New Years Means New Policies

graphic by Kayla Le

graphic by Kayla Le

Malvika Pradhan and Ava Spurgeon

With the resignation of Dr. Stephanie Elizalde, the previous superintendent of the Austin Independent School District (AISD), and a new budget for the 2022-23 school year, LASA students and teachers could expect to see a lot of changes moving forward.  Some of these changes will include an increase in staff pay and improvements to LASA’s campus.


First off, AISD received a new budget of $1.6 billion, according to KVUE. The new budget includes approximately $20 million for staff pay raises and an increase in the district-wide minimum wage. About half of the $1.6 billion will be recaptured to other districts in the state.


AISD District 1 trustee LaTisha Anderson said she wished teachers could have gotten a greater salary increase with the new budget. However, Anderson said that it’s hard to find a balance between giving teachers higher salaries and cutting positions from AISD headquarters [HQ] that might hurt students’ education.


“I don’t know how to balance that, but I really wish we could have given more, for example, a five or ten percent pay increase,” Anderson said. “Right now, we’re sending a boatload back to the state for recapture so that five or ten percent pay raise, where’s the money going to come from? Say we start at HQ, even if it’s not a classroom cut, it could still be a position that supports the classroom. That’s what I mean when I say it’s going to impact students.” 


Along with changes to the budget, Anderson is also adjusting to the interim superintendent, Anthony Mays. Anderson said she hopes that while Mays is in office, he will involve staff in his policy decisions. 


“I’m looking for whatever he’s planning to do in his time as interim that he’s making sure to bring staff along on the journey and making sure that whatever decision he is making that he’s had time enough to talk to staff and say ‘Hey, this is what I’m considering, how can your feedback make this better, or what area have you identified that maybe I’ve missed,’” Anderson said.


School Board Trustee Noelita Lugo said that the district would like to start the process of finding a new superintendent in November, after trustee elections. Lugo said she wants this process to heavily involve the community as well. 


“Probably in January 2023 we would then begin formal community engagement and see what it is the community would like to see in their next superintendent, like their leadership qualities and other things that are most important from their perspective,” Lugo said. “Then probably in May we would be close to having what’s called a lone candidate. My hope would be that then that would lead to additional community engagement with that particular finalist.”


Along with these changes, a new bond package is being created that will be voted on in the Nov. 8, 2022 elections. Nevin Hall, a member of the Bond Steering Committee, said LASA students could see many changes and facilities improvements if the bond package passes.


“A lot depends on whether this bond passes or not, if it does, students will see a pretty hefty difference in quality of life,” Hall said. “You’ll fix the really important stuff that is currently broken.”


Hall said that if this bond passes, LASA will receive about 30.9 million dollars. Along with fixing problems around the school, such as heating, cooling and security issues, the money will also go to new facilities, like turfed performance fields and a mental health center. Hall said that although the end goal is to be a schoolwide improvement, it might be a while before LASA students see these advancements.


“Of course, this certainly won’t happen soon after the bond passage, but within a couple years, you’ll see some definite improvement on that,” Hall said. “Most of the changes you’ll see — if LASA ends up getting fast tracked, which is not impossible— you may see by spring semester some improvement. That’ll be if LASA got incredibly lucky. More likely than not, students are only going to start seeing a serious change in LASA in the 2023-24 school year, if not even later than that, somewhere closer to 2030.”


According to Lugo, day-to-day changes will vary for grade levels. In elementary schools, students will now start attending physical education class everyday, instead of rotating between physical education, art and music. As a result, elementary students will have less class time in art and music. As for middle and high school students, teacher vacancies will most likely be the largest change they will see. 


“There are at least 500 vacancies, and we are a month out from school starting,” Lugo said. “If I were a student, I would be concerned. Definitely one of the pieces of the budget I was relieved to see was that they worked very hard to scrape together to increase salaries, and not just for incoming staff but also staff who have been with the district.” 


With all of these changes occuring in the district, there are plenty of ways for students to get involved and get their voices heard. According to Lugo, it’s extremely important for those impacted by these changes to voice their concerns. 


“I think the youngest board member is 40,” Lugo said. “That’s a completely different generation. We need to hear what y’all are going through as students and young people, what we should invest in, what you wish we could change. Going to the AISD website and looking for the board member webpage would be the first thing to do, each of us have our phone number, our email, and if we have social media, our handle. The other thing would be twice a month, the board holds meetings and at those meetings, anyone from the public, including students, can come and voice their opinions.”