In 2012 Premont I.S.D. made national headlines because its school district decided to suspend sports due to declining enrollment, debt, inadequate facilities, and poor attendance.
A few years later the small South Texas ranching town of less than 2,700 people that is located between Kingsville and Falfurrias off U.S. Highway 281, is back on its feet with the help of Texas A&M University-Kingsville.
Without the university’s unprecedented partnership over the last 5 years, Premont I.S.D. would have been forced to close its doors.
In summer 2011, the Texas Education Agency announced plans to close the Premont school district due to low academic scores, poor attendance and aging facilities. However, in December 2011, the school district received a reprieve that gave them one year to make improvements.
"There is no doubt in my mind that Premont I.S.D. would have been closed back in 2013 if it wasn’t for Texas A&M Kingsville. This community will always be indebted to that institution and the A&M system," said Premont I.S.D. Superintendent Steve VanMatre.
The school district did make some headway in addressing the issues outlined by the T.E.A., but it could not have survived without the unique partnership with Texas A&M University-Kingsville. The key to the district’s successful turnaround was a hefty grant and rigorous teacher training and support.
"As result of the grantsmanship we did, Premont ended up getting about 8.5 million dollars in grants from the Texas Education Agency to help with the curriculum and student activities. As a result of that, it was a partnership that got national attention," said Texas A&M-Kingsville Dean of the College of Education, Dr. Alberto Ruiz.
"When we were able to capture quality teachers and keep them here, and pay them a competitive wage, and they stayed, then you saw scores improve, which we have every year," said VanMatre.
Texas A&M Kingsville said in fundraising and education enrichment programs like Early College High School allowed Premont High School freshmen to take classes at the University and made a big difference.
"We have the foundation in place to be a flagship district of South Texas, and that is certainly what we want to be," said VanMatre.
"They needed help, and we provided the help; we provided the strategies that were needed in the classroom, and I think the future looks bright for Premont," said Ruiz.
With this partnership, the Premont school district was able to meet state academic standards in 2016 for the first time in five years. As result, district officials announced the high school will play varsity football again this fall for the first time since 2011.
"That has been missing, that we are going to bring back. That will help us help kids because I always felt that your athletic program is your best at-risk program at any comprehensive high school,"said VanMatre,
The university and district have established a powerful partnership that is full of vision and hope for providing college and career ready opportunities that will impact Premont students for generations to come.