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  • ECISD/Tech agreement may not go through; nonprofit may take over at Ector

    first_img Pinterest Pinterest Texas Tech, ECISD logos The memorandum of understanding between Ector County Independent School District and Texas Tech University College of Education as of Monday morning was apparently not sufficient to get the Texas Education Agency’s blessing.The school district had until before midnight Monday to send a contract to TEA, Spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said. The school board was scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. today.Superintendent Tom Crowe said the district found out about TEA’s rejection late afternoon or early evening Friday.“Evidently, the Texas Education Agency made a decision after looking at it some more that they changed their mind and decided that an MOU would not suffice, that they needed a fully executed contract by midnight tonight (April 30) before they would approve it and that a memorandum of understanding would not suffice,” Crowe said.Texas Tech’s legal team needed more time to thoroughly review the agreement before they could approve it, so “that became a dead issue at that point,” he added.Crowe said they talked to Robert Bleisch, a lecturer and doctoral candidate at Texas Tech College of Education, about the possibility of forming a nonprofit, which Bleisch has filed paperwork for. He said that’s what would be presented during Monday’s meeting.Crowe said Mike Atkins, the attorney for ECISD, has kept the board of trustees up on all the Ector developments.“Robert was the face of this anyway and so he’s formed a 501(c)3 and it will be basically the same service and support that was presented … to the public. It’s just that Tech officially won’t be legally responsible for the entity,” Crowe said.“We’re confident that it will operate just as we had predicted that it would when we presented it to the community,” he added.Bleisch, who also is director of Safety Net Domain for the East Lubbock Promise Neighborhood Grant, presented the concept of converting Ector Middle School into a charter school to the community in April.ECISD has eight campuses on improvement required status under state accountability regulations. Ector Middle School, Noel and Zavala elementary are in their fifth year. If the campuses don’t come off the list, they will face closure or the Texas Education Commissioner will appoint a board of managers over the whole district.Bleisch said he formed the nonprofit after it was learned TEA was not going to approve the memorandum of understanding.There was some discussion initially of whether to form a 501(c)3 or writing a memorandum of understanding. He said there will be no change to the program. It will still be a charter school.“This is different because Texas Tech is not the entity that has formed the 501(c)3. The only difference is the money flows differently. Our intent is to contract with the College of Education,” Bleisch said.He added that it will be a few months before the nonprofit becomes official, but it’s his understanding that the process can move forward while that’s happening. He said his role with Texas Tech is still under discussion.Bleisch said things like transportation, food service and special education, for example, will flow through ECISD. The district will bill the nonprofit for the services and get reimbursed, he said.Bleisch said the plan is to keep as many of the teachers and administrators as possible at Ector.He said he has had experience with school turnarounds, but not necessarily using this avenue.“We’re entering unchartered territory,” Bleisch said.Culbertson said contracting with a nonprofit would work.“They’re really trying to work with us on this,” Crowe said. “Evidently when the commissioner himself took a look at this, he decided that an MOU wouldn’t work.”He said ECISD was told by a top TEA official that it would be OK.Having known for several years that Ector was in trouble, Crowe said all along officials thought the campus would get out of IR. He said the district started the process of asking for applications to operate Ector months ago.“We have other agreements with the education department at Tech. This was the first time general counsel and everyone got involved. That’s OK. We’re working through it. I’m not going to sit around and whine and gripe. … We’re going to monitor, adjust and figure out how we’re going to make this work for the kids,” Crowe said.If this isn’t approved, Crowe said the district will put together a plan and he’ll plead their case in Austin.Culbertson said the contract was due before midnight Monday. TEA has 15 days to approve or review it.Required documents under Senate Bill 1882 are a cover letter, partnership plan proposal, a copy of an executive performance contract (which she said is basically the contract), and a partnership assurances document that sets out policies to be followed for running the school.“TEA will provide corrective feedback on policies that do not meet minimum criteria. Districts that adopt the TEA recommended model policy and charter application are eligible for automatic Phase 1 approval,” information sent by TEA said.PREVIOUS VERSION: The memorandum of understanding between Ector County Independent School District and Texas Tech University College of Education as of Monday morning was apparently not sufficient enough to get the Texas Education Agency’s blessing.The school district had until before midnight Monday to send a contract to TEA, Spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said. The school board was scheduled to meet at 6 p.m. Monday. Trustees had signed a memorandum of understanding April 26 and it was supposed to be sent to Texas Tech for signing in time for Monday’s deadline.Meanwhile, ECISD trustee Nelson Minyard posted on Facebook that: “The TEA is out of control they lied to us and then torpedo our partnership with Texas Tech to help our 5 year IR middle school. It was a bold (sic) face lie do not trust them with your district.”After a question from Arlo Chavira, a previous candidate for school board and other offices, saying he thought it was a done deal, Minyard replied that:“The TEA called Tech Friday night and told them the MOU we sighed (sic) Thursday was not going to do it after telling us it would be good so Tech backed out TEA said we would have to have a contract by Monday night.”Minyard, Superintendent Tom Crowe and Mike Atkins, the attorney for the school district, could not be reached for comment Monday morning.ECISD Board of Trustees Vice President Doyle Woodall said he found out about the situation Sunday afternoon. Apparently, he said, an email was sent by Atkins on Friday.Chief of Staff Brian Moersch said a statement was being worked on “to explain it all,” and that everything would be fine.“It was yesterday (Sunday) afternoon before I found out about this. I don’t know what the deal is on it. We just got an email saying they had rejected our offer. It was the MOU that they rejected. They wanted it to be a contract and Tech doesn’t feel like they can have a viable contract ready that soon,” Woodall said.He added that the Texas Tech Board of Regents was only recently apprised of the situation and needed more time to review it.Culbertson said the contract was due before midnight Monday. TEA has 15 days to approve or review it.Required documents under Senate Bill 1882 are a cover letter, partnership plan proposal, a copy of an executive performance contract (which she said is basically the contract), and a partnership assurances document that sets out policies to be followed for running the school.“TEA will provide corrective feedback on policies that do not meet minimum criteria. Districts that adopt the TEA recommended model policy and charter application are eligible for automatic Phase 1 approval,” information sent by TEA said. 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