The Longview ISD superintendent who was appointed by the board of trustees to negotiate with nonprofit organizations that applied to run district campuses as charter schools created one of the nonprofits.
The school board on Jan. 29 approved Superintendent James Wilcox to go into negotiations with applicants to take over campuses as Senate Bill 1882 charter schools.
SB 1882 is legislation that allows a school district to partner with a nonprofit entity to run public school campuses as charter schools for financial incentive.
Currently, the district has six SB 1882 campuses run by the nonprofit East Texas Advanced Academies. Those campuses 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 remaining seven campuses the district plans to apply to convert are Ned E. Williams Elementary School, Hudson PEP Elementary School, South Ward Elementary School, Judson STEAM Academy, Foster Middle School, Longview High School and the Early Graduation High School.
On Jan. 6, four applicants applied to run the remaining campuses. One of those partner applicants is the International Center for Academics and Technology.
According to a Certificate of Formation — Nonprofit Corporation from the Texas Secretary of State’s office, the nonprofit organization originally was filed on Aug. 26, 2019, as a Texas Domestic Nonprofit Corporation with Wilcox listed as the registered agent.
“That was just a place holder for me to file at deadline,” Wilcox said. “I was just a placeholder for (Stuart) Bird.”
On Jan. 23, the nonprofit filed a Statement of Change of Registered Office/Agent to the Secretary of State. The registered agent was changed to Stuart Bird. The change happened after the Jan. 6 application deadline for charter partners to the district.
The business address on the Aug. 26 form is 314 Red Bird Lane in Austin. That property is listed on the Travis County Appraisal District’s website as being owned by Mary Ann Spracher and Christi Martin.
The address for the registered office of iCAT was changed to 149 Dogwood Lakes Circle in Bullard on Jan. 23.
Bird is the current interim assistant superintendent of Tyler ISD. He was hired on Oct. 22. In 2018, he retired as the superintendent of Troup ISD.
Bird is listed as a director of iCAT. The other directors are Sedric Clark, who is the superintendent of Gladewater ISD and a former Longview ISD principal, and Micah Lewis, superintendent at Grand Saline ISD and a former Longview ISD deputy superintendent.
According to the Texas Education Agency SB 1882 guide, partner boards may not include any staff members of the district’s board, superintendent or staff responsible for evaluating the partnership application or overseeing the performance contract.
Martin is listed as the organizer for iCAT.
On the website LinkedIn, she is listed as the principal consultant at Martin Consulting Group from January 2012 to May 2019. She is currently listed as a Principal at Agency. The description says “agency helps develop and advance ideas that enable economic mobility.”
At the Jan. 29 Longview ISD board meeting, trustees approved paying $120,000 to Martin Consulting Group for consulting services.
Clark, who became superintendent at Gladewater ISD in May 2017, had been a principal at Foster Middle School and left in 2010 to become principal at Mansfield High School in DeSoto Parish, Louisiana.
He said he is not leaving Gladewater and his involvement as a board member of iCAT is completely separate and unpaid.
In December, Clark said while he submitted a letter of intent to apply for charter partnerships for Gladewater ISD, he will not pursue it any further. He wanted to show his board he was looking at all funding options for the district.
Clark said Wilcox contacted him last year to “gauge his interest” in being on the board of the nonprofit. He said Wilcox contacted the other board members, too.
Clark said Wilcox is still is involved with iCAT.
The nonprofit wants to replicate programs that already are successful and introduce them to other schools in the district, Clark said. They are looking at using Montessori programs.
Because iCAT still is putting together a plan, Clark said he did not want to say what schools it might take over.
Lewis left Longview ISD in 2014 to become superintendent at Frankston ISD and has since become the leader of Grand Saline ISD schools.
Lewis also was a Primerica representative with Wilcox. Wilcox operated as a representative of the retirement investment company, but in 2015, the school board told Wilcox he was not allowed to have any other meetings related to Primerica on any district property.