MARLIN TEA3

Marlin ISD Superintendent Michael Seabolt leaves an October meeting with Texas Education Agency officials in Austin.

The Texas Education Agency offered the Marlin Independent School District an abatement agreement to keep its three campuses open through the 2016-17 school year if the administration agrees to meet certain undisclosed requirements.

But to keep the district’s board of trustees intact after the end of this school year, the district must pass state academic standards in May, Superintendent Michael Seabolt said Thursday.

TEA’s attorneys called Seabolt at about 2:30 p.m. and verbally offered him an agreement that would keep the campuses open but replace the board of trustees with a state-appointed board of managers if the district fails again this year.

The agreement must be approved by the district’s board of trustees. If they agree to the state’s terms, Commissioner of Education Michael Williams will sign the agreement, making it effective. The board’s next meeting is 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Seabolt said he plans to have the district’s attorneys look at the written agreement when he receives it, and he expects the board to follow the attorneys’ recommendation.

“There’s not a lot of wiggle room,” he said.

Seabolt said he thinks it’s possible to meet standards this year despite the district’s past struggles.

“I believe in our kids. I believe in our teachers,” he said.

Board of trustees President Roger Nutt could not be reached late Thursday.

Districts pass or fail state academic standards based on the same four categories that rate campuses — student progress, postsecondary readiness, closing performance gaps and student achievement. Each year districts must meet moving benchmarks within those categories. At least 60 percent of students must pass the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness tests in each grade.

The state notified the district in September that its accreditation had been revoked because it failed state academic standards four years in a row. The state planned to close the 900-student district if the administration couldn’t show they were taking the necessary steps to improve academics.

State law dictates that any district that fails four consecutive years of either financial or academic standards must be closed.

Seabolt, along with Nutt, Trustee Debra Levels- McDavid and multiple community members, attended an informal review in October with Williams to explain how they plan to reverse the academic standing of the district.

In the hearing, Seabolt stressed that the level of instruction would improve through professional development for teachers and aligning the instruction methodology across the lower grade levels. In a letter submitted to the state, he explained how literacy instruction varies greatly, to the students’ detriment.

Seabolt said in the letter that he has implemented a “Leveled Literacy Intervention” program so students who struggle to adjust to new teaching methods would have a greater chance at success.

“Many teachers are convinced that their method of teaching is the best, so this mandate has not contributed to the emotional well-being of the teachers, although it is being implemented,” the letter states.

Williams also visited Marlin Primary Academy and Marlin High School after the hearing so he could see firsthand the new teaching methods the superintendent implemented.

“There’s only so much you can learn by looking simply at the numbers,” Williams said an interview after the tour. “The district, community leaders and elected leaders from the community have asked me to abate my decision to close, and I am open to doing that.”

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