in Houston, Texas
Austin ISD bows to pressure, releases survey results to public
Monday, Aug 16, 2010, 04:14PM CST
By Mark Lisheron

Thanks to the Austin American-Statesman, I now know why Meria Carstarphen was bothering my family this past June.

Don't get me wrong. It seems to me that in her first year, Carstarphen has done a good job as superintendent of the Austin Independent School District. I like the way she carries herself, the energy and optimism she projects. She delivered a thoroughly winning commencement speech for my son's Bowie High School graduation in the late afternoon earlier this summer at the Frank Erwin Center, although it was clear that she had been delivering variations on the same speech the entire day.

pie chart

However charming, Carstarphen's recorded voice could not persuade me to pick up the phone in June and take a survey to tell her employers how Carstarphen performed in her first year. I'm just not a survey guy. And after at least half a dozen messages, Carstarphen had, frankly, worn out her welcome here at Casa Lisheron.

Given that Carstarphen chose to invade the homes of 59,744 other families in the school district during that time and that 10,316 people succumbed willingly to her charms, imagine the surprise when Carstarphen and the district decided they didn't want to tell all those people how the survey came out. They asked Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to allow them to keep the survey secret.

The Austin American-Statesman made a request for the results under the Texas Public Information Act. Late Friday, Carstarphen relented. The newspaper followed with an editorial today questioning the sanity of conducting a very public survey and hiding the results from the participants and everyone else in the district with a stake in Carstarphen's performance.

What makes it especially silly is Carstaphen got pretty darned good grades for her impact on academics and her strategic planning and budgeting. No doubt due to her carpet bombing survey, Carstaphen scored highest in her engagement with the community.

One thing Carstarphen kept secret was what prompted her, finally, to release the survey. However belated, Carstarphen told the newspaper, "I value transparency."


Contact Mark Lisheron at 512-299-2318 or


Photo of a pie chart by flickr user jukebox909, used via a Creative Commons license.

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