Charter Schools and ISD Schools - Understanding how they're similar and how they're different.

One of the questions we hear most from prospective parents interested in applying to Harmony Public Schools is “I’ve been looking at schools near me, but I don’t understand – what is the difference between a charter school and an ISD public school?” 

Texas public charter schools have grown exponentially in the past 25 years – both in Texas, and around the country – but we understand why many parents who grew up in a traditional independent school district setting themselves may still have questions.

That’s OK. We’ve got the answers to all of your biggest questions about charter schools.

So, what exactly is a charter school?

A charter school is a public school, and in many ways very similar to a traditional ISD school as you might think of one.

  • Charter schools do not charge tuition or application fees.
  • Charter schools accept every student who applies, as long as the school or grade level has not reached its enrollment capacity.
  • Charter school students take the same core classes and state tests (ex. STAAR) as ISD students. 
  • Charter schools are held to strict standards of financial and overall accountability by the Texas Education Agency.
  • Charter schools offer a full range of special services, including special education, English as a Second Language (ESL), Dyslexia, and 504. 

However, what makes charter schools different is what makes us special. In a word, that difference is “choice.”

Way back in 1995, the Texas State Legislature decided that even though there are a lot of great schools in Texas, a one-size-fits-all approach to education wasn’t working for all families. Each child is unique: some with special gifts, others with special challenges, and all with special dreams for their futures.

To help better serve every Texas student, the Texas public charter school system was created to allow independent, education-based nonprofit organizations called Charter Management Organizations (CMOs) to open and operate free public schools for Texas students with the promise that they would provide a new school choice in education for local Texas families.

For some charter schools, that new choice might be a curriculum that focuses on dual-language learning. For others, it might be helping students who have dropped out of the traditional school setting reclaim their path to graduation.

At Harmony Public Schools, we specialize in hands-on, project-based learning with a heavy emphasis on STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), as well as advanced college preparedness and character education.


DID YOU KNOW?

Of the roughly 100 schools in Texas certified as official Texas STEM Academies be the Texas Education Agency, 23 are Harmony Public Schools high schools – more than any other school system in Texas!

Thirteen Harmony high schools have also been named among the Best STEM High Schools in the U.S. by Newsweek.


 

Who can attend a charter school?

As long as a student lives within its geographic boundaries of the school, any child can attend a Texas public charter school. However, unlike traditional ISD schools where students usually must attend whichever nearby campus they are “zoned” to, public charter school geographic boundaries are generally very large – often covering multiple communities or counties. These large geographic boundaries are another way Texas public charter schools offer Texas families a choice in their student’s education, and are unique from traditional ISDs. For example, rather than sending their child to an ISD campus near their home address, a parent may prefer for their child to attend one near a grandparent’s home, or the parent’s place of work. Or they may prefer to send their child to a campus that specializes in a specific curriculum, like STEM, or with a higher TEA accountability rating than their neighborhood ISD school. All of these are options with Texas public charter schools.

Do public charter schools charge tuition?

Texas public charter schools are free to attend. Applying to a Texas public charter school is also free.

When and how can a student apply to a charter school?

A student can apply to a charter school at any time during the school year and be accepted if space is available. However, most Texas public charter schools also offer an open enrollment period each year specifically for prospective new students. During this time, families can learn more about their charter school options and enter their name for the enrollment lottery, which is held in the event there are more applicants than available seats. For Harmony Public Schools, open enrollment runs each November 1 through February 10. 

MORE INFO: Learn more about how to apply to Harmony Public Schools.

How is a charter school funded?

As opposed to a traditional ISD school, which receives its funding primarily from the taxes local homeowners pay each year combined with additional funding from the state, charter schools receive their primary funding from the state and federal governments. Additionally, charters often receive both public and private grants to fund many of their innovative academic programs. For example, in recent years Harmony Public Schools has received grants of varying amounts from the U.S. Department of Education, the Texas Education Agency, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, the Michael & Susan Dell Foundation, and the Elon Musk Foundation, among others.

Are Texas public charter schools for-profit?

No. By law, Texas public charter schools must be nonprofit entities. All funds received are used in the service of our students and school teams.

Do charter schools require uniforms?

That’s a decision that’s up to each charter school. At Harmony Public Schools, we do have a uniform policy. (Our students do get regular “free dress” days, though.)

Do charter schools offer the same types of programs and extracurricular activities as ISD schools?

Charter schools offer almost all of the same programs and extracurricular activities as ISD schools, though just like at an ISD school, the exact selection of extracurricular opportunities varies from campus-to-campus. Traditionally, charter schools specialize in offering a wide variety of academic-focused extracurriculars. For example, at Harmony Public Schools, some of our most popular extracurricular activities are our groundbreaking eSports clubs, LEGO robotics, rocketry, computer coding, and biomedicine. Our schools also compete in a wide variety of sports, including basketball, volleyball, soccer, and football. 

What other differences are there between charter schools and traditional ISD schools?

There are a few other differences between Texas public charter schools and ISDs, but most don’t impact the day-to-day campus life of our students. For example, charter school boards consist of appointed volunteers with a unique interest in education, rather than private individuals who have chosen to run for election.


This year every child at Harmony Public Schools is eligible to receive free lunch and breakfast each day from our child nutrition team.
However, Harmony would like to remind parents of the need to still submit one of our critical Harmony forms instead of the application normally associated with qualifying for Free & Reduced Price Meal Programs.
Each year, Harmony Public Schools is required to collect and report the socioeconomic status of each student to the Texas Education Agency for purposes of the annual state accountability ratings and for federal reporting. The data collected is used by educational agencies to determine funding which may be used for a variety of programs and educational opportunities.
Today, we are asking parents to please complete the online form “Household Income Information” in Skyward. Upon login to Skyward, this form is accessible from the main screen. If you have any questions, please contact the Child Nutrition Assistant at your child’s school.

 

Last week, Gov. Greg Abbott officially signed into law a new education funding bill that will allow public schools like ours to offer full virtual learning to up to 10 percent of our student body enrolled in Grades K-12.

 

Under the law, to be eligible to participate and remain in virtual learning, students must meet all of the following criteria:

 

  • Students must have passed the most recent STAAR exams (if applicable to grade level). If student did not take STAAR, NWEA grade-level proficiency is required, AND;
  • Students must have earned a “C” grade of higher in “foundation curriculum” courses taken virtually or remotely in the previous school year (ex. Math, reading), AND;
  • Students must have no more than 10% unexcused absences during the previous school year, and maintain less than 10 unexcused absences in a six-month period.

 

Recently, we asked families to log into Skyward to let us know if they prefer for their child to attend virtual learning or continue in-person learning on campus. The deadline to make your selection is Wednesday September 15, 2021. For those who select “Virtual Learning,” we will cross-checking their student records to determine their eligibility status. Those selected will be notified by their home campus soon and given further directions on how to begin online learning.

 

For those not selected for virtual learning or who wish to remain in-person learning from campus, Harmony will continue to offer its “remote conferencing” option on an as-needed basis. Under this program, students can learn from home for up to 20 instructional days if they have a pre-existing medical condition, or are forced to quarantine due to positive COVID-19 diagnosis or exposure. Additional days may be granted upon TEA approval with required documentation.

 

Harmony thanks you for your ongoing support and patience as the situation regarding virtual learning unfolded these past few weeks. Whether your student is attending virtual or in-person, we look forward to a great school year with you and your family.

– – –

 

La semana pasada, el gobernador Greg Abbott promulgó oficialmente una nueva ley de financiación de la educación que permitirá a las escuelas públicas como la nuestra ofrecer aprendizaje virtual completo para hasta el 10 por ciento de nuestros estudiantes.

 

En consecuencia, Harmony Public Schools se complace en anunciar que comenzará a ofrecer una opción de aprendizaje virtual a partir del lunes 4 de octubre para los estudiantes elegibles, según lo permitan los límites de inscripción.

 

Según la ley, para ser elegible para participar y permanecer en el aprendizaje virtual, los estudiantes deben cumplir con todos los siguientes criterios:

 

 

  • Los estudiantes deben haber aprobado los exámenes STAAR más recientes (si corresponde al nivel de grado). Si el estudiante no hizo STAAR, se requiere competencia de nivel de grado de NWEA, Y;

 

  • Los estudiantes deben haber obtenido una calificación “C” o superior en los cursos del “plan de estudios básico” hechos de forma virtual o remota en el año escolar anterior (por ejemplo, matemáticas, lectura), Y;

 

  • Los estudiantes no deben tener más del 10% de ausencias injustificadas durante el año escolar anterior y mantener menos de 10 ausencias injustificadas en un período de seis meses.

 

Recientemente, les pedimos a las familias que inicien sesión en Skyward para informarnos si prefieren que su hijo asista al aprendizaje virtual o que continúe con el aprendizaje presencial en el campus. La fecha límite para hacer su selección es el miércoles 15 de septiembre de 2021. Para aquellos que seleccionen “Aprendizaje virtual”, verificaremos sus registros de estudiantes para determinar su estado de elegibilidad. Los seleccionados serán notificados por su campus de origen pronto y se les dará más instrucciones sobre cómo comenzar el aprendizaje en línea. 

 

Para aquellos que no hayan sido seleccionados para el aprendizaje virtual o que deseen seguir aprendiendo de manera presencial desde el campus, Harmony continuará ofreciendo su opción de “conferencias remotas” según sea necesario. Bajo este programa, los estudiantes pueden aprender desde casa durante hasta 20 días de instrucción si tienen una afección médica preexistente o si se ven obligados a ponerse en cuarentena debido a un diagnóstico positivo o exposición a la COVID-19. Se pueden otorgar días adicionales con la aprobación de la TEA con la documentación requerida.

 

Gracias por su continuo apoyo y paciencia mientras se desarrolló el aprendizaje virtual estas últimas semanas. Ya sea que su estudiante asista virtual o presencialmente, esperamos tener un gran año escolar con usted y su familia.

 

Dear Harmony Families,

Today, we would like to share some important news regarding a potential virtual learning option at your child’s school.

This weekend, a new bill to fund virtual learning in Texas public schools like Harmony cleared a major hurdle in the Texas Legislature. In its current form, schools such as Harmony Public Schools would be allowed to provide virtual learning for up to 10 percent of its student body throughout the remainder of the school year.

While the bill has not received final approval and specific details may change before being signed into law by Gov. Greg Abbott, it now appears very likely that schools like ours will be able to offer virtual learning in some form to students in the near future and we are looking forward to offering comprehensive virtual learning to our student population during 2021-2022 school year.

Currently, in your child’s Skyward account is a form asking your family’s interest in virtual learning. We ask that you please complete this virtual learning application form as soon as you are able. While we may not be able to accommodate every request due to potential new legal restrictions on the number of students who can participate, by understanding your preference we will be able to more quickly assign students to virtual learning should it become an option.

We will continue to share important updates with you as new information becomes available.

Thank you.

 

 

Estimadas familias de Harmony,

Hoy, no nos gustaría compartie algunas noticias importantes sobre una posible opción de aprendizaje virtual en la escuela de sus hijos. Este fin de semana, un nuevo proyecto de ley para financiar el aprendizaje virtual en escuelas públicas de Texas como Harmony eliminó un obstáculo importante en la Legislatura de Texas. En su forma actual, las Escuelas Públicas de Harmony podrían proporcionar aprendizaje virtual para hasta el 10 por ciento de su cuerpo estudiantil durante el resto del año escolar.

Aunque el proyecto no ha recibido la aprobación final y unos detalles específicos pueden cambiar antes de set convertida en lay por en gobernador, Greg Abbott, ahora parece muy probable que las escuelas como la nuestra puedan ofrecer aprendizaje virtual de alguna forma a los estudiantes en un futuro cercano y esperamos ofrecer un aprendizaje virtual integral a nuestra población estudiantil durante la escuela 2021-2022 año.

Actualmente, en la cuenta de Skyward de si hijo o hija hay un formulario que pregunta el interés de su familia en el aprendizaje virtual. Le pedimos que complete este formulario de solicitud de aprendizaje virtual tan pronto como pueda. Si bien es posible que no podamos atender todas las solicitudes debido a posibles nuevas restricciones legales sobre la cantidad de estudiantes que pueden participar, al comprender su preferencia, podremos asignar estudiantes más rápidamente al aprendizaje virtual si se convierte en una opción.

Continuaremos compartiendo actualizaciones importantes con usted a medida que haya nueva información disponible.

Gracias.

On Saturday, the HPS executive board approved a recommendation allowing all regular employees 10 additional days of paid leave should they test positive for COVID-19 or be asked to quarantine due to  close contact with another COVID-19 positive individual.

 

The benefit is available retroactively to August 2 (first day of 2021-22 school year), and extends through December 31, 2021. 

 

Employees with additional questions or who need to request leave for any purpose should contact leave@harmonytx.org.

Dear Parents and Guardians:

Today, we would like to inform you of important education option for your family if you believe your student may have experienced significant academic losses during the 2020-2021 school year.

This summer, the 87th Texas Legislature passed Senate Bill (SB) 1697, which allows parents and guardians to elect for a student to repeat a grade or retake a high school course.

This gives parents or guardians the right to opt for their child to:

  • repeat pre-kindergarten or enroll in pre-kindergarten if the child was eligible to enroll in pre-kindergarten in the previous school year and has not yet enrolled in kindergarten;
  • repeat kindergarten; or enroll in kindergarten if the child would have enrolled in kindergarten in the previous school year and has not yet enrolled in first grade; and
  • for grades one through three, repeat the grade the student was enrolled in during the previous school year.

For the 2021-2022 school year only, parents or guardians have the right to opt for their child:

  • for grades four through eight, repeat the grade the student was enrolled in during the 2020-2021 school year; and
  • for courses taken for high school credit, repeat any course in which the student was enrolled during the 2020-2021 school year.

When determining whether these options may be right for your student, here are some things which may be helpful to consider:

  • For children in grades 1-8, repeating may be right for your child if he/she struggled learning while remaining virtual most of the year.
  • For students who took high school courses, repeating one or more courses may be right for your child if he/she struggled in a foundational course (e.g. Algebra I or computer science) and is worried about being successful in higher-level courses.
  • If a high school student received a passing grade for the course they are requesting to repeat, they will keep their original grade on their transcript.
  • For children interested in high school interscholastic competition, parents and guardians should review eligibility rulesbased on student age.

According to the new law, parents or guardians are required to notify the district in writing (letter or email to school principal) if they elect for their child to retake a grade level or course.

By law, if a district disagrees, the district must convene a retention committee and meet with the parent or guardian to discuss the proposed retention.

After the parent/ guardian has participated in the retention committee meeting, the parent or guardian will decide if the student will be retained.

For more information or to request retention for your student, please contact your campus administration.

Thank you.

  • Harmony Public Schools

 

Additional information is available at: https://tea.texas.gov/repeatgrade and https://tea.texas.gov/restartkinder

The following is a message from Harmony Public Schools CEO Fatih Ay.

 

Dear Harmony Families,

Like many of you, we at Harmony Public Schools are greatly concerned by the rise in COVID-19 cases attributed to the Delta variant.

At Harmony, we are working diligently to keep our schools safe and provide families the tools they need to keep their child protected from COVID-19.

Today, we would like to share with you several important updates regarding Harmony’s COVID-19 policy and procedures.

First, we would like to announce that we will be offering a TEA-approved “remote conferencing” option that will allow students a limited ability to attend classes from home if they are sick, have been exposed to COVID-19, or in a COVID-19 high-risk group.

Per TEA requirement, the total amount of time for remote instruction may not exceed more than 20 instructional days for the entire 2021-22 school year. In order to be eligible, students must meet one of the criteria below:

  • The student is unable to attend school because of a temporary medical condition that is documented by a physician licensed to practice in the United States. 
    • The student’s healthcare provider is required to complete and sign an HPS COVID-19 High Risk Exemption Medical Certification form. Parents need to submit the form to the school health aide to confirm eligibility.  Failure to provide the completed form will disqualify a student from participating. Here is the link to download exemption application form: https://www.HarmonyTX.org/medicalrequest
  • The student has a positive test result for a communicable condition  listed in state regulations at 25 Tex. Admin. Code §97.7. Parents need to provide test results to the school health aide listing the communicable condition. This includes a positive test result for COVID-19.
  • The student has been identified as having been in close contact with a COVID-19 positive individual as confirmed by the school, the student’s health care provider, or local health agency.  Parents need to provide written notification or send email to the school health aide.

Next, we would like to share an update regarding contact tracing and reporting of potential COVID-19 cases on campus. 

Although it is not required for schools to conduct contract tracing and inform parents if someone in their child’s class had tested positive for COVID-19, we believe families have the right to know what is happening at their child’s school. That’s why we will continue to implement the following measures.

We will:

  • Inform parents if a child or team member tests positive for COVID-19 in their classroom.
  • Conduct contact tracing to determine the potential spread of COVID-19 in our schools.
  • Provide transparency to the public about our schools by continuing to update our COVID-19 “case count” dashboard, which can be found at www.HarmonyTX.org/coviddashboard.
  • Continue to work with local pharmacies and community health organizations to host on-campus vaccination clinics for team members and eligible students age 12 and older. (Please follow your campus Facebook page and parents newsletter for more info about upcoming campus clinics near you.)

Finally, we understand that a full remote learning option is something some of our families are highly interested in.  Currently, state leaders in the Texas Legislature are convening in Austin to vote on whether they will allow districts to offer full virtual learning.

We don’t yet know what the decision of the Texas Legislature will be, or how long it may take to reach that decision.

 What we do know is that an option for virtual learning is an important issue to our Harmony families across the state. That’s why, despite the challenges schools across Texas have faced in offering virtual learning this fall, we are fully prepared to quickly move to a virtual option for those families interested, should state leaders approve this option.

We will continue to keep you updated as new developments occur.

Thank you for your support and collaboration throughout this process, and for being a part of our Harmony family.

Sincerely,

Fatih Ay | CEO, Harmony Public Schools

The following is a list of questions commonly asked by parents and students about the start of the 2021-22 school year at Harmony Public Schools.

For more information, visit https://www.HarmonyTX.org/playbook.

Harmony Public Schools
Frequently Asked Questions
Q:  Will Harmony Public Schools offer virtual learning this year?

A:  No. Harmony will return to  face to face instruction  at all campuses for the 21-22 school year as mandated by the Texas Education Agency. We are excited to have our students back in the classroom and will continue to support their social, emotional, and academic growth.

Q:  What will on-campus instruction look like for this year?

A:  Just as before the pandemic, students will attend in-person learning  according to the academic calendar. This calendar can be found on your campus website.  Teachers will provide in-person learning, which includes hands-on activities, small group projects and intervention, station rotations, teacher one-on-one support, etc.

Q:  What COVID-19 safety protocols will be in place for students and teachers?

A:  Face masks are optional for both students and Harmony team members, but are strongly recommended.  Physical distancing may be maintained to the extent possible.  Hand sanitizer will be provided, and students will be encouraged to practice frequent hand washing, use of hand sanitizer, and physical distancing.  Teachers will sanitize high-touch areas in the classroom when necessary.  Because the COVID-19 pandemic is evolving, we may update protocols as the situation dictates.

Q:  My child struggled with virtual learning, and I am concerned they are academically behind.  How will Harmony help my child regain academic progress?

A:  We understand that some students struggled last year.  Our educational teams are here to diagnose learning loss and provide an intervention plan to address it.  This will include regular Response to Intervention (RTI) system implementation, after school tutoring, small group instruction, Saturday school, and summer school options.

Q:  My child excelled with virtual learning last year.  Will they be academically challenged this year?

A:  Yes!  We will continue to provide rigorous instruction with differentiated options for students including emphasis on college and career readiness.

Q:  Will extracurricular activities resume this year?

A:  Yes!  We anticipate all extracurricular activities to resume for students, including academic clubs, athletics, fine arts, UIL, competitions, etc. Check the Clubs page of your campus website throughout the year for new clubs and extracurriculars.

Q:  After a year out of the classroom, how will students and staff be supported in transitioning back to a social setting?

A:  Harmony will provide mental health support to our students and staff during and after the back to school transition period.  Each campus will utilize a Behavioral Counselor and implement support systems to ensure all students and staff receive the help they need.

Q:  Where can I apply for free or reduced price meals?

A:  All students eat FREE this year at all schools! Your child will automatically receive their free meal(s) each day in your campus cafeteria. You may, however, still be asked to complete a Free & Reduced Meal eligibility form once the school year starts, as this plays a crucial role in determining the amount of federal and state funding your child’s school may receive.

Q:  What safety protocols will be in place during breakfast and lunch?

A:  Cafeteria teams will continue to clean and sanitize dining areas.  Physical distancing will be maintained to the extent possible.  Students will sanitize their hands before and after eating, and will not be allowed to share food or utensils.  Harmony will maintain adult supervision in the cafeteria to reinforce mealtime safety measures.

Q:  Will water fountains be available for students?

A:  Students will have access to touchless water fountains and are encouraged to bring their own reusable clear water bottles to use throughout the day.  Water bottles should be taken home daily to be cleaned.

Q:  What if my child displays symptoms of COVID-19 while at school?

A:  The teacher will immediately call the Health Aide, who will pick up the student from the classroom and place the student in isolation to minimize interaction.  The school Health Aide will communicate with the parent/guardian, and the student will be sent home.  The student may not return to school until clearance is given by the school Health Aide.  Additional guidance on the criteria that must be met prior to the student’s return to school is located in the Harmony Public Schools Back to School Playbook, 2021-2022.

Q:  Should I notify the school if my child tested positive for COVID-19 or was in close contact with someone who tested positive?

A:  Yes, families will self-report within 48 hours to the Health Aide if their child(ren) tested positive for COVID-19 or if they believe the child(ren) has been in close contact with an individual who has tested positive for COVID-19.

Q:  How will I be notified if my child is exposed to COVID-19 at school?

A:  If classroom exposure occurs, families will be notified via letter home, call, or school messaging services and the classroom will be sanitized.

Q:  May I visit my child’s school?

A:  Harmony always welcomes visitors to campuses and district offices, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic we will implement some limitations to minimize risk.  Visitors will check in through the front office security system, and we will continue utilization of temperature checks.  All visitors should complete a self-check before entering a school building, and visitors with COVID symptoms should NOT enter school buildings or offices.

 

 

The following is a message from Harmony Public Schools CEO Fatih Ay for HPS students, families and team members.

Hello … and happy summer vacation!

 

We hope you are having a fun and relaxing break. Here at Harmony, we’re already hard at work preparing for another exciting and engaging school year for our students and team members.  With the first day of classes just a few weeks away, we wanted to take this opportunity to provide our students, team members, and their families a little more information on what to expect in the coming school year.

 

Here are a few highlights, but expect more details along with our annual Back to School Playbook in the days ahead:

 

 

CAMPUS-BASED LEARNING FOR ALL: Last year, many of our families elected to learn remotely rather than sending their student to campus. Accordingly, Harmony came into the summer preparing to expand and further improve its virtual learning options for families in 2021-22. Unfortunately, state leaders in the Texas Legislature have declined to continue funding for full-time virtual learning in 2021-22 for all Texas public schools, eliminating the option for virtual learning for millions of public school students at thousands of campuses like ours across the state. We are closely monitoring all potential developments and will provide family updates as new developments may occur. In the meantime, we are eagerly looking forward to greeting all of our scholars back in person when the 2021-22 school year begins.

 

 

BACK-TO-SCHOOL TRANSITION HELP: Many of our students will be returning to campus for the first time in a long time this fall. For some of our youngest students, it will be their first time coming to campus ever. So we’ve developed a comprehensive transition plan that focuses on helping students regain possible academic losses from the past two years, Social Emotional Learning (SEL) support, increasing access to campus behavioral counselors, and a behavior intervention system that rewards good choices.

 

 

RETURN OF EXTRACURRICULARS & SPORTS: With proper safety precautions, Harmony students will be able to participate in a full range of in-person extracurricular activities this fall, including sports and other interschool competitions. We’ll also continue to offer many of the clubs and activities that students enjoyed last school year. Keep an eye on the Clubs page of your campus website for more information on activities offered at your Harmony campus.

 

 

MODIFIED CAMPUS SANITATION PROTOCOLS: Health experts have learned a lot about how COVID-19 spreads since the start of the pandemic. So with all of our learners returning to campus this fall, we have modified some of our safety procedures and eliminated others to comply with the most up-to-date guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Texas Education Agency. Chief among those changes is a reduced social distance requirement in some indoor settings, a change in mask recommendations for outdoor activities, and the opportunity for visitors and volunteers to come to campus again under certain circumstances (at principal’s discretion). Look for more complete details on these and other COVID-related guidelines in the coming days in our “Back to School Playbook.”

 

 

MASKS OPTIONAL: According to an order from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, public schools are no longer allowed to require their students or team members to wear masks. Instead, masks are optional for both students and team members. Currently, the CDC strongly recommends masks for unvaccinated individuals ages 2 and older. (Ages 12 & Up: Find a free and convenient vaccine clinic near you.) Harmony will continue to offer masks for those who request them.

 

As you can see, helping our students move forward from the past two years both academically and social-emotionally will be key goals of the 2021-22 school year. We appreciate your ongoing support in this critical effort and will provide you more details soon.

 

 

Thank you for being a member of our Harmony Public Schools family.

 

 

We can’t wait to see you this fall!

The Harmony Public Schools Executive Board unanimously approved a systemwide compensation increase for its 4,000+ teachers and team members across Texas.

Harmony teachers and other education professionals will receive between $4,000-$7,500 per year in additional compensation beginning the 2021-22 school year for a total annual system investment of roughly $15 million.
“The obstacles our schools have overcome the past two years have shown the profound impact that highly-qualified, highly-dedicated teachers can have on positive student outcomes,” Harmony CEO Fatih Ay said. “Opportunities like this are just one way we are showing our appreciation for all that our team members have contributed the past two years and for all the hard work still to come.”

The compensation increase comes in two parts:

A $2,000-$5,500 base pay increase for teachers and education professionals. The exact amount varies by community based on local market pay scales (see chart below).

A $2,000 across-the-board “Acceleration Stipend” for all teachers and professional employees.

All non-exempt (i.e. hourly) employees also will receive a raise of at least $1/hour, with some employees receiving $2/hour or more increases depending on position and location. With these increases, no full-time hourly worker in the Harmony system will earn less than $15/hour.

The increase was the third occasion in the past two school years in which Harmony announced a major improvement to employee compensation and benefits.

In January 2021, Harmony announced a sweeping upgrade of its employer-paid benefits that provided free vision and dental plans to all full-time employees, introduced matching retirement plan contributions for 403(b) and (457(b) participants, and increased life insurance payouts from $20,000 to $100,000.

In Summer 2019, Harmony also announced statewide base pay increases for employees ranging from $3,500-$5,000, as well as additional stipends for teachers working in hard-to-staff subjects.

Harmony also was selected by the Texas Education Agency in 2020 among its first round of Teacher Incentive Allotment recipients, which provided annual bonuses for a select group of high-performing educators.

“Our teachers are always looking for new ways to invest in their students, so it’s important to Harmony as a school system to always find new opportunities to invest in our teachers,” Ay said. “Whether its compensation or benefits increases like these, or professional development opportunities that help team members grow their personal skillset or advance their careers, we believe that an investment in our people is among the best investments we can make.”

Harmony Public Schools is a Texas-born, Texas-wide public charter school system with campuses serving PreK-Grade 12 students in 23 cities across the state, including Greater Houston, DFW, San Antonio, Austin, El Paso, Waco, Lubbock, Odessa, Bryan, Beaumont, and the Rio Grande Valley. Harmony’s curriculum places a heavy focus on STEM skills, Character Education, project-based learning, and college readiness.

Harmony Public Schools is currently accepting applications for the 2021-2022 school year for both students and team members.

About Harmony Public Schools
Harmony Public Schools are 58 high performing PreK-12 college preparatory charter schools throughout Texas. Harmony blends the highest standards and expectations, with a rigorous math- and science-centered curriculum and dedicated and engaged teachers and families to cultivate excellence and prepare students to succeed in college, careers and life. At Harmony Public Schools, we believe every child can succeed, and we are committed to helping them realize their full potential. To learn more about Harmony Public Schools and our 58 campuses across Texas, please visit: www.harmonytx.org, and follow us on Twitter at @HarmonyEdu and ‘Like’ us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/HarmonyTexas.

This letter is for families with:

• Children who are certified for free or reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program (NSLP).
• Children who attend a Community Eligibility Provision (CEP) or Provision 2 (P2) school that offers free meals to all students.*
• Children born after Aug. 1, 2014, in families who received SNAP benefits for at least one month between October 2020 and June 2021.
*Contact your child’s school if you have questions about the school’s participation in these programs.

If you do not meet at least one of the requirements listed above, your child is not eligible for the P-EBT benefits described below.

Enrolled students (up to 21 years of age) in families that temporarily lost access to free or reduced-price school meals for the 2020–2021 school year due to the COVID-19 pandemic may be eligible to receive Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (P-EBT). P-EBT benefits can be used to buy food from any retailer that accepts the Lone Star Card.

The application for P-EBT will open June 2, 2021. Go to yourtexasbenefits.com/Learn/PEBT to apply.

The application link is case-sensitive. The deadline to apply is Aug. 13, 2021.

Who Needs to Apply?
A parent/guardian must apply if eligible child is:

o Enrolled in K-12 and NOT part of a family who received SNAP benefits for at least one
month between August 2020 and June 2021.

o Born on or before Aug. 1, 2014, and is part of a family who received SNAP benefits for the first time during the 2020–2021 school year in May or June 2021.
• A parent/guardian does not have to apply if eligible child is:
o Born on or before Aug. 1, 2014, and is part of a family who received SNAP benefits for at least one month between August 2020 and April 2021.
o Born after Aug. 1, 2014, and is part of a family who received SNAP benefits for at least one month between October 2020 and June 2021.
For more information about eligibility, applying and getting your P-EBT benefits, visit hhs.texas.gov/pebt, or call the P-EBT Call Center at 833-442-1255, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m.–6
p.m. Central time.

Esta carta es para las familias con:
• Niños que están aprobados para recibir comidas gratuitas o a precio reducido a través del Programa Nacional de Almuerzos Escolares (NSLP).
• Niños que asisten a una escuela beneficiaria de la Cláusula de Elegibilidad Comunitaria (CEP) o a una escuela de la Cláusula 2 (P2) que ofrece comidas gratuitas a todos los estudiantes.*
• Niños nacidos después del 1 de agosto de 2014 en familias que recibieron beneficios de SNAP durante al menos un mes entre octubre de 2020 y junio de 2021.
*Comuníquese con la escuela de su hijo si tiene preguntas sobre la participación de la escuela en estos programas.
Si usted no cumple con al menos uno de los requisitos mencionados anteriormente, su hijo no puede recibir los beneficios de P-EBT descritos a continuación.

Estimado padre o tutor,

Los estudiantes matriculados (hasta los 21 años de edad) de familias que perdieron temporalmente el acceso a las comidas escolares gratuitas o de precio reducido para el año escolar 2020-2021 debido a la pandemia de COVID-19 podrían reunir los requisitos para recibir la Transferencia Electrónica de Beneficios durante la Pandemia (P-EBT). Los beneficios de P-EBT pueden usarse para comprar alimentos en cualquier tienda que acepte la tarjeta Lone Star.

La presentación de solicitudes para P-EBT se abrirá el 2 de junio de 2021. Visite yourtexasbenefits.com/Learn/PEBT (en inglés) para presentar la solicitud. El enlace para la solicitud distingue entre mayúsculas y minúsculas. La fecha límite para presentar la solicitud es el 13 de agosto de 2021.

¿Quién debe presentar la solicitud?
Un padre o tutor deberá presentar la solicitud si el niño que reúne los requisitos:
o Está matriculado en K-12 y NO pertenece a una familia que recibió beneficios de SNAP durante al menos un mes entre agosto de 2020 y junio de 2021.
o Nació el 1 de agosto de 2014 o antes y pertenece a una familia que recibió beneficios de SNAP por primera vez durante el año escolar 2020-2021 en mayo o junio de 2021.
• Un padre o tutor no tiene que presentar la solicitud si el niño que reúne los requisitos:
o Nació el 1 de agosto de 2014 o antes y pertenece a una familia que recibió beneficios de SNAP durante al menos un mes entre agosto de 2020 y abril de 2021.
o Nació después del 1 de agosto de 2014 y pertenece a una familia que recibió beneficios de SNAP durante al menos un mes entre octubre de 2020 y junio de 2021.
Para más información sobre los requisitos, la presentación de la solicitud y cómo recibir sus beneficios de P-EBT, visite hhs.texas.gov/es/pebt, o llame al Centro de llamadas de P-EBT al 833-442-1255, de lunes a viernes, de 8 a.m. a 6 p.m. hora del centro.

 

Teachers and other staff members of Harmony Public Schools will receive a major upgrade to their employer-paid benefits package after the Harmony Public Schools Executive Board unanimously approved a sweeping new benefits expansion.

 

The package will go into effect later this spring with the start of Harmony’s annual benefits enrollment period, and includes new employer-paid benefits related to health care, retirement, and life insurance.

 

“The past year, the world has seen the true value of our teachers and team members in a way they never have before,” Harmony Public Schools CEO Fatih Ay said. “These professionals who take such good care of our students deserve to know that they are being taken care of, as well – both their immediate needs and their long-term needs. So we are excited to be able to offer them an additional set of benefits that saves them money on their health care costs each month, while also helping them prepare for their retirement down the road.”

 

The new benefits include:

 

MATCHING RETIREMENT CONTRIBUTIONS: Exempt employees can receive 100% matching contribution to employee 403(b) and/or 457(b) plan, up to $1,500 annually depending on tenure of service. This is in addition to employee’s TRS Retirement System Benefits.

 

  • Previously: No employer matching contribution. 

 

FREE VISION: Free vision care for employees.

 

  • Previously: Employee-paid supplemental benefit.

 

FREE DENTAL: Free dental care for employees. 

  • Previously: Employee-paid supplemental benefit.

INCREASED FREE LIFE INSURANCE POLICY: Free $100,000 life insurance policy for all Exempt employees.

 

  • Previously: Free $20,000 life insurance policy.

 

The package amounts to a roughly $2.4 million estimated increase in annual expenditure on employer-paid benefits for the Texas-based school system. However, Harmony Public Schools CEO Fatih Ay said the investment was worth it because of the positive impact on employee quality of life, work-life balance, and workplace satisfaction.

 

“The investments with the best returns are always the investment made in people,” Ay said. “We’ll continue to make these kinds of investments on behalf of our employees as often as we can.” 

 

The expansion was the fourth major announcement related to employee benefits made by Harmony in the past year. The school system also announced two employee bonuses last year, as well as a promise to continue independently offering the now-expired federal COVID-19 leave benefits for impacted employees.

 

For a full list of Harmony Public Schools employer-paid and supplemental benefits, please visit https://www.harmonytx.org/benefits.

 

Harmony Public Schools is a Texas-born, Texas-wide public charter school system with campuses serving PreK-Grade 12 students in 23 cities across the state, including Greater Houston, DFW, San Antonio, Austin, El Paso, Waco, Lubbock, Odessa, Bryan, Beaumont, and the Rio Grande Valley. Harmony’s curriculum places a heavy focus on STEM skills, Character Education, project-based learning, and college readiness. 

 

Harmony Public Schools is currently accepting applications for the 2020-2021 school year for both students and team members.

 

 

About Harmony Public Schools

 

Harmony Public Schools are 58 high performing PreK-12 college preparatory charter schools throughout Texas. Harmony blends the highest standards and expectations, with a rigorous math- and science-centered curriculum and dedicated and engaged teachers and families to cultivate excellence and prepare students to succeed in college, careers and life. At Harmony Public Schools, we believe every child can succeed, and we are committed to helping them realize their full potential. To learn more about Harmony Public Schools and our 58 campuses across Texas, please visit: www.harmonytx.org, and follow us on Twitter at @HarmonyEdu and ‘Like’ us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/HarmonyTexas.

 

 On the first school day after important federal workplace safeguards expired for millions of Americans,  Harmony Public Schools’ Executive Board voted to independently provide the much-needed benefits to its 4,000+ employees.

 

The benefits previously were part of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), a federal program which provided American workers a number of workplace safeguards related to COVID-19. Primarily, the benefits included up to 10 Emergency Paid Sick Leave (EPSL) days if an employee was unable to work due to COVID-19 diagnosis, symptoms, possible exposure, or required quarantine for themselves, a family member, or child care provider. 

Those federal benefits expired December 31, 2020. However, The Harmony Public Schools’ Executive Board voted at an emergency meeting Monday night, January 4, to independently extend the same benefits to employees throughout the remainder of the 2020-21 school year.

 

“The Harmony board felt this action was not only an important thing to do, but the right thing to do for our staff and their families,” Harmony CEO Fatih Ay said in a letter to employees  Tuesday. “By offering these benefits, our team members can know that their jobs and livelihoods will not be impacted if they need to seek treatment for COVID-19 or stay home with possible symptoms. Additionally, our student families also can know that Harmony is doing all it can to take care of the team members who take care of their students, and reduce potential COVID-19 exposure on campus.”

On the first school day after important federal workplace safeguards expired for millions of Americans, Harmony Public Schools’ Executive Board voted to independently provide the much-needed benefits to its 4,000+ employees.

Harmony Public Schools is a Texas-born, Texas-wide public charter school system with campuses serving PreK-12 students in 23 cities across the state, including Greater Houston, DFW, San Antonio, Austin, El Paso, Waco, Lubbock, Odessa, Bryan, Beaumont, and the Rio Grande Valley. Harmony’s curriculum places a heavy focus on STEM skills, Character Education, project-based learning, and college readiness. 

 

The school system has committed to offering both in-person and remote learning options for students throughout the 2020-2021 school year, and is now accepting applications for new students for the 2021-22 school year.

 

About Harmony Public Schools

 

Harmony Public Schools are 58 high performing PreK-12 college preparatory charter schools throughout Texas. Harmony blends the highest standards and expectations, with a rigorous math- and science-centered curriculum and dedicated and engaged teachers and families to cultivate excellence and prepare students to succeed in college, careers and life. At Harmony Public Schools, we believe every child can succeed, and we are committed to helping them realize their full potential. To learn more about Harmony Public Schools and our 58 campuses across Texas, please visit: www.harmonytx.org, and follow us on Twitter at @HarmonyEdu and ‘Like’ us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/HarmonyTexas.

(TEXAS) – On the eve of National Principals Month, the U.S. Department of Education has awarded a $27.8 million Teacher and School Leader Incentive grant to Harmony Public Schools to train, equip, and retain top-level school leaders at its campuses across the state.

This project will strengthen and evolve Harmony’s existing Human Capital Management System, developed through a previous Department of Education grant project (Teacher Incentive Fund, 2016), to more explicitly focus on strengthening instructional leadership by better positioning and supporting current and rising principals and instructional leadership teams to excel and remain in their roles—especially in high-need schools. Harmony has 50 schools designated as high-needs throughout the state.

The project design draws on proven research showing that strong instructional leadership improves educator effectiveness, which, in turn, accelerates growth in student outcomes.

“Great schools require great leadership,” said Harmony CEO Fatih Ay. “That’s why one of our highest priorities at Harmony Public Schools is to equip our principals and other school leaders with the tools they need to build cultures of achievement, character, and community at their campuses.”

Harmony was one of only 13 school systems in the country to receive the DOE grant and the largest of three Texas recipients.

“Great teachers deserve to be treated as the professionals they are and to be compensated accordingly,” U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos said in a statement Wednesday, September 1. “All too often, though, they lack access to relevant professional development courses and are compensated on a step-scale ladder that treats them like cogs in a machine instead of as individuals with unique talents and interests. We’ve challenged today’s awardees to rethink all of that, and they have risen to the challenge.”

The new funding brings the total amount awarded to Harmony by the Department of Education within the past few years to $92.5 million. 

  • In 2012, the DOE awarded Harmony a $30 million Race to the Top grant to support locally developed plans to personalize and deepen student learning, directly improve student achievement and educator effectiveness, close achievement gaps, and prepare every student to succeed in college and their careers.
  • In 2016, the DOE awarded Harmony a $26.7 million Teacher Incentive Fund grant to develop a merit-based system for rewarding its highest-performing teachers. (The system, known as H-STEP, was foundational in Harmony being named to the Texas Education Agency’s inaugural class of Teacher Incentive Allotment districts in Fall 2020.)
  • In 2018, the DOE awarded Harmony an $8 million Education Innovation Research grant to  build upon Harmony’s project-based learning STEM model for Grade 6-12 students by introducing similar curricula to students in Grade K-5, and by creating a system of support and professional development for elementary school teachers.

Harmony Public Schools is a Texas-born, Texas-wide public charter school system with campuses serving PreK-Grade 12 students in 23 cities across the state, including Greater Houston, DFW, San Antonio, Austin, El Paso, Waco, Lubbock, Odessa, Bryan, Beaumont, and the Rio Grande Valley. Harmony’s curriculum places a heavy focus on STEM skills, Character Education, project-based learning, and college readiness. In 2020, Harmony hadall 23 high school campuses named among the Best High Schools in America by U.S. News and World Report, 13 named to the Best STEM High Schools in America by Newsweek, and earned two National School of Character recognitions from Character.org.

Harmony Public Schools is currently accepting applications for the 2020-2021 school year for both students and team members.

 

About Harmony Public Schools

Harmony Public Schools are 58 high performing PreK-12 college preparatory charter schools throughout Texas. Harmony blends the highest standards and expectations, with a rigorous math- and science-centered curriculum and dedicated and engaged teachers and families to cultivate excellence and prepare students to succeed in college, careers and life. At Harmony Public Schools, we believe every child can succeed, and we are committed to helping them realize their full potential. To learn more about Harmony Public Schools and our 58 campuses across Texas, please visit: www.harmonytx.org, and follow us on Twitter at @HarmonyEdu and ‘Like’ us on Facebook: www.facebook.com/HarmonyTexas.

Reading skills are foundational to educational success for all students.

Encouraging students to read more improves their skills and promotes a love of reading they can continue throughout their educational years and into adulthood.

That’s why Harmony Public Schools is hosting a fall Reading Challenge for all students in all campuses.

Join your classmates from across your campus and across the state from Monday, October 5, 2020 though Sunday, January 3, 2021 as together we show our love for reading and discover new and exciting ideas, authors, and stories through our favorite books.

Along the way, we’ll recognize our top readers and campuses each month, share favorite book picks, and ask for your reviews on some of your favorite reads.

The reading challenges by grade are:

Kindergarten – Grade 2
20 Books

Grade 3-5
10 Novels
3 Fiction
3 Nonfiction
1 Poetry
3 Student Choice

Grade 6-8
11 Novels
4 Fiction
4 Nonfiction
1 Poetry
2 Student Choice

Grade 9-12
12 Novels
4 Fiction
4 Nonfiction
1 Poetry
3 Student Choice

Share your favorite reads on social media by tagging Harmony and using the hashtag #HarmonyReads.