State approves Hearne ISD turnaround partnership to save struggling campuses

HEARNE, Tex. (KBTX) - Hearne ISD has a new lifeline thanks to a new partnership program from the state. The program could save the elementary and junior high school.

For the last few years, the 830-student has been working to get its junior high and elementary schools off a state list of campuses that need improvement.

“We have some campuses that were ‘Improvement Required’ and we’re trying to do what we can to expedite getting them off that list,” said district Superintendent Dr. Adrian Johnson.

In May, Johnson and his team submitted a one thousand page proposal to save those campuses from being taken over by the state or closed altogether.

“Time was running out and we felt like this was a win-win scenario,” he said.

Under a new state law, Hearne ISD will now work with a nonprofit organization the district created. The Hearne Education Foundation is governed by a board with members from districts and universities from around the state.

“They have educational background experience from research development to actual classroom teaching and oversight over campuses all around the state,” said Johnson.

Together the district and the foundation will operate those campuses as an in-district charter school.

Which means more funding for programs that could help them improve?

“Hopefully we’ll be able to increase our use of technology in the classroom and create model classrooms for students and teachers to see and work on what effective teaching and learning looks like,” he said.

The Texas Education Agency says there were six schools that applied for the partnership program that gives them a two-year pause in the accountability rating system. A spokesperson with the agency told us the partnerships give those districts a fresh new look at ways to improve student success.

“We think there will be more schools wanting to do these partnerships if we are successful and other schools around the state are successful.”

Of the six schools that applied for the turnaround partnership, Victoria ISD was the only one denied. Officials say it was because they submitted an incomplete application.

The following is an explanation from TEA of the Turnaround Partnerships:

Turnaround Partnerships are specific to a district contracting with a partner to operate a campus that is in Improvement Required (IR) status in the State Academic Accountability System. SB 1882 incentives include a potential increase in state funding for the partnered campus, as well as an exemption for that campus from certain accountability interventions for two years.

Turnaround Partnerships can be between a district and an Open-Enrollment Charter school in good standing or between a district and another entity. Other entities are Institutes of Higher Education, Non-profits, or governmental entities.

The SB 1882 partnerships offer a school district the opportunity to use a more flexible approach to improving academics by partnering with a non-profit charter-type entity that will provide a fresh, new look at ways to improve student success.