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San Antonio ISD Contracts With Outside Organizations To Run 18 Schools

Eighth grader Miranda Martinez picks up her iPad at Harris Middle School Sept. 21, 2018.
Camille Phillips
Texas Public Radio
Eighth-grader Miranda Martinez picks up her iPad at Harris Middle School in September 2018 as part of a Verizon technology grant.

San Antonio ISD trustees unanimously approved contracts Monday night giving outside organizations the authority to manage 18 schools, including some of the district’s most successful specialty schools.

They greenlit five contracts: four with Texas non-profits and one with a Michigan-based educational research foundation.

Before voting on the contracts, the board heard from a mix of supporters and opponents.

One of Yon Hui Bell’s children is a student at the Advanced Learning Academy, which will join CAST Tech and CAST Med under the management of the CAST Network.

“Subcontracting out our schools only increases the number of administrators and bureaucrats and takes away control from teachers, students and families,” she said.

Rob Sipes also has children in affected schools: a son at Jefferson High School and a daughter at the Young Women’s Leadership Academy.

“The choice schools work," he said. "And these partnerships will help ensure that funding remains available for them to keep working.”

The outside entities will manage some of the district’s shining examples of academic achievement, including the Advanced Learning Academy and the Young Women’s Leadership Academy.

The move comes a year after the district made the controversial decision to contract with New York-based charter operator Democracy Prep to run Stewart Elementary.

These contracts differ from the Democracy Prep contract in one significant way: Teachers at the schools will be able to remain district employees.

But the contracts are similar in other ways: They give a lot of authority to the outside entity and can only be terminated early for financial mismanagement or failing to meet academic performance expectations. Most of the contracts are for ten years.

They also give the 18 schools the opportunity to receive around $1,000 more per student in additional funding from the state through SB 1882, a 2017 law designed to encourage outside partnerships.

By approving the contracts, the board greatly expanded the number of district schools eligible for SB 1882.

SAISD currently has five schools taking advantage of SB 1882 and is tied with Waco ISD for the highest number of schools with SB 1882 partnerships.

District leaders said the decision to seek out the partnerships came from campus principals and that at least two thirds of the parents and staff approved the contracts at most of the schools.

Camille Phillips can be reached at Camille@TPR.org and on Twitter at @cmpcamille.