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Meria Carstarphen

Last week, the Chron had a profile of HISD Superintendent Terry Grier that looked at what he had accomplished and what people thought of him after 10 months on the job. This week, the Statesman has a profile of Austin’s Superintendent Meria Carstarphen, who is finishing up her first year on the job there, and I thought it would be interesting to compare.

In what could be considered one of the most dramatic years in recent district history, Carstarphen has made tough, and at times controversial, decisions. After the state announced it would close a second Austin school, Pearce Middle School, Carstarphen successfully presented a plan to reorganize and reopen the campus. She closed a $15 million 2009-10 budget shortfall. But a year after arriving to hear that the district had fallen short of federal standards for the first time, early results this year indicate Austin likely could fall short again.

Critics say that in dealing with emergencies, Carstarphen is too sensitive to questions, has occasionally moved too fast for the board and has yet to focus on areas of the district that are working well but deserve attention. Her supporters say she has been brave in her leadership and sensitive to the needs of district workers and students.

“She was dealt a pretty tough opening hand,” said Louis Malfaro, president of Education Austin, which represents about 4,000 of the district’s teachers and other employees. “She handled it pretty well, walking into the blast furnace. There was no lying by the pool. There was heat from the beginning.”

The main highlights are that Carstarphen appears to have better people skills than Grier – at the very least, there were no local politicians swearing opposition to her quoted in the story – and appears to have a better relationship with the local teachers union. I don’t know enough about Austin’s situation to know if either of these things are unusual for them, or if there’s some aspect to Carstarphen’s story that this article did not explore. I’m just presenting this here so you can see for yourself.

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One Comment

  1. Angelica Noyola says:

    Perhaps you should revisit Austin’s position on Dr. Castarphen today. She is still making quick decisions. As one board member put it ” she is running”. She is still too sensative for questions. Many times not answering them at all. View her last board meeting, you will easily see that it is true. Thank you.