SAISD Approves Management Agreements for 18 Campuses

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The SAISD board of trustees approved five management agreements that will turn the day-to-day operations at 18 campuses over to nonprofit partners.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

The SAISD board of trustees considers five management agreements that will turn the day-to-day operations at 18 campuses over to nonprofit partners.

During a school board meeting that stretched to nearly five hours, San Antonio Independent School District trustees voted unanimously Monday night to approve five management agreements that will turn the day-to-day operations at 18 campuses over to nonprofit partners. In total, the board voted to grant in-district charter status to 19 campuses.

This vote was the culmination of SAISD’s Annual Call for Quality Schools 1.0, a new process by which school leaders can apply to redesign their campuses or partner with outside organizations to run campus operations.

Per district policy, campuses had to present petitions to the district with support from more than two-thirds of classroom teachers and parents of more than two-thirds of students – a level Burbank and Jefferson high schools failed to reach. Trustees voted to approve their applications anyway. The two schools met a lesser State requirement: support from a majority of parents and a majority of teachers.

Some teachers and community members expressed concerns that the district didn’t give families and staff at the campuses enough time to review the management agreements, which were posted Friday to be voted on at Monday night’s meeting. Together, the documents were more than 1,000 pages in length.

“Almost none of the staff I’ve talked to have seen the management agreements,” said San Antonio Alliance of Teachers and Support Personnel President Shelley Potter. She noted that support for an in-district charter status and a management agreement are different.

“If the board approves this it will be the wholesale giving away of the operations of these schools to these managing entities.”

At the beginning of Monday’s meeting, Superintendent Pedro Martinez emphasized that the partnerships wouldn’t impact the employment status of the teachers on the campuses, the enrollment zones, or the staff – all employees at the schools will remain San Antonio ISD employees.

“If you vote for these partnerships, there will be no changes to the principal, no changes to the staff, no changes to the service children receive,” Martinez said.

However, partners have the authority to select and manage the principal of each campus.

With board approval of the management agreements, all but one of the 19 schools plan to apply for additional incentives offered through Senate Bill 1882, which offers greater funding per student for schools engaging in innovative partnerships with outside organizations.

Ball Academy submitted an application to become an in-district charter but is not seeking a partnership and is not expected to apply for additional incentives through SB 1882.

The partnerships will give the schools more flexibility to “deepen the quality of the program” and provide additional support and resources at each campus, district spokesperson Leslie Price said.

The 18 schools applying for partnerships are:

  • Young Women’s Leadership Academy and Young Women’s Leadership Academy Primary at Page for a partnership with Texas-based nonprofit Young Women’s Preparatory Network
  • Carroll Early Childhood Education Center and Tynan Early Childhood Education Center for a partnership with Michigan-based nonprofit High Scope Educational Research Foundation
  • Burbank High School, Jefferson High School, Harris Middle School, Fenwick Academy, Woodlawn Academy, Briscoe Elementary, Huppertz Elementary, and Woodlawn Hills Elementary for a partnership with Texas-based nonprofit Texas Council for International Studies
  • Bowden Academy, Gates Elementary School, and Lamar Elementary School for a partnership with Texas-based nonprofit School Innovation Collaborative
  • CAST Tech High School, CAST Med High School, and Advanced Learning Academy for a partnership with Texas-based nonprofit CAST Network

Each of the five proposals will turn day-to-day operations including grade configurations, calendar, staffing structure, and budgeting over to the partner’s appointed school leadership teams and staff.

The management agreements allow for the possibility that SAISD and the partners can reserve a certain percentage of seats for students outside the district. The only specific provision exists in the CAST Network agreement, where 50 percent of enrollment at the CAST schools and 25 percent of enrollment at Advanced Learning Academy will be set aside for non-SAISD students.

Each of the contracts also stipulates a management fee paid to the partner organization of roughly $100 per student in most cases. All of the money is supposed to be paid from any extra money that comes from SB 1882.

Should the Legislature repeal or defund SB 1882, the contracts allow either SAISD or the partner to renegotiate.

For each of the contracts, the superintendent or a designee is supposed to create a rubric to evaluate each of the schools. The School Performance Framework will be used in an evaluation period that comes up every three or five years.

All but the CAST agreement are written to last 10 years, ending in June 2029. The CAST agreement ends in June 2027.

Board approval of the management agreements transfers some oversight to a governing board run by the partner organizations. The boards will be formed in collaboration with the campus principal. District officials said the governing board must meet at least three times a year and post agendas at least a week in advance.

Chief Innovation Officer Mohammed Choudhury.

Bonnie Arbittier / Rivard Report

Chief Innovation Officer Mohammed Choudhury

The governing boards’ role is to protect and preserve the charter agreement, while the SAISD school board will still be responsible for regulating the charter and deciding to renew, revoke, or place a charter on probation, Chief Innovation Officer Mohammed Choudhury said.

The district can terminate an agreement early with a 70 percent vote of the full board if two or more campuses fail to meet the metrics outlined in the School Performance Framework within their three- or five-year review period; fail State accountability standards or are in the bottom 5 percent of all SAISD campuses after their second school year in operation; or fail to meet generally accepted accounting standards for fiscal management.

These partnerships differ from the highly controversial partnership SAISD forged at Stewart Elementary with Democracy Prep Public Schools last year. At the time, Stewart Elementary had received several consecutive failing ratings under the State’s accountability system. Approving a partnership through Senate Bill 1882 with Democracy Prep would have given Stewart a reprieve from State sanctions should the campus have failed State ratings again.

The Stewart agreement was a “turnaround partnership,” intended to reform a failing school. None of the partnerships up for approval Monday night is “turnaround” in nature.

Ball Academy’s in-district charter status allows it to introduce a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, liberal arts, and math) focus onto campus.

“We believe that STEAM will promote our mission by adding value to our students and supporting them in the future as they choose their path for responsibly and ethically contributing to society,” the Ball Academy application states.

The application also states that Ball intends to serve students inside and outside of its Southeast San Antonio attendance zone as well as SAISD’s boundaries. With new in-district charter status, Ball Academy would have more control over its budget, school day, and curriculum.

None of the Monday proposals will change the attendance boundaries of campuses that are considered “neighborhood schools,” Price said. Students living in the boundaries of those schools will still have the first priority to attend. Should there be additional room at the campus, SAISD would then open up seats to other interested students.

15 thoughts on “SAISD Approves Management Agreements for 18 Campuses

  1. Is this SAISD admitting that their leadership doesn’t have what it takes to ruin schools properly and that they need outside help to do it?

    • The vote allows SAISD schools to access additional state funding, Dewey. As the article states, “None of the partnerships up for approval Monday night is ‘turnaround’ in nature.”

  2. I’m sorry, but you are perpetuating the “misconception” that the schools in question are handing over their day-to-day operations to partnership organizations. That is NOT the case — individual schools will have more autonomy, not less, over how their schools are run, locally, on their own campus. Continuing to spread these “misconceptions” is uncalled for, especially since it was made explicitly clear at the meeting that administration, staff and stakeholders would retain control of the day-to-day operations on their respective campuses.

    • Have you read the management agreements? This isn’t a misconception, it’s what’s written in the legal contracts that the board just voted to enter into.

    • I’m sorry but, why enter into a management contract with a third party if you intend to continue managing the task yourself. I can answer that question: the board and Pedro are passing the buck and have no intention in maintaining control of those campuses. Teacher, teacher aids, counsel staff and principals will be terminated in the near future, based on the recommendations of the third party management.

    • So your saying that you have read the 1,000+ page document?
      If you have, can you please help me understand something?
      What happens when local parents want to hold school administration responsible for a given policy/decision? Will local parents have to go to Michigan, or wherever the policy makers for the five different organizations hold there board meetings, to petition/protest said policy/decision? This next school board election is going to be interesting.

    • From the Agreements approved – SIC(one of the new partner agencies) shall directly employ at least one employee to function as its chief operating officer (“COO”). SIC shall select and manage the Principals of the Schools. Subject to the approval of the COO, the Principal shall have full and complete authority over staffing decisions at the school.

  3. Suggestion: Why not replace Superintendent Pedro Martinez with a robot?
    At least a robot’s programming can be changed, unlike Martinez. SAISD superintendents remind me of traveling salesmen. Always pushing their snake oil to the unsuspecting public.

  4. “If you vote for these partnerships, there will be no changes to the principal, no changes to the staff, no changes to the service children receive,” Martinez said.

    This makes me wonder what the point is then. All this talk of “partnerships” is a big red flag. I predict this saves no money and fails to achieve the desired results, but it’ll be a decade of all this activity before we can assess whether or not it’s led to any achievement.

    • You are right. Partnerships is a misnomer. These are management contracts. These groups will have the authority to fire and hire the principals at these campuses. The only beneficiaries of this plan are the management organizations who will take their cut of our tax dollars.

  5. Let me get this straight. Pedro Martinez gave up managing 18 schools and he stills gets paid the same salary? Either he is a genius or the board members are morons.

  6. Looks like the plan is to have the management partners to take over management of these schools. What that means is in the fine print of these contracts.

    That not to say it may be best thing for the students. If the students academic standards are not up to par, what is the problem with trying something to benefit them?

    If we are truly honest with ourselves, we know in our heart that SAISD has failed many students. That in itself is not good and maybe it is time for serious management change.

    The law in divorces or custody of children proceedings always hold on top, “the best interest of the child”. Maybe it is time for us to do the same in the discussions of these changes.

    I believe if we keep an open mind, study the details, and keep the kids benefits first. Things will workout.

    The time for change may be now!

  7. The most important aspect that folks seem to missing is that SAISD will receive significantly more funding for each of these schools in the short run through Senate Bill 1882 additional funding. This decision is about getting additional funding for schools that are doing fine academically. Also, the management agreements provide much less autonomy than the Democracy Prep agreement as the staff is still all SAISD, thus less uproar by the union. Even though they are contracting “day-to-day management”, the schools will still be using SAISD for just about all day-to-day services like transportation, food service, enrollment, special education, finance, HR, compliance, etc. Most of the autonomy is around curriculum, professional development, and scheduling chooses. Very few of the external partners have actually ever run a school before as most are providers of professional development and academic support so it will be interesting to see if other districts copy this model to get more funding with little risk.

  8. I wonder how this arrangement aligns with Constitutional provision that the state create a public system of education for Texas children. On the surface this Parnership thing seems rosy, but in reality we’re being duped to becoming collaborators in the destruction of the Texas public school system. The Challenge for SAISD and others is to Fix not Destroy our public system of education…

  9. It is about the money. They will be receiving more money per student for going into this program. The costs for “running” the district will stay the same as far as services for busses etc. So I am with Angela, why are we paying them the same to run a district that they are not managing all the students and schools of? We are paying them to have them hire someone else to do their job.
    Also will there be available to the public an accounting of how each of those additional dollars received will be spent directly on the student’s education? If it goes into the general fund it could go anywhere including raises and bonuses, who knows. If the students are the reason for the additional funding then they should be the benefactors of the additional funding.
    Also if this statement from “school finance” made in the comments is true, “Very few of the external partners have actually ever run a school before as most are providers of professional development and academic support so it will be interesting to see if other districts copy this model to get more funding with little risk.” Then how do we know that these management companies are not just using SAISD to try out their next curriculum to be marketed to schools? Every year someone has the perfect answer in a new curriculum. Schools spend thousands of dollars purchasing the new texts, supplies and training staff. The amount of money spent on “test prep” every year is astounding. The amount of time spent out of the classroom for teachers every time there is a new curriculum is also a lot. There is no magic fix, we need to spend time and money on teaching the subjects.

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