A new state education model could bring $6.5 million annually to Longview ISD under a 2017 law that creates partnerships between public and charter schools, trustees of the endeavor said Friday.
“Gov. (Greg) Abbott, the lieutenant governor, they all are watching this real hard,” said Alan Amos, one of three trustees for the nonprofit East Texas Advanced Academies. “So, the eyes of Texas are upon us. Everybody’s excited about this, this great opportunity.”
Longview ISD applied for the additional state funding for its charter partnership Dec. 13. But Amos and trustee-nominee Sam Satterwhite said last week that Longview ISD is going ahead with the charter school partnership regardless of whether the state approves its application. That decision is expected Jan. 25.
It’s too good of an idea, they said.
“This is a great opportunity for kids in LISD and the teachers and parents and everyone involved,” Amos said. “There will be a lot of exciting things happening.”
That’s the official forecast for seven of Longview ISD’s 13 campuses, where the charter/district option will be an option for students from prekindergarten to graduation as soon as the coming fall.
“The parents will have the option to choose which school their child goes to,” said Amos, a 1996 Longview High graduate. “They’ll have a listing of what those campuses offer.”
The campuses to be operated under the partnership are Johnston-McQueen Elementary School, Forest Park Middle School, J.L. Everhart Elementary School, East Texas Montessori Prep Academy, Bramlette STEAM Academy, Ware East Texas Montessori Academy and Longview Early Graduation High School.
Exactly how a student’s school day will be different under the charter arrangement than it is at the same campus this year is a question to be resolved by curriculum that’s in the planning stages.
“Really, how they are going to change things and what they are going to do is what the (charter) provider is doing,” Texas Education Agency spokeswoman De’Etta Culbertson said, “(The model) gives the district more flexibility and provides them with new ways of looking at improving these campuses, improving student outcomes.”
If Longview’s funding application is approved by TEA, calculations provided by Satterwhite indicate the district is eligible for an additional $2,117 per student. That’s on top of the $4,173 to $4,398 that Longview ISD now gets in per-student state funding, Culbertson said.
“The money goes to the district just like any other campus money,” she said. “The district would be eligible for additional funds for that campus. What (LISD is) applying for in this partnership are the benefits.”
Satterwhite said, “this concept is something that Longview ISD and the (charter) partnership are determined to do regardless of the additional funding.”
“The Legislature has given us a tool to educate, to cooperate between charter schools and public schools and free up the hands of these campuses so we can try innovative things to improve education,” he said.
Satterwhite is poised to join Amos and local businessman Jud Murray as the sole trustees of East Texas Advanced Academies. Amos already is on the nonprofit board, along with Hearne ISD Superintendent Adrain Johnson and New Caney ISD Superintendent Kenn Franklin.
“Alan made the decision to ask both Jud and I (to join the board) because of the experience and school background we had,” said Satterwhite, a former LISD trustee along with Murray.
Amos, who is Satterwhite’s son-in-law and a salesman at Satterwhite Log Homes, said he was first made aware of the East Texas Advanced Academies charter when its lawyer called him last summer and asked him to sign onto the nonprofit.
Amos said Austin education attorney James Thompson had reached out to him after Longview ISD put out a request for proposals to create the new Senate Bill 1882 partnership.
“It was a bid process, and we were the only nonprofit to apply,” Amos said.
Thompson, the attorney, previously said Johnson and Franklin are set to leave the board early this year when Satterwhite and Murray are installed. That meeting has not been set, Amos said.
“(Johnson and Franklin) were just recommended to help with this nonprofit board’s structure,” Amos said.
That’s Satterwhite’s recollection of the charter board’s genesis.
“Alan was approached ... to have some local representation on this board,” he said. “As it turns out, Alan is the last one left.”
The son of teachers, Amos said he initially had signaled interest in joining another Longview ISD innovation, the East Texas Advanced Manufacturing Academy. Similar in name to the East Texas Advanced Academies charter, the former set up shop this school year in the former Brew Honda dealership.
East Texas Advanced Manufacturing Academy greatly expands welding, precision machining and similar manufacturing skill learning to students at Longview and other area high schools.
“The ball had already started rolling for that manufacturing academy,” Amos said. “And I was kind of pushed toward the East Texas Advanced Academies.”
Both efforts share a common goal of getting local students ready to meet the needs of local employers, whether in high-tech positions at Eastman Chemical Co., Texas Division, or high-skilled building slots at Komatsu Mining Corp. Those career destinations are at the end of a philosophy that Longview ISD is calling kindergarten to workforce.
And the path to all those careers will largely will be the design of Cynthia Wise. The Forest Park Middle School principal was named last summer as chief operating officer for the seven-campus charter/district.
Longview ISD is arranging an interview with Wise, who holds a doctorate in education, when school resumes after the winter break.
“She is the keystone to this partnership, because she has such a stellar track record within Longview ISD of improving education on the campus level,” Satterwhite said of Wise. “She’s done it, so we know she can do it on more campuses than one.”
Amos and Satterwhite said they hope to add members to the three-person East Texas Advanced Academies board. Their reasons are practical and functional.
The board will operate under the Texas Open Meetings Act, so with just three members, a quorum would occur anytime one calls another. The other reason to add board members is diversity.
“I can only speak for myself,” said Sattewhite, who is white like Murray and Amos. “But I think we need more diversity on our board to reflect all our students and to have diversity in experience and backgrounds.”