Former Tyler city councilman Donald Sanders facilitated the meeting. Sanders asked questions related to community concerns and allowed district officials and TISD board members to respond.
Three board members, the Rev. Orenthia Mason, Therelee Washington and Brad Spradlin, were present.
In addition to Superintendent Gary Mooring and Deputy Superintendent Cecil McDaniel, most of the district's leadership team attended.
The first question Sanders asked was why the district chose Stewart for this change.
Mooring said the district is looking to consolidate middle school operations.
As part of the adopted long-range plan, the district would go from six middle schools to four, losing Hogg and Stewart as middle schools in the process.
This will save the district money and allow it to have one school in each quadrant of the city, Mooring said. Geographically, Stewart falls in the middle of the quadrants.
Board members reiterated that they never suggested closing Stewart — only repurposing it.
The Rev. Mason said board members must consider the district as a whole when making decisions.
But most who attended the meeting Tuesday questioned why Stewart needs to be repurposed.
“Why would you change a school that is excelling so well?” Sanders asked.
An audience member, Dr. Otis Webster, also asked, “If you're thinking about changing Stewart, then what would it take to (keep) it as it is.”
Stewart student Mahlazyga Johnson said she didn't initially want to attend the school because she heard negative things about it, but once she got there she learned otherwise.
Some parents questioned the opportunities that students would get at another school. If they are forced to go to another campus, they might not have the same extracurricular opportunities available, parents said.
Sanders also questioned whether TISD would move forward with the plan in a different part of the district if it received the same opposition.
After the meeting, Mooring said the district still has a lot of time to receive input and make decisions about the future. Nothing will happen to Stewart for at least two years if a bond passes, and the board won't vote on whether to call a bond until later this month.
He said the meeting was good and provided information for both sides to process.
When asked if Stewart could still remain a middle school, he said, “Absolutely.”
“It's not a done deal,” he said. “It is a plan. It is a process, and no decisions have been made at this point.”
Board members and the superintendent urged the community to continue their involvement and dialogue