At a time when teachers are striving to educate the youth of today to be the adults of tomorrow, it is refreshing to see the executive director and staff of IDEA Schools succeed in their chosen field. IDEA Tarrant County is an A-Rated Region based off their 2021-2022 STAAR Results. Of the 7 campuses that tested last year, they finished with 6 A-Rated campuses and 1 B-Rated campus. The goal of Executive Director Dionel Waters Ph. D and his staff is for all campuses to be A-Rated for the 2022-2023 school year.
IDEA Schools are public charter schools and serve college-bound students in schools across Texas, Louisiana, Florida, and Ohio. The premise of these schools is to begin preparing them for success in college and in life starting with kindergarteners. They have achieved their record of 100% college acceptance through a focus on personalized learning, and character and leadership development which begins in kindergarten. The staff at each campus is dedicated to making sure that all children succeed every step of the way with the belief all children can and will succeed if given the opportunity.
IDEA Edgecliff College Prep’s campus is located in southwest Fort Worth and currently serves more than 300 students under the leadership of Principal Kenieka Francis and her staff of 30. Having experienced the inequities in education moving from Ohio to Alabama and back again, Francis refuses to ignore educational inequalities that still exist nationwide. Her experiences led to her decision to pursue education as a career and her more specific desire to work at IDEA is based on her goal of being part of a school where all students are provided the rigorous education allowing them to break down barriers which prevent many students of color from the opportunity to obtain a college degree. Her goals line up with IDEA school’s direction. Her dream is to create a dual credit collegiate academy allowing scholars to receive college credit prior to graduating high school. Francis believes everyone should have a seat at the table; her goal is to expand the table, especially for young ladies of color. Francis is driven to ensure all IDEA scholars receive the same quality education as students in suburban upper-class neighborhoods.
Included in the staff of 30 at IDEA Edgecliff are the leadership team that reports to Francis. Included in this team are seven minority women who strive to bring out the best in themselves and each other. They share outward mindsets and have become a team striving for the same goal. Their relationships have been built through trust both inside and outside of their work environment and have extended down to the staff and other leaders. “We see people as people,” says Francis. Francis believes she has been gifted to set the atmosphere and she has done so by making decisions centered around IDEA Edgecliff’s scholars and those who serve them. Work/life balance is important to Francis and while she understands that there will be occasions when work must be taken home, she believes in setting tight boundaries for herself and her staff. Maximizing time with family and friends and self-care are priorities that Francis takes seriously. She advocates strongly for mental health and if she needs it or sees a staff member who needs it, finds taking a day to recharge and reset works wonders. Francis explains, “We are educators, but we are also human, and balance is important.”
IDEA Edgecliff has been an A rated campus for the last three years and will welcome the inaugural freshmen class beginning fall 2023 in a new section of campus currently under construction. The school will continue to add a grade level each year and will be a K-12 campus in 2026 with elementary, middle and high school students housed in separate parts of the campus. Students apply and are chosen through a lottery process and those not selected are added to a wait list. Parents chose IDEA for any number of reasons. “The small class size and individualized attention were two factors which led me in enrolling my son,” said Kym Johnson. She went on to explain that open communication with teachers was important and is more than satisfied at the progress her son has made, especially in reading.
The diversity of the staff mirrors the diversity of students at IDEA Edgecliff. This diversity creates an atmosphere of comfort to both students and parents and fosters belief among students that they can succeed. Patience with students and a desire to see them succeed is evident among the staff of IDEA Edgecliff and is attributable to the leadership. Francis says, “Success is defined by my ability to create a culture of achievement, acceptance, joy and pride on my campus for both scholars and staff.”