TEXAS CITY — La Marque residents convened Tuesday evening at Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church, 302 N. Oak St.
Leaders from several area churches organized the meeting to answer questions the community had regarding the Texas Education Agency’s decision to remove La Marque’s school board and Superintendent Terri Watkins.
The agency’s commissioner, Michael Williams, confirmed the ruling Sept. 23. The resolution calls for a board of managers to govern the district.
“Our main concerns right now are just educating people,” the Rev. James E. Daniels said. Daniels is founder and chairman of the Eagles’ Nest Community Organization in Texas City. “We’re going to work with community leaders to show support for the board and superintendent in a passionate but dignified manner.”
The main contention Daniels and many at the meeting have is they believe Watkins and current school board members are suffering the consequences of past school district officials’ actions.
“Show me where the members of this sitting board are guilty of any of the wrongdoing that’s being assumed,” Daniels said.
Williams’ decision to abolish La Marque’s school board and superintendent came seven months after he declared he would revoke the district’s accreditation because of consecutive years of either poor academic or financial ratings.
The district received ‘Academically Unacceptable’ or ‘Improvement Required’ academic ratings in 2011, 2013, and 2014. It received a ‘Substandard Achievement’ for its financial ratings for the 2011-2012 school year.
District officials requested a review following Williams’ announcement. The Texas Education Agency agreed to abate the accreditation status decision in April.
One of the terms of the abatement agreement was that if the district received a preliminary 2014-2015 financial rating of ‘Substandard Achievement’ or a preliminary 2015 academic rating of ‘Improvement Required,’ a board of managers would be appointed to oversee the district. It also provided that Williams would anoint a new superintendent.
The district met its academic needs when it achieved a ‘Met Standard’ rating at the beginning of August, but it also received a ‘Substandard Achievement’ financial rating for the 2014-2015 school year, prompting Williams to follow through on the terms of the abatement agreement.
Watkins has served as superintendent since October 2013. Many at Tuesday’s meeting believe she shouldn’t be held accountable for the district’s performance before she came on.
“Ms. Watkins and the school board worked together to bring this district out of the dump,” Daniels said.
Daniels also noted that the school district appealed its “Substandard Achievement” financial rating at the beginning of September. A panel would review the appeal and issue a final rating in November, the agency said.
Many at Tuesday’s meeting pledged to maintain their support for Watkins and the embattled school board members. Other community members in attendance included Pastor D.N. Benford Sr. (Rising Star Missionary Baptist Church), Dr. Nathan Cunningham (President of the Mainland NAACP), Pastor Andrew Berry (Greater Barbour’s Chapel Baptist Church), and Pastor Dwyane Carpenter (Fellowship Missionary Baptist Church).
If it comes to it, a delegation from the community may travel to Austin to pitch their support for La Marque district officials to Williams in person, Daniels said.
“We have enough church vans. We can get up there.”
Contact reporter Joseph Baucum at 409-683-5237 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, @baucum_joseph.