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Marlin ISD Wins Reprieve, But Death Sentence Still Looms
November 13, 2015
By John Carroll
MARLIN (November 13, 2015) The sigh of relief that Marlin school officials breathed Thursday after the struggling district received a temporary reprieve from the Texas Education Agency may have turned into a gasp Friday as they reviewed the terms of the agreement they’re required to sign to buy more time to improve student performance.
TEA lawyers advised the district Thursday that the agency will allow Marlin schools to remain open for another year, but also said that in that time, the district must raise its standardized test scores to passing levels, which will require a significant push between now and spring.
The agreement with the TEA gives the district 180 days to raise the STAAR passing rate at its elementary and middle schools from around 30 percent to 60 percent.
“From the time I started in the summer until the time we give the first test would've been about eight months total to turn around a 15-year problem," Marlin Superintendent Michael Seabolt said Friday.
If the district receives a 2016 accountability rating of improvement required or a 2015-2016 financial accountability rating of substandard the commissioner of education will suspend the district’s board of trustees, appoint a superintendent, assign a not accredited-revoked status and order the district closed, the agreement says.
The agency’s board of managers and appointed superintendent would likely be on site for at least for two years.
Should the district received acceptable financial and accountability ratings, however, the commissioner will reevaluate the district’s 2016 accreditation status.
“The commissioner is the ultimate decision maker with respect to the Marlin ISD’s accreditation status and closure,” the agreement says.
A majority of the members of the Marlin School Board must approve the agreement.
The terms of the agreement may be negotiable and Seabolt says the district has asked its legal counsel to work with the Texas Education Agency to change some of the wording.
Texas Commissioner of Education Michael Williams notified Seabolt by letter in September that because of the record of failure at the district, Marlin schools would be shut down effective July 1, 2016.
In the letter dated September 23, Williams said the decision was based upon several years of reviews that reported the district academically unacceptable or improvement required.
The result of the reviews is a rating of not accredited-revoked, the letter said.
If the district is ultimately closed, students there could be bused to one of three surrounding districts, including Chilton, Rosebud-Lott or Westphalia.
Or the district’s facilities could remain open, but under the administration of another district.
On Oct. 29, Williams visited both Marlin High School and Marlin Elementary School Thursday and later said if he decides to close down the district, it does not necessarily mean the school buildings won't be used.
Marlin ISD has about 900 students, most either black or Hispanic, and some 175 employees, about 100 of them teachers, on three campuses.
About 99 percent of the district’s students are classified as economically disadvantaged.