Austin Academy located on 621 West Euclid Avenue. Photo by Scott Ball.
Austin Academy located on 621 West Euclid Avenue. Photo by Scott Ball.

After much anticipation San Antonio Independent School District has chosen Emily “Kathy” Bieser to lead its new advanced and creative learning academy.

Bieser currently is director of the International School of the Americas (ISA), a magnet school in the North East Independent School District.

“We are very pleased to bring in this innovative leader to lead a new school for San Antonio, dedicated to providing creative and academic challenges for students,” SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez said. “Kathy Bieser has a track record of successfully creating a culture of enriched learning for both students and staff, and we are excited to welcome her to the SAISD family.”

The academy is set to open for the 2016-17 school year on the Fox Tech and and Austin Academy campuses. Enrollment applications are open now through May 31. Parents may also pick up an application at the SAISD Office of Academics, located at 406 Barrera St., Suite #5, and should call 210-554-2524 in advance.

Bieser has spent 18 years in education and is recognized for utilizing a globalized “gifted curriculum for all” model to serve a diverse student body, achieving exemplary results. This is the ideal fit for the advanced and creative learning academy, which deliberately chose to eschew the term “gifted academy” to make it clear that the school would serve any student interested in advancing, not only those with high IQs, test scores, or prodigious talents.

To do this, Bieser, along with Lisa Riggs, SAISD senior director of curriculum and instruction, will pull from practices they have observed around the country, and create a completely new environment tailored to San Antonio’s children, and what they need to excel.

“What excited me the most is being able to take some of the best practices in teaching and learning and being able to build a school from the ground up using those,” said Bieser, “We get to rethink what K-12 education looks like.” 

The new PreK-12 academy’s function as a laboratory school for Trinity University, also makes Bieser a natural fit. Bieser has a bachelor of arts in sociology, master of arts in teaching and a master of education in school administration, all from Trinity. She also serves as an adjunct faculty member for the university.

ISA also has a close relationships with Trinity. Many of Trinity’s Master of Arts in Teaching (MAT) students fulfill their student teaching requirements at the high-performing magnet. Bieser has spent her entire career at ISA, including nine years as the director.

As a laboratory school, the new academy will train Trinity graduate students in gifted and talented (G/T) education, creating a pipeline to extend these programs into the district. These resident teachers will receive scholarships through grants from City Education Partners, a local group of nonprofits, in exchange for a commitment to teach in SAISD for three years after graduation.

(Read more: Advanced and Creative Learning Schools to Serve 1,600 Students in SAISD)

Applications for permanent faculty and staff positions at the new academy open at the end of the day today. More information will be available on the SAISD website.

Bieser’s move from NEISD, one of the city’s preferred school districts, to SAISD is of symbolic significance as well. It can be seen as a vote of confidence not only in the partnership with Trinity, but in the leadership of Martinez.

Talent management is one pillar of the “blueprint for success” Martinez has been rolling out across the district in 2016. The ability to recruit and develop top teachers and leaders will enhance the opportunities for students in the district.

In its first year, the advanced and creative learning academy will serve grades K-10, scaling to PreK-12 over the following years. Fox Tech will retain its current student population. District officials have determined that the school has sufficient space to house both schools in separate wings.

The district offices will also move to the Fox Tech campus in a new facility designed to bring the entire administration under one roof. Currently central offices are spread between several buildings across the district. The centralized offices will give parents a one-stop-shop to engage various departments and leadership.

Austin Academy has been scheduled to close at the end of this school year. Students will have the option to attend the advanced and creative learning academy, or to transfer to Hawthorne Academy, one of the district’s top-performing schools.

This story was originally published on Thursday, March 14. 

Top image: Austin Academy located on 621 West Euclid Avenue.  Photo by Scott Ball. 

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Bekah McNeel

Bekah McNeel is a native San Antonian. You can also find her at her blog,, on Twitter @BekahMcneel, and on Instagram @wanderbekah.