AHS principal stands by actions to improve campus

Mauricio Julian Cuellar Jr., Alice Echo-News Journal

Alice High School's principal presented several initiatives last week she believes will help turn around her school's Academically Unacceptable rating received from the state.

One board member disagreed, stating many of those same initiatives were acted on last year, and said what the school did last year led to the Unacceptable rating.

Principal Berta Longoria presented several strategies, such as integrating assessments into classroom instruction, increased monitoring of instruction for alignment with curriculum expectations and more.

Following her presentation, board member Ciro Zamora said all of those initiatives were important, but that a lot of them were an extension of what was done last year.

"I assume a lot of this we did last year, and we received an Unacceptable rating. At least some of the same things we did last year led to this," Zamora said. "What are we going to do differently that we didn't do last year?"

He then began reviewing each item she discussed one by one, saying which was either a continuation or increase on what was done before.

Board member Lee Ramon said the people in the community were contacting board members, wanting to know what changes were being made to fix the problem.

"The community wants to know what we are going to do," Ramon said.

Longoria defended the initiatives the school has put together so far, and said the list wasn't an end to the discussions. A retreat was planned for Thursday and Friday to bring together both the department heads and sight-based decision making (SBDM) committee members, to discuss ideas, and in turn pass those on to other teachers.

Zamora asked about teacher input in this process, and Longoria said their input was being considered, at every level. She said the department heads have lunch meetings with their teachers every week and with the new schedule alignments taking place, all teachers teaching a particular subject area, such as all Algebra teachers, have the same conference period, in order to give them the opportunity to communicate more about what is going on in the classroom and what works.

Board members then asked whether the teachers had been contacted for their opinion after news of the Unacceptable rating was released. Since it had just occurred, Longoria said many of the teachers were aware of it, but she did not say they had all been called and asked their opinion on what to do in light of the low rating.

Longoria said the SBDMs, which include teachers and staff, continually hear the concerns of the teachers and will bring those concerns and ideas with them into the retreat process.

Zamora said the district was in emergency mode, and he said he felt they were limiting themselves by not including the teachers in the retreat process.

Longoria repeated their opinions and ideas were being heard through the process with the SBDMs and the retreats were not an end to the discussion process. The ideas generated there would be taken to the teachers, and more discussions would take place. She said this was just a beginning.