The Proposal

Anatomy of a repurposing plan

So what's in the district's repurposing plan for Pearce Middle School?

It's a complete managerial and instructional plan for the troubled school, covering everything from hiring practices to course texts to on-campus social services. Using the community-generated Refinement and Alignment Plan as its backbone, it mixes new Superintendent Meria Carstar­phen's policies for the whole district, such as better data analysis to track individual student achievement; accepted best practices, like student mentoring and staff development; and district innovations, like the Family Resource Center pioneered at Webb Middle School. But AISD board of trustees Vice President Vince Torres explained that "large sections" were heavily and repeatedly rewritten to meet the concerns and questions of Education Com­mis­sioner Robert Scott. "As soon as you met with him," Torres said, "you [would] try to respond to his questions and get the response back to him."

This meant there were five intermediate drafts in less than three weeks, and district staff were working on the proposal right up to the close of business on July 31. Part of the back-and-forth, Torres said, was "just professional differences" over how to fix Pearce rather than a disagreement over educational priorities. Yet the plan altered radically in those discussions: A week before its release, the district was still considering four miniacademies within the campus, all abandoned before the final draft. While Torres said he didn't see "anything to the detriment of the kids" in the final plan, he observed, "The original plan was community-driven, but this is more commissioner-driven." Here are some of the key points:

General Aims

Keep the school within the district and reopen as a community middle school in August.

Concentrate on student drop-out and staff retention issues.

Staffing and Administration

Increase central office support.

Hire an academic dean to manage instruction.

Increase emphasis on master teachers and incentive and retention pay.

Provide more counselors and student advisors.

Change the Instructional Model

Use grade-level teams to create classes based around "real-world applications" and interdisciplinary studies.

Provide extra help for limited English proficiency students.

Utilize afterschool, Saturday, and summer programs.

Provide an on-campus opportunity center "for students who are not succeeding in a traditional setting."

Improve science teaching: Replace all current science staff with veteran science teachers.

More Mentoring and Guidance

Create nine-year college, career, and life plans for each student, and use weekly checkpoints to chart and motivate student progress.

Increase peer-mentoring programs.

Increase Community Involvement

Designate Pearce enrollment as optional.

Create parent academies and recruit parent leaders.

Establish a family resource center that provides adult education and support.

Work with other agencies to provide "wrap around" services to tackle developmental issues beyond the classroom, such as health and counseling.

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KEYWORDS FOR THIS STORY

repurposing plan, Vince Torres, Pearce Middle School, AISD, Robert Scott, Meria Carstarphen

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