LA MARQUE — In a letter to parents on Friday, school district officials pledged to make changes to improve the district’s accreditation status.
Last week, the Texas Education Agency told La Marque school officials that its accreditation was on probation and that if things don’t improve by next year, the district could lose its accreditation.
This week the state named Carlos Price, a former La Marque assistant superintendent, as conservator to guide the district out of its financial and academic woes.
The probation status came after three straight years of poor performance in either financial or academic rankings.
For the 2010-2011 school year, the district was found academically unacceptable. That was followed by a substandard financial rating in for the 2011-2012 school year.
For the 2012-2013 school year, the state found that the district failed to meet standards academically.
Along the way, the state ordered the La Marque district to submit a financial solvency plan. Each time the district submitted a plan, the state rejected it and asked for a new plan.
The latest solvency plan is at the TEA and is under review, an education agency spokeswoman said.
For one of the district’s most ardent critics, the state’s move was welcome news.
“I think it is an excellent idea,” Walter Manuel said. “(La Marque ISD) is not headed in the right direction. The school board wants everyone to believe it’s fine, but the reports to the TEA say otherwise.”
School board President Nakisha Paul complained that the state hasn’t given new Superintendent Terri Watkins time to institute the required changes.
Some of those measures were outlined in the letter sent to parents on Friday.
The district plans to beef up its efforts to find students that aren’t in school and get them to class and to have weekly meetings to monitor student progress. Outside professional service companies have been hired to assist on each campus.
The district noted that it is following its financial solvency plan, even though the state has yet to approve that plan.
La Marque has also brought in financial consultants to monitor all of the district’s expenditures, according to the letter.
La Marque High School junior Kasey Faour isn’t so sure much has changed.
“Honestly, every thing seems to be getting worse,” Faour said. “(Any changes) haven’t made a difference. We have good teachers — don’t get me wrong. I’ve learned a lot there, but it seems (campus administrators) don’t care.”
Her father supports her review.
“I hope everything works out,” John Paul Faour, a La Marque High School graduate, said. “There’s been a lot going on, and I just want it fixed.
“I know we have a new superintendent (who) came in to this mess. It’s been a mess for a while, so for me, as a parent, if the state has to step in, I say let’s get this fixed and move on.”
That was the message Paul and Watkins had for about 100 district staffers who attended a pre-spring break meeting Thursday.
Paul called on staff to “work just a little bit harder” in an effort to get the district out from under the state’s watch.
It may take a community effort as well. The Rev. D.N. Benford, a community activist, pledged his support.
“We can’t even think about failure,” Benford said. “It’s just got to be done. Our job is to first of all make the community understand that we need to join the effort (to help the district improve).”
Benford said he was concerned that the appointment of a conservator at a time when Watkins was just starting to make changes might send the wrong signal to some that all is lost.
“I worry that it may intimidate (the board) and the community,” he said. “I don’t know his full role, but our role is to support (Watkins) and the board in making these changes.”
Manuel said Watkins deserves time, but he is less trusting of the board.
“We’ve had these school board members for a long time,” he said. “Everyone is being hoodwinked by this school board into believing we are headed in the right direction.
“At the end of the day it’s the students who are the ones suffering because of decisions this current school board has made.”
Mainland Editor T.J. Aulds can be reached at 409-683-5334 or firstname.lastname@example.org.