Spring Independent School District hosted several community forums earlier this month asking staff, parent and non-parent members to address concerns and provide input in an effort to strengthen the district. Four additional forums have been scheduled for December to continue the process, according to officials with the district's communications department.
The forums are being moderated by staff from Virginia-based consulting firm K12 Insight, which is under contract with the district to conduct focus groups and other various surveys throughout the school year.
Karen Garrison, the district's director of communications, said feedback from the two forums held thus far would not be made available until the process was completed. Two forums are scheduled for Dec. 2 at Spring High School, and two additional forums are scheduled for Dec. 4 at Westfield High School.
Sarah Enterline, vice president of research with K12 Insight, said a final report would be released by Spring ISD in January.
A Nov. 20 forum held at Twin Creeks Middle School was attended by approximately 50 district staff. A number of staff members called Spring ISD "top-heavy" and characterized their positions as "challenging." Others cited a lack of accountability from the administration.
Staff members and teachers in attendance said they worried about job security, felt "micromanaged" on a daily basis and were concerned about students at lower grade levels being pushed to levels they should not be in, often sharing the same classroom as honors students despite behavioral and literacy problems.
The district received criticism for its decision to employ digital textbooks in favor of traditional books. A general lack of support for technology was also cited by attendees as detrimental to the overall district mission. Parents have expressed a lack of resources and general knowledge of technology, attendees said, particularly when it comes to navigating the school's portals.
The most serious offense, according to attendees, is the pressure put on teachers to pass students who do not deserve a passing grade.
Though there is an acknowledgment that administrators are improving communication, staff members said more people need to be hired by the district to support teachers and work directly with students.
Board member Ron Crier said the forums are intended to help gather information as the district deals with recent changes in administration—including hiring a new superintendent, Rodney Watson—and changes in the state's curriculum, assessments programs, accountability and graduation requirements passed in House Bill 5 by the Texas Legislature in 2013.
"Our superintendent wants to get the lay of the land, so we are doing some fact gathering so that we know how to proceed forward," he said.
Crier said the district wants to be more transparent and welcomes feedback from parents and other community members.
"These days, schools can't do it alone," he said. "We are trying to make sure our kids are studious so they can be citizens that contribute to society, not citizens that diminish society. In times past, this district did things which may not have been inclusive, and we want everyone to feel that they have a seat on the table."
Forums on Dec. 2 are scheduled at 5 p.m. and 6:30 p.m. at Spring High School. Dec. 4 forums are scheduled for 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. at Westfield High School.