Editor's note: A previous version of this story attributed comments to the wrong person. This version has been corrected.
Parents and community members attending the largest-yet Longview ISD town hall about a districtwide charter proposal wanted to know Tuesday why the district is even pursuing the charter schools.
About 35 people gathered Tuesday at Judson STEAM Academy for the third of four planned meetings to ask questions or voice concerns about the possible move.
One of the main concerns attendees brought up early in the meeting was why the district wants the charter schools.
One parent said she feels like choices in the district are being taken away. She said parents not being able to choose if their student attends a charter school is a problem for her.
“I don’t understand why we’re not pouring into what we have, because we have grown so much over the past 10 years,” she said. “We have so many opportunities for kids that are college-bound and not college-bound. What benefit do we have to doing all charter schools when we have so much going on here?”
She went on to say the district already has problems and her son has not had a precalculus teacher in seven weeks.
“No one wants to address that problem, because we’re so busy watching our cart before we put the horse on,” she said. “This is going so fast.”
Longview ISD board president Ginia Northcutt said the district does not want to change any programs currently working.
“We’re talking about having the opportunity to be even better,” she said. “This is an opportunity that has been presented to us to possibly be better.”
In May, Longview ISD got approval to turn six of its 13 schools into a district-within-a-district of charter campuses. Those campuses, operated by the nonprofit East Texas Advanced Academies, are East Texas Montessori Prep Academy, Ware East Texas Montessori Academy, Johnston-McQueen Elementary School, Bramlette STEAM Academy, J.L. Everhart Elementary School and Forest Park Magnet School.
The approval came after the passage of Senate Bill 1882. The legislation lays a path for a nonprofit charter school group to operate public school campuses. Longview ISD officials have hailed it as a way to fund innovative educational programs and receive a significant infusion of state money.
One woman in attendance asked what the rush for districtwide charter is if the “foundation has not been laid.”
Northcutt said she feels like the district is doing that.
The woman responded that the teachers are confused.
“We have interactions with the teachers, and they should be comfortable with what’s going on,” she said.
Others expressed concerns about communication in the district and if the change to districtwide charters will be communicated effectively.
Place 1 trustee Michael Tubb agreed communication can be improved.
“I’ve only been on the board a year and a half, but we haven’t done everything correctly or perfect,” Tubb said. “A lot of times we learn as we go, as well, and that is one of the things that I believe I ran on is communication. And I know we need to communicate better with the public.”
Others in attendance had questions about who is on the ETAA school board. One asked if there are any women or educators on the board.
Northcutt said while no women are on the board, the CEO of ETAA, Cynthia Wise, is a woman. She also said the Longview ISD school board includes only one former educator, and they trust the educators in the district.
The ETAA board consists of Alan Amos, Sam Satterwhite, Jud Murray and Dr. Selwyn Willis. It meets at noon today at Forest Park Magnet School, 1644 N. Eastman Road, Longview.
Another person at the meeting noted a history of Longview ISD community members not feeling as informed as they should be.
“With this system that you’re talking about, which sounds great, which I agree with,” she said. “My question is, how to implement us as the community, us as the parents, us as the teachers, doing that — giving you the communication? Because I feel like a lot of people in the community have felt that they have voiced their opinions — I know teachers have — and nothing is done, except for more, ‘Well, you just aren’t doing your job.’ And it’s not true. How are we guaranteed that we are going to be heard and listened to?”
The next meeting will be at 6 p.m. Nov. 5 at Longview High School.
“I am grateful for the intelligent questions the community has and how much they care,” Northcutt said. “I am looking forward to the Nov. 5 meeting and looking forward to continuing the conversation, and we will have more of these meetings scheduled for the next semester.”