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No One Raises Hand To Take Over Troubled Mendez Middle School

Gabriel C. Pérez

The Austin Independent School District has received no offers to run Mendez Middle School, which is on the brink of state takeover. 

Mendez has gotten a failing grade from the state the last four years. If it receives another failing grade this year, the state will have to intervene. These grades are based mainly on the statewide assessment, or STAAR test. 

The state has a few options if Mendez receives another failing grade. One option is to close the school. Another option is for it to get outside help. A new state law allows for a separate organization – like a charter school company, a nonprofit or a university – to run the school.

The district is exploring this second option and held community meetings over the last few months to ask teachers, students and parents what they want from a partner. The district then assembled a committee of educators and community members to choose this partner.

Terrence Eaton, associate superintendent of middle schools for AISD, said the committee's main request for a partner was to tailor efforts to what Mendez students need. 

"They want to make sure that that partner is willing to listen and have those conversations, engage the community and also be willing to set up those programs that they feel will benefit the students,” Eaton said.   

But the district received no proposals by the Tuesday deadline.

Mendez PTA President Robert Kibbie, who serves on the committee, said the district's request may have intimidated potential partners.

"When they have to take over things like the staff, transportation [and] meals, they have to take over the whole school and every aspect of it," he said. "A lot of them don’t have the manpower or the capacity to do it.”

Now, district officials say they are talking with organizations to see what they could change in the request to attract a partner. 

Mendez still has a chance to avoid a takeover if students perform well on the STAAR test this spring. Kibbie said staff members are implementing new strategies in an effort to improve scores. 

"I know they just brought in some tutors, and they’re going to start having Saturday camps," he said. "So they’re doing everything in their power to get these kids ready."

If the district decides to reopen the bidding process, it will have to do so soon; it's required to inform the state of its partner by April 30. 

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