This appendix summarizes comments from public forums at the Mt. Pleasant Junior High School and Frances Corprew Intermediate School cafeterias on October 8 and several focus groups with community, civic and business leaders, principals, teachers, and parents. These comments, generally presented verbatim, help illustrate community perceptions of the Mt. Pleasant Independent School District (MPISD), but do not necessarily reflect the findings or opinions of the review team or the Comptroller.
Members of the MPISD community were encouraged to attend the community meeting where people were asked to write comments related to each chapter of the report.
Focus groups were assembled with the assistance of MPISD staff. Members of the focus groups were asked to comment on each area covered in the report. Community and civic leaders, former schoolteachers and administrators, and business and religious leaders representing various interest groups, were also interviewed.
Key findings based on comments:
- Citizens were divided on support for new facilities for the district due to issues such as high taxes, an influx of minority students, leadership of the district, and division on the school board.
- Parents said the needs of average and non-college-bound students were not being met as well as those that were academically advanced.
- Programs that received strong praise were the MALL, the gifted and talented program, special education, and the dual language program.
- Most parents said the schools were safe, but they expressed concerns about the high school.
- Concerns were raised in all groups about the district's method of transporting students, as in bringing them all in to a central point and then dispersing them to the schools.
- The school board was viewed as divided by most groups, hurting the district's image in the community.
- The district was generally viewed as having good financial management, but concerns were raised about an increase in taxes over the past few years.
- Food served in the cafeterias was viewed by all, especially students, as very good and nutritious.
The following sections group comments by individuals.
DISTRICT ORGANIZATION AND MANAGEMENT
Good site-based input! Easy to talk to anyone.
Board changed in May for the better.
One (board) member has a personal agenda; people do things just for him and (it is) a negative reflection on the community.
(Board members) don't appear to have any training (several have personal agenda).
Some issues always bring a 5-2 (board) vote, mostly (having to do with) money, staff development, and travel.
(The board) didn't extend administrators' contracts, and seems not to have confidence in the administration.
The administrative group is the best in 20 years, but it is also most fragmented, by philosophy.
Two board members always say no to more money; five of the board members think it through and then vote.
Board has improved in the last 16 months.
Board president does great job of pulling all together; she's a reason for improvement.
Community that cares is aware.
Some residents are resentful about changing demographics, as evidenced by the bond issues that failed.
People in the community are coming to the board to get change and the board resents it.
The board and administration operate the district in a professional way, like a company. I think they have a good image in community.
The board is doing a great job.
The bond issue failed because younger people don't vote, and old people don't want their taxes increased.
There is no voter registration program. Before the last bond issue, they had a great campaign.
Increasing taxes was the primary reason the bond issue failed.
Due to state dictates, the board's hands are tied.
The 1992 bond issue was handled badly. There was not much time to promote the issue.
The first bond issue was rushed to the public.
The public was still unhappy about the 1992 bond issue when the 1994 bond issue was presented.
The board and superintendent are well respected.
The community is just not interested; as a result, the community doesn't know the direction the district is going.
On the day of the bond election, the newspaper headline stated that "MPISD Has $2 Million Surplus." There was no surplus.
EDUCATIONAL SERVICE DELIVERY
District has specialists not being utilized on campus because some principals do not want them on or around the campus.
Experience with the board has been positive; they have taken action when required.
The board has a split vote on some issues and sometimes displays a negative attitude.
The board and superintendent plan things that the teachers do not agree with, like field trips. The teachers have no voice in the decisions.
The district seems to put a Band-aid on the whole school instead of dealing with each problem specifically.
Some schools have a problem with rats and while several people have been blamed, the problem has not been corrected.
There are problems with the sewers and no bathroom for the kids.
The community wants long-term solutions to problems, not Band-aids.
There is no forum for issues to be discussed.
The health department was called to Corprew Intermediate School because of severe pest problems.
The district has good Head Start, Even Start programs. They also have immigrant and homeless programs, yet there is nothing for other minorities.
Dyslexia programs are needed. Some regular kids get left out.
The mentoring program needs help.
There is a lack of communication between campuses and central administration.
Distrust in the community is very evident, due to ethnic changes.
There are problems with all learning levels being taught in one class.
There are lots of non-college-bound kids and the district doesn't have good programs for them; students end up in trouble.
Teachers are given opportunities to present ideas, but most don't feel their opinions are considered.
Some teachers are afraid to speak and have been called down on it.
Texas Assessment of Academic Skills (TAAS) remediation needs a nudge.
Advanced Placement (AP) program needs help, but it's getting better.
Literacy really needs lots of work for optimal improvement.
Need reading intervention for Hispanic kids.
Transition of kids from Bilingual to English as a Second Language (ESL) classes is not adequate and needs a nudge.
The Site-Based Decision-Making Committee has a campus plan, and they think they are well received.
As a school district, we are caught in a fight that is going on in the community over changes in demographics.
School-based governance is very good, but needs improvement and we need more staff development.
Schools seem to be micro-managed by a few parents in the district. There is no forum to discuss issues.
Have changed the programs many times. The accelerated reading program may be going down, because we haven't gotten it fine-tuned.
The district's vocational technology department has been destroyed. Most kids aren't going to college.
Test scores may go down with block schedules.
Site-based committee went along with the move to block schedule. The teachers didn't know about it until they got here in August. There was no planning.
Block scheduling was implemented by the new principal.
We are teaching college preparatory classes. French and Special Education kids are in the same class. Why? Counselors have placed students in the wrong classes.
Special Education teacher does not place students in the wrong classes.
District needs to improve internal communication; the teachers are the last ones to know.
There is a lack of communication.
Worried about the math program; pre-Algebra not being taught and kids need it.
District requires excessive amounts of computer training.
Some teachers have no computer to call their own; most are floating teachers.
Time for class and lesson preparation has been reduced. The teaching process has become secondary.
Teachers seem to be considered second to buildings and computers.
Some teachers only get $225 a year for supplies.
The ESL program is great.
The district now has the biggest group of students ever who can't speak English at all. There was a 20-kid increase this year.
In history class, teachers can't handle the problems of Gifted/Talented (G/T), Special Education and average students. These kids know they are different.
Is the inclusion of different groups in one class mandated?
The public perception is that teachers aren't professionals.
The district is missing a middle group of kids, while special groups get personal attention.
This year, it seems teachers are doing crowd management instead of teaching.
Teachers are having to do stuff on Saturdays that they don't get paid for.
We are continuing the trend with the quality of education getting watered down due to a broad student population.
It is impossible to teach the kids at their individual levels when so many different groups are in one class.
All kids are not getting the teachers' best.
Four kids in one class can't speak English at all.
The kids are losing out; none of them get the attention needed.
ESL and bilingual teachers had their first paychecks cut back, $3,000 for bilingual teachers and $1,200 for ESL teachers.
In order to pass the Texas Oral Proficiency Test (TOPT), one teacher went to Mexico for instruction and spent their own money for class.
The district provides no incentive or help to pass the TOPT. Instead, they must pay for emergency certification.
There is no bilingual instruction after fifth grade.
The district needs an ESL / bilingual coordinator position.
Kids still don't have the reading skills needed when they come in to regular classrooms, and they can't pass TAAS.
Need to spend more time on vocabulary for ESL students.
ESL staff doesn't meet district wide for planning purposes.
The Language Arts reading teacher never sees ESL kids because the ESL kids don't go to Language Arts.
G/T programs don't have Hispanics and Blacks.
ESL students couldn't be G/T until this year.
Parental involvement looks good on paper, but they aren't doing it.
Technology; these kids don't have computers at home.
They aren't helping parents that can't teach third grade math.
The Saxon math program used discovery thinking; it was adopted and teachers used it a couple of years, but it has been forgotten. This has been brought up to curriculum people and they are working on it.
Information is not freely given to counselors.
Counselors don't seem to be focused or optimally utilized.
Is there a formal way to share information on kids as they go from school to school?
G/T kids are bored in general classes in the eighth grade.
Lots of mention of the "inclusion" process for kids, lots of complaints, no textbooks in some classes.
Seems like teachers have low expectations of the students.
Started Junior Achievement here in Mt. Pleasant last year.
Teacher turnover at the high school is huge, some due to competition.
Hear a lot about discipline problems.
Most kids are going to college and excelling.
On Wednesdays, the daily newspaper has a special supplement all in Spanish.
TV gives school news.
Academic blanket program awarded 105 blankets last year.
Texas Scholars get a banquet paid for by the district; these kids are doing well based on how hard class is.
What needs to be done, expectations need raising, and:
- Financial - raise pay of teachers;
- Retain quality teachers;
- Don't let the kids fall through the cracks;
- Staffing/teachers - need consistency and the right mix;
- Lot of blending, and lots of student enrollment growth including minority growth; we need to do a good job of this;
- More motivation for teachers and principals, need some incentives;
- Challenging quality education at every level, and
- Still need more space for kids
Parent Involvement Council, mentoring, parent school, Parent-Teacher Organizations have set up committee.
We have a bad attitude toward Mexicans and we need to be learning from them; they love kids and the kids revere and respect parents.
Must attract and retain teachers, pay more money, we are $500 over the state base rates.
Accounts Payable has procedures, yet no one is following them.
Salaries are not fair; two years ago, a salary study for paraprofessionals was done.
Need to pay more money for masters degrees, the stipends are also too low.
Some compensation needed for work outside of classroom, either in time or money.
The district must obtain ESL or Bilingual certification that the district requires and they don't all get stipends. All teachers are required, but only the ESL-designated teachers get the stipend.
ESL courses taken are at your own expense.
At junior high, lots of courses are being required of teachers, yet when they ask to get off, they get grief.
The substitute teacher pool is not large enough.
Cannot attract new or quality teachers and there are no good foreign language teachers.
Teachers must get ESL certification in two years or they are not hired.
ESL teachers sign a contract not knowing what the stipend will be. They get salary amount with their first pay check.
Teachers pay supplements were lost for building issues.
The bond issue failed because community groups didn't come together and didn't get information.
Need bilingual teachers; the district did not go out and try to recruit and can't get them because the "word is out" about the failed bond issues and no support for teachers.
All teachers that have bilingual class load and are ESL certified get a stipend.
Paraprofessionals weren't moved up to pay step. Instead they are moved up with double steps; one campus secretary will not catch up until 2002.
Decisions of the Shared Decision-Making Committee (SDMC) are taken seriously.
SDMC is an open forum; lots of their stuff is done.
Morale is very low. Teachers are demoralized, turnover is really bad, and morale progressively worsens.
Need to pay teachers more money; in 1984, teachers received $3,000 above the state base, which has been reduced to $500 above the base. To get the best teachers, we need money.
High turnover rate because of extra duties like training for computers and teachers must have ESL. Lots of required training in technology and the training is all after school.
Teacher salaries too low. The French teacher and Spanish teacher have 39 kids, trying to get upper level kids to higher level.
Some portable buildings in very bad shape.
Portable building, can't lock it.
Fowler Elementary has bad custodial staff, in an old building.
Because of some discipline problems, boys can't have paper towels in the bathroom.
Traffic bad around school due to junior high and road construction.
Mice in high school locker rooms.
Condition of facilities at Fowler Elementary; oldest school and everything leaks, including rooms, and the kitchen; it rains in there.
Sims Elementary, 34-year-old building and it is leaking.
Termites are tearing stuff up, walls are falling down, they are holes in the walls at Corprew.
Corprew Intermediate, roaches and mice.
Sims, leaks in lights, messed up carpet.
Panel boards at Sims Elementary are so old, district can't even buy parts.
Snack bar at high school always hot, all year long, no air conditioning.
Need brand new cafeteria at high school, not enough room.
Regional Education Service Center, due to new system, had data base problem; high school only got final schedules two weeks ago.
Get supplies easy, not a problem to get books.
Students like burritos, chicken fingers, onion rings, pizza, steak fries, chicken and dumplings, cheeseburgers.
Most buy their own lunch.
Least favorite choices are foods with rice, chicken and dumplings, corn; too much pepper in the macaroni and cheese, hamburgers, Mexican rice and corn, peas, beans and rice, chicken fingers, burritos and rice.
Lunch is only 30 minutes long, not enough time; need more lines and more choices.
Buses seem too crowded; students switch buses at high school.
Some kids get there before 7 a.m.
Young kids ride the buses.
No discipline on the buses, heat and air conditioning a problem.
Need bigger buses; roofs leak in rain.
Problems with crowding, big kids and little kids. Some students stand up on buses even when there are seats available.
Longest bus route is one hour and 15 minutes
SAFETY AND SECURITY
Some teachers do not feel safe and will not walk down the hall; kids will get in front of you and slow down.
Gangs are started at junior high level. Administration sees problem at junior high level, need gang prevention at junior high.
Kids are scared to go to ball game, fearing they will get beat up; only way to stop is to go to community.
Junior high not involved in drug prevention program.
Too many kids in classrooms and teachers can't control students.
Drug problem is big problem. Principals and teachers are more worried about candy than drugs.
No one goes to detention and if you go there are no rules.
What about a student court?
Teachers don't know how to manage a class.
High school teachers don't feel safe; there is fear of correcting kids.
Have trouble at high school parking lot; kids have knives, high school girls were fighting Friday; they live with a fear every day that something could break out. During changing of buses in afternoon, they need more people available to supervise.
Principals don't know about drug and violence problems.
Parents are concerned that campus security has decreased.
There are very infrequent surprise searches.
The Hispanic kids are more accepted and are excelling, reading at or above grade level.