Ollie Storm Elementary School is located Southwest of downtown and is part of the San Antonio Independent School District.
Storm Elementary School is located southwest of downtown San Antonio. Credit: Scott Ball / San Antonio Report

San Antonio Independent School District trustees on Monday night unanimously approved the conversion of Storm Elementary School to an in-district charter through a partnership with the Relay Graduate School of Education.

The district launched a partnership with Relay at Ogden Elementary beginning with the 2017-18 school year.

Both Storm and Ogden received failing grades from the Texas Education Agency for a number of years prior to the Relay partnership: following the 2016-17 school year, Ogden had received four consecutive failing grades, and Storm had three in a row. After five consecutive failing grades, the TEA would either have to close the campus or install a board of managers to govern the district.

The partnership with Relay allows both schools to pause the state intervention and gives Relay two years to help the schools obtain a passing grade.

SAISD’s deal with Relay differs from a recent agreement with New York-based charter operator Democracy Prep to take over Stewart Elementary, which garnered criticism from the San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel. Teachers at Stewart will be Democracy Prep employees, whereas teachers at Relay will continue to work for SAISD.

Prior to the board vote, San Antonio Alliance President Shelley Potter spoke against the deal, saying there are other options to turn a campus around beside handing over operations to a partner outside the district.

“Our public schools belong to the public,” she said. “They are the public’s schools and any time that we forget that, we do so at our own peril.”

At Ogden, Relay operates a two-year teaching residency program. Twenty-five graduate students practice teaching under a mentor teacher and earn their teaching certification during their first year. In the second year, teaching residents earn their master’s degree and become lead teachers. In lieu of paying tuition, teachers make a commitment to remain in the district for three years after they complete the program.

Tim Saintsing, Relay’s executive director of teaching and learning labs, said some of the teachers at Ogden who have completed their first-year residency may go on to be teachers at Storm in the new school year, adding that that the deal would create a pipeline for talented teachers and administrators in the district.

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.