In a proactive move, the Waco Independent School District’s board of trustees plans to create three “community transformation committees” in an attempt to prepare for upcoming legislative changes that would close campuses that have failed academic standards three years in a row, cut in half from the six years allowed now.
The Legislature passed House Bill 1842, which dictates that if a campus has failed academic standards three years in a row, either the district’s board of trustees will be replaced by a state-appointed board of managers or the campus will close.
Current law dictates that a campus close after six years of failing ratings, with no option for the state to replace a board of trustees. Six WISD campuses have failed for at least three years in a row.
The new law doesn’t go into effect until the 2017-18 school year.
“If a campus is considered to have an unacceptable performance rating for three consecutive school years after the campus is ordered to submit a campus turnaround plan, the commissioner, shall order: appointment of a board of managers . . . or closure of the campus,” the law states.
Six out of Waco ISD’s 23 campuses have failed standards either three or four years in a row.
Board President Pat Atkins recommended forming three committees of between 25 and 40 people composed of community members, faith leaders and parents that would take a look at the overall neighborhood problems preventing the campuses from succeeding.
“The thought was that sooner rather than later we needed to let the community know about the impacts of this recent legislation,” Atkins said.
Each committee would take two of the six struggling campuses. G.W. Carver Middle School, Indian Spring Middle School, Alta Vista Elementary School and South Waco Elementary have failed three years in a row. J. H. Hines Elementary and Brook Avenue Elementary have failed four years in a row.
Trustee Angela Tekell joined Atkins in recommending the committees, saying when she heard the commissioner of education’s discretion had been removed, she knew it would take focused effort by more than just the school district to reverse the campus ratings.
“I thought ‘Wow, this is too important for just the school board to be talking about it,’ ” Tekell said.
The board members plan to present their list of nominees for the committees at the next regular board meeting.
Trustee Noman Manning said he is concerned the committees would be too large to accomplish anything, but Atkins said he feels they need to be inclusive so people who wanted to participate can. Atkins also assured there would be focus to each of the committees with agendas and goals for them to focus on.
“A lot of this is just knowledge and empowering people,” Trustee Stephanie Korteweg said.