By Chris Edwards
WOODVILLE – Woodville ISD Superintendent Lisa Meysembourg shared an update on the already delayed district accountability ratings to the district’s board of trustees on Monday night at the board’s regular meeting.
Meysembourg said that the ratings were originally to be released by the Texas Education Agency (TEA) on Sept. 26 to school districts across the state and two days after to the public. The rankings are delayed until sometime in late October, Meysembourg said.
The reason for the delay, Meysembourg said, has to do with skewed data due to COVID, and its impact upon student performance.
“Bottom line is regardless of whatever the rating says, which is one measurement based on one day of assessments, at Woodville ISD we pride ourselves on making sure our students are educated and prepared for life after high school, regardless of what those scores say,” Meysembourg said.
The agency’s A-F accountability rating system is being “refreshed” this year, according to a TEA news release, with changes made to cut points and indices.
Regarding the skewed data, TEA issued the following statement: “since that time, statewide growth data for the 2022–23 school year has become available. Analysis of that growth data shows that the 2021–22 growth was more anomalous than expected, so setting baselines that partially incorporate data from the 2021–22 school year may not adequately take into account the impact of COVID-19. “
The retooling of the accountability system has been controversial, and several districts, mostly located in central Texas, have filed lawsuits against TEA citing a lack of transparency as to the changes to the system.
SB 763 discussed
During her report to the board, Meysembourg provided some information on a controversial senate bill that allows school districts to utilize chaplains as counselors.
Senate Bill 763, which was passed in the regular session of the 88th Legislature, allows for schools to use safety funds to pay for chaplains to work in counselor/mental health roles. It also allows for volunteer chaplains to be allowed in schools.
According to the text of the bill, any school district, or open-enrollment charter school, may employ, or accept a volunteer, chaplain to provide support, services and programs for students as assigned by the board of trustees, or whatever the school’s governing body comprises. The chaplain, under this law, is not required to be certified under the State Board for Educator Certification.
The bill has proven controversial, as critics have seen it as a sort of Trojan Horse to evangelize to public school students.
Meysembourg said that under the law, the board will have to pass a resolution to decide whether or not to utilize chaplains in the district under SB 763’s parameters.
She said if the district wishes to continue to use chaplains in crisis counseling that “we would have to be very clear in a resolution that would approve them as chaplains, however, it would be hard to develop parameters for volunteer work and scope of service while prohibiting proselytizing or engaging in faith-based messaging.”
Meysembourg said it would be hard for volunteer chaplains in a crisis situation to separate their faith from the counseling they would be doing, as many are not trained in counseling, outside of faith-based programs.
WISD board president Jimmy Tucker recommended that all board members study the bill closely and to “dig in real deep” to see what all is in the bill.
Meysembourg said WISD will continue to follow the developments with the new law and will probably bring it back before the board in January.