Calvert School Board faces frustrated community

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The Calvert School Board faced a frustrated, often angry group of parents and concerned citizens on Tuesday night during its April regular meeting. Several parents asked to speak during the Board’s open session but many made clear they had hoped for much more. A petition had been circulated the week before asking the board to address three issues: “Need for certified teachers, behavior of the Athletic Department Staff, and maintenance and condition of school buses.”

The petition was submitted to the District’s administrative assistant last Thursday in hopes a representative of the parents would find a place on the meeting agenda. It did not happen. In answer to guest’s protests, Superintendent Maxie Morgan referred them to the District website which outlines procedures for addressing concerns. Morgan’s answer did not satisfy the group assembled.
During the open forum part of the meeting, speakers expressed concerns over a host of issues including the “bullying” of a student by the Calvert Athletic Director, Mr. Marcus Wortham. One guest said the athletic department had become a source of “turmoil” for the district. At least one focused on the District’s academic offerings and complained about online classes with no teacher to guide students taking the courses.

The meeting’s action items were addressed quickly with some discussion of the tax office report. Calvert has collected $1,112,143 in 2013 taxes, not quite 85% of the total. Morgan indicated that the District had collected a higher percentage by this time last year. Actual revenues received were not down since more properties have been added to the roles, but the percentage of collections is still disturbing, the panel agreed.

The Board approved the 2014-2015-school calendar with students returning to classes on August 25, teachers going to work on August 12. Classes will end on May 29 with graduation that evening.
Summer administrative office hours were set for 8 am to 4 pm with the office closed on Fridays.

The Board also adopted school policy updates from the Texas Association of School Boards and purchased school insurance for all Calvert ISD students, not just those who play athletics, from Texas Kids First. Next, it approved a resolution making May 5 – 9 Teacher Appreciation week.

Principal Lynn Ponder reported that Calvert’s enrollment stood at 176 students and that all students involved were gearing up to take STAAR end of course tests the last full week of April.
Superintendent Morgan announced summer facility improvement projects including renovating a boys’ bathroom, re-tiling the elementary cafeteria floor, and adding sidewalks in high traffic areas. One project the District is trying to acquire grant money to complete is the purchasing of a commercial walk-in refrigerator and freezer. Morgan indicated it was time to get rid of the small home-size refrigerators and freezers it has to have several of to keep up its meals program.

Next, Morgan explained that the district would have to fence the Spigner school grounds to stop entities from burning trash on the grounds. The state environmental agency is asking that the burning stop now.

The Board went into closed session to address personnel issues. While the session remained closed, residents vented their frustration with the Board outside its doors. Many stated that they had tried repeatedly to air their complaints through proper channels—trying to speak and not being able to or speaking without a satisfactory response to Athletic Director Wortham, Ponder, and Morgan. Others said that they did not know why girls’ basketball coach Isaac Wells had been forced to resign after his team contended for the state championship. Residents were passing around the number of the Texas Education Association with plans to “take it a step higher.”

Also in the hall was a reporter from KAGS-TV in Bryan/College Station who talked extensively with Wells and with parents. A Board member had to go out in the hall as ask the group to either speak softer or move down the hall. The Board could not hear itself well enough to deliberate.

When the Board returned to open session, it voted to hire two new unnamed term contract employees and adjourned. The crowd did not move from their seats. The KAGS reported tried to question Morgan on Mr. Well’s resignation. Morgan said he had already made a statement. The reporter, Chris Costa, ask that he make the statement again to KAGS. Morgan said he would not.
Morgan was asked again how residents get on the agenda. He again referred people to the website.

The Robertson County News has been informed by two reliable sources that Isaac Wells was given the option of termination or resignation after a disagreement between Wortham and Wells regarding a player’s status on the Lady Trojan Championship team.

The policy in question appears in the “Board” section of the website under school board policies. The policy states that a board member may place items on the agenda if a complaint is made about the Board to an individual member. That section, at least, gives no means for a person who is not on the board to place an item on the agenda. One resident stated that she had talked to each board member about concerns before the meeting.

Melissa Freeman | Robertson County News

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