On a (Finger) Roll – San Antonio’s Charter Schools Are Headed for Even Taller Heights

Good day, CharterFolk.

Last week I had occasion to be in San Antonio to attend a gathering of the National Alliance’s State Leaders Council and a meeting of the Alliance of Public Charter School Attorneys.

San Antonio, I recognize, is famous for many things, but for a short kid growing up with no hops, what captivated me as a youngster was San Antonio’s basketball wonder:

NBA All-Star George Gervin, with his …

… legendary finger roll, regularly sinking shots that many thought unmakeable.

Decades later, being a charter guy, I was heartened to learn that Gervin had opened his own charter school in San Antonio.

What I didn’t know was that his sister, Barbara Gervin-Hawkins, became a state legislator in Texas and has proven to be such a strong supporter of charter schools that she was asked by the Texas Public Charter Schools Association …

… to keynote the gathering of charter school attorneys.

To hear such a prominent Democrat speak so unabashedly about her support for charter school seemed to underscore a fundamental truth about San Antonio’s charter schools.

One endorsed by journalism coming out just this week:

CharterFolk, San Antonio’s charter schools are on a (finger) roll!

Pulling off shots that many think simply unmakeable.

Like growing to serve nearly 30% of students in San Antonio ISD while generating an additional half-year per year in academic progress relative to what is happening in district schools.

San Antonio’s charter school (finger) roll was on prominent display at the three schools I was fortunate enough to visit last week.

We started at Harmony School of Science

… a K-6 school that opened a few years back and will be adding a 7-12 component in the fall of 2026.

I was met at the school door by student ambassadors …

… Azra Y., Sofia P., and Sydney P., all of whom reported themselves to be thriving at Harmony.

Sydney comes from a military family and enrolled in Harmony Science after her family was recently re-deployed. She is featured as an up-and-coming athlete in Air Force recruiting videos …

… and, no surprise, was elected Harmony Science’s Student-Body President during her first year at the school!

The degree to which Harmony, like Sydney herself, is on a roll, not only in San Antonio but across all of Texas, is almost dizzying.

What aspect of their progress do you focus on most?

Last week the girls seemed most excited to tell me about their extraordinary teachers, ushering me to Ms. Polomo’s room.

Ms Polomo is a recent graduate of UT Austin who, in addition to coaching the school’s award-winning Cheer Team …

… and encouraging many of her fellow UT grads to consider teaching in charter schools, has accumulated as many Bloomboard “micro-credentials”

… as any faculty member at Harmony Science, though Ms. Polomo is only in her second year of teaching.

Teachers throughout the school proudly present their micro-credentials outside their classrooms.

It’s the kind of commitment to continuous improvement that led Harmony to be among a small group of public school systems in Texas that were admitted to the state’s Teacher Incentive Allotment, a special fund meant to reward the state’s most highly effective teachers.

We ended the tour, with the students directing my attention to the high school campus they will be attending when it opens in the fall of 2026 …

… growth emblematic of the twelve new campuses Harmony will be opening in Texas in the next two years, adding to the 61 campuses they have today serving 42,000 students.

Quite a roll indeed!

Our next stop was at the Dream campus of Compass Rose Public Schools.

Founded in 2017 by BES Fellow Paul Morrissey who had previously worked in charter schools in both Arizona and DC …

… Compass Rose started out as a single site serving 95 students and has grown to operate seven campuses in San Antonio and Austin in just six years.

Felipe Butanda, Principal of the Dream Secondary School, and Brittany Gourdine, Principal of the Dream Elementary School, accompanied Paul, Crystal Rios, Regional Director for the Texas Public Charter Schools Association, and myself on a tour of Dream …

… where we soon visited Ms. Garza’s 4th grade math class …

… which demonstrated one of the hallmarks that Compass Rose has become known for:

Excelling at serving absolutely all students, including those from Afghan immigrant families.

Ms. Gourdine and Mr. Butanda spent a considerable portion of our time together talking about all the work the organization is doing to manage the its ambitious growth plans. An important part of it, they explained, is successfully recruiting international teachers and providing them high levels of support through their early years of teaching.

It’s an aspect of the organization’s culture that they celebrate:

The fact that fully 50% of the new teachers that Compass Rose is hiring are from international backgrounds.

Before we left, Paul described how demand for Compass Rose offerings continues to grow, leading the organization to proceed with plans to serve well more than 5000 students by mid-decade, having served less than a hundred just six years ago.

It’s this kind of momentum that led me to ask Crystal to explain how it is that San Antonio’s charter schools are proving able to hit so many shots that others think unmakeable.

She attributed it to the strong ecosystem of support for charter schools that has now built up in the local community.

San Antonio Charter Moms educates parents about their options.

Choose to Succeed provides critically needed resources to growing organizations.

And Futuro San Antonio offers critically needed advocacy partnership.

It’s a mix of supports that puts San Antonio’s charter school community on a (finger) role, one last confirmation of which was provided by a stop at Anne Frank Inspire Academy

… a K-12 charter school serving approximately 475 students.

Head of School Justin Johnson …

… and Inspire Principal April Maas …

… said a quick hello and then handed us off to our tour guides …

… Bella Rose, Josephine Brown and Alejandra Rangel Tavera, who walked us through a school that is fully using all of the freedoms it is afforded as a charter school to offer a highly innovative program.

The organization’s pedagogy is deeply rooted in a commitment to inquiry-based learning and to allowing students to take control of their own experience in school.

As it so happens, Anne Frank was just hours away from its “Museum Night” when the entire campus is turned into a living history project. So we were treated to a dress rehearsal for what hundreds of visitors would be witnessing later that night.

Exhibits included a rendering of the bookshelf …

… that concealed a rendering of the living quarters wherein Anne Frank and her family lived in hiding.

Accompanying the exhibit were works of art depicting the conditions faced by families like the Franks during the Nazi era.

Soon we were whisked off to other wings of the museum …

… where students awaited us ready to explain their exhibits about other matters of historical significance such as the invention of the telephone and the oil rig.

On the way out, Academic Dean Katie Maupin …

… explained how Anne Frank’s innovative program has resonated with so many parents that a second site was opened in 2021, and now the organization has committed to opening a third campus within two years.

It’s a local charter school movement, CharterFolk, that I can think of no way better to describe other than to say “it’s on a roll.”

Like the one made famous by a beloved basketball hero whose accomplishments continue to be celebrated to this very day …

… but which is now being taken on by an even taller next generation …

… who is ready to take the city’s educational finger roll …

… to even greater heights.