SAISD: Rodriguez Elementary to Get Failing State Grade, Close at End of 2018-19

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Cleto Rodriguez Elementary School.

Scott Ball / Rivard Report

Cleto Rodriguez Elementary School.

San Antonio Independent School District officials notified families and staff of the district’s westside Rodriguez Elementary School that the school will close at the end of the 2018-19 school year.

Rodriguez is one of six San Antonio schools that was in danger of closure if it did not improve its scores in this year’s state accountability system. State law mandates that after two consecutive years with a failed rating, schools have to submit a turnaround plan to make pointed efforts to improve. If schools receive three more consecutive failed ratings, they are subject to closure or the Texas Education Agency could appoint a board of managers to govern the district in place of an elected board of trustees.

Rodriguez’s five counterparts, including Stewart Elementary, Irving Middle School, Ogden Elementary, Tafolla Middle School, and Dorie Miller Elementary are projected to escape consequences through state sanctioned partnerships with charter operators, SAISD phasing the campus out, or anticipated improvements on accountability scores.

Throughout the next school year, SAISD will discuss with families alternatives to Rodriguez for 2019-20. Rodriguez students, about 300 in total, could receive priority for in-district choice options and transportation to their new schools, Superintendent Pedro Martinez said.

SAISD officials said Friday that all Rodriguez staff will continue to be employed by the district beyond the end of the 2018-19 school year.

Ultimately, the district plans to open a different school at Rodriguez’s same location in the 2020-21 school year. State law only permits a district to reopen a closed campus in the same location if it has a substantially different model and serves a majority of grade levels not offered at the original campus.

“Part of our worry is what happens to the fabric of that community, as that has been their school for decades,” Board President Patti Radle said. “To force them into a situation where they have got to travel to a different building and to not be allowed to do something there for those families is very interruptive to the pattern of their life.”

Martinez said he will collect feedback from parents and families of the Rodriguez community to learn what kind of a school they want SAISD to reopen. He also noted that SAISD is interested in lobbying for a change in this law to allow districts to reopen closed schools.

This “restart law” could have a chance of passing as early as the next legislative session that begins in January 2019, although district officials still say the Rodriguez campus likely would reopen in fall 2020 at the earliest.

At a time when SAISD is already losing students each year to charters and other districts, keeping enrollment steady or growing is an important factor for district officials to consider. It’s unknown how many displaced Rodriguez students will choose a new school to attend in 2019-20, and then return to the new Rodriguez school in 2020-21.

Students also could choose not to start the school year at Rodriguez with the knowledge that the campus will be closed before next summer.

“That’s why it is so important for us to find a quality choice for them so we don’t lose them,” Martinez said. “They have been losing children every year…Our goal is working with our teachers so parents can see how much progress they did make and if they give us a chance, to look at what options they have.”

Earlier this week, the SAISD superintendent told the Rivard Report that although results aren’t official until Aug. 15, he felt confident that Miller, Tafolla, Irving, and Stewart all “met standard” for the 2017-18 school year.

The district is not entirely confident Ogden also secured a “met standard” rating based on the students’ STAAR scores. However, Ogden is not at risk of school closure because of a partnership the district leveraged with Relay Graduate School of Education that allows the school two additional years to meet state standards.

Under the new accountability system scores, officially released on Aug. 15, that rates schools and districts on a score of 1 to 100, the assessment categories are different from the previous accountability system. Districts are given a letter grade, which SAISD projects will be a C, and campuses are given a pass-fail “met standard” or “improvement required” grade.

With the previous assessment system, last used to issue scores at the beginning of the 2017-18 year, SAISD had 19 schools that were deemed “improvement required” or failing. If the state used the same system this year, SAISD projects it would decrease its number of failing schools to 12.

When using the new system, which uses three different categories – student achievement, student progress, and closing achievement gaps – SAISD projects it would have had more than 30 failing schools in 2017-18. This year, the district projects SAISD will have 15 or 16 schools rated “failing” depending on how final accountability scores come out next week.

At the time Martinez first started in SAISD, he projected the district had close to 36 schools that realistically could have been ranked as “improvement required” even though closer to 20 were actually designated as such. With the new standards in place for the first time this year, Martinez said many of his schools that were on the bubble newly qualify as “improvement required.”

“We have a few new campuses that had been on the bubble but had been able to stay out,” he said. “We’re looking to see what drove changes in those campuses, whether it was the new standards or something else.”

6 thoughts on “SAISD: Rodriguez Elementary to Get Failing State Grade, Close at End of 2018-19

  1. It is hard for me to believe that Rodriquez Elementary’s share of “terrible” teachers and administration is so great that it is the only SAISD school to be forced into closing? At some point in time, responsibility for a successful school program needs to be shared with parents/guardians of its students and administrations need not fear having a 16 year old in a fifth grade class if that is the level he or she is on.

  2. I hope the Rivard Report stays on top of the state’s program that mandates these types of changes. It seems clear to me that the program that puts blame on teachers and admin for school failures was created under a false premise. Soon the state will realize there is more to a failing school district that teachers and administrators. For example, students and parents/guardians.

  3. This article loses its sense of journalistic integrity when read by anyone who was actually at the meeting held at Cleto Rodriguez Elementary School yesterday where the parents were informed of its closing after a spectacular year of achievement ( a critical part of the story of course, but not reported above). Although quoted almost exclusively in this RR article, Mr. Martinez (superintendent) and Patty Radle (Board chair AND district representative of Rodriguez Elementary) were surprisingly absent from this meeting. It would be assumed that these individuals would have been there to support the community and answer questions from concerned parents.

    Their absence is especially conspicuous since Mr. Martinez and Board Trustee Ms. Hernandez, representing Edison High School, met with parents there to introduce the new principal of that school earlier in the week. Why then wouldn’t Superintendent Martinez and Board Trustee Patty Radle attend a meeting to announce the closure of an elementary school that has been at the center of this West Side community for many generations?

    The answer to this question will open up a Pandora’s box of relevant facts and critical concerns that rightly should be at the center of any dialogue focused on the future of education at SAISD. So, RR, why don’t you open up that box as a gesture of genuine concern for the real story and for the taxpayers of SAISD? I double-dare you.

  4. Let’s get it straight…
    While what has been reported is fodder for great drama, the truth is the staff at Rodriguez was not doubled. A Texas Title I Improvement Grant was awarded to the school by the state (not the district) to build on what existed to aid in its transformation. Much of this funding was spent on new technology and a few support personnel-certainly not a “doubling “ of the staff like has been reported. Other parts of the funding provided for a university partnership with OLLU, which has barely had but a year to blossom.
    When that grant was awarded, what was ordinarily funded by the district was taken away so that funding could be “equalized” across the district. Instead of supporting a school that needed equitable support and funding in one of the states poorest zip codes, the SAISD chose to take away positions that were normally granted to the school to give the support to other district schools that were not in such dire need.
    Thus an already disenfranchised community got screwed again. SAISD knows that this community will not fight back. This is a social justice issue.
    The teachers have transformed the school. Any layman can see this in just one visit. They have made the school’s Hispanic namesake Cleto Rodriguez proud, and will continue to do so through the rest of the time they are given.

    The parents are doing the best they can, particularly while most are surviving on $20,000 a year. It takes time for years of inequitable practice to be remedied in Pedro Martinez’s bureaucratic guise of school improvement. He’s selling our inner city public schools out one building at a time because he doesn’t know how to fix them himself.

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