Popular principal's transfer causes concern in Calhoun

Elena Watts By Elena Watts

May 18, 2014 at 12:18 a.m.

The reassignment of a popular middle school principal is stirring concern among teachers and parents in Calhoun County.

Billy Wiggins, Calhoun County ISD Superintendent, has extended Travis Middle School Principal Lina Moore's contract another two years, but he does not plan to send her back to Travis Middle School.

The principal's position at Hope High School has been discussed for Moore, Wiggins said.

"She has very positive relationships, but we need a relationship-academic balance if we want to progress," Wiggins said. "We need a new set of ideas - new eyes."

Wiggins cited this year's eighth-grade math scores on the STAAR exam and other academic issues as reasons for the personnel change.

This year, 57 percent of eighth-grade students at Travis Middle School passed the math section of the STAAR exam on the first attempt, according to an email message from the Texas Education Agency. The students just took the test again, but the scores were not yet available. They have one more chance to pass the exam this year. Statewide, 79 percent of eighth-grade students passed the same math exam on the first attempt.

Last year, 57 percent of the same class passed the math section of the seventh-grade STAAR exam. Statewide, 72 percent of seventh-graders passed the same exam last year, according to the TEA.

"The class scores have actually held steady," said Maggie Franck, an eighth-grade history teacher at Travis Middle School. "They have not dropped."

Wiggins commended the teachers for their hard work but called the academic progress at the middle school stagnant.

"Sixth through eighth grade is a tough age - a challenge for the kids, the teachers and everyone else," Wiggins said. "We need to help them gain ground, not lose ground."

Last year, 75 percent of eighth-grade students passed the math section of the exam, according to the TEA. Seventy-six percent of eighth-grade students passed statewide.

"Lina doesn't tell us what to do," Franck said. "She leads by example, working next to us."

Franck said Moore is open and accessible to the students, the staff and the parents.

"Travis Middle School did not always have the best reputation, and Lina has worked hard to make it a positive atmosphere," Franck said. "She has done a tremendous job, and she loves the kids."

The outpouring of support for Moore from staff, parents and members of the community says something, Franck said.

Jay Manly, a former social studies teacher at Travis Middle School, expressed his disbelief and dissatisfaction about Moore's reassignment.

"She's organized, cares about the students and has their best interest at heart," Manly said. "She's the best principal I've ever worked with, and I've worked with my share."

To place all the blame or praise on one person is wrong, Manly said. Many of the factors that affect test scores are out of Moore's control, he added.

Moore has been Travis Middle School principal for six years. She was also principal of HJM Elementary School for four years. She served as assistant principal for two schools: Calhoun High School and Travis Middle School. She taught at JR Elementary School.

Moore's father was principal of Calhoun High School for 19 years. Her mother taught in Port Lavaca for 39 years followed by an additional 16 years in Victoria.

She declined to comment about her possible transfer.

The Calhoun school board meets at 5:30 p.m. Monday in the board room of the administration building.

"This is the superintendent's decision to make," Wiggins said. "It's a tough, difficult decision, but we must try to progress academically."



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