There are several reasons to join or renew your membership with the Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA), and one of the primary reasons includes TCSA’s support in addressing the challenges that you and your charter team are wrestling with right now.

TCSA assists charters and their boards with a wide array of subject matters, all of which fall into one of the systems in your TCSA Quality Framework. As Director of Quality Services, I assist campus and district leaders and governing board members in resolving or addressing areas of struggle by improving performance and/or processes.

I am ready to help your team with any of the following tasks:
• Develop logic models and action plans (Leadership/Planning)
• Refine governing practices and optimize board composition and norms (Leadership/Governance)
• Refine improvement efforts and data review processes (Data Driven)
• Conduct an organization-wide analysis to determine expansion readiness (Leadership/Planning)
• Develop, launch and analyze surveys to inform practices or address issues (Staff/Stakeholder)
• Conduct an organization-wide analysis to identify gaps and strengths and craft improvement plan (Leadership)
• Refine mission/vision statements, develop values or norms, or improve organizational culture (Mission Vision Values)

Public charter schools with strong systems and good leadership remain sustainable over time. Join or renew your membership with TCSA today and let us help your team advance to the next level.

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 2018 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 (TCSA)   

700 Lavaca Street, Suite 930   

Austin, TX 78701

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

Wayside Schools became a member of the Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA) five years ago when I joined the Wayside staff as CEO. I have been a passionate supporter of TCSA for many years and share the belief that every parent should have the opportunity to choose the free, public school that best fits the needs of their scholar(s).

TCSA is a great partner in advocacy efforts and one primary example includes the passage of HB 21, which provides $60 million in facilities funding beginning in 2018-19. Like many public charter schools, our small charter network is impacted by the disparity in funding. However, we worked with TCSA during the last legislative session to pass HB 21! Public charter school students will receive about $200 per pupil, which is a first step in closing the funding gap. Unlike any single charter network, TCSA is able to bring together multiple voices and multiple communities, to advocate on behalf of increased funding and other important policies affecting charter school operations.

As a member organization, Wayside Schools receives special help scheduling legislative visits and engaging legislators to attend individual school events. TCSA staff work alongside our parents helping them to practice their talking points and prepare for advocacy activities. TCSA is there every step of the way so that parents never feel they are acting alone. Their staff go above and beyond to provide the support we need to have a voice in the world of education public policy.

As a network leader, they have helped me connect with other charter leaders to share best practices. TCSA offers many trainings and workshops that give insight into charter and school policy changes that will impact how our school operates. They also provide a comprehensive analysis tool as part of membership. More than anything else, I recommend a TCSA membership because they make you feel like you are never alone and provide support while navigating the world of running a charter school.

As a founding board member of the Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA), I have been passionate about this organization since its inception. TCSA’s mission is to improve student achievement in Texas by advocating for and strengthening a diverse set of high quality charter schools. I’m thrilled to be a part of this mission both in my capacity as the CEO of ResponsiveED and now as the Interim CEO of TCSA.

I made a commitment to TCSA’s Board and to you to serve as the Interim CEO while the Search Committee conducts a national search for a permanent CEO. I want to assure you that my aim includes supporting and strengthening the good work already happening at public charter schools by providing continuity of services at TCSA and transparency in our efforts.

The future is bright for charter schools in this state and for the association. Last year, there were nearly 273,000 students at 675 public charter school campuses across the state and we continue to see growth in enrollment and campuses. Texas families want options within public education to meet the needs of their children, and these options come in various forms such as college preparatory charters, charters at residential treatment centers, STEM-focused campuses, and dropout recovery models. Public charter schools are meeting their promise by providing innovation in education and offering flexibility in the classroom.

While there is tremendous diversity in the scope, size, and mission of our public charter schools, we must work together as one voice to represent our sector and achieve our common goals. Whether we’re advocating for charter-friendly policies at the state capitol or sharing best practices through continuing education and training, we’re more effective as one body.

That’s why I encourage you to either join or renew your membership with TCSA today.

TCSA members receive:
• Representation with the Texas Legislature, Texas Education Agency and State Board of Education.
• Discounted legal products including model board policies, Student Code of Conduct, and a Personnel Handbook
• Access to the Learning Zone, TCSA's robust 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 charter schools
• Tools to engage parents on advocacy efforts with the Texas Legislature
• Access to a growing market of solution providers and strategically-aligned partnerships with negotiated pricing and contract terms
• Resources and advice for navigating TEA requirements for your school's growth and expansion

Please, take this time to renew or begin a membership with TCSA. Add your voice to the conversation and ensure the charter movement continues to grow and succeed.

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 2018 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 (TCSA)
700 Lavaca Street, Suite 930
Austin, TX 78701

If you have questions about the membership process, please contact Nadia Luna.

Thank you for your continued support of charter schools in the great state of Texas.

Early voting is officially underway in Texas and Austin Achieve Public Schools is striving to increase voter turnout.

On October 4th Austin Achieve held a student-led voter registration drive to register eligible voters in Austin. A group of juniors from the school’s founding class of 2019, along with the help of a Travis county Volunteer Deputy Registrar, gathered at the school library for a voter registration drive open to parents, staff, and the East Austin community.

Students from Austin Achieve planned this event alongside AP US History teacher Travis Helm after learning about East Austin’s history of low voter turnout.

Eduardo Suarez Ugarte is a junior at Austin Achieve and wants Austin Achieve students to impact change by encouraging others to vote. “Voting has been an impactful way of having our voice be heard, yet in our city of Austin, voter turnout had been at its lowest last year at 42.6 percent. Most people are not voting due to the fact that they are not well informed. Information is the key that people need in order to make the best decision while voting.”

During the voter registration drive Austin Achieve students expressed their own desire to register to vote once eligible and shared their thoughts on the importance of bringing about sensible policies through the use of voting.

Each student plans to continue these efforts by encouraging their own family members to vote and spreading the word about the upcoming election dates and voting locations. Eduardo said, “Projects like these leave an impact in us as scholars, by showing us that we can help out our neighborhoods to be well informed. The feeling that we get from doing this is inexplainable, it's something that we are willing to do for our communities.”

Early voting runs through November 3rd and it’s important that all eligible voters make their voices heard by casting their ballot in the November election.

After the passage of HB 21 students in Public Charters Schools in Texas will receive funds from the state of Texas for facilities funding the first time. All this in part thanks to the the efforts of a well informed and active electorate of strong charter school advocates. Early voting began on October 23rd and ends on November 3rd. Election Day is on November 7th.

In the coming months, each of us can support the efforts of Austin Achieve scholars to help increase voter turnout by casting our ballots this November and continue our commitment to serving Texas students and families.

My final day as TCSA Executive Director approaches and it is definitely bittersweet. The opportunity to serve as a leader in this vibrant and successful movement has been extremely rewarding. As most of you know, it also has been quite challenging.

As I reflect on our shared journey over the last nine years, I think one word expresses my feelings best: proud. I am extremely proud of what we have accomplished together. I think each and every one of you – whether a teacher, or a leader, or a parent or an advocate – should be proud as well.

We have come a long way baby!

When I started TCSA back in October of 2008, there were 90,000 students attending school at 374 charter campuses around the state. Last year, there were nearly 273,000 students on 675 campuses! On average, student enrollment at charters has grown at a rate of 12 percent annually and I have every reason to believe this phenomenal growth will continue for years.

In the early years, there were many challenges. Frankly, in the late 1990s there were charters granted to entities that never should have been allowed to educate our state’s youth. National studies showed that charter student performance lagged behind students in the traditional ISDs they left behind.

Over the last nine years, TCSA has maintained a laser focus on improving the quality of the sector. We have partnered with charter and school leaders across the state to improve governance, fiscal management, and operations. And, these improvements have allowed charter leaders to keep the eye on the ultimate prize: improving student outcomes.

And, yes, we have worked to ensure that charter schools that are not meeting the needs of kids or are not good stewards of taxpayer funds are shuttered.

We are seeing the results of this work. CREDO, out of Stanford University, released a report this summer that showed – in an apples to apples comparison – that charter students were outperforming their traditional ISD peers in Reading, and had completely closed the gap in Math. In fact, public charter students received the equivalent in learning of an additional 17 days in Reading. Over three weeks of additional learning!

The Texas Education Agency recently released its performance reports, once again showing that public charter schools serve higher proportions of students who are economically disadvantaged, African-American, Hispanic, and/or English language learners. These student groups outperformed their district peers in reading, writing, and social studies last year.

And, we are now seeing the results of this hard work pay off in a more charter friendly environment in Austin and elsewhere throughout the state. In the 85th Legislative Session the charter movement scored historic wins: Funding for facilities for the very first time; an additional $3 billion in Permanent School Fund Bond Guarantee capacity; and we were able to protect the funds for charters serving our most vulnerable youth, and charters that have implemented truly innovative programs.

So, yes, I am very proud of our work. I think you should be too.

And, I am fully confident no one will rest on these laurels. The work continues. The challenges remain. I can’t wait to see future results.

Thank you again for the honor and privilege of serving as a leader in this movement. There is no more important work than serving students.

As a community passionate about public charter schools and public education, we encourage all of you to participate in the election process as a part of our civic duty. Every vote counts!

Our duty to engage in advocacy efforts goes beyond the 140 days the state legislature meets. As this fall voting season kicks off, TCSA would like to remind you that voting is part of our civic duty. For those of us who lead schools, classrooms, or households, we lead by example. Our civic duties are ongoing-there are fall elections, spring primaries, May elections, and the cycle continues every year.

This year’s ballot for the November 7th election includes constitutional amendments, school board candidates, and city bond elections. These critical decisions impact our children and their education, which is why we need you to advocate for children year-round.

To stay tuned on more opportunities to stay informed and engaged in ways you can support your public charter school student visit http://www.txcharterrevolution.org/join

There are many ways to participate in our democratic process and the election process is significant. Take time to look up what is on the ballot and make sure you show up to vote during early voting, which began on October 23 and runs through November 3rd. Election day is November 7th.

Below are a few links to what is on the ballot around the state of Texas. Visit your county, city or ISD website to learn more about what will be on your ballot. Also don’t forget to look up your elected officials and sign-up for their newsletters to get the latest updates.

As a community passionate about public charter schools and education we encourage all of you to participate in the election process as a part of our civic duty. Every vote counts!

Information on Voting and What’s on the Ballot

https://www.votetexas.gov/

https://www.texastribune.org/2017/06/06/hey-texplainer-what-constitutional-amendments-will-be-november-ballot/

http://kut.org/post/heres-what-7-constitutional-amendments-ballot-would-do

Additionally, here are some resources for our state's most populated areas.

Bexar County

http://www.bexar.org/1568/Elections-Department

El Paso County

https://epcountyvotes.com/

Dallas County

http://www.dallascountyvotes.org/election-day-information/upcoming-election-information/

http://dallascityhall.com/departments/public-works/dallasbondprogram/Pages/faqs.aspx

Harris County and City of Houston

http://www.harrisvotes.com/VoterBallotSearch.aspx?L=E

http://www.houstontx.gov/2017election.html

Travis County

http://www.traviscountyclerk.org/eclerk/Content.do?code=E.3

The Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA) named Dr. Soner Tarim the Leader of the Year and Ms. Brooke Lucero the Teacher of the Year at the 2017 Texas Charter Schools Conference last week. TCSA’s Chris Busse presented the awards to Dr. Tarim and Ms. Lucero at a luncheon with Education Commissioner Mike Morath, and discussed their contributions benefitting students and the charter school sector in Texas.

TCSA’s Leader of the Year Program
This award honors one outstanding charter leader from across the State of Texas. As the second recipient of the award for Leader of the Year, Dr. Soner Tarim received a complimentary registration to the conference, a plaque, and a cash award of $1000. The award recognizes charter leaders that advocate for charters at the state and national level, have successfully replicated high performing charters that are innovative in their approaches to educating all students, and serve as a mentor to other charter leaders.

Dr. Soner Tarim is the Founder and CEO of Harmony Public Schools and he has been an educational advocate for more than 30 years, encouraging students in underserved communities to pursue learning in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. He is a driving force for STEM education throughout Texas and the United States. He brings decades of experience developing innovative educational programs for K-12 schools to Harmony, which has garnered state and national recognition for its high academic standards. Harmony was a finalist for the Broad Prize for Urban Education in 2017. The Broad Prize for Urban Education recognizes school districts in urban areas for closing the achievement gap by improving academic performance of low-income and minority students.

Under Dr. Soner Tarim's headship, Harmony has earned the reputation as one of the best charter schools in the country, many of its campuses recognized on prestigious high school rankings, such as News & World Report and Children @ Risk. These successes have only increased Harmony’s demand with 55 campuses scheduled to open in the 2017-18 school year in Texas and Washington D.C., educating close to 36,000 students.

Dr. Tarim holds a Ph.D. from Texas A&M University and is a trained biologist and ecologist. He taught courses in biology, ecology, general science, and physical education at the high school, college and graduate-school levels, and spearheaded scientific symposiums and international science Olympiads, such as the International Sustainable World Energy, Engineering, and Environment Project – or ISWEEEP -- which attracts more than 600 top-ranking high school students from more than 60 nations.

Dr. Tarim continuously works toward building meaningful partnerships, maintaining effective communications and positive relationships with high-level corporate and civic leaders to advance high-quality, rigorous education throughout the state and nation.

TCSA’s Teacher of the Year program
This is the second year for TCSA’s Teacher of the Year program which honors one outstanding educator from across the State of Texas. As the recipient of the award for Teacher of the Year, Ms. Brooke Lucero received a complimentary registration to the conference, a plaque, and a cash award of $1000. The award recognizes charter educators that advocate for charters at the local level, are innovative in their approaches to educating all students, and serve as a leader on their campus and within their communities.

Brooke Lucero is a special education teacher at the Great Hearts Northern Oaks campus, and has 10 years of classroom experience. She inspires students of all backgrounds and abilities to learn. Ms. Lucero uses Socratic Seminar, knowledge of different learning styles, strategies, accommodations and modifications, knowledge of behavior analysis as well as multiple positive behavior supports and systems to work with the special education students she teaches. Great Hearts is passionately committed to cultivating the hearts and minds of students through the pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty.

TCSA is excited to announce this year's Keynote Speaker for the 2017 Texas Charter Schools Conference: Dr. Christopher Emdin.

Dr. Emdin is an Associate Professor of Science Education and Director of Science Education in the Department of Mathematics, Science and Technology at Teachers College, Columbia University. He also serves as Associate Director of the Institute For Urban and Minority Education at the college.

Dr. Emdin holds a Ph.D. in Urban Education with a concentration in Mathematics, Science and Technology, a M.S. in Natural Sciences, and Bachelors degrees in Physical Anthropology, Biology, and Chemistry.

He was recently awarded the 2016 Early Career Award by the American Educational Researchers Association and 2015 Multicultural Educator of the Year by the National Association of Multicultural Educators.

Professor Emdin was also selected as a STEM Access Champion of Change by the White House, and currently serves as Minorities in Energy Ambassador for the United States Department of Energy.

Dr. Emdin is also listed on the ROOT100 list of most influential African Americans in the fields of business, science, politics, technology, social justice, sports and entertainment.

He is founder of the #HipHopEd movement, and the author of the award winning book, Urban Science Education for the Hip-Hop Generation, and the New York Times bestseller, For White Folks Who Teach In The Hood...and the Rest of Ya'll Too.

Some of the topics he'll be discussing include:
• The Crisis of Urban Education
• Teaching & Learning from the Student's Standpoint
• Hip-Hop & Education
• Rethinking STEM

Don't miss this exciting speaker and register today!  We look forward to seeing you next week.

On Tuesday, September 5, 2017, the Trump Administration announced the repeal of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals ("DACA"). Many public charter school students, families, and staff are directly impacted by DACA and the Administration's decision to end the program. With the decision to end DACA, TCSA's Board of Directors stands in support of federal legislation that protects children and families' livelihood and opportunities.

Though TCSA anticipates further updates in the coming months, in an effort to assist your school communities, TCSA Legal provides the following guidance relating to DACA and serving undocumented students, families, and employees. We encourage each school to talk with legal counsel if they have specific concerns.

What is DACA?

The Obama Administration first implemented DACA in June of 2012. DACA allowed children who came to the United States, and met certain requirements, to request a renewable, two (2) year deferred action from deportation. Once an individual received DACA status they became eligible for work authorization and participation in the Social Security Program.

Eligibility requirements for DACA can be reviewed on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website. These requirements are archived, as they are no longer current. 

How does the repeal of DACA affect current DACA recipients?

The Trump Administration's announcement to rescind DACA includes a six (6) month delay, and will not take effect until March 5, 2018. However, those with current DACA status may be able to renew prior to October 5, 2017. The Department of Homeland Security allows for a DACA recipient with current DACA status that expires between October 5, 2017 and March 5, 2018, to submit an application to renew for another two (2) year period. Individuals must submit all renewal applications by October 5, 2017. Additionally, the Department of Homeland Security will process all applications for DACA status received prior to September 5, 2017.

For DACA recipients whose status expires after March 5, 2018, unfortunately, an individual will become eligible for deportation at the time of expiration. An individual who currently has DACA status and work authorization may continue work until their DACA status and work authorization expires.

More information regarding important deadlines and applications can be found on the Department of Homeland Security's website.

What does the repeal mean for other undocumented students?

Students previously eligible for DACA status, but have not applied will no longer be able to apply for DACA status as of September 5, 2017. However, undocumented students still have a right to attend school regardless of their immigration status. Schools may not request immigration documentation and must admit a student regardless of status. For more information regarding the educational rights of undocumented students, see TCSA's legal memorandum regarding serving undocumented students.

What can schools do to support undocumented students with or without DACA status?

In addition to ensuring students receive all services they are entitled to, such as free and reduced lunch programs, and special education, schools may provide students, families and employees with resources regarding changes to the DACA program. Resources may include FAQs about DACA, information to contact immigration organizations for assistance, and provide informational sessions on campus. However, all materials provided to students, families, and employees must first be approved by the school's administration to ensure the material is neutral and informational only.

Additionally, schools providing information about legislation considered by the United States Congress may count as lobbying. Prior to sending any material out encouraging staff or families to contact their legislators, the school should ensure they are following school policies, tracking all resources used, and ensure that staff and family members contact  legislators on their own time with their own resources. Schools may learn more about lobbying activities by reviewing the TCSA Advocacy FAQ

Other resources include:

When making changes or adopting new policies to address the needs of undocumented students, we encourage schools to work with legal counsel to ensure policies are consistent with current and changing law. If there are any policy or statute changes affecting the rights of undocumented students in public school, TCSA will provide additional updates. Please contact me with any questions. 

Working at a public charter school is challenging. Longer hours with less pay, higher demands with fewer resources. Subpar science labs for experiments or too small of a playground for the little ones. Students who face seemingly overwhelming challenges that many of us adults will never understand. These things we all know to be true, but day-in and day-out we soldier on with a singular focus of doing best by children. We are rewarded with the knowledge that we are helping to change a child’s life trajectory or providing a family with a choice they previously lacked. We are warmed with the deeply intense relationships that we make with our students, families, and colleagues. These human interactions are what carry us through the difficult and challenging times in the aftermath of tragedy and loss.

Hurricane Harvey upended the lives of millions of people living throughout the path of the storm, destroying homes and businesses, overwhelming social services, and crippling critical infrastructure. Even as the storm raged and before predictions of damages were fully assessed, charter schools from around the country, state associations, financial institutions, and the private sector like began reaching out to offer aid and assistance. With Texans facing incredible losses, our charter families and schools answered the call to action; opening food and supply banks, rescuing stranded strangers and pets, donating funds and material goods, providing emotional support and a shoulder to cry on in the aftermath. They did this and more.

Our impacted schools have looked beyond their own physical losses, addressing the basic needs of students and families such as providing toiletries and food to more complex matters such as trauma relief and counseling. Many charter school students, particularly in urban areas like Houston, are low-income children of color. These communities were particularly impacted by Hurricane Harvey, and with few resources, will continue to struggle in the months and years ahead. While the love and support of teachers and school staff alone cannot help these children overcome these challenges, they are a step in the right direction. A school represents not only an education, not only a loving place for children, but also a safe place allowing students to escape personal hardships and focus on learning. A place of hope where a community can gather together, seek solace, gain fortitude, and be bigger than just an individual or a family unit.

Despite their losses of an early childhood center and administrative building, Tekoa Academy in Beaumont partnered with the American Red Cross to provide hot meals twice a day at campuses in Port Arthur. At Odyssey Academy in Galveston, school staff, parents, and volunteers worked around the clock to tear out and hang new drywall, prep and paint, and salvage school supplies to ensure a smooth opening for students. Individuals like Simone Kern, from YES Prep in Houston, organized hundreds of teachers throughout the Houston area via Facebook to provide relief and assistance to families. Brandon McElveen, a counselor at KIPP Explore Academy, also in Houston, literally answered the call as stranded students and fellow teachers reached out. Using his raised truck and canoe, he helped rescue over 20 people from the floodwaters.

While these are just a few examples of how people have come together to support one another and rebuild a community, there is still much work to be done, both within and outside of the schoolhouse. Our students and families are in need of tools and equipment, building materials, and financial resources to help rebuild homes, abate mold, purchase vehicles, and secure stable housing. With the closure of the largest shelters, and FEMA backlogged with claims to review, it will likely be months and years before the area is fully recovered. Consider supporting relief efforts by donating to TCSA’s Harvey Recovery Fund by clicking here. 100 percent of funds will go directly to the charter schools impacted by Harvey.

Now more than ever our students, families, neighbors, schools, and communities need our support.

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