Texas A&M University-San Antonio will partner with seven South San Antonio school districts to improve education opportunities for children who will eventually choose careers in high-demand fields.
The partnership was announced Nov. 22 in a press conference at A&M-San Antonio. The partnership is called A&M-SA & South Bexar County ISDs Partnership to Impact Regional Equality and Excellence, or ASPIRE.
ASPIRE is part of SB 1882, Texas legislators approved the bill 2017, and ASPIRE went into effect Nov. 22, said Dr. Cynthia Teniente-Matson, president of A&M-San Antonio.
Matson said she is proud of such a big accomplishment for the school and the community.
The bill allows school districts to partner with other educational institutions; the collaborations may receive additional state funding for the partnership school.
State guidelines for districts seeking to benefit from SB 1882 list three kinds of eligibility partnerships: turnaround partnerships, innovation partnerships and new school partnerships.
“This is the first of its kind in the state of Texas.” Matson said. “There are no public universities that are operating SB 1882 schools in Texas as of right now … and I’m confident that there are none that are cutting across seven school districts. So it’s the first of its kind and it’s right here at Texas A&M-San Antonio.”
The independent school districts are Southside, Harlandale, Edgewood, Somerset, South San, East Central and Southwest.
The top 10 high schools feeding into A&M-San Antonio, plus the number of students who enrolled from each school in fall 2019, are:
The partnership will lead to academic programs for children with autism or behavioral issues. The first of these programs will be available at East Central’s Burleson Center for Innovation.
The other six districts will build labs in their high schools where students in high-demand career fields such as education learn from a A&M-San Antonio professor and practice their skills in the lab. The goal is to have a hands-on lab school model classroom at every SB 1882 school and for A&M-San Antonio to provide paid in-residence faculty at each lab to instruct and guide students through their career path.
“Think about our partnerships through the lens of collective impact,” said Roland Toscano, superintendent of East Central ISD.
On campus the effects of ASPIRE will be most notable in the Department of Education and Human Development.The university will be adding an Applied Behavior Analysis undergraduate degree.
The collaboration between the school district and the university will allow students a smoother transition into college and eventually the workforce.
The focus is on the education program because South San Antonio has a really big issue with retaining teachers, Toscano said.
The collaboration aims to develop interested students into good teachers and guarantee them a job in their home district when they graduate from A&M-San Antonio.
The projects for the ASPIRE schools will be paid for by a donation of $1 million from the Charles C. Butt Foundation and from the districts independently funding their own projects.
Funding from ASPIRE will help communities on the Southside, marking a big change in the attitude toward education.
“The axis of education in the state of Texas today tilts to South San Antonio,” Mayor Ron Nirenberg said.
He and District 4 council member Adriana Rocha Garcia expressed their excitement and readiness to better the city through education. Garcia’s district includes A&M-San Antonio.
“We have so many kids in our community who need services and there is only so much the school districts can do with their funding,” Garcia said. “So I think it’s time the community comes together and realizes that investing in our kids, in our school districts, working together is the only way we are going to be successful as a community.”