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AISD board gets overhaul

Wednesday, November 7, 2012 by Kimberly Reeves

Last night’s election results guaranteed almost half the Austin Independent School District’s board of trustees turned over.


Gina Hinojosa, Jayme Mathias, Ann Teich and Amber Elenz will join the board, replacing four outgoing trustees. Only incumbent Sam Guzman chose to run for another term, and Mathias beat him by a 54 to 46 percent margin. Even a last-minute infusion of money could not save the candidacy of Chamber of Commerce -backed Mary Ellen Pietruszynksi, who went down to Hinojosa by a margin of 69-31.


Board watchers have described this trustee race as being about those who support current Superintendent Meria Carstarphen versus those who oppose her. Mathias and Hinojosa will join Carstarphen opponents Robert Schneider and Tamala Barksdale, with Teich being a possible ally in their fight.


The next telling decision will be whom the new board picks as its leader. Outgoing president Mark Williams was well known for his support of superintendents Pat Forgione and Carstarphen. Whoever is elected next will likely set the tone going forward, including decisions about Carstarphen’s tenure with AISD.


Many observers considered the race to be a referendum on the tenure of Carstarphen, who has had a rocky relationship with the Austin community after pushing to close central city elementary schools and replace district leadership and teachers with a Rio Grande Valley charter school in the failing Eastside Memorial High School feeder pattern.


Trustees have been battled and bruised in a number of fights during Carstarphen’s tenure. While Guzman fought a losing battle to stay on the board, Williams, Annette LaVoi and Christine Brister all bowed out of the race, although Brister’s name remained on the ballot.


Guzman, who is semi-retired, faced off with Mathias, the one-time principal of San Juan Diego High School. Mathias broke with the Roman Catholic Church recently and is now active in the American Catholic Church, which allows clergy to run for office. Guzman, who was seeking a second term, was recently elected the president of the Mexican American School Board Association.


Incumbent Brister announced she would not actively campaign for another term on the board in District 3. She faced Teich, a retired teacher and long-time Austinite who has served as vice president of the North Austin Civic Association. Both of Teich’s children graduated from McCallum High School.


Elenz and Charlie Jackson faced off in District 5, with Elenz claiming the bulk of the fundraising in the race. Elenz, a long-time district volunteer, recently completed a term as president of Austin Council of PTAs. Jackson, who serves as CEO of a small technology company, served on the district’s educational advisory committee and has focused his volunteer efforts on instructional technology.


Hinojosa and Pietruszynski sparred in the one at-large position on the ballot, District 8. Hinojosa, a civil rights attorney, was active in the Save Our schools movement. She is married to local land-use attorney John Philip Donisi. Pietruszynski, a local foundation executive, was a former teacher and attorney who served on the district’s budget and finance committee.

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