MISD board discusses Tarleton pact

Proposed agreement with university would guarantee admission to top 33% of all MISD graduates

Bill Spinks
Midlothian Mirror
Midlothian ISD is considering a proposed memorandum of understanding with Tarleton State University that would waive testing requirements for MISD graduates and would guarantee admission for the top 33 percent of graduating MISD seniors. Tarleton has similar partnerships in place with other school districts, including Waxahachie and Palmer in Ellis County.

With trustee Richard Peña back in attendance after a life-threatening bout with COVID-19, the Midlothian ISD board of trustees discussed a proposed partnership with Tarleton State University at their Oct. 18 regular monthly meeting.

The memorandum of understanding provides annual scholarships, waives testing requirements and guarantees admission to MISD seniors who graduate in the top 33 percent of their class, MISD assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction Shelle Blaylock told the board.

In addition, Tarleton will also provide ongoing support for financial aid, admissions, degree counseling, work-study mentorships, peer mentoring and more.

Tarleton reached a similar agreement with Palmer ISD in January 2020 and has agreements in place with a growing number of other North Texas districts, including Waxahachie, Mansfield and Eagle Mountain-Saginaw.

Tarleton’s Distinguished High School Partnership Program provides a smooth enrollment option for high schoolers entering college. Tarleton, which is a part of the Texas A&M University system, has campuses in Midlothian, Fort Worth, Waco and Bryan as well as its main campus in Stephenville. Credits can also be earned online.

Blaylock said a large number of MISD graduates already choose to attend Tarleton, and a large number of staff members are Tarleton alumni.

The proposed agreement with MISD will be brought back before the board for approval at a future meeting.

Peña, who was elected to the board and sworn-in in May, was hospitalized for almost three months as he battled a long-haul case of COVID. He was discharged in September. Peña was warmly greeted with applause by the audience and fellow trustees at the start of the meeting.

Board vice president Andrea Walton presided over the meeting in the absence of board president Gary Vineyard, who participated by phone. Trustee Eduardo Gonzalez also was not at the meeting but participated by phone.

Other items

• The board recognized National Merit Scholarship commended students Sterling Martinez and Cooper Lucas, both of Heritage High School. Also recognized were six College Board national recognition winners from Midlothian High School and five from HHS; and 40 total elementary students for their participation in the Destination Imagination Global Finals.

• The board honored the late C.M. Arnold, who passed away on Sept. 19 at the age of 95, for his 41 years of service to the Midlothian ISD. Assistant superintendent for finance Jim Norris said Arnold began by teaching in segregated schools in 1948 and became principal of Booker T. Washington High School when it opened in 1958. MISD integrated its schools in 1967, but Arnold remained as a middle school teacher.

• The 2020-2021 school district audit was presented. Dan Tonn, a CPA with the Anderson, Spector & Company P.C. firm out of Denton, gave the district a clean bill of health.

• The approved consent agenda consisted of previous meeting minutes, quarterly investment report, budget amendments, the solicitation of bids for technology items, a bid approval for water bottle fillers, gifts and donations, Library Board members for 2021-2022, and the adoption of prevailing wage rates for distruct construction projects.

• The purchase of Apple computers, a $71,000 payment to Walsh Gallegos for legal services and a $62,000 payment to Waxahachie ISD for instruction of cosmetology and automotive students from MISD were requisitions over $50,000 that were pulled from the consent agenda and approved separately.

• Also pulled and approved separately was the Student Health Advisory Committee recommendation on the district’s human sexuality curriculum for 2021-2022. District student services administrator Dr. Al Hemmle said the curriculum is abstinence-based. The motion passed 6-1, with Peña voting against.

• The board designated a portion of about $6 million of the district’s unused fund balance to go toward construction and replacement of district equipment, among other items. Norris said there is no target date to spend these funds.

• Updates were provided on the Midlothian Education Foundation and the district CTE program, and information was provided on campus improvement plans and the district improvement plan.

• Norris discussed a one-time supplement for all district employees. Unlike previous years where supplements were awarded, Norris proposed an increase to $1,500 for full-time employees and $750 for part-time employees. Norris said the money would come from the general fund and will be replaced by ESSER III funds.

• The district is trending downward in COVID cases, district human resources director Dr. Shorr Heathcote told the board. The district had 34 total active cases of COVID as of last Tuesday. The district instituted a tiered color-coded reporting system on its website, and Heathcote said all MISD campuses were “green.”

• Virtual learning within MISD was approved starting Nov. 1, and Pearson was approved as the curriculum platform provider. Blaylock said legislation this year allowed districts the option to offer a virtual learning option. The resolution offers virtual learning to students in grades K-6, and Blaylock said 31 students have applied, the majority for medical reasons.

• The board approved the creation of four additional special education paraprofessional positions and one elementary student support counselor position because of student enrollment growth.

• Following an executive session, the board took no public action.