Kept separate in same building until decide to merge
      • Gilbert Hicks stated that he would pull retention data from pilot consolidation programs
      • Issue about losing staff
      • Hicks: We’ll learn a lot from those. Norman-Sims will be open in January. We know it’s tough to hear. But it’s true there’s no plan to get rid of jobs. My job will be to bring that temperature and make that clear. I will work with the principals to make the temperature come down on that issue.
      • Concerns that Maplewood is being pulled in different directions and would like input from AISD about specific issues, including funding and staff
      • Concerns raised that the newest children at Maplewood might be pulled due to this issue. What does AISD plan to do to reassure and retain those parents?
  7. Investing more in Campbell, not kicking us out
  8. Trying hard to look at what the district is doing as a whole, not individual
    •  Maplewood parent posed question to Trustee Elenz about what she is communicating to Pease since that school is in her district.
    • I’m trying very hard to look at the district as a whole. I would suggest looking at what is happening at Pease. They pulled a group of parents and are asking to go to the table with AISD. How can we preserve this? Maybe somewhere else. Dr. Cruz was asked not to come tonight, but is prepared to meet with Maplewood. Hopefully, you will get another opportunity to meet with him. A big group is great but a small group of leaders can help with the discussion. 
    • Maplewood Parent: what happens to the equity? 
    • Every parent wants something for their children. We can only move forward.
    • Trustee Elenz says will physically building new buildings on the east size as Govalle, Northeast Middle, Sanchez, jumped to the front to show equity importance
    • Losing 6000 more kids, so need to close schools
    • East Austin lost more children, but has the most schools
      • Unequal amounts of schools in locations around school
  9. Graphic brought from a parent that shows an elementary desert in densely populated area after the consolidations/closures occur with the question arising if AISD is ceding East Austin to charter schools. 
  10. Once these schools close, I assume there will be boundary changes. 
  11. Intention is that school stay together; 
  12. Maplewood parent: The reason we are not speaking with one voice is that we as a community are willilling to grapple with hard questions. Please don’t take this as a sign that we don’t care or don’t want our school to stay open. We realize that if we say don’t close our school, another school may be asked to close. 
  13. Elenz: I was asked what am I doing at Pease, this is what is happening at Pease. 
  14. HB 3: infusion of cash for teachers and staff
    • 60 million budget deficit, now 3 million deficit budget, back at 60 million  2 years from now
    • Recapture went from 800 million to 620 million with new law
    • Maplewood parent: 12000 kids in charter schools in Austin, get $9000 for every child back. Why are we not going after those kids? 
    • Elenz: We are competing with charters through 6am-6pm to get charter kids back into AISD
    • Elenz: We heard the community wanted to invest in Core academics in new focused way with Thrive Read Excel plan with intentional cash infusions. This was trustee directed
      • Staffing reading very differently pk3-3rd
      • Maplewood parent: “Intentions do not build good schools” 
      • Hicks: There is a huge investment, I’ll use literacy as an example. This particular approach towards literacy plan is intentional and districtwide. What would happen when schools not there, it’s about reinvesting.
      • Maplewood parent: Mr. Hicks you mention literacy as a districtwide effort. Charters aren’t a problem districtwide. They’re a problem in the eastern crescent. When we talk about the map where there’s a giant void where 4 elementary schools in a very dense will be closing you don’t think charters will fill that void. Trustee Elenz you said if a school is going to go through changes then it will impact their boundaries, then doesn’t that mean the districtwide equity issue will not be districtwide felt. It will only be felt where there will be consolidations. 
      • Hicks stated they could publish retention rates at schools slated for consolidation. Losses of students, teachers, staff
      • Maplewood teacher: Why at a time of school changes where we are seeking school closures and consolidations is the district looking at partnerships with charter schools on AISD’s front web page? 1882
      • Trustee Elenz: I’ve been vocal on this issue. Board hasn’t had this conversation about that and so she couldn’t answer. That’s the legislature.
      • Maplewood parent: this adds distrust in the plan and of AISD.
      • Maplewood parent: The plan says it’s about equity, but the plan seems to be about Financial reconciliation plan: Why isn’t there new programming on the East side? E.G. IB and outdoor learning and fine arts in the west side. You’re asking the very children you speak about being underserved to bear the process of consolidation. But there is no educational benefit to them beyond a new building.
      • Question/Demand: Please articulate rationale and data used for the plan
      • Maplewood parent: There’s a divestment happening in east Austin; it hurts. Based on the shifting of funds feels like abandonment. It’s not just about Maplewood, I’m thinking about all of the East Austin schools. Is it time for charters? Is that the subtext? Dr. Hawley says that is not it. I can see how you got there, but that is not what we’re trying to do. 
      • Elenz: I would love to see the data about the divestment. Because that is opposite of the intention. If there is something we glaringly missed or misread, or something we could correct, we’d like to see it.
      • Elenz: I have to say when we talk about IB it’s really not that much of an investment as it might sound like. It’s more of a mindset. 
      • Maplewood PTA. : We need matrix of all programs, schools, costs. Right now it is not clear. 
      • Hicks: We will commit to answering these questions in writing. On September 27th, we’ll be here with answers. 
      • Are these scenarios changeable? Is this just more lip service?  
      • Dr. Hawley: We have heard your lack of trust in the district. We are trying desperately to co-create with you. We need to try to mine collective wisdom.
      • Who do I send questions to: Celso with Community Engagement Team
        • Two platforms to communicate with AISD
          • Shared thoughts on each scenario: crowd sourcing
          • Let’s talk categorized around issues
          • Folks will answer them
          • Built in accountability

Following the meeting Trustee Elenz sent her summary of notes.

Recording of meeting.

 

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