February 25, 2013

Arlington trustees hear restructuring plan for Nichols Junior High

Arlington's Nichols Junior High has failed to meet federal benchmarks for five straight years.

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ARLINGTON -- Arlington school trustees heard reports Monday on the sober business of formulating a restructuring plan for Nichols Junior High School, which is in Stage 4 sanctions for not meeting "Adequate Yearly Progress," a benchmark in the federal No Child Left Behind law.

Nichols did not meet AYP during the 2007, 2008, 2009, 2011 and 2012 school years.

Texas Education Agency guidelines, based on NCLB law, require the district to prepare a restructuring plan for a school in Stage 4. In the event that the school does not meet AYP in the current year (2012-13), this plan would be implemented in 2013-14.

But the improvement plan is already under way at Nichols, a proactive move by administrators in anticipating the next round of AYP results.

The former Nichols principal has already been removed, and Newcomer Center Principal Mark Strand is serving as interim until a new principal is chosen.

"We want to move beyond compliance," said Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos.

"The likelihood of success is much greater if we plan it correctly."

Of four prescribed restructuring options, Arlington administrators selected a plan that replaces "all or most of the school staff who are relevant to the failure to make AYP."

Other options included making it a charter school, contracting for a private management company to operate the school, or turning the operation of the school over to the state.

The new principal will be selected with input from present staff, a part of the plan that school board President Peter Baron called into question.

"Having input from a campus where every teacher's job is on the line is ludicrous," he said.

Administrators, along with the new principal, will conduct a needs assessment at Nichols looking at staffing, services to students, course offerings, scheduling and performance data. They will research best practices at high-performing schools.

Now that the draft of the restructuring plan has been shared with the board, the next step is approval of the plan, and a public hearing will be conducted at the next meeting March 7.

The plan would be submitted to the Texas Education Agency by March 15.

Frustration with the system itself and the weight of testing was expressed, especially by Trustee Tony Pompa.

"This all makes it seem that Nichols is in complete disarray, and we know it isn't," Pompa said. "It casts a bad light on our district, and it doesn't make any sense."

State and federal standards are not necessarily on the same page, trustees noted.

Nichols has been rated academically acceptable or recognized by the state five of the past six years, yet AYP says it has failed for four of the past six years.

Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657

Twitter: @startelegram

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