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School Board Trustees Under Microscope Following School Accountability Ratings

Ryan Poppe
Texas Senate Education Committee

What is a school board member’s role in improving student performance and how should the state hold them accountable? Those are questions state lawmakers are asking ahead of the 2017 legislative session.

The release of the 2016 school accountability ratings has spurred many conversations this week at the state capitol, including how to help the lowest performing schools.

Credit Ryan Poppe
Education Commissioner Mike Morath

Education Commissioner Mike Morath said it’s wrong to point the finger at underperforming teachers.

“I don’t think we can as arm-chair quarterbacks complain about underperforming teachers at an individual campus when it’s in fact the leadership at the district level that sets the stages for whether they can succeed or not," Morath told lawmakers.

Morath said that’s one reason the Texas Education Agency has been working to develop more training for school boards on how to improve these schools.

The TEA lists 20 individual campuses in the San Antonio Independent School District as “Improvement Required.” SAISD Trustee Steve Lecholop said the TEA training for school board members is insufficient.

Credit Ryan Poppe
SAISD Board Trustee Steve Lecholop

He told members of the Senate Education Committee that the SAISD board hired a new superintendent and made systematic changes on how to improve these struggling individual campuses.

“And the No. 1 change that can be made is at the principal level, we have to be certain that we have good instructional leaders at every campus, especially at those campuses that have historically failed students," Lesholop explained.

Another idea brought up by lawmakers at Tuesday’s hearing, was to hold school board elections any time a district’s school accountability rating dropped to a “D” or “F” rating, something Lecholop says he as an SAISD board member would support.