Galveston ISD Board President Matthew Hay writes “I know we’ve still got some work to do at a couple of campuses ...” (“What ‘Political Buzz’ didn’t say,” The Daily News, Sept. 29). David O’Neal’s column claimed “GISD is doing well, and already excels” (The Daily News, Oct. 17). Previously, O’Neal wrote “Galveston Independent School District faced the possibility of being taken over by the state had the district not planned and done something immediately by February 2017” (“Central is doing well and on the road to excellence,” The Daily News, Sept. 24). As a former trustee, I know the state does not threaten districts that are doing well and excelling. So, I pulled the Texas Education Agency’s 2017 Distinction Designation summary reports.
O’Neal states that GISD elementary schools earned 13 distinctions and that Ball High School was proclaimed as the county’s best. TEA records show that island elementary schools had 20 distinctions available and received 11, or 55 percent. Nine of the 11 are from Oppe and Morgan. Ball High earned no distinctions.
O’Neal writes “For several years, Texas had only 41 percent (recently changed to 45 percent) of third-graders reading at grade level.” The Dallas Morning News places Texas’ 2017 third grade reading passing rate at 72 percent. An apples-to-apples comparison? Hard to tell. But who would consider 45 percent as doing well or excelling?
O’Neal states “Currently, GISD is one of eight school districts of over 1,200 in the state to be part of the ‘System of Great Schools Network.’ This means that people of Texas and the nation recognize the great job GISD is doing.”
Categorically false. GISD is part of the “System of Great Schools Technical Assistance Network.” From TEA: “This is an optional technical support program, that is designed with a cohort model allowing interested districts to apply and participate.” The program confers no recognition of achievement. A former administrator says the program is for “underperforming school districts.” Our community should be concerned that O’Neal misled us. However, we should be more concerned that the GISD administration made no effort to correct the record.
In 2013, GISD ranked, per TEA scores, fifth in student achievement among Galveston County ISDs. For 2017, GISD still ranks fifth. Wonder why we have such a difficult time attracting middle-class families? Housing value is not an excuse. La Marque has plenty of inexpensive homes — yet newcomers constantly choose the more expensive communities in Clear Creek or Friendswood ISDs over La Marque and Galveston.
Hay’s proclamation that, “we’ve still got some work to do at a couple of campuses …” does not hold water. Hay continuously trumpets that GISD schools “meet standard.” This ignores the fact that schools can “meet standard” even though the students do not perform at grade level. The truth is that every campus needs work — except two.
Disturbingly, GISD is operating on deficit budgets to attain these results while paying among the lowest teacher compensation in the county. If that trend continues, the state will have no choice but to take action. All our children, and underpaid teachers, deserve better. But don’t expect change until we choose people from outside the same old circles.