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Three campus shifts vital to BISD future

November 20, 2018

Beaumont ISD officials will soon be reviewing bids on a variety of surplus items ranging from sewing machines to meat slicers, a sell-off that many school districts do periodically. It’s important, because it should generate some money for the district, but not nearly as significant as another set of “bids” coming in soon. That would be proposals by nearly 30 organizations to take over three struggling campuses that face closure otherwise.

The closure of these schools would be a devastating blow to each neighborhood where they are located. Yet if their students could learn and produce the way they are capable of, the resurgence of these schools would be a huge boost in confidence. The stakes couldn’t be much higher.

The three campuses are Fehl-Price Elementary, Jones-Clark Elementary and Smith Middle School. Each has been targeted by the state for chronic underperformance on standardized tests and other basic criteria. They would have been closed even sooner if the district had not received a waiver from the Texas Education Agency for the disruption caused by Tropical Storm Harvey.

Superintendent John Frossard and the board of managers deserve credit for a bold attempt to break this cycle. Instead of trying new principals and teachers, the district is doing something dramatically different. It is seeking proposals from charter schools, universities and other organizations to take over the schools with BISD oversight as well as state approval. The new partner at each school would have wider latitude for new teaching styles and methods.

Twenty-eight organizations have submitted proposals, and the district has selected a dozen for further discussion. It’s quite a departure from traditional public education, but other Texas districts such as Spring Branch and Grand Prairie have in-district charter partnerships.

This is going to be one of most consequential challenges the district has faced since the state takeover in 2015. BISD officials should choose the best possible partners, then give them all the cooperation and resources they need to succeed.

The turnaround will not be easy at any of the three schools. But kids like those who attend these schools can learn, and in fact, they do so every day at other BISD schools and in other districts. It’s time to add Fehl-Price, Jones-Clark and Smith to the list of schools known for what they achieve, not what they fail to get done.

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