ECISD approves memorandum of understanding with Texas Tech for Ector

The Ector County ISD Board of Trustees approved an agreement with Texas Tech University College of Education for an in-district charter school at Ector Middle School.

After a 35-minute closed session, trustees voted 6-0 to approve the pact, which is a memorandum of understanding. Board member Ray Beaty was absent.

The memorandum of understanding is a general agreement to pursue the partnership, the board recap said. It must still be signed by Texas Tech University and submitted to the Texas Education Agency by the April 30 deadline. Once the agreement is submitted to the Texas Education Agency, ECISD and Texas Tech will continue working out a more detailed contact for the charter school, planned to begin operating in August.

ECISD has eight campuses on improvement required status under state accountability regulations. Ector Middle School, Noel and Zavala elementary 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.

A number of Ector Middle School staff attended the meeting.

The board will schedule another meeting on Monday in case Texas Tech requests any changes to the memorandum of understanding signed by ECISD Thursday.

“We’re still working on all the details,” Superintendent Tom Crowe said. “That’s the reason it’s a memorandum of understanding, rather than a contract because they’ve got their lawyers working on it and we’ve got our lawyers working on it, but the TEA said if we did a memorandum of understanding then that would carry us through and meet the April 30 deadline and we could continue to work on the details.”

The window to do that is the end of school, May 24, Crowe said.

Details like teacher retirement and who works for whom “are pretty much worked out,” Crowe said.

The added time to is to ensure that Texas Tech “feels comfortable that this is going to work for them and we feel comfortable that the program’s going to work for us and our community,” Crowe said.

“Their lawyers have to feel comfortable that it’s going to be a positive thing for Tech and so forth and the president and the board of regents have to look at it, as well,” he added.

He said he wasn’t sure if the board of regents has to approve it, or just review it.

As for whose school it will be, Crowe said the campus is still ECISD’s.

“But they’ll have to the right to have their curriculum; they’ll have the right to employees; they’ll have the right to hire, to train, to do all this with the employees. But yet they’ll still report through us, as well. If they wanted to remove an employee, they’d have to follow our procedures to remove an employee,” Crowe said.

It would still have to go through the school board.

“I’m sure they’ll start out with the administration. If they keep our current administrators there, they’ll work for them, as well as on who stays because they know if they keep our administrators there, our administrators know the teachers and they’ll work with them,” Crowe said.

“I would envision them keeping most of our teachers that are there and working with them and training them (in) the way they do business. I can’t guarantee that everybody would stay, but I think a vast majority would remain,” he added.

Ector Middle School Principal Charles Quintela said he thought the approval of the memorandum of understanding was “the most positive thing we’ve had so far.”

“But … we’re still waiting for the finale of everything to come through. I think on Monday it’s going to be determined, so we’re still up in the air a little bit. But it’s progress,” Quintela said.

He said he thinks everyone wants to know that the agreement is done so things can move forward. Ector has a staff of about 120 people and a little more than 1,500 students in grades six through eight.

“We have a lot of things to do; big plans. But it takes a lot of work and if we’re not ready right now, we’re behind the eight ball,” Quintela said. “… We’re trying to get our team finally in that point when we can see what’s going to happen tomorrow. That’s the hardest thing … not knowing what’s going to happen tomorrow.”