By MICHAEL RODRIGUEZ
It’s been nearly a year since I issued a challenge to the San Benito CISD Board of Trustees, then-Interim Superintendent Alfonso Obregón and Miller Jordan Middle School Principal Mary Alice Leal to turn the oft-troubled campus around. Plaguing Miller Jordan at that time was yet another principal reassignment, the seventh of such occurrences in six years, and a recent history that included a teacher being arrested on campus, students that faced state jail felony charges for pulling a fire alarm as a prank, and substandard scores that many felt marred the name of what was once San Benito’s premier middle school.
These unfortunate occurrences were detailed in an August 2013 column that filled this very space where said challenge was issued. To fail meant that the officials I mentioned would be required to write a guest column explaining their failure.
The test results of the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) have indicated that while Miller Jordan has not yet achieved its primary goal of producing exemplary scores, it has made progress in all but two subjects.
To be specific, Miller Jordan scored a 69 in Reading in 2014, up from a 65 in 2013; a 68 in Math, up from a 63; a 58 in Writing, down from a 63; a 65 in Science, up from a 58; and a 40 in Social Studies, down from a 42.
And, for the first time in eight years, Miller Jordan will have the same principal in place for more than a single school year.
Also, there were no teachers arrested on campus or students that faced jail time as a result of any on campus shenanigans – at least to our knowledge.
As I said last year, oh how times have changed.
What I’m left with is a bit of a dilemma, however. You see, while Miller Jordan’s STAAR scores show improvement, granted, regressing in the subjects of Writing and Social Studies (which were once my favorite subjects… but enough about me) continues to leave me concerned about the overall academic integrity of the campus. Then again, I must take into account that it’s only been one year… one very tumultuous year for all SBCISD campuses.
If it were up to me, I might have made the same decision about leaving Principal Leal in place; scores did, after all, improve and who better to continue those improvements than the person who led the charge. Still, there is much that needs to be done in order to address the areas of failure. And at the risk of sounding cliché, failure should never be an option. I wholeheartedly believe that the Miller Jordan educators who cried out to their Board members for stability earlier this year feel the same way.
Considering as much, I must say that I’m far more confident of Miller Jordan’s progress than I was almost a year ago, which pleases me being a former student of a once proud Cougar collective. But whether the campus has shown significant gains is not a matter for me to decide as it pertains to the challenge. It’s up to the public. If you remember, the challenge I issued was to be decided by an online poll at sbnewspaper.com, and I intend on keeping my word.
Let’s make this simple, folks. Vote “Yes” if you believe Miller Jordan is on the road to recovery. Vote “No” if you believe it’s on the path to ruin. We already know what’s at stake: about 700 words or so from the aforementioned district officials on why they failed Miller Jordan and how they plan to fix it. Or perhaps I’ll assign this task to a single SBCISD representative.
I very well can’t hold Limón to such a task since he was on suspension the entire year, and Obregón is no longer responsible for the district. Not to mention that current Board President Arnold Padilla has only served in said capacity for several weeks’ time.
So let it be Leal. I’ve met with her and have the utmost confidence that she’s a professional who can bear the brunt of this burden should it in fact come to pass.
In the interest of fairness, and if the online voting public voices a resounding “Yes” in favor of Miller Jordan, I promise to conduct some service (to be decided at a later time) for the campus. But let it be known that I absolutely will not stand on any street corners with a sign in hand.