City Council, MISD board discuss collaboration

Identifying common ground is main focus of joint meeting

Bill Spinks
Midlothian Mirror
Members of the Midlothian ISD board of trustees and the Midlothian City Council hold a joint meeting on June 3 at the L.A. Mills Administration Building. The two elected bodies discussed ways in which they could collaborate further for the betterment of the community.

With two elected bodies working side-by-side in Midlothian, it makes sense for the two to seek ways in which they can work together.

That was the purpose of a joint meeting held recently between the Midlothian City Council and the Midlothian Independent School District board of trustees. The two came together at MISD’s L.A. Mills Administration headquarters to brainstorm ways to cooperate.

MISD superintendent Dr. JoAnn Fey opened the meeting by welcoming councilmembers, and Mayor Richard Reno touted the common ground that the two elected bodies were seeking. “If we work together and solve our area of responsibility, we will succeed,” Reno said.

The joint meeting was conducted with the guidance of two outside educators, Dr. Dave Arnott of Dallas Baptist University and Dr. David Diviney of Tarleton State University.

Trustee Andrea Walton said a subcommittee consisting of three councilmembers and three trustees has been meeting monthly for the last four years. Walton said the purpose of the meetings was as “a conduit for conversation.”

As far as larger meetings, city councilmember Justin Coffman said the city and school board in the past would meet on an annual basis to discuss topics such as demographics and economic development.

MISD trustee Tami Tobey, a member of the subcommittee, noted that the city and school board already collaborate on a number of projects, such as the school summer feeding program and some street construction jobs. The city and district also share the A.H. Meadows Public Library.

Others noted the presence of a strong ministerial alliance in Midlothian as well as Manna House, a local food pantry that is branching out into other community action endeavors.

But other than the subcommittee, there is not much direct interaction between the two elected bodies. “I feel like we’re on a boat with two captains, with no clear path to where we’re going,” city councilmember Clark Wickliffe said.

Councilmembers, many of whom attended MISD schools, complimented the district for its quality of education and its new opportunities, including the new MILE career campus and the dual credit program with Navarro College where high school students can earn college credits and graduate with an associates' degree.

Mayor Pro Tem Ted Miller said people move to Midlothian because of jobs or schools or both, and “if we’re at 100 (building permits) a month, we know we’re doing something right.”

School board trustees in turn praised the city’s quality of life and neighborly values, something they said they want to keep as the city grows. Newly-elected trustee Eduardo Gonzalez said he would like to see the city embrace the growth and have a pipeline between MISD schools and business in the community.

MISD trustee Matt Sanders suggested that both elected bodies put on paper what commonalities they have to inform the community of them.

Future city-school board joint meetings may become more frequent in the future. Mayor Reno said he felt like once a year was not often enough, but four times a year was too often. Reno also suggested a retreat, much like the council does annually.

Coffman said he would like to see a set of guiding principles established to define where the community is headed, and hold leaders accountable to those principles.

In closing, Reno said the school is the biggest reason for Midlothian’s continuing growth and the joint meeting “is a great moment for our community, and by that I mean the whole community, including the 48,000 in the school district.”