LA MARQUE — After more than a year and two earlier rejections, the La Marque school district this week got the state’s approval of its financial solvency plan.

However, the state warned that if the district didn’t follow the plan, its accreditation status, which is already probationary, could be lowered or the district could face “additional sanctions,” a state education agency spokeswoman said.

In a Monday letter to Superintendent Terri Watkins, the Texas Education Agency’s associate commissioner of school finance, Lisa Dawn-Fisher, said the state will monitor La Marque’s adherence to the solvency plan for the next three years.

“This has been kind of a euphoric day for me,” Watkins said. “There has been so much work and so much preparation to make sure the solvency plan is working.”

Watkins said she was elated to have a bit of good news.

“We haven’t had much of that lately,” she said. “I am so happy for the community and for our students. We are ready to move forward. 

“We are really ready to move forward.”

While school district officials contended the state only had questions about its last solvency plan submission as the reason it was not accepted, that wasn’t necessarily the case, the state confirmed.

TEA spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said that because the district brought in an outside agency to help formulate its plan, the revised plan better addressed the district’s financial woes.

La Marque partnered with the Harris County Department of Education to overhaul its solvency plan.

Watkins said while that plan formulation was key, she also credited the district’s staff and school board for making sure La Marque sticks with the plan.

“We have gone without some things that other districts have because we have to stick with the plan,” Watkins said. “Our staff and school board are committed to following the plan.”

The solvency plan’s approval doesn’t change the troubled school district’s status, Culbertson said. In February, state Education Commissioner Michael Williams notified the district its accreditation status was on probation.

In March, he appointed a conservator to oversee the district’s operations.

Conservator Carlos Price was appointed after La Marque failed to meet state standards in finance, academics or graduation rates for three consecutive years.

In 2011, the district received an unacceptable rating because of a poor completion rate. That is the rate at which students graduate high school.

In 2012, the district’s financial standing was found substandard by the state. As a result, the state ordered the district to come up with a solvency plan that has repeatedly been rejected. A new plan is under review.

Then, in the latest state review, the district failed to meet academic marks in two indexes.

Because of three straight years of low marks, the district’s accreditation was put on probation. Another failing grade in either academic or financial standards could result in the district having its accreditation revoked.

La Marque is appealing the state’s decision to put its accreditation status on probation.

Meanwhile, Price’s appointment is on hold as the state conducts a records review as part of La Marque’s appeal.

That review was done on April 2, but the state has not yet ruled on La Marque’s appeal, Culbertson said.

The school district in its appeal contends that because the state did not issue academic accreditation statuses two years ago, the TEA skipped a step before appointing a conservator. The statue would usually issue a “warn” accreditation status before going to a probationary status.

While academic ratings were not issued in 2012, financial statuses were, and in that year La Marque was found to be below state standards for its financial standing. 

Watkins said after she met with state officials face-to-face earlier this month, she feels “good” about the district’s chances of getting a reprieve.

“It is not in our hands,” she said. “The district has done everything possible to convince the TEA that we know what needs to happen and we know what direction we need to move.”

 

Contact Mainland Editor T.J Aulds at 409-683-5334 or tjaulds@galvnews.com.

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(8) comments

Gary Miller

The survival of LM ISD is entirely in the hands of the BOT and administration.
They and only they can carry out the changes required.
Until and unless the state takes control to make the needed changes.

Walter Manuel

"It is not in our hands,” she said. “The district has done everything possible to convince the TEA that we know what needs to happen and we know what direction we need to move.”

Obviously, Terri Watkins nor the school district has even come close to doing EVERYTHING that they needed to do to turn this district around. They had to hire an outside agency to finally write a solvency that their own people in place couldn't do on their own not once, but TWICE with the help of another high paid consultant!

They have the SAME exact LOSING team players on their Same exact Losing team along with the same LOSING school board members directing the district. So what's changed???

It really shows that they've done everything they needed to do when they NOW have to hire someone from the outside in order to help others do their job because Terri Watkins doesn't have the kahuna's to get NEW team players that is mandatory at this point.

How will paying an external source to oversee their financial reports and a conservator now fit into their solvency plan without further cutting services to our students?

They can tell their supporters this lie, but the rest of us have already seen that they are STILL benefitting themselves and their own paychecks, not our students nor our community!

We can't afford to keep people on the payroll when it continues taking 2 people to do what ordinarily takes one QUALIFIED person to do in other successful school districts! [yawn]

JBG JBG


Pull the plug!!! Naw! Naw! Pull the plug quickly. Need I remind the TEA, that El Paso, ISD, Beaumont ISD and North Forest ISD are watching?

Walter Manuel

Exactly Mr. JBG!

Why is LMISD any different from any other school district just because they know what it takes to turn this district around and yet by continuing to have the same people in place they will continue doing the same thing that got them in trouble in the first place?

Obviously LMISD doesn't watch much sports seeing how when a sports team has a losing track record year after year they eventually trade out their players in order to get those people that it will take for them to finally win.

Not the case in LMISD today or even a possibility for tomorrow, seeing how they continue their daily operations with the same players.

Some of us in the community did our part to ask TEA NOT to reverse their decision on LMISD's accreditation status in order to finally give our children a better education and eventually send all of these people packing! [wink]

George Croix

Guess the TEA likes chicken...[wink]

Robert Buckner

OMG, someone said Chicken

JBG JBG

Could be some kin-folks doing some good intercession work behind the scene in Austin! Make no mistake about it,...I have a problem believing the TEA can do all they did to these other school districts around the state of Texas,for being dysfunctional,...under performing,...and for non-compliance of state measurements bench marks,...and standards, and still allow LMISD to keep manufacturing what they are mass producing over there, on Bayou Road.
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It is totally unconscionable in my opinion. It is my understanding that they don't need principals anymore over there. I also heard that many of the teachers were told to handle their own problems on site, when the kids start disrupting class or something. Hey,...I'm just saying what I'm hearing.
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If that is the case, why do they need assistant principals? If assistant superintendents are going to do principal work,...why do they need principals?
Hey, I'm not saying,...I'm just saying...............
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All this is about paychecks not education,...and it has been about paychecks for years! Right now though, it is the bottom of the ninth, two out, two strikes on the batter! One more strike and that is all she wrote!
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Resumes ought to be filling up the post offices around here! The timing is magnificent for sending them out! Employees should not get trapped behind the eight ball on this one. There is no excuse.

Walter Manuel

If all of this constant mess with LMISD isn't a wake up call for all of the teachers and district employees currently at LMISD, then perhaps they can't go anywhere else and they are part of the reason the children of this district are failing?

I know if there was this much instability and uncertainty in my job, I would certainly be sending out my resume to everyone that I could and like yesterday!

Selling chicken dinners might now be a true reality for all of these people at this point if they intend on staying in the education business and keeping their new school open when they cause ours to be closed.

I hear there's also a broke down bar-b-que pit stored somewhere that they could always fall back on if selling chicken doesn't work out for them....[beam]

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