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With new director, Victoria charter school set to open in fall 2012

By KBell
Dec. 5, 2011 at 6:05 a.m.

The largest charter school district in Texas is one step closer to opening a Victoria campus, which is on its way to welcoming students in August 2012.

Alan Wimberley, chief systems officer for the charter district, Responsive Education Solutions, announced Monday the company hired a director to head the school, to be named Vista Academy of Victoria.

Victoria native and former Victoria school district educator Keith Garcia in January will take charge of developing the new school.

"I believe every choice is based on student needs," Garcia, 35, said. "When I went to visit their headquarters ... just to see the way it's working, all the teachers, administration, students - everyone collaborates. It was an ideal situation for every student to be a part of."

Wimberley had visited Victoria in August when the Texas Education Agency announced the closing of Outreach Word Academy, previously Victoria's only charter school, for financial concerns.

With interest in a new charter school circulating, Wimberley set out to open Vista Academy of Victoria by January 2012, but had difficulty finding a school building that was centrally-located and offered the classroom, office and lobby space the district wanted.

Garcia's first task will be to find a location for the kindergarten through fifth-grade school.

Many of the district's 45 campuses operate in retail spaces or churches, though the curriculum is not religious-based.

Wimberley said he anticipates Garcia, who received his master's degree in education from the University of Houston-Victoria, will have more luck scouting out locations in his hometown.

"We're very interested in using community people for community schools," Wimberley said.

After securing a space, the school will hold parent meetings and activities to jump-start an open enrollment that Wimberley said will probably cap at 150 students for the first year.

If more than 150 students enroll, the school will hold a lottery for those who signed up after the open enrollment, Wimberley said.

Garcia said he trained under good leadership at VISD, and both he and Wimberley said they don't see the charter school as a competitor to the local district.

"We feel like there are plenty of children in every community whose parents are seeking an option," Wimberley said. "So it's not seen as competing with or collaborating, either one. It's providing a choice for parents."

In August, Wimberley said Vista Academy would not offer pre-kindergarten classes or buses. The school could offer extended school days or after-school care, he said.

The curriculum in Vista Academies is based on core knowledge like math, reading and science. The district depends on classical education, which involves elements in Latin, a disciplined approach to study, Socratic teaching methods and rhetoric, Wimberley said.

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