The three-man panel guiding Longview ISD’s anticipated foray into a charter partnership added to its number Tuesday, and Superintendent James Wilcox expressed confidence that the district’s amended application to the Texas Education Agency is on the verge of approval.
“We should be getting something definitive soon,” Wilcox told the East Texas Advanced Academies board in one of its first sessions since becoming all-local membership. “I don’t see how they could say no.”
An amended application drops Longview Early Graduation High School from campuses included in the charter partnership with Longview ISD, leaving six of the district’s 13 campuses in the charter district-within-a-district. Those are East Texas Montessori Prep Academy, Forest Park Middle School and Johnston-McQueen, Ware, J.L. Everhart and Bramlette elementary schools.
The TEA denied the application this past month, telling the district that the student enrollment planned for the district-within-a-district was too high.
The Education Code cited in TEA’s denial states no more than 15 percent of a district’s student body, from the previous school year, can enroll in the charter district. It grants an exception to allow continuous grade flow from kindergarten to graduation.
Using the TEA’S Texas Academic Performance Report that says Longview ISD had 8,547 total students in 2017-18, a limit of 15 percent would mean the charter district could enroll no more than 1,282 students.
The combined enrollment at the six campuses, based on 2017-18 enrollment numbers from TEA, was 3,650 students.
The letter sent by the TEA to the district in January also said a waiver must be approved to exceed the enrollment limit.
New board member
Founders of the nonprofit board — Hearne ISD Superintendent Adrain Johnson and New Caney ISD Superintendent Kenn Franklin — resigned soon after former Longview ISD trustees Sam Satterwhite and Jud Murray joined the board along with Longview ISD alumnus Alan Amos.
Amos was brought onto the board when Franklin and Johnson formed it in spring 2018. Murray and Satterwhite came on board during the application process that began last summer when Longview ISD trustees agreed to request proposals for a nonprofit group to operate a charter-district partnership.
The three members on Tuesday voted to add local podiatrist Dr. Selwyn Willis to their number.
Satterwhite previously said he hoped to make the panel of three white businessmen more reflective of Longview’s student population. A 1977 Longview High School graduate, Willis is black, the son of retired Longview ISD teacher Lizzie Jones Willis and the late Dr. Isaac E. Willis Jr.
The charter arrangement, under a 2017 state law creating so-called innovation partnerships, could mean a $6.5 million influx in state funding if its green-lighted for the coming fall by the Texas Education Agency.
Forest Park Middle School Principal Cynthia Wise, the acting chief executive officer for the six-campus district, says the additional state funding will open options that are out of financial reach without it.
“We strive, not only for mastery (of subjects), but also for excellence,” Wise told the board Tuesday.
Wise, who holds a doctorate of education, gave the board a bird’s-eye view of the enterprise they will oversee.
She also said a letter soon will go out to parents explaining the charter-district partnership and what it could offer their children and teachers.
Wise stressed to the board that teachers in the charter district will remain Longview ISD teachers.
East Texas Advanced Academy leaders will be directly managed by her, she said.
“But they remain Longview ISD employees. Let me repeat that, they remain Longview ISD employees,” she said. “And the students remain Longview students.”
Enrollment in the charter district is optional, LISD officials have said.
“A strong school culture is a strong foundation for student achievement and growth,” Wise said, describing “culture-conscious campuses” where teachers build strong bonds with students, discipline referrals fall, teachers stay with the district and parents see achievements in math and English/language arts.
“Our culture-conscious model also focuses on high expectations,” she said. “It is our vision to graduate a very well-disciplined district of students. We’re going to offer a vigorous, engaging curriculum ... that will deliver exceptional outcomes for our students.”
Wise said parents will be included in decision-making.
“We’ll have their input,” she said. “And we’ll make changes based on that.”
By 2022, Wise said, the district will close achievement gaps between student populations and “outperform all other districts” in a safe and inclusive campus environment. Another 2020 goal is preparation of students as problem-solvers by the time they enter higher education, technical education or the workforce, she said.