Wolfforth Council backs school accountability reform

City Council members in Wolfforth voted in favor of supporting a resolution opposing over-reliance on high-stakes testing brought to them by the Frenship Independent School District superintendent on Monday night.

David Vroonland, Frenship ISD superintendent, said the resolution has been passed by 84 percent of Texas school districts as of Nov. 5. It is a resolution from the Texas Association of School Administrators, which will present the resolution and its supporters to legislators in Austin.

“One of the things that truly makes Americans great is our educational system,” Vroonland told the Wolfforth Council.

But he said focusing so much on passing a test in the spring has caused students to become task-driven people, but not curious, critical thinkers.

He wants Frenship to be able to focus on building what he called the four Cs: curiosity, collaboration, communication and context.

Vroonland said he would like students to be able to experience failure and to rebound without fear of consequences.

He said a recent study found that third-graders are more afraid of taking tests than they are of losing a parent.

Councilman Ramiro Villarreal asked what led Vroonland to the concept of the four Cs.

Vroonland said his experiences both as a parent and as an educator led him to the conclusion that high-stakes testing should not be the primary means of accountability for schools, and that schools are missing opportunities to create critical thinkers.

“Frenship does well on high-stakes testing,” Vroonland said. “I’m not coming from a point of weakness.”

Councilwoman Julie Merrill said she likes Vroonland’s ideas of helping students to think critically, and joked that he should get it accomplished before her own daughter enters the third grade.

The Wolfforth Council voted 5-0 to approve the resolution from the Texas Association of School Administrators.

Council members also heard from Vince Viaille, managing director of Specialized Public Finance Inc., which provides financial advice to the city.

Viaille showed the council members four scenarios for financing the city’s water treatment center.

The city is under orders of the federal Environmental Protection Agency to remove arsenic from its water. Wolfforth leaders are taking part in a pilot study to see if electrodialysis reversal will remove arsenic and other impurities from its water.

Wolfforth Mayor Charles Addington told the council that the city has to treat its water, but it does not have to tie in to a well field west of Wolfforth and close to Ropesville. He said including that project at a cost of $3.5 million, however, will give the city more security.

Addington said another option the city can work on is building infrastructure to tie in to Lubbock’s water system if Wolfforth’s groundwater supply is not enough. He said the estimated $250,000 project would guarantee that Wolfforth will have water in the future.

Wolfforth would have to approach Lubbock’s mayor about the possibility of connecting to Lubbock’s water supply, Addington said.

Viaille said that of the city’s options to build just the treatment center or to also tie into the water near Ropesville, the annual cost to Wolfforth water users would be between $186 and $340, also depending on if the city chooses a 20-year or 25-year plan to repay the loan.

Councilman Randy Gross asked how long it would take the city to get funding for the project once it commits to a plan of action.

Viaille said it will take three months from the time the city makes a decision to get the money.

City Manager Darrell Newsom said the city has breathing room to make a decision, and could possibly wait until mid-December to do so.

The council did not vote on the matter, but Addington advised them to begin thinking about it.

“Think long-term. Think security,” he advised.

Council members voted:

  • To table a final plat for the Wolfforth Commercial Park;
  • To amend the 2011-12 budget;
  • To approve the September financial report; and
  • To amend a franchise agreement with Atmos Energy.
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