Will it be the Red Raiders to the rescue?
Possibly as Texas Tech University officials released plans this week to about 1,400 people for an in-district charter school at Ector Middle School meant to lift it out of improvement required status under state accountability standards.
Ector County Independent School District has eight campuses on improvement required status. Ector, Noel and Zavala elementary schools are in their fifth year. If the campuses don’t come off the list, they will face closure or the Texas Education Commissioner will appoint a board of managers over the whole district.
The district asked for applications from colleges and universities to work with ECISD and implement innovative ideas, Superintendent Tom Crowe said. He added that children of parents in attendance would have a chance for the education they deserve.
The ECISD board has discussed possible approval of the contract later this month, Public Information Officer Mike Adkins said.
Crowe said the board’s decision to bring in a third party was not easy, but it was good. He added that it will be different and sometimes different is scary, but change is needed and “we’re going to have great change here at Ector.”
The school’s name as presented would change to Ector Middle College Prep SUCCESS Academy.
The main presenter was Robert Bleisch, director of Safety Net East Lubbock Promise Neighborhood. He was joined by Tena Gonzales, director of external grants in the College of Education, and David Winter, data manager, East Lubbock Promise Neighborhood/Texas Tech Turnaround Model.
According to the presentation, the purpose of the meeting held in the school auditorium, was to share Tech’s vision and mission and provide audience members with a chance to ask questions and give input.
“Our mission is to be the No. 1 top performing school in Texas. We know it’s possible. The board thinks it’s possible. The superintendent thinks it’s possible,” Bleisch said.
Bleisch said this will be accomplished by focusing on teachers and administrators, students, parents and the community. He added that the school needs great principals and teachers and keep as many of the current people as possible.
Bleisch added that there will be highly qualified teachers in every classroom.
He added that Texas Tech wants to recruit and retain the best teachers in the state. This can be done through great pay and benefits; training, coaching and development; and support for teachers.
Bleisch said the university wants to recruit educators locally, but if that doesn’t work, they will try the rest of the state and then the rest of the nation.
He said Texas Tech is coming in with teacher training programs, Texas Tech professors who are experts in literacy, curriculum and instruction and education leadership. Professors will be brought in to provide support, he said.
The university also will contract with the top experts in the field to get the campus pointed in the right direction, Bleisch said.
Adkins said students who live in the Ector attendance zone will attend the school, unless they choose to transfer.
Conditions for success will include offering tutoring, targeted teacher training, providing tools, equipment and materials to teachers, administrative support and neutralizing barriers. Barriers include irregular student attendance, poor behavior and lack of academic effort, Bleisch said.
Bleisch said the focus will be on the whole child, an innovative school schedule and rigorous academics. Reading also will be a focus because if a child doesn’t read, they won’t be going to college, Bleisch said.
Electives will include music, art, dance, theater, computers and athletics. Bleisch added that there also will be a focus on college and career readiness.
Texas Tech also will monitor attendance, behavior, homework and tests.
Bleisch said students have to come to school 100 percent of the time, do their homework daily and be tested regularly because by the time grades are issued, it’s too late.
He added that misbehavior will not be tolerated. Support for students who don’t behave will be given in the classroom. They won’t be pulled out, he said.
Tutoring and support will be offered after school, on Saturdays and during the summer. Free after school programs will be available for everyone in art, music, dance, computers, theater, robotics, cheer and sports.
Free dinner and transportation also will be provided, Bleisch said.
He said after school is the time when students get in trouble because no one is home to supervise them.
If a family is in need of social services, medical or dental help, or parental education, Tech can provide those.
Friends of Ector, chaired by Lorraine Perryman, organized a meal, prizes and a prize drawing at the event, which also featured performances by the school’s dance team and mariachis.
Those who attended were pleased with the proposal.
Juan Levario’s third child is currently attending Ector.
“It’s a good change and what they’re promising, what they have planned, it’s a plus. We need it in the community and it’s going to help,” Levario said.
Adriana Diaz said she looks forward to the charter school being implemented. Diaz said the school’s improvement required status has put extra stress on her children, especially one who is dyslexic.
“I have two kids that come here. They’re sixth graders. They’ll be (in) seventh grade next year, so if it does happen I’m excited because my kids need that help, especially one of them.”
All seven board members were present at the meeting. Trustee Steve Brown said it was a great presentation that was very student focused.
He added that the plan is focused on student success, success in the community and in the district.
“I think that’s exactly what we need,” Brown said.
Ector Assistant Principal Rene Barrientes and Principal Charles Quintela agreed.
Barientes liked all the detail that was presented and that parents had a chance to ask questions afterward and on Twitter.
“I’m excited about it because we want the best for our kids. That’s first and foremost …,” Barrientes said.
Quintela said the prospect of working with Texas Tech is like a “beacon of light.” One of the things that came through at Thursday’s meeting was the need for parental involvement.
“We’re looking now at possibilities that are supported; possibilities that have direction. I think that when we start looking at resources and you have this type of buy-in, especially from an entity that didn’t have to take the contract, I think … it’s well served when they put our students first,” Quintela said.
Community activist Gene Collins said he thought there were a lot positive aspects to Texas Tech’s presentation, which are what Ector needs.
“I think they need to define the culture for them and provide a learning environment,” and the plan goes the extra mile in getting that done, Collins said.