Superintendent's Letter to TMSA Parents

Superintendent's Letter to TMSA Parents: On Some Concerns Raised on the TMSA Social Media Platform
Posted on 06/19/2022
001 letter parents

Dear TMSA Parents and Guardians,

I hope you are having a wonderful Sunday evening.

I want to connect with you on some concerns raised on the TMSA social media platforms. I am grateful for all those taking the time to share their thoughts and concerns about some of TMSA's practices and proposed changes. One of TMSA's core values is inclusion. We seek to understand and value diverse perspectives, treat others with dignity and respect, and collaborate to find solutions that benefit and are equitable to all.

As you know, TMSA has provided high-quality free public education to North Carolinians since 2008. Our enrollment has grown from 216 students to 4,200, and we now have five campuses in three different regions of the state. This journey of fourteen years has been full of challenges. We neither want to lose the forest for the trees nor the trees for the forest. We have had to go to great lengths to reach the goals set by the TMSA Board and the DPI while complying with the TMSA policies, state and federal regulations. As the Board's designee, I am responsible for ensuring that all policies and procedures have been followed with fidelity at every level of our institution. I fulfill this duty by working with the central office staff, Board committees, school principals, our legal counsels, the DPI, and the Office of Charter School.

In other words, the central office and I take directives from the Board and requests from the stakeholders, work with the school administrations and third-party consultants, and bring the matters in question to the attention of the related Board Committees. The central office is, in a way, the steward of all TMSA stakeholders. It does not have any other agenda except to help the schools to reach their academic and operational goals.

In the last three years, we have faced many challenges and overcome them with TMSA's hardworking staff and your continued support. In some of these challenges, we might not have performed at the expected level, which might have yielded some deficiencies in the desired outcome. However, we have always accepted our oversight and returned to fix it. Laws, policies, or decisions are not from a divine source after all; we can change them as long as we work for the same goal. We know that there is always room for improvement, and we try to assess ourselves at any chance possible for the better.

With that being said, I want to address some concerns raised on the TMSA social media platforms.

  1. In April, LETRS training came to our table as an agenda item. After a few conversations with the DPI, we found out that we had to do those training within two years, no exception. At the two consecutive principals' meetings, we brainstormed alternative ways with the principals, HR, and the academic team. We came up with additional half days into the calendar rather than adding workdays for the teachers for training. We have communicated it with the DPI, and they have confirmed that our calendar would comply by adding the half days. Then, the LETRS training proposal was brought before the Board for approval, but the new calendar was not attached to the agenda. That was an oversight on our part, and it will be fixed at Monday's Board meeting.
  2. TMSA Apex had to submit requested policies and documents to the Office of Charter Schools on May 20th. The Office reviewed the policies and provided feedback to the TMSA Apex team. Several policies were noted as insufficient or needing updates. Since then, the TMSA Apex team has been working with Ms. Baquero, Ms. Porter, and Ms. Hamm at the DPI to update them to be in compliance. They will resubmit all the policies and documents by July 1st. The Governance Committee approved the policy revisions contingent upon completion of all the school administrators' reviews. The policy revision folder has been shared with principals and deans. They will review them until Monday's Board meeting. If they can't finalize their reviews, we have to schedule a special Board meeting before July 1st to resubmit them to the DPI on time. These insufficient policies are the policies of all our schools and have nothing to do with the QCSS merger. Under normal circumstances, a new policy or policy changes come before the Board two times before the approval, and they are posted on our websites for stakeholders' feedback. In this case, we have the July 1st urgency. On another note, I also want to add that we started to review all the TMSA policies in March, but the principals requested to postpone it to the summertime due to the heavy workload. I took it to the Governance Committee, and the expected policy revision completion is now targeted for December 2022. You should see more feedback request in the upcoming months.
  3. If you look at the justification documents for each agenda item at tomorrow's Board meeting, you will see the signatures from the schools and the central office staff, and the final signature comes from me. The schools decide what they need and initiate the purchase request and approval process, starting from the operations manager to the principal, the related central office department, and the superintendent. After my signature, it can go to the Board agenda. The requests can be rejected at any level if anything is missing in the documents or if there are budgetary restrictions or policy violations. But principals can always bring the request back if they fix the missing parts. We do not have any restrictions on this process.
  4. Our Board was proactive in approving the purchase order of HVAC, steel, and roofing materials in September last year, even before the bond closing of the Apex Campus. The original delivery date for HVAC was the first week of May. Then it was postponed to the first week of June. Three days before the expected delivery, they postponed it again to the second week of August. Our project manager, developer, and the general contractor spent a tremendous amount of time trying to resolve the issue and reached out to the top-level executives at Carrier and met with them three to four times. The answer did not change much. If parts are not coming from China, they can't build the rooftop units. In the meantime, our general contractor brought temporary HVAC units to the building to control the climate. They continue to work to get all other things done as scheduled. We have 944 students enrolled, 55 staff hired, and $1.5 M FFE ordered. We must open the school. All contingencies that we worked on died as of last Friday except (a) delaying the school opening until September 19th or (b) AM-PM shifts in Cary Campus until the Apex building gets ready. Details with pros and cons will be presented to the Board on Monday, and a decision will be made about how we proceed. We will keep pushing the HVAC company for early delivery.
  5. Last but not least, there is a discussion going on about the uniform color adjustment. As you know, the uniform color adjustment was announced with the new logos. Even our team was not on the same page about the colors, but I had to cut the chase. However, we have a two-year grace period to work on this, and it should not be part of a loaded agenda on Monday.

I have felt compelled to write this very long email to clarify how our system functions. Please know that TMSA recognizes and acknowledges your entitlement to complain, and we hope to work with you in the best interests of the children and young people in our care. I hope this helps to increase the efficiency of tomorrow's Board meeting.

If you have a question or concern, please ask your school first. At TMSA, we do not take action without the principals' direct participation. If you have a question or concern about an agenda item, you can email it to the "owner" of that item. Each agenda item at TMSA Board meetings has an owner, and their emails are also published in the related agenda items. Please also note that not all decisions are made unanimously. If you do not see your feedback reflected in the decision, it does not mean it is not considered. Every feedback is valuable for us, and we appreciate your support and contributions to our schools.

Finally, I want to say that we are fortunate to have such a dedicated group of people leading our schools. I want to thank the TMSA Board of Directors for their leadership and commitment to our students and community. Our district is, without a doubt, better because we have them on our team.

Again, thank you for your continued support and understanding.

Have a great week,
Happy Juneteenth,

Ben Karaduman,