Marlin: No action taken on school superintendent's contract

Billy Johnson, president of Marlin ISD's board of managers, holds up the district's...
Billy Johnson, president of Marlin ISD's board of managers, holds up the district's "F" rating from the TEA. (Photo by Rissa Shaw)(KWTX)
Published: May. 29, 2019 at 8:26 PM CDT
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Despite a motion being called for his suspension, no action was taken Wednesday night on the contract of Marlin ISD Superintendent Michael Seabolt.

The school board called a special meeting to review, replace and possibly investigate Seabolt.

According to the agenda, the board was set to go into closed session to talk about hiring an independent agency to investigate "district affairs" as well as the superintendent's "performance of duties."

Seabolt requested the meeting on his personnel matters be made public.

"I have no idea what this is about, no one's told me, I think everybody ought to be able to hear it--we'll do it in open session," said Seabolt.

The meeting became confusing with a fledgling board questioning meeting procedures, policies and legalities about terminating a contract that wasn't on the agenda.

"Where's the due process?" said Seabolt. "This is why it's dangerous to have an untrained board."

Due to Marlin ISD continuously failing to meet state requirements, the five member school board, which is technically called the board of managers, is under state control.

Over the past week, the TEA appointed three new board members: Eddie Ellis, Sam Sinno, and Danny Vickers.

"We wanted more Marlin residents on the board," said A.J. Crabill, Deputy Commissioner for Governance at the Texas Education Agency. "We think that's a move in the right direction in terms of investing in the community and its schools."

However, Seabolt called it a "hit job" and said the shuffling of the board is a setup by Texas Education Commissioner Mark Morath to get him ousted.

"This is personal with the commissioner," said Seabolt. "The commissioner tried to buy my contract off last year twice, the board voted not to do it twice, so he's replaced the board and put in a conservator to get what he couldn't done."

Seabolt believes he's being retaliated against because the district was planning to sue the TEA for changing the district's accountability scores.

"After they came and re-did our 67 with an illegal investigation and took away our graduates, sure, it dropped from 67 to 59--a 60 is passing," said Seabolt. "The other board of managers we had made it clear that there was going to be a lawsuit."

The TEA-appointed conservator, Dr. Jean Bahney, recommended to the board that Seabolt be suspended and put on administrative leave.

"It's in the best interest of the district," said Bahney.

When the board returned from closed session--on what they said was an unrelated issue--Ellis made a motion to suspend Seabolt's contract, however, the motion died because it was not seconded.

Some in the crowd were disappointed.

"They're not concerned about the children, that's what I see, they're not concerned," said one Marlin resident on her way out the door. "We're going to lose a whole lot of children, and when the children are lost, guess what: you're going to be statistics, Marlin ain't going to be nothing, it's going to be a ghost town."

Ellis said he's not giving up.

"We'll try again," said Ellis.

The board will be rescheduling another special meeting for Friday or Monday.

"Look, we need new leadership, just point blank," said Ellis. "We can't continue to do the same thing over and over again and get the same results."

According to TEA records, Marlin last met state standards in 2010, receiving the first in a series of "academically unacceptable" ratings starting in 2011, then "improvement required" from 2013-2017, and an "F" in 2018 (no ratings were released in 2012).

Ellis called the scores "shocking" and "embarrassing."

"The numbers don't add up," said Ellis. "We're failing our children here in Marlin and the children in the state of Texas."

Seabolt inherited the poor performing district in 2015, but many are fed up with the fact that it's still struggling.

"I'm sick of parents saying 'I can't prepare my children for a better life because the education system can't give that to them,'" said Ellis. "We gotta do something."

Seabolt believes the TEA is the problem--not him--however, and says improvements have been made "across the board" under his leadership.

"The truth is, we actually passed this year with a 67: the high school passed for a fourth year in a row, middle school made it last year for the first time in ten years," said Seabolt. "Even by TEA's accounts last year, the elementary campus has made growth every year--it'll make growth this year, too," said Seabolt.

“The numbers don’t lie--TEA does," he said.