Weatherford Democrat

Aledo ExtrA

March 25, 2014

Tempers flare on HB 5 topic

By JUDY SHERIDAN

A report on House Bill 5 devolved into a heated exchange between two Aledo ISD trustees at the March 17 school board meeting.

Board President Jay Stringer opened fire on Bobby Rigues for chiding trustees for their passivity as administrators implement the landmark bill while refusing to share an HB 5 presentation he delivered at a recent Texas Association of School Boards governance conference.

Stringer also accused Rigues of “chastising the administration.”

“I reached out to you the week before last because you got several favorable comments on your HB 5 presentation down in Corpus, and pretty much I invited you to make this same presentation to this school board,” Stringer said.

“You so eloquently come here every month and talk about how we’re not doing this, we’re not doing that, and pretty much the response I got from you was you’ll be presenting it in San Antonio and in Fort Worth, and it’s our call to go watch it there.

“How can you come in here at this board meeting and preach to us and talk about how we as a board are not at the same level that you are and how we’re not part of the team ... yet you were not willing to present this to your own team of eight?”

Rigues said he told Stringer he would be willing to give the presentation to the board, but chose not to this month because there were more important issues on the agenda, such as setting board goals, self-evaluations and policy review.

“The foundation that’s needed for good board governance supercedes any topic of legislation at this point,” he said. “HB 5 is a huge deal, and I would love to take an hour to present it, but before we do there’s something more pressing; there are a number of duties that we have as a board that are by statute required.”

An email from Rigues to Stringer — read aloud by Stringer at Rigues’ request — did direct the board to presentations in Fort Worth or San Antonio. It also added, “but I am supportive of any extra event that involves educating district, community and board on this important topic. If you want to talk more about HB 5, let me know, we can set something up.”

The discussion ended with Stringer insisting that Rigues wouldn’t come to the table and Rigues protesting that Stringer’s accusations were untrue.

Prior to the clash, Rigues said he and Carroll ISD trustee Craig Rothmeier drew 125-plus trustees with their conference presentation in early March, entitled, “HB 5 and local flexibility: what do we do now?”

The message, he said, was urging trustees to get involved as school administrators work to implement the 111-page bill, which addresses curriculum, assessment and accountability and affects students, districts and communities.

Rigues told Aledo trustees they “may not be at the table of implementation” regarding algebra II, which has become a controversial option.

“As a board have we exercised our duty: the opportunity to discuss that option?” he asked. “Do you have an opinion with regard to if algebra II is something we should require every student to take versus an option that we leave it off the table and not make it a requirement?”

Rigues also asked the board to consider whether an existing committee or a new one should dissect the community-engagement piece of HB 5, which he described as the bill’s “heartbeat.”

“We need to be at the table to ask those questions,” he said, suggesting Superintendent Derek Citty address a component of the bill at every board meeting.

Later, Johnny Campbell initiated a conversation on algebra II, which is required for admission to Texas A&M University and University of Texas at Austin.

“It’s not a requirement today for graduation, right?” he asked, learning from Kathy Allen, executive director of curriculum, that four years of math, including algebra II, was a graduation requirement prior to HB 5’s passage.

Allen told Campbell that Aledo ISD will continue to have “more than our fair share of kids taking algebra II and staying on the distinguished program.”

“Our default plan is the distinguished program, which requires algebra II,” she said. “And so kids cannot go to the foundation plan until after sophomore year, which requires a meeting with the parent, counselor and student.

“There are conversations with those individuals before that kid backs out of algebra II.”

“Some school district are making it a requirement,” Rigues said. “It depends on the demographics of the school.

The current SAT, Rigues said, has a heavily weighted component of algebra II, and the board should be aware of how many students are opting out of the class.

“If we’re not going to make it a true requirement across the board, with a heavy emphasis on the distinguished plan as the default, can we look at those numbers on an annual basis and ensure that we’re directing those kids towards that distinguished plan?” he asked.

At the conference, Rigues reported, about one-third of the trustees attending his session said they were communicating with administrators about HB 5’s implementation, one-third were receiving regular reports and one-third confessed little to no communication.

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