IDEA Opt-Out Deadline Friday
Last chance to avoid the Allan takeover
By Richard Whittaker, 5:35PM, Thu. Feb. 23, 2012
Friday, Feb. 24: That's the big deadline looming over the IDEA Public Schools takeover of Austin ISD's Allan Elementary – one affecting students, another hitting teachers – and it could prove pivotal for the future of the unpopular conversion to a charter school.
Friday is the last day for parents of current students at Allan and rising fifth graders at Allan, Allison, Brooke, Govalle, Metz, Ortega and Zavala to submit their opt-out form and ask instead to go to Martin Middle School.
Yes, contrary to the initial claims that the IDEA takeover is just about providing more choice within the district, parents have to submit a form saying they don't want their children to go to the charter. Forms must be mailed or submitted in person to the district by close of business.
That's not the only deadline: It also seems to be the final day for staff to apply for one of the 60 staff positions. Starting in the fall, IDEA will be providing pre-kindergarten, kindergarten, and grades 1, 2 and 6 at Allan, before expanding to take over all grades at Allan and Eastside Memorial. Current Allan staff are reportedly disinterested in applying for a position with IDEA (not surprising, since all IDEA staff are at-will employees and do not have the standard protections of any other AISD employee.)
That's a bold step to take – despite what IDEA Chief Growth Officer Matt Randazzo might think. Back on February 6 he claimed, "AISD has guaranteed current Allan employees that they will be placed at a school within the district should they choose not to seek a position with IDEA Allan." All AISD staff (except for Superintendent Meria Carstarphen) are on one year contracts and there is no guarantee that they will have a job with the district next school year. Instead, what is happening is that any Allan teacher who opts not to stay will be put into a reserve pool. After AISD has filled all its vacancies from actual applicants next year, it looks at the reserve pool. Teachers in the pool will be offered a job from the vacancies that are left: If the same rules apply to the pool as have happened before they will be offered two vacancies, but after that they will be dumped.
What will make this all the more uncomfortable is that IDEA's at-will employees will share the campus with regular AISD staff and their one-year contracts. Initially, IDEA and AISD students of different grades will cohabit on the campus, but that will not end even after the full takeover, since any fine arts, music, etc staff will be provided by AISD.
According to the contract approved by AISD trustees in December, "Students in the IDEA School will receive intensive direct instruction in the core academic subjects at the primary level and a rigorous college preparatory program at the secondary level beginning in the 6th grade."
What does that mean? Well, as IDEA CEO Tom Torkelson,said in November, AISD will still be responsible for most electives. Additionally, the contract states that "enrichment opportunities" (eduspeak for academic and special interest clubs, as well as sports and UIL events) will be provided "at the sole discretion of IDEA." The charter school operation is working with AISD staff on programs, but they will not be part of their core business.