Austin school district trustees Monday night unanimously voted to award a $393,690 contract to Baltimore-based Talent Development Secondary of Johns Hopkins University to operate Eastside Memorial High School.
While district administrators previously expressed concern about low test results for the group’s flagship school, the Baltimore Talent Development High School, board members said they believe the partnership is the best option.
A committee of Eastside Memorial parents, teachers and district leaders had recommended Talent Development Secondary over four other organizations competing to operate the high school, praising the group’s approach to improving instruction, its efforts to recruit students and data that show student achievement improved at other lower-performing schools.
Questions still lingered regarding the state’s expectation for the district to come up with a plan to strengthen the schools that feed into Eastside Memorial.
Prior to the vote, community members, educators and parents voiced support for the partnership and asked the board to advocate to keep Eastside open, saying the school has already improved.
Eastside teacher Meghan Buchanan told board members that preliminary state TAKS scores this year show the highest Eastside student performance that she has seen in 10 years. She also pointed to improved attendance rates, saying the public needs to hear “the whole story.”
“Let’s honor the TAKS results that we’re hearing,” said Vincent Tovar, who was on the committee that picked the Johns Hopkins affiliate.
But members of LULAC District 12 and El Concilio, a coalition of Mexican-American neighborhood associations, don’t support the partnership with Johns Hopkins, said Gavino Fernandez, a representative of the groups. Fernandez was the only person who spoke against the partnership, calling it a “Band-Aid approach.”
State Education Commissioner Michael Williams is scheduled to decide after the school year ends whether to approve a new partner. If he deems the partnership unacceptable, his options include closing the school.
Trustee Tamala Barksdale was absent and missed Monday’s vote.