IDEA Partnership Can Work

RECEIVED Wed., Nov. 16, 2011

Dear Editor,
    Re: "Not Everyone Keen on Charter IDEA" [News, Nov. 11]: Eastside neighborhood parents and Austin school leaders recently took a day trip to IDEA Public Schools in the Rio Grande Valley, and they came away impressed with the spirit and focus of the students, teachers, and staff. The tour was intended to give them an authentic look at what it would be like to have IDEA partner with the Austin Independent School District.
    For the past five years, all IDEA students have been accepted into a college or university. That's something we can't say about students enrolled at Eastside Memorial now or at any time in recent history. Despite the best efforts of all involved, the district is searching for a way to support Eastside Memorial, and surrounding schools, in providing college-ready results. The AISD IDEA plan deserves thoughtful community support.
    IDEA knows how to get low-income students college ready and has a proven track record of doing just that in its valley schools. East Austin parents should keep an open mind and view the proposal as a real chance for student success. The in-district charter school would be a true partnership with the school district and the neighborhood, not a takeover as some have suggested.
    This partnership can work – and it can transform the lives of thousands of East Austin students who deserve a shot at the best public education we can provide. Similar partnerships have worked in Houston, Galveston, San Antonio, Dallas, and many more districts around the state. AISD is right to put forth an innovative plan that embraces best practices from a proven public charter school system.
Josie Duckett, Texas Charter Schools Association, VP public and government affairs
Matthew Randazzo, IDEA Public Schools, chief growth officer
   [Richard Whittaker responds: Having spoken to several people that took part in the trip to the IDEA school, and also having watched testimony during citizens' communication at the most recent AISD board meeting, it is clear that not everyone was "impressed" by the experience. There are still many questions to be answered about the proposal to let the writers' employers take over several AISD campuses.]
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