Arlington school trustees talk transfers, question campout method

02/17/2014 2:10 PM

02/17/2014 2:11 PM

With the transfer process for the 2014-15 school year opening March 1, Arlington district trustees had an informal discussion about the system at their meeting Thursday night.

Parents and guardians who wish to have their children transferred to a school other than the one they are zoned to attend may begin camping out at the Arlington ISD J.W. Counts Administration Building on Pioneer Parkway at 8 a.m. Monday. The camping fee, which is good through March 1, is $50.

At last week’s meeting, school board Vice President Jamie Sullins said the current transfer process doesn’t make much sense.

“Why is [a parent’s] physical presence required to maintain their number in the line?” Sullins asked fellow trustees.

Michael Hill, assistant superintendent of administration, said that is the way the district has historically handled transfers.

But Sullins stressed that parents should be able to get a number, go home and come back on the day of actual sign-up.

Trustees Tony Pompa, Gloria Peña and Aaron Reich expressed similar sentiments.

I don’t think it’s the best system,” Reich said. “I haven’t thought so for all these years. We’ve looked at online systems, lottery systems — there’s all kinds of systems out there. I’m very interested at looking at something as a revision.”

School board President Bowie Hogg reminded trustees that parents can automatically transfer if their school is low-performing and that not more than 30 or so parents usually camp out each year.

Students enrolled in schools rated as low-performing by the Texas Education Agency or in schools where more than half the students failed the TAAS/TAKS for two of any three consecutive years can transfer to another school or district.

“We were school choice before school choice was cool,” Hogg said. “I don’t think this is the best system we have, but I also haven’t seen a better system. We’ve talked about this plenty of times. You can’t forget, you only have to do this one time. People camp out for a Sony PlayStation for a week.”

The trustees didn’t take official action but said they would be interested in revisiting the topic. Trustees voted 7-0 to close seven elementary schools to incoming transfers for the 2014-2015 school year.

Berry, Blanton, Crow, Knox, Rankin, Roark and Thornton elementary schools were rezoned as part of an effort to relieve overcrowding at campuses in east Arlington.

The board approved the measures in November. The only exceptions will be for students who were previously approved for a transfer to one of those schools and their siblings.

Elementary school transfers jumped from 4,578 in the 2012-13 academic year to 5,059 this year.

Transfers cost $100 a year, and first priority is given to students who live within the Arlington school district.

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