Muri, Bleisch talk Ector non-renewal

During the next couple of months, Ector County ISD will be working to identify a partner or charter organization to take over operation of Ector College Prep Success Academy.
During a Jan. 19 board meeting, the ECISD Board of Trustees voted 6-1 to non-renew its contract with the Ector Success Academy Network. Board member Carol Gregg dissented.
The terms and conditions of any agreement reached with a partner or charter organization will be put into a contract. Superintendent Scott Muri said in a media call Wednesday that it has not yet been determined what that will look like.
Senate Bill 1882, passed 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 off 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.
When this process started, Muri said Ector was in improvement required status. That is now F status under the state’s A-F standards.
“… Because the school has not come out of that status and stayed out of that status for a period of time, the district cannot take it back. We have to, because of the state accountability system, … to use a nonprofit or an approved charter organization,” Muri said. “It’s not our choice to make.”
Muri said the school remains open and will continue to serve children. The contract with ESAN ends June 30.
“There is a staff that is in place today they will continue to work hard to make sure that the needs of the children are met. On July 1, there will be a staff in place that will work to make sure of the needs of the students are met. Students should not notice a difference. Adults should not get in the way of the learning of children, so if we all do what we should do in this transition then it will be healthy for the kids,” Muri said.
Muri added that the employees at Ector are ECISD employees and will remain so as long as they are “in good standing.”
In accordance with law, the board “shall renew a charter performance contract only if the board finds that the campus charter has substantially fulfilled its obligations and met the performance standards in the contract and applicable law.”
“From Tuesday night’s board presentation: the campus met 6 of 24 academic goals set out in the Performance Agreement from 2018-2020; failed to meet generally accepted accounting standards for fiscal management; did not disclose a conflict of interest for services provided by the Charter Governing Board’s President in June 2020, until November 2020. Per the agreement, notice of non-renewal must be given by the ECISD Board of Trustees by the last Friday of January,” the recap said.
“I’m disappointed,” ESAN Founder/CEO Robert Bleisch said, “but I support the district’s decision to work with whoever they feel they should work with” and whoever they feel is the right partner for them.
Bleisch added that he is proud of the students, parents and teachers and everything that was accomplished.
Muri said an internal audit was conducted of Ector’s accounts and “… some red flags were raised and some practices that must be improved upon some; things that just don’t follow general accounting practices that are of concern.”
“… When you do any kind of audit, as you know, the district is audited every year. We do internal audits we have an internal auditor that audits each of our schools. In fact, auditors are auditing all of our middle schools. It’s up to us to remedy those findings. The purpose of an audit is to find errors or mistakes being made and correct those,” Muri said.
On a separate topic, the district will have two early release days Feb. 2 and March 2. Students will attend until about noon and Muri said teachers will use the rest of those days for planning.
A reporter on call said he’d heard that a teacher at Bonham Middle School was refusing to wear a mask and was expressing their political views to the students.
Muri said any time a parent or student has a concern about the behavior of a staff member —whether it’s an administrator or support staff member, the principal or supervisor is the person to contact.
“So I would strongly encourage that parent to contact the principal immediately,” Muri said. “That type of behavior we would not accept on a school campus so we need to know so that we can investigate that and address it as appropriate.”