San Antonio Independent School District trustees voted to revoke the charter programs at six schools Tuesday, including the one at S. J. Davis Middle School. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

Six in-district charter programs in the San Antonio Independent School District were terminated following a unanimous vote at Tuesday’s board of trustees meeting.

The changes take effect July 1 and will affect students in the 2023-24 school year. Trustees will discuss three other programs recommended for probationary renewals at a January board meeting.

SAISD offers an array of school choice options and reviews its charter programs annually to ensure the programs are performing as promised.

Choice programs at SAISD include in-district charters and charter-district partnerships with an educational nonprofit. These are known as SB 1882 partnerships, named after the state law that allows them.

At Tuesday night’s board meeting, all trustees in attendance voted to revoke two charter partnership programs — with educational research foundation HighScope — at Carroll Early Childhood Education Center and Tynan Early Childhood Education Center.  

Trustees also voted to end four charter programs at Barkley-Ruiz Elementary, S.J. Davis Middle School, Martin Luther King Jr. Academy and Hawthorne Academy.

Probationary renewals were recommended for Huppertz Elementary, Woodlawn Academy and Woodlawn Hills Elementary. This means the programs will be subject to stronger district oversight going forward, but trustees will make the final vote in January.

In the 2021-22 school year, Carroll and Tynan did not meet academic and financial goals, in part because HighScope did not provide a required financial audit, according to the district’s Office of Innovation, which oversees the annual reviews. Tynan partially met its organizational goal. 

At the meeting, Superintendent Jaime Aquino said he spoke to a principal at Carroll to ask what value an 1882 partnership would be taking away if the board decided to revoke the in-district charter, and the answer wasn’t what he expected.

“I was expecting significant pushback and that’s not what I got. They’re committed … to making it work,” Aquino said. “But the bottom line is, they didn’t meet their goals. Those goals were set jointly together as part of the contract and below the district average with similar demographics.”

Some of the changes that go into effect when partnership charter programs are revoked include returning the schools to district management and a loss of SB 1882 funding. Carroll will lose $253,058, while Tynan will lose $66,582. That money would have gone to teacher training, hiring and technology.

The 1882 funds will no longer be available for schools whose in-district charter was revoked starting next year. Laura Short, interim chief communication officer for SAISD, told the San Antonio Report that if new funding is necessary to support the school, the district would identify sources for that funding.

“The district will work with the campus to ensure that staff, students and families have the support they need,” Short wrote.

The impact of the terminations will be minimal to the in-district charter campuses, said John Norman, chief strategy officer for SAISD, because the non-1882 school partnerships were already under district management and were not operating with significant school autonomy, as is allowed by charter. There will be no loss of funding because the schools were not partnerships.

Administrators at Barkley-Ruiz Elementary School, which received a B rating from the Texas Education Agency for the 2021-22 school year, and Hawthorne Academy, which earned a C — missing a B rating by one point — chose not to seek charter renewal, Norman said.

In the cases of M.L. King Academy, which earned a C rating this year, and S.J. Davis Middle School, which did not get rated because it scored a 53, the two schools did not meet academic and organizational goals.

The SAISD board first heard the recommendations for the revocation of charters during a November board meeting from the Office of Innovation. At the time, the board decided to move forward with considering revocation recommendations, and to consider the recommendations for renewals and probation in January.

Metrics for the review include academic excellence, which measures the overall STAAR rating and student achievement; organizational strength, which measures fidelity to the charter; teacher and parent surveys and student attrition; and financial health, which measures the campus’ financial compliance and, for SB 1882 partnerships, the partner financial audit.

The biggest feedback trustees had regarding the recommendations was making sure there was engagement and comment from the community, Norman said.

“It was really important to the board that this isn’t just a decision made by the district and the partner, but that we involve our community in it,” Norman said. 

But at a Monday community meeting to discuss the recommendation to revoke the charter at S.J. Davis Middle School, no parents were in attendance, only faculty and staff. Norman was able to answer their questions about how school operations might change. He said the school has new leadership and dedicated staff who are ready to move the school forward.

“We just felt that this charter wasn’t necessary to do great things at Davis right now,” he said. “The charter was a reflection of the plans that were made pre-COVID, two principals prior to the current principal. It just didn’t feel necessary for a new leader and team here to try to implement something that is just a few years past where the school is right now.”

Community meetings at some schools did not gain as much attention from staff and parents, Norman said at Tuesday’s meeting. Tynan received more feedback.

Norman told trustees there seemed to be real commitment at Tynan to honor the in-district charter agreement and that it would be worth discussing. Trustees, after a discussion, voted to accept the recommendation for revocation because the program had not met standard metrics, which Aquino said were below average compared to other school districts with similar demographics.

“I feel for all the struggle you go through in these partnerships with the authority that you give the campuses and the use of how that money is properly used to implement the resources of people or curriculum, that we have a right to expect a significant improvement,” said Trustee Patti Radle.

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Raquel Torres

Raquel Torres is the San Antonio Report's breaking news reporter. She previously worked at the Tyler Morning Telegraph and is a 2020 graduate of Stephen F. Austin State University.