Marlin Independent School District officials will plead their case to the state on Thursday in an effort to prevent the district’s closure after failing four consecutive years of state accountability standards.
Board President Roger Nutt said the board of trustees plans on submitting a letter to the commissioner of education urging him to keep the school open, but has no immediate plans to suggest changes on the district level during its Tuesday board meeting.
Nutt said he doesn’t think board influence will have much impact on the campuses.
“There’s always a possibility that we could have done better, but I feel we’ve done our very best,” he said.
Calls to board Vice President Steve Johnson and trustee Debra Levels-McDavid were not returned and trustee Lisa Silvas refused an interview. Trustees Pat Hollins and Rosalyn Dimerson also serve on the board, with one vacant seat scheduled to be filled Tuesday.
The Texas Education Agency notified Marlin ISD in September that its accreditation was revoked and it would be closed in July if it didn’t show significant improvement in its academic standing.
State law mandates any district that fails financial or academic state standards four years in a row must be closed.
Commissioner of Education Michael Williams may reverse a closure after an informal review if he thinks the district is taking adequate steps in reversing the academic rigor of its campuses.
The review was granted after Superintendent Michael Seabolt, who arrived at the district this summer, submitted an eight-page letter detailing the reasons he thinks the district continues to fail and his methods for fixing the problems.
The meeting is not mandatory for district officials to attend, but will be held at 11 a.m. Thursday in Austin and last for a maximum of an hour.
Nutt said he thinks the new superintendent’s reputation for helping struggling students will be what convinces the commissioner to keep Marlin ISD open.
“The main thing I’m hanging my hat on right now is that Dr. Seabolt has been involved in five previous turnarounds and he has responded to TEA with a letter stating all the things that need to be identified that need to corrected and how he plans to do so,” Nutt said.
Seabolt came from Louise Independent School District, southwest of Houston, where he helped reverse the sliding academic scores of its high school.
Seabolt’s letter to the state outlines his nine years of experience working specifically with low-performing schools and districts, and says that Marlin’s situation is “complicated but not all that unusual.”
The letter discusses elements of campus culture, such as instruction quality, parental involvement and teacher morale, focusing most on Marlin Primary Academy, which has the longest running consecutive failing grade in the state at eight years.
“The climate is one of low expectations from the children and a belief the parents are a big part of the problem,” Seabolt writes. “This climate has manifested itself in a cycle of very low-quality instruction and outright hostility towards the students. . . . What surprises me most about the elementary is how compliant the students have remained while having to survive in this climate.”
In an earlier interview, Seabolt explained how the teachers and administrators were working hard, but simply focusing on the wrong things. The letter elaborated on his concerns.
“Instead of focusing on instructional leadership and holding teachers accountable for quality instruction, instructional leadership instead went ‘native’ and became primary caretakers of the teachers instead of the children, a grave mistake indeed,” the letter said.
Nutt said he is confident in Seabolt’s appraisal of the district and believes the commissioner will be swayed by his arguments and the district won’t be permanently affected.
“I’m confident we’ll keep the school open,” Nutt said.