ECISD board approves agreement with nonprofit to operate Ector Middle School

first_img Facebook By admin – April 30, 2018 Facebook Pinterest Twitter After a rollercoaster day, the Ector County Independent School District Board of Trustees unanimously approved an agreement between the district and Ector Success Academy Network, a nonprofit entity, to operate Ector Middle School starting in time for school next fall.ECISD has eight campuses on improvement required status under state accountability regulations. Ector Middle School, Noel and Zavala elementary are in their fifth year. If the campuses don’t come off the list, they will face closure or the Texas Education Commissioner will appoint a board of managers over the whole district.At 4:45 p.m. April 27, the district was notified that its memorandum of understanding with Texas Tech University College of Education would not be sufficient to meet statutory requirements under Senate Bill 1882, which allows these types of partnerships.Board President Carol Gregg opened Monday’s special meeting with an explanation of how things got to this point. She said this is the first time this legislation has been implemented and all parties involved, including TEA, had to work through the obstacles.The board spent about 40 minutes in closed session before coming out and approving the agreement unanimously. The Texas Education Agency still has to approve it.Late Monday, Texas Tech issued a statement regarding last week’s events.“Texas Tech University is unable to move forward with the proposed plans for a partnership with Ector County ISD. We appreciate the work of both sides, but the university is not able to adequately address the detailed requirements of a performance contract at this time,” the statement said.Superintendent Tom Crowe said earlier Monday that the district talked to Robert Bleisch, a lecturer and doctoral candidate at Texas Tech College of Education, about the possibility of forming a nonprofit, which has filed paperwork for. Bleisch presented the concept of Ector College Prep Success Academy in April to a packed house in the Ector Middle School auditorium.Bleisch, who also is director of Safety Net Domain for the East Lubbock Promise Neighborhood Grant, said the Texas Tech Turnaround model will be implemented. It is designed to provide academic and behavior support to struggling students. This includes at-risk students, English language learners, special education and intentional non-learners who show excessive misbehavior, office discipline referrals, in school and out of school suspensions, an executive summary provided by Bleisch said.He said the discipline will be similar to ECISD policy.“We’re coming in with a really strong student piece where discipline is going to be taken care of. It’s going to be a mandatory type thing where kids are going to have to come to school. They’re going to have to behave. They’re going to have to do their homework,” Bleisch said.“That’s something that it should not be negotiable. Kids that are two or three years behind should not have the option of not coming to school, so we have some strong systems that we believe will take care of most of it right away. It’s going to be a work in progress. There’s no perfect system out there, so there are a lot of similarities between our system and the one the district uses,” he added.On the curriculum front, Bleisch said he will first listen to people and talk to them about what’s already been done.“We want to come in meet with the principal, meet with the staff, watch, listen, learn and then kind of tailor our approach based on the needs of that specific campus,” Bleisch said.He has said he hopes to keep the current administration and teachers at Ector.He added that it will be a few months before the nonprofit becomes official, but it’s his understanding that the process can move forward while that’s happening. He said his role with Texas Tech is still under discussion.Bleisch said things like transportation, food service and special education, for example, will flow through ECISD. The district will bill the nonprofit for the services and get reimbursed, he said.Bleisch said the plan is to keep as many of the teachers and administrators as possible at Ector.He said he has had experience with school turnarounds, but not necessarily using this avenue.Expertise from Texas Tech will still be used and the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness, or STAAR test, will still be the measuring stick, he said.The school will have its own board that will meet monthly or quarterly. Currently they include Superintendent of Cloudcroft Municipal Schools Porter Curtell, Ravi Shakamuri, Ron Leach, Sondra Eoff, all Ector County community members, and Zinab Munoz, adjunct faculty at TechTeach at Texas Tech University.Bleisch said he has worked closely with Curtell in the past and he has worked at alternative and early college high school campuses.Board member Delma Abalos said she would recommend that another Hispanic and an African American be added to the board.Bleisch said he plans to be in Odessa the majority of the time, but he’ll probably commute. He said that hasn’t been figured out yet, but he plans to work hand-in-hand with Principal Charles Quintela.He said the agreement, which takes effect in July, could potentially be for 10 years, but if quick success is not achieved they could be out in two years. TEA’s sanctions would be stayed for those two years. “We have a two-year grace period to be able to do this work,” Bleisch said. Crowe said he was pleased that the agreement with the nonprofit being approved, but it’s not a done deal until TEA approves it. “It’s really the same deal as before, it’s just that Tech is not legally responsible or officially involved. But it was his (Bleisch’s) program all along. He’s the one who put it together. He’s the one (who has) done it before, so I’m excited about it. I think it’s going to be great for our community,” Crowe said.Mike Atkins, the attorney for the district, said TEA has 15 days to approve it.Quintela said there’s a lot of hard work to come, but there are no options except to move forward with a student-centered, student-driven program. “… We’re going to have barriers we’re going to have to knock down in order to get parents and students to think school’s doing what’s best for us, so we’ve got to be on board. If they’re not, we’re going to make believers out of them,” he said. 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