The state has taken over operations at Marlin Independent School District, naming a five-member board of managers to replace the elected board of trustees.
Texas Education Commissioner Mike Morath announced the appointments Wednesday morning, and each member has direct ties to the district or town, according to a Texas Education Agency press release.
The board consists of Kevin Benjamin, a corrections officer and 1990 Marlin ISD graduate; Billy Johnson, a local business owner and retired educator and coach in Marlin; Maggie Majors, president of the Marlin Rotary Club, vice president of the Lions Club in Marlin and a retired educator from the Seattle Public School System; Byrleen Terry, a former Marlin trustee and former employee at the Falls Community Hospital and Clinic; and Rose Cameron, the TEA-appointed conservator in Marlin ISD and a former superintendent at Copperas Cove ISD and former deputy superintendent and assistant superintendent at Joshua ISD.
In September, Morath said he would replace the district’s school board with the board of managers and promote Cameron, then a TEA monitor, to a conservator position to advise trustees during the transition. Morath’s decision comes after the state announced in August that Marlin ISD failed preliminary academic accountability ratings for the fifth year in a row. Marlin had signed an agreement last year saying the state could appoint the board of managers if the district did not meet academic accountability ratings for the fifth year.
Since Morath’s announcement, Cameron’s responsibilities have included attending board meetings and executive sessions, directing the board as necessary, ensuring that a comprehensive needs assessment of the district is performed and overseeing general administration of the district. Responsibilities also included overseeing financial management and governance of the district to ensure that it complies with state and federal law.
TEA spokesperson DeEtta Culbertson said appointing a conservator to a state-appointed board of managers is not typical but also not unheard of. The decision depends on each district’s situation.
“Part of it is because they’ve already been there and can continue with guidance,” Culbertson said.
The board of managers will have the same responsibilities and power as an elected school board, she said. This means they will have the power to create a vision and set goals for the district and evaluate district success, adopt policies that inform district actions, hire a superintendent to serve as the head of the district and evaluate his or her success, and approve an annual budget consistent with the district’s vision, to name a few.
At the time of the September decision, Morath also said he would choose an interim superintendent. He has since changed his mind.
Morath announced Wednesday that Superintendent Michael Seabolt will remain in place on a permanent basis unless the board of managers decides to go in a different direction, Culbertson said.
In December, Seabolt’s future with the district was unclear after the school board decided to not renew his contract, which expired Nov. 30. Seabolt was brought in more than a year ago to turn the floundering district around and has remained on as superintendent during the transition.
“I would love to stay in Marlin as I know we have made some great progress, yet the work is unfinished. In a document dated March 28, 2012, TEA noted that instability in district leadership was contributing to Marlin’s academic problems. Since that document was released, there have been three more superintendents in Marlin. That is unsustainable,” Seabolt wrote in an email to the Tribune-Herald on Wednesday. “As to the board of managers, I know three of them and they are rock-solid individuals. I am looking forward to building a working relationship with the other two members and continue moving Marlin ISD forward.”
The board of managers is expected to be sworn in at 6:30 p.m. Thursday during a public meeting at the Marlin Junior Academy library, 678 Success Lane.