Editor's note: This is an updated version of the story initially reported by The Daily News on March 5.

LA MARQUE — The Texas Education Agency confirmed Wednesday it has ordered a conservator to oversee operations of the La Marque school district.

In a letter to Superintendent Terri Watkins, the agency’s associate commissioner for accreditation and school improvement, Sally Partridge, said Carlos Price would soon be in to oversee aspects of the district’s operations and management.

Price is a former La Marque assistant superintendent.

While Watkins still will be responsible for the day-to-day operations of the district, any move or decision has to meet with Price’s approval. The same for any decisions by the school board, an agency spokeswoman said.

“He is in on every decision,” spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said. “If the board or superintendent makes a decision he doesn’t feel is in the best interest of the school district he can override it.”

Price can even direct school board members on how they must vote, Culbertson said.

Price will oversee the district’s operations at least through August, Partridge said.

His role will include, but won’t be limited to, assisting La Marque in identifying issues that led to its lowered accreditation status and drafting a plan to correct those issues. He will also direct La Marque, when needed, to bring in outside technical assistance to implement parts of any improvement plan.

While not necessarily believing a conservator is needed, Watkins said she was ready for what will come.

“I don’t think someone coming in will hinder (changes already underway),” she said. “We have made a lot of changes, even in the short amount of time I have been here.”

Watkins was named superintendent in September.

Those changes include a financial plan that Watkins insists is working.

“The district is solvent,” she said. “We are paying our bills. We have money in the bank; we are providing services for our students (and) we are paying our vendors.

“We wouldn’t be in existence if we couldn’t pay our bills.”

Watkins admits that despite the positives she touts, it does feel like the district is “taking two steps forward and then a step back,” as of late with the actions announced by the state.

“La Marque ISD deserves the opportunity to succeed,” she said. “I am ready for the TEA to trust and believe in us and believe we know what to do to get it done.”

School board president Nakisha Paul said: "When I heard conservator, my thoughts were why now? I agree with (Daily News Editor) Heber Taylor as he stated best, 'The Texas Education Agency would be making a mistake if it appoints a monitor or conservator for the La Marque Independent School District.  The move wouldn’t help the district now.'

Watkins and Paul plan to reiterate the positives while outlining what the state’s announcement means during a districtwide staff meeting today, she said. The district will also send a letter home to parents Friday explaining the state’s move, as well as a “fact sheet” about the school’s financial and educational status, Watkins said.

The state obviously believes any improvement is not sustainable enough that the district can do it without some help. That’s why Price will be the conservator, Culbertson said.

Paul insisted the state hasn't given the district or its new superintendent time to fix the problems.

"The superintendent has been in the district approximately 83 days and have made major strides," she said. "However, not enough time to resolve all issues." 

Price has some familiarity with the district. He was an assistant superintendent for business and operations with the La Marque school district for four years before joining the University of Houston-Clear Lake’s School of Education in 2006.

He still lives in the area and is even a contributor to the La Marque ISD Education Foundation.

Before coming to Texas, he was the superintendent for three Arkansas school districts during a 19-year period.

Price was also once appointed the conservator of a Houston-area charter school, according to his university biography.

Price won’t be at the district daily and is only expected to be there two days a month, “unless extraordinary circumstances require additional time,” the state said in its letter to the district.

There isn’t a specific start date for Price’s appointment, Culbertson said. He is scheduled to be introduced at an upcoming school board meeting.

The financially struggling district will also be responsible for footing the bill for Price’s work at the rate of $85 an hour, according to the state.

That's money that the school isn't sure it has.

"The district is sticking to its financial plan submitted to TEA," Paul said. "The appointment of a conservator at this point is an untimely expense that has not been factored into an already tight budget."

If at the end of his six-month term things have improved, the state can either return the district to monitored status or possibly extend Price’s term as a conservator.

“If things go the opposite direction then the next step could be taken,” Culbertson said.

That next step would be the state removing La Marque’s school board and appointing a board of managers to run the district.

The state’s move followed a series of setbacks for the district last week, in which the state rejected La Marque’s latest solvency plan after finding it riddled with errors. That was followed by the announcement that the district’s accreditation was placed in probationary status because of poor financial and academic performance.

Watkins said she plans to “keep my head down and keep moving forward,” so that, “we come out on the other side of this much stronger.”

(27) comments

Robert Buckner

It appears that someone other than I feels this ISD board is incompetent to run the affairs of LMISD.


I'd really like to hear what the ministers think about this and what remedy they support for going ahead with ascertaining a top flight educational opportunity for these kids of this community!

Walter Manuel

Attention LMISD board members, pack your bags! All of you are soon on your way out!

I seriously doubt TEA is in the mood to hold your hand and sing kumbaya!

Walter Manuel

It's a good day at LMISD now that Mr. Price is back in control. I've been receiving calls from people pointing out that the district had $8 million in reserve when he was the district's financial advisor before.

It's really going to be funny seeing these lame and incompetent board members showing up for a board meeting and not having the power to change even the brand of toilet paper they purchase without having to ask Mr. Price for permission first.

These trustees need to just take it to the house since they've wasted enough of our time and done enough damage to not only our school district's reputation, but to the quality of educational and safety standards that our students are currently receiving.

This just goes to prove that miracles really do happen and prays are eventually answered.... [wink]

Cynthia Bell-Malveaux

Congratulations to Dr. Price.

Robert Buckner

This should have happened a couple of years ago. JBG, maybe those ministers can rally for Price's removal like they did for Burley. Or better yet whup up some chicken dinners to sell.

Walter Manuel

LOL Robert, now that the board members and their supporters "wings" have been clipped, they can run a "wing" special seeing how it won't cost the district a dime in their fund raising efforts.

You won't see the minister's around any time soon since there isn't any protest going on. It seems they like to create a mess, but yet when it comes time to clean it up, their no where to be found.

Go figure....

E.J Petree

How does one send something in to TEA "riddled with errors" !

Leon Lion

Fixing the financial part of LMISD is going to be the easy part.

Fixing academics is going to be the hard part.

The La Marque school system had gone so long lowering the bar for the students there is virtually no educational system left. There are still some students that excel and learn but I grant you it is because of the student themselves taking control of their own education and going up and beyond what teachings they get at school.

All the teachers/administrators themselves should be evaluated by a third (non-union) party.

I think right now a whole generation of students at LMISD has been lost and you have to start all over with the ones entering Kindergarten to turn this district around.

Walter Manuel

Pete1939, the reason that TEA received a solvency plan riddled with errors is because we have people in administration making the big bucks despite not having a clue as to what they are doing and the school board members believing that just because someone throws "consultant" behind their name their qualified to get you out of the mess that you got yourself into. We now know this not to be true!

Rukidden, your absolutely right about what it will take to turn this district around academically.

It will take strong, qualified district administration along with new kindergarten and elementary teachers to take young students and develop their skills early on in order to prepare them for their education.

Obviously no one at the district understands this concept seeing how their main concern is to protect their own friends at whatever cost to a child's education by not forcing those non productive district administrators and teachers into retirement who are obviously only there for a paycheck and padding their retirement plan.

It's really that simple to see...

Cynthia Bell-Malveaux

Robert Buckner the past board tried to tell them this in 2009. They wanted their way and refused anything Burley tried to do. He was a puppet to the board. He constantly met resistance at every level. The chicken dinners sounds like a joke but it is one of the assignments Annie Burton board president at the time gave Ecomet. I laughed at it so often the people thought it was my idea. Ecomet said "I will not do that Mrs. Burton" I couldn't stop laughing. It's sad what has happened to a district I love so much. Remember back all the turmoil the past board went through with some people while others stood back and supported us in the dark. Its a great day for LMISD but sad.

Robert Buckner

MM, you've been on the front line of this issue all along keeping us informed, from elections to tax increases. Thank you Sir.

Robert Buckner

cbmalv, I still laugh about the chicken dinners. I recall when MM did the math on it and posted it to the forum

Walter Manuel

Your most welcome Robert, it's been a challenge taking on the task, but well worth every minute of it not only for the children, but also the taxpayers of our district.

Everyone in the community keeps saying that the one's that started all of this mess in the first place (so called ministers and their supporters) are now no where to be seen. Wonder why?

They are also wondering why board president Nakisha Paul hasn't made any comments regarding the current condition of the school district when she bragged to everyone who would listen that she was now running the district when she became board president?

I suppose if your a school board of trustee in LMISD it no longer carries the same prestige as those board of trustees in other districts especially when it's your name being signed on the dotted line for whatever good or bad comes out of the district?

It is true what they say, life often times comes round full circle and some people eventually get what they got coming just because of what they've purposefully done to others! [wink]

Walter Manuel

That should have been, "people eventually get what they got coming just because of what they've purposefully and " maliciously" have done to others! [wink]

Walter Manuel

Mrs. Malveaux, I can assure you that you and everyone else's time and years spent serving on the school board wasn't done so in vain.

Some of us in the community had no idea of the attack that was being made against our past school board members by certain groups and their supporters until the damage had already begun to destroy the district.

I often sit back and just shake my head when I think that we're facing losing our entire school district just because some people would do whatever it took to help out one of their own friends.

Thank you Mrs. Malveaux and to all of the other school board members for all of your years of dedicated service to not only LMISD, but to our community as a whole!



Mr. Buckner, you stole my line, I wanted to be the first one to congratulate Mr. Manuel for standing on the front, and vocalizing opposition to the horrific oppression inflicted on this community, it's school system, and it's children in particular!
You beat me to it, and I'll just have to accept that,....but I don't necessarily like it. My game might be slipping, is all. No matter though I'll fall in line behind you in congratulating Mr. Manuel on a job well done, and on his great civic pride for LMISD and the City Of LaMarque as well.
It did not have to come to the present situation, and it definitely should not have. Even though the state is now taking action, it is my opinion, they waited to long to do what Ray Charles, and Little Stevie Wonder, could see needed doing several years ago!
The ratifying and formation of single member voting districts were meant to insure inclusiveness,...but as we observed, doing these self serving years of TERROR By OPPRESSION,...single member districts only served as stumbling blocks in the way of accountability!!! Stumbling blocks, which facilitated stagnating the growth of, then literally destroying a once proud school institution, along with doing irrevocable harm to the kids of this community. Who knows, and who can calculate the harm done to not only the kids here, but the community as well!
I, for one am ecstatic,...that we can finally see some light now at the end of the tunnel of hell,..because in my opinion, that is where all this mismanagement,dereliction of duty, and incompetent job performance brought us to.
Now one of the things which rukidden, enumerated below, was length of time for full recovery. I'm not so sure we CAN recover. I think a study should be made as to what is BEST FOR THE KIDS and not what is best for some staff person or grownup!
Should there even be a LMISD,...or should we divide up the spoils with the three surrounding school districts? .I don't know, but I do know, that NO CHILD SHOULD HAVE HAD TO GO THROUGH WHAT THESE OF LMISD HAD TO GO THROUGH, this I know! I don't give a fifteen cent "RIP" about an EAGLE, TIGER, COUGAR, nor any Auld Lang Syne feel good memories from the past either!!!!
The priority should be concerned with, and focused on what is best for these children for a change, absent of any panty-anny-bs...divisive politics! If that means shutting LMISD down, oh well!
Now is the time to really plan well for the future, absent of any hurt single member districts can do to us, and we can do that through and only through the TEA!

Walter Manuel

Wow Mr. JBG! Sir, you said a "mouf" full!

I can't say anything except, AMEN! [thumbup]

Walter Manuel

While Mrs. Watkins may not have had enough time to clean up this school boards mess, Nakisha Paul and the other school board members have certainly had enough time to create more damage than good to the district so it should be no surprise to Ms. Paul that their time has finally run out!

When will the town hall meeting be held? Just sending letters home with each child won't cut it, TEA is specific in how notice must be given to LMISD students, as well as, taxpayers. Here's state law requirements according to TEA's website:

"(3) Notice under this subsection must:

(A) not later than 30 calendar days after the accreditation status is assigned, appear on the home page of the district's website, with a link to the notification required by paragraph (2) of this subsection, and remain until the district is assigned the Accredited status; and

(B) appear in the newspaper with the greatest circulation in the district for three consecutive days as follows:

(i) from Sunday through Tuesday of the second week following assignment of the status; or

(ii) if the newspaper is not published from Sunday through Tuesday, then for three consecutive issues of the newspaper beginning the second week following assignment of the status; or

(C) not later than 30 calendar days after the status is assigned, be sent by first class mail addressed individually to each parent of a student enrolled in the district and each property owner in the district; or

(D) not later than 30 calendar days after the status is assigned, be presented as a discussion item in a public meeting of the board of trustees conducted at a time and location that allows parents of students enrolled in the district and property owners in the district to attend and provide public comment".

I wonder what donation source to the school district they will use this time to pay for the paper being sent home with each student in the district, as well as, the cost of printing the notice in the newspaper?

I hope Mr. Price doesn't allow district officials and the board to use donations intended for students of the district for their use to be used to cover the cost of paper and advertisement of this public notice of their financial and accreditation status.

It looks like chicken dinners is becoming their only option at this time for survival seeing how they still don't have an approved solvency plan and now Mr. Price's salary nor this public notification expense is even included in the budget.

Looks like things are still looking bad for the district and it appears that it will only be getting worse!

Robert Buckner

I was wondering if the latest solvency plan submitted had planned for increase enrollment figures to boost state funding? I can't help but believe the enrollment numbers will only continue to decline with this news. As I recall a couple years back, their budget contained a tax increase which hadn't passed yet. Instead of counting their chicks before the eggs hatch, just cook the hen and sell it. Yesirree bub, chicken dinner!

Tamala Robinson

Wow, The state decided to step in now? Really? They should have stepped in many years ago when the former Superintendent Burby was on board. I can go back to the year 2006 and that is when the state should have stepped in. As for as school board members that were in favor of Burby, they only created mess and were not soley concerned about the students. They were more concerned in what what said in the pravacy of a citizens home and getting him fired, taking trips to Vegas and the money was never accounted for..... I can go on and on, but all of of you know what was going on and some turned a blind eye. The current superintendent has not been given a fair chance because she has not been on the job for a full year. She does NOT need someone to micro manage her every move. Educators can only do so much if the parents are not encouraging their children to do better and ensuring they are studying and attending school. It takes the parents to be involved first and not expect educators to teach and be a parent at school. Many people are moving away from Galveston County because of better neighborhoods and newer homes. Demographics and geographics play a role in the declining number of students. The state and our current governor and politicians are to concerned with bench marks tests vs. good, old fashion teaching. The teachers can't teach anymore because of politics and state guidelines that are ridiculous. Every student has a different way of learning and retaining information. Allow the teachers to teach instead of preparing for one basic tests for the whole year or bench mark tests. Get the parents involved. School is not all about fun, but when you take the fun out of learning and completely stress the students out, they will shu t down and give up. I am a proud 1985 LM Cougar graduate and we had great teachers who cared and taught. We also had parents that woud knock the fire out of us if we were disrespectful, dressed disrespectful and came home with bad grades. We need teachers like Doris Jenkins, Ms. Freeman, Mrs. Giles, Coach Car,. Ms. Apple, Mr. and Mrs. Bannister. Coach Byrd, etc... back in the schools and allow teachers to do what they do best, TEACH, not babysit our children and play secretary to the state of TX with a pile of paperwork to fill out. The state needs to worry about politics and allow our new superintendent a fair chance at HELPING to get LMSD back to 4A and 5A status. PARENTS YOU NEED TO STEP UP AND GET INVOLVED IN YOUR CHILDREN'S EDUCATION AND HOLD THEM RESPONSIBLE FOR GETTING A GOOD EDUCATION!! WE ARE LAMARQUE COUGARS, WHOOSH!!

Cynthia Bell-Malveaux

A fool that fools himself is a BIG FOOL:)


I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with Tamala1023. Parents and students had nothing to do with the solvency plans which were not approved because of flat out inaccuracy,..and/or incompetency. I will agree with her concerning Ms. Watkins,...but taking Ms. Watkins out of the equation does not diminish the catastrophic disaster this sitting board has caused here.
The state had no alternative but to step in now, and take control away from this bunch, who were elected and protected by single member voting districts meant for good,.. but in my opinion were being used for evil and wickedness! I do agree with Tamala1023 who said parents needs to be more involved. That is for sure, but parents can only do so much, and they mostly will do it at home,...when kids goes to school,.. that school's code of conduct, rules, city ordinances,.. and laws of the state should be enforced by schools personnel.
How is it that other districts are successful at accomplishing these mandates and this school district is not, BUT USE TO BE UNDER OTHER LEADERSHIP! My goodness LMISD use to arguably be one of the best if not the best in the state! It use to be up there where FWISD is now! What happened? ( We already know). We cannot nor should we lay all this convoluted BS at the feet of the parents. Many parents who were able,.. moved their children, but many of those who are still here are unable financially to do the same for their children. It does not lessen the responsibility of the taxpayers here, nor the state to see to it those who were unable to move are NOT FORGOTTEN AND LEFT BEHIND! I know how it feels to play catch up , in school, in athletics, and in the business world! So I can relate!
Lastly, one of my mottos is:
"You can't hold a man down without staying down with him!"
-------Booker T. Washington.
It time to let our kids UP....because now they are playing catch UP!


Cynthia Bell-Malveaux

Jbgood--well stated.

Ecomet Burley

A lot of money was wasted on consultants that did not do their jobs effectively. These consultants were hired by the current administration and board. They have to be held accountable for that. Who checked behind these people at the district level to ensure the accuracy of the work done by these consultants?

JBG is right about the impact of single member districts in the current environment in La Marque. The unintended consequences are having a negative impact on the quality of school board members that are elected.

The La Marque community must continue to have a strong resolve to remain vigilant and hold those in leadership accountable. Passing the buck and blaming others who are no longer there just want cut it. It's your watch now, you are on the clock and the clock is ticking.

I agree with those posters that said TEA should have stepped in sooner to stop some in leadership of district from hindering the administration from doing what needed to done sooner. The district's progress was certainly hampered by their actions.

Chris Gimenez

I'm confused here so maybe the Missionary Man and JB and some others can help. Isn't Mr. Price the same former Asst. Superintendent along with former Asst. Supt. Mae Carol Leiblong and former Supt. Adrian Johnson who started kicking the fiscal can down the road during their tenure so that Ecomet was blessed with holding a sack of doo-doo when he was hired? I do believe that this mess preceded to a large degree Mr. Burley and he was never able to stop the snowball of declining enrollment, deteriorating campuses, and a school board that got dumber as things got worse.

I was never impressed with Johnson or Lieblong, they both seemed to spend way too much time detached from what was supposed to have been their true roles at LMISD.


Bvresident, to be truthful I don't know Mr. Price. Maybe Mr. Manuel can answer your question about him. I hope Mr. Price or whoever they send in here has enough knowledge and integrity to provide relief to the children and taxpayers of this community!
I really do, because we are presently being held hostage now by a board which is out of touch with reality,...and has no clue as to how to function as a viable Board Of Trustees! They have no chance of rallying taxpayers for a tax hike!
My personal opinion is,... time has already expired where LMISD is concerned! When you have board members who have tried again and again to send in a simple report, to the state with paid assistance, and STILL CAN'T GET IT RIGHT! Well, my hope and faith in that group of people have diminished to the point where they are no more!
I say it it time to put LMISD out of it's misery like you would do a suffering animal with no hope of recovering. I'm just saying! I think the present leaders' focus is out of kilter with what is needed to be successful. That is obvious! One of the leaders was quoted as saying, "WE MUST FIGHT!" No,...No,...No,...you want them to WORK HARDER, not fight!
One of them was quoted as saying, "Don't tell me LaMarque is not on the road to recovery." Well that statement was very true LaMarque is on the road to recovery and it is doing very well from what I can see, because of it's present leadership. However LMISD is a different story, and I don't think it will ever recover! Bad leadership will DESTROY an organization!
I've said this before and I will again remind some and inform others that,..."THERE ARE NO BAD ORGANIZATIONS,....ONLY BAD ORGANIZERS!" I might write a book calling it ..."The Saga Of A Once Proud School District".....explaining,...how unqualified public servants hiding behind gerrymandered voting districts, brought down arguably one of the best school district in Texas.

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