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Eastside and Johns Hopkins Gets the TEA OK

Ed commissioner Williams approves new deal for campus

By Richard Whittaker, 9:34PM, Wed. Jun. 5, 2013

And the band plays on: Eastside Memorial gets the OK from Commissioner Michael Williams to partner with Johns Hopkins
And the band plays on: Eastside Memorial gets the OK from Commissioner Michael Williams to partner with Johns Hopkins
Photo by Jana Birchum

The timing could not have been more apt. As the graduating class of Eastside Memorial High School were crossing the stage at the Frank Erwin Center, Education Commissioner Michael Williams turned up with good news: He has given the OK for Austin ISD to partner with Johns Hopkins and keep the school open.

After AISD cancelled their unpopular contract with IDEA Public Schools to turn the entire Eastside vertical team into a charter, Williams had told the board of trustees they had to find an alternate partner. If they didn't, then he threatened to close the campus this Fall. After a rapid-fire search that gathered bids from national entities, the board struck a deal with Johns Hopkins Talent Development Secondary. Williams today accepted that deal.

In a statement, he said, "Working closely with staff at the Texas Education Agency, AISD has developed an academic plan for Eastside Memorial High School that contains many strong components critical to student success. However, this plan will only be effective if AISD maintains its commitment to the students, educators and community members who want to see Eastside Memorial High School succeed."

Before everyone has started popping the champagne, there is a coda. Williams and the board of trustees have agreed that Eastside has to remain academically acceptable in both the 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years. If they miss that target, then the board must close the campus.

But there's a coda to that coda. Considering that the legislature just passed the omnibus school accountability reforms in House Bill 5, thus scrapping the Academically Acceptable/Unacceptable grading system in favor of an A-F scale, it's still not quite clear exactly what target students and educators will be aiming for. Either way, there will undoubtedly be a breath of relief at this guaranteed two-year opportunity to prove what Eastside can really do.

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