Snyder ISD officials find themselves in a difficult position. The school district is facing sanctions due to student test scores at Snyder Junior High School. State legislators have written pretty definitive, while somewhat unrealistic, laws about the consequences to school districts that fail to meet the state’s standards.
And as we’ve learned in recently released tape recordings, at least a few of those who hold leadership positions in the Texas Legislature don’t seem to hold local governments in very high esteem. And while it’s generally the metropolitan areas, like Houston, Dallas and Austin that legislators like to target, it’s smaller, rural areas like Scurry County and Snyder that seem to get caught in the middle.
I believe that’s the case now with Snyder ISD and the Texas Education Agency (TEA). Because Houston ISD is facing the same sanctions, and lawmakers feel like any Houston-area government is fair game for Austin intervention, Snyder and a couple other school districts will likely receive little leeway from TEA as it drops the hammer on Houston ISD.
In a way, that’s good. Maybe this is the nudge that will finally bring about long-term changes that fix the problem of low student performance here. That, coupled with the existing outstanding extracurricular activities and learning opportunities, could in turn lead to increased enrollment.
Snyder ISD faces two basic decisions from TEA Commissioner Mike Morath: Appointing a new board of managers that answer to his office or closing the junior high school.
The first would result in the loss of local control, even if the appointed board of managers was made up of local citizens. By answering to Austin rather than local voters, decisions about the direction of the school district would be out of our hands.
If Morath were to order the campus closed, there are two ways forward. Snyder ISD could contract with a charter school company to operate the school. That would again lead to a loss of local control, provided district officials were even able to find a charter school that meets the state’s criteria and is willing to operate on a single campus in a rural school district.
The other is to significantly re-align the campus, which is the route school officials are promoting. During a series of public meetings Superintendent Dr. Eddie Bland and Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Rachael McClain have explained the options and what the district could look like next fall.
They admit the plans are preliminary in nature and constantly evolving, as they should be. Through focus groups, staff meetings and at least four public meetings so far, district officials are also gathering information to incorporate into the plan.
As someone who has pushed local governing entities to do more to be transparent and involve the public in their deliberations, I applaud the school district’s leadership for holding so many public meetings and sticking around as long as it takes to answer the public’s questions.
Part of the reason that’s important is because the public has an important role to play in this process. Parents of Snyder Junior High School students are being asked to sign petitions that match their preference for a board of managers or school closing that will be delivered to Morath. They, and other citizens, are also being asked to sign petitions if they support the dual pathway structure school officials are proposing.
In addition to attending the public meetings and sharing their opinion through the petitions, on Tuesday the public can also ask one of the legislators who can be heard on tape suggesting that Austin legislators know better than local leaders how to manage local issues to put those feelings aside and publicly support our school district’s process and decision. State Rep. Dustin Burrows will be at Amore Tuesday for a town hall meeting that begins at 6 p.m.
Bill Crist is the publisher of the Snyder Daily News. Comments about his column may be emailed to email@example.com.