Hearne ISD wants to create charter campuses to improve state rating

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HEARNE, Tex. (KBTX) - The Hearne Independent School District wants to turn two of their campuses into charter schools. The district is applying for an in-district charter policy from the Texas Education Agency. Superintendent Adrain Johnson hopes this change will help them improve their accountability ratings.

The district has received an "improvements required" rating for three years in a row. Hearne High School improved to a "met standard" rating in 2017. The junior high and elementary school have received low ratings for more than three years. If the district gets the same "improvements required" rating for a fourth consecutive year, there could be financial consequences.

Johnson hopes this charter policy could help give his district a much needed break from state ratings.

"They will pause the accountability system in order to give you time to get these programs and systems in place," Johnson explained.

"Because it takes time to turn a school around. It takes typically three to five years to turn a district around."

The new charter policy, Senate Bill 1882, was passed by the state legislature June of 2017. Johnson believes a district charter policy will give his administration time implement their teaching plans, which he said could take some before they show results.

"I compare it to being on a farm and seeing the crop being planted," Johnson said. "You wait a long time until you see a little green grass, and that's the sign of progress. Each week or month you measure to see how much more is growing."

Under the policy, both the elementary school and junior high school would continue to take STAAR exams, but they would no longer count towards TEA accountability ratings. The district would be able to run their schools with more flexibility with less regulation from the state. Johnson wants to not only apply for the in-district charter, but bring in outside partners to redirect the schools. He is currently discussing this idea with different individuals and groups.

Johnson fundamentally disagrees with people that think Hearne ISD can't turn around their schools. He said other districts throughout the state have done it, and so will Hearne.

"Those are the kinds of people we want to talk to," said Johnson. "People from districts that have demographic and other challenges that have been similar to us, but have been successful."

Hearne ISD will host town hall style meetings for parents that have questions about the charter campus plan in the coming months. The district will submit its first letter of intent to the state by the end of the February.