By Dorothy Gentry, 4th Grade Teacher, A.W. Brown Leadership Fellowship Academy

Note: A.W. Brown charter leaders will be presenting at the 2015 Texas Charter Schools Conference during the Principals Workshop on Wednesday, October 28, to discuss hiring and retaining high-quality teachers.

Angela Brown is a true example of a success story in teaching. The long-time employee of A.W. Brown Fellowship Leadership Academy in Dallas, a successful Texas charter school, is passionate about the field of education and about teaching at the two-campus academy.

Brown began at A.W. Brown as a substitute teacher in January of 2005 and was officially hired as a teacher’s assistant in March 2008. Ten years at the school and she said, “I’ve loved every moment.”

As the special education teacher for the past three years at A.W. Brown’s Early Childhood Campus she said the school’s vision is key to why she stays.

“First off, what made me get on board with this school was the vision that it has for its students and the community,” Brown said. “They want to make the world a better place one student at a time and it has been an amazing privilege to see it unfolding and steadily coming to fruition right before my eyes.”

Brown said the school supported her in efforts to gain additional education.

“[They] allowed so many doors to open up for me once I was ready to move up. They continue to support and nurture my growth by presenting multiple opportunities to get involved,” she said.

The school feels like a family, where she can speak openly with others about any concerns, Brown said.

An A.W. Brown teacher who has been with the school nearly since it began in 1998.

An A.W. Brown teacher who has been with the school nearly since it began in 1998.

“Words cannot express the joy I have of being able to watch these children grow from babies to teenagers, and then they come back to visit as adults,” Brown said. “They thank us for all we instilled in them and taught them. My own daughter was 3-years-old when she started here, and now she is in the 7th grade.”

Brown said she feels “secure and comfortable” at A.W. Brown and plans to stay as long as possible.

“With the constant growth and success at this school I feel like the sky is the limit and I have no reason not to continue to be loyal to them as they have been to me,” Brown said. “This is one district that I truly feel secure in. They make me feel appreciated in everything I do.”

Other schools can adopt those practices by starting with the board and administrators, she said.

“Ours is awesome. They do a great job letting us know how much we are appreciated and acknowledge that none of this would be possible without us,” she said.

Brown believes the regular evaluations and continuous positive feedback is crucial to the success of the school. Also important is having a good vision of what you are trying to accomplish and then determining what steps are necessary to achieve it.

“They do a good job making sure new teachers are aware of the vision and the steps and why we are all here. For veterans they never let us get complaisant. They find new exciting ways to break down the vision and mission and those steps we need to complete in order to accomplish them,” Brown said.

The vision of A.W. Brown-Fellowship Leadership Academy is to provide a learning environment in which children are trained, prepared and equipped for life leadership and academic excellence. The mission of A.W. Brown-Fellowship Leadership Academy is to produce smart, effective, efficient, disciplined students by creating an environment in which teachers feel safe and free to teach and students feel safe and motivated to learn.

A.W. Brown serves more than 2,000 students on two campuses in grades PK thru 8th grade and has more than 200 full- and part-time staff. A.W. Brown has been in existence since 1998.

By Dr. Paula Moeller, TCSA Director of Training

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Struggling to hire quality teachers in critical areas such as mathematics and science for your campus?

Finding it difficult to locate certified bilingual and special education educators?

You are not alone!

The Texas Charter Schools Conference Principal Workshop will feature panelists from across Texas to discuss hiring and retaining strategies for outstanding teachers with a passion for educating charter school students.(View the full TCSACon workshop and session schedule)

The Texas Charter Schools Association is committed to providing support, training and technical assistance to Texas charter schools on the newly developed teacher and principal evaluation systems, Texas Teacher Evaluation and Support System (T-TESS) and Texas Principal Evaluation and Support System (T-PESS). These systems will replace the current PDAS evaluation system as the new state-recommended appraisal systems in the 2016-2017 school year. While charter schools aren’t required in statute to implement these new appraisal systems, learning about new ways to evaluate and provide feedback to educators is critical for continual improvement.

Join us for three credit hours of training on Wednesday, October 28, at the Texas Charter Schools Conference at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa.

Register today! Space is limited.

Principal Workshop Presenters:

Sheila Collazo, Academy Director, T-TESS, National Institute for Excellence in Teaching

Tim Regal, Texas Education Agency

Paula Brown, COO, A.W. Brown – Fellowship Leadership Academy

Michelle Holland, Principal, Leadership Prep School

John de la Cruz, Principal, Sanchez Charter School

By Dr. Paula Moeller, TCSA Director of Training

While the start of school is often challenging with many demands on your time, TCSA seeks to help you to train your staff whenever and wherever they need to receive training. Using technology to teach content to adult learners is a passion of mine, and one that I hope to fully develop for you and your staff through the association.

Dr. Paula Moeller

Dr. Paula Moeller

To give you an idea, this fall, we will be developing additional videos for inclusion in the TCSA learning platform hosted by Nuvola Networks. While we aren’t abandoning face-to-face training, we will be using in-person training more sparingly this year.

Instead, I plan to create school-based training opportunities where we can highlight the advanced efforts of other campuses and districts within the network. I believe we are able to implement change more efficiently when we are able to observe these innovations in active learning environments.

The best charter schools in the nation are right here in Texas, and I can’t wait for other leaders to visit these schools with me to learn about the exciting strategies that are being implemented.

Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to work with many of the districts and charter schools in the state through grant funding from the Texas Education Agency. Some of my work was focused on helping campuses implement systemic change to increase student performance, while other work helped districts create teacher-incentive funding programs or develop Early College High Schools. The OnTRACK for College Readiness program was developed to help Texas students master TEKS content 24/7, in real-time, whenever they needed to accelerate or remediate their understanding of core content. Quality instruction and practice, along with strong instructional leadership, drive results.

I look forward to working with you and for you! Please feel free to share your ideas about future TCSA training opportunities with me via email at Paula Moeller.

By Luz Gonzalez, SchoolMint, TCSA Solution Provider

There’s no rest for student enrollment staff on public charter school campuses. But TCSA Solution Provider SchoolMint can take the guesswork out of strategizing for this next year’s student recruitment effort.

Join SchoolMint student enrollment experts for a FREE, one-hour webinar on student recruitment and marketing at noon on Thursday, September 10.

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Learn where to start, how to be successful, creative ways to reach your target market, the importance of branding and messaging and more.

SchoolMint works with charter districts across the country and in Texas, including Achievement First, KIPP, Nobel Network, Life School, Faith Family and Brooks Academy, by taking the enrollment process online and mobile.

Jenniann Colon, the director of communications for Brooks Academy will be sharing some of her school’s best-practices during the webinar. Brooks Academy utilizes SchoolMint to manage its lottery and waitlist and to communicate with parents through the enrollment process.

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“Our operational processes have vastly improved now that we are using SchoolMint. SchoolMint has even helped with student recruitment by giving us insights into our enrollment data, which allows us to be proactive about our enrollment numbers. I can't imagine ever going back to doing things manually,” Colon said.

SchoolMint is proud to be partnered with these great public charter school organizations and looks forward to working with many more of you by empowering you with tools and information for continued success.

Join the free webinar and gain a valuable look into student enrollment best-practices by learning about what’s worked for other charter schools. Also, webinar attendees will be entered in a drawing to win a Google Chromecast!

Register for the How to Win at Student Recruitment and Marketing webinar.

If you would like to learn more, please contact me at luz@schoolmint.com. If you can't make the webinar, I can send you a recorrding of the webinar if you still register and send me an email. Also, if you have insights into what has or hasn't worked at your school, I would love to learn more about your unique experiences!

SchoolMint helps schools take their enrollment processes -- from student recruitment, applications, lottery, wait list and registration to payments -- online and on mobile. If you are interested in a demo, mention TXPartner to qualify for a 10 percent discount off your first year of SchoolMint!

Herbert O'Neil (left) and Troy Mooney (right) of Life School.

Herbert O'Neil (left) and Troy Mooney (right) of Life School.

By Troy Mooney, Life School Chief Academic Officer

Principals make many crucial decisions each day, often with limited information, inadequate resources and unforgiving time constraints. Further, the consequences of making a mistake on any of these decisions can be devastating for the campus, the school system or the principal themselves.

The U.S Navy SEAL axiom, “We do not rise to the occasion, but rather sink to the level of our training,” is equally applicable to principals and other campus leaders. Most leadership preparation programs fail to authentically prepare campus leaders for the crucial decision-making that is an essential part of their job.

School systems need more effective leaders, authentically developed at a faster rate, and spread throughout all levels of their organization. Which is more than most current district leadership preparation programs are scaled to produce.

District executives must commit to creating an aligned, authentic, competency-based system to recruit, select, develop, support and evaluate leaders. Otherwise, they fail to prepare their principals for the actual challenges they will encounter while leading their schools.

As the Chief Academic Officer of Life School, one of my key responsibilities is to lead, manage and support campus principals. Recognizing the inadequacy of earlier principal preparation efforts, we have pivoted toward an authentic, competency-based approach that couples real-world problem-solving with traditional leadership instruction and reflection.

Primer

During this comprehensive overhaul of our leadership preparation for principals and campus leaders, Herbert O’Neil, the Life School Director of Academics and former principal of Corsicana High School, and I created the PRIMER podcast. The podcast, which has eleven episodes available on iTunes, provides an additional avenue for us to continuously support and prepare leaders in our organization and in other school systems.

While the episodes focus on particular difficult issues for principals, the underlying theme is to encourage organizations to evaluate their own current leadership preparation efforts. If their principals and campus leaders are not able to lead and manage the way that their system needs them to perform, then how should they adjust their current development and support efforts?

We hope that the Life School PRIMER podcast and further information that we share will be beneficial for other charter and school system leaders for developing the kinds of principals that our staff and students deserve.

Follow @TroyMooney on Twitter
Follow @HerbertONeilJr on Twitter

The mission of Life School is to train leaders with life skills for the twenty-first century by establishing strong academics, character training and a parenting program.

By: Justin Parmann, guardian of a KIPP Austin Comunidad student

Justin's grandson proudly holds a KIPP sign at the 2015 TX Charter Revolution rally at the Capitol.

Justin's grandson proudly holds a KIPP sign at the 2015 TX Charter Revolution rally at the Capitol.

My wife and I became the guardians of her two amazing grandsons a little more than three years ago. They were almost one- and four-years old at that time. In their short lives, the boys experienced a lot of instability and uncertainty. It is because of this that our goal has always been to provide a stable environment.

Quality education and matriculating to college is one way we wanted to help the boys to grow and develop into successful men. My wife and I both understand and appreciate the importance of a college education. We began to work with the kids at home introducing many of the pre-K topics knowing it would help make school a positive experience. We were excited that our local public elementary was in our neighborhood which would allow us to walk to ride our bikes to school with the boys each day. Unfortunately the learning environment at our local school was anything but supportive.

The teacher’s approach to our oldest already knowing his shapes, colors, numbers, and letters was to ostracize him by having him sit in the corner and not be taught. This was so the rest of the class could catch up. But it marked him for bullying. He would come home so sad because other students would write on his clothes, cut his clothes with scissors and even pour glue on him. When our concerns were excused as “normal kid things”, we moved it up the ladder. Little did we know this would mark him from the top on down. The school did nothing.

Parent blog Pull Quote

The disregard for his education from the educators was inexcusable and it set us back even further when it came to his life threatening peanut allergy. We got promises that they would hand out all snacks, but still putting a peanut snack in his backpack. We finally had to keep him from participating in school parties because they refused to see the severity of his condition. The final straw was when he was taken on a field trip without his emergency bag containing lifesaving medications and his inhaler.

After the repeated disappointments with our neighborhood public elementary we began actively looking for alternatives. With private schools not being an affordable option we began to investigate public charter schools. Neither of us had any experience with public charter schools so we began to read everything we could about the various choices in Austin. Using social media we reached out to other parents and visited our top school choices.

In the end, the right choice for us was KIPP Austin Comunidad. We loved the immersion dual language program. Plus the passion and energy of the staff was contagious. The KIPP motto of "To and Through College" is something KIPP Austin Comunidad lives every day. College is a natural part of everything they do -- from classroom decorations, to the names of their homeroom classes, field lessons, class projects, spirit days and more. The expectations of students at KIPP are high. The days are long and it requires a commitment from the entire family. The effort your family puts in is exceeded by the effort the teachers and staff put forth. The teachers keep in consistent contact through email, text, and phone calls; as we discuss good and bad behaviors, and work together to help him overcome different challenges.

Early in his kindergarten year his ADHD became apparent. Beyond working with our pediatrician, our amazing team of kinder teachers jointly did research with us on additional things we could do in the classroom to help him stay focused, and implemented them quickly. The business manager for the school consulted with us regularly on continuous improvements to their policies and procedures they were implementing around food allergies. The examples of positive, constructive engagements with myself and other parents are just too numerous to list.

The results of being challenged and supported by our charter school are amazing. After his first month, he was switching between Spanish and English with ease, and his confidence in both languages has continued to soar for the last two years. He is preparing to start second grade now. Next year, we are excited our youngest will join him as a kindergartner at KIPP Austin Comunidad. Education is still the focus for a better future that we work on every day with the boys, but with KIPP Austin, we are not working alone and achieving our goal is no longer a worry.

solution provider spotlight

By: Zach Salesman, A.I.M. , and Lisa Freeman Schutz, KIPP San Antonio

TCSA works hard to connect competitively-priced solution providers with the needs of our member schools. If you are a TCSA Solution Provider or TCSA member school with a positive story to share, let us know! Click to learn more about TCSA membership opportunities.

Zach Salesman, A.I.M.

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"KIPP San Antonio is always focused on providing the best education and environment for its students. When our team started working with KIPP we were impressed by the amazing collaboration and dedication that [the] team brought to the table. Working in education we know that every student's learning profile is unique and services often have to be tailored to meet those needs. The staff at KIPP understands this and it's one of our favorite things about working there. KIPP is always communicating with us and trying to find unique ways to do more for students and families. In that spirit, together we have developed new systems, tracking mechanisms, professional development and service delivery models that keep quality high, but are cost effective for our customer. What we've done and shared with KIPP in the last year is so inspiring and energizing. We can't wait to see what happens next!"

Lisa Freeman Schutz, KIPP San Antonio

KIPP SATX

"As a growing charter school region, it was a leap of faith for us to leave our special ed co-op and manage our own services. A.I.M. was an amazing partner for us in this process. Their team of service providers were great to work with – knowledgeable, professional and caring. I felt as though I had the benefit of full-time employees. They are all invested in doing the right thing for our children. And the owners of A.I.M. were always ready with advice about ensuring that we are meeting the needs of our students and complying with regulatory requirements. They understand the ways charter schools are similar to, and different from, traditional public schools. I couldn’t ask for a better partner than A.I.M."

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