In our ongoing effort to bring you clear, timely information about the Town of Westlake, we have created a series we’re calling Town Topics. In this series, you'll get to know the ins and outs of all things Westlake and learn more about what makes us Distinctive by Design. We’ll share the latest news and updates and work to help set the record straight on topics that impact you. Have an idea for a Town Topic? Let us know by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Town Topics: Campus Construction Throughout the Years
May 6, 2022
Westlake Academy opened its doors almost 20 years ago. Since its inception, the campus has continued to grow to meet the needs of our students.
The facilities and property used by Westlake Academy are owned and managed by the Town of Westlake. As the charter holder for the Academy, the Town has the authority to issue debt, oversee construction, and manage the facilities.
The school does not pay rent or the major maintenance and repair costs on the campus buildings. This allows the revenue received by the State to be fully allocated to educational needs.
Original Campus 2003
The original construction of the campus was completed in 2003 at a cost of approximately $18.2 million dollars. The original buildings contained the school and the municipal service offices for the Town. All of the Town of Westlake’s departments (Finance, Human Resources, Fire Administration, Municipal Court, Council Chambers, Planning & Development, etc.) were housed in the current PYP building on the north side of the property, while the academic classrooms and front office were in the current PYP building on the south side of the campus.
As the school expanded grade level offerings and needed additional classroom space, the municipal services departments moved off-site.
The first campus expansion involved the addition of the Sam & Margaret Lee Arts and Sciences Center. The need for this facility was driven by the lack of adequate science lab and art space for our students in the Diploma Programme.
The Town was fortunate to receive a substantial donation from Mrs. Margaret Lee in memory of her husband Sam Lee for whom the building is named. The building was funded through several sources including: private donations, the Westlake Academy Foundation capital campaign, and debt which was issued through the Town of Westlake. The final cost for the facility was approximately $5.1 million dollars.
As part of the building package for the Arts & Sciences Building, $280K in funding remained which allowed the Town to utilize those funds to purchase the first set of modular buildings for the campus. The modular buildings provided additional classroom space for students and also allowed the Academy to expand courses offerings at the Diploma Programme level. In addition to the modular buildings, the staff and student parking spaces were expanded.
For the next campus project, the Town Council expanded the footprint of the buildings by adding the Secondary Building, the Sam & Margaret Lee Fieldhouse, and the Multi-purpose Hall to accommodate student enrollment growth, enhance the athletics program, and provide additional cafeteria and physical education space for the Primary Years Programme. Council also authorized the purchase of the second set of modular buildings for the campus. The overall cost for the facilities was approximately $11 million and included both donated funds and bond proceeds from the Town of Westlake.
As of the 2021/2022 fiscal year, the current outstanding debt (along with the associated interest) is approximately $24.3 million dollars and includes just over 100,000 sq. feet of educational space.
Council continues to plan for the future and is currently working on a 2-story expansion of the Arts and Science Building. This project would add about 22,000 square feet of space and provide two art classrooms, three science labs and an additional 10 general use classrooms. This design addresses the Academy’s immediate needs for additional arts and science space and will allow the classes currently held in the modular buildings to move into permanent classrooms.
The project is expected to cost between $15 -$16 million.
For more information about Westlake Academy’s expansion over the years, visit WestlakeAcademy.org.
Town Topics: History of Westlake Academy's Charter
May 3, 2022
In 1999, the Town of Westlake voted to approve the Council-Manager Form of Government. Following that approval, the Town Council hired Trent Petty to serve as the Town’s first professionally trained Town Manager. Mr. Petty immediately began drafting policies related to the hiring of staff, negotiating economic development agreements, and generally growing the Town from what was then a small community of approximately 250 residents.
In December of 2000, the Town Council directed the Town Manager to continue to develop Westlake by taking advantage of a 1995 law that allowed a municipality to operate and manage a public charter school.
Mr. Petty officially submitted the more than 250-page application for an open-enrollment charter school to the Texas Education Agency (TEA) in February of 2001. The application included an overview of the governing structure of the Town, projected school demographics, a proposed business plan, facility management information, suggested geographic boundaries, goals and objectives, start-up budget plans, and a variety of other documents designed to support the Town’s ability to provide educational services.
The Town received conditional approval to proceed with creating the school in July of 2001. The Town Manager began responding to the inquiries and directions provided during the application review process. After two years of negotiation and review with TEA, the contract was finally signed in the fall of 2003.
The charter and all its amendments serve as the contract between the Town of Westlake and the State of Texas. The charter is not the single source of rules and guidelines regarding charter school operations and must be viewed in tandem with applicable federal and state laws, rules adopted by the Texas Commissioner of Education for open-enrollment charter schools, and local policies adopted by the charter holder, i.e. Town of Westlake.
Each charter issued by the State is periodically renewed by TEA and reauthorized for a 10-year period. Our charter was renewed in both 2007 and 2016.
The Town chose this innovative and creative approach to creating community and is currently the only municipality (governmental entity) that operates a charter school in Texas. This unique structure allows us to partner our municipal team with our academic team to create a well-supported school that benefits from the strength and stability of the municipal government.
Town Topics: What is the Town Council’s Role in Governing Westlake Academy?
April 30, 2022
Westlake Academy is the only municipally governed public charter school in the state of Texas. Because of this unique status, we know the structure of the school’s governing body might be unclear to those who are unfamiliar with our history.
In 2003, the Town of Westlake was granted a charter to operate a school by the Texas Education Agency. As a governmental entity, the Town qualifies as one of the four categories through which schools can be operated in Texas. Out of the more than 175 charter schools in the state, we are a trailblazer in the field of education!
The Westlake Town Council serves as the governing body for all departments of the Town of Westlake organization, this includes the Town’s largest department, Westlake Academy. This means the Town Council is responsible for all matters that the Texas Education Agency Code requires to be handled by a school board. This governing structure also allows the Town Council to set policy direction and strategic goals for all Town services – both municipal, through our traditional municipal departments, and academic, through Westlake Academy.
As it relates to Westlake Academy, Council Members approve the academic budget every year and set school policies. Our Westlake Town Councilmembers are accountable for the academic success of the students. As required by the charter contract with the Texas Education Agency, Westlake Academy is not a stand-alone independent school district nor is it a separate non-profit or corporate entity. Thus, school operations rely heavily on the Town of Westlake for its success.
Town Council meetings, where school-related issues are discussed, are open to the public. This means parents of all of our Academy students, stakeholders, and others who are interested are invited to attend. You will hear presentations from staff on a variety of issues in the community, hear the discussions the Council engages in as a governing board, and see for yourself how the Council is committed to the success of our community. Please check our website for more information on this topic, answers to questions, and the exact dates and times of upcoming Council meetings.
Town Topics: Recent Successes at Westlake Academy
April 7, 2022
Westlake Academy continues to uphold its reputation as one of the top academic institutions not only in Texas but across the United States. We have witnessed our students and teachers adjust and adapt to the challenges that came along with a global pandemic and succeed through it all.
Based on STAAR test scores from the 2021 school year, our elementary students performed better than 99% of elementary schools, our middle school students performed better than 98% of middle schools and our high school students performed better than 97.7% of high schools in the state of Texas.
Our IB Diploma Programme is designed to develop academically gifted students and set them up for post-secondary success. In 2021, 59 DP students sat for their International Baccalaureate (IB) exams. Of those 59, 53 received their IB diplomas. This was the third year in a row that Westlake Academy has maintained a pass rate of 90% and has scored above the world average IB pass rate.
In fact, Westlake Academy seniors scored higher than the world average in several categories including; English A, Spanish HL, American History HL, Biology SL, Physics SL, and Mathematics: AI SL.
Test scores aren’t our only measure of success.
We continue to achieve a graduation rate of 100% and every one of our graduates is accepted to college.
Last year’s graduates now attend some of the most prestigious colleges and universities including Harvard, Brown University, University of Chicago, Rice, Northwestern, Vanderbilt, and Johns Hopkins. By early May, we’ll learn where members of the Class of 2022 will be studying in the fall. Our College Counselor, Carl Tippen, expects similar acceptance offers for this year’s seniors.
Our success has gained us national recognition.
Niche.com recognized Westlake Academy for being ranked #1 for Best Public Elementary and Best Charter Elementary in Texas, Best Charter Middle School in Texas, and Best Charter High School in the State. The site ranked Westlake Academy 6th for Best Charter Elementary School in the entire country. They also ranked the school as the 16th Best Charter Middle School in the U.S., and the 26th Best Charter High School in America.
U.S. News & World Report ranked Westlake Academy as the 19th Best High School in Texas 30th best Charter High School in the country. In addition, the school ranked #44 overall in Texas Elementary Schools and ranked #25 overall in Texas Middle Schools.
These rankings are based on rigorous analysis of key statistics and millions of reviews from students and parents using data from the U.S. Department of Education. Ranking factors include state test scores, student-teacher ratio, student diversity, teacher quality, and charter school ratings.
We are proud of what our students and staff have been able to accomplish under unique and often trying circumstances. Their efforts, long hours, and late nights have not gone unnoticed. Thanks in large part to our top-notch staff, we are able to achieve great things!
Town Topics: Are we building a new Town Hall?
March 16, 2022
Occasionally we are asked if we are planning to build a new town hall. In a word, the answer is NO. While we are open to the idea of investing in ourselves by eventually constructing and owning our own Town Hall, there are many projects in our Capital Improvement Plan that we want to tackle first. Some of these projects include construction and improvements of arterial roads and potentially expanding the Arts & Science building on the Westlake Academy campus. Should the Town decide to take a closer look at constructing a Town Hall facility, your input would play a large part in moving the project forward.
As many of you know, Westlake Town Hall is currently located at 1500 Solana Boulevard, Building 7 in the Terraces at Solana. The leased facility includes our council chambers, the municipal court, meeting space, and offices for your municipal team and a portion of our academic administrative staff members. We have been in this location since 2017 and are currently halfway through our 10-year lease on this space. If we extend our lease option, we would negotiate any renewal as we draw nearer to the end of the current contract.
We hope this clears up any confusion and helps keep you all up to date on topics that relate to your Town!