by David Safier
In March, the TUSD Board decided not to renew the contract of Rex Scott, the principal of Catalina High. Because
the vote was taken in the discussion of the issue occurred during executive session, the reasons for the decision aren't public, but it was clear at the time that a significant factor in the vote was the school's D rating with the state.
The new state scores are out, and Catalina High earned a C for the 2013-14 school year. Scott did a detailed analysis of the numbers and found the biggest gains came from the lowest scorers in general and the ELL students in particular. The state changed its way of computing the scores, but according to Scott, even under the old system, Catalina would have moved up to a C.
If the old formula the state used for calculating high school letter grades had stayed in place, Catalina still would have been a “C” and would have earned 103 total points. That is a 15 point gain over two years and a five point gain from last year, when the school was at 98 points. . . . The thing that makes me proudest is that the kids who received a great deal of our time and attention this past year (sophomores who failed both AIMS Math and Reading as 8th graders) played the biggest role in helping the school to earn a “C.” Their needs were a consistent area of focused, substantive efforts by our staff and those endeavors on their behalf were a large part of our school improvement plan.
Congratulations to the students, the staff and those members of the community, parents and others, who have supported the students and the school.
And some shame goes to the TUSD board which voted 4-1 for Rex Scott's non-renewal, with Kristel Foster the only dissenting vote. I'm sure they had their reasons for the lopsided vote, but according to the Star article that came out at the time, the school's state score was the major reason for the vote of no confidence for Scott.
At the time, Superintendent H.T. Sanchez predicted with some certainty the school would not earn a C this year; he was clearly wrong. And board member Cam Juarez implied that renewing Scott's contract would be lowering the bar for the school rather than expecting it to improve; clearly his statement was premature, since the school did improve based on the measure being used by the district and the state. I agree that it’s wrong to lower expectations for students and schools and assume there will be no improvement, but it’s also harmful to make negative assumptions about what the students will accomplish before the results are in. I'm sure the school's staff and students were stung unnecessarily by the inaccurate and apparently baseless assessment of their potential growth.
I wrote about Rex Scott's nonrenewal when it was first announced and mentioned then that I'm a friend of his and have a great deal of respect for his ability, his positive attitude and his work ethic. I probably wouldn't devote a post to the school's rise from a D to a C otherwise. A dozen other TUSD schools moved up as well. But he and the school deserve special vindication and validation, and very possibly an apology.