The Pearsall Independent School District is waiting for word if it will be shut down. The school district 60 miles south of San Antonio had its accreditation revoked. And the community is trying to come to grips with what a closure could mean for their children and their future.
It was a full house in the Pearsall High School cafeteria Wednesday night for the school board meeting. A public hearing is on the agenda. It was the first chance parents had to question the district’s leadership about the big bad news. They had learned that after four straight years of not meeting state academic standards the Texas Education Agency revoked PISD’s accreditation.
Parents waited late into the night for the hearing to begin. But only after a handful of comments the school board president Rochelle Camacho ordered to shut the public hearing down.
“We already had the time for questions and answers. We now have to move on with the agenda,” Camacho said.
One concerned parent, Ruben Trevino, objected and Camacho called security to throw him out of the open meeting.
“Madam president – is this your style of a public hearing?” said Trevino.
“I’m sorry sir you have to sit down,” said Camacho.
Armed campus security grabbed Trevino and were forcefully escorting him out. That prompted more outcry from the parents
“The question has to be answer. It has to be answered” said Trevino.
and only then Trevino was allowed to ask his question.
“Will you take a pledge not to hire any more uncertified teachers,” he asked.
Trevino didn’t get an answer but he did make a point that even the Pearsall ISD superintendent Norbert Rodriguez unwittingly acknowledged earlier in the evening when he gave his presentation about why the school district is in trouble.
“The district turn over has been pretty large over the years,” he said.
He blamed staff turn overs – in both faculty and administration. In 2012 alone Pearsall High School went through five principals. And in recent years the school district was only able to hang on to 38 percent of its teachers.
Rodriguez said they are working to change that and are already seeing a turnaround in teacher retention. Rodriguez also blamed the entire Texas school accountability system for their revoked status. He told the parents that they school would have met standards except for some technicalities in how students are assessed.
“Count those students we wouldn’t be here doing this. Count those students are we’re not here under distress,” he said.
But Doug Arnold, the TEA assigned monitor for Pearsall ISD, says that doesn’t matter.
“The issue is – it is the system we have and we just have to deal with it. It is tough. It is a tough system,” said Arnold.
But Pearsall isn’t alone in facing a possible shutdown. This year six districts and five charter schools received accreditation revocation notices by TEA. Three were offered one-year abatements — Jonesboro ISD, Marlin ISD and Snook ISD. But La Marque ISD will close. Like Pearsall Premont ISD, south of Alice is also waiting for word of abatement – basically one more chance to meet accreditation standards.
“In my opinion the commissioner doesn’t want to close any schools but he also owes it to the school children of Texas that they are in a system that teaches children at a level where they need to be taught,” said Arnold.
However, many in Pearsall including the mayor Mary Moore said losing the district would not be a critical blow to the community because the schools would still remain open, only the district offices would be in a neighboring town.
“The students are still going to be housed here. In the event that we lose our accreditation the kids will be annexed. In other words, they may belong to Devine or Dilley. So far as economics, it will probably be the same,” said Moore.
But Moore did concede that losing the school district would hurt the morale at the local schools. But in the end what matters most is giving the children the highest quality education.