Shelley Potter, San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel president, raises her hand when Patti Riddle asks if there are any votes against turning schools into charters.
Teachers union President Shelley Potter pretends to cast a vote against turning schools into charters after all trustees voted yes on March 25. Credit: Bonnie Arbittier / San Antonio Report

On Thursday morning, San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel President Shelley Potter called upon Commissioner of Education Mike Morath to reject five management agreements approved by the SAISD board just a few weeks ago. She asked the Texas Education Agency to send the agreements back to SAISD so more community feedback could be collected.

“What happened at last Monday’s school board meeting was a travesty,” Potter said, referring to the March 25 decision. “We are calling on the commissioner of education to send the management agreements back and require the school district to comply with the spirit of the Open Meetings Act and with TEA’s own guide for creating these management agreements.”

This guide, Potter said, includes the need for “authentic community engagement.”

The management agreements, approved by a unanimous board vote, hand day-to-day control over 18 campuses to five outside organizations. If the agreements are approved by the TEA, the outside organizations, Young Women’s Preparatory Network, High Scope Educational Research Foundation, Texas Council for International Studies, School Innovation Collaborative, and CAST Network, would control grade configurations, calendar, staffing structure, and budgeting.

The management agreements also stipulate that the partners will have sole discretion over the mission, vision, and core values of the schools they oversee, in accordance with State law and the approved charters.

Before the March 25 vote, Potter expressed concerns that parents and staff on individual campuses had not agreed to the specifics of the management agreements. While members of each campus had a vote on the proposed in-district charter, they did not vote on the individual tenets of the contract approved by the board.

The management contracts were posted as part of the March 25 agenda on the Friday before the Monday meeting. The packet of documents totaled more than 1,000 pages.

“Community members should know when they will have an opportunity to vote and community members did not get an opportunity to vote on the management agreements,” Potter said Thursday. “These management agreements are legal documents and what is in those documents is what counts.”

A San Antonio ISD spokesperson responded, saying principals have done “an outstanding job engaging with the community” on the plans for the schools.

“What has gotten lost in the midst of accusations and discord from the Alliance is the overarching need to improve student achievement across our District,” spokeswoman Leslie Price said in an email. “Also lost is that this is an opportunity to get resources for schools that have been needed for decades.

“The partners selected by the principals of these schools are non-profits with a specific expertise to further each school’s mission, ranging from the International Baccalaureate program to early childhood learning. The non-profits are not private management companies nor are they charter operators. The campuses remain SAISD schools and continue to be accountable to the SAISD Board.”

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Emily Donaldson

Emily Donaldson reports on education for the San Antonio Report.