Education

Timeline of The Austin, Texas Story by: Vincent Tovar

 

How an East Austin Community kicked a charter school out of the Austin Independent School District (AISD), voted in a progressive school board majority, and continues to fight for public schools with the grassroots leadership of student, parent, teacher, staff, community, and school board volunteers.

 

Timeline

 October 20, 2011: AISD proposes to have IDEA, a charter school organization from South Texas, take over an East Austin Elementary School, Allan, in order to help Eastside Memorial High School (EMHS).

 December 12, 2011: With mounting protest, AISD postpones the vote on IDEA to December 19, 2011.

 December 19, 2011: AISD School Board votes to approve IDEA at Allan Elementary.

 Spring 2012: IDEA recruits new students with billboards, radio and TV ads, and aggressive phone calls.

 Fall 2012: Despite the initial intent to have IDEA rebuild the local community schools, less than 18% of its school population, in the fall of 2012, is from the Eastside Memorial Vertical Team Community.

 November 2012: Four new AISD School Board Trustees are elected.  Three of them, with community pressure, would work to get IDEA’s contract on the agenda for the December 17, 2012 Board Meeting.

 December 17, 2012: AISD votes to terminate IDEA’s contract, effective June 2013.

 Spring 2013: The Eastside Memorial Vertical Team (EMVT) Community works to replace IDEA with a new partner for Eastside.  A Community Request for Proposal Committee is established to choose the new partner, which would become Johns Hopkins University’s Talent Development Secondary.  The EMVT Community is informed about the possible closure of EMHS if the Commissioner doesn’t approve.

 June, 2013: Texas Education Agency (TEA) Commissioner Michael Williams announces his approval of Johns Hopkins at Eastside Memorial at their 2013 High School Graduation.

 Fall 2013: AISD works with community partner and local non-profit Austin Voices for Education and Youth to host Community Meetings about proposals for the future of Allan Elementary’s former facility.

 Spring 2014: Allan Ad-Hoc Facility Committee, comprised of EMVT Student, Parents, Staff, and Community Members, meets to make recommendation to the Board on the Future Use of the Facility.

 Summer 2014: 5 School Board Races will launch for the upcoming November election.

 November 2014: As Austin elects 10 City Council members, of 10 single-member districts, a Mayor, Governor, and Lieutenant Governor, 5 of 9 School Board Trustee slots will also be at stake.

 Winter 2014 and Beyond:  After electing progressive leaders, we must continue to work (and celebrate)!

 For more information, visit http://www.prideoftheeastside.org. On Facebook and Twitter!

 

October 20, 2011: AISD presents four Proposals for the Eastside Memorial Vertical Team in Eastside Memorial’s Cafeteria.  Three of the four proposals feature IDEA at Allan Elementary.  The last one invites the Community to present a better option.

AISD Superintendent Dr. Meria Carstarphen publicly presents the need for IDEA as part of Eastside memorial’s Reconstitution Plan and the pressure she’s receiving from TEA Commissioner Robert Scott.

In a break-out session specifically focused on Allan Elementary, Ramona Trevino, former Chief Academic Officer of AISD, informs Allan Staff and Community Members that, as part of IDEA’s existence, current Allan teacher s “will be phased out”.  In the same break-out group, AISD District 2 Trustee, Sam Guzman is hovering over parents as they fill out their questionnaires.  Trustee Guzman is telling parents which option is best.

The resounding, initial question, from the EMVT, at this meeting was, “Why can’t we do it ourselves?”  Why couldn’t our Vertical Team be given this opportunity at [IDEA’s implementation of] Direct-Instruction, which happens to go against all of the ‘Best Practices’ that AISD has pushed forward for years?  Why couldn’t our school-community wishes be respected?

Austin school district proposals upset some community members

http://www.statesman.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/austin/education/entries/2011/10/20/austin_school_district_proposa.html/?cxntfid=blogs_homeroom

The Austin-American Statesman is the first print medium to cover this story.

Austin Independent School District’s Latest IDEA

http://www.lavoznewspapers.com/La_Voz_de_Austin__November_2011_final.pdf

This documents the first of many instances in which AISD staff are afraid to speak.

November 3, 2011: First Community Meeting at Martin Middle School.  Tom Torkelson, CEO of IDEA, responds to an Eastside Memorial student’s question about Special Education.  Torkelson states that he doesn’t believe in dyslexia.  “Dys-teach-ia” is the problem.

Community Members speak about how studies have proven that Charter Schools are not any better than Public Schools. They reference:  “Multiple Choice: Charter School Performance in 16 States” http://credo.stanford.edu/reports/MULTIPLE_CHOICE_CREDO.pdf

After the meeting, community members approach Dr. Carstarphen and ask if they can present our “Plan D”, the community’s alternative proposal to having IDEA take over Allan, at the next Martin Meeting.  She agrees.

November 5, 2011: East Austin community deserves voice

http://www.statesman.com/news/news/opinion/east-austin-community-deserves-voice/nRgxb/

The Statesman begins to shed light on the need of our Vertical Team Community’s respect from AISD.

November 8, 2011:  AISD invites Parents and Community Members to visit the IDEA-Donna campus located in Donna, TX.  Trustee Sam Guzman states that it would be a better bus ride for everyone if he wasn’t on the bus.  Sam does not attend.

Laura Heinauer, a Statesman reporter, is publicly shamed and told, by Ramona Trevino, that she can’t interview anyone on the bus.  Laura informs her of AISD’s prior consent to both ride on the bus and conduct interviews.

On the tour, in IDEA-Donna’s elementary classrooms, we see no work hanging from the walls.  The only student products we see are “Hats Off to Drugs” and “Scare Drugs Away” paper plate decorations on classroom doors.  (Aside: Isn’t “Hats Off” a gesture of appreciation?)  In a high school classroom, we do see student-made posters comparing and contrasting U.S. leaders.  As we look closely at all the posters, they all have the same answers using slightly different words.

When we speak with the school counselor, she informs us her process of helping provide social services to the kids.  After they disclose a personal issue, she hands them a piece of paper with the contact referral information of outside groups, agencies, etc., and sends them back to class.

After we tour IDEA-Donna’s campus, Tom Torkelson is asked, “What are the drawbacks of IDEA?”  He cannot generate a response.  Ramona Trevino interjects and replies that IDEA neither has Music nor Art classes.  This marks the beginning of our work to uncover the drawbacks since neither IDEA nor AISD were informing the population of Austin, which includes the communities in which IDEA would invade.

November, 2011:  Allan Elementary hosts its monthly Campus Advisory Council (CAC) Meeting.  At the meeting, IDEA informs the Allan CAC Members they will provide more information so the CAC can make an informed decision about their approval or disapproval of the IDEA proposal at Allan.  Note: Allan would not have its next CAC meeting until after the December 19th vote in which AISD approved IDEA.

Texas law and district policy require AISD to authentically include CACs and local communities in school planning and in coordinating the effective use of community resources to serve the needs of students.

Instead, AISD’s central office and Board makes decisions and takes action without authentically engaging the community in the process.

November 9, 2012: Our Community Working Group meets to formulate “Plan D”, the Community Option that counters the IDEA proposals.  We learn from Dr. Carstarphen, after asking, that the Reconstitution Plan doesn’t state the need for a charter, or charter school, as stated in previous meetings;  but rather an “entity”.  We struggle to find the Reconstitution Plan online:

AISD School Board Meeting May 23, 2011.  Agenda Item 9.2

http://www.boarddocs.com/tx/austinisd/Board.nsf/Public

November 15, 2011: Ed Fuller presents his report Are IDEA Charter Schools a Good IDEA for Austin?

http://fullerlook.wordpress.com/2011/11/15/are-idea-charter-schools-a-good-idea-for-austin/

This report would be ignored by the majority of AISD’s School Board, but would do AISD’s job by informing our Vertical Team of other data.

Study challenges IDEA charter’s success claims

http://www.statesman.com/news/news/local-education/study-challenges-idea-charters-success-claims-1/nRhF7/

The Statesman understands the need to inform our Vertical Team Community.

November 16, 2011: Second Community Meeting at Martin Middle School.  After weeks of communicating with administrators, staff, parents, students, and community members about an effective “Plan D”, we consolidated our collectively agreed-upon points and waited to present.

At the beginning of the meeting, we discovered that AISD had introduced its own “Plan D”.  Our plan was now bumped to “Plan E” without any warning.  As we presented, all of our talking points, and this is not an exaggeration, received applause.  Although time was not facilitated well throughout the event, Ramona Trevino interjected towards the end of our presentation and said “One Minute”.  Our presentation of “Plan E” received a standing ovation.  Now, it’s in school binders with other plans put forth for our Vertical Team.

Differences remain over charter school proposals

http://www.statesman.com/blogs/content/shared-gen/blogs/austin/education/entries/2011/11/16/differences_remain_over_charte.html/?cxntfid=blogs_homeroom

Will District Support Neighborhood Schools?

http://www.austinchronicle.com/postmarks/2011-11-16/1277107/

November 19, 2012: Telephone Survey to Eastside Vertical Team families with misleading questions.  Was Eastside under threat of closure?  The results from the survey were hardly mentioned, and are still ignored to this day.  The question in regards to rethinking our transfer policy is incredibly important, and the answers are surprising.  Why don’t we address these answers?     http://www.austinisd.org/sites/default/files/default/docs/EMVT_phone_survey_summary.pdf

Full Picture on charters needed

http://www.statesman.com/news/news/opinion/full-picture-on-charters-needed/nRhLk/

November 21, 2011: AISD Public Hearing. Only Dr. Carstarphen and Trustee Cheryl Bradley are seated to listen.  Why have a Public Hearing with only one Trustee?  We spoke, but saw no need to return to Public Hearings with such a small audience.

In-District Charters: Carstarphen’s Big IDEA

http://kut.org/2011/11/in-district-charters-carstarphen%E2%80%99s-big-idea-2/

Note both the comments below this report.  Caroline Sweet testifies that Dr. Carstarphen did not meet with her and speak about IDEA, and the other comment features a former IDEA mom exposing her frustrations with IDEA in South Texas.

November 25, 2012: AISD Parents, Teachers a Tough Sell: AISD Board slated to vote on charter school

http://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2011-11-25/aisd-parents-teachers-a-tough-sell/

November 28, 2011: AISD holds a Public Hearing in regards to the IDEA Proposal for Allan Elementary.  Alejandro Delgado speaks as a native Austinite and former IDEA teacher.  He states, “AISD has had their turn.  Now, it’s IDEA’s.”  Delgado would later become an administrator at IDEA-Allan for the 2012-2013, and 2013-2014 School Year.

December 6, 2011: IDEA Community Meeting at Metz Recreation Center.  As we arrive early, we look for another area to wait until IDEA is ready for folks to sit in their meeting room.  We walk down the main hallway towards the game area, and Alejandro Delgado informs us that we’re not allowed to be in there.  It’s clear that we are allowed, and we proceed.  IDEA begins to attempt intimidation efforts.

After Matt Randazzo, IDEA’s Chief Growth Officer presented to dozens of people, he’s asked, “How does it feel to end the history of Allan?  Allan is doing fine.  How does it feel to end Allan Elementary as a Community School?”  Randazzo’s response can be summed up as “Whatever it takes” a la Geoffrey Canada’s Harlem Children’s Zone motto.  As the next question is being asked, Ramona Trevino comes up to us from behind and whispers that she wants to talk to us about Allan.  We let her know that we were interested, but listening to the next question being asked.  She walked away and whispered “Allan is not doing fine.”  Over nine months later, Ed Fuller would publish a report documenting how Allan Elementary was both on a positive trajectory, and incredibly close to being “Recognized” by the TEA.

At the end of the meeting, we spoke with all the parents in attendance.  All of them were either Metz Elementary parents or other Vertical Team parents opposed to IDEA, except one couple.  One couple was interested in IDEA.  Where did their child attend school?  Matthews Elementary near Downtown Austin.  We would later find out that the parent of the student was Tina Fernandez.  Tina would later be exposed as an ardent supporter of Teach for America (TFA), a generous donor to the pro-charter Austin Kids First (AKF), and the only Austin resident who would serve on the IDEA-Allan School Board.

December 8, 2011: We met with then-TEA Deputy Director Lizzette Reynolds.  She represented the unavailable then-TEA Commissioner Robert Scott.  She noted that, “Nobody’s talking about closing Johnston”.  She made it very clear that Eastside was not under the threat of being closed, which countered Dr. Carstarphen’s October 20th claim that it was under such a threat.  It also made the November telephone survey suspect in regards to the question that misleads the community to think Eastside could possibly be closed in the following academic school year.

December 9, 2011: Allan Elementary holds their Winter Festival.  We are allowed to have parents sign a petition to ask the Board Members not to approve IDEA.  Throughout our conversations, we learn that nine out of ten Allan parents hadn’t heard of the proposal to have IDEA take over Allan.  This is three days before the vote is scheduled to take place.

One hour before the program starts, an employee of Southwest Key (which operates a nearby charter school – East Austin College Prep) and opponent of IDEA gets into a verbal disagreement with us.  Throughout our struggle with IDEA, Southwest Key’s representatives indicated that their employment and charter school neither had an impact on their support for Allan Elementary nor opposition to IDEA.  After December 19th, Southwest Key representatives never attended another community meeting.

December 10, 2012: IDEA rents out the Metz Recreation Center for a Community Meeting, but no-shows.  Not a single IDEA representative showed up to inform our community about its cancellation.

Too many holes in charter plan

http://www.statesman.com/news/news/opinion/too-many-holes-in-charter-plan/nRhtc/

December 2012:  A Wells Fargo Representative, from South Texas, and advocate for IDEA emails Tom Torkelson and states that it would be reasonable to pack up the tent and back out of IDEA’s future in Austin.  Torkelson states that our work is something “ginned up by the union”, and not to worry.

December 11, 2011: Dozens protest plans for charter-run schools

http://www.statesman.com/news/news/local-education/dozens-rally-against-district-plan-to-host-chart-1/nRhts/

This article states, ”Pre-kindergarten students and others who do not wish to enroll at the charter, which would be run by IDEA Public Schools, would be assigned to Govalle or Ortega Elementary Schools…”  In January, Dr. Carstarphen would surprise our community by announcing that AISD would house a Pre-K facility co-located at IDEA-Allan.  This plan was never a part of the pre-January discussions.

IDEA hosts an informational meeting at Santa Julia Church in between its church services.  Community is outraged that IDEA is utilizing the church to inform and recruit community members.  This unethical tactic would reappear when Rev. Dr. Jayme Mathias runs for School Board in the Fall of 2012.

December 12, 2011:  AISD plans to vote for or against IDEA at their Regular Board Meeting.  Hundreds of Eastside Memorial Vertical Team Community Members marched and protested against IDEA; but, more importantly, they voiced their support for the Eastside Vertical Team.

On this rainy and frigid night, community members are left to watch the meeting outside.  Two of the community members are my wife and two year old daughter.  IDEA, however, has at least 15 reserved seats in the Board Auditorium.

Citizen’s Communication

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MoOL_S04eUo

Amber Welsh, future Co-Founder of Austin Kids First, posts a statement on the Facebook page of Teach for America’s Austin Alumni Chapter.  She states, “Come out and show your support for IDEA”.  In October and November of 2012, Amber Welsh will repeatedly deny that Austin Kids First is pro-charter.

December 15, 2011: East Austin Folks Going Unheard

http://www.statesman.com/news/news/opinion/east-austin-folks-going-unheard/nRh2f/

December 17, 2011: There’s no rush for in-district charter

http://www.statesman.com/news/news/opinion/theres-no-rush-for-in-district-charter/nRh6h/

December 18, 2011. 12pm:  Our Vertical Team Community Working Group meets with Cheryl Bradley at Angie’s Restaurant.  Trustee Bradley expresses interest in Allan as a K-8th school that helps feed students into Eastside.

7pm: Eastside Memorial Vertical Team Community Members sleep outside of AISD’s Carruth Center, with the help of Occupy Austin members, to guarantee all thirty speaking slots, for more Vertical Team Community Members, to speak during Citizen’s Communication at the December 19th Board Meeting.  AISD refuses to give us access to its bathrooms.

Austin district to take up charter school issue today

http://www.statesman.com/news/news/local-education/austin-district-to-take-up-charter-school-issue-to/nRh8X/

December 19, 2011. 5am: IDEA Representatives arrive to form their own line for Citizen’s Communications Sign-Up.  Alex Sanchez, AISD Public Relations Spokesperson, honors our line, but gives IDEA reserved seats for the Board Meeting later that night.

6am:  As we move our line, locked by elbows, from the 6th street sidewalk (since AISD prohibited us from camping on the grounds even though parents have historically camped out to transfer their kids to other schools) to the Board Auditorium doors.

7pm: AISD holds a Special Board Meeting specifically to vote for or against IDEA to be at the Allan Elementary Campus.

Citizen’s Communication

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UimTCupiDm4

December 20, 2011. 12am: AISD School Board votes 6-3 to approve IDEA at Allan Elementary.

Winter Break, December 2012: Former IDEA staff and parents contact us with their own testimonials about the negative experiences they’ve had at IDEA.  The emails they send are lengthy and shocking.

January 2, 2012: Emails show IDEA Public Schools approached Austin school district about charter school proposal

http://www.statesman.com/news/news/local-education/emails-show-idea-public-schools-approached-austin-/nRjRD/

This explosive article featured:

[Ramona Treviño]  asked for demographic profiles of IDEA students, rates of IDEA graduates attending college and information on the services and programming IDEA would provide to different kinds of Austin students, such as English language learners and special education students.

When Treviño asked for an “accurate dropout rate” for IDEA students, [Matt] Randazzo responded that IDEA tracks “student persistence. Last year our organization-wide persistence rate was 93 (percent) as measured August to August. That is the percentage of students who persisted from 8/2010 to 8/2011.”

Those numbers were later challenged by Pennsylvania State University researcher Ed Fuller, who found that 35 percent of IDEA ninth-graders withdraw by 11th grade.

Treviño also asked Randazzo whether IDEA would be willing to sign a noncompete clause.

Randazzo replied, “We will likely not sign a non-compete clause unless the district agrees to provide, over time, enough facilities to serve roughly 12,000 students.”

That would amount to about 14 percent of the district’s approximately 86,700 enrollment, and, in the final contract, IDEA agreed not to operate any schools that would have the effect of competing against the Austin school district.

In advance of the vote, Treviño said in emails that some school board members wondered why the district needed IDEA’s involvement at all in its work at Eastside Memorial High School, which has struggled to meet state academic standards in the past, and schools that feed into it.

She asked Randazzo for help answering the question, “Why can’t AISD do this with Eastside Vertical Team ourselves?”

Randazzo replied, “This requires too long an answer for email. ;-)”

January 4, 2012:  Emails reveal district bent to fit IDEA needs

http://www.statesman.com/news/news/opinion/emails-reveal-district-bent-to-fit-idea-needs/nRjSd/

January 2012: An internal AISD email is sent to AISD staff stating there can be no bad sentiments towards IDEA now that it’s an AISD school.

January 11, 2012:  Tovar, Sweet: No More Silence about our Schools

http://www.statesman.com/news/news/opinion/tovar-sweet-no-more-silence-about-our-schools/nRjdQ/

Unanswered questions arise, and continue to exist, in regards to IDEA’s preparedness for special populations, which include:  English Language Learners, Special Education Students, and Teen Parents.

January 14, 2012: As Austin district works to open charter school, opponents plan boycott

http://www.statesman.com/news/news/local-education/as-austin-district-works-to-open-charter-school-op/nRjkF/

This reporter, Melissa Taboada, repeatedly pressured me to say “boycott” instead of “opt-out”.  I didn’t, but she still put it in her headline.

January 21, 2012: PRIDE of the Eastside hosts a former IDEA family from the Valley.  A fifth grader speaks out about his experiences at IDEA in South Texas.

http://www.statesman.com/news/news/local-education/charter-school-foes-gather-to-hear-mcallen-familys/nRjsw/   “I don’t want kids to suffer like I did,” Eduardo Ramon, 5th grader from South Texas.

January 23, 2012: At an AISD Regular Board Meeting, Dr. Carstarphen makes a surprise announcement that Pre-K will exist at Allan Elementary as an AISD grade level.  It was a surprise because it was never discussed before this meeting.  We speculate that it will serve as IDEA’s feeder population for its Kindergarten class in the 2013-2014 school year and school years to come.  We also know that IDEA does not have experience serving Pre-K children.

January 31, 2012: Dr. Carstarphen visits Eastside students.  In conversations with both staff and students present, we learn that the Superintendent repeatedly blames the students for the school’s situation.

February 2012: IDEA-Allan Billboards appear on Riverside, 7th Street, and Manor Rd.  IDEA Radio and TV Ads begin to appear on Fox and Univision.  Unanswered questions, that continue to go unanswered, arise about the amount of money IDEA is spending to recruit families.  Unanswered questions, that continue to go unanswered, arise about the overall cost-per-pupil, inclusive of advertisements, buses, uniforms, free t-shirts, etc. at IDEA-Allan.

February 9, 2012: IDEA Community Meeting at Allan.  The Allan PTA was forced to present as a disguise to make it seem like the event was a PTA Meeting.  IDEA representative Irma Munoz tells parents that they can neither eat lunch with their kids nor celebrate their kids’ birthdays at school.  An Allan mom asks, “Do you celebrate Christmas?”  Everyone laughs.

February 14, 2012: IDEA no-shows at their scheduled presentation to fifth graders at Metz Elementary.  It would not be their only no-show in their series of eight, recruitment presentations to fifth graders within the Vertical Team.

February 24, 2012: The Opt-Out Deadline is extended two weeks amidst community pressure that an insufficient amount of time and an inadequate amount of information has been given to Allan families about their rights to opt-out.

March 6, 2012:  IDEA to expand recruiting efforts as new opt-out deadline approaches

http://www.statesman.com/news/news/local-education/idea-to-expand-recruiting-efforts-as-new-opt-out-d/nRk27/

Arismendi, the new IDEA-Allan principal, said the only people who have been called more than once were those who did not answer.  This is a complete lie.

March 10, 2012: New Opt-Out Deadline for Allan families wishing to opt-out of IDEA.

March 23, 2012: IDEA Still Hunting Enrollment

http://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2012-03-23/idea-still-hunting-enrollment/

In this article, Vanessa Barry of IDEA says, in response to the extension of the opt-out deadline, “Whatever made the community happy, we were pleased to do.”  In retrospect, ‘whatever made the community happy’ was not to have IDEA, but why didn’t IDEA respect that community wish?

April 13, 2012:  Applications for IDEA charter school jump, officials report

http://www.statesman.com/news/news/local/applications-for-idea-charter-school-jump-official/nRmy3/  Matt Randazzo touts that IDEA has recaptured 70 AISD kids from private and charter schools.  What is that number now?  And how many families left AISD after the IDEA vote, from December 19th to December 2012?

May 17, 2012: IDEA holds its Lottery.  Alejandro Delgado asks me for help when it comes to key issues and questions within our vertical team.  I respond, “We didn’t want IDEA, and now you’re asking for our help.  Does that make sense to you?”

May 19, 2012: Allan Elementary hosts its Farewell Fest.  AISD discourages Allan from calling it a “Farewell Fest”.  During this end-of-school year period, IDEA both rejects Allan’s library books and Allan’s historical mementos.  IDEA neither wants a traditional library nor any artifacts of Allan’s past.

May 30, 2012: Last Day of School at AISD.  Allan teachers must be off campus, with all their belongings, by the end of the day on May 31, 2012, the day after the last day of school.  Some teachers had already started packing well before the last day of school.  They were told to put stickers on their belongings.  IDEA put stickers on what they wanted to keep, took pictures of class sizes while kids were in the room, and AISD reps counted every individual desk, computer, etc, while Allan kids were in classes and teachers were teaching.

May 31, 2012: An extension has been granted for teachers to pack up and leave Allan, but there is still pressure to hurry.  AISD’s Transitions Representative for IDEA’s takeover of Allan is out of town/on vacation.

June 1, 2012: Eastside Parents watch AISD and IDEA dismantle their neighborhood school

http://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2012-06-01/farewell-to-allan/

June 30, 2012: IDEA-Allan has its Summer Gathering.  At the gathering, we learn, through a flier distributed by IDEA-Allan, that not only does IDEA-Allan have spots available for all of its grade levels, Kinder-2nd and 6th, it’s also offering a free uniform to families who refer  other families to register at IDEA-Allan.  Free IDEA-Allan T-shirts are given away at the Gathering.  Unanswered questions resurface, and ask how much IDEA is spending per-pupil when it can give away t-shirts.  Unanswered questions arise to argue IDEA’s non-competitive and ethical positions as they offer free uniforms to families who recruit other families.  This practice is also similar to Southwest Key’s Charter School, East Austin Prep, who offered $100 to families that held informational, recruitment gatherings at their households.

July 13, 2012: IDEA still trying to fill seats

http://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2012-07-13/idea-still-trying-to-fill-seats/

Note that Juan Salinas comments about me and this article.  Juan Salinas was hired to recruit families for IDEA.

September 2012:  The Eastside Vertical Team Community is informed about the AAFR’s slated for our schools.  Two include strengthening STEM, but one is solely focused on “Blended Learning” and its implementation at our campuses.  Where did this AAFR originate?  Stories from different AISD staff lead us to think that IDEA introduced it, especially since they implement blended learning in South Texas.  We ask, “What is the realistic future of STEM in our Vertical Team if IDEA is expected to take control?”

September 13, 2012:  I meet with the new Executive Director of IDEA in Austin, Larkin Tackett, and AISD Chief Schools Officer Dr. Paul Cruz.  I had over a dozen questions that IDEA hadn’t answered, and still didn’t answer at this meeting.  A couple stemmed from a recent Statesman article about IDEA-Allan:

The first alludes to unanswered questions about where IDEA-Allan’s students were from:

-Vincent “When you reported, to Laura Heinauer, that 25% of our vertical team kids attend idea-allan, how did you know that number?”
-Larkin “I guessed”
-Vincent “How did you guess?”
-Larkin “I asked kids, as they pass through the hallway, ‘What school did you go to last year?”
-Vincent “On the registration form, does it ask for “Former School”?
-Larkin “yes”
-Vincent “So, a spreadsheet should exist that lists those former schools. It should take less than an hour to compile that data into percentages. I could do it in 30 minutes.”
-Paul “We have so many people working on so many things, it’s hard to pull people away in order to do that.”
-Vincent “Claudia Kramer-Santamaria and Parent Support Specialists were pulled away to call and recruit families to attend idea, but why can’t district employees pull away folks to answer these questions?”
-Paul “Claudia and PSS’s aren’t the appropriate people to answer these questions”
-Vincent “I know that, but other district employees could”

-Vincent (to Larkin) “In Laura Heinauer’s article, it states that idea has an 80% free and reduced lunch population. How do you know that?”
-Larkin “I guessed”
-Vincent “How did you guess?”
-Larkin “Based on the conversations I had with the families”
-Vincent “What percentage of families are free and what percentage are reduced?”
-Larkin “I don’t know the difference (in percentages)”

September 21, 2012:  IDEA enrollment numbers reportedly fall short

http://www.austinchronicle.com/news/2012-09-21/idea-enrollment-numbers-fall-short/

September – November 2012:

In almost every School Board Candidate Forum and almost every article covering the School Board elections, the issue of IDEA is mentioned and utilized in order to determine candidates’ dispositions on community engagement, charter schools, and IDEA itself.

As elections get closer, the group co-led by Amber Welsch who supported IDEA in December 2011, Austin Kids First appears and raises money for Sam Guzman, Mary Ellen Pietruszynski, and Amber Elenz.  They claim to be neither for or against charters, but the vast majority of them are Teach for America alumni, one of their co-leaders, Edwin Ochoa, worked for IDEA in South Texas, and Ben Maddox, one of their co-founders, is a lobbyist with one client – Austin Kids First.

November 3, 2012:  While campaigning in the Linder community, I observe Amber Welsch removing campaign literature from a door I had just visited.  After confronting her about it, she states that she felt bad “for what just happened”.

Prologue

It’s beyond difficult to put my feelings into words.  I constantly communicate with students, parents, teachers, staff, administrators, community leaders and members, media, surrounding  Austinites, and non-Austinites who care a great deal about the work we’ve done, and especially those who are doing the work.  At this point, I am honestly worried about what the future of my daughter’s Vertical Team will be.  I know that this issue extends beyond Austin and we have a great deal of work ahead, but it will be disastrous to have IDEA continue to exist, let alone grow, in our school district.  On December 17th, the AISD School Board can terminate IDEA’s contract, and also build something that the East Austin School-Communities desperately need –   a bridge of trust, honesty, respect, and hope with the school district.

Special Notes:  Please contact me if you would like to speak with any persons mentioned, anonymous or not.  Please understand that PRIDE of the Eastside Members, Supporters, and Sympathizers completely defend this personal account.

  • Vincent Tovar, Govalle Elementary First Grade Parent

 

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