ODESSA, Texas (YourBasin) – Is the future of the UTPB STEM Academy looking bright?
Thursday night, the STEM Academy task force rolled out four possible plans for the future of the school. Since the University of Texas at the Permian Basin decided to forgo its partnership with IDEA Public Schools in May of 2019, a task force has been acting to determine the best solution for STEM’s sustainability.
Thursday night, parents were able to voice their concerns and ask any questions they may have regarding the possible changes. The key takeaway from Thursday night, STEM Academy, will not be closing its doors.
The options that were rolled out Thursday night focused on three primary objectives.
The STEM Academy is focused on retaining students and staff, keeping the STEM project-based instructional model, and establishing a long-term plan of action for permanent facilities.
OPTION ONE: Become a stand-alone charter subchapter
- Start over with a new charter.
- Unless TEA issues a waiver and allows STEM to transition from a Sub E to a Sub D, this would require a new application.
- There may be some grant based funding for a new charter.
- Without a waiver, a lottery could be required, but we could use a technical maneuver.
OPTION TWO: Merge with existing charter
- The STEM Academy would be transitioned to an existing charter entity.
- Would require charter amendments to accommodate for any changes of substance to how the “host” charter school operates. Agreements based on negotiations between UTPB and the “host” charter school.
- Option A – UTPB relinquishes charter and no longer operates the school. The subchapter E charter (university-run charter) would have to close and replaced with an expansion of a subchapter D charter (the charter partner)
- Option B – UTPB remains the charter holder, but would have charter partner be the Educational Service Provider (i.e., party to run and manage the school). School must retain UTPB name. (Under review by TEA) – This option would not provide the long-term plan for the facilities.
OPTION THREE: Become an ECISD charter
- Based on rules for 1882 and feedback from multiple contacts, this option appears to offer a path to secure and honor all of the primary objectives (Denman & Siedlecki, TEA).
- Keep the students, teachers (staff), model, and identify long term facilities.
- This includes students from outside ECISD (e.g. students zoned to MISD).
- 1882 mechanism for increased attendance-related funding per student (will increase under the new charter by $515 per student).
- School is eligible to apply for a competitive grant of up to $900,000.
- All transition points would be negotiated in advance and must be approved by UT system, TEA, UTPB, and ECISD.
- Negotiated agreements would be codified in a legally binding contract; differentiating it from regular ECISD schools. This can address any management aspect of the school’s operation (e.g., HR, Food Services, Instruction, etc.).
- Development of a Performance Contract that outlines required measurable performance targets for school.
- New changes to 1882 have offered a smoother transition to and operation of 1882 campuses.
- Requires establishment of a 501(c)(3) to serve as the non-profit operator.Charter transitions from being held by UT System to ECISD (authorizer) but would be governed (operated) by the 501(c)(3).
OPTION FOUR: Remain UTPB Charter on Campus
- Requires a plan and funds for permanent structures –UTPB has no debt capacity or funds to construct permanent facilities to replace the portable buildings.
- STEM Academy would remain a UTPB Charter.
- Retains students.
- Retains teachers and staff.
- Continues Project-Based Instructional model.