By Brian Bearden, TSB Contributor
Charter schools can be a mystery to most parents. Bracy Wilson, the former Stonebridge Church pastor who has championed charter schools since helping his dad open the Life School in Dallas, gave the Rotary Club of McKinney a way to understand what options can be made available for students and parents outside traditional public schools.
His talk on Friday at Rick’s Chophouse at the Grand Hotel comes as plans are under way for the Imagine International Academy of North Texas to open a charter school in McKinney this fall.
Wilson, who founded HelpCharters, LLC to offer consulting and management of charter schools in Texas and beyond, said that charter schools must meet state academic requirements while also serving their own educational mission.
“Charter schools are state funded,” Wilson said. “They have no local funding. They are not religious schools. Charter schools are not voucher schools.”
Wilson said that unlike magnet schools, charter schools don’t pick and choose students.
“Charter schools have to enroll all students,” said Wilson, who is not affiliated with the Imagine Academy that will open in McKinney in August. “By law, charter schools provide for and accommodate students. Charter schools are mission focused.”
His dad’s school, which started in Dallas, focuses on building leadership skills and character.Wilson said his mission to create charter schools came about when he saw that about 10 percent of public school seventh and eighth graders drop out. He said that about 50 percent of students in 7th through 12th grades are dropping out of state schools.
“That means that in 10 to 15 years, they will be dependent on us to support them.”
Wilson’s firm has started six schools in Texas in the last two years and will launch five more in 2012 in Dallas and Fort Worth. In 2013, 11 more are planned for Dallas, Fort Worth, Waco, Houston and Terrell.
Wilson lives in McKinney with his wife Nadine and two children, who attend school in the McKinney ISD at Minshew Elementary. He is running for the House District 70 seat for state representative against McKinney’s Scott Sanford, who was also at the Rotary meeting. Sanford’s son Ryan attends Baylor after graduating from McKinney Boyd. Sanford’s daughter Lauren attends McKinney Christian Academy.
Sanford, a CPA from Baylor who is married to Shelly, serves as executive pastor at Cottonwood Creek Baptist Church.
CHARTER SCHOOL IN MCKINNEY
At 2860 Virginia Parkway, the Imagine International Academy of North Texas, will open a public tuition-free charter school in McKinney.
Imagine Schools plans to serve 950 students in grades K-9 for the 2012-2013 school year. The academy will be offering an “academically rigorous college preparatory curriculum based upon the International Baccalaureate (IB) educational framework.”
The McKinney charter academy will accept students eligible to attend public school in McKinney ISD, Celina ISD, Frisco ISD, Princeton ISD, Prosper ISD, Lovejoy ISD, Allen ISD and Melissa ISD.
The academy received approval to open from the Texas Education Agency in May of 2011.
The Academy will be seeking authorization from the International Baccalaureate Organization to provide the IB Primary Years Programme for students in grades K-5, the IB Middle Years Programme for students in grades 6-10, and the IB Diploma Programme for students in grades 11-12.
FRISCO CHARTER SCHOOL
As a public school option, Leadership Prep School at 8500 Teel Parkway in Frisco provides a free-tuition school with open enrollment (first-come-first-served). It will receive funding from the state and therefore will be accountable to state policies and the charter itself. For more information, go to leadershipprepschool.com.
The Frisco school champions parent partnership, leadership development, academics, creativity and excellence.
ACROSS THE STATE
According to the Texas Charter Schools Association, public charter schools vary in mission and model and serve a diverse range of students. An Association survey of its membership indicated that 27 percent of Texas charter schools serve high school students that have dropped out, or are at-risk of dropping out of school. Additionally, 36 percent focus on college preparation, 29 percent serve a specialized mission, and 8 percent are educating students in residential treatment or juvenile justice program.
A TEA charter was granted on March 6, 1998, and Life School of Dallas became a free tuition, open enrollment charter public school on Aug. 12, 1998. Dr. Tom Wilson, founder and Chancellor of Life SchoolS, now operates five campuses. Life School’s enrollment has increased from 266 students to more than 3,700 students in the current year.
Life School seeks to develop leaders with the necessary skills to achieve success in the 21st century. Through character training, strong academics and parent involvement Life School will be successful in fulfilling its mission.
Wilson’s Life School encourages involvement by parents and has a point system for parents. The school prides itself on saying “it is not a private school but sure does fell like one.”
All school campuses are “Recognized” based on TEA Spring 2010 test results. Life School student composite test scores exceeded those of many surrounding public school districts on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills (TAKS) tests last year.
Pictured above: Bracy Wilson