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.

By Michelle McCurdy, Mother of a Charter School Student at Altamira Academy

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When considering Kindergarten for my daughter, Meredith, I researched every option to find the best school to meet her needs. I eventually selected Altamira Academy, one of three elementary campuses in the Wayside Schools. I chose a public charter school, and more specifically Altamira Academy, for various reasons including the year-round schedule, an international baccalaureate (IB) curriculum, an unwavering commitment to small class sizes, a generally smaller student population, and a required uniform.

 Meredith is now a first-grader, and she’s thriving in her classes. I couldn't be happier with our choice of a public charter school.

A few weeks ago, I had an amazing opportunity to join other parents in meeting with state legislators about our experiences with our children attending public charter schools. We discussed exercising our option within public education.

It was one of those roller coaster kind of days. I was filled with sorrow as I recounted the struggle and anxiety that surrounded our efforts to find the best school fit for my child as an individual, and for all of us as a family. I was filled with gratitude and pride as I told the legislators about our joy at finding a school that met so many of our needs.

But I was also filled with anger as I talked about the sacrifices our campus makes every day--the things we give up or trade off. I asked someone to explain to me why my child deserved about $1400 less than my neighbor’s child, simply because I didn’t believe the traditional school in my zip code was a good fit for my daughter. I implored them to come to our charter campus and see the amazing things that are happening. At the end of the day, I felt galvanized. I feel compelled to advocate, not just for my own children, but for every filled-with-potential face I see at my daughter’s public charter school.

I hope you’ll feel compelled, too. We are at a historical crossroads, with companion bills, SB 457 and HB 2337, in the state House and Senate and bipartisan support. I want to thank the legislators who sponsored these bills, but I’m also asking for others at the Capitol to support it. Now is the time to stand up for our students and demand equity in funding. Call, write, visit your elected officials and let them know that choice shouldn’t mean compromise.

Knight Office Solutions (KOS) is a locally-owned and operated authorized dealer for Ricoh, Sharp, and Lexmark products and services. We’re proud to announce that we’ve recently joined the TCSA network of solution providers. We’re honored to fill the void and serve as TCSA's turnkey solutions provider for copiers and printers. KOS has been working with Trinity Charter School since 2014 and recently added Wayside Schools to our growing list of charter school partners.  In fact, TCSA's own office copier is from KOS. As a local business, we felt it was important to grow and be an integral part of our community. We can’t think of a better way to do that than to provide products and services to one of the most important institutions of any community…public charter schools.

I was fortunate enough to meet Chad Riley, Director of Growth and Strategy, and Zac Ziebarth of Wayside Schools at a time when they’re both working hard to reduce the schools’ operating cost, planning a strategy for sustainable growth, and doing their due diligence to ensure that the schools’ budget is astutely allocated. In Wayside Schools’ particular case, Chad commented that “after years of being underserved and overcharged,” KOS “was able to analyze our situation and provide the best hardware and maintenance solutions for our growing Charter School’s needs.” Our starting point is always to analyze, crunch the numbers, and share the information we’ve learned from our cost-analysis with potential clients before any “sale” is ever mentioned.

During the sales stage with Wayside Schools, KOS was hit was the devastating news of losing one of our beloved technician, Cathy Standage. It took an emotional toll on all of us but no one was hit harder than our owner, George Ross. When he found out I had the opportunity to work with a public charter school, he made a commitment to establish a scholarship in Cathy’s name and recently presented Chad Riley with the check to honor that pledge.

We understand you have many options when it comes to copier companies and we hope Knight Office Solutions will be the starting point in an honest evaluation of your school’s document management cost and needs. Please feel free to contact us, we’ll do most of the work to ensure that the benefactor of competition is YOU.

TCSA member schools should contact Troy Nguyen at 512-617-7080 ext. 137 or troyn@kosaustin.com

For general inquiries about TCSA's Solution Providers, contact Nadia Luna at 512-584-8272 or nluna@txcharterschools.org