Just a few years ago, Premont ISD was on the verge of being shut down by the Texas Education Agency. Now, the district is celebrating a B grade under the state’s new accountability rating system.
Steve VanMatre, who became the district’s superintendent over a year ago, recalls, “There was 2 closure letters since 2011 that was sent. The commissioner was actually going to shut the district down and these students who live in our attendance zones were going to go to other schools.”
However, he says there were some key groups who didn’t give up on the district — the TEA, district staff, and the people of Premont.
“Having those three partners come together really makes today very satisfying,” VanMatre says. “I’m just thrilled for our staff. I’m thrilled for our students and particularly the Premont community.”
Becky Fewox was here for those struggles. She’s the administrative assistant to the superintendent and has worked for the district since 2000. Fewox is also an alumnus of Premont ISD.
“All you can do is take it one day at a time, step by step, and hope that all the powers that be — from the state down — can see that there is a possibility to bring it back out of the ashes,” Fewox remembers about those years. “And we did.”
Some of the things that rose out of the ashes, according to VanMatre, are the best standardized test scores in Jim Wells County, and a successful Early College High School.
“We take our kids out of Premont and we put them on a college campus where they assimilate with traditional college students. That has really accelerated the culture change in Premont,” VanMatre explains.
The community of Premont is also supporting the district with its tax dollars. Voters approved a bond that will fund a new elementary school, which will open in the 2019-2020 school year. In addition, the district’s new football stadium is near completion. After losing its extracurricular activities several years ago, Premont will host its first high school football game in years on August 31.
“Communities that invest in their schools thrive, and this community’s gonna thrive,” VanMatre affirms.
Fewox adds, “We can see that pride coming back and it’s something that we’ve been waiting for for so long.”
VanMatre says he hopes that parents in Premont who send their students to other school districts will now give Premont ISD a second look. Find out more about the district by visiting its website.