By Sarah Naron
ELKHART – During a called meeting held Monday, Sept. 10, the Board of Trustees of the Elkhart Independent School District discussed the possibility of participating in the Texas Center for Educator Excellence (TxCEE) Teacher and School Leader (TSL) Grant program.
“We are excited about the possibility of joining a partnership with TxCEE,” said EISD Superintendent Dr. Lamont Smith. “I’ve had the opportunity to visit with all the principals, and they have shared with me their insight; they’ve provided pros and cons as far as being a part of TxCEE. I’ve also worked with our special programs director, and she has been very much engaged with the process.”
Dr. Smith also informed the board of phone conversations held between EISD officials and those of Anderson-Shiro Consolidated ISD and Pharr-San Juan-Alamo ISD, both districts which are currently partnered with TxCEE.
“In addition to that, I’ve had an opportunity to work directly with programs very similar to what TxCEE is providing,” Dr. Smith continued.
In the midst of the discussion, the principals of each EISD campus were given the chance to express their opinion on the TxCEE TSL Grant program to the members of the board.
“I think it’s something that we’re excited about,” said Elkhart High School Principal Jason Ives. “It was kind of presented to us as an opportunity to improve student achievement. Would we be interested in it? The answer, obviously, is yes.”
Ives added that he is enticed by “the fact that it would be for every class, not just our core teachers.
“It gives us, as principals, an opportunity to grow,” he continued.
According to Elkhart Middle School Principal James Mays, the program holds the potential to “provide some instructional leadership to our teachers.
“It’s not been my strongest suit as a principal,” Mays admitted. “I feel I’m a really good principal to a great teacher who doesn’t need me in her room all the time. To a struggling teacher, I really struggle; sometimes, I struggle doing my own job. I don’t feel like I’m worthy of going in and helping them. This provides somebody on our campus who can help teachers teach and put best practices in place.
“I think overall, it’s something that offers something to us,” Mays said of the program.
Elkhart Elementary School Principal Tana Herring was not present at the meeting, but prepared a statement which was presented by Dr. Smith.
“I was very impressed with the staff from TxCEE who visited with us and explained more details of the grant,” Herring wrote. “My initial thoughts were, ‘If they can provide ways to make us even better than we are, how could that not be a positive thing?’”
Herring expressed appreciation for the honesty given by the TxCEE officials “in regard to the work that would be involved” in the program as well as “the fact that support from them would be available to us at any and all times.”
The risk of losing staff members as a result of forming a partnership with TxCEE was a concern cited by Herring.
“Our more experienced staff may resist change, as we all do at times,” Herring wrote. “My hope is that they will not use this as a reason to leave.
“Of course, I am also concerned about possible reorganization of staff, which would cause some to lose their positions,” Herring continued. “I’m remaining hopeful that neither of these possibilities occur.”
An in-depth presentation on the TxCEE TSL Grant program was given to the board by TxCEE Director of School Support Sherry Posey and Human Capital Management System (HCMS) Coordinator Sara Borchgardt.
Following an additional period of discussion and an executive session, the members of the board elected to move forward with further research on the opportunity.
“We’re going to be reaching out to our staff and allowing them to give us some feedback on their perspective of doing this partnership,” Dr. Smith said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “The partnership is going to be arranged between $1.4 million and $1.8 million possibly that will come in our direction in order to support our staff.”
Despite the approval provided by the board, Dr. Smith said, EISD will not yet move forward in initiating a partnership with TxCEE.
“It (board approval) means that we have the ability or the flexibility to move forward,” he explained. “It also means that TxCEE has to go through their process to determine if we will be candidates of choice as well.”
Sarah Naron may be reached via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.