Op-Ed: MISD, IDEA join forces for Midland students
by Orlando Riddick and Tom Torkelson, April 8, 2019
Great teachers often share a similar ability: to take creative approaches that get around the red tape that frequently stands in the way of student success. As classroom teachers in Texas nearly two decades ago, we didn’t know each other, but we shared that desire for flexibility to better meet the needs of our students. Fast forward to today, and we each lead innovative public school districts — Midland ISD and IDEA Public Schools — committed to giving schools and educators the support to meet the individual needs of each child. Today, we are proud to partner to put the needs of Midland students first, by sharing best practices and collaborating to prepare Midland students for success in college and in life.
We started on the path to partnership several years ago, when the Midland ISD school board adopted the Lone Star Governance model — a wonky term for a simple idea: that the role of any school board is to support students, empower educators and steer a district toward better results. Through this process, the board set clear goals for student success and a vision for supporting educators to create a system of great schools in West Texas. Now, through an initiative called Midland on the Move, the board has gathered ideas from families, educators, civic leaders and community members about their hopes and ideas for improving our public schools. In community meetings, listening sessions and classrooms, we heard one thing loud and clear: Every Midland child deserves a great school in their neighborhood that meets their individual needs and maximizes their potential.
A shared focus on preparing all students for success brought Midland ISD and IDEA Public Schools together this year. When Midland ISD searched for a high-quality nonprofit or public charter school to transform one of our struggling schools, IDEA was a natural fit. Our board members felt ready to move the campus forward, and we needed a partner with both a similar sense of urgency and the expertise to prepare these students for success both in college and in life. In every IDEA school, we saw passionate teaching, creativity and personal attention for each student. All IDEA schools are public charter schools — independently run public schools that are open to all students, do not charge tuition and have the flexibility to take creative approaches to teaching so each student can succeed.
Two years ago, the Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill 1882, which allows districts such as Midland to partner with nonprofits, including public charter schools, to address the needs of their school communities. Midland ISD is excited that our district can benefit from this law to bring additional resources, expertise and talent to our community. And IDEA and Midland are not alone in our commitment to partnership. As members of the Texas District Charter Alliance, we have joined 12 other districts and public charters across Texas to solve common challenges and share new approaches to meet student needs. Alliance members all believe it’s time to put the needs of students first by expanding access to high-quality public schools. Our members benefit from diversity in our programs and school models but unity around our ultimate goal: a quality public education for every child.
IDEA is proud to join forces with Midland ISD in serving a diverse community of students to prepare them for success in college, career, and citizenship. Midland continues to press forward in the right direction, and together we are on the move on behalf of every student.
Orlando Riddick is the superintendent of Midland ISD and Tom Torkelson is the co-founder and CEO of IDEA Public Schools.