For the last four years, leaders of a proposed charter school in the local area have tried and tried again. And while to some that might seem like insanity, for the school’s leaders it’s a story of determination and perseverance.
And they hope a recent meeting is a signal of things to come. On May 11, leaders from Heritage Classical Academy held a “capacity interview” with the Texas Education Agency in hopes of securing approval from the state to open for the next school year.
Essentially, school leaders must secure a charter from the Texas state board of education in order to open, according to Kathryn Van Der Pol, the secretary of the board of the proposed charter school. But each of the previous three times the school has come before the board previously, the board has always vetoed giving it authorization to open.
In order to secure the capacity interview, Van der Pol said Heritage submitted an application on which the proposed school scored a 97 out of 100. From there, she said the capacity interview is simply an attempt by the TEA to assess whether administrators have the resources to operate a school and knowledge of the state’s educational provisions.
“They’re sounding us out to make sure we are the kind of people they want to have be part of the school system in Texas and opening a charter school,” she said.
Van der Pol said they will hear back on May 29 whether they have been approved by the TEA and Commissioner Mike Morath for a June meeting with the state board of education.
“It’s not our timing. It’s all on God’s timing,” Van der Pol said. “…We love this community, and I hope that we get this school because I think it would be a beautiful gift to this community that I love.”
Heritage would be a tuition-free public charter school somewhere in the 77092 zip code area of Houston if it is approved, according to Van der Pol. The school would begin with students in kindergarten and first grade classes, and would grow each year until it is a full kindergarten through eighth grade school that uses a classical model for learning, according to the website.
According to a June 2022 article from the Texas Tribune, Heritage has been controversial among state board members because it planned to use a curriculum developed by Hillsdale College, a conservative college in Michigan. However, Van der Pol claimed the previous rejections were largely because a swath of board members were opposed to the concept of charter schools.
Charter schools in Texas receive all their funding from the state, which has raised some opposition to the concept. But overall, there are now nearly 200 such options around the state. Van der Pol said the school fell one vote short of approval from the 14-member board last year and did not fall strictly along party lines.
“I think we will be in a climate that is more positive towards the concept of a charter school,” Van der Pol said. “We don’t know what will happen, but this year we’re hopeful that if there is a possibility of us getting a charter, this will be the year.”
As the school’s leaders wait to hear whether they advance to the June hearing, Van der Pol said the school has not chosen a specific location within the 77092 zip code. But if it happens, she said the school will serve students in that and surrounding neighborhoods with another choice of school for their children.
“If you give children a great education, they can do and be anything and they will be productive citizens,” she said Tuesday. “It’s an education that will lift people beyond their circumstances, and we’re giving our neighborhood more options.”
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