Thanks to everyone who attended our 2019 TCSA Conference!  We had a record crowd of over 1700 attendees and an extremely high level of engagement from our attendees, whether it was in attendance at breakout sessions, prowling the exhibit hall, or enjoying the 80’s prom with the Spazmatics!                                    

While it’s fresh on your mind, if you attended the conference, would you mind taking a few minutes to complete our conference survey?  We want to make next year’s conference even better, so your feedback is extremely important.  Speaking of next year – we’ll be back again at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort for TCSA Conference 2020 from September 30th – October 2nd, so save the date!

The 2019 conference app has been updated with additional presenter slides.  Even though the conference is over (and even if you didn’t attend the conference), you can access the presenter slides and the information they contain.  If you haven’t loaded the app or if you accidentally deleted it, you can find the download here.

Several new training webinars are available on our on-demand learning zone.  One new addition is Reporting Requirements for Educator Misconduct which details your responsibilities as a school leader when instances of potential educator misconduct arise.  Presented by TCSA Attorney Elizabeth Cross, this course discusses responsibilities for educators under TAC Chapter 153 and 249, and well as TEC Chapter 22 and HB 3.  In addition, an updated presentation on Proposed Changes to the Charter School Performance Framework will be presented as a webinar on November 7 and available in our on-demand portal on November 12th

Did you know that all of our on-demand course content is available free to TCSA member schools?  Whether you are a CEO/Superintendent, Principal, Board Member or CFO, you can find courses in our Training Zone that will help you meet your Commissioner’s Credit training requirements.   Let me know how I can help you access the training content you need.

Don’t you wish there could be a one-stop shop to receive excellent professional training, earn Commissioner Credit hours, listen to inspiring speakers, learn about the latest educational tools, and enjoy world-class accommodations and food?  Stop wishing – you can get all of that and more at the 2019 TCSA Conference October 28th-30th in San Antonio

The 2019 Conference will feature two inspiring keynote speakers, Laura Vanderkamm and Richard Whitmire.  There will be professional learning opportunities with 74 breakout sessions divided into eight learning strands – Student Success and Learning, Leadership and Coaching, Advocacy and Communications, Finance and Operations, Governance and Law, Marketing and Engagement, Strategic Planning, and Safety and Security. Each session will award Commissioner’s Credit training hours in one of the seven credit categories as spelled out in 19 TAC 100.1102-1105, and school leaders can receive their complete 15-hour training credit update through their attendance at the conference sessions. 

In addition, on Tuesday October 29th we will feature our popular 6-hour board workshop where board members can meet their annual training credit requirement, with targeted governance training in School Finance, Academic Accountability, the Charter School Performance Framework, Health and Safety, Special Populations, and Superintendent Evaluations; all with an emphasis on updates from the 86th legislative session.  Also on Monday afternoon we will provide a two-hour Superintendent Workshop to address hot-button topics directly related to maximizing your effectiveness as a school leader.

A special thanks goes out to our hard-working conference committee members:  Chair Dustin Cox, Harmony; Brenton White, A+ Charter Schools; Julia Wright, MeyerPark Charter School; Jerry Lager, Ki Charter; Christopher Mayes, BMI; Tod Nix, Richard Milburn Academy; Carmen Darville, YES Prep; Don Mills, Braination; and Fred Clarke, Manara Academy.  This esteemed group spent countless hours reviewing breakout session proposals and met on June 11th to finalize their selections.  

We strongly suggest that you register now especially as on-site accommodations are limited.   Stay tuned for further updates and the rollout of the best-ever 2019 TCSA Conference mobile app! 

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.

The 2016 Texas Charter Schools Conference is the largest gathering of its kind for the charter school community in the state and was held in Austin earlier this week. More than 1,600 attendees participated in training sessions over three days.

The Conference Chair, John Armbrust of Austin Achieve, kicked off the conference with a warm welcome followed by a video message from Lt. Governor Dan Patrick.

David Dunn, the Executive Director for the Texas Charter Schools Association, delivered remarks celebrating 20 years of public charter schools in the state. He also provided an update on the state of the sector to the conference attendees. Additionally, there was a special performance from the Rhodes School choir and students who spoke about why they love their charter school at the opening session.

Dr. Steve Perry provided the opening keynote address and inspired conference participants with some straight talk about the charter movement. He revved up the crowd to keep striving and continue the necessary work in providing quality options within public education.

There were nearly 100 exhibitors and 155 training sessions on topics such as IDEA, budget creation, HR best practices, the national lunch program, cameras in the classroom, data, coding skills, bonds, financial integrity, among many, many more subjects.

A TCSA Member Council Meeting was also held at the conference to announce the newly elected members of the TCSA Board of Directors. John Armbrust of Austin Achieve and Rick Baumgartner of Rise Academy in Lubbock were announced as the Small School Representatives. Separately, the following were announced as members of the Elected Advocacy Committee:

  • Large School Representative: Janelle James, Southwest Schools
  • Small School Representative: Richard Rickey, Orenda Education
  • RTC/JDC Representative: Bruce Rockstroh, John H. Wood Jr. Charter District
  • University Charter Representative: Melissa Chavez, University of Texas Elementary Charter School

One of the biggest highlights of the conference was an appearance by Governor Greg Abbott who was the keynote speaker at the closing session. He delivered remarks in strong support of public charter schools and called education a “civil rights issue.” The conference participants were encouraged and excited by his strong commitment to public charter schools in the state.

The conference ended with remarks from Deputy Commissioner AJ Crabill, additional award winners, a dance performance, and a Q&A session with Andre Agassi and Bobby Turner who raise funds to support charter schools across the country.

TCSA thanks everyone for their support in making the 2016 Texas Charter Schools Conference a success! We extend a special thank you to the more than 1,600 conference attendees for their participation! We cannot wait until next year!

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.

There's less than a month left to register for the only statewide conference for Texas public charter school leaders and educators!

The Texas Charter Schools Conference is early this year on October 28-30, so don't miss out on specialized workshops, dozens of educational sessions and networking opportunities with industry experts. You make the conference better each year and we hope to see you in San Antonio!

Check out the great video below to review fun snapshots from at last year's Texas Charter Schools Conference.

Houston Gateway Academy students at the Texas Charter Revolution rally at the Capitol in April.

Houston Gateway Academy students at the Texas Charter Revolution rally at the Capitol in April.

Update: Learn how to build grassroots advocates on your campus for your public charter school students at the 2015 Texas Charter Schools Conference on October 28-30. View workshops and session

Earlier this year, we asked you to share why you love your charter school. It's critical to share your stories so the community, elected officials and local leaders understand the importance of public charter schools in Texas. Our students and families deserve the right to choose the best fit public school for them. To get involved please join the Texas Charter Revolution.

In case you missed the responses, below are some of the highlights.

"Our students come from a diverse set of backgrounds. Seeing them grow and learn daily reminds me why I wanted to become an educator." - Educator at Harmony School of Science Austin

Harmony educators at the Capitol rally.

Harmony educators at the Capitol rally.

"I love my charter school because they are big on building lasting relationships and training life leaders....The teachers and staff genuinely care for the kids they teach, doing what it takes to help the [students]." - Parent, Advantage Academy, Waxahachie

They care about each student on a personal level, and each student and their parents, know it and see it on a daily basis. The entire staff is amazing and they take so much time out of their own lives....I feel like my child really matters!" - Parent, Vista Academy of Hickory Creek

"My public charter school actually cares about the students and helps them to succeed in their class work. The wow factor for us is the way students are treated with respect and are allowed to move forward with their studies on an individual basis." - Parent, Premier High School, New Braunfels

"Where do I start? My grandson attends this school and I am so grateful for all they have accomplished in him. He is nonverbal and they are so patient and kind in his instructions and because of their diligence, he is able to speak a few words now." - Guardian, Foundation School for Autism, San Antonio

"[My school] is caring, respectful and mindful of kids, not only their education but their feelings too. They know they are dealing with the future and give these kids the right steps to be great leaders and mindful adults." - Parent, International Leadership Texas, Garland

"I love my public charter school because I have students that actually want to learn and they have a choice to go any where. The thing my school does that wows me is that we make sure every child is learning and getting the support that they need." - Educator, Houston Gateway Academy

"I love my public charter because they are big on building lasting relationships and training life leaders. Life's love for us WOWS me and helps me understand what "Life" is all about. My public charter school ROCKS! There is no other place like it!" - Educator, Life School Oak Cliff

Houston Gateway Academy marching band

Houston Gateway Academy marching band

And a letter from Abigail, a 9th Grader at Houston Gateway Academy

My school, Houston Gateway Academy, is very great. I love that my school has a band and a few other activities. My school makes me want to be the best of the best. It encourages me to never give up and accomplish my many goals.

I love the education I receive. The teachers really care about grades and are able to give us students one-on-one education when we need it. Our teachers know us so well, they can tell when we don't understand something or are struggling

My teachers are always pushing us to give everything our all.

My charter school makes me feel like I can be myself, and I'll always be understood.

I love my charter school. There's no other school I'd rather go to than Houston Gateway Academy.

Be sure to attend the 2015 Texas Charter Schools Conference, where the advocacy and grassroots track will give you the tools needed for strong advocates on your campus.

By Dr. Paula Moeller, TCSA Director of Training

Calling all public charter school teachers!

The first few months of school are exhilarating, but they can also be exhausting.

For your students, take a day to focus on you at the Texas Charter Schools Conference on Friday, October 30, at the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa.

Through this full-day teacher workshop you’ll receive expert training in better reaching students with language or discipline barriers. There will also be tools on utilizing classroom technology to go beyond the four walls of your learning zone.

As Texas demographics continue to change, instructional strategies must also improve to engage the students we teach. Register for the workshop and gain the academic language needed to reach second language learners. Also, identify principles to build positive behaviors with your students to maximize your teaching and learning time. And enjoy a power hour of blended learning strategies to capitalize on the technology you already have on your campus.

A one-day teacher pass for the October 30 workshop is only $100 for Texas Charter Schools Association members. Or you can attend the full, three-day conference for $450 for TCSA members.

Register today! Spaces are limited.

Teacher Workshop Presenters:

Kathryn Brown of Visage Collaborative, a leader in ELL strategies developed while working for Edgewood and Northside ISD, ESC Region 20, and IDRA.

Dan St. Romain will lead the discussion surrounding discipline. He is a behaviorist with extensive national experience in training on discipline, brain-based learning, and student engagement strategies. Dan served as a presenter with Quantum Learning and Eric Jensen.

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.

Update: Archived video of the oral arguments can be viewed here.

Former Texas Solicitor General James Ho made the case for equitable funding for public charter school students and TCSA General Counsel Denise Pierce drove the point home at the school finance trial before the Supreme Court of Texas on Tuesday.

“We want you to send a clear message to the state legislature. Tell them they can’t discriminate against public charter school parents and students. Tell them they can’t require charters to take money away from teacher salaries and computers,” Pierce concluded in her remarks to the Chief Justice and eight Justices of the court.

Charter schools are different from traditional public schools, but the Texas Charter Schools Association was there on Tuesday because of the similarities, Pierce said.

Denise SCOTX 2

State law states that charters are a part of the public school system and have to follow the same academic and financial standards, she said.

“It’s undisputed that charters receive $1,000 less per WADA, per student. It’s undisputed that charters receive no facilities funding,” said Ho.

Several times he reminded the court that public charter schools are forced to “cannibalize their education budgets” to pay for facilities.

More than 600 school districts were appellants in the case before the Supreme Court of Texas arguing that the state’s public schools are constitutionally underfunded.

Charter schools agreed and added that public charter school students face additional discrimination, because they receive no facilities funding.

“We ask the Court to tell the state not to discriminate against charters….They cannot discriminate against charters by giving facilities funding to everyone except us,” Ho said.

Pierce pointed out that it is the same as saying that the Supreme Court of Texas has to fulfill its mandated duties and pay for its own courthouses.

The state argued that charters signed a contract with the state for a certain amount of funding, and now can’t ask for more than the contractually approved amount.

Ho countered: “There’s no immunity, because there’s a constitution.”

“Charter parents and students didn’t sign a contract for less funding,” he said.

The Supreme Court of Texas adjourned just after noon on Tuesday and will likely take several months to publish its decision.

Read more about the school finance trial at School Finance Lawsuit: Three Things to Know.

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