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Rumors of Bowie turning into a District-Run charter school put to rest

Rumors about Bowie High School possibly converting into a district-run charter school were quickly put to rest at Thursday’s board meeting for the El Paso Independent School District.

Melissa Martinez, a spokeswoman for EPISD, said the rumor began circulating on social media that Bowie was to either become a charter school, or be closed. “There is no basis to those rumors, or based in any sort of fact,” said Martinez.

The rumor was also attributed to a letter sent out by the El Paso Teachers Association and its state affiliate, the Texas State Teachers Association, stating that a state grant could be used to convert Bowie High School into a privately managed charter with little oversight from parents and taxpayers.

In it, the letter states, “With little advance public notice, the district administration will ask the school board at today’s (Thursday’s) meeting to approve an application to the Texas Education Agency for a Transformation Zone Planning Grant targeting Bowie as a priority.”

The grant in question is the Texas Education Agency (TEA) 2017-2018 Transformation Zone Planning grant for $450,000. Although the EPISD board was set to approve the support of the grant for Bowie, the option regarding the charter conversion was never intended.

“We are not pursuing that option, and that is stated on the board agenda,” said Martinez. “We are seeking option number three, to implement academic programming within the district. We want to be clear. This is a grant funding that we are seeking to use for Bowie High School that will continue to be Bowie High School under EPISD administration.”

Before the meeting, Norma De La Rosa, President of the El Paso Teachers Association, told ABC-7 about her concerns.

“It’s a bad thing because one, charter schools claim that they’re better than public schools and what we do with our public school kids, but yet we see a lot of our charter schools across the country are being closed because being investigated for misuse of funds,” said De La Rosa. She added, “When our children leaves EPISD or any public school, the state money that would come with that child to our schools, would now go with them to that charter school.”

Noel Candelaria, President of the Texas State Teacher Association, also voiced his concerns before the meeting. “We’ve seen a trend where charter operators come in to take over campuses or come in to set up shop in communities, and what that really does is it takes the genuine voice away from the community.”

He added that charter schools don’t require certifications for teacher. “For us, it’s more about ensuring our students have the most qualified teachers”.

Immediately at the start of Thursday’s board meeting, Board President Trent Hatch addressed the rumor.

“The district is seeking to receive a grant from the state to help schools like Bowie implement innovative academic programs. While one of those options available to grant recipients is the use of charter schools, let me be clear, EPISD in its application clearly stated that it would not use that option.”

Another basis behind the miscommunication is that EPISD Superintendent Juan Cabrera has been reported as stating he is not opposed to charter schools within the district, something spokeswoman Martinez addressed.

“The Superintendent is a very innovative administrator. We’re a very innovative district. We certainly think out of the box,” said Martinez. “Charters, certainly as we know, are coming to El Paso.”

She went on to say, “The Super has been very clear that he is opposed to stand alone charters, but we are willing to look at options.”

She went on to say that Cabrera has visited a lot districts around the country that have made in-district charters work. Martinez added, “So, nothing is off the table. But he wants to be very clear, and he has been very clear, that he opposes stand alone charters.”

The board unanimously approved support for the TEA grant Thursday evening.

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