The Premont Independent School District held a groundbreaking today for its new Ernest H. Singleton Premont Early College Academy and a ceremony celebrating its educational alliance with Texas A&M University-Kingsville.
The new school is named on behalf of former superintendent Ernest H. Singleton, who served from June 2011 to May 2013. During Singleton’s tenure, Premont ISD and A&M-Kingsville formed an alliance with the goal of helping the district secure stronger educational and financial footing in order to avoid closure.
Because of the district’s successful turnaround over the last five years, Tuesday’s ceremony marked an informal and triumphant end to the alliance. However, some Texas A&M-Kingsville faculty will remain involved in the administration of grants that benefit Premont ISD.
"The Texas A&M University System has a long history of producing excellent educators. So, I knew that this alliance would benefit Premont students in a significant way," said Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp. "The fact that it has been so successful this quickly is a testament to both the quality of the faculty at A&M-Kingsville and the fighting spirit of the Premont community."
"Five years ago we knew that working with Premont ISD was the right thing to do for the community and the region," said Dr. Steven H. Tallant, president of Texas A&M-Kingsville. "Thanks to the commitment of Premont administrators, teachers, and students, the district has made a remarkable turnaround. The Premont Alliance also helped to strengthen our university and College of Education and Human Performance, which took the lead in our work with the district."
In 2011, Premont ISD received a notice from the Texas Education Agency (TEA) demanding closure by 2012. A number of cost-saving measures were enacted, including consolidating the middle school and high school, and suspending Premont’s sports programs – including varsity football. TEA eventually granted a conditional extension, but the district’s academic performance continued to lag.
In an effort to help Premont ISD further its success, Chancellor Sharp and TEA began discussing a potential arrangement that would allow A&M-Kingsville to help the school district. The partnership was officially launched on May 21, 2013, with an announcement at the university.
Tuesday’s ceremony following the groundbreaking celebrated the successes of the alliance. Those successes include joint efforts in raising some $8 million in grants for Premont ISD; aiding the district in the transition to a new state accreditation system; kicking off a Teacher Advancement Program; and Premont ISD’s Early College High School and Summer Bridge programs, which allow Premont high school freshmen to study and take classes at Texas A&M-Kingsville.
As a result of the alliance, in 2016, Premont ISD met the state’s academic standards for the first time since 2011. Since reaching that milestone, the district’s positive momentum has continued to build, as evidenced by Tuesday’s groundbreaking and the fact that varsity football is scheduled to return to Premont this coming fall.
"I am proud of the innovative Premont Alliance and am confident that the Alliance’s work can serve as a model of K-12 and higher education partnerships that may help other struggling districts across Texas," Tallant said.
Premont ISD Superintendent Steve VanMatre said, "The Alliance is the reason I believe there’s even a Premont ISD. I feel very strongly that if Dr. Tallant and his staff had not come to the table, it would have made it very easy for (the Texas Education Agency) to find a neighboring school district to serve these students."
Attendees and speakers at the May 22 alliance ceremony included Texas A&M University System Chancellor John Sharp; Premont ISD Superintendent Steve VanMatre; Texas A&M University-Kingsville President Dr. Steven H. Tallant; and State Representative J.M. Lozano, District 43.