Westlake Academy – Charter Application
In 1999, the Town of Westlake voted to approve the Council-Manager Form of Government, following that approval the Town Council (formerly known as the Board of Aldermen) hired Trent Petty to serve as the Town’s first professionally trained Town Manager. Mr. Petty immediately began drafting policies related to the hiring of staff, negotiating economic development agreements, and generally growing the Town from what was then a small community of approximately 250 residents.
In December of 2000, the Town Council directed the Town Manager to continue to develop the Town by taking advantage of a 1995 law that allowed a municipality to operate and manage a public charter school. Through Resolution (00-54) the Council expressed its belief that,
“a local school is recognized as a necessary, unifying and defining element of any community, and the Town of Westlake is without this most important community component”.
The Resolution further clarified that the
“Town of Westlake intends to create an open-enrollment charter school in the Town of Westlake that represents an alternative style and type of public education intended to complement and supplement the three local ISDs”.
Mr. Petty officially submitted the more than 250-page application for an open-enrollment charter school to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) in February of 2001. The application included an overview of the governing structure of the Town, projected school demographics, a proposed business plan, facility management information, suggested geographic boundaries, goals and objectives, start-up budget plans, and a variety of other documents designed to support the Town’s ability to provide educational services.
The Town received conditional approval to proceed with creating the school in July of 2001, and the Town Manager began responding to the inquiries and directions provided during the application review process. After two years of negotiation and review with TEA, the contract was finally signed in the fall of 2003.
The charter and all its amendments serve as the contract between the Town of Westlake as the sponsoring entity and the State of Texas. The charter is not, however, the single source of rules and guidelines regarding charter school operations and must be viewed in tandem with applicable federal and state law, rules adopted by the Texas Commissioner of Education for open-enrollment charter schools, and local policies adopted by the charter holder, i.e. Town of Westlake. Each charter issued by the State is periodically renewed by TEA and reauthorized for a 10-year period. Our charter was renewed in both 2007 and 2016.
The Town chose this innovative and creative approach to creating community and is currently the only municipality (governmental entity) that operates a charter school in Texas. This unique structure allows us to partner our municipal team with our academic team to create a well-supported school that benefits from the strength and stability of the municipal government.
Relevant Questions and Answers:
Why is the Town of Westlake the charter holder for the school?
There are currently four categories of entities that may be chartered to operate a public school within the state. Those are:
(1) an institution of higher education as defined under Section 61.003;
(2) a private or independent institution of higher education as defined under Section 61.003;
(3) an organization that is exempt from taxation under Section 501(c)(3), Internal Revenue Code of 1986 (26 U.S.C. Section 501(c)(3)); or
(4) a governmental entity.
The Town of Westlake applied for the Westlake Academy charter as a governmental entity. When the initial application was filed with TEA in 2001, the Council proposed that the charter be held and the school be managed, by a separate non-profit – the Westlake Academy Corporation. In reviewing the application, TEA rejected that request and required that the Town acknowledge its understanding that the Town of Westlake would be the charter holder for the school. Thus, the Town as the Charter holder is ultimately responsible to TEA for the operations and educational progress of Westlake Academy students.
How is the Town authorized to operate a school?
When TEA approved charter school legislation in 1995, governmental entities were one of the four categories of organizations that were eligible to apply for a charter contract. This allows not only municipalities but county governments, to operate and manage a charter school and offer educational services as a business unit within their organization. Of the 179 Texas charter schools, Westlake Academy is the only one operated by a governmental entity.
Is Westlake Academy its own 501c(3) entity/governmental unit/corporation?
No. The school is managed and operated as a department of the Town of Westlake. The school does not have a tax identification number and does not exist as a separate legal entity apart from the Town.
Can the charter be transferred to another 501c(3) or entity to run the school?
The Town Council cannot transfer the charter to another non-profit, government, or private entity to operate the school. The contract to operate Westlake Academy is between the Texas Education Agency and the Town of Westlake.
Can Westlake Academy be reorganized as its own Independent School District (ISD)?
The Town of Westlake is divided into three, high-performing school districts – Keller ISD, Carroll ISD, and Northwest ISD. Westlake children also may attend Westlake Academy, an open-enrollment charter school, or any of the private schools in the DFW area. Under current law, a new school district may not be created with an area of less than nine square miles or fewer than 8,000 students in average daily attendance. The Town’s boundaries encompass an area of less than nine square miles; therefore, we are not eligible to create our own independent school district.