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Reprieved – But is TEA’s La Marque schools decision just a stay of execution?


Williams, Brandon CA news and sports special report by Brandon C Williams

FOR NOW, there will still be a La Marque independent school district.
Wednesday’s offer by Texas education commissioner Michael Williams to keep LMISD open for the time being is at least a temporary moment of hope for the district, which has been facing the threat of permanent closure since the education agency took the school’s accreditation away in February.
Although the threat still hangs over the district, Williams said it is safe until at least until the next round of academic and financial rankings as long as it agrees in full to his proposals.
The Cougars’ football coach and athletic director, Mike Jackson, was one ISD staff member who was particularly happy with the offer. “I’m happy for the kids and the community, but there is still a lot of work to be done,” he said.
Jackson’s words ring true, especially as La Marque must also produce at least standard results when the education agency reviews the district in June. A substandard rating in either academic or financial rankings is most likely to result in Williams appointing a stand-in superintendent and a board of managers to oversee the district, which would probably be the first step toward the closure of the district fat the end of the 2015-16 school year.
On Friday, La Marque’s board of trustees were still reviewing Williams’ proposal, which also includes the district hiring a security firm to oversee its next round of student testing. Their agreement with the proposal would also force the district to waive its right to appeal Williams’ ultimate decision to the state’s office of administrative hearings.
The decision to keep La Marque open was greeted with enthusiasm by many, yet there are some who feel that it only delays the eventual closure of a district that has taken numerous setbacks in the past decade. The community has also been sharply criticized for its alleged emphasis on the success of its football program over the betterment of the district as a whole.
While the football program has won five state championships while appearing in nine state championship games since 1993, critics have accused the city of obsessing over the performance of the team. But, despite 41 wins and three district championships since Jackson’s arrival in 2011, he has also faced his share of skeptics who are longing for an appearance in a state title game, something that has not happened since 2010. The Cougars have not won a state championship since 2006.
Tracy Rollins, a 1990 La Marque graduate who played three seasons on the high-school varsity football team, said: “It’s cool for the moment. I don’t think it will last, but it’s not due to the effort this current administration is giving, which has been tremendous.
“I don’t think it will outdo the political push going on here, though. To be honest, the move to close LMISD is destined to happen sooner or later. I just hate to see it go.”
Once a University Interscholastic League class-5A high school with more than 2,100 students in the 1980s, La Marque now has less than 500 students and has fallen to class-4A status. It is very likely it will fall to class 3A when the next round of UIL athletic realignment arrives next February.

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