Are your charter’s anti-bullying policy and student code of conduct ready for the new school year?

The 2019-2020 school year is right around the corner. There is no time like the present for Texas charter schools to ensure they are compliant with the Education Code and with TEA requirements. This blog focuses on two compliance components: a published anti-bullying policy and a written student code of conduct.

Anti-Bullying Policy

Tex. Educ. Code § 37.0832 requires each board of trustees of Texas school districts to adopt a bullying prevention and reporting procedure (or an anti-bullying policy) and to publish their anti-bullying policy on their website. Charter schools and their governing bodies are subject to this requirement under Tex. Educ. Code § 12.104(b)(2)(P).

If your charter has adopted an anti-bullying policy but has not published it online, make sure to fix this before the start of the school year. Likewise, if your charter has not adopted an anti-bullying policy, be sure to adopt and publish one online as soon as possible.

One method of complying with the statutory requirements for a published anti-bullying policy is publishing an anonymous or non-anonymous reporting form on your charter school websites (along with an explanation of prohibited conduct under the anti-bullying policy). Schools may also opt to include an anti-bullying policy within a parent-student handbook or student code of conduct.

Student Codes of Conduct

Tex. Educ. Code § 12.131 requires the governing bodies of charter schools to adopt a student code of conduct. These codes of conduct must outline prohibited behaviors and their consequences. Although the statute does not have precise requirements for notice or publishing, distributing a written policy to students and their parents provides clear guidance. TCSA encourages schools to publish this code on their websites for students and parents to reference.  

TCSA is happy to assist your charter in complying with these requirements. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact TCSA.

Your partnership is crucial to our success in advocating for your interests and we hope you will renew your membership today. In addition to benefiting from TCSA’s ongoing advocacy work, membership brings additional benefits, including:

  • All Model Policy documents now included as a part of the membership fee;
  • Free On-Demand Training through the TCSA Learning Zone, TCSA’s online training portal, and discounted registration rates for the Texas Charter Schools Conference;
  • Legal information and advice, as well as updates and alerts on specific matters pertaining to public charter schools;
  • Tools to engage parents on advocacy efforts with the legislature.

We know that you have many tough decisions to make when it comes to balancing your schools’ books. Joining TCSA may mean not hiring a new teacher or foregoing something else that you need. We know you’re counting and watching every penny. But, having a strong TCSA in your corner is not a luxury. You need us to be your eyes, ears, and voice to ensure you can keep doing what you’re doing so well.

Will you please take a minute today to renew or begin your membership with TCSA? We know you count on us and we count on you too.

HOW TO JOIN OR RENEW:

Step 1:
Login to the Quality Member Portal

Applications will be completed in the Quality Member Portal. Once logged in, click the ‘Membership’ tab at the top. Please click here if you have forgotten your password.

Step 2:
Complete the Online Membership Application

Upon submission of the online application, an invoice will be automatically generated and sent directly to the accounting contact email listed on the application.

Step 3:
Remit your Membership Dues to:

Texas Charter Schools Association 
3801 South Capital of Texas Hwy, Suite 330
Austin, TX 78704

If you have questions, please contact Nadia Luna.
Thank you for your continued support of charter schools in the great state of Texas.

Here we are again at the beginning of the school year.  No doubt, the complex details of running an organization well and making the programmatic changes needed in order to meet state and federal requirements are all consuming.  That said, I want to encourage you on your journey and give you food for thought in this part one of a three-part series On Leading Well.

As you reflect, be encouraged that most inspirational leaders have changed the world not because of their expansive, multilayer plans, but because of their ability to do a handful of things remarkably well. The vast majority of best practices, organizational principles, or high impact levers of change are subsumed by or grounded in a few key characteristics.  In summarizing the leadership qualities of Bill Gates, one author noted that Mr. Gates’ success is based on three overarching principles:

  • Growing and Learning
  • Having a clear vision
  • Caring about people

These traits or characteristics are repeated throughout writings on effective leadership[1] and reiterated in the research findings that highlight the norms and functionalities of effective organizations and teams.  The good news is that you do not have to create a new project plan or take on one more program or direct report -- you can simply reflect on what these principles look like or could look like within your organization and determine how you might expand the depth, breadth, and consistency of your efforts or the organization’s efforts as a whole.  In this writing we’ll explore the first of the three leadership characteristics -- Growing and Learning.  

What we see throughout history and organization literature is that most successful organizational leaders value learning and growth.   Think of this characteristic through a multifaceted lens as having a threefold value, with multiple layers of impact.   First, they seek to learn and grow as leaders; to augment their knowledge, shore up their lesser developed skills, or expand and refine their strengths. Additionally, they also tend to possess an innate love of learning and desire to grow and learn as a way of being.  This characteristic then manifests itself and is emulated by others -- prioritized as shared value within the organization.

Impactful leaders who value learning, also tend to value the personal growth and development of their teams: they recognize that as human beings we flourish when allowed to learn, stretch and find inspiration in new ideas or knowledge.  The allocation of time and resources to ensure that staff members have the ability to learn and grow communicates the leader’s passions and priorities. It is the stake in the ground that says, ‘personal learning and growth matters!’

Finally, in the best of scenarios, the prioritization of growth and learning transcends both the leader and the staff members’ personal commitments and efforts and becomes part of the organizational identity as a whole.  As non-profits that are running on lean budgets, seeking to redefine what is possible with children, the best of teams, and the leaders who run them, recognize that the school must become a true learning organization. As captured by Senge’s seminal work, The Fifth Discipline, a thriving learning organization recognizes and values the ongoing learnings of the organization and structures mental models and systems by which to capture, reflect on, and learn from each other.  Senge describes learning organizations as places, “where people continually expand their capacity to create the results that they truly desire, where new and expansive patterns of thinking are nurtured, where collective aspiration is set free, and where people are continually learning how to learn together.”

Below are a few thoughts for consideration as you seek to create a learning organization and press further into the Growth and Learning as a leader.

1. Systematic Problem Solving. How does your team solve problems now? How do they evaluate the cause of or the solutions to a particular challenge?    Practical steps include:  

  • Continuously ask, “How do we know this to be true?” Push beyond the common assumptions when considering cause and effect.
  • Utilize a more scientific model of problem solving such as Plan, Do, Check, Act or other methods by which your team takes action on a problem and circles back within a defined period of time to confirm outcomes or change interventions. Whether the problem is student outcomes on the 3rd grade STAAR exams or reoccurring or increasing staff turnover, a more scientific model with defined frameworks for measuring change can give staff a lens through which to evaluate and determine course change over time.
  • Implement fact-based management. Use data, rather than assumptions to drive decision-making. Require teams and leaders to define the issue and prove the solutions using data. An intervention or solution has not proven itself a success without a process to circle back and evaluate effectiveness.

2. Learning from Past Experience. Made famous by philosopher, George Santayana, from which the term ‘Santayana Review’ is derived, the quote “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” bares out as a timeless truth in our organizations. As you reflect on your organization, ask yourself: 

  • Lessons Learned. How does your team capture knowledge and learnings on whole? How do you document lessons learned as an organization?  Do departments chronicle processes or practices that have proved ineffective (or effective)?  Do incoming leaders or staff members have a way to learn lessons from their predecessors or must they relearn through trial and error on their own?
  • Knowledge Capture. Are effective practices or key learnings captured for future use in both short-cycle and long-term efforts.

3. Learn from Each Other. Finally, the best leaders realize that learnings can and should originate both internally and externally. Consider the following:

  • Stakeholder surveys and feedback. What stakeholder surveys and feedback processes are in place to support organizational learning?  Is the team gleaning insights from external stakeholders to shape their future work?  Do you have an ongoing process to assess the health and satisfaction of your team?
  • This allows teams to uncover, analyze, adapt and adopt practices that have provided leading outcomes or results.
  • Cross-industry learnings. Savvy leaders realize that some of the greatest insights come from outside of their industry. How have others solved a vexing staff issue or strategically partnered to meet a community need not solvable within the limited organizational budget?

Though not measured by the state or other governmental entities as an organizational requirement, a leader’s view of growth and learning and the prioritization thereof impacts the organization’s vitality, functionality, and future viability.

Finally, and more importantly, a leader’s contagious love of learning is taught and caught as a joyful way of life by young people that walk the halls each day.  Today, like Bill Gates, consider how you might change lives by pressing into personal and organizational growth and learning.

Earlier this year, I had the opportunity to represent TCSA at Columbia University’s Summer Principal’s Academy – New Orleans (SPA-NOLA). The Summer Principal’s Academy is an intensive 14-month long program designed for aspiring school leaders and APs to earn a Master’s Degree in Education from Columbia University while still teaching, leading, and coaching at their schools throughout the country.

The program begins and ends with five intensive weeks in New Orleans with an additional convening during the winter at Columbia University in New York City. During in-person weeks, students attend courses six days a week focusing not only in pedagogy, leadership, and school design, but also reflection, self-awareness, vulnerability, and mindfulness. 

Despite knowing about SPA-NOLA previously, it was not until I had the opportunity to evaluate final school design projects that it became apparent how transformational and impactful the program was on the students. It was blatantly clear that the students came as strangers, but left as family. From the boisterous clapping and cheering during group presentation to the final graduation speeches and poems, it was clear that vulnerabilities had been exposed, trusting relationships were formed, and that many late nights were had discussing the challenges that students face on a daily basis in schools.

These discussions about equity, urban poverty, police brutality, restorative justice, social-emotional learning, voice, service, and agency wove themselves throughout the final presentations as each team proposed different approaches and outcomes to better serve students, both inside and outside of the classroom. In order to develop students at the individual level to meet the challenges of a changing world, SPA-NOLA graduates understood that at an institutional level, schools must also change and be adaptive and reflective of their community.

A self-aware leader, one who acknowledges their own weakness, understands their preconceived biases, and is focused on attracting and developing similar people is foundational in larger organizational change. Rather than trying to change the student, teachers and leaders instead must change their mentality and approach to understanding and educating.

As the program came to a close for the day and the graduates were preparing to leave, one of the students provided some final remarks that left most of us in the room in tears. She spoke about being a Latina growing up in LA, the first in her family to graduate from college, and now the first to earn a Master’s Degree. That despite learning that she would be a new single mom, the impact that an educator, in this case the director of the program Dr. Brian Perkins, could have on pushing her through to the end. That the belief of another, and her willingness to preserve in face of challenge, was what she needed to complete the program and will pay forward to the students at her school.

I was incredibly humbled by the SPA-NOLA experience, having experienced it for just a day. That day of participation forced me to reflect on my time as a school leader and the role that I played in the daily lives of my students, both positive and negative. It forced me to consider what my own biases were growing up in a relatively privileged household and community. I urge all educators, regardless of experience, to reflect their background, their leadership, their education, their weaknesses and strengths to determine how each of those factors can impact a child’s education and future trajectory.

I applaud the incredible work of SPA-NOLA as institution to develop leaders and the graduates themselves for their time and commitment to approaching leadership through a different lens. I am hopeful that our system will continue to change and adapt to meet the needs of our students and am confident that SPA-NOLA graduates will play a role in those efforts.

For Superintendents and Principals who have outstanding teachers ready to take on the challenges of leadership and who want to learn more about the SPA-NOLA program, please visit https://www.tc.columbia.edu/organization-and-leadership/spa-nola.

Beginning September 1, 2018, all public schools will be required to post updated special education policies on the ESC Region 18 Legal Framework. The deadline to post updated policies is October 31, 2018.

To ensure all schools are posting up-to-date policies, ESC Region 18 will be deleting all policies currently uploaded to the Legal Framework on August 31. All charter schools should take the following steps to prepare for the updates:

  1. Download and save all current special education policies saved to the Legal Framework, if you have not done so already;
  2. Update all necessary policies to meet the requirements of the 2018 Legal Framework;
  3. Adopt updated policies at a Board of Directors meeting prior to the October 31, 2018 posting deadline.
The Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA) Legal Team updated all of the necessary policies. Current Model Policy Subscribers can access the updated policies under the ‘Products and Services’ tab in the Quality Portal. If you are not a Model Policy Subscriber, renew your policies today! A renewal of the Model Policy subscription is $1000 or $3000 for first time purchases. The Model Policy Subscription includes all required Special Education Policies. More information about the Model Policy Subscription can be found on the TCSA webpage.

For questions regarding the Model Policies, contact Christine Nishimura, Deputy General Counsel at cnishimura@txcharterschools.org or (512) 584-8272. For questions regarding the ESC Region 18 Legal Framework and how to upload new policies, please contact Region 18 or your ESC Regional office.

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