Welcome to a new school year at Austin Public Schools

Published 6:30 am Saturday, September 18, 2021

By Dr. Joey Page

Austin Public Schools Superintendent

Hello to all who make the Austin Public Schools a wonderful place to be. Welcome to the 2021-2022 school year!

I feel honored to be back, and the sense of duty I have to do my best every day is undeniable.  So what should you know about me? Well, three things.  First, I’m approachable.  Second, I like to have fun, and third, I am deeply committed to the success of our schools.

I am someone who is biased toward action. But as I have started to do the work that needs doing as superintendent, I know it’s just as important to be a good listener. I want to have conversations with you because you know what’s going on. So let’s grab a cup of coffee, tell me what you’ve been thinking. I hope we can talk about what you see happening and what you think could change for the better.

No doubt about it, we’re all looking at some real challenges this year, and that can absolutely impact feelings. On the other hand, some of those challenges are maybe starting to feel like old hat, and that can lead to boredom. I believe that maintaining the balance between abilities and challenge is one key to having fun. If it’s not fun, change it. If it’s still not fun, I challenge you to change yourself.

Everyone should know I have a deep commitment to the success of our schools. Is it because this is my hometown? Yes. Is it because I have children who are students here? Yes. Is it because building a best-in-class education is incredibly rewarding? Yes.

I know creating an incredible school system doesn’t happen in a day.  But every day, I’ll be coming here to be a positive leader for you. To make sure that all stakeholder voices are heard. To partner with staff and community members to make sure our students are engaged, empowered, and inspired to build their future.

So what will this year look like? A loaded question, especially as the pandemic continues to affect all our lives. But I can tell you that as far as leadership changes go, it’s going well so far. As I’ve met and talked with people all throughout the district and the community, I’m looking at this as a teacher-student.

I think everyone can relate to the challenges over the past couple of years. We’ve all been required to do things that we couldn’t imagine doing. In alignment with the Department of Education, our goals are to prioritize the health and safety of students, school personnel, and families;​ build school communities; and support students’ social, emotional, and mental health.​ But at the end of the day, we have only one NUMBER ONE goal — accelerate academic achievement. That’s it. Yes, it’s a difficult time, but our students are still here and need to learn. I believe that we have two choices here–survive or thrive. I believe that we can and must thrive in this environment.

For example, our first graders only get to do first grade once. And no matter what else is going on, our responsibility is to make sure that they have an amazing first grade year. And that goes not just for the first graders but every learner that walks through the door. That’s our job. And it’s easy to lose focus on that, with everything else that is expected of us. But we can do difficult things in difficult times, and we can do it successfully. We CAN and MUST keep accelerating academic achievement as our number one priority.

Finally, we are preparing to review the District’s Strategic Roadmap.  Austin Public Schools will be reaching out to all district residents (including parents and staff) to gather input in a few weeks. We want to know where you believe our strengths lie and where additional resources are needed. We want to better understand what you believe students need to be successful after high school. Finally, we want to gather data on educational priorities. This will be important information as we start a review of our Strategic Roadmap.

As outlined in my Entry Plan, we are determined to collaborate and communicate with you, our community. Keep an eye on your mailboxes in October!