The Texas Education Agency will revoke the accreditation of Arlington's Metro Academy of Math and Science, forcing it to close its doors, unless the charter school can persuade the state to rescind its ruling this month..
The 300-student school was flagged by the TEA for academically unacceptable ratings three of the last four years as well two consecutive years of substandard financial reports in 2009 and 2010.
"While it saddens me to take this action, given the expectations of state law and my concern for the long-term education of the students served by Metro Academy of Math and Science, I am compelled to move forward with this action," TEA Commissioner Robert Scott wrote on Feb. 11.
Metro Academy has asked the state education agency for a record review, which gives the school a chance to persuade the TEA to overturn its ruling. That hearing is scheduled for March 18 in Austin.
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Darryl Killen, superintendent and charter holder board president, said the school's limited finances have forced it to hire inexperienced faculty. That issue, coupled with the troubled academic background of many of the students, has been difficult to overcome.
"The bottom line is kids come to us and we are supposed to be able to teach them, get them over the hump and we've been unable to do that," Killen said.
Killen's proposal to the TEA would scale Metro back from a school offering kindergarten through eighth grade programs to one that offers K through sixth grade, allowing the school to reduce faculty and staff, which currently numbers about 50.
Metro also asked the state to allow the school to end its contract with the Excel Center, which was established to provide an education to students at Arlington's Millwood Hospital for Mental Health and Chemical Dependency.
"Students go there for residential treatment and we supply instructors, teachers," Killen said. "Those students are supposed to go back to their home school when they are released, but what we have learned is a lot of them go back and don't return to school. But the dropout rate is ours."
Metro also failed to submit a timely audit and there were questions about the school's debt. Mount Olive Baptist Church in Arlington, which has supported the school since its inception as a private facility in 1995, has since co-signed the loans, Killen said.
Despite his hopes to keep the school open, Killen has made no promises to the school's employees. "We told them the brutal, honest truth," Killen said. "If we're not successful in the record review, the state has the right to close down the school."
School officials have no idea if the state will listen to its appeal but TEA spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said "it is all looked at on an individual, school-by-school basis."
While Metro Academy faces the threat of closure, another Arlington charter school that dodged being shut down a year ago is drawing more attention from TEA officials.
The Jean Massieu Academy, which focuses on programs for deaf students, was placed on accredited probation, which means it could be a year away from having its accreditation stripped. The school has been placed on probation for two consecutive years of unacceptable ratings in both accountability and financial ratings.
"While progress has been made and positive actions have been taken, the situation at the school continues to bear scrutiny moving forward, and the agency encourages the governing board and superintendent of the school to maintain their vigilance in addressing the school's performance concerns," said Laura Taylor, the TEA's associate commissioner for accreditation in a March 1 letter to Jean Massieu officials
Jean Massieu officials said Wednesday that the person who could comment on the accredited probation had already left for the day.
One other Tarrant County charter school, Fort Worth Can Academy, was placed on accredited warned status after having academically unacceptable accountability ratings in 2009 and 2010.
If the school continues to have academic problems, it could be placed on accredited probation next year.
Bill Hanna, 817-390-7698