School Boards Need Flexibility to Hire the Right Superintendent

The Chamber Board of Directors’ policy is to support local control of school operational decision making. The action today by the State Board of Education doesn’t improve that principle, instead continuing the onerous administrative burden for those School Boards that choose a superintendent who lacks classroom experience.  We applaud SBOE member Ken Mercer for voting correctly on this policy.

Clearly, the SBOE action is not the end of the world.  School boards can still hire excellent superintendents like Fort Bend (and former Pflugerville) superintendent Charles Dupre and San Antonio’s Pedro Martinez, who didn’t teach in the classroom but bring a wealth of other experienceThe good news is that we expect an amended version of this policy to come back before the SBOE school board which eliminates the teaching requirement for superintendent certification.  We are much more hopeful of its success.

Earlier this year, representatives from the Austin Chamber’s Education Council met with the Texas Education Agency to discuss these views.


Comments on Behalf of Drew Scheberle, SVP of Education at Austin Chamber of Commerce

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Annual State of Education Highlights Plans to Prep Workforce



State of Education

On Tuesday, November 17, 2015, the Greater Austin Chamber of Commerce hosted over 450 business and education leaders from throughout Central Texas for the 10th Annual State of Education. The focus of the luncheon was to discuss the education and workforce pipeline and honor the schools and administrators who proved exemplary performance over the past year.

Paul D’Arcy, Senior Vice President at Indeed, dissected the Metro Austin labor market. Austin remains a key city for the nation’s top talent. D’Arcy explained that over half of Austin’s job seekers are from out of state and mostly apply for highly skilled jobs. With so many out-of-towners competing for jobs in Austin, where does that leave local talent? And, how are we preparing local students for the highly skilled and highly paid jobs in Austin?

Texas Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes explained Texas’ 60x30TX plan to prepare students for the labor market. The goal the plan is to ensure that 60 percent of Texans age 25-34 will have some post secondary credential (bachelor’s degree, associate’s degree or vocational certificate) by 2030.

He stressed that the key is to focus on value-added degrees and directly addressed critics of higher education.

“We don’t need to push kids away from going to college or pursuing a liberal arts degree,” said Paredes. “What we need to do is ensure that higher education provides young people will the marketable skills to enable them to succeed in the workplace.”

Austin education advocates are working on a regional plan to prepare students for the highly skilled and highly paid jobs in Austin. This plan, called DTC70, works in concert with Texas’ higher education plan.  The goal is to get students to directly enroll in college or university so that they can be equipped for the best jobs in Austin.

Shaun Cranston, 2015 Chamber Education Chair and SVP of Brookfield Residential Texas, gave a presentation on the overall state of education in Central Texas.

See the event page here for more information and links to the speaker’s presentations.

Education Awards

In addition to the presentations on education and the workforce, the Chamber also presented awards to following schools and administrators:

ApplyTexas Submission Rate

  • 95%, Cedar Ridge High School, RRISD (475-700) (Superintendent Dr. Steve Flores, Principal, Lynette Thomas, Lead Counselor Larrie Colton
  • 100%, Manor High School, (250-474) (Superintendent Kevin Brackmeyer, Principal Jennifer Mann, Roslyn Caldwell)
  • 100%, Ann Richards, AISD Ann Richards High School, AISD (50-249) (Dr. Paul Cruz, Principal Jeanne Goka, Project ADVANCE Advisor Eric Heineman)

Highest Overall FAFSA Submission Rate by enrollment category:

  • 66%, Akins High School, Austin ISD (475-700) (Dr. Paul Cruz, Principal Brandi Hosack, Project ADVANCE Advisor Sarah Simmons)
  • 70%, Hutto High School, Hutto ISD (250-474) (Dr. Doug Killian, Principal Roy Christian, Shirley Reich, Erica Blando)
  • 88%, Ann Richards High School, Austin ISD (50-249) (Dr. Paul Cruz, Principal Jeanne Goka, Project ADVANCE Advisor Eric Heineman)


Highest Financial Aid Saturdays Attendance:

  • Hutto High School w/ 338 (Dr. Doug Killian, Principal Roy Christian, Shirley Reich, Erica Blando)

Highest Student Futures Project Participation Rate:

  • 100%, LASA (Austin ISD) – (Dr. Paul Cruz, Principal Stacia Crescenzi, Project ADVANCE Advisor Jamie Kocian and Lead Counselor Shannon Bergeron)
  • 100%, Ann Richards, AISD Ann Richards High School, AISD (50-249) (Dr. Paul Cruz, Principal Jeanne Goka, Project ADVANCE Advisor Eric Heineman)

Greatest Improvement in Direct to College Enrollment Rate-School:

  • 49% to 58% Travis High School (Dr. Paul Cruz, Principal Ty Davidson, Project ADVANCE Counselor Alex Juarez)

Greatest Improvement in Direct to College Enrollment Rate-School:

  • 46% to 51%, Manor ISD (250-474) (Superintendent Kevin Brackmeyer, Principal Jennifer Mann, Steve Zipkes, Roslyn Caldwell)

Highest Overall Direct College Enrollment Rate:

  • 91%, LASA (Austin ISD) – (Dr. Paul Cruz, Principal Stacia Crescenzi, Project ADVANCE Advisor Jamie Kocian and Lead Counselor Shannon Bergeron)

Austin Partners in Education College Readiness Award:  Yesenia Yanez

Business Volunteer of the Year:  Julian Rivera

Superintendent of the Year: Kevin Brackmeyer (Manor ISD)


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Do High School Certifications Align with Labor Market Demand in Austin?

manor career center

The Manor ISD Career Certification Center, the first of its kind in Central Texas, formally celebrated its grand opening November 10.  Hector Aguilar with Austin Community College (ACC) said over 260 Manor juniors and seniors will have the opportunity to earn industry certifications in the following areas:

  • Certified Nursing Assistant (currently 228 job openings requiring certification in Metro Austin*)
  • Medical Assistant (currently 172 job openings)
  • PC Technician (currently 7 job openings)
  • Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (currently 63 job openings)
  •  Electrical Pre-Apprenticeship (currently 53 job openings)
  • Mechatronics (job opening search results not available)

*Source: Wanted Technologies

Texas Workforce Commission presented a check for $224,178 to build out the project.

“We need to help students understand the opportunities ahead,” said Andres Alcantar, Chairman and Commissioner of TWC. “The Career Certification Center will provide them with the pathway and tools for them to succeed.”

“Six months ago, this building [career center] was in ruin, said Dr. Richard Rhodes, President and CEO of ACC. “Today the end product boggles my mind. The work demonstrates the impact of partnership.  ACC, Manor ISD and the Texas Workforce Solution came together to make something unique happen.”

The DTC70 Partnership has been exploring ways to track certification completion in area high schools. Once certifications are tracked, partners can determine if there is an alignment between certification offerings and labor market demand in Austin. The Chamber hopes that the Manor ISD Career Certification Center, as well as future ISD-ACC certification centers, will provide students with certifications that have real value in Austin’s job market.

manor career center 2

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How to reach 70 Percent Direct to College Enrollment? Focus on College Money

“To help more students enroll in college, focus on FAFSA submission rates and student understanding of how they will pay for college,” said Greg Cumpton, lead researcher on the Central Texas Student Futures Project at a major regional college counselor training. “Eighty percent of seniors who submit their FAFSA will directly enroll in some form of post-secondary education.”

On November 10, 2015, Dr. Cumpton discussed FAFSA completion, among other significant drivers of college enrollment, at the College Advising 201 session. The event was cosponsored by the Austin Chamber of Commerce and Texas Association of College Advising Counselors.

The Student Futures Project identified 6 major drivers/activities that impact college enrollment.

Click to enlarge. Source: UT-Austin Central Texas Student Futures Project. ( 

Using a statistical method – the adjusted marginal predicted effect – Cumpton reviewed college enrollment records of over 8,500 high school graduates.  His research showed that school counselors should significantly boost direct college enrollment rates if they drive these activities for each of their Class of 2016 seniors.  For example, based upon Cumpton’s research, first generation students should directly enroll in postsecondary education at 18% higher rates if they submit the FAFSA and consider the process easy.

“Individually, each of these interventions might have small effects on college enrollment,” said Cumpton.  “Collectively, these ways to help students will have a big impact.”

“Every student is completely different,” said Lara Gueguen, college and career coordinator at Austin ISD. “Some students make the connection that they want to attend college after they visit a campus.  Others have a discussion with someone that has the same career interests, or they do an internship that helps them make a career choice.  College advisors and high schools are doing best practices when they are able to implement ALL kinds of activities to promote access and opportunity for students.”

The Austin Chamber is working with OneLogos, a data management company, to launch a regional dashboard this December, which will track district progress on drivers of college enrollment. The dashboard will provide college counselors with actionable and timely student-level data to make informed advising decisions. This effort is in support of the DTC70 initiative to increase Central Texas’ direct college enrollment rate to 70% for the Class of 2016.

Texas Higher Education Commissioner Raymund Paredes led off the training by reflecting on his upbringing in El Paso.  He said his best advice on getting college/career ready was from his 8th grade teacher, Ms. Armes.

“You get ready for the SAT by taking the hardest courses in the school with the hardest teachers and read a lot,” said Paredes about Armes’ advice.

He commended the Chamber and high school counselors for setting the DTC70 goal, which he called in line with the state’s effort to achieve 60% credentials by 2030.

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County Judge: Congestion Won’t Get Better, Your Experience With it Might

Amid torrential rains October 30, the Greater Austin-San Antonio Corridor Council gathered a dedicated group of business and transportation leaders to discuss approaches to managing the region’s explosive employment and population growth. In her keynote, Travis County Judge and Chief Emergency Officer Sarah Eckhardt reframed the conversation on traffic.

“We are growing so fast in this corridor, it is not a realistic goal to reduce congestion,” said Eckhardt. “But your experience with congestion may improve if we are visionary.”

The visionary idea to which Judge Eckhardt was alluding is the Lone Star Rail District.  It’s an intergovernmental agency whose main focus is bringing high-speed passenger rail service (dubbed the LSTAR) to the Austin-San Antonio corridor – providing a safe, convenient, cost-effective alternative to gridlocked IH-35. Eckhardt acknowledged the challenge of drawing people out of their cars, but affirmed that “giving over the steering wheel” with autonomous vehicles or transit, is the surest way to improve the commute experience.

She briefly discussed the opportunities to leverage revenue from toll roads before the weather and her role as the county’s chief emergency officer cut her comments short. Policymakers have been quietly discussing how to reinvest potential future surplus toll revenue from the proposed MoPac South express lanes. Over 25 years, the fund could potentially channel $230 million to region-wide transit improvements.

The Austin Chamber supports the effort to make LSTAR a reality and looks forward to working with Judge Eckhardt, Travis County and other local stakeholders in exploring innovative ways to expand mobility options across Central Texas.

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