SAISD’s Martinez: Charter, Traditional Public Schools Should ‘Work Together’

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Scott Ball / Rivard Report

SAISD Superintendent Pedro Martinez.

Despite rhetoric that increasingly pits traditional public schools against charters, most parents don’t care which form their children’s public education takes as long as they are learning, San Antonio Independent School District Superintendent Pedro Martinez told a national charter school conference Monday.

“Families want an environment where their children are going to thrive,” Martinez told an audience at the National Charter Schools Conference in Austin. “We get caught up in the philosophical debate.”

Martinez spoke alongside educators from Denver, Indianapolis, and Louisiana as part of a panel discussion hosted by Chiefs for Change, a nonprofit that brings together education leaders throughout the country.

Martinez and the other panelists emphasized that the most successful education systems experience collaboration between charters and traditional schools.

In SAISD, this issue is particularly relevant – of the district’s 90-plus campuses, there are more than 20 in-district charters. Some were created by the district, while others came about through partnerships to turn around failing schools.

Martinez told the audience that for roughly 2,000 “option seats,” at schools that students can elect to attend, rather than be zoned by neighborhood to attend, there are 10,000 applications submitted from SAISD and out-of-district students.

In recent years, Texas legislators have made it easier for these charter partnerships to exist in school district where schools are failing. During the last legislative session, lawmakers passed a bill that would allow districts to pause the state’s accountability system and give schools a two-year chance to improve through a partnership with an outside operator.

SAISD took advantage of this policy by forming partnerships with Democracy Prep at Stewart Elementary and the Relay Graduate School of Education at Storm Elementary.

Martinez said his requirement for any partnership is that charter operators must work with students already enrolled at the campuses at which they assume control.

“The priority will always be the neighborhood,” he said.

Panelists also addressed the rivalry traditional districts and charter schools often feel with one another. This year, tension has been especially high in San Antonio, where many school districts have pointed to growing charter enrollment as the reason for declining enrollment and tighter budgets.

In his home city, Denver Public Schools Superintendent Tom Boasberg said he notices heightened competition in gentrifying areas where the number of school-aged children is declining. However, he said the competition can be positive when it causes schools to promote their offerings and appeal to parents.

Martinez said San Antonio schools should look past the competition to develop better educational practices. Charters present an opportunity to positively disrupt a school district’s traditional habits, and both entities should be able to share best practices, he said.

“How do we create disruption but at the same time be able to work together and learn from each other?” Martinez asked.

The SAISD Superintendent offered Ogden Elementary’s partnership with Relay Graduate School of Education as an example that the district could learn from and apply to other traditional campuses.

Relay uses Ogden as a teaching lab for its graduate school with a two-year residency program. Resident teachers learn from master teachers and earn a teaching certification within their first year. In the second year, teaching residents earn a master’s degree and become lead teachers.

The same model will be applied at Storm Elementary, Martinez said. Some veteran teachers at Ogden described the model as a massive culture shift that helped produce better results for students.

“It has never been a lack of work, but [Ogden teachers] were seeing results and you could see it in their faces,” he said, noting that he wants to replicate successful strategies regardless of their origin.

Indianapolis Public Schools Superintendent Lewis Ferebee stressed that having great choices is important, but without community engagement, none of it matters.

Ferebee said that many of his students come from disadvantaged backgrounds, and when he speaks with families, many of them don’t know the options they have, or even how their student is performing.

“We only get true choice when everybody understands how to play the game,” Ferebee said. “Our effort is ensuring we engage those that are disenfranchised.”

4 thoughts on “SAISD’s Martinez: Charter, Traditional Public Schools Should ‘Work Together’

  1. Homework?
    SAISD superintendent says: “Families want an environment where their children are going to thrive.” However, it seems that SAISD superintendent and Board members have not done their own homework in this regard. A basic foray into reputable research (credible, peer-reviewed journals) on the subject of charter schools conducted in the past 20 years reveals that these schools are NOT places for students to thrive (anything but!).

    Citizens of San Antonio should also do their homework. Let’s begin with an exercise in critical thinking. Note that the superintendent featured in this story is speaking to charter school advocates and stakeholders with unsubstantiated cherry-picked anecdotes passing as research. He would not be able to pass the muster in a conference with actual academics in the social sciences and education… you know, higher education, the stated goal for students of a charter school.

    Based on what I am reading here concerning the rationale for charter schools in SAISD I am putting down my bet on the students in public schools as the critical thinkers of the future. Their time will come.

  2. It seems to me that Martinez is in a conflict of interest.
    Perhaps we should fire him and hire someone who is committed to public education, not sleazy profiteering charter schools!

  3. It is quite appalling to hear the superintendent HIMSELF of the SAISD say that the TRADITIONAL public schools need to work hand in hand with the charter schools,….which ARE, BTW, vastly inferior in most cases and are FOR PROFIT, to boot. These rackets are run by business interests who could not care less about offering a serious education to anyone,…..but only making a profit for their share holders. They are all part of a capitalist flimflam, and should have no hand at all in teaching children to be informed, responsible and liberal citizens of the world.

    Children in San Antonio are being deliberately turned out of the public schools,….many FORCED to attend these charter schools,…..only to have to return to the public schools because they still cannot pass the awful standardized tests that our racist and backward states impose on their already broken education systems. And it is ALL about making MONEY,…..make no mistake about that.

    The public school system in Texas,….and in most states in the US,….has privatized virtually everything out to money-making enterprises of every imaginable kind,…..spend billions on “technology” that only makes the manufacturers wealthy,….turned the once pleasant schools into jails and juvenile halls,….made it impossible for teachers to teach,…..have let the facilities fall apart, especially in the inner cities,….and have dumbed down the curriculum to the point where most high school graduates in the US are no more aware of the wider world than a child along the Amazon.

    Is anyone aware that there are PRIVATE schools in California,…..where wealthy parents pay through the nose to send their kids,…..that do NOT ALLOW CELL PHONES, computers, laptops, SMART boards, or any other kind of “technology” into the classrooms??? These expensive, private schools are AWASH with BOOKS, PAPER, PENCILS, PENS, notebooks, erasers, etc.,….where the children are taught to read, write, compute, and, especially, to THINK in a critical fashion, just as we were in TRADITIONAL public schools forty, fifty and sixty years ago,….before wall street and the republicans took over the public education business all over the US 2-3 decades ago.

    These wonderful schools actually exist,….but they have been snatched from the overwhelming majority of this country’s children by BUSINESS INTERESTS who want to keep poverty and economic slavery alive all over the APARTHEID USA. Ignorant children grow up to be ignorant adults. And ignorant adults are complacent with their lot,…..do not rock the boat,…..believe in GEEZUS,….and in most cases, DO NOT VOTE (they are forbidden to vote!). If they do vote, it is for cranks and hoodlums like we have all over the country now, who wrench small children away from their parents and put them in cages like little animals,…..while their poor parents are caught up in the vast limbo of AMERICAN bureaucracy that only gets them shipped back to some war-torn, third-world banana republic where they will be shot on sight.

    The board of the SAISD is full of opportunists,….and political operatives. They are merely padding a resume,……and getting their faces in the news, in advance of their next run for mayor, or the city council. This kind of thing has been going on in San Antonio ever since John Wayne and the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders came to town to steal the Alamo from Santa Ana,….LOLOLOL! We all KNOW this. Yet,….there they are. And no one questions it. No one cares. And no one VOTES,…..or is even INFORMED enough to vote intelligently.

    SO,…inevitably,…the poor children of San Antonio,…..just like those poor children on our southern border,….are caught up in the great AMERICAN flimflam,…and destined to spend the rest of their lives in the back rooms at HEB, sorting vegetables and making chorizo,….or shipped to the Middle East to have their heads blown off. It is the most tragic and appalling situation,…..the likes of which is only found among right-wing dictatorships in sub-Saharan Africa,…..or in the former Soviet Union.

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