Archive for the ‘Voices and Victories’ Category

Dallas Court of Appeals decide in favor of Universal Academy Charter School

Thursday, March 22nd, 2012

On February 28, 2012, the Dallas Court of Appeals found in favor of Universal Academy Charter School in a case filed by the school’s former commercial real estate broker. The broker raised both tort and contract claims against the school, arguing that the school failed to pay required commission under a signed agreement. In Universal Academy v. Palasota Property Company, the Court of Appeals dismissed both claims and decided for the school.   Because of the court’s unprecedented conclusions, this case is instructive for all types of charter school litigation and contracts.

First, the Palasota court reaffirmed its earlier holding in LTTS Charter School Inc. C2 Construction II, that open-enrollment charter schools enjoy government immunity from suit from tort claims. Relying on the reasoning of the Texas Supreme Court’s 2011 decision in LTTS Charter School Inc. C2 Construction I, the court of appeals found that open enrollment charter schools are immune from suit as a matter of common law.  This is a significant finding because the court reached this decision without reliance on section 12.1056 of the Texas Education Code, the statutory provision that expressly affords charter schools immunity from liability.  Consequently, an open-enrollment charter school can use the Palasota holding and its sister case in C2 Construction II, to urge early dismissal from any litigation filed against the school. Since charter schools are immune from suit as a matter of common law – as the Palasota court found – then the school is not required to incur the expense of discovery in any case in which immunity from suit has not been waived.

Next, concerning the broker’s contract claims, the Palasota court also held that the charter school had immunity from suit. In an unprecedented ruling, the court found that open-enrollment charter schools are “local government entities” under Section 271.152 of the Texas Local Government Code. Any “local government entity that enters into a contract subject to Chapter 271 waives immunity from suit for the purpose of adjudicating a claim for breach of contract”. However, for immunity to be waived, the contract must meet the specific statutory definition of a contract:  “a written contract stating the essential terms of the agreement for providing goods or services to the local governmental entity that is properly executed on behalf of the local governmental entity.” The Palasota court found that the broker’s contract did not contain the essential term describing the amount and/or method of calculating the broker’s commission. Because the broker’s contract did not meet the statutory definition stated in Chapter 271, the court concluded that the waiver of immunity did not apply.

TCSA congratulates Universal Academy and Tommy Fuller, their attorney on this case, on this important victory for open-enrollment charter schools.  In light of the new developments in the Palasota case, charter schools should consult their local counsel for advice concerning litigation and contracting.

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TCSA staff witnesses charter success, progress in DFW

Monday, November 21st, 2011

The Imagine International Academy of North Texas, a public tuition-free charter school scheduled to open in the fall of 2012 in McKinney, held a groundbreaking ceremony today to mark the commencement of construction for the school's permanent home.

The first week in November was my second anniversary of employment at the Texas Charter Schools Association. As the only full-time staff member in the Marketing “department”, I often joke that I am chained to my very messy desk. Don’t misunderstand, I am grateful to have meaningful work, and the view from my window is quite lovely. Unfortunately, this also means that I have limited time to spend “in the field” visiting with all of you and seeing the success of our charter students first hand inside your classrooms.

Over the past two years, I have had an opportunity to visit schools in Austin, Houston and San Antonio but had yet to make a trip to the Dallas/Fort Worth area. When not one, but two, charter events came up in Dallas on the same day, I jumped at the chance to accompany Denise Pierce, VP of Member Services, to double down in the Big D.

Our intentions were to fly in early to allow plenty of time to travel to a luncheon downtown hosted by Uplift Education. However, finding ourselves sitting in the Hertz lot at 9am with no immediate plans, we quickly began making presumptuous inquiries to nearby schools as to whether we could squeeze in a few campus tours before lunch. And, even though we know she was very busy finalizing Uplift’s lunch programs, Rosemary Perlmeter graciously arranged for a last minute visit at Williams Preparatory.

So, off we went, arriving unannounced a short time later at a totally different Uplift campus. A quick call to Rosemary confirmed that we had mistakenly entered the wrong address into our GPS and our current satellite location placed us at the North Hills Preparatory campus.

Undaunted, we upended the morning of another unsuspecting member of Uplift’s staff with our request for an impromptu tour. Maggie Stirton, Director’s Assistant,  gave us an amazing look around and introduced us to the International Baccalaureate program that was to become the theme for the day (more on that later). We were most impressed with the student greeters in each classroom who shook our hands, welcomed us to their class and told us what they were currently studying.

Realizing that we were running short on time but not wanting to miss the opportunity to visit Williams Prep, we rushed over to the school – and we were so glad we did! KC Cox, Director of Operations, introduced us to a cafeteria full of enthusiastic students followed by a tour of the campus by two of their best students, Sharon Flores and Cecilia Garza. College was clearly the goal here and the young ladies were looking forward to visiting potential universities in Atlanta at the end of the school year.

We arrived just in time for the Uplift lunch held at the new Omni hotel in downtown Dallas. The announcement of Uplift’s intentions to open four schools and enroll 13,000 additional students by 2015 was made jointly at separate luncheons – one in Dallas and one in Fort Worth – and simulcast via video from both cities. Again, we were struck by the audacious spirit of the Uplift students we met. The high school student that thanked us for coming made sure to tell us her plans to become the first in her family to attend college, specifically, Yale University.

Next, we headed over to St. Anthony School where Laquise Bennett showed us their campus, introduced us to her staff, and proudly told us of their recent increase in enrollment. Another charter participating in the International Baccalaureate program, we saw similar evidence of the IB’s “recognizable common educational framework” at St. Anthony. The media room – a requirement of IB – incorporated the IB’s value system within their rapidly growing collection of books and media.

Finally, Denise and I made our way north to an empty field in McKinney, Texas. A tent, stage and mound of dirt with a row of shiny shovels marked the spot where the new Imagine Academy International of North Texas would soon be built. The weather had turned cold with a bitter wind but the collective enthusiasm of those who had worked for many years to bring an IB program to North Texas warmed our spirits. Active supporters came from as far as Florida and Ohio and included builders, bankers, board members, and politicians. State Representative Ken Paxton (R), McKinney, read a resolution from the State of Texas congratulating Imagine Academy on their achievement of breaking ground for the new charter school.

I’m so pleased that our “two event trip” evolved into so much more. Although unintentional, the deep dive into the International Baccalaureate program clearly exemplified consistent positive themes across grade levels and charters. It was evident at all the schools we visited that the values and ideals of the IB program encouraged the students we met to “develop the intellectual, personal, emotional and social skills to live, learn and work in a rapidly globalizing world.” Now, with new charter schools in Fort Worth (Uplift Education) and McKinney (Imagine Academy International), even more students will have the opportunity to benefit from the IB program and be prepared to achieve at the college or university of their choice (even Yale!).

Back at my desk now (it’s still a total mess), I am reenergized and inspired by the good work happening in charters in Dallas and Fort Worth. I look forward to continuing to support your missions from my post in Austin and to breaking my metaphorical chain to spend time with each of you at your schools in the upcoming year.

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Innovation in STEM Conference

Thursday, October 20th, 2011

As educators, we strive to instill in our students the desire to continue learning through their lifetimes.  We believe this principle – always learning and improving – applies to us as well.

With this in mind, I’m pleased to invite you to the inaugural Innovation in STEM Conference, hosted by Harmony Public Schools (HPS) on November 14 and 15, 2011. The conference will provide a forum for sharing best practices from STEM education initiatives around the nation by bringing together key individuals from public schools, higher education institutions, state and governmental agencies, non-profit & philanthropic organizations and businesses & corporations. We believe stronger relationships and connections will be forged among these groups, all for the benefit of the students we educate.

HPS is a network of 36 charter schools in Texas and is a pioneer in education practices emphasizing science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) across the K-12 spectrum.  Educators and leaders at HPS strive to develop students who are prepared and empowered to matriculate in competitive college programs, and eventually make future strides to a wide variety of STEM-based fields.  Our STEM model is achieving results – our students have received recognition at state, national, and international levels – and STEM education is continually being highlighted by our nation’s education leaders. In fact, 17 of our campuses are designated T-STEM campuses.

U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan recently said, “Everyone has a stake in improving STEM education. Inspiring all our students to be capable in math and science will help them contribute in an increasingly technology-based economy, and will also help America prepare the next generation of STEM professionals-scientists, engineers, architects and technology professionals-to ensure our competitiveness.” We couldn’t agree more, and hope that this inaugural conference is an important step toward improving and expanding STEM education in Texas.

We hope you will join us for an exciting lineup of speakers, including former U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige, as well as panel discussions and breakout sessions designed to facilitate networking and the sharing of information in a collective effort to shape STEM education. For more information and to RSVP for this event, please email

Dr. Soner Tarim
Superintendent, Harmony Public Schools

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The True Story in the TCER Report

Friday, August 26th, 2011

As each report on charter schools is released, rest assured our critics dig deep to find small slivers of negative news. This time, good news shines through in the Evaluation of New Texas Charter Schools (2007-2010) released this past July by the Texas Center for Educational Research.

#1:  The TCER report highlights the need for Texas charter school facilities funding.
What would have been helpful to have during the pursuit for access to the Permanent School Fund bond guarantee, the recently released TCER report strengthens the charter movement’s case for facilities funding during the next legislative session.

  • Perhaps the most daunting challenge for new charter schools is locating and funding adequate facilities. … Currently, 27 states and the District of Columbia provide some form of facilities assistance for charter schools. Such provisions include guaranteed loan programs, state reimbursements for facilities costs, per-pupil facilities allotments, the rent-free provision of vacant public school buildings, as well as the inclusion of charter school facility needs in traditional district bond. In spite of these efforts, many charter school operators report diverting instructional funds to pay for facilities, which may negatively affect instruction. Pg 6.
  • Although Texas operates one of the nation’s largest charter school programs, it does not provide facilities funding or facilities assistance to its open-enrollment or university charter schools. However, the state does allow for an approved bonding authority to issue bonds to finance or refinance an authorized charter school.  Pg 7. 
  • #2: TCER report confirms parents are both satisfied & active in their child’s new charter school.  
    The TCER reports shows charter parents like their child’s charter school and are more involved in their education. It’s no surprise that Texas had the first, and largest, grassroots advocacy program specifically for charter school parents in the country.

  • “Findings indicate that parents were satisfied with schools’ educational programs, instruction, enrichment programs, and approaches to discipline.” Pg. 125. A majority of these parents (65%) reported general satisfaction with their students’ (open-enrollment charter) schools.  Pg 127.
  • “A Generation 14 teacher appreciated working in a choice-based school because students are from homes where the parents are involved with their child’s education.’ ” Pg 103.
  • “Staff in most open-enrollment and university charter schools that participated as case study sites for the evaluation reported that parents were actively involved in their schools, and some school administrators felt parents’ active choice of a charter school contributed to high levels of involvement.” Pg 103.
  • “Surveyed parents in open-enrollment charters tended to report greater involvement in school activities than (district) campus charter parents. This difference may reflect greater buy-in to school missions, goals, and activities on the part of parents who have actively sought open-enrollment charters as an alternative to traditional district schools.” Pg 110.
  • A charter school director explained the parent’s decision, ‘”When you go to the trouble to fill out an application and apply for your child to come, and then your child’s name is drawn or selected (in a lottery), I think they [parents] almost feel that it is a privilege to be here and so they come really wanting to be part of that [the school].” Pg 103.
  • #3: TCER report confirms teachers are happy working in new charter schools.
    Charter teacher attrition is a national issue. Improving charters and infusing quality is at our core we plan to keep training on strong administration, work environment and teacher morale.  Teachers that are underperforming are asked to leave, which is often in the interest of the students. Charters also attract many young and new teachers from Teach For America that move quickly. The TCER report confirms that although they’re likely to move they enjoy their jobs, and both parents and students are satisfied with their work. 

  • “Across both open-enrollment and campus charter schools, surveyed teachers expressed general satisfaction with school leaders, expressing high levels of agreement with statements indicating school administrators set high standards, communicated effectively, and provided strong leadership.” Pg 110.
  • On average, campus charter teachers spent about 11 days in professional development during the 2009-10 school year, which likely reflects increased access to training opportunities offered through parent districts. Pg 162.
  • #4. TCER report confirms students prefer their new charter schools.
    The TCER report indicates that students in open-enrollment charter schools prefer the instruction they received at their new charter compared to their previous educational experiences.

  • “Students attending most campuses (12) attributed improvements to high quality teachers.” Pg 121.
  • “Students attending 15 campus charter schools wrote that their charter schools provided a superior education relative to other schools. Students indicated that campus charters offered challenging courses that addressed meaningful subjects, and students at six schools liked that instruction at their schools was not focused solely on preparing for TAKS.” Pg 121.
  • “Like students attending open-enrollment charters, campus charter students felt teacher quality was better in charter schools. Students wrote that teachers provided “individual attention” and differentiated instruction to match students’ learning styles.  Pg 121.
  • Students included in the TCER analysis were 3,660 students enrolled in 37 charter schools that were in operation in 2009-2010.  This equates to roughly 3% of our total charter school student population selected from only 9% of our charter schools.  The report wasn’t representative of student performance in charter schools and the authors of the paper included the following footnote to make this point, “Readers are cautioned that the students included in the analyses of new open-enrollment charter schools’ effects on academic outcomes may not be representative of all students attending new open-enrollment charter schools.” Pg vii. Although there’s no mention of it – in a more comprehensive report prepared by TEA and delivered to the Texas Legislature in 2009- 2010, Standard Accountability charter school districts outperformed traditional school districts from 6th to 12th grade in the critical areas of reading, math, science and social studies.

    We are in business to provide quality public education options for families across Texas.  When reports come out from time to time and various lobbying groups decide to take aim at our cause, we just want to set the record straight. Thanks for taking the time to read our two cents.

    Josie Duckett
    TCSA Vice President
    Public and Government Affairs

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    Uplift Education recognizes Senator Shapiro and Representative Harper-Brown at Convocation

    Friday, August 12th, 2011

    Uplift Founder Rosemary Perlmeter, Mayor VanDuyne, Senator Shapiro, Representative Harper-Brown, and Uplift CEO Yasmin Bhatia.

    Uplift Education’s 750 teachers, school leaders, and staff started the 2011-12 school year with their annual Convocation event, held this year at Irving Arts Center. The fun and inspiring event brings all Uplift staff together for a motivational kickoff around the organization’s priorities for the year, honors its highest performing teachers and introduces its newest schools for 2011-12.

    This year’s Convocation included three special guests known for their passionate support of Uplift Education and public education – Irving Mayor Beth Van Duyne, Texas Senator Florence Shapiro and Texas Representative Linda Harper-Brown. Mayor Van Duyne, whose two children attend Uplift Education’s North Hills Preparatory in Irving, provided a keynote address highlighting the importance of Uplift’s work to the Irving community and encouraging teachers to continue their passionate work toward preparing students for college.

    Following Mayor Van Duyne’s address, she and Uplift founder Rosemary Perlmeter, were joined on stage by Senator Shapiro and Representative Harper-Brown. Uplift Education presented the state legislators with its inaugural Champion for Education award in recognition of their work in the most recent session of the Texas Legislature toward changing the law to allow high-performing public charter schools access to the Permanent School Fund.

    This past session, the Senator introduced the original bill to extend the state’s Permanent School Fund (PSF) bond guarantee to financially sound charter schools to help them construct and renovate public school buildings and lobbied her senate colleagues for their support of the funding mechanism. State Representative Linda Harper Brown took up the reins in the special session over the summer to ensure the goal of Senator Shapiro’s Permanent School Fund bill by tacking the legislation on as an amendment to Senate Bill 1 and overseeing its passage through the House.

    The legislators were presented with both artwork from Uplift students and a crystal award in honor of their dedication to public education in Texas and their specific efforts around championing access to the PSF for charter schools.

    Britni Manry
    Uplift Education

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    Harmony Public Schools Responds to The New York Times

    Thursday, June 9th, 2011

    A disappointing article on charter schools in this week’s New York Times attempts to place the schools I founded, Harmony Public Schools, in a context that is not accurate. For those of us in the charter school movement mischaracterizations about our schools are all too common, and attacks on the innovative way we approach education occur regularly. Yet, the egregious nature of the Times’ reporting necessitates a response.

    While we worked cooperatively with the Times on this story over the last several months, providing documents, interviews, tours and dozens of detailed responses to specific questions in good faith, the end result was not entirely what we had hoped. The New York Times article is largely a rehash of old innuendo, circumstantial evidence and rumors that attempts to put Harmony Public Schools in a context that is not accurate. Worse, the Times relies on this mix of materials to question how Texas taxpayer dollars are being spent. To be clear: As we told the Times repeatedly, Harmony schools do not teach religion and have no affiliation with Fetullah Gulen or the so-called Gulen movement. Since we have no affiliation with the movement, it is absurd and inaccurate for the Times to suggest that taxpayer funds are benefitting them.

    At Harmony Public Schools of Texas, taxpayer funds are used solely to support operations and educate students, and we – like so many others in the charter movement – do so at a superior level and a lower cost per student than non-charter public schools.

    With regard to contracts and purchasing, we use a bidding or procurement process set out by the state of Texas, and Harmony Public Schools do not discriminate on the basis of gender, national origin, ethnicity, religion, or disability in its programs, employment, admissions or selection of vendors.

    Finally, the article contains a clear and disturbing anti-immigrant bias, and suggests that Harmony, one of the most successful charter school programs in the country, is somehow suspect because our founders immigrated to America from Turkey. Yes, Harmony was founded by Turkish-Americans who saw a need and an opportunity to help Texas schoolchildren in the fields of math, science and technology, and we are proud of our heritage and of what we have accomplished. Importantly, our schools have become more diverse every year, and we will continue to diversify as we continue to grow.

    Sadly, the impressive achievements of Harmony students – the real measure of success for any school – were barely mentioned in the article, despite being provided to the Times. Charter schools are an innovative model; disrupting the status quo and changing the way educate our children … for the better. And, any time you go against the grain, you will hit roadblocks. For our part, we will continue to focus on delivering excellence and developing the next generation of innovators and thinkers we need to succeed in the global economy and environment.”

    Dr. Soner Tarim,
    CEO/Superintendent of Harmony Public Schools

    Dr. Tarim’s official response to The New York Times was printed June 14, 2011 and can be read here.

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    Dallas Can! Academy Opens High School Campus in Area With Highest Percentage of Drop Outs

    Thursday, March 24th, 2011

    Dallas Can! Academy recently hosted a grand opening of its 58,000 square-foot Pleasant Grove campus.  The new location was opened to meet the shifting population needs of its students.

    The ceremony featured remarks by Texas State Board of Education Member Mavis B. Knight, Dallas City Council Member Delia Jasso, and Texans Can! CEO Richard Marquez. The first Dallas Can! graduate and also the first charter school graduate in Texas, Maleka Blacklock was recognized during the ceremony.  Maleka graduated from Dallas Can! in October 1996. Student-led tours of the school followed the ceremony.

    The Pleasant Grove campus opened with an enrollment of approximately 500 students and has the capacity to enroll up to 700.

    The facility was formerly an Albertson’s grocery store and sits on 6.9 acres.  It was vacant for three years before Dallas Can! purchased the property and spent $1.5 million in renovation and construction costs to create a state-of-the art learning environment for their students.

    The campus has 22 classrooms including two designed specifically as computer labs and two for science classes.  The student-to-teacher ratio averages 15:1.  Dallas Can! Academy offers students two half-school days every weekday. The students can attend school for four hours in the morning or four hours in the afternoon to allow them to work if needed.

    Statistics for Pleasant Grove cite that it has the highest drop out rates, lowest income and highest number of people living at or below the poverty level in Dallas County.  More than 50% of the residents do not have or will not obtain a high school education.  The area also has the highest concentration of residents on probation from prison.

    Highly optimistic about the new campus, Principal Mene Khepera cited the opportunities ahead for their new home. “We are definitely excited about opening this new campus in the Pleasant Grove community. Many of our current students live in this area and we are looking forward to being able to serve the youth of this area.”

    Dallas Can! is one of Texans Can!’s unique network of 10 public schools of choice located in Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin, Houston and San Antonio.

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    Why not make the playing field level?

    Thursday, February 10th, 2011

    February 9, 2011 hundreds of charter school parents traveled to the Capitol by the busloads to visit their legislators to ask for equity in funding for their students. This report is the reason all Charter School Districts (CSD) must support charter parents as they go to Austin.

    The Legislature has not provided for Texas charter schools to access the same funding ISDs receive. As the founder of Life School Charter School District (LSCSD), it is my responsibility to speak for the students who have no voice. The difference between what 3,726 LSCSD students and the same number of ISD students receive for education is amazingly unfair. If 3,726 LSCSD students’ education were funded as an ISD students are funded the difference would be a whopping $12,858,426 more than as a CSD. How do charters compete? Very well, thank you. However, that does not make it equitable.

    Charters aren’t complaining, but someone must stand up and speak out for the charter students being short-changed. The Texas Constitution requires the Texas government to provide every public school student with a “fair and equitable” education. Charter students are not provided equitable funding for their schools.

    Some may say defending the status quo, “Charters are doing okay; their students get an equitable education.” Charters do score well when compared to surrounding ISDs. True, but their good scores don’t mean they are provided for equitably.

    As a rule, the charter administrators work harder and have more responsibilities. Generally, the teachers have more classes and assignments than their counterparts. The coaches volunteer or receive smaller stipends. Charter facilities are usually inferior to ISDs, and often parents and community stakeholders volunteer to clean, paint and fix-up empty buildings reclaimed from other uses. Thanks, visionary educators and volunteers, for your hard work and sacrifice! However, that does not offer absolution to our lawmakers.

    Many charter students don’t grasp the many additional educational options they’re missing. Like the charter teachers, they just work harder and longer because they are so excited about learning. However, innovative, creative LCSCD educators could certainly productively utilize $12M additional funding to further increase the opportunities for students’ educational experience and college readiness. If we do so much with less; why not make the playing field level? Charter students would like the equal opportunity to experience education with equal facilities, equal sport venues, additional professional consultants (rather than the required minimal ratio), and the effective (but expensive) educational programming materials and IT equipment that the average ISD student takes for granted.

    Perhaps it can’t happen this session. Budget realities make it a faint hope. But I sure won’t give up that hope! See you in Austin!

    Dr. Tom Wilson, Founder
    Office of the Chancellor
    Life School

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    Austin Community Not Standing Silent or without Presenting New Options in the Face of School Closures

    Friday, January 21st, 2011

    Wednesday night, at the first of two Austin Independent School District (AISD) Facility Master Plan Task Force meetings, more than 700 community members came out to be heard about the options put forth to counter a projected budget shortfall of $45 million for the coming 2011-2012 school year.

    A task force had been convened to design a plan for cutting costs for the district, and the resulting options were through various plans that included the potential closure of nine schools throughout the city. The meetings intended to offer the community time to provide feedback about the options put forward before the recommendations are made to the AISD School Board on January 18th. And Wednesday night, Austin community members were going to be heard.

    While the task force has been working on the plan since the spring, final options were shared with the public Monday night, approximately 48 hours before the first of the two AISD Facility Master Plan Task Force community meetings. Many parents at Wednesday’s meeting were outraged that more time was not being provided to have their voices heard and for other community options to be presented.

    Among the criteria the task force used for their recommendations was “education enhancement” in which a judgment of whether the educational needs of students were being met. However, each option proposes closing schools (eight elementary and one middle school) and all of the elementary schools have a state ranking of recognized or exemplary.

    During the community’s opportunity to make comments, which started at 6: 40pm as speakers were called upon to speak at random, people spoke of their concerns regarding how schools slated for closure were chosen. Some questioned why schools with exemplary state rankings or a rich history in the community were on the list; others asked the task force “why are your eyes on the east side” for closure? And most eloquently, one woman stated that a community’s schools are the heart of the community – and the currently proposed closure plans ignore that.

    Near 8:15pm, Janie Flores, an East Austin community member stepped forward with an alternative option for how AISD could not only offer a quality education to students in East Austin, but could also divert existing funds to save other schools in danger of being closed. As President of the East Austin College Prep Academy (EACPA) Parent Council, Ms. Flores presented a proposal in which EACPA would be allowed to lease Eastside Memorial High School from AISD.

    Eastside Memorial High School, a campus beleaguered for more than a decade with unsatisfactory state rankings, sits in the middle of the East Austin neighborhood of Govalle/Johnston Terrace. Ms Flores stated that if the EACPA were to take over all related operational and facilities costs of running the school from AISD, EACPA could continue to provide the services it currently provides to the community including a college prep middle school, school-based health clinic, employment services, childcare services, cultural arts programs, afterschool programs and parental education.

    This arrangement could impact the community in two very significant ways:

    1. AISD would save significant existing funds by not having to operate this underutilized school. The cost savings could then be redirected to help them keep other campuses open and operating.
    2. It would offer the East Austin community, and their children, with the type of stable and consistent quality education that prepares them for successful futures – in particular to attend and graduate in college.

    In the end, when the meeting adjourned around 8:40pm, the task force had heard from others in support of this East Austin College Prep option and the impact it may have on the other schools.

    The task force members did not have an easy evening, listening to the pleas, arguments, reasoning and concerns of parents. But in the end, another option was presented that may help both the East Austin community and the rest of the city. And provide our city’s students with what they all deserve, a quality education.

    Narissa Johnson
    Southwest Key

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    Holocaust Survivor from U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Shared Her Personal Story of Thanksgiving to Dallas Can! Students

    Friday, December 3rd, 2010

    Dallas Can! Academy students had the exciting opportunity to hear from Holocaust survivor and United States Holocaust Memorial Museum volunteer Manya Friedman when she spoke to our Oak Cliff campus about her experience during World War II and the Holocaust.

    Manya shared her story of survival and experience with intolerance during a visit to our Oak Cliff Dallas Can! Academy campus this month. As a volunteer with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Manya shares her moving story of survival with students and groups around the nation.

    In 1939 German soldiers invaded the town in Poland where Manya and her family lived. Her father was taken into German custody and forced to build latrines for them before he was released. In 1941, when Manya was 16, she was forced to work for a German company that produced military uniforms. In March 1943, she was taken from the uniform factory to the Gogolin transit camp, and later to the Gleiwitz labor camp where she was tattooed with the number 79357, which became her name. At the end of 1943, Manya’s family was deported to Auschwitz; she never saw them again.

    Manya was liberated from Auschwitz by the Swedish Red Cross in late April 1945. In 1950, she emigrated from Sweden to the United States. Today, Manya is an active volunteer at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

    Our students asked many questions about the Holocaust. Manya commented that she speaks in many schools and has never had a more attentive and respectful group.

    The students of Dallas Can! have overcome various obstacles to complete their education. Meeting someone like Manya inspires our students to never give up and remember the importance of their freedom.

    Richard Marquez
    CEO, Texans Can!

    For more information, visit

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