TEA commissioner visits Eastside Memorial High School

TEA commissioner visits Eastside Memorial High School

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Students from an embattled high school get a face to face meeting Thursday with the head of the state school system.

The seniors here at eastside have had 5 different principals since they were freshmen. Now with another possible change in management in the works they are asking for a time out.

TEA Commissioner Michael Williams got a warm welcome to Eastside Memorial High School.

His campus tour Thursday morning included visiting with students of an advanced English class and a workshop where robots are being built.

William's was not only impressed by what he saw but also by what he felt.

"The lasting impression is that this is a school and a community and a family that cares a great deal about each other," said Williams.

Last week this letter was sent to Williams by student body president Elijah Cofield. He suggested a field trip to their east Austin school.

"The real message I was trying to get him to understand was that Eastside is not numbers," said Cofield.

But those numbers are low test scores. Cofield believes there the result of what seems to be a tradition of annual quick fixes.

"We just need Eastside Memorial and we need stability," said Cofield.

Controversy has been the one constant on this campus. It opened in the early 60s as Johnston High, named for a Confederate General. Years later it was involved in a bitter Integration battle that involved cross town budding, but the wheels seemed to come off in 2007.

The varsity football team had to cancel games because of academic issues. In true Texas form people outside of this school family started to hear the calls for help by some parents and community leaders.

"Save Johnston High …"

But in 2008, the state ordered Johnston to be closed. The campus remained open under a new educational model and a new name.

The AISD school board recently altered its deal with the state by canceling the plan to include a charter school group. The move was questioned by Williams, a Republican appointee of Governor Rick Perry who favors charter schools.

"I have not said it's all or nothing, what I have said is the district needs to be able to demonstrate to me that they have a plan that they can put in place in short order that will provide the kind of learning experience each and every one of us want for these youngsters and those who come behind them," said Williams.

Williams had a private face to face with student leaders about his standoff with the board. They don't believe a new intervention plan is needed.

"If we just get time, if they just believe in us, if they believe in the students believe in the teachers that they can -- this can work," said EMHS student leader Julian Medrano.

Like the jazz band Williams heard earlier in the day he could change his tune, do some improvising before making up his mind. But the final note will be played by Williams. He promised his decision about the future of Eastside will come by June.

An answer about who will eventually run Eastside could come in a matter of a few days.

Members of the AISD school board will be at a special event on Saturday an update on Eastside is expected from the superintendent. That will be followed by the regular school board meeting, which is set for Monday.

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