Nacogdoches ISD moves forward with plan to re-vamp Carpenter Elementary campus

Nacogdoches ISD moves forward with plan to re-vamp Carpenter Elementary campus
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff

NACOGDOCHES, TX (KTRE) - During a special called meeting Tuesday night, the Nacogdoches ISD School Board voted unanimously to implement the "reduction in force" program change designed to address ongoing TEA accountability issues regarding the Emeline Carpenter Elementary campus.

The plan, which was recommended by incoming Nacogdoches ISD superintendent Sandra Dowdy, will re-purpose the Carpenter Elementary campus, so that starting in the 2017-1018 school year, the campus will only serve students in grades PK through K..

-"We're looking at right now Pre-K and K. It may include first grade also," Dowdy said "That's what's still in limbo right now."

The students in grades 2 through 5 will be likely moved to other Nacogdoches ISD campuses, according to NISD spokeswoman Leisha Bryant. Bryant said the total number of NISD staff members who will be affected is still not confirmed at this time, but they estimate 14 employees will be affected.

" If our scores do not come in with substantial increase, then we have to have a Plan B," Dowdy said. "And we had to create the Plan B starting now because of contracts with teachers. It overlaps."

The uncertainty places a hardship on about 14 NISD employees and at least 175 students and their parents. Other options are even less desirable, Dowdy said;.

"As you are aware, Emeline Carpenter is in its 5th year of Improvement Required status," Dowdy wrote in the plan she presented to the NISD School Board. "A turnaround plan was created in 2015-2016 designed to produce significant and substantial gains in achievement."

In the document, Dowdy said the turnaround plan requires periodic reporting of student assessment data to the Texas Education Agency.

"Benchmark scores for this year indicate that the anticipated gains will not occur and that Emeline Carpenter Elementary will move into its 6th year in IR status," Dowdy said in the document. "While we technically have two years to pull out of IR, the Commissioner is strongly urging that we act at the local level to change course for those for the 2017-2018."

Dowdy said that AJ Crabtree, a TEA deputy commissioner will come to Nacogdoches on April 27 to lay out for the NISD School Board and the community the various options that are available for improving student outcomes.

"Those options will span from least to most aggressive and will be designed to impact the district as a whole," Dowdy said in the document.

Dowdy said no matter what the TEA recommends, re-vamping the Emeline Carpenter Elementary campus is going to be required.

"The scores are simply too low to move out of IR status in one year," Dowdy said.

In the document, Dowdy explained the goal is to "give Emeline Carpenter Elementary every chance to succeed by rebuilding it one grade level at a time until it is back to a PK through 5 configurations." Dowdy said she put new leadership with a history of improving student outcomes into place at the campus at the TEA's recommendation.

Last week, NISD hired Dr. Jackie Briggs-Vaughn as the new principal for the Carpenter campus.

"She has a proven track record in public education and will lead the new campus," Dowdy said.

In the document, Dowdy explained because the school will no longer be a testing campus, Emeline Carpenter Elementary campus will lose its IR status. She added that the testing and accountability ratings will start back up at the campus, once 3rd grade is returned to the school.

Dowdy said the 1st through 5th teachers at Carpenter will be affected by the campus' re-organization, Others who will be affected include behavioral, reading and math, counselor, and CIC interventionalists, and special education resource staff members at the campus.

Dowdy said now she and the district's campus principals will be crunching the numbers to determine how many staff members they need to serve the approximately 175 Emeline Carpenter students that will be impacted by the changes.

"Undoubtedly we will be required to eliminate some full time teaching positions, as some students can be absorbed into existing classrooms," Dowdy said. "Once the numbers are solidified, we will then apply the RIF criteria to those educators who fit into the program areas identified to determine employees subject to the reduction in force."

Dowdy said that teachers that are identified will be given the option to resign. If they choose not to do so, they will be brought before the NISD school board in April "with a recommendation to propose non-renewal based on program change reduction in force."

"Remaining teachers will be placed at existing campuses," Dowdy said. "Of course, all staff have the ability to apply for existing vacancies."

The incoming NISD superintendent also said she will be discussing possible facility changes to accommodate the additional students at the other Nacogdoches ISD campuses with Ralph LaRue, the district's director of facilities and construction. Dowdy said she will also be working with Stacy Lampkin, NISD's transportation director, to work out busing issues.

"We want to provide the least amount of disruption possible to these families," Dowdy said "And we want to be as efficient as possible with our resources."

Dowdy said in the document that the district's goal is to roll out a proposed staff and transportation plan to the NISD School Board by the week of May 8. She also said she and the district's leadership would like to schedule at least one town hall-style meeting at the Emeline Carpenter Elementary campus between now and then to get feedback from the community.

"Test scores will be released in early June," Dowdy said. "If for some reason the scores at Emeline Carpenter Elementary are sufficient to support a PK-5 campus for the 2017-2018 school year, this program change can absolutely be un-done."

In the document, Dowdy went on to say that she believes this is the best choice to keep Emeline Carpenter Elementary a part of Nacogdoches ISD and not relinquish control of the campus to the Texas Education Agency.

"We can either close the campus and repurpose the facility, or we can have a third-party charter come in and take it," Dowdy said. "TEA could take over."

Reconfiguration was proposed two years ago as a way to dodge IR status. It never happened due to emotional opposition from parents and alumni.

'"This is more of a growth plan<' said Steve Green, the president of the NISD School Board. 'They weren't close to  even being the same plan."

Dowdy said even with two plans in place, the Texas Education Agency could come in as late as August and take over the district.

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