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When I first learned about IDEA Public Schools, I was an assistant principal in Colorado. My school had 536 students, and 78.5 percent students were below-grade level in reading. Most third graders could not read and required intensive remediation for their level.

I thought the challenge was the lack of systems; however, I realized the challenge was actually the mindset of staff.

They believed they could no longer help students achieve success. This caused a never-ending cycle, which resulted in student academic failure.

In the two years I served as assistant principal, I created and implemented several systems to begin change, one of which was a Response To Intervention (RTI) system for my school that was replicated throughout the district.

The RTI team and I would spend 16 hours a month creating and monitoring intervention plans. However, the problem was so deeply rooted that I knew we needed to tear it all down and begin again.

There was a lack of support, and failures were tolerated and expected from students. There were no expectations set for students or adults. I was frustrated and saddened, and I knew our students would continue to fail in this type of school.

In June 2016, while attending the Relay Graduate School of Education, I met several IDEA principals and leaders. Ana Garza, principal of IDEA Alamo Academy, was one of the first people I met. We collaborated during one of the Relay sessions and all I could think was how thoughtful she was about her job.

I wanted that and, more so, wanted do know how I could duplicate her success.

After our session, I asked if she would remain in contact with me and allow me to learn from her. She was quick to share and, over the course of one week, I was more prepared each day.

Each day, I would come home from a 10-hour Relay session and instead of being exhausted, I was invigorated and excited about IDEA.

Each night over dinner, my family heard all about IDEA systems, procedures, core values and, more importantly, how IDEA believed in college for all.

In that moment, IDEA was single-handedly changing the lives of thousands of students in Texas.

I felt anxious and excited. I realized that all of the ideas and thoughts I had about creating a successful school were already in place and active at full scale within many schools in Texas.

I was fortunate enough to meet Rolando Posada, executive director of IDEA Public Schools in San Antonio after a Relay session. I spoke to him for about an hour, and during our conversation, he explained how every graduate of IDEA for the past 11 years has been accepted into college, how adults at IDEA have high standards and expectations for every student, and how the mission is clear: everyone is working toward student achievement.

After speaking to Mr. Posada, I knew I had to be a part of the educational revolution taking place at IDEA Public Schools.

When I was offered a position as a principal in residence, my husband, daughters, and I without hesitation put up our house for sale and moved to San Antonio so I could begin learning and growing as an IDEA principal.

It has been a year and a half since we made the move to central Texas, and now I’m a proud, transformational leader for student achievement.

IDEA Public Schools has prepared me to lead a community of students to academic success via the principal in residence program and through the guidance of Hope Williams, principal of IDEA Judson Academy.

Through this leadership program, I’ve led kindergarteners in reading achievement from 11 percent, on or above grade level, at the beginning of the year to 84 percent, on or above grade level, in reading at week 15 of this school year.

This was much different from the average I was previously accustomed to.

To highlight what my experience has been like, I am reminded of a third grader from my school in Colorado.

For two years, he bounced around from teacher to teacher until the root of his behavior was revealed: He could not read.

We would move him from one group where he couldn’t be successful, to another group where children were well-behaved, to another group with the best teacher. After two years, his reading level never changed.

I compare that to a scholar at IDEA Judson who had emotional outbursts at the beginning of the school year. We met several times with his parents to include them in our approach. Within four months, by preparing a culture of discipline, the student progressed from not being able to read to being on-level with his classmates.

That is what IDEA does, and that is why I’m so proud to be a part of it.

Eight months from now, IDEA Ingram Hills Academy will open its doors to approximately 330 students.

Each one will get the opportunity to receive a world-class education, right in their neighborhood, and I will ensure that all students receive the education they deserve.

Today, IDEA Public Schools is restoring our faulted educational system and ensuring that no one slips through the cracks. In addition to quality systems, IDEA staff believes in students and has a clear vision of what to work towards. We are for students’ academic success and College For All, no matter what.

On Jan. 27, 2018 at 9 a.m., IDEA Public Schools will hold its annual random lottery to ensure equal access for all student applicants. There are no admission requirements to attend IDEA, and the new student selection process is done randomly to ensure equal opportunity. IDEA is open to all students, Pre-K through 12th grade. Applying before the lottery ensures ample time for parents and students to prepare for the upcoming year at IDEA, if selected. To apply, click here. 

Nancy Bethencourt is the principal in residence at IDEA Judson Academy. She will lead IDEA’s newest campus, IDEA Ingram Hills Academy, opening in August 2018.