Austin ISD to form committee of staff, students and community members to oversee Mendez Middle School's future

Consuelo Mendez Middle School has consistently received poor ratings from the Texas Education Agency. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
Consuelo Mendez Middle School has consistently received poor ratings from the Texas Education Agency. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)

Consuelo Mendez Middle School has consistently received poor ratings from the Texas Education Agency. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)

Austin ISD began the process of finding a new partner for Mendez Middle School at a Jan. 19 meeting, as the campus faces repercussions from years of poor state ratings, including possible closure.

On Dec. 16, the district officials severed ties with the Texas Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics Coalition, or T-STEM Coalition, which had managed Mendez Middle School since 2018.

AISD contracted with the nonprofit after years of poor student performance on standardized tests. The district is looking for solutions to keep Mendez open in the wake of that decision and finding a new partner to run the campus is one way forward, according to district staff.

If the campus received a “D” or an “F” from the Texas Education Agency for the current school year, the district would be set on a path toward possible state action, including the state taking over the school board.

Superintendent Stephanie Elizalde previously stated she would close the school before seeing the board’s anonymity revoked.

The Jan. 19 meeting was a question and answer session about a transition oversight committee the district will form to oversee a possible new partnership.

The committee will be made up of 12 individuals, with six coming from the Mendez community. Members will include teachers, students, parents and district staff.

Applications for the committee will be open until Jan. 24. Individuals can apply through this link.

On Jan. 21, the district will open applications for potential partner organizations, called 1882 organizations after Texas Senate Bill 1882, which, “provides incentives for districts to contract to partner with an open-enrollment charter school, institutions of higher education, nonprofits, or government entities,” according to the TEA.

The committee would begin meeting on Feb. 2 and go through the process of picking a new partner over the following weeks, according to district staff. In March, the committee would present its recommendations to the AISD school board. The board would then vote on a new partner.

The committee would work with the new partner to oversee the transition from April to July, according to district staff.

Parents, teachers and students who joined the virtual meeting had an opportunity to ask questions about the plan and share their feedback.

Blanca Mejia, a teacher aid for the district, said she is concerned students enter middle school unprepared for standardized testing, leading to failing grades for Mendez Middle School that are not entirely in the campus’ control.

Diane Castillo, a parent in the Mendez area, said she is sending her youngest son to Mendez because she wants to take a chance on the campus, even though she previously chose not to send her older son to the campus.

“I had an option to put him at another school, but I was trying to get Mendez an opportunity to see what he can learn there,” Castillo said.

Two former Mendez students spoke up to share their desire for the campus to be reviewed more holistically to take positives, such as teacher involvement, into consideration.

Anthony Mays, AISD chief officer of schools, said district staff and the committee would take the feedback into consideration.

Community members can also provide feedback at the following link.

By Darcy Sprague

Editor, Central and Southwest Austin

Darcy joined Community Impact Newspaper in Aug. 2021. Previously, she has covered local news from San Antonio to Dallas and reported nationally on education. Darcy graduated from Texas State University.