Three-campus changeover needs community buy-in
Beaumont ISD officials are getting off to a good start with the plan to shift three campuses to charter school operators. This is the most important thing to happen in the district since it was taken over by the state in 2015. It must succeed if the district is to keep moving forward and return to local control. The public meetings that have been set up for parents of all three campuses are the right way to begin this process. In turn, they should be attended by as many parents and teachers as possible.
Changes like this have happened in a few other Texas districts but not before in this region. It’s a transformation that has an underlying tension that must be acknowledged.
Supporters of public schools and charter schools often view themselves as rivals.
Public schools educate anyone and everyone who lives in their boundaries. They comply with all state regulations and get by on whatever money they obtain from state and local government.
Charter schools are more selective about enrollment, often specializing in one type of curriculum. In Texas, they have some flexibility from state regulations. In many aspects, they’re closer to private schools than public schools.
Yet in Beaumont, these two styles will be merged at the three campuses with two nonprofit charter school operators. Fehl-Price Elementary School will be run by ResponsiveEd. Phalen Leadership Academy will operate Jones-Clark Elementary and Smith Middle.
The BISD board had little choice but to try something like this. The three schools were scheduled to be closed for chronic failure to meet state standards. If Tropical Storm Harvey hadn’t struck and provided a reprieve for the district, some of them would have been shut down.
Their students and teachers then would have been transferred to other BISD campuses. That’s not necessarily a terrible change, but neighborhood schools are better for any community. The challenge now is to find out why these students weren’t learning as much as their peers at other campuses and get them on track academically.
Every person and business in Beaumont should support this effort, no matter where they live. Many of these students will live here as adults. We all need them contributing to a better region, and the best way to ensure that is with a first-rate education.
We think it can be done, but it will depend on how the charter operators, the staffs, the parents and district officials interact over the new few months. All parties need to be positive and open-minded about this blending process. The goal should be setting up the best formula for success, and then doing whatever it takes to make it happen.