The Changing Roster at Erath Excels Charter School in Stephenville, TX
8:17:20 PM on 21 June 2007
One more note for the day about this. I went up to the SOS website to look at the filing documents for the charter school. It's of interest to see who has been on the board or a primary throughout the filing times.
So I go back to my original questions. How can it be said that Debra Miller is only an *employee* when she is president of the board running Erath Excels? And second, why is Sid Miller, who is a Texas legislator, VP on the board of Erath Excels? And when did he put himself on it?
UPDATE: In calling again, the last person I spoke with at TEA was apparently confused by the screens.Deb Shaw is the vice president; Miller was on the board at its inception.
1 - SomervellSally
5 Jul 2007 @ 3:41:20 PM
When does the legislative session resume so that charter schools can be held accountable with the tax money? AND SECOND, a little research says that the Board must be certified and MEET in order to RUN a school.....wonder what the minutes look like at Sid Miller's established charter school? HM? Latest Blog Post by SomervellSally -Celebrate Somervell !
The bottom line on the whole thing, according to someone I spoke with at TEA is this: a school must have unacceptable ratings three years in a row and then, perhaps only if there is a complaint or TEA decides to do it, some sort of request to close the school or otherwise take action is taken to the commissioner. The commissioner decides what to do. I was kind of astounded by this. If I understand this right, it would go, for example, to (previously) Shirley Neeley or her likely successor, Robert Scott. According to the DMN on June 28.
"An internal investigation has found that top officials at the Texas Education Agency improperly steered state work to their friends.
The report from the agency's inspector general says that the problems lead all the way up to TEA's deputy commissioner, Robert Scott, the likely choice to succeed Shirley Neeley as education commissioner.
Investigators also found that a consultant for the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation had an unusual influence over how grant money was divvied up.
"These contracts were not competitively bid," the report states. "Several associated subcontracts were awarded to individuals with ties to TEA senior staff. Key participants in the contracting process do not agree as to how subcontractors were chosen."
IF that is true, then it would seem if one is a pal of the TEA Commissioner, one gets favored treatment. I think it is and would be, again, a huge conflict of interest for Miller to be in any way, shape or form voting on charter schools when his wife has one and only 11 percent of students are passed from it.
I notice that a school that wants to define their OWN standards for a charter school can do so. Not the State of Texas. The Charter School.
"Alternative education campuses have been established to provide specialized programs for dropouts, students at risk of school failure or dropping out, pregnant and parenting students, and students who have been removed from the regular campus for disciplinary reasons. Because the nature of the populations attending alternative campuses often works against the ratings such campuses can earn in the accountability rating system, these schools are given two options. They may opt to be assessed either under the standard criteria for accountability ratings or under different criteria developed specifically for alternative education schools.
Under the optional procedures, the alternative campuses participate in selecting the indicators on which they will be rated. The campuses must choose at least one academic achievement indicator appropriate to the student population in attendance, as well as other performance indicators upon which they can be rated. Beginning with the 1997 ratings, campuses rated under the alternative accountability procedures will be notified of their ratings concurrent with those evaluated under the standard accountability system. The standard base indicator data for campuses rated under the optional evaluation procedures are included in the district accreditation rating, with one exception: alternative education programs that serve students from multiple districts through shared services arrangements"
On the board minutes. The person I spoke with today indicated that TEA doesn't ask for the board minutes and in fact, the only time it matters is when the charter first applies, but THEY make the decision on how often they meet.
I told her, looks to me like it would be a pretty good deal for me to just up and start a charter school that would be funded through tax money. I could do a bad job and as long as I managed not to go three years in a row with unacceptable ratings, I could coast along with only 11 percent passage of students. Better yet, I can say that I want to set up my own standard of rating with the moniker, sometimes of *alternative education* and who the heck checks on that? But definitely Sid Miller was not telling the truth when he said that the state of Texas runs his wife's school.
I'm not a fan of NCLB, but it seems to me that when NCLB is being pushed for, you know, ACCOUNTABILITY reasons, that have been so strict that teachers now teach to the test instead of to impart knowledge, charter schools ought to have AT LEAST some minimum standard.
Really, I don't believe that public education tax dollars should go AT ALL to charter schools,etc. And it seems absurd that we do so without holding them to the same standards that public education has.
3 - salon
5 Jul 2007 @ 6:07:13 PM
P.S. When I called up today to the TEA, I was told that Sid Miller is the VP ONLY when the charter school was set up, but not currently, which of course conflicts with what I was told a couple of weeks ago. That tells me that TEA itself is offering conflicting information. It's tough enough to try to wade through all this stuff that takes money out of yours and my pocket, and I believe it's up to TEA to be consistent and also break these rules down to make it easy for citizens to understand. Latest Blog Post by salon -Ireland Votes for Marriage Equality
4 - SomervellSally
9 Jul 2007 @ 9:42:44 AM
So, WHO is on the board if the TEA does not know from one call to the next? The Excell web site seems really misleading as the board members there do not match any of the names given to yourself. Does anyone REALLY know what is REALLY going on there? How about that 700K Excel gets every year! Funds are thrown at this charter school and where is the positive results? Latest Blog Post by SomervellSally -Celebrate Somervell !
I'm with you. I called up again and spoke with a knowledgeable person in the accountability group that does the ratings. Had a long talk discussing the origins of charter schools, what public schools did before their inception (had their own campus schools for at-risk kids), why charter schools don't have, for example, certified teachers, and have carved out so many exceptions for themselves in Texas law, ("We're a charter school, we must have our constraints removed"), how it is that a lot of charter schools DO meet the standards set up for them (is it a good excuse to say that you can't meet standards because you have at-risk kids? No), looking at the AEIS report to see details on the schools, why charter school accountability numbers are aggregated, how are who at *at-risk* children decided.
She said the reason Erath Excels got an unacctpable rating in this last round is that a charter school's dropout rate is supposed to cap at 10 percent and the school has a 14 1/2 percent rate. Also have to mention AGAIN that Sid Miller is being disingenuous, is lying or doesn't understand the concept when he says, as he was quoted in the Stephenville paper, that the State of Texas owns his wife's school and that he is just an employee http://salon.glenrose.net/default.asp?view=plink&id=3647
Overall, charter schools are an experiment and some entity needs to come back and look at the experiment and say "Is it working?"The trouble is that it's difficult to figure that out because you can't compare public schools to charters, just as you can't compare public schools to private schools. If the premise originally of charter schools was that they would do a better job than a traditional public school of teaching kids, how is that measured? Seems to me that it's a choice issue, ie, "I'd like my kid to go a school where they teach THIS or the student-teacher ratio is lower, etc". I also wonder about charter schools that mix religion and education.
P.S. Even this time when I called, I first spoke with a man, in the charter group, who told me there was no alternative education rating. I KNEW he was mistaken because I had seen it on the website. All this leads me to believe that charter schools are not being looked at as closely as they should be, at all levels, and Shapiro's bill, which would have closed all the charter schools and then made them all re-apply, was a good one. I'd like to see us have a state-wide discussion of the merits of charter schools, again, to decide if the experiment has worked. I personally think it is a wrong use of taxpayer money.
Oh, and Somervell Sally, I see what you mean about the board list from the Erath Excels site. ?????? When I called again yesterday I was told that the board list is Debra Miller, board president, Deb Shaw, VP and Brenda Faulkner, Secy. Board of directors listed on the web are:
Weldon Huston, president
Derrel Thompson, vice president
Jim Myers (no title?)
Debra Miller (has secretary by her name but then it says she is director)
Wayne Weaver (the attorney?)
I don't know why the people named on the website are different than the list that TEA has. I do notice that Huston and Miller are both members of the same church- Green's Creek Baptist in Dublin; Derrel Thompson is moderator of a Baptist association. So maybe they all know each other from church? I don't know if it's acceptable to have one board listing with the TEA and another for the public to see. Certainly IF one assumes the TEA list is the official one, then what is the nature of the list on the website?
Have you seen this.....this morning..........follows.......additionally.....Miller is not at Greens Creek nor have they been for MANY years....his bio is not correct on his senate web site........read on to today's news........ironic ! Who feeds this stuff to the Stephenville paper? HM?
Miller named ‘Taxpayer Hero’
Monday, July 9, 2007 12:24 PM CDT
Special to the E-T
AUSTIN - Texans for Fiscal Responsibility, in releasing its scorecard of the Texas House of Representatives, has named state Rep. Sid Miller (R-Stephenville) a “Taxpayer Hero.”
State representatives, on average, failed to promote sound fiscal stewardship of taxpayers resources. The average score in the House was a 53 - a failing grade by any measure, according to TFR President Michael Quinn Sullivan.
In contrast, the group said, Miller earned a 92.9. He was one of only 15 lawmakers to be designated a “Texas Taxpayer Hero” by Texans for Fiscal Responsibility.
“On the whole, Rep. Miller could be counted on this session as a wise steward of our resources, seeking to reduce the burden of taxes, looking for smarter ways to spend tax dollars, and working to make the budget process more transparent and accountable,” Sullivan said. “Texans need more legislators like Sid Miller, willing to do the right thing for taxpayers and the future of Texas.”
TFR used an index of votes in the Texas House that provided a clear picture of fiscal responsibility trends.
Called back today to ask about the charter. The person answering told me that Sid Miller was VP, with wife Debra Miller as president. I told her that I had been told on a different call that that wasn't accurate, but that another TEA person told me the problem was with someone looking at the wrong screen. THIS person told me that this was the most updated information that had come back. So, as I mentioned before, there's a conflict about who really is on the 501c3 board.
Be that as it may, I asked about why the list of people on the Erath Excels website as board members doesn't match whatever list of board members TEA has. Rep said it's because, in the first instance, the list is from the 501c3 setup, and the second is a school board listing. I asked if that corresponded to a public school board meeting that the public can attend, and she said yes, if they hold board meetings. I said, well, how would I know about that? She said, it would be in their charter, on our website... except that Erath Excels charter is not on the website and looking at it requires a FOIA. I've put in a FOIA, as the charter would specifiy how often the board is supposed to meet. It doesn't seem to me that TEA cares or keeps copies of charter school board minutes, but then, I didn't ask if they keep copies of local school district board minutes. For GRISD, for example, I know the minutes are available from the school, although at least last year they weren't online.
Iterating again that the State of Texas does NOT run charter schools, and apparently does precious little monitoring, except for some yearly accountability standards that involve TAKS.
9 - SomervellSally
17 Jul 2007 @ 2:20:27 PM
Bottom line, Sid Miller and wife Deb Miller are taking lots of bucks from the taxpayer and running a side business with it called Erath Excels while he votes to keep it in business while it is failing at producing the product it claims to produce. Talk about impeaching presidents, how do we recall a rep? Latest Blog Post by SomervellSally -Celebrate Somervell !
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