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TEA correction makes Outreach Academy closing final

By KBell
Aug. 9, 2011 at 3:09 a.m.


BACKGROUND

In 2002, the State Board of Education created Outreach Word Academy, which concentrates on humanities and foreign languages

By January of the next year, the school failed to turn in its yearly financial audit, a practice that will continue throughout the school's operation

Other financial problems include delinquent taxes, failure to pay payroll and misdocumentation of federal funds. The school blames the problems on a subpar financial management system and lack of support from the TEA

The TEA announced its intent to revoke the school's charter in July 2010

A judge ruled the TEA should revoke the charter in July 2011

A correction notice from the Texas Education Agency extinguished the hope Outreach Word Academy had to open for a new school year.

In a letter sent out Monday, the TEA recanted its previous notice, saying the Commissioner of Education's decision to revoke the school's charter is final.

A Friday letter from the agency mistakenly informed the school it could apply for a rehearing.

The school had been planning to open Aug. 15 while waiting for its appeals to play out.

However, Tracy Rush a legal assistant with TEA, explained charter schools are subject to different rules than other entities involved in administrative hearings. The law that allows rehearings for most cases does not apply to charter schools, she said.

The division of hearings and appeals had sent a standardized letter spelling out the option for a rehearing, which is available in almost every other instance, Rush said.

At a special board meeting Tuesday night, Elaine Phillips, co-founder of the school, said the academy is sorting out its options. Phillips said she and the board hope to have more information by the time teachers return for a staff meeting Thursday and parents come for an open house Friday.

The administration wants to first communicate any future plans with the staff and parents, Phillips said.

She did, however, say the school's attorney will file for clarification from the TEA and petition for judiciary review, hopefully taking the case to a higher court.

More than 300 students had enrolled in the school for its 10th year of operation, Phillips said.

Diane Boyett, district communications specialist for Victoria schools, said some students have made the switch from the charter school to VISD, but the district hasn't sorted through the registrations to know how many have transitioned.

Boyett said the district is prepared to accommodate as many students as needed but encouraged parents to register their children as early as possible.

"We do want those kids to feel welcome to their school and to be ready on the first day of school," she said.

Students not living in the Victoria school district who wish to attend the school should seek a transfer as soon as possible, too, she said.

To find out how to register, Boyett suggested parents call their neighborhood school. To find out which school zone students are in, contact the administration building at 361-576-3131 or find attendance zone maps at visd.com.

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