With the approval of a memorandum of understanding with Texas Tech University to make Ector Middle School an in-district charter school next fall, ECISD took a step to avoid state closure or having a board of managers appointed to take over the district.
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.
The Ector County Independent School District Board Trustees approved a memorandum of understanding with Texas Tech Thursday night. 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 Monday’s 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.
Ector Middle School Principal Charles Quintela said the approval of the memorandum of understanding was “the most positive thing we’ve had so far.” But the waiting is the most difficult part.
Ector has a staff of about 120 people and a little more than 1,500 students in grades six through eight.
“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,” he said.
Board President Carol Gregg said the circumstances that led up to the board’s action are that Ector is in its fifth year of improvement required status, so a change had to be made.
“We’re excited to work with Texas Tech because … they’ve worked with us on some other programs. We feel like they have a great deal of expertise. They’re excited about the prospect of implementing this program,” Gregg said.
She added that she is enthusiastic, as well.
“Obviously, until everything is signed and everything is completely done there’s still a certain concern, but obviously I’m excited that we keep moving in that direction. I’m looking forward to the idea of Ector being transformed next year into this school,” Gregg said.
Texas Tech presented their plan for the charter school at Ector a few weeks ago.
“The ideas that they’ve given to us that they’re going to utilize at Ector … sound exciting. They sound like they could be a very positive thing, and if they’re successful as we hope they’ll be there, (there) are things that we would probably try to implement at other schools in the district,” she added.
Superintendent Tom Crowe said the cost to the district would probably be a wash and the charter school would get more money from the state that can be used for extra programs that Tech wants to implement.
He added the middle school being affiliated with a university should benefit Ector students.
“I think it can be a real positive experience for them and make them feel very special that they’re attending a charter school that is in partnership with Texas Tech University. I know if I were in middle school and I were going to a school that is in partnership with Texas Tech University, that would make me feel pretty special and (put) me in a real positive feeling about school,” Crowe said.
The board will schedule another meeting on Monday in case Texas Tech requests any changes to the memorandum of understanding signed by ECISD Thursday.
The window to get a contract negotiated is by the end of school, May 24, Crowe said.
Details like teacher retirement and who works for whom “are pretty much worked out,” Crowe said. Tech’s lawyers have to feel comfortable that it’s going to be a positive move for Tech and the president and board of regents have to look at the agreement, as well.
Crowe said Tech would be able to put in its curriculum, employees and train them, but he expects most of the teachers and administrators to remain. If someone were removed, it would have to go through the school board.
Along with many Ector Middle School staff members at the board meeting, Robert Bleisch, from the Texas Tech College of Education, also was in attendance. However, he said he could not comment until the agreement was signed by Tech.