Longview ISD officials have scheduled a series of meetings to gather community input as they consider applying for district-wide charter status.
Board President and Place 4 Trustee Ginia Northcutt said the district has wanted to turn all of its schools into charter campuses since Senate Bill 1882 was passed in 2017.
SB 1882 is a state law that lays a path for a nonprofit charter school group to operate public school campuses. District officials have hailed the charter option as a way to fund innovative education opportunities and receive a significant infusion of state money .
In May, Longview got approval to turn six schools into a district-within-a-district of charter campuses through SB 1882. 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.
Superintendent James Wilcox wrote in a column for the Longview Voice, the school district’s newspaper, that the district is “waiting for word from the TEA about district-wide charters, but if everything goes through, it could prove to be an amazing opportunity for all of our campuses to excel.”
Craig Coleman, chief innovation officer for the district, said turning all schools into charter campuses is being explored by the district and school board, and no action has been taken with the Texas Education Agency.
“All of it comes down to student achievement,” he said. “(The board) wants to provide schools that will be quality schools for students that will offer them opportunities in different avenues, whatever avenues they choose, and that will provide them with the best education that they can get so they can leave here prepared and ready.”
Some of the benefits of becoming a charter campus are district-wide International Baccalaureate training, a new Career Technology Education program that meets IB standards, expanding programs such as the East Texas Advanced Manufacturing Academy, Montessori and advancing STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art and mathematics) education, Coleman said.
He added that a district-wide charter system would bring additional state funding.
It is unclear if East Texas Advanced Academies would run all the campuses, Coleman said, adding that the district would seek proposals to evaluate the best fit.
The ETAA board is appointed, unlike elected trustees on the Longview ISD board. Coleman said the boards running the charter campuses would be evaluated by the district’s school board.
And even though the non-elected boards would make decisions with taxpayer funds, Coleman said the elected school board still would have control.
The town hall meetings to discuss the district-wide charter plan are set 6 to 7:15 p.m. on four evenings: Sept. 23 at East Texas Advanced Manufacturing Academy; Oct. 1 at Forest Park Magnet School; Oct. 8 at Judson STEAM Academy; and Nov. 5 at Longview High School.
“The town halls are an opportunity for us to hear what does our community want, what does a great school look like for a community and how can being a charter school district provide more opportunity for what our community wants,” Northcutt said. “That includes teachers, parents, taxpayers. It’s an opportunity for us to listen to what our community wants, and it’s also an opportunity for us to explain what this charter status is.”
Coleman said a district-wide charter system would provide “some different opportunities for our kids.”
“We have some campuses now that are focusing on engineering. We have some campuses that are focusing on health services,” he said. “Just based upon what the board finds through their assessment of the community and everything else, they would be able to say these are our needs, these are our wants, we can specialize in some different areas.”