Response to the New-Journal on District of Innovation Schools

To the editor of the News-Journal and staff that report on White Oak ISD:

In response to Sunday’s article on District’s of Innovation and today’s editorial on the same subject, I want you to know how deeply offended I am personally and professionally at the complete lack of research and/or interest in providing the truth with regard to the opportunity provided to Texas Public School Districts. It appears to be the norm in today’s media that you will expect the worst in people. I suspect it is a concerted effort to sell news papers, which in fact, is your goal.

Your reporting and subsequent editorial response to the rise of DOI plan districts is incomplete at best. You did not report on the 7 areas that could not be addressed in the plan:

  • District Governance
  • Curriculum
  • State Assessment
  • State Accountability
  • School Finance
  • Federal Requirements
  • State law outside the Education Code

These areas are intact and every school district and public charter school are subject to and adhere to the law as written. There is no “attempt” to circumvent the law and/or create an educational environment that is not in the best interest of our students.  In fact, the latitude provided by the DOI process allows the local school district to craft an educational experience that is most effective in the effort to provide our students with opportunities to succeed. If you had actually read the DOI Plan for White Oak ISD, you would see that every concern you “express” in your writings, has been considered and explained to our stakeholders.

  • In each area addressed, we include the reasoning behind the decision and the benefit to our students.
  • Our plan includes the complete timeline and process of how the DOI document was created
  • Our plan include the names of the committee members involved in the process
  • There is no financial impact in this plan. Teacher contracts/salaries are specifically addressed in an effort to confirm the district’s commitment to our employees
  • Our plan shows (through the timeline) the total involvement and transparency of the process with regard to the Board of Trustees.

The closing comment of your editorial states that the taxpayers should be informed that the district’s graduation rates and scores on standardized test have not suffered. That has always been information available to the public and there is nothing in this process that would prompt any notion of an attempt to change. I would add that the scores a district receives on an assessment given one day per year, is and always has been a very poor indicator of success.

Your assertions concerning academic scholarships and benchmarks are to be monitored has no real correlation with the quality of instruction. The idea that the state is to “approve” the plan is counter productive to the purpose of the law. The local district is to have local control of the decisions made within a specific set of guidelines.

There is no evidence to indicate the measure approved at White Oak ISD will, in any way, cause a decline in the quality of the education provided to our students. But even if it did, it is the responsibility of the locally elected Board of Trustees to ensure the quality of that education is restored, not the state and certainly not the local newspaper.

After reading the article in the paper last Sunday and this editorial today, I am convinced that you have not read the locally developed, Board of Trustees approved plan that is in place at White Oak ISD. I will make sure a copy of our plan and the actual requirements in effect for the development of that plan are delivered, in person, to your offices today. I feel the necessity of making sure you are at least afforded the opportunity to make informed decisions concerning the opinions you share with this community.

I have shared this message with the Board of Trustees, my colleagues, staff members and Legislators. It is my hope that many of them will also see that the accusations and insinuations presented in this editorial are not representative of the public school leaders in East Texas and will be just as disappointed as I am with the decision to publish this opinion.

Respectfully submitted