Members of the Longview ISD community spoke with Superintendent James Wilcox on Thursday on topics such as charter agreements, staffing and distance learning.
The first “A Conversation with Dr. Wilcox” gathering was held in the Longview ISD Administration Building for stakeholders to ask questions about the district. Limited space was available for attending the event, but questions could be submitted in advance and the meeting was broadcast live.
A few questions submitted concerned the Charter Partnerships of the District Senate Bill of 1882. SB 1882 is legislation that provides financial incentives for public school districts to partner with nonprofit organizations to operate campuses as charter schools. All Longview ISD schools are SB 1882 charters.
The district has three partners: East Texas Advanced Academies, Texas Council for International Studies, and Longview Educates and Prospers.
Wilcox clarified how charters are measured. He said the district was still assessed and classified by the Texas Education Agency as a district; it does not receive separate results for its charter partners.
The TEA has discontinued its typical school AF scoring system due to the pandemic. In the latest assessments, Longview ISD received a score of 88 for the 2018-19 school year.
“We expect to be a District A when the grades come back,” Wilcox said.
He was also asked how the SB 1882 funds were divided and how these decisions are made.
“One of the things 1882 does with the funding is that it takes it from the central office level to the classroom level on every district campus,” he said. “It’s still technically an average daily attendance payment, but the goal in 1882 is to get those funding decisions back to the students and to the campus level.”
Districts receive funds from the state based on the number of students enrolled. In May, the district released its financial workbooks for charter partners to show how much each would receive.
“We have three partners that we are really happy with,” Wilcox said. “We meet every week and they go over with the district what their needs are. “
The superintendent also reviewed future plans for SB 1882.
He said the district hopes the Legislature, which is in session, will continue to fund it. Wilcox said Longview ISD wanted to partner not to change district leadership, but to increase access to programs for all students.
The two main examples are the Montessori and International Baccalaureate programs, and Wilcox said the district wants to extend them to all students.
“Montessori is recognized as the best way to quickly help poor children succeed in school,” Wilcox said. ” This is a good thing. It is also recommended by the International Baccalaureate as the best way to accelerate a gifted student in the IB diploma program when they reach high school.
He said he and the administrators didn’t want to choose which students should have access to these programs, so the decision was to give access to all students.
It costs more to train all teachers in IB or Montessori, which is why many public schools do not. Wilcox said the 1882 silver was used for this training.
Wilcox was also asked about staffing issues, including the 120 additional job postings for the district and what will be done to increase the number of qualified staff.
Wilcox said Longview ISD has the highest retention of teachers in the region, according to the TEA.
Assistant Superintendent James Hockenberry was able to shed light on the vacancies.
“Certain jobs that we leave posted because they are always difficult to fill. They sometimes open suddenly, and others are if we anticipate a departure or legislative changes, there will be a position that we will not necessarily fill, “he said.” Currently, we plan to fill approximately 50 positions We are organizing our own career fair which will be held on May 1st.
A parent in attendance, Pam Allen, asked about the end of virtual learning and the district’s poor communication.
She said her son was doing a mix of A, B and C during virtual learning. She said he was now failing two classes.
“I’m curious how the decision was made to end distance learning, why parents weren’t informed – teachers informed students that distance learning was ending”, a- she declared. “What can I do to help my children? “
Wilcox said campus principals have been urged to honor requests for continued distance learning for successful students. The district’s website states, “Families wishing to pursue distance education due to extenuating circumstances can contact their campus director. These requests will be considered on a case-by-case basis.
Chris Frazier, a member of the community relations department who hosted Thursday’s event, said the department issued a press release, sent out emails called Lobo Letters and called for all major changes to the district.
The News-Journal did not receive a press release from the district regarding the end of distance learning.
Allen said she receives all Lobo calls and letters emailed and did not receive any upon completion of virtual learning.
Other parents in the district, however, received an e-mail, obtained by the News-Journal, on March 31, concerning the end of distance education.
Community Relations Director Matthew Prosser told Allen: “If you haven’t received all of the emails that were sent to our parents, we certainly want to go through our process and understand the disconnect on our end. “
Allen also said that several teachers have said there must be a valid medical reason for a student to pursue virtual learning. However, Prosser said it was “a communication problem on the part of the teacher who said this. They spoke for themselves.
“There is a communication issue with the parents here that is missing,” Allen said. “I don’t think it should be the parents’ responsibility to have to search for press releases to find relevant information.”
Wilcox told Allen his concerns will be addressed as soon as Thursday’s meeting ends.