Today, August 21, 2017, is the first day of school for Compass Rose Academy, a new public charter school in San Antonio, Texas. I visited the campus on Meet the Teacher Night, August 17, to get a feel for this promising new school as leaders, teachers, students, and families came together to form a new community. Traditions are already being formed as this group begins the journey to find their true north.
From downtown, I drove south to Brooks, a post-BRAC airbase that is blossoming into a multipurpose community. Compass Rose Academy occupies a blocky masonry building recently vacated by another charter school. The geometric facade is weathered, but the interior is freshly painted, and giant decals of the school’s logo and mascot were being applied to the walls.
Let me digress to elaborate on the logo and the mascot. The Compass Rose Academy logo is a shield with a five-pointed star. The star is a nod to Texas, the Lone Star State. The top of the star points north, one of the cardinal directions on a compass. Compass Rose Academy leaders often use the metaphor of “true north,” which represents their goal of guiding students to a successful future.
The Compass Rose Academy mascot is the polar bear. As you can imagine, there are many schools in Bexar (pronounced “bear”) County that have bears as their mascots. But consistent with the concept of “true north,” Compass Rose Academy has chosen the polar bear as their mascot. To my knowledge, they are the only polar bear mascot in the region. My mental image of the polar bear is Iorek Byrnison from the book series His Dark Materials.
At Compass Rose Academy’s Meet the Teacher night, sixth- and seventh-grade students and their families checked in at the front desk with Nancy Cruz, Lynzee Villafranca, and Maria Martinez. They picked up class schedules, calendars, and lunch menus. Paul Morrissey, the school’s founder and Executive Director (also a 2015-16 BES Fellow), enthusiastically greeted families.
The torus-shaped hallways lead to a multipurpose room at the back of the building. Along the way, teachers were in their classrooms welcoming students. Each room is named after a college or university, often the alma mater of the teacher herself.
In the Texas A&M classroom, Ms. Shrope, an Aggie and English Language Arts teacher, shared her excitement about helping the students express themselves by writing zines.
The mutipurpose room was set up like an auditorium with rows of benches. The seats were full with founding families.
The teachers, wearing red polo shirts, lined up against a wall.
Morrissey shared a story about a teacher, Cindy McKeen, who changed his life. She was his music teacher at the private boarding high school that he attended on a sports scholarship. At the beginning of ninth grade, he sat in a beautiful auditorium feeling scared and intimidated by his fellow students, many of whom came from privileged backgrounds. Ms. McKeen that all the students would have to sing. Individually. Morrissey was terrified. When his turn came, he sang his solo and sat down, wishing to disappear. To his surprise, Mrs. McKeen said, “Paul, that was beautiful.” She encouraged him to take advanced choir and theater. Morrissey had thought of himself as a sports guy, but learned that he had more to contribute. “Great educators do that,” Morrissey said. “They help students find their passions and stoke the fires.”
Next, Morrissey introduced members of his leadership team. Brittany Evans, Dean of Curriculum and Instruction, spoke about her goals of supporting teachers and pushing the students to do their best. Her plan is to provide the students with the scaffolding they need to reach their goals. The program will collect data about the students’ work and adjust to meet their needs.
The Dean of Students, Miranda Perez, explained that her goal is establishing a student culture that is joyful and safe. The school will implement a demerit system with points to track progress. Weekly assemblies will provide opportunities to recognize students who exceeded their goals. Morrissey added that the school considers character development to be as important as academics.
Throughout the evening, Morrissey tended to his flock, answering questions, giving directions to classrooms, and also admonishing students not to run in the hallway. “We have big dreams for your children, and we know you do, too,” Morrissey said.
Compass Rose Academy is off to a good start. In the years to come, it will grow up to grade 12. The school still has openings in grades six and seven for the 2017-18 school year. To apply:
- Go online at compassrosesa.org/enroll
- Call 210-540-9265
- Visit the campus at 8005 Outer Circle Dr., San Antonio, TX 78234 (map); office hours are Monday through Friday, 7:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
A ribbon cutting ceremony is scheduled for September 14, 2017 at 4:00 p.m. More details on Eventbrite.
Read more about Compass Rose Academy:
- “Compass Rose Academy Sets Course for Southeast SA,” Bekah McNeel, Rivard Report, August 8, 2017
- “Different Backgrounds, Same Long Charter Wait List Brings Texas Parents Together to Fight for More Schools,” Beth Hawkins, 74 Million, February 12, 2017
- “Compass Rose Academy Information Session on October 22,” Inga Cotton, San Antonio Charter Moms, October 18, 2015