The public hearing for the Richland Collegiate High School was held on January 20, 2005 , at 7:00 PM on the Richland College campus. The hearing was attended by 84 community members, including parents and prospective students; representatives from community associations, school districts, and universities; and DCCCD faculty and staff members. Dr. Stephen Mittelstet, President of Richland College, made a presentation describing the proposed Richland Collegiate High School that was followed by questions and comments from the audience. Dr. Mittelstet's presentation included poster boards containing the following information:
He explained each of the items on the poster boards, then responded to the following questions:
Q: Do faculty in the high school have to be certified?
A: No, Texas law does not require that charter school faculty members be certified. However, “No Child Left Behind” does require that all teachers be “highly qualified” in their subject area. Since the faculty who will be teaching High School students are Richland College faculty members, they must meet the accreditation standards set by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, which meet the “highly qualified” benchmark. These standards require that a faculty member teaching courses for college transfer must have a Master's degree with 18 successful graduate hours in the subject area. Faculty members teaching technical courses must have a bachelor's degree in an appropriate subject and at least 3 years of work experience in that area. All of the faculty members teaching Collegiate High School students will meet these qualifications.
Q: Will the high school provide transportation for students?
A: The High School will not provide transportation for students except for those who qualify under federal law due to eligibility for special education and related services.
Q: How will Richland College inform the community if it receives a charter?
A: The college will inform the community and business groups and associations it works with, many of which have been involved in planning this application, as soon as the award is announced. Richland 's Information Services Office will lead a public information and student recruitment campaign to reach the community and attract students. College officials and the High School Principal will be available for media interviews and programs.
Q: What will be the cut-off date for applications?
We are still working on that, but it will be early in 2006, probably in February or March.
Q: What will be the qualifications for students to attend the high school?
A: A student must live in one of the school districts from which we will accept students and be eligible to enter the 11th grade by having earned enough High School credits to graduate within two years and by passing the TEKS test for the 10 th grade. As a public high school, we can not deny admission to students who meet these qualifications, though we will counsel all prospective students and their parents about the academic rigor students must exercise for a successful High School experience.
Q: What will be the effect of the high school on Richland College faculty members?
A: Quite positive, we hope! Just as is the case now with our dual credit students, Collegiate High School students will enroll in and attend the classes they need to graduate and pursue their academic goals. Faculty members who have dual credit students in their classes often tell us how good those students are and ask for more, so we anticipate you will have a similar response to our High School students.
Q: Will students be able to take any course offered by Richland College?
A: Yes, they will be able to take any course for which they have met the prerequisites. Of course, our first goal is to have these students graduate from high school, so we would not allow a student to take a course that would interfere with that goal, but the curriculum includes electives to allow a student to take other courses.
Q: How will we accommodate more students in math and science courses when we are already crowded?
A: While our science and lower-level math courses are crowded at the mid-morning periods, we always have additional spaces at other times of the day. Since the High School students will be on-campus until 4:00 every afternoon, we can fit them into science and math courses that are meeting at the less popular times for our older college students. The High School should actually help us offer more upper-level math courses as these students complete their high school and college credits.
Q: Will the high school require funds from Richland College 's operating budget?
A: The High School will require an investment from the college to cover start-up costs during the year before it admits students. We are prepared to supply these funds from our fund balance. In fact, we have already set those funds aside in anticipation of receiving the charter. However, once the school is in operation, the funding from TEA will cover all of our operating costs and pay back the college for its initial support.
Q: Will the high school class schedule include weekend classes?
A: No, all classes for High School students will be offered during regular school hours Monday through Friday. A student could take a weekend or evening class if so desired with permission from the Principal, but this would be handled on an individual basis.
Q: Will the high school offer advocates to help students adjust to the change from attending a traditional high school?
A: Yes, the High School will employ two or three counselors whose duties will center on helping students adjust to life on a college campus. These counselors will work with the current student support services we have to help all of our students adjust to attending college. They will also maintain communications with faculty members who are teaching High School students to assure these students are performing in the classroom as we expect. This will allow the counselor to intervene quickly if a High School student is struggling.
We will also start the High School year three weeks before the college classes begin. During that three weeks, we will offer workshops, classes, and activities to build community within that group of students and to prepare them for the college experience.
Q: Will Richland College still offer dual credit classes outside the high school?
A: Yes, we will continue the current dual credit program and hope to see it grow. The High School is geared for students who want immersion into college, but we realize many other students want to participate in dual credit, but remain at their current high schools until they graduate.
Q: Will the high school students register early and close other students out of classes they need and want?
A: No, the High School students will register when registration for all students opens. They will register through the High School counselors to assure they are taking the classes they need to graduate. Other Richland students who register when registration opens will also be able to get the classes they need.
Q: Will the high school offer students opportunities for social development and extracurricular activities?
A: Yes, the periods when the High School is open when college classes are not being offered, including the first three weeks in the Fall, will offer students times to develop connections. Through the learning communities and service learning projects, High School students will also build community. High School students may participate in all extracurricular activities offered by Richland College , including music, drama, and sports activities. If a group of students wants to create additional activities exclusive to the High School, we will work with them to do this, but we will wait to see what happens rather than plan specific High School activities now.
Q: How will you build a sense of community among the students?
A: In addition to the learning communities and service learning activities, the students will report every morning to the lounge area that houses the High School offices. We can offer activities there in the morning or during the day, such as at lunch. We will also sponsor leadership building activities and field trips during the times when college classes are not in session to help the students bond.
Q: What is the difference between the Collegiate High School and the Texas Academy of Math & Science at UNT?
A: The Texas Academy is a residential school where students live in dorms, while our students will continue to live at home. Also, the Academy is selective in its admissions, admitting only the students they wish to teach. The Collegiate High School is open to any student who meets the basic admission requirements and who wishes to take college-level classes.
Q: Will the High School have a mechanism in place to assure students are moving toward their graduation?
A: Yes, High School students will only be able to register for classes through their counselors. Before they register, students will meet with a counselor to review their progress toward graduation. The counselor will not allow a student to register in a course that will delay graduation.
Q: What is the current average age of Richland students?
A: The average age of a Richland student is about 28 years old, but this includes students ranging from 16 years old to students who are 80 years old and older.
Q: Will the high school discourage older students from attending Richland ?
A: We do not think this will happen. We already have more than 300 students under the age of 18 attending Richland today and I have never had any complaints from older students.
Q: Will you have a high school graduation ceremony?
A: We certainly will – a great celebration!
Q: Who will buy the textbooks?
A: The High School will purchase the textbooks, working with the college bookstore to have them ready when classes start each semester. Textbooks will be checked out to High School students for the semester, then returned and reused as appropriate.
Q: What will be the Superintendent's salary?
A: Steve Mittelstet, the President of Richland College will serve as the High School Superintendent with no additional salary. David Canine will be the Assistant Superintendent, again at no additional salary. The Principal will be paid using High School funds at a salary in line with the salaries we pay academic deans.
Q: Is the “early college/charter school” movement just a fad inspired by the money Bill Gates is offering?
A: I see no sign of this. Charter schools continue to be started across the country. More than 400 people attended the application workshops conducted by TEA this year and that is just in Texas . Charter schools are not getting great publicity right now here in Dallas , but we see the Collegiate High School as a great opportunity to demonstrate that a charter school can play an important role in educating our young people.
We have spoken with the Gates Foundation and looked at their Early College model, but feel that we should not offer classes just for high school students; this is not our mission. We have fine school districts here that already do that. While the money is tempting, we had to tell Bill “no thanks.”
Q: How will you maintain academic rigor with the high school students?
A: The best way to assure academic rigor is to imply otherwise to a faculty member! We take great pride in what Richland College students learn and their performance at four-year institutions justifies that pride. Since High School students will be integrated into the college classes with other Richland students, we could not “water down” the courses and maintain our reputation. I will not let that happen and I know the faculty members here are even more adamant about that than I am! We have always found that you set high expectations for all of your students and they meet those expectations.
Q: So a high school student can “wash out” just like any other college student?
A: Absolutely, though we will make every effort to help every High School student succeed. I will not tolerate any activities that jeopardize our academic standing in the community.
Q: Will you have an advisory board of parents?
A: Yes, we will have a board of interested parents to help us respond to concerns and support their children's learning.
Q: Will faculty members have additional requirements put on them by the State to handle these students?
A: No, the TEA has no specific additional requirements that faculty members must follow. We already take attendance in every class and document student performance. Every class has a comprehensive syllabus stating the learning outcomes and expectations for success, which students receive the first day of class. While the High School counselors will be in frequent contact with faculty members who teach High School students, the faculty members will not have to perform extra work just for those students.
Q: How many dual credit students does Richland College have now?
A: In Fall 2004, we had 529 students, about 330 of whom attended classes on Richland 's campus.
Audience members had no more questions, so the meeting ended at 8:45 PM.