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School board identifies advantages, challenges

The Austin Public Schools Board outlined transparency with the board, special education collaboration and generationally diverse teachers as advantages for the Austin Public School district has during its almost four-hour strategic planning session Monday afternoon in the District Office Conference Room.

Board members also identified challenges, such as poverty, testing and achievement gaps.

The discussions came as the board reviewed the school district’s road map, which is seen by many people and is a guide through which Austin schools improves education and makes decisions.

The board developed the district road map in 2010 and made changes in 2015, approving it for the next three years.

“I think more so than anything the board feels like there’s a great degree of community support and recognize that both in terms of our parents but in terms of financial support, and recognize that we have that level of support here in Austin,” Educational Services Director John Alberts said.

On the other hand, Alberts explained the challenges the board noted are many times out of the district’s control, and they have to simply figure out ways of dealing with them.

“Because at the board level now they’re looking at things like federal policy, state policy, there are a lot of things that are challenges that are not just for Austin but for school districts in general these days when it comes to state mandates, federal mandates, lack of state funding, lack of federal funding,” Alberts said. “So we’re not necessarily unique in that regard but I really do think about how we can still in the face of these things provide good education in the face of these challenges.”

The road map, which goes through a formal change every three years, is looked at annually to ensure changes don’t catch the district off guard, according to Alberts. He said there could be changes to the document’s wording that would be brought to the board at a later date.

“This is just to make sure that there isn’t anything we’re missing in terms of strategy or in terms of what we would consider to be blind spots, and I guess the takeaway was that the road map that we put into place last year still is on point in terms of strategy,” Alberts said. “So now it’s up to us as central office staff, building principals, teachers, to think about how to advance the roadmap.”