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.

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.

The 2017 Nomination Slate was recently announced and there are a total of 14 positions open for TCSA’s leadership election this year.  The slate is available on the voting page of the TCSA Quality Portal and charter leaders must log in to view the voting page.

Electronic voting, candidate bios, and campaign videos will be available on the voting page on September 21, 2017. Charters leaders are the designated voting representative for its charter and charters are permitted to only vote for leadership positions within their own size and charter mission categories. Voting closes at 12 midnight CST on October 11, 2017, and election winners will be announced at the Annual Meeting and Member Council Luncheon at the 2017 Texas Charter Schools Conference on October 12, 2017.

We hope that every eligible member participates in this election, and we encourage you to learn more about the candidates from their videos.  Additionally, please reach out to candidates directly with any outstanding questions or concerns. 

If you have questions about the election, please email Maria-Theresa Sigua at msigua@txcharterschools.org.

TEXAS CHARTER SCHOOLS ASSOCIATION's 2017 NOMINATION SLATE

Member Council Vice-Chair (1 vacancy)

Jennifer Goodman, Odyssey Academy

 

Board Member - Large School Representative (3 vacancies)

Aaron Kindel, Great Hearts Texas

Brent Wilson, Life School

Eddie Conger, International Leadership of Texas

Mark Larson, KIPP San Antonio

Matt Abbott, Wayside Schools

Recy Dunn, YES Prep

 

Board Member - Small School Representative (1 vacancy)           

David Ray, St. Anthony

Michelle Bonton, The Rhodes School

Rebecca Good, Legacy Preparatory Charter Academy

 

Board Member - Standing Member School Small Representative (1 vacancy)

Alfredo Segura, Jr., New Frontiers Charter School

 

Elected Advocacy Committee – Large School Representative (2 vacancies)

Lisa Freeman Schutz, Brooks Academy

Samuel Goessling, IDEA Public Schools

 

Elected Advocacy Committee – Small School Representative (2 vacancies)

Alexis Neumann, Rapoport Academy

David Ray, St. Anthony

John Armbrust, Austin Achieve

Michelle Bonton, The Rhodes School

Ron Nelms, Calvin Nelms Charter Schools

Virginia Lannen, Pegasus School of Liberal Arts

 

Elected Advocacy Committee - College Preparatory Representative (1 vacancy)

Alexis Neumann, Rapoport Academy

Matt Abbott, Wayside

 

Elected Advocacy Committee - Dropout Recovery Representative (1 vacancy)

Brady Schott, Winfree Academy Charter Schools

 

Elected Advocacy Committee – Early Childhood & Elementary Education Representative

(1 vacancy)

William Clark, Stepping Stones Charter Elementary

 

Elected Advocacy Committee – Specialized Mission Representative (1 vacancy)

Virginia Lannen, Pegasus School of Liberal Arts

The new Texas Charter Revolution website (www.txcharterrevolution.org) launches as students head back to school, and families get into the swing of homework, sports, and all the other activities that gear up in a new academic year. For Texans impacted by Hurricane Harvey, we hope soon the schools in the affected areas will reopen and help lend a sense of normalcy and progress after the devastating storm. We should all begin a new school year with a sense of hope and optimism. It’s the right time to create good study habits, make new friends, and get the year off to the best start possible.

We feel the same way about our new website. It has all the tools and resources that will empower you to help public charter schools. The site tells the stories of parents, teachers, and students that all share a love for their charters and who all want to ensure every student has the chance to attend a great public school. The website has plenty of videos, and blog posts written by people like you. If you’re reading this blog its likely because you’re already a member of the Charter Revolution. It’s possible you’ve contacted your state elected official, or participated in a rally at the Capitol in Austin. Maybe you’ve hosted local officials on your campus, or visited a lawmaker in their district office.

There are many ways to get involved and support your public charter school, and becoming part of our digital family is one of the easiest ways. What’s great about our new website isn’t just the content you find there, but how simple it is to stay informed and how easy it is to take action when we need your help. Members of our grassroots army have sent more than 20,000 messages to elected officials during the recent legislative sessions in Austin. Many took action because of a post they read on Facebook, or a tweet they received from their school. You may have received an email asking you to contact state lawmakers. As a result of recent grassroots efforts, the Texas Legislature passed a bill providing facilities funding for public charter schools for the first time ever. While we’re thrilled at this victory, our work is not done. We are just getting started.

This new school year you’ll be able to receive text messages about important advocacy efforts, and you’ll be able to respond right from your smart phone or tablet. In addition to quickly sending an email to your lawmakers, you will also be able to share your message on their Facebook page and in their Twitter feed. These are important social media tools lawmakers use to stay in touch with their constituents, and now we will be able to reach them on these platforms. And when it’s really important, we will be able to route your phone call directly to their office.

So, are you in?

Please take a few minutes to visit our new website, and make sure you are a part of the Texas Charter Revolution by texting “countmein” to 52886. Have a great start to the year, and we look forward to working with you to make it even better.

The wake of Hurricane Harvey has been devastating to Texans in the Gulf Coast Region over the last week, and we continue to monitor the full effects of this storm.

As you know, Houston, Corpus Christi, Beaumont, Port Arthur, and the surrounding areas are home to a large number of public charter schools serving thousands of students. We understand that students and families have been displaced while many campuses are not currently in operation. We have received offers from across the country to help students and schools, and we continue to gather this information and will provide you with updates as they become available.

On behalf of the Texas Charter Schools Association, I want to assure you that we are here and our thoughts and prayers are with all those impacted by the disaster. 

We have compiled some information on our webpage, Hurricane Harvey Resources, and will continue to update this with new information as it becomes available.

Additionally, we have learned of a volunteer effort led by teachers in the Gulf Coast Region.  Please click here to learn more. 

Please contact us by email or at 512-584-8272 with your questions or concerns, we’re ready to help.

Immigration and Your Charter School: Protecting Rights of Schools and Students in an Age of Immigration Enforcement

This webinar will highlight best practices on matters pertaining to federal and state law enforcement agencies in light of new and anticipated rulings and interpretations of immigration enforcement practices.

Presented by Joseph Hoffer from Shulman, Lopez, Hoffer and Adelstein LLP
Wednesday, September 20th from 12 noon to 1 p.m.
Register

Are you in? Online Tools to Engage Advocates

Public Charter Schools in Texas had a great victory in the 2017 Special Legislative Session. We attribute this victory to the thousands of advocates who spoke up and contacted their lawmakers this year, and in prior years. TCSA has been able to make significant gains for students as a result of these grassroots advocacy campaigns. Our fight is not over and we need you to join our efforts! Join us on this webinar to learn about the digital tools that TCSA has created to make sure all of our advocates are part of our advocacy efforts. Are you in? Text “countmein” to 52886* to get a sneak peek of our new tools and learn how you can make a difference!

Presented by Martha Fernandez from the Texas Charter Schools Association
Wednesday, October 18th from 12 noon to 1 p.m.
Register

Fostering Success for Students in Foster Care

All of your students are special, but particularly those who are in the temporary or permanent custody of the State of Texas. Spend an hour learning Texas law and best practices for fostering the success of students in foster care. Charter school attorney and former TCSA General Counsel Denise Pierce will lead a rich discussion on issues pertaining to the admission, enrollment, and services for foster care students. Pierce will also touch on the thorny issues of confidentiality, special education, discipline, and on-campus access to these students by third parties such CPS case workers and police officers. Board members, central office administrators, special program directors, and campus administrators who attend this webinar will leave with information, insights and resources to make them better equipped for fostering success for students in foster care.

Presented by Denise Nance Pierce from The Law Office of Denise Pierce, P.C.
Wednesday, October 25th from noon to 1 p.m.
Register

Update Your Personnel Handbook: Changes are needed due to new legislation

When was the last time you updated your Personnel Handbook? Chances are it has been too long! This webinar will help charter leaders understand the policy changes required as a result of Senate Bill 7, regarding electronic communication policies and impacts on TRS annuities. The webinar will address common charter school human resources questions, such as state leave days, and exempt and nonexempt employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act, to name a few.

Presented by Lindsey Gordon from the Texas Charter Schools Association
Wednesday, November 8th from 12 noon to 1 p.m.
Register

HB 22: Preparing for Changes in 2018 Accountability System

Are you aware of all of the accountability changes that are coming in August of 2018? Join Dr. Paula Moeller as she discusses what will be measured within each of the three domains and how the Texas Education Agency will roll out the new accountability system with charter districts and campuses.

Presented by Paula Moeller from the Texas Charter Schools Association
Wednesday, November 29th from 12 noon to 1 p.m.
Register 

Student Code of Conduct, 3rd Edition

The Student Code of Conduct, 3rd Edition is now available for purchase in the Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA) Quality Portal. The 3rd Edition incorporates changes from the 85th Legislative Session, including David’s Law (SB 179, the anti-bullying bill). Schools interested in the Student Code of Conduct can order it in the Quality Portal, under the Products and Services tab. Previous purchasers will receive a discount on the 3rd Edition.

Personnel Handbook, 2nd Edition

TCSA also updated the Personnel Handbook, which is now available for purchase in the TCSA Quality Portal. The 2nd Edition includes required policies from SB 7, regarding electronic communication policies and impacts on annuities with the Teacher Retirement System of Texas (TRS). We also updated the Personnel Handbook to address common charter school human resources questions, such as state leave days, and exempt and nonexempt employees under the Fair Labor Standards Act,  to name a few. The Personnel Handbook is available to all current Model Policy Subscribers at no additional cost. Non-Model Policy Subscribers can purchase the Personnel Handbook separately in the Quality Portal. Similar to the Student Code of Conduct, previous purchasers of the Personnel Handbook will receive a discount on the 2nd  Edition.

Updated Model Policies

TCSA Legal is working quickly to update the TCSA Model Policies as a result of the changes in law made by the Regular and Special Sessions of the 85th Texas Legislature. The first round of updates will be available in the Quality Portal on Tuesday, September 5th. These updates will include all required policies related to SB 7 (inappropriate relationships); SB 179 (David’s Law;) SB 1398 (special education video and audio surveillance cameras); and SB 1153 (required multi-tiered intervention notices and PEIMS reporting).

As always, do not hesitate to contact Christine Nishimura with questions or for more information regarding the TCSA Model Policy Series.

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