One of two organizations set to take over remaining Longview ISD campuses as charter schools held its first board meeting Thursday, but it was unclear how many parents and other stakeholders knew about it.
Longview ISD trustees voted April 13 to enter into a contract with Longview Educates and Prospers to operate the Early Graduation High School and the East Texas Advanced Manufacturing Academy beginning in the fall as Senate Bill 1882 campuses.
Officials have said LEAP’s goal is to better prepare students to enter the workforce through career technology education.
During Thursday’s LEAP meeting, which was held virtually because of COVID-19 restrictions, the board — which consists of city of Longview spokesman Shawn Hara as president; Longview Economic Development Corp. President/CEO Wayne Mansfield as vice president; and Longview City Manager Keith Bonds as secretary — handled housekeeping measures, including approving the organization’s bylaws.
The board also hired Longview ISD Career and Technical Education Director Gary Kreuger as the organization’s CEO, with Hara citing Kreuger’s background not only in workforce development education but in administration. Kreuger is a former Hooks ISD superintendent who came to Longview ISD in the fall.
The board did not, however, set Kreuger’s salary, which will be determined later.
Hara said because LEAP does not yet have revenue to pay Kreuger, he will remain a Longview ISD employee through June while also being allowed by the district to work on LEAP responsibilities.
Cynthia Wise, CEO of the nonprofit East Texas Advanced Academies, which already operates six Longview ISD campuses as charters, earns $175,000 annually with a $6,000 travel stipend.
Hara also said during the meeting that the organization’s bylaws allow for up to nine board members but said later that he is unsure if all six possible spots will be filled.
Though notification of the meeting as well as the meeting agenda were posted Monday on Longview ISD’s website, their location on the website was not evident. Because it was not a regular Longview ISD board meeting, the agenda was not posted under that section of the website.
Instead, it was found under the “useful information” subcategory under the “board” heading.
Hara said a paper copy of the agenda also was posted Monday at the district’s administration building.
LEAP doesn’t have its own website, and Hara said he is not sure the organization will have one. ETAA has a webpage that is part of the district’s website, and it posts board meeting agendas and other information on that page.
Hara said the LEAP board members believe it makes sense for Longview ISD to be the source for meeting information.
“I would want to make sure whatever we do, we do in conjunction with LISD, with their communications staff, so it’s clear this is where the information is” on meetings and agendas, he said.
Hara said the goal is to be transparent with parents and other community members about the still-new charter process, adding “we want to be available and open.”
“(All the board members) come from backgrounds that have an expectation and desire” for transparency with the public, he said. “We all have an appreciation for the importance of public transparency and public engagement.”
Hara said he is open to changes in how information about LEAP’s board meetings is provided to the public.
“We want to get things set up so they’re smooth and consistent for the end customer,” he said. “We will get that corrected for the future.”
Longview ISD’s SB 1882 contracts with LEAP and the Texas Council for International Studies still must be approved by the Texas Education Agency.
SB 1882 is legislation that provides financial incentive to districts that enter partnerships with nonprofit organizations to take over public campuses.
TCIS has applied to operate Longview High School, Foster Middle School, Hudson PEP Elementary School, Ned E. Williams Elementary School, Judson Middle School and South Ward Elementary School as charters.