(Orange, Texas)

May 25, 2013

Texas district that axed sports gets new life

Associated Press
The Orange Leader

KINGSVILLE, Texas — An underperforming South Texas school district that swapped funding sports for new science labs when threatened with closure in 2011 will remain open under an academic agreement announced Tuesday between the district and Texas A&M University-Kingsville.

Leaders of the Premont Independent School District joined state Education Commissioner Michael Williams and John Sharp, chancellor of the Texas A&M University System, for the announcement.

Premont ISD, which has about 700 students, will work with A&M-Kingsville to strengthen overall education efforts for its students, according to a statement from the Texas Education Agency. A task force will examine district learning systems, educational environment, assessment and accountability, plus post-secondary preparation and make recommendations for improvement.

"Over the past two years I have learned that out of difficult challenges and adversity come great opportunities," said Premont ISD superintendent Ernest Singleton, who will serve on the task force. "Our partnership with Texas A&M University-Kingsville is a unique and unprecedented opportunity that is going to open unbelievable doors of possibilities for our students."

TEA had threatened since 2011 to close the school district, about 150 miles south of San Antonio, if it did not upgrade its facilities and improve academic performance. Since then, Premont axed its sports programs to allow students to concentrate on academics, built two science labs and underwent audits.

Singleton said earlier that a lengthy conversation he had with Williams in March left him hopeful that the district would survive. The superintendent did not immediately announce whether student sports programs will resume in Premont, a town of nearly 2,700.

A&M-Kingsville President Steven Tallant said it's a groundbreaking initiative for both groups.

"It's a wonderful chance to help one of our neighboring school districts," Tallant said. "It also offers the possibility of changing the way that universities and public schools work together to provide quality educational experiences for future generations."