The Ector County ISD Board of Trustees voted not to renew its contract with the Ector Success Academy Network.
The vote at Tuesday’s meeting was 6-1 with trustee Carol Gregg dissenting. Minyard made the motion not to renew with trustee Steve Brown seconding.
Assistant Superintendent of Student and School Support Alicia Syverson said reasons under board policy for not renewing the contract are: failure to meet student performance standards or other obligations; failure to meet generally accepted accounting standards for fiscal management, violation of any provision of the contract or applicable state or federal law; and other reason as determined by the board.
Senate Bill 1882, signed into law by the Texas Legislature in 2017, provides incentives for districts to contract to partner with an open-enrollment charter school, institutions of higher education, nonprofits, or government entities, the Texas Education Agency website says.
Ector was in its fifth year of improvement required under state accountability standards. If it didn’t come of the list, it could have faced closure or the Texas Education Commissioner could appoint a board of managers over the whole district.
ECISD partnered with CEO/Superintendent Robert Bleisch’s Ector Success Academy Network as a way to stay sanctions from the Texas Education Agency for two years.
Syverson reviewed a variety of reasons why the campus had not met contract requirements.
The contract expires June 30, 2021.
Gregg said she has concerns about the students at Ector, the timing and “the fact that we’re going to leave them out there hanging until we decide what” to do.
“That concerns me greatly,” Gregg said. She added that the district didn’t address the issues and problems as soon as they should have.
“I am personally impressed with academic advances made at Ector. I have concerns that we will be able to accomplish as much as Ector on the academic side.
I just really feel badly for the students at Ector and the families and staff. … It is my understanding that if we terminate this contract we still have to find a partner in order to avoid TEA sanctions,” Gregg said.
Superintendent Scott Muri said there is a provision in code that allows the commissioner to grant a school district an additional two-year pause, but the commissioner must approve the organization with whom ECISD would partner.
In the fall, ECISD conducted a call for quality schools and solicited for any partner or charter organization that would be interested in working with ECISD on any D or F campus the district has.
Bonham was previously mentioned as a possibility.
“I can assure you that we will not leave those kids at Ector Middle School hanging. Tomorrow one of the first things I’ll do is reach out to these two providers …,” Muri said.
Gregg said this is a dire situation.
“I do have grave concerns. I’m concerned about failures on the financial front. I do understand the seriousness of those. As far as the students are concerned and the families there, I feel it’s a betrayal … ,” said Gregg, who attended the meeting virtually.
Muri said ECISD still has a contract with ESAN through June 30 and is planning for a smooth transition from one provider to anther.
“We’ve got to keep it as calm as possible for those kids,” Muri said.
Board Vice President Tammy Hawkins said the district needs to listen to teachers and the community.
Trustee Nelson Minyard said he thought progress was being made with the programs in place at Ector and some of the programs were good. He would like to have someone take over that is in the same vein.
Muri said the proposed provider will come to a board meeting in February with the contract coming back in March.
Minyard said he would like to have it in the contract that a board member be on the charter school’s board, or maybe just an observer.
“We can explore that possibility,” Muri said.
Mike Atkins, the attorney for the district, agreed. “We can look at it,” he said.
Board President Delma Abalos said there are many people that are going to be upset. Some may not be, she said.
She noted that no one was at the meeting to speak on behalf of Ector Tuesday. “I’m with Carol. They were making strides. We’ll never know if it would have gotten a lot better if it hadn’t been for COVID,” Abalos said.
She added that the financial aspect concerns her.
“I hope that whoever we get understands that we were in a rush when we went in with (ESAN),” Abalos said. She added that the district will have more time this time.
“Just so they know we’re keeping an eye on them,” Abalos said.