Arlington charter school gets a reprieve from Texas

ARLINGTON -- The Jean Massieu Academy has averted a July 1 shutdown after state officials determined that the charter school has improved its poor academic and financial performance.

The Texas Education Agency was set to strip Jean Massieu's accreditation but instead gave the school, which specializes in programs for deaf students, a year of probation to continue fixing its problems.

"They have been given a reprieve here," agency spokeswoman Suzanne Marchman said. She said Texas Education Commissioner Robert Scott "has determined that closing the school would not serve the students despite the fact that the school has had a long-standing history of deficits in their leadership and their academic performance and their finances."

The agency will also appoint a financial conservator to work with the school on its budget and audit issues. The school has had an academic monitor and then conservator in place since the 2007-08 school year to work on student performance.

"I'm just thrilled that we can continue," school office manager Lissa Lloyd said. "We've got a unique school here, and I believe we are filling a need."

Jean Massieu, which opened in 1999 to serve primarily deaf children and their families, has been rated academically unacceptable by the state four years in a row. It received a substandard rating in financial accountability for problems that include late filing of audit data with the state.

The school has about 100 students in pre-kindergarten through 12th grade, about 25 of whom are deaf. Others have siblings or parents who are deaf, and 82 percent of the students are considered at risk. The tuition-free school receives only state and federal funding, Lloyd said.

Scott announced in March that the school had to close July 1, citing "serious and persistent deficiencies." But school Superintendent Kathi Johnson, who started as principal in 2008-09, helped convince state officials that her school had changed course, with new personnel and improved curriculum and financial accountability.

"The academy has made an impressive turnaround," Marchman said. "The school's efforts have begun to bear fruit."