March 7, 2013

Arlington district, TCC plan Early College High School

Arlington school trustees approve plan for new program in collaboration with Tarrant County College Southeast Campus. They also approved restructuring of Nichols Junior High School, a campus that has missed the federal No Child Left Behind program's Adequate Yearly Progress marker for five of the past six years.

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ARLINGTON -- The school board unanimously agreed Thursday night to take the first step toward establishing an Early College High School on the Tarrant County College Southeast Campus.

Trustees agreed 7-0 that the district will file papers of intent with the Texas Education Agency to establish the program in collaboration with TCC.

The school would have students in grades 9 through 12 who would earn up to 60 college credits along with their high school diploma. The school would begin with a 100-student freshman class, and eventually have 400 students when all grades are added.

Students would be those who might not otherwise consider attending college, those who would like to complete their high school work early and go on to college, and others who could be considered at risk.

Prospective students would apply to enter the new school and go through an acceptance process.

"Through this partnership, AISD students enrolled in the campus would have access to college facilities, resources and services as early as their freshman year in high school," said Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos.

The campus would allow 100 Arlington students each year to earn a high school diploma and up to 60 college credit hours during their four-year high school career. "The Southeast Campus is committed to reaching out to the AISD community to create an environment that results in the creation of a college-going culture," said TCC Southeast Campus President Bill Coppola.

The next step is a memorandum of understanding with TCC to work out the details and shared duties, after the intent papers are filed.

Though no hard figures were presented before the preliminary step was approved, the school would be staffed with a principal, a counselor and other support staff. High school classes will be taught by public school teachers; college classes by TCC faculty. "It just doesn't get any better than this, " said board President Peter Baron before the unanimous yes vote.

Less happily, the trustees also voted 7-0 to adopt a restructuring plan for Nichols Junior High School, a campus that has missed the federal No Child Left Behind program's Adequate Yearly Progress marker for five of the past six years.

Already, the school's principal has been reassigned and an interim principal put in place. A new principal is due to be appointed in April.

One parent expressed the Nichols community's frustration during a public hearing before the vote. Several parents and teachers were present.

"We're very confused about what the situation is with the departure of Ms. Knox, who was much loved," said Carlos Badillo, who has had two sons attend the school.

"My big concern is for my friends who now have kids who are coming through. I do not understand the guidelines that we didn't meet. There's got to be a different guideline; otherwise we're going to be in the same boat next year."

Several restructuring plans could have been selected, including handing over operation of the school to the state, reopen it as a charter school, contract with a private firm to run it, or replace all or most of the staff who were held responsible for the school's failure. The district chose the last option.

By 10 p.m., the board had yet to discuss items involving the rollout of the district's Bring Your Own Technology program that will allow students to bring their own tablets, laptops and smartphones to class; development of the district's instructional model; and a legislative update.

Shirley Jinkins, 817-390-7657

Twitter: @startelegram

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