Last week, the Texas Charter Schools Association (TCSA) held its largest conference to date with more than 1,600 attendees gathered from across the state. Conference attendees included public charter school administrators, principals, superintendents, teachers, and board members. More than 100 training sessions were offered during this three-day training event at the Gaylord Texan in Grapevine. Additionally, there were about 150 exhibitors in attendance who provide educational products and services.

Here’s an overview of some conference highlights for those unable to attend this year’s Texas Charter Schools Conference.

Day 1
Eddie Conger of International Leadership Texas served as this year’s conference chairman and kicked off the opening session by welcoming attendees in English, Mandarin, and Spanish. He was followed by David Dunn, TCSA’s Executive Director, who reflected on the growth of the charter sector and outcomes achieved by students during his tenure at the association. Most notably, Dunn highlighted key successes of the charter sector including recently passed legislation, HB 21, which provides $60 million in facilities funds for eligible charters beginning in school year 2018-19.

Dr. Christopher Emdin delivered the keynote address and inspired conference participants with a lively, interactive discussion on the art of teaching and grit, among other education topics. Dr. Emdin is a professor of science education at Columbia University, author, and Minorities in Energy Ambassador for the U.S. Department of Energy. Additionally, there were student performances by Life School’s choir and the drum line from Faith Family Academy at the opening session.

Day 2
TCSA’s Member Council Meeting was held on the second day of the conference and we’re pleased to provide the 2017 election results with terms beginning on January 1, 2018. Congratulations to the newly elected board and advocacy members!

Member Council Vice-Chair
• Jennifer Goodman, Odyssey Academy

Board Member-Large School Representatives
• Brent Wilson, Life School
• Eddie Conger, International Leadership of Texas
• Matt Abbott, Wayside Schools

Board Member-Small School Representative
• Michelle Bonton, The Rhodes School

Board Member-Standing Member School Small Representative
• Alfredo Segura, Jr., New Frontiers Charter School

Elected Advocacy Committee-Large School Representatives
• Lisa Freeman Schutz, Brooks Academy
• Samuel Goessling, IDEA Public Schools

Elected Advocacy Committee-Small School Representatives
• John Armbrust, Austin Achieve Public Schools
• Rebecca Good, Legacy Preparatory Charter Academy

Elected Advocacy Committee-College Preparatory Representative
• Matt Abbott, Wayside Schools

Elected Advocacy Committee-Dropout Recovery Representative
• Brandy Schott, Winfree Academy Charter Schools

Elected Advocacy Committee-Early Childhood & Elementary Education Representative
• William Clark, STEP Charter School

Elected Advocacy Committee-Specialized Mission Representative
• Virginia Lannen, Pegasus School of Liberal Arts

Day 3
On the final day of the conference, TCSA held its annual award luncheon featuring a Q&A session with Education Commissioner Mike Morath. During this session, Commissioner Morath and TCSA’s David Dunn discussed A-F rating implementation, facilities funding for charters, Hurricane Harvey relief efforts, and charter-district partnerships. We appreciate Commissioner Morath’s support for public charter schools and we look forward to continuing our work with him and the Texas Education Agency.

In addition to the Commissioner’s remarks, the annual luncheon is a time to recognize significant contributions to students and the charter sector. Chris Busse, TCSA’s Vice President of Quality Services, presented Dr. Soner Tarim the 2017 Leader of the Year award and Brooke Lucero of the Great Hearts Northern Oaks campus the 2017 Teacher of the Year award for their efforts to help students and the charter movement.

Separately, David Dunn presented Charter Champion awards to Chairman Larry Taylor and Chairman Jim Murphy for their strong support of public charter schools during this past legislative session. Both legislators authored bills and were advocates for charter-friendly policies leading to the successful passage of legislation to provide facilities funding public charter schools; expand the capacity of the PSF Bond Guarantee Program; and address the “minutes bill.”

David Dunn and Tom Castro, TCSA’s Board Chairman, also called Veronica Garcia to the stage in recognition of her leadership in advancing TCSA’s priorities with the legislature during the 85th Legislative Session. Under Veronica’s direction, TCSA achieved several legislative successes including the passage of HB 21, which provides facilities funding to public charter schools for the first time in state history.

Additionally, there was a tribute from the charter community to David Dunn, as this is his last conference in his current capacity as executive director. It was a fitting way to end this year’s conference as we head into the next chapter for the organization and its members. Overall, the 2017 Texas Charter Schools Conference was a success and we’re thrilled so many of you were able to participate! We look forward to seeing you at the Marriott Marquis in Houston on October 24-26, 2018.