San Antonio families are flocking to enroll at the first Great Hearts campus in Texas. Meanwhile, families in North Texas will have to wait another year or more as a result of the State Board of Education‘s veto of Education Commissioner Michael Williams‘ recommendation of the charter application from Great Hearts Academies Dallas, as mentioned in this earlier post. The lesson: Parents across Texas need to organize and share the message that everyone deserves high-quality education choices.
On Monday, I had the opportunity to meet with Peter Crawford, Headmaster of Great Hearts Monte Vista, and staff. So many families have applied for enrollment that the school is planning to hold a public lottery in January for every grade. There is still time to apply before the open-enrollment period ends on Friday, December 6. Here is a link to the online application; this earlier post has more details about enrollment. After December 6, applications will be taken on a first-come, first-served basis.
Crawford has been busy interviewing candidates for careers at Great Hearts Monte Vista. He said that the essential qualities of a Great Hearts teacher are good character, high energy, and a sense of joy, in addition to being well-educated and an expert in their subject. Hiring teachers who are a good fit is important for establishing the school culture at a new campus. In a recent post on the official Great Hearts Texas blog, Crawford said:
Great Hearts Monte Vista will be a home of friendship in which all of the students will know that they are loved as persons and that they are free to develop true relationships with one another, their teachers, and the school leadership. The students will enjoy a rigorous program that challenges them to both engage their studies and to grow as young men and women. I truly believe that Great Hearts Monte Vista will enjoy a stability and culture of a mature school early on in the school year, due to the tremendous faculty team that is preparing to embark on this incredible voyage.
Our mission is for Great Hearts Academies to become the school of choice for families who seek a classical liberal arts curriculum in a public school. We have one goal that we share with our parents: to graduate great-hearted young men and women with the character and intellectual formation to pursue truth, beauty, and goodness.
“Open enrollment charter serves all who come”, Daniel Scoggin, San Antonio Express-News, November 26, 2013. Scoggin noted that Great Hearts Monte Vista will open in a neighborhood that is 61 percent Hispanic/Latino.
Through meetings with Great Hearts leaders, and visiting Great Hearts campuses in Arizona (earlier post), I have formed a sense of their school culture. Everyone I have met in the Great Hearts organization is a person who thinks deeply about truth, beauty, and goodness. In Arizona, test scores are high across the many Great Hearts campuses that serve students of all races and ethnicities. So, I cannot comprehend why the State Board of Education vetoed their application to open in Dallas and Irving.
The editors of the Dallas Morning News were disappointed, too:
Some families may not prefer a liberal arts curriculum. But clearly the state will benefit from a broad range of proven charter school operators. That way, parents and students will have a menu from which to select.
Unfortunately, the State Board of Education just took a potentially attractive set of schools off the North Texas menu.
“Editorial: State education board limits charter school options”, Dallas Morning News, November 26, 2013.
The most constructive response for families in Dallas (and across Texas) is to organize and spread the word that everyone deserves access to high-quality education choices. We need to get that message to Education Commissioner Williams and our representatives on the State Board of Education. Although there was no official record of the vote (really? yes, really), the Texas AFT helpfully compiled a list. “How Your Member of the State Board of Education Voted on Veto of Out-of-State Charter Bid”, Texas AFT Legislative Hotline, December 2, 2013. Locally, Ken Mercer (District 5) supported Great Hearts Dallas, and Marisa Perez (District 3) did not.
Matt Prewett of Texas Parents Union (on Twitter and Facebook) closely followed the State Board of Education’s votes regarding Carpe Diem San Antonio and Great Hearts Dallas. Prewett says, “Based on the recent SBOE votes against high-quality charter school operators, it appears that special interest groups are working hard to limit educational options in Texas. This situation will continue until Texas parents get organized in a similar manner and vote to elect SBOE members that are committed to empowering parents with quality educational options.”
The silver lining for San Antonio families is that Great Hearts may be able to open campuses here at a faster pace. Scoggin noted in his op-ed that a second campus will open in 2015 or 2016.