Students at Cedars International Academy became the first in Austin to have a live-mentor at their fingertips. [Re]ThinkIt! ™, a tool designed by Austin-based OneSeventeen Media, was developed to provide schools with a comprehensive Advice Management System™ to support classroom management, all while supporting students both inside and outside of the classroom.

“Because our teachers and students use [Re]ThinkIt!, administrators have been given a reprieve from trying to manage all student personal issues and are able to focus more time and energy on other administrative duties,” said Les Simpson, Director of Technology at Cedars International Academy.

Rooted in restorative justice and social-emotional learning practices, [Re]ThinkIt! is helping schools and educators make better, faster, and more informed decisions to support students. The application serves as an in-school virtual mentor that’s part live texting with a live, on-demand mentor and part evidence-based, personalized content. It’s a trusted intervention that provides schools with actionable data in real-time.

“Through eight years of evidence-based research, we’ve discovered all kids are “at-risk.”  All adolescents are in need of advice to figure out life and the people around them. (Re)ThinkIt! was born out of feedback from students, educators and parents identifying a dire need for a real-time, outcome-based fix that helps reduce classroom disruptions and emotional distress,” said Beth Carls, CEO and Co-founder of OneSeventeen Media.

[Re]ThinkIt!, offers many advantages for charter schools, teachers, parents, and student across Texas. The following pilot findings outline the key benefits [Re]ThinkIt!, brings to schools like Cedars International Academy and others around the globe.

Key Pilot Findings 

1. Students Share More

In fact, students share up to five times more information when using [Re]ThinkIt! During the recent pilot program, students wrote on average of 121 words in the [Re]ThinkIt! Report – a 500 percent increase from face-to-face interactions.

The actions of students are often affected by outside circumstances in their life.  Schools play a critical role in helping students willingly express these obstacles. Through [Re]ThinkIt!, 27 percent of students willingly shared that something else was going on in their life.

2. Students Feel Better

One of the most powerful benefits of [Re]ThinkIt! is the ability to help students “cool down” emotionally. This is a key step in conducting better conversations and resolving conflict for school administrators and teachers. Based on pre-and post-emotion tests among students, [Re]ThinkIt! demonstrates a 23 percent decrease in emotional distress. This results in positive school culture and easier classrooms to manage – a result that will save teachers time and schools money all while creating a better environment for students.

3. Students Accept Responsibility 

[Re]ThinkIt!, helps students accept responsibility for their actions, and encourages students to make amends. During the pilot, 54 percent of students were open to accepting responsibility for their actions once accessing [Re]ThinkIt!, Because students are more willing to accept responsibility for their actions, administrators and teachers can take a quicker, more proactive approach to resolving conflicts and developing stronger relationships with students.

“Based on student requests for daily access to non-judgmental advice, our idea to reimagine how today’s tech-savvy kids could benefit formed the foundation for (Re)ThinkIt!. Research supports adolescents only need one supportive adult to succeed.  Leveraging a combination of tech-driven algorithms with on-demand messaging and a caring human on the other end is resonating with kids and surprising adults with the positive outcomes”, said Amy Looper, COO and Co-founder of OneSeventeen Media.

To learn more about [Re]ThinkIt!, please visit oneseventeenmedia.com to stay connected with how OneSeventeen Media is helping students tackle the complex issues they face each and every day.

Interested in a demo of [Re]ThinkIt!, Click here to schedule your personal demo today!

Did you know that Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA) created an energy cooperative that has saved charter schools more than $1 million since 2011? Savings for all current contract holders in 2017 amount to nearly $300,000! In 2016, Arlington Classics Academy used the program to reduce their energy costs by $19,000 annually and $57,000 over the life of their new contract. A+ Charter Schools are currently saving over $24,000 annually and $72,500 over the life of their contract.

TCSA, in partnership with Van Brunt & Associates, developed a charter-specific request for proposal (RFP) process, which includes:

  • All-in pricing, including Nodal charges (a surcharge when usage is high) and tax-exemption;
  • No usage requirements;
  • No penalty for additional meters with less than three percent of total usage;
  • Add/delete meter assistance;
  • Eight charter-friendly suppliers who have worked with the program since 2011 and will adhere to the contract;
  • Receive indicative pricing as often as needed prior to making a commitment; and
  • Updates from TCSA to let you know when pricing is low so you can bid at the correct time.

Members typically receive five bids, which leads to greater cost savings. Not only will you stay compliant through the competitive bidding process, you will save money for your school.

Are you interested in savings tens of thousands of dollars annually? Here’s how it works:

  • First, find out if your campus is located in a de-regulated area by contacting Erin Tholen.
  • Next, TCSA will evaluate your current usage and pull some pricing so you can see what you would pay with our contract.
  • Finally, we will release an RFP to eight suppliers and receive bids the following day after you are ready to bid. We share price comparisons with you and let you choose the price and length of your contract.

“…it was great that Annette (TCSA broker) was able to shop all those vendors and find Constellation Energy.  She also enabled us to lock in the pricing 4 months ahead of the expiration of the previous contract, at a time when the prices were at their lowest.”

– Richard Tuck, Chief Operating Officer, La Academia de Estrellas

For more information and learn about charter members who have used this program, contact Erin Tholen.

Three Good Reasons to make the switch to Digital On-Boarding for Student and HR enrollment

1. It’s less work and less expensive. 

Plain and simple, digital Student and HR onboarding is less work and saves money. With the right platform, charter schools can avoid the mountain of application and enrollment paperwork that kills productivity during the very time when it’s most stressful. Instead, those that go digital can distribute electronic forms so documents can be completed and signed electronically, which takes less time and effort for parents and school administrators.

When put into practice, this process makes organizations three times more likely to have a lower cost per enrollee as compared to a non-digital process solution.

Digital onboarding platforms allow organizations to save money on expensive paper applications and information packets. Easy integration with your organization’s software platforms (Student, payroll, HRIS, ERP, etc.) make opening day easier for your team.

2. It’s personal.

It’s rare that you see the phrases “go digital” and “it’s personal” in the same sentence, but digital onboarding frees up time for increased facetime, helping student and parent engagement.

3. It’s engaging.

Onboarding can be fun and engaging while still informative. By integrating videos highlighting your school mission and special programs in your digital onboarding strategy, you can excite your new parents and students about applying to your school. The more you do to make the process student-friendly and interactive, the more engaging it will become. And the more engaging your process is, the more likely you are to fill your available ADA slots with those students who are highly satisfied and motivated.

For more information, visit JR3 or contact David Hankins

Effective branding can do wonders for your school’s talent recruitment, community engagement, and enrollment. You’ve spent countless hours developing your mission and vision, so it is important that the community you interact with is fully engaged in the same vision.

Uniforms are one way to increase brand awareness for your school. If your students wear uniforms, the process can be overwhelming for school administration and bothersome for parents. If you are considering an e-commerce solution for logo design and uniform purchases, here are some things to consider:

• Are branding design services free?
• Will you create a custom e-commerce website that is also multi-lingual? What are the associated costs for development and maintenance?
• Will you receive free samples for proper sizing?
• Will you receive free shipping to your school?
• How many vendors does the company work with? Is the company vendor-agnostic? You want to ensure best product and pricing.
• Are items pre-packaged and labeled for ease of distribution?
• Will there be a dedicated account manager for administrators and parents?
• Who manages customer service for your parents? Do they offer bilingual customer service? Do parents receive personal confirmation calls?
• Is there an option for fundraising dollars to go back to your school from each purchase?

While this may seem like a long list to consider, the good news is that epluno can meet all of these expectations. See what other charters say about epluno’s service:

“Thank you for helping us with our vision…we are grateful for your ever-present assistance in making things as smooth as possible when it comes to our uniforms!” -Melissa Ferrer, Founders Classical Academy of Schertz

“The transition from ordering bulk order to our online store was made smoothly by everyone at epluno. It’s not easy to take orders from over 600 students and meet each and every demand with amazing customer service. French Toast/ epluno has done for me and New Heights Academy just that. They have had a great attitude, a can and will do attitude since day one.” -Eliza Valentin, New Heights Academy Charter School

"The personalized website makes ordering simpler and friendlier for families and has also been easy for the school to update when needed." -Sam Vanderplas, Founders Classical Academy of Flower Mound

epluno will be in your area and we don’t want you to miss the opportunity to learn more about this solution! We are bringing our vehicle to your school in the first two weeks of June – let’s discover how we can streamline your uniforms and spiritwear.

For more information, contact Sacha Amen

For the past four years, the Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA) has offered nationally negotiated pricing on furniture through Staples Advantage and Hertz Furniture. This year, nationally negotiated pricing with Hertz Furniture is no longer available. However, we have good news! Staples Advantage is offering TCSA members even more benefits than before! When compared with other Texas cooperatives, the TCSA contract offers a greater selection of products, deeper discounts, and low service rates - Staples Business Advantage can transform your public charter school for less than you expect. Save on the top brands with tiered pricing on more than 50 vendors, space planning and design, installation services, and more.

Take advantage of a free needs assessment leveraging Staples' dedicated furniture team to support your next project.

  • Turn-key solutions so customers have the selection of product that is most appropriate for each specific need and application.
  • Leverage the vast network of vendors to meet the ever changing construction and quality benchmarks for schools.
  • Transition planning-Have a current furniture vendor, but thinking about making a change? Let Erin Tholen know how she can support you.

From classrooms and specialty rooms to auditoriums and common spaces, Staples Advantage furniture experts work directly with you to create an environment that encourages learning inside and outside the classroom.

One last thing: know your cooperative pricing. When compared with other Texas cooperatives, TCSA's Staples Advantage contract offers so much more.

  • A greater selection of products
  • Comparable or BETTER pricing in 99 percent of the listings with consideration of the location of the supplier (local Texas manufacturers will incur lower freight rates such as Smith System, Paragon, USA Capitol, Acrtobell, etc.).
  • Deeper discount offerings for mid- to large size projects in 63 percent of the brands.

Transparent, not-to-exceed service rates provide auditable pricing below standard market rates.

Ki Charter Academy (Ki), located in San Marcos, is the largest residential treatment center (RTC) for children in Texas. Approximately 200 students reside at the center at any given time. While the RTC addresses treatment needs, Ki provides an education to the students. Ki Charter is the first of its kind in the nation to offer students STEM curriculum and access to a state of the art science/technology lab. Ki is receiving recognition for their innovative methods to learning using various kinesthetic desking options within the classroom.

The Ki administration team spent many hours developing their ideal school. Based on their experience and research on kinesthetic learning environments, the team decided to employ various options within each classroom including stand-biased desks by Stand2Learn. For those unfamiliar with the concept, kinesthetic learners are students who learn best through acting, doing, touching, and experiencing a concept. This is in contrast with visual learners, who can learn from charts, videos, and written instructions, or auditory learners, who engage well with audible instruction.

When you hear the phrase ‘thinking on your feet,’ you probably do not realize how accurate it really is. Research has shown improved cognition, engagement, and focus from people who stand versus sitting throughout the day, including students. This makes a strong argument for the adoption of standing desks in the classroom to increase student engagement.

There’s also a strong argument in favor of standings desk benefits that stem from a freedom of movement in students. Many struggle to stay seated for seven or more hours per day, fidgeting and fussing in their seats. Allowing them to stand, move around, and engage their bodies more removes the distraction of that unreleased energy from the equation.

The partial elimination of certain disruptive behaviors may also play a role in explaining why standing desks show the improvements they do in students. Excess energy in a single student can quickly become a distraction for the entire class. Even worse, such disruption can require direct teacher intervention, cutting directly into educational time. It’s no surprise, therefore, that something which can help relieve the valve to some degree can show a remarkable impact.

Now, let’s look at what that 15 percent engagement means in practical terms. For a typical class schedule, this equates to roughly nine minutes of additional engagement in the classroom. Over the course of a school day, this adds up to nearly an entire hour of focus. Over the course of a school year, you’re looking at 9000 minutes of engagement, an entire 150 hours of additional engagement.

With all this in mind, it’s easy to see why some educational experts are already recommending the move to standing desks. There’s very little to lose, and quite a bit to gain.

Philip Muzzy contacted Stand2Learn in 2014 with the Ki Charter school concept. We were honored to be part of this innovative learning environment and loved being part of the conceptual process. The Ki Charter team had an amazing vision and are now providing exceptional structure for students with diverse learning needs.

“Students enjoy the choice in seating, in particular the Stand2Learn desks. It give them an opportunity to move, stand and sit while still fully engaged in the classroom instruction,” said Christopher Allison, Director of Operations at Ki Charter Academy.

Dr. Mark E. Benden, Designer and Researcher, Stand2Learn
Dr. Benden’s research began to highlight the ergonomic advantages of standing and movement in the office environment as early as 2001, long before standing desks became popular. As a commissioned Officer in the Unites States Army Reserves, and in a civilian Ergonomic Engineering career culminating as an Executive VP for an Ergonomic Product manufacturer, Dr. Benden has seen firsthand the impact of his research.

He is currently serving as the Director of the Ergonomics Center at Texas A&M where his groundbreaking research continues. Stand2Learn draws insights from his published research to provide educational solutions that fit children and adults of all sizes. His work with biometrics and biomechanical precision behind the scenes combined with research and years of industry experience is why these innovative solutions feel so natural.

Building a new school or adding onto an existing school is an exciting time for a charter school. However, when a charter school begins to consider such a project, it should be familiar with the procurement regulations governing those contracts. Procurement governs the process a charter school must engage in before it spends more than $50,000 on a contract for construction, repair, or renovation of a facility. Procurement statutes are designed to ensure public works contracts, which include these charter school contracts, are advertised, evaluated, and awarded in a transparent and responsible manner.

By default, charter schools must follow the procurement method outlined in Texas Local Government Code Chapter 271, Subchapter B. Chapter 271 authorizes traditional pure competitive bidding, which allows charter schools to consider two factors: a potential contractor’s price and its safety record. While consideration of a contractor’s safety record is an important evaluation tool, there are other factors a charter school may want to consider before it awards the contract.

Other procurement methods are available to charter schools. Chapter 100 of the Texas Administrative Code allows charter schools to “opt-in” to the public works procurement methods available to school districts under Chapter 44 of the Texas Education Code. Chapter 44 enables charter schools to utilize the procurement methods outlined in Texas Government Code chapter 2269, which are commonly known as “alternative project delivery methods.” Alternative project delivery methods were created because many public owners felt they were forced into selecting lesser quality contractors who may be difficult to work with and who may not be able to meet specific schedule deadlines.

The statutory framework of chapter 2269 allows charter schools to select contractors based on a holistic view of the company rather than a fixed set of criteria that may not encompass the specific requirements of the project. Many of these factors are listed by statute, and include the bidder’s reputation and past relationship with the charter, quality of the bidder’s good or services, the bidder’s impact on the charter’s ability to comply with laws and rules relating to historically underutilized businesses, and “any other relevant factor specifically listed in the request for bids, proposals, or qualifications.”

Charter schools also have the option to hire contractors to help them through the design and construction phases of a project, or to engage in multi-phased construction that allows some construction to begin before the entire design is complete. Flexible project delivery methods can facilitate speedier completion, which is especially important for charter schools who face a hard “start” deadline every school year.

To “opt-in” to chapter 2269, a charter school must amend its charter to include a statement expressly adopting the provisions of Texas Education Code, Chapter 44, Subchapter B, as the charter holder’s process for awarding a contract for the construction, repair, or renovation of a structure, road, highway, or other improvement to real property. Charter amendment requests must be consented by the charter holder and approved by the Commissioner of Education. Additionally, the amendment request must show why the amendment is in the best interest of the students enrolled in the charter school.

An academic question exists whether an “opt-in” procedure is necessary, as chapter 2269 explicitly states “this chapter prevails over any other law relating to a public work contract.” This language appears to put all other procurement statutes in a secondary role. However, for the purposes of ensuring compliance with the Texas Administrative Code, charter schools who wish to utilize the alternative project delivery methods in chapter 2269 should seek to amend their charter to include a specific opt-in statement.

Does your technology infrastructure need a boost? With the E-rate program filing window coming up, now is the time to consider whether your school is making effective use of the E-Rate program.

The Universal Service Fund’s School and Libraries Program, more commonly known as the E-Rate program, awards $3.9 billion annually in funds to support the broadband and Wi-Fi needs of schools and libraries in the United States. In particular, charter schools serving high percentages of students eligible for free or reduced meals under the National School Lunch Program are prioritized highly in this program. In a climate that offers few funding mechanisms to support facilities, the E-Rate program helps offset the cost of technical infrastructure that most schools will implement in their facility projects anyway.

E-Rate offers up to a 90 percent discount on broadband, and up to 85 percent on Wi-Fi services and related infrastructure. Common E-Rate eligible needs include:

• High quality, high bandwidth Internet Access
• Wide area network connectivity
• Wireless access points and other network electronics
• Building network wiring in support of the above

With over 10 years of experience working exclusively with charter schools and the E-Rate program, E-Stream Technologies has a substantive understanding of both the technologies as well as the E-Rate program rules, and is committed to assisting charter schools use these funds effectively.

In 2008, E-Stream began working with KIPP Delta Public Schools in the state of Arkansas. KIPP Delta serves a student population with over 90 percent eligibility for free or reduced meals in the National School Lunch Program. Being a rural organization and with relatively little E-Rate program participation at the time, KIPP Delta experienced significant daily operational and instructional challenges due to unstable, insufficient, or non-functional Internet Access and Wi-Fi: Teachers and classrooms could not access web-based content reliably. Operations staff could not access central repositories of school data. Basic network printing was hit or miss. The prime reason: The rural location often increased the cost of quality technologies and services beyond what school budgets could reasonably accommodate.

Starting in 2009, E-Stream Technologies assisted KIPP Delta in obtaining significant E-Rate support for an organization-wide overhaul of its technical infrastructure. “With the support of local partners we [KIPP Delta] selected during annual competitive bidding, in just a few years we have virtually eliminated the problems our staff had in accessing the Internet,” says Scott Shirey, Executive Director. “As a result of the increase in stability in our systems, we’ve become a more efficient organization, and more effective in our mission.”

Getting support from the E-Rate program isn’t without its hurdles, however. The compliance requirements are significant, and applications often undergo close scrutiny, sometimes resulting in randomly-assigned complete audits of the application process. “E-Stream handled every step of the review process comprehensively when our applications underwent scrutiny. By the time we started review, E-Stream already had documentation prepared that was assembled and provided during review. The process was painless, and the result well worth our investment.”

If you’d like to learn more about the E-Rate program, or discuss your organization’s eligibility to participate, please call Ignacio Gonzalez at 888-776-5269, or email us at erate@estreamtech.com.

Are your students maximizing their learning potential after-school? If you are considering alternatives for your after school program, then you’ll want to check out Champions, a Texas Charter Schools Association Solution Provider!

Champions, a turn-key, AdvancED accredited before and after school program, is dedicated to helping children find the spark that ignites their curiosity while giving them the freedom to follow their interests across a range of subjects. As your partner, we will work with you to tailor our curriculum to complement your school’s initiatives. Our goal is support your school day and community, while handling all aspects of your after-school program!

In fall 2015, International Leadership of Texas Garland K-8 was searching for a high quality after-school care program to serve their large number of families requiring an after-school care solution. Irene Aguilar, the principal of the campus, stated, “We decided to switch providers in the middle of the year last year to be able to enrich our students' after school experience with a structured, well managed program which offered standards based weekly themes. Our parents noticed the difference immediately!”

For ILTexas Garland K-8, Champions was a welcome change. With Champions’ significant investment in resources, the space was transformed into an inviting learning environment with many educational choices for the children. Ms. Aguilar comments, “From the humanoid Robotics programming class offered, to the library of books and wealth of educational toys and games in the learning centers - the differences were impressive, and our parents were so appreciative for what Champions had to offer.”

Champions’ hands-on curriculum builds the skills that research has confirmed are critical for children’s success: executive function, social-emotional development, inquiry-based learning, literacy, and a focus on 21st century learning skills. Through providing a centers based approach to after school care with the curriculum, educational toys, outdoor time, and snacks, the stage is also set for homework completion. “The commitment from the Champions staff to offer quality homework assistance to our students, while allowing students to make connections with what they have learned in their regular school day, is quite impressive,” said Ms. Aguilar.

For schools with high after school enrollment, these aspects of a Champions program are even more valuable as Ms. Aguilar said, “Even with increased enrollment this year, I can count on a safe, well organized, standards focused program for students in our after school Champions program!”

If you’d like to learn more, please visit us at the TCSA Conference, Booth 21 or visit our web site at www.discoverchampions.com. If you’d like to discuss the needs of your campus or school system in person, please contact Melinda Smith at 713-396-6439 or melsmith@klcorp.com.

By: Lory Pilchik, SchoolMint CMO

Is your public charter school managing enrollment manually and struggling with paper forms? If your team has considered automating your enrollment processes, including application and lottery management, you’ll want to check out SchoolMint, a long-time Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA) Solution Provider.

SchoolMint is a cloud-based student enrollment and school choice platform helping schools streamline student registration and re-enrollment, application and lottery management, communications and payments, digital forms, and document uploads. SchoolMint serves more than 3,000 schools worldwide and works with various leading public charter schools in Texas including YES Prep, IDEA Public Schools, Life School, Southwest Preparatory, and KIPP San Antonio and KIPP Dallas-Fort Worth, among others.

In fall 2015, KIPP DFW was seeking an automated application and lottery system to scale with the charter network’s growth goal of enrolling 5,000 students by 2020. Their previous paper-based system was labor intensive. Staff members were spending up to 25 percent of their time managing the application process and continually placing calls to families to track down the status and clarity of applications. “The staff was drowning and we knew we had to improve our internal process,” said Cara Eng, the director of regional operations at KIPP DFW. “We needed an efficient system that would help free up staff time, more easily manage and report on student data, and better communicate with parents.

For KIPP DFW, SchoolMint was a game changer. SchoolMint’s online system allowed KIPP DFW to easily manage the application and lottery process with accuracy and integrity. SchoolMint eliminated the need to manually clean up application data, which previously took weeks to complete, and provided staff with tools to easily control that data, generate robust reports, and electronically communicate to families about their child’s application status. “On top of being cost-efficient, SchoolMint is very user-friendly for our staff, as well as our parents,” said Eng. “It also allows us to view and analyze student data and make the best recommendations to families - a huge plus for us as we continue to grow our footprint.”

In addition to streamlining enrollment processes such as application, registration, and lottery management, SchoolMint’s seamless data integration with student information systems allows schools to send critical student information into their SIS seamlessly. SchoolMint is available both on web and mobile, ensuring all families can succeed in sending in and accessing critical information. Finally, its user friendly design and availability in multiple languages, transforms the end-to-end enrollment experience for staff and parents.

Interested in learning more? Join our upcoming webinar on ‘Recruiting a Diverse Student Body’ on Thursday, September 22 at 2 p.m. CT. Join Summit Public Schools and Blackstone Valley Prep for a conversation focused on how and why these leading charter schools uphold diversity as a core value and how it influences student recruiting strategies. Register here.

If you are interested in a personalized product demo, contact SchoolMint at info@schoolmint.com. If you will be at the TCSA Conference, make sure to drop by Booth 43!

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