Palo Alto College
If the Alamo Colleges board, Edgewood's board, and state education officials approve the agreement, Palo Alto College, pictured here, would take a more active role at Kennedy. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Alamo Colleges may soon take on a larger role in Edgewood Independent School District, helping to run the day-to-day operations of Kennedy High School.

The community college district already has a similar partnership with San Antonio ISD to manage Travis Early College High School, St. Philip’s Early College High School, and Fox Tech Health and Law Professions High School.

SAISD’s board approved the partnership in March under Senate Bill 1882, a law that incentivizes these kinds of agreements with additional state funding.

At an Alamo Colleges board meeting Tuesday, trustees learned of the potential Edgewood partnership. If the Alamo Colleges board, Edgewood’s board, and state education officials approve the agreement, Palo Alto College would take a more active role at Kennedy. The Southside community college campus already offers dual credit and career-focused training at the high school.

“We believe there’s a lot of opportunity for us to build on the work we’ve done with our college connection program, our dual credit, early college high school program and strengthen those ties even more to support the students and support the community,” said Gilberto Becerra Jr., Palo Alto’s vice president for student success.

Samantha Gallegos, Alamo Colleges’ chief high school programs officer and former interim superintendent in Harlandale ISD, told trustees the goal is to increase college attainment for Kennedy students.

Under the partnership, Alamo Colleges would evaluate the principal and school as a whole while Edgewood would retain control over transportation, food services, special education services, and other mainstay operations, she said.

Trustees recognized the benefit Edgewood students could receive from the partnership, but some questioned how the community college district would benefit from the agreement and whether there was capacity to take on new responsibilities.

Trustee Joe Alderete Jr. (D1) said he wasn’t sold on the partnership concept and needed to hear more about what kind of return Alamo Colleges would get on its investment. He questioned whether the partnership was necessary when Palo Alto College already worked closely with Kennedy students through dual credit and early college programs.

Alderete also said he worried the relationship could sour if conflict arose between Edgewood ISD and the the Alamo Colleges entity managing the school.

Trustee Roberto Zárate (D5) shared Alderete’s concerns about the governing structure.

“I am just [really] concerned about the way the state has structured [1882 partnerships],” Zárate said. “It could become adversarial and I don’t want it to become like that.”

Alamo Colleges officials plan to bring more information about the governing structure to trustees at a meeting next week. The Edgewood board plans to vote in November on which partnerships the district would like to proceed with in the coming year.

The Alamo Colleges partnership would factor into an ambitious five-year plan to transform the learning models at each Edgewood ISD campus. EISD already has partnerships with Texas A&M University-San Antonio and Pre-K 4 SA and plans to add more in future years.

These kinds of partnerships attract additional state funding for the schools and partners that run them, Edgewood Deputy Superintendent Phillip Chavez said.

“An 1882 partnership would provide additional funding to build out the [college] courses and attract high-quality instructors to ensure our students are successful in completing an associate’s degree, in conjunction with an industry certification,” Chavez said. “Having both of these items will allow EISD students to advance in a lucrative, fast-growing industry, more importantly, it will provide our students with the opportunity to continue his or her education.”

At the Tuesday’s meeting, trustees also learned of other school districts that want to partner with the community college system to offer early college programs or career-focused training at high schools.

In April, the community college district asked school districts to pitch the district on potential new partnerships. Comal, South San Antonio, Boerne, and Edgewood ISDs and New Frontiers Public Schools, a charter school network, responded.

Comal ISD, South San ISD, and New Frontiers were all interested in a new early college program that would allow high school students to take college-level courses and graduate with an associate’s degree.

South San ISD, Boerne ISD, and Edgewood ISD were interested in implementing a P-TECH, or Pathways in Technology Early College High School. The P-TECH model focuses more closely on career training in a specific area. South San and Boerne expressed interest in a cybersecurity-focused program, while Edgewood indicated interest in culinary, hotel management, and health information fields.

Forging partnerships with these school districts would hep grow the number of high school students enrolled in Alamo Colleges, Gallegos said. The districts would need to get approval from the state, their boards, and the Alamo Colleges board before moving forward with the agreements.

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.